What Is the Role of Physical Therapy in the Treatment of Chronic Pain?


What is physical therapy?

Physical therapy is often used as a standard treatment for chronic pain or pain related to an injury. However, it can also help treat other medical conditions, including back pain, headaches, diabetes, injuries, etc. A physical therapist typically treats areas of weakness by encouraging movement.

Physical therapist and chronic pain treatment

The role of a physical therapist is to assess the cause of chronic pain and develop strategies to reduce that pain. They are a type of health care professional trained to help individuals maximize their mobility and functionality. A physical therapist evaluates the person and condition to treat illnesses and injuries related to the musculoskeletal (bones and muscles), neurological (brain), cardiopulmonary (heart and lungs) and integumentary (skin) systems.

The role of physical therapy in chronic pain treatment

Physical therapy includes techniques that provide pain management, improve mobility, implement injury recovery, and prevent future damage. For example, if pain prevents completing daily activities, such as maneuvering stairs, lifting or carrying objects, or tasks required for daily life, work, hobbies, etc., physical therapy can help improve or restore functionality. This may be accomplished by exercises to strengthen the muscles, stretches to increase flexibility, manual therapy to boost range of motion, activity modifications, or other treatments that are beneficial. At-home exercise plans can also be developed.

Additionally, physical therapists can help individuals better understand their pain and reduce the fear that may surround the pain condition. Individuals with chronic pain may fear movement due to the associated pain. Physical therapists can develop a gradual progression of movement, which can decrease that fear. This may also increase an individual’s tolerance for pain.

Physical therapy also helps individuals with chronic pain modify expectations for themselves and set realistic goals. Therefore, physical therapy may improve mood and create a better outlook while reducing chronic pain.

Additional source: American Physical Therapy Association