Does Physical Therapy Help with Chronic Pain?

Does physical therapy work for chronic pain? If you’ve asked this question, you’re probably looking for a solution to long-term pain. That is quite understandable, since chronic pain can disrupt your entire life, from making it hard to maintain concentration at work to interfering with your relationships and limiting the activities you’re able to participate in. You may have been presented with options from surgery to pain killing medications, both of which carry risks and drawbacks.

Physical therapy on the other hand offers a non-invasive alternative which is safe and without the dangerous side effects associated with prescription pain drugs. At Oakland Spine & Physical Therapy, we see physical therapy as an essential part of a healing plan. Which is why we’ve expanded to offer our patients four convenient locations throughout northern New Jersey, in Wayne, Closter, Fair Lawn, and Oakland. We’re committed to sharing information to equip patients with the information they need to make the right choices for their healing process. Learn how physical therapy can help with chronic pain and what you can expect from this process. You may be surprised to learn how effective physical therapy is in addressing chronic pain.

What is Chronic Pain?

There are two types of pain – acute and chronic. Acute pain is immediate and goes away quickly. It’s the type of pain you experience if you stub your toe or bite your tongue accidentally. Chronic pain however doesn’t go away so easily and is typically categorized as pain that lasts longer than three months. Chronic pain is commonly experienced after back injuries or with conditions associated with the spinal column, but chronic pain is also prevalent in the form of headaches and due to conditions such as arthritis or neuropathy.

How Chronic Pain Affects the Brain

Research is just beginning to understand how chronic pain impacts our bodies, but studies are emerging that show chronic pain can actually alter the brain, affecting our ability to communicate and process emotions. This effect can cause people who suffer from chronic pain to be more anxious and pessimistic. This just shows that chronic pain isn’t experienced as an isolated sensation, it can have long-term and pervasive impacts on someone’s entire life. Because chronic pain can shrink the gray matter of the brain, this can have a negative impact on someone’s memory, their ability to learn and control the movements of their body. This insight makes it all the more important for those suffering from chronic pain to seek an effective solution.

How Chronic Pain Can Impact Your Life

Many studies have shown the ripple effects chronic pain can have on someone’s life. Saying chronic pain reduces someone’s quality of life doesn’t fully represent the far-reaching impacts of chronic pain. From the financial impact of lost wages and productivity to strained relationships, isolation and a greater risk of mental health disorders including depression and substance abuse, pain can devastate anyone’s life.

How Does Physical Therapy Help with Chronic Pain?

Physical therapy doesn’t attempt to fix an injury or a condition. Instead, physical therapy uses techniques such as exercise and massage to improve the condition of the body through strengthening, increased range of motion, and improved flexibility. These improvements can help reduce the pain, training the brain and the rest of the body to move in ways that don’t cause pain. Beyond exercises, physical therapists also use innovative technology such as ultrasound, electric stimulation, and hot/cold therapy to improve blood flow, reduce inflammation and soothe irritated nerve cells.

What Can You Expect to Do in Physical Therapy to Address Pain?

If you’ve never experienced physical therapy, you may wonder how the process works. For chronic pain, a physical therapist will start by conducting a thorough evaluation of your body’s physical capabilities, such as strength, balance and range of motion. They will also ask detailed questions to better understand your pain to gain greater insight including triggers and lifestyle factors which may be contributing to its chronic nature.

This process will allow a physical therapist to create a customized approach to your therapy and together you will establish therapy goals and a plan to reach them. It’s important to remember that although physical therapy requires commitment and adherence to regular appointments, you may begin to see improvements within several weeks or months.

At your physical therapy sessions, you’ll learn how to move your body to prevent nerve irritation and inflammation. Your physical therapist will teach you how to practice movements which strengthen and improve the conditioning of joints and muscles, making the body stronger and more capable. Although you may experience some initial muscle soreness (like anyone who takes up a new workout routine) these feelings are usually temporary and resolve on their own as you continue to attend your sessions.

Chiropractic Care Complements Physical Therapy for Chronic Pain

While physical therapy aims to strengthen and soothe the body, chiropractic care focuses on balancing out misalignments which can be causing pain to occur. That’s why chiropractic care and physical therapy are often looked at as the perfect combination to address chronic pain, because they each take a different approach to improving the condition of the body. Think of chiropractic care as helping to align the body and physical therapy as a complementary therapy that then helps the body regain its strength, flexibility and range of motion, which was lost while the body was protecting itself from the discomfort of chronic pain. By combining both therapies, you can accelerate healing and improve your outcomes.

Physical Therapy for Chronic Pain in North Jersey

If you live in North Jersey and experience chronic pain, Oakland Spine & Physical Therapy is here to help you get your life back. Our four convenient North Jersey locations in Closter, Fair Lawn, Wayne and Oakland are designed to be easily accessible, so you can fit regular visits into your busy life. With evening and weekend hours, we make sure our physical therapists are there when you need them, so you can stick with your therapy and experience real results. Ready to say goodbye to pain? Reach out to begin your journey to pain-free living!