According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, around 1 in 5 people have chronic pain. In fact, approximately 80 percent of Americans have experienced (or will experience) chronic back pain.
As you can see, chronic pain is extremely common – with over 100 million sufferers in the U.S. alone – so if you are struggling with chronic pain, you are definitely not alone.
Standard pain medications have so many undesirable qualities that you cannot rely on them fully to treat your pain, which can leave you wondering if you are just stuck with your pain.
Fortunately, there is another potential solution. Physical therapy has been shown to be effective in reducing or even eliminating chronic pain.
With the right treatment plan, you may be able to greatly reduce your discomfort.
Chronic pain, defined
Chronic back pain refers to pain that lasts more than three months. It is a progressive pain that gradually worsens with time and basic daily activities. Furthermore, the specific cause of back pain may remain unknown. A person simply may not know what caused it or pinpoint a point of origin.
However, most people can recover from back pain by understanding its causes, especially those that do not derive from an incident, such as a car accident.
Back pain – the most common type of chronic pain
Chronic back pain may arise from two issues, including a sudden, traumatic injury or repetitive stress on the vertebrae.
Pain includes sensations, such as a prick, burn, tingle, sting, sharp pain, and aches. Acute pain is typically an expected bodily response to a severe injury.
However, the repeated use of joints after an inflammatory response may lead to the worsening of symptoms and disease progression, explains the NINDS.
In addition, those with poor posture, bulging or herniated discs, arthritis, skeletal irregularities and osteoporosis may suffer from chronic back pain more often than their peers, says the Mayo Clinic.
Other aspects, such as age, weight, poor lifting practices and even mental health conditions, may increase risk for back pain, and it only takes one injury for a condition to persist into the realm of long-term problems.
The many ways physical therapy can help you find relief
1. Improving your flexibility
Improving your flexibility can also help reduce your pain. When you are suffering from an injury, it is common for your body to compensate in some way to avoid the pain – which can lead to unhealthy movement patterns that you may not even be aware of.
The way your body compensates may help right after the injury, but over time it will lead to wear and tear on other parts of your body. If you feel really tight or locked up in one way or another, you are probably experiencing this type of situation.
Physical therapy can gently relax your body so that you can return to moving in a healthy manner.
Your physical therapist will work with you to ease the tension so that your body can move correctly and increase the strength of the muscles surrounding the joint so that you can maintain the correct movement patterns.
2. Increasing your physical strength
Depending on your condition, your physical therapist may teach you some exercises designed to strengthen your muscles and soft tissues.
It may seem strange that getting stronger is recommended by medical science when you are in pain – since exercising may be painful in and of itself, especially at first. But there are good reasons to try and make you stronger.
Often, the cause of chronic pain is pressure on nerves in your joints, whether your spine, knees, hips, elbows, or some other joint.
When you make the muscles around those joints stronger, they are better at providing support – which can take some of the pressure off of your nerves.
3. Electrical therapy and cold/hot therapies
Physical therapists have a variety of tools at their disposal to treat your immediate pain as well.
They can use things like transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS), hot and cold therapies to help reduce inflammation and ease some of the pain you are feeling.
These therapies can also help improve your body’s ability to heal.
4. Teaching you how to move safely
Most people are not fully aware of how they move in their day to day activities. You could be bending over, lifting, walking, running, sitting, or moving in some other manner that is contributing to your chronic pain.
Learning how to improve the issues with your movements can significantly decrease the pain you experience.
Your first session with your physical therapist will include an exam where they watch the way you perform different activities – like walking – to identify any possible problems.
Once they know where things are going wrong, they can teach you how to improve so that you do not unknowingly increase your chronic pain.
Ready to find relief for your chronic pain?
If you are struggling with chronic pain, we want you to know that we are here to help. Our team can design an individualized treatment program to help alleviate your pain and improve your life. Contact us to schedule your appointment.