Chronic pain is a part of life for many women, men, and children, including professional athletes. Imperfectly healed injuries, joints worn down from osteoarthritis, or misalignments in the body can cause aches and pains that never resolve and may become debilitating.
Acute pain occurs when you’re injured or undergo surgery. An injury or trauma usually heals within weeks and then the pain dissipates. When pain persists for 12 weeks or more after the tissues have healed, or if you have persistent pain not associated with an injury, then you’re dealing with chronic pain.
As a sports medicine specialist, David Lintner, MD, has seen thousands of cases of chronic pain. One of the first remedies he recommends at Houston Methodist Orthopedics & Sports Medicine, with clinics in Baytown and Houston, Texas, is physical therapy (PT) and, for athletes, rehabilitation protocols.
Is PT right for your chronic pain? The following are five reasons why it probably is.
1. Physical therapy lessens reliance on medications
Our country is in the midst of an opioid crisis because it’s in the midst of a chronic pain crisis. About a third of the United States population experiences some kind of chronic pain.
Although opioids are highly effective at reducing pain in acute situations, when used over the long term, they create dependence and even addiction. Without intervention, opioid addiction can lead to overdose or death.
Physical therapy, in contrast, uses your own body to heal itself. By moving injured or arthritic joints, for instance, you trigger the release of synovial fluid that lubricates the joints and allows them to move more easily and smoothly. The movement also prevents the joints from stiffening, which would lead to further pain in the future.
2. Physical therapy doesn’t just mask pain
In addition to the addiction challenges associated with opioids, medications simply numb pain signals. They do nothing to heal the underlying injury.
Alternatively, physical therapy heals injured tissues and breaks up scars that limit movement and cause pain. In addition to movement and exercise, you receive treatments that help your body heal, so the root cause of the pain is addressed and not simply masked.
3. Physical therapy uses healing modalities
You may associate PT with a series of exercises used to strengthen and stretch your body to improve function and heal the root cause of the pain. Exercises are indeed a significant part of PT. However, your physical therapist may also use or recommend:
- Ultrasound treatment
- Electrical stimulation
- Manual joint mobilization
- Heat and ice
- Laser therapy
- Kinesiology taping
- Whirlpool spas
- Cold pools
You could benefit from a variety of these modalities at different stages of your healing.
4. Physical therapy addresses thoughts about pain, too
Your brain isn’t a distinct entity disconnected from your body — it is the organ that translates the pain signals so you actually feel them. And the thoughts generated in your brain regarding pain influence how you experience the pain, too.
In addition to improving the way you move, accelerating tissue healing, and helping you grow stronger physically, PT and rehab also help you deal with where you put your focus. If you’re focused on the pain, you’re liable to feel it more. Our team helps you focus on goals and improve mentally.
5. Physical therapy improves your body
Whether you’re an athlete or a manual laborer, going through a physical rehab program does more than fix your current pain. You also learn new ways of moving and how to hold yourself in alignment to avoid future injuries.
At Houston Methodist Orthopedics & Sports Medicine, Dr. Lintner has also developed rehab protocols for specific sports-related injuries that help you ease pain, recover strength and range of motion, and return to your game. As with PT, you must be patient and allow your body to progress through the stages of healing gradually.
If you’re in chronic pain, you don’t have to turn to opioids for relief. Find out how physical therapy can help you heal by contacting our office nearest you by phone or online form.