Relief Through Movement: Physical Therapy for Chronic Pain

Chronic pain can be a debilitating condition, limiting your mobility and impacting your daily life.
The CDC estimates that around 50 million Americans experience chronic pain, and 17 million
have substantial reductions in activity because of pain. Beyond limiting activity or your ability to
work, chronic pain has been linked to depression, Alzheimer’s disease, and substance abuse.
Chronic pain is complex. There’s no single intervention to treat it, but physical therapy should be
part of the mix. Here’s why:

How PT Approaches Pain:
Physical therapy often provides relief that’s just as effective as medication but without the
potential side effects. Here’s a breakdown of how PT tackles pain and its effectiveness:
Identify the Root Cause: PT goes a step further than medication that masks pain. Therapists
assess your posture, muscle strength, flexibility, and joint mechanics to pinpoint the source of
your discomfort.

Address the Underlying Issues: Based on the evaluation, PT focuses on strengthening weak
muscles that support your joints, improving flexibility for a better range of motion, and correcting
any imbalances or postural problems that might contribute to pain.
Use A Multi-Faceted Approach: A PT treatment plan will be customized based on the
evaluation. In addition to therapeutic exercise, a PT might use various techniques. Examples
• Manual Therapy: PTs use massage, joint mobilization, and trigger point therapy to
address muscle tension, improve circulation, and alleviate pain.
• Modalities: Techniques like ultrasound, heat therapy, or electrical stimulation can
reduce inflammation, promote healing, and manage pain.
• Aquatic Therapy: A warm, therapeutic pool supports your body and joints while offering
gentle resistance. This can often make it easier to start moving again after being in pain
for an extended time.

Educate and Empower Patients: PTs equip you with the knowledge and tools to manage your
pain independently. This might include learning a new exercise routine, how to modify activities,
or how to modify your daily schedule when you’re feeling better (or worse) than normal.
It’s also becoming increasingly likely that you’ll learn how pain works. Research shows that
combining pain education with physical therapy is an effective treatment.
If you’re struggling with chronic pain, call your physical therapist. They might have the key that
will unlock a pain-free life.





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patients with chronic pain: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled
trials, Physiotherapy Theory and Practice, 37:4, 461-472 DOI: 10.1080/09593985.2019.1633714
3. Preferred Communication Strategies Used by Physical Therapists in Chronic Pain Rehabilitation:
A Qualitative Systematic Review and Meta-Synthesis, Physical Therapy, Volume 102, Issue 9,
September 2022, pzac081 Preferred Communication Strategies Used by Physical Therapists in
Chronic Pain Rehabilitation: A Qualitative Systematic Review and Meta-Synthesis – PubMed
4. The Influence of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy on Pain, Quality of Life, and Depression in
Patients Receiving Physical Therapy for Chronic Low Back Pain: A Systematic Review