How Physical Therapy Helps Manage Chronic Pain




Approximately 50 million in the United States are suffering from chronic pain. What is chronic pain, and how is it different from the ordinary pain that we sometimes feel?

Chronic pain can impede your daily recreational and professional activities, and it can have a significant impact on your capacity to focus, relax, and live a happy life. Several therapies are available to help manage chronic pain – massage, exercise, acupuncture, medications, and other forms of treatments. Undergoing physical therapy for your chronic pain is also an excellent choice, and it might help you control your pain and restore normal mobility.

If you suffer from chronic pain, seeking assistance from a physical therapist can tremendously help alleviate your pain, and your therapist can provide techniques for self-management of your pain. What does physical therapy for chronic pain entail? And in the first place, what is chronic pain?

Chronic Pain

The most basic meaning of chronic pain is pain that has existed for more than 12 weeks. But it could be more complicated than this, and the most suitable means to understand this type of pain is to know more about its close relative: acute pain. Acute pain is a type of pain that has a sudden onset and disappears after a few weeks. Usually, acute pain is a result of traumatic events that harm the body’s tissues.

For example, if you hurt your hand with a hammer, this results in acute pain. This pain is severe and abrupt, and you can identify the cause of the pain. Your hand becomes inflamed, painful, and red. For a few weeks, this pain disappears as your hand recovers.


Now picture yourself smashing your hand with a hammer all over again. Your hand gets inflamed, sore, and red. However, this time, picture your hand pain progressing long after the indications of the injury have subsided. The tissues are obviously healed, but your hand is still aching. When you attempt to move your hand, the pain is still there and is even worse. This is known as chronic pain.

It can often be perplexing to describe chronic pain, and it can inhibit you from focusing and doing your normal day-to-day activities. To add to that, managing chronic pain can confuse your doctor and leave you puzzled as well.

Often, the pain appears when there is just a little or no damage to the tissues. So why does the pain last long, even after the tissues have recovered? Why are some medications not effective in managing your pain? These queries can be hard to answer, and identifying the best therapy for your chronic pain can be equally hard as well.

Physical Therapy Regimens

When you choose physical therapy for chronic pain management, you might go through different treatments that can be utilized to enhance your mobility, lessen pain, and help you function completely. Typical treatments utilized by physical therapists to manage chronic pain include:

  • Massage. Several physical therapists apply massage to reduce pain by alleviating muscle tightness and enhancing muscular blood flow.
  • Dry Needling. This is one of the latest treatments done by physical therapists to reduce aching trigger points and muscle knots. Dry needling entails using small needles – the same used in acupuncture – to pierce muscle knots and tissues to alleviate the pain felt in these areas.
  • Ice Or Heat. Physical therapists frequently utilize modalities such as ice and heat to help reduce inflammation and pain. These regimens have not been confirmed to be potent with individuals going through chronic pain, although they are frequently used as complementary therapies during physical therapy sessions.


  • Exercise. Physical exercise must be your primary PT tool in chronic pain management, as it significantly helps you build mobility and strength. Imagine exercise as some feedback loop. Your central nervous system is responsible for moving your body, so physical activity is simply output originating from your brain. When you can move with little pain or no pain at all, you are emphasizing to your brain that the movement you are doing does not hurt. Hence, while you are becoming more resilient with more improved mobility, you are also allowing your nervous system to be accustomed to moving safely.
  • Ultrasound. This is a type of treatment that entails deep heating. The machine’s sound head is applied to the skin, emitting deep heat to the body tissues. This PT modality enhances blood flow and circulation. It is vital to emphasize that ultrasound has not been confirmed to be substantially effective in managing chronic pain. Nevertheless, you might experience this type of treatment during one of your physical therapy sessions.
  • Electrical Stimulation Or TENS. Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation is a therapeutic device that utilizes electricity to reduce pain impulses originating from one’s body to the brain.

These treatment regimens are designed to accomplish a specific objective. You must talk to your physical therapist about the purpose of the treatment to anticipate your expectations.