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Should I Go to Physical Therapy If I’m In Pain?

Physical therapy is used to treat acute or chronic pain resulting from physical impairments caused by injury, illness, or trauma. The decision of whether to go for physical therapy if you are in pain may vary depending on the type of pain endured.

Mild pain can be treated with over-the-counter pain medications, regular exercises, and enough rest. However, acute pain in the leg, ankle, lower back, and the joints may require you to go for physical therapy. This article gives a guide of when to refer to physical therapy for pain and major implications for pain management.

Understanding Pain

Physiotherapist supporting woman during rehabilitation with ball
For decades, pain was thought to be a sign of an injury to the body tissue. In recent times, medical experts and physicians describe pain as a warning signal that alerts an individual of potential damage so that it can protect one from injury. Feeling pain does not necessarily mean that you have experienced a physical injury but it could be possible depending on activities that led to such condition. When the potential for injury occurs or tissue is injured, special nerves known as nociceptors send warning signals to the brain of the damage.

Your body will respond by sending pain signals to the affected area so that you can begin the healing process and minimize further damage. For instance, if you have an ankle sprain, the nociceptors will send pain signals to your brain to make sure you do not exert a lot of pressure on the affected foot. Your body also reacts with an inflammatory response such as swelling to bring healing cells closer to the affected area.

When to Seek Physical Therapy

  • To Address Chronic Pain or Potential Injury

One of the common reasons why people seek physical therapy is to address a potential injury that is inhibiting their ability to exercise normally or move freely. A physical therapist can help you set goals to overcome your discomfort or injury and come up with a plan to make it achievable. They can use hands-on therapies such as massage, different exercises or activities, and other tools to help relieve your symptoms.

  • Rehabilitation After Surgery

If you are recovering from surgery, chances are that you might experience pain and discomfort around the area of operation. This is common for many types of surgeries since the body takes a while to heal from the cut and stitches done during the procedure. Depending on your goals and type of surgery, the post-op rehabilitation process can begin the day after the surgery and last for about 6 to 12 months. During this period, your physical therapist will support you through recovery until you are given medical clearance to resume your normal life or routine.

  • Quick Tune-Up

Another reason to seek physical therapy is if you experience pain with normal activities that would not cause that feeling to occur such as walking, weight lifting, or running. A chronic or recurring pain that is bothering you even after having enough rest from an activity that triggered it in the first place indicates a serious problem. A person could benefit from physical therapy at least twice a year for movement assessment to help tune up the normal body functions and address any underlying issues. Not only does this help to improve your movement patterns but also prevents injuries.

Major Implications for Pain Management

The new understanding of pain has changed the way physical therapist approach their patients for care. In the past, many healthcare personnel focused their treatment on the healing of damaged tissue. While this program could have helped patients with actual physical injury, many other people reported pain that lasted beyond the necessary time required for healing. In recent times, physical therapists use advanced techniques in their methods of treatment and pain management. Not only do they focus on injured tissue but also address other potential problems such as stress, psychology, social factors, and environmental concerns that influence the amount of pain endured. Understanding the nature of pain makes it easier for a physical therapist to determine an ideal treatment plan based on your medical history and diagnosis.

The educational component of physical therapy promotes the best environment for healing while teaching you ways to minimize pain and avoid injury in the future. It may be tempting to sit on the couch or sleep it off when you are feeling pain. However, that could cause more harm than good as you may be having a serious issue that requires immediate medical help. Always talk to your doctor about any feeling of pain to get their approval before starting physical therapy or an exercise program.