Posted: Monday, September 4, 2023

Pain Management Through Physical Therapy

Many people believe in the mantra “No pain, no gain.” Since September is Pain Awareness Month, we’d like to counter this belief. “As a physical therapist, this mantra has given my profession a reputation of people who love pain and torture. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, most treatment approaches seek to provide relief that continually improves rather than pushing people further into the trench of pain,” Blount Memorial Total Rehabilitation physical therapist Tory Tomberlin said.

Most health care facilities utilize a pain scale to determine the range of a patient’s pain so they can better treat them. Some pain scales may have images that depict a range of facial expressions or a rating of one to 10, but how patients rate themselves on that scale tells medical professionals where to start. “Pain is something that is individual. People often are hesitant to answer the question about rating their pain because they realize that a seven for me might be different than a seven for someone else. The important thing to remember is that your score is specific to you and consistent each time, so you can safely choose your score without worrying about being compared to anyone else. If your pain score is decreasing, you are making progress,” Tomberlin explained.

Pain can be treated in many ways. Some conditions can be treated with over-the-counter medications. Some pain can be alleviated with hot or cold compresses. In some cases, relief may come in the form of a massage. “In the physical therapy world, we use many options, including exercise, manual therapy, education, and modalities such as dry needling and electric stimulation, just to name a few. Because pain is individualized, appropriate treatment approaches will be, as well,” Tomberlin said.

Physical therapy has been shown to be effective in reducing the use of prescribed pain medications, too. In 2017, the Department of Health and Human Services declared the opioid crisis a public health emergency. In 2019, it was estimated that 10.1 million people in the United States misused prescription opioids. Physical therapy can be a tool to combat that problem. “Physical therapy is an effective way to assist with decreasing dependence on opioids and other addictive substances taken for pain,” Tomberlin added.

Most often, the goals of physical therapy in treating pain are to prevent the condition from getting worse; improve or restore movement, strength or range of motion; and of course, decrease pain. “Much of what is offered in physical therapy is education-based, so patients are armed with information that can assist them far beyond their episode of care,” Tomberlin explained. For example, certain types of pain, such as hip or knee pain, may best respond to stretching and strengthening exercises to increase flexibility and reduce the need for anti-inflammatories. With education, those stretching and strengthening exercises can be done by the patient at home any time there is a flare-up after the conclusion of physical therapy.

For more information or to schedule a consultation with a physical therapist, call Blount Memorial Total Rehabilitation at 865-238-6118.

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