Chronic Pain Relief
Chronic pain is any type of pain that lasts longer than you might expect. The medical community considers any pain that lasts longer than three months to be chronic (whereas acute pain has a much shorter duration, usually from a very recent injury). The good news is that according to studies published by the National Institutes of Health, working with a physical therapist can and will help many patients achieve pain relief. You should consider booking an appointment with us if you suffer from any type of chronic pain; we’ll help you determine whether physical therapy is right for you.
What Is Chronic Pain?
The frustrating thing about ongoing chronic pain is that it can continue long after an injury has healed. You may get a clean bill of health from your doctor and know that all of the tissue damage from an injury has healed, but something still hurts and there is no biological cause for it. Chronic pain can be intermittent, flaring up at certain times of day or recurring every few days. It can even get worse over time!
Causes of Chronic Pain
Chronic pain can result after an injury or after recovering from many types of illnesses. However, there are four main culprits that we’ll focus on here: Lower back pain, headaches, arthritis and abdominal pain. A physical therapist can work with you to help relieve pain or even eliminate it completely.
- Chronic Low Back Pain: Chronic low back pain is usually severe and requires a full medical workup to determine the cause and the exact location and nature of an injury. The two types of lower back pain are mechanical and radicular. Mechanical pain is usually related to damage to muscles, ligaments, joints or bones in the lower back. It can flare up in any position (sitting, standing, resting) or from any type of twisting motion. Radicular pain is related to nerve damage and usually only affects one side of the body.
- Chronic Headaches: Chronic headaches involve head and neck pain that occurs 15 days out of every month, lasting longer than three months. Stress is a common source of tension headaches. In this day and age of working all day long while looking at a computer screen, eye strain can be another source. Circulatory issues can also lead to chronic headaches, which is why physical therapy can be such a great solution. Migraine headaches can be caused by a problem with the nervous system. Many times, the alignment of your pelvis and spine can affect neck tension.
- Arthritis: Arthritis is a type of joint pain that is ongoing and which usually affects older individuals. Joints in the knees and hands are two of the most common areas impacted by arthritis. Managing your weight and health with the guidance of a physical therapist can be one of the best ways to achieve pain relief from arthritis.
- Abdominal pain: Chronic abdominal pain can be caused by old scar tissues from previous surgeries (gall bladder, hysterectomies, hernias, etc). They can be from chronic abdominal problems (IBS, Chrohn's Disease, etc). If you have had a complete work up from your physician and continue to have pain, see if visceral and soft tissue mobilization can help your pain.
How Physical Therapy Helps Chronic Pain
A 2016 study published by the National Institutes of Health recommended that all patients suffering from chronic pain should engage in an exercise program. Not just some patients — ALL patients. That’s a powerful statement for the efficacy of physical therapy! The same researchers concluded that exercise under the direction of a physical therapist offers direct, provable benefits such as improving pain symptoms and functional performance.
Your physical therapist will guide you through an exercise program to help you achieve better overall health and reduced chronic pain. Depending on your age, the severity of the pain and other factors, your exercise sessions will include manual therapy and modalities. Manual therapies are done by your therapist and can include manipulating muscles or mobilizing them. They can include Muscle Energy, Craniosacral therapy, Visceral Mobilization, ASTYM and Bowenwork.
Modalitites to help with pain may be used including the Class IV laser, H-wave, Electrical stimulation, ultrasound and ice and heat. Exercises including stretching to improve range of motion, and strengthening to increase circulation and burn calories can all be included in a physical therapy session. It all depends on the type of chronic pain being treated. Two to three sessions per week are recommended for you to achieve the maximum medical benefits of physical therapy.
If you have been suffering from chronic pain long after an injury should have been resolved, give us a call to learn more about how physical therapy can help. Schedule an appointment so we can get you back on the road to recovery. Visit us at Healing Hands Physical Therapy 58 Parkland Plaza, Suite 100, Ann Arbor, MI 48103.