Pain Management – How Physical Therapy can Help

How can exercise and physical therapy help after a fall or injury? A patient could be in considerable pain. The patient might have inflammation and a lack of mobility as a result of surgery. Is recovery pushed forward by popping pills? Can a patient decide that they wish to be in control of their recovery? What can help with pain management? A look into the benefits of physical therapy can help us answer these questions.

How can Physical Therapy help in Pain Management

Physical therapy can help a person manage pain in different ways. Exercising through physical therapy helps the body to release its own special chemicals called endorphins, which both relieve pain and help the body to heal. This is called treating pain through movement.

There is a special category of physical therapy performed in water, which allows a person to exercise with less or no discomfort.

In dry physical therapy a person does have to make an effort and if might hurt while the patient is doing the exercises, or perhaps the next day. That effort is a bridge to reducing the inflammation, pain and immobility caused by the injury. Ultimately it is expected that physical therapy will help a patient feel better and more pain free.

Other types of movement therapies include Tai Chi, Qi Gong, Trager, Watsu and Ai Chi.

Read more about this in Movement Therapies May Relieve Chronic Pain.

Is Physical Therapy Better Than Opioids?

Taking drugs to relieve pain might seem the easiest and most convenient option. Drugs such as opioids, mask the pain for some time but do not go to the root of the problem. Patients seeking a long-term solution prefer to make an effort and solve the cause of the pain where possible, avoiding drugs that are potentially addictive.

Drugs relieve pain by interrupting the pain signals sent to the brain. Treatment through touch and movement has a similar effect. Through physical therapy, at the same time as treating the pain, patients can improve their mobility and functionality.

Often physical therapy is required after an injury or a fall. Through physical therapy a patient can learn how to avoid another injury, by adjusting the way they do activities.

How can Physical Therapy Help?

Here are some of the many benefits from physical therapy:

  • avoid drugs and medication
  • avoid invasive surgery
  • learn how to use and relax muscles
  • improve dysfunctional movement
  • relieve pain
  • better potential for mobility
  • positive feelings towards mobility
  • improved flexibility and joint movement
  • prevent further muscle and nerve damage
  • post-operative muscle recovery

Get the Best out of each Physical Therapy Session

The University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority presents a list of great tips on how to be a good patient and get the best you can out of each physical therapy session.

  • Keep a note of when the pain started – sometimes that information can help the therapist understand the cause of the problem better.
  • Think about what your goals are. What you want to get out of the physical therapy could determine the course of the treatment and it will certainly help you to keep track of your progress. Choose a goal that is specific and practical.
  • Attend all sessions of physical therapy that you scheduled, even if that day you are in pain and it is tempting to cancel.
  • After the session do any ‘homework’ because that could be the bridge to success in the next session. It is also the way to see if the condition is improving.
  • Ask questions during the PT session, don’t be shy. When you are clear as to the point of what the physical therapist is doing, or how to do certain exercises you will be be more likely and able to do the exercises yourself.

Control of Recovery – in Whose Hands?

Of course, often a patient needs encouragement and support until they reach the point of recovery. That will give the patient strength to go on until things turn around. That is the task of the surrounding family and friends, visitors and day-center carers and so on.

The best resources are sometimes those that a person controls.

People who person follow these and other tips they can help themselves to recover. This includes exercises that are to be done in between visits and, following any other instructions given by the therapist.

The patient is therefore the best resource to facilitate the gain from the physical therapy and contribute to towards their own pain management.


pain management, physical therapy

Original Photo by Fabrizio Conti on Unsplash

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