Physical therapy used to be considered an alternative form of treatment for pain or a rehabilitation method for post-surgery patients and the injured. However, over the last decade, it’s become a considerably effective and first-choice form of treatment for pain as well as injuries. Furthermore, as the opioid crisis in America consistently makes the headlines, doctors are recommending physical therapy and other forms of pain management before prescribing meds. Indeed, physical therapy treats pain effectively and sometimes even better than such options as surgery and opioids.
1. The #1 Way Physical Therapy Treats Pain
Exercise is still the #1 way physical therapy treats pain. In fact, it is the primary method of treatment as the name indicates. Many people will try alternative forms like acupuncture, manual therapies, and chiropractic care. Some people will experience success with these therapies. However, in order to fully treat pain, a diagnosis must be made and more often than not that diagnosis requires strengthening and exercise. Consistently, research shows that physical inactivity and weakness is linked to chronic pain problems. From bad posture to lack of mobility and misalignment, a physical therapist will look at all possible problems and find the root cause.
2. Cupping As An Additional Treatment
If you’ve watched the summer Olympics, you’re probably already familiar with the alternative form of pain management. After all, how could you not notice the huge welts on Michael Phelps? In addition to the primary form of physical therapy, cupping can be very beneficial in managing and treating pain.
Even though it lacks substantial scientific studies, patients and practitioners swear by its ability to reduce inflammation in the problem area. Reducing inflammation is one of the best ways to treat pain and create a healing response. Furthermore, it helps to relax the tissue in a knotted muscle, which releases pain and pressure.
3. The Graston Technique
Most people are unfamiliar with this form of manual therapy. Like cupping and other forms of specialty rehabilitation, it’s used as part of an overall therapy program with physical activity. Essentially, it’s a form of massage in which the therapist uses an instrument to press over the painful area. In addition to releasing knots and inflammation, it also helps in identifying the problem. The Graston Technique is one of the more scientifically proven forms of specialty rehabilitation. It’s been proven to be effect 75-90% of the time to treat injuries and chronic pain.
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4. Heat & Ice
Everyone does it when they’re in pain or injured, and that’s because it’s been proven to work. Using heat and ice is effective for several reasons. (1) It helps fight and reduce inflammation, which in turns treats pain and allows the area to heal. (2) It reduces swelling. (3) It relaxes muscles and joints. (4) It relieves pain, if only for a short amount of time. However, the key here is that heat and ice therapy only relieve pain temporarily. The problem still remains if it’s not properly diagnosed and treated. Physical therapists will often use heat and ice before and/or after exercise therapy to help in pain management.
5. Dry Needling Is Another Alternative
Technically, dry needling is not acupuncture. Although the long needles placed in the body would make you think otherwise. Also called Trigger Point Needling, it’s similar to acupuncture in that it’s used as an a complimentary form of pain treatment. However, unlike acupuncture which still has yet to be fully substantiated, dry needling has been proven to be extremely effective in pain management. It releases tightness in the muscles that relieves pain and improves function and movement. It’s been known to provide quick results for many patients, helping them quicken their rehabilitation.