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Physical therapists are movement experts who will help overcome pain
October 13, 2020

National Physical Therapy Month is celebrated every October, with its focus on educating the public about how physical therapy can change patients lives for the better. To work towards this goal, we’d like to share our insight on why physical therapy is usually the best treatment option available if you are in pain of any sort.

Moving more will lead to less pain

We all deal with bouts of pain from time to time, which can often make tasks that are otherwise mindless and routine become difficult and challenging. Regardless of the level of pain, most individuals will need to make adjustments of some sort to the way they navigate the world throughout each day. When this is the case, exercising or moving your body in ways that might aggravate pain may sound like the last thing you’d want to do to get better, but targeted movement is actually the key to improving.

There are a great many conditions that can result in a painful sensation, which is usually your body’s way of telling you that something isn’t working properly. From back and neck pain to arthritis, frozen shoulder, and plantar fasciitis, pain can manifest in a multitude of ways. And for most individuals who find themselves in pain, the temptation is usually to move as little as possible to avoid making it worse. Unfortunately, moving less and reducing physical activity levels will have the opposite effect.

Despite your natural tendencies, moving the painful parts of your body in a structured manner will go on to alleviate pain in most cases. This is where physical therapy comes in.

The role of a physical therapist is to first identify the source of your pain and extent of your limitations by performing a thorough evaluation. Based on these findings, the physical therapist will then design a personalized treatment program that addresses your impairments and considers your physical abilities, preferences, and goals. And though it may be hard to find the motivation to see a physical therapist at first, doing so when your condition is in an aggravated state helps them better understand what’s going on.

Prescribing a program that works for each patient

Physical therapists are movement experts who are proficient at selecting the most appropriate interventions for each patient based on their unique condition. Programs will vary depending on a number of factors, but most will consist of some—if not all—of the following components:

  • Patient education
  • Pain–relieving modalities like ice and electrical stimulation
  • Stretching exercises to increase flexibility
  • Strengthening exercises to build back strength
  • Manual (hands–on) therapy techniques like massage, mobilization, and manipulation
  • Functional training, especially for athletes and worker’s compensation patients
  • Balance and vestibular training
  • Posture correction

Physical therapists will also encourage regular physical activity (about 150 minutes of moderate–intensity exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous–intensity exercise per week) to increase your strength, endurance, and joint stability and flexibility. Frequent exercise will also help control your pain and allow you to maintain an ability to move and function to your full capacity. Physical therapists will monitor your activity progress and offer continual feedback as you progress to ensure that you’re moving at the right pace and not overdoing it. They will also modify your program if needed to keep your pain levels at a minimum, so you can continue to work independently towards less pain and more function.

As with many things, the first step is the hardest, but it can also be the game–changer you’re seeking. So, if pain is currently holding you back and you’re interested in making a change, we strongly encourage seeing a physical therapist soon for a personalized approach to treatment that will get you moving again, and quickly.

In our next newsletter, we explore how physical therapy stacks up against opioids, another pain management option that usually does more harm than good.