Physiotherapy and Pain Management
Pain can stop us in our tracks and prevent us from getting on with our day. Acute pain is felt during illness or injury. Sometimes, however, this pain persists beyond the normal healing time of about three months. This pain is said to be chronic or persistent.
1 in 5 Australians live with persistent pain. This type of pain is ongoing but it doesn't tell us much about the severity or quality of the pain. Despite this, it can have a devastating impact on a person’s life.
Chronic pain can impact a person’s work and personal life, making tasks like sitting at a desk or going out to socialise difficult and painful. Doctors are not always able to pinpoint the cause of the pain, which can be frustrating not to have a diagnosis.
Identifying chronic pain
Unlike acute pain, chronic pain is persistent, painful and present for months or years – even after the body has healed.
Chronic pain presents in a range of ways. Sufferers often report activities that shouldn't be painful can actually be quite painful - such as the sensation of clothes on skin. Other symptoms include:
- joint pain
- muscle aches
- sleep problems
- loss of stamina
- loss of flexibility
- mood changes.
Causes of chronic pain
Chronic pain often follows surgery, trauma or other condition. It can be due to events such as:
- surgical trauma
- years of poor posture
- traumatic injury
- a congenital condition
- nerve damage
- conditions such as osteoarthritis
- ageing of the spine
Chronic pain can sometimes have no obvious physical reason at all.
The goal of physiotherapy in treating chronic pain
Chronic pain sufferers often need a range of treatment strategies such as medication and physical therapies. Physiotherapy can be an effective treatment strategy for chronic pain sufferers. It helps to improve strength, flexibility, and motor control. It can also enable and empower the person to get back into their regular activities with no or reduced pain and limit the need to rely on medications.
Physiotherapy treatment modalities
There’s a range of physiotherapy treatment modalities that can be useful for managing chronic pain. Depending on the type and severity of the pain, sufferers may find some relief from the following treatment types.
Your physiotherapist may use manual therapy techniques to assist in managing musculoskeletal pain.
The manual therapy involves skilled movements of the joints and soft tissue placing pressure and rubbing the muscles, connective tissues, tendons and ligaments. It can help reduce stress and anxiety (a common complaint among chronic pain sufferers), provide relief from pain, increase range of motion and reduce soft tissue swelling.
Dry needling is a treatment technique where a sterile, single-use, fine filament needle (acupuncture needle) is inserted into a muscle to assist with decreasing pain and improving function through the release of myofascial trigger points. Dry needling has been shown to be a treatment option for reducing pain, the number of trigger points, and sensitivity in patients with chronic pain.
Electrotherapy via methods such as TENS machines can help to reduce pain. Electrodes are placed on the body and electrical pulses are sent, which can release endorphins and other substances to stop pain signals in the brain.
Targeted exercise uses specific stylised movements to improve your strength and the way your body functions. It focuses on moving the body and its different parts to relieve pain symptoms and improve posture and mobility by utilising various load and frequency.
If you're experiencing chronic pain, a physiotherapist can help you treat the symptoms and improve your quality of life. Developing an individualised treatment plan which includes a range of modalities can be useful in targeting your specific pain and symptoms.
If you're a chronic pain sufferer, we may be able to help provide you with some much-needed relief. Please make an appointment today!
All information is general in nature. Patients should consider their own personal circumstances and seek a second opinion.