Persistent pain, or chronic pain, is pain that last for weeks, months or years. For some, chronic pain is the result of an injury, like a sprained back, or an ongoing problem like arthritis. For others, chronic pain occurs in the absence of a past injury. This type of pain is time based whereas more recent information has shown us that other types of pain are based on triggering mechanisms. These triggers can be mechanical in nature but often times they can be related to a history of painful conditions or experiences.
A 2011 Global Industry Analysts, Inc. report estimates that over 1.5 billion people worldwide suffer from chronic pain, with the incidence rate increasing with age. Most chronic pain conditions affect older adults but do not exclude younger populations.
WHAT ARE SOME COMMON PERSISTENT PAIN CONDITIONS?
Common conditions include headaches, low back pain, arthritis pain, or neurogenic pain (pain resulting from damage to the peripheral nerves or to the central nervous system itself).
HOW DOES PHYSICAL THERAPY TREAT PERSISTENT PAIN?
In order to know best how to treat this type of pain, it is first important to work with your physical therapist to better understand the underlying cause and triggers that are related to your individual condition.
Helpful treatment strategies can include consistent gentle movements, relaxation techniques, and imagery activities.
THE ONLY THING THAT HAS HELPED ME SUCCESSFULLY MANAGE MY PAIN THUS FAR IS MEDICATION. WHY SHOULD I GIVE PT A TRY?
It’s a sensitive topic, but turn on the news and it’s likely you’ll see a story about a death that can be attributed to opioids or heroin. Opioid prescriptions for painmanagement have quadrupled since 1999, causing a national health crisis.
In response, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released guidelines in March 2016 urging prescribers to reduce the use of opioids in favor of safer alternatives in the treatment of chronic pain. Physical therapy is one of their recommended nonopioid alternatives. Here’s why:
- Physical therapists treat pain. Opioids mask it.
- “Side effects” of physical therapy include improved mobility, increased independence, decreased pain, and prevention of other health problems through movement and exercise. Opioid’s side effects include depression, overdose, addiction, and withdrawal symptoms.
- Physical therapy is effective for numerous conditions, and the CDC cited “high quality evidence” supporting exercise as part of physical therapist treatment for familiar conditions like low back pain, hip and knee osteoarthritis, and fibromyalgia. Opioid effectiveness for long-term pain management is inconclusive in many cases.
To top it off, in some cases, physical therapy is just as effective (if not more!) than surgery. Plus, you don’t have to worry about the costs, side effects, risk of infection, etc. that are associated with medical imaging and surgery.