Physical therapy and rehabilitation are often an essential part of acute or chronic pain management recovery from injuries or various medical conditions by improving mobility, pain, functionality, and overall quality of life. Below you will find several ways that physical therapy and rehabilitation contribute to a pain management treatment plan.
In-depth Diagnostics and Assessments
Rather than using short-term remedies for pain, a physical therapist uses a holistic approach and evaluates the underlying causes of pain. They will first start by identifying any limitations in movement, address incorrect posture, and note any deficits in muscle strength and flexibility. After identifying any impairments, an individualized treatment plan can be put into action.
Physical therapists use a variety of techniques to help alleviate pain, including:
- Manual therapy (e.g., massage, joint mobilization)
- Therapeutic approaches (e.g., heat, cold, electrical stimulation)
- Physical exercises
These pain management strategies help to lower inflammation, reduce nerve irritation, and relieve muscle tension.
Improving Mobility, Flexibility, and Strength
During physical therapy, rehabilitation focuses on:
- Enhancing mobility and flexibility
- Improving range of motion
- Incorporating strengthening and stretching exercises to help improve mobility, reduce muscle stiffness, and alleviate pain associated with limitations in movement
- Fitting patients with medical devices (e.g., crutches or canes) to help increase safer, easier movement
- Progressive strength training helps to stabilize muscles, joints, and ligaments, reducing pain by improving overall function.
Posture and Body Mechanics
Maintaining proper posture and body mechanics (i.e., how a person positions their body when sitting, standing, lifting, carrying, bending, and sleeping) helps reduce pain. Proper posture and movement patterns can minimize pain and discomfort by alleviating strain on muscles and joints.
A physical therapist helps reduce a person's pain by modifying their daily activities. To prevent pain flare-ups, they may recommend modifications to body mechanics or work-related activities. Functional rehabilitation focuses on improving daily activity movements (e.g., lifting, bending, sitting, etc.). Physical therapists create a tailored exercise program to mimic these everyday movements, enhancing your ability to perform these activities with less pain.
Neuromuscular reeducation involves a series of techniques that help restore normal nerve and muscular function. These techniques enhance balance, coordination, and proprioception (i.e., awareness of body position and movement). Pain associated with instability and muscle imbalance can be reduced by improving neuromuscular control.
Long-Term Pain Management Strategies
Physical therapists create long-term pain management strategies such as:
- At-home exercises and treatments (e.g., ice or heat application)
- Self pain management techniques
- Lifestyle modifications
- Measures to prevent future injuries or other pain-related recurrence
Patient education is an important aspect of long-term pain management and an integral part of physical therapy. By teaching patients about their pain, its causes, and how rehabilitation can help them manage or alleviate it, physical therapists can help to empower active participation in a patient’s long-term recovery.
Self-Care and Empowerment
Rehabilitation and physical therapy are essential to pain management treatment plans because these therapies enhance function, lower pain levels, provide education, and ultimately lower pain and improve your quality of life. Home care exercises and lifestyle modifications are patient self-care modalities taught by physical therapists that can empower you to actively participate in pain management outside of the medical/physical therapy setting. Take action and begin your pain management journey by contacting The Spine & Sports Health Center in Hoboken, Jersey City, and Bayonne, NJ.