When pain has you firmly planted on the couch, any type of movement sounds like torture – but physical therapy and exercise are better pain management options than medication.

backpainWe’ve all been there. You finish working in the yard, cleaning the house, or playing with some very active kiddos, and the idea of any kind of movement is the absolute last thing on your mind. When your knees creak like door hinges, or your back feels like you’ve been carrying sacks of flour all day, the common and immediate response is, “Just let me lay down for a bit.”

And while a heating pad with a dose of pain medication may sound like a sensible alternative to exercise, it does nothing to address the cause of the pain. More often than not, chronic pain is a direct result of a patient’s physical weakness from not moving, which can lead to a number of issues, including:

  • Osteoarthritis
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Chronic headaches
  • Chronic pain syndrome and debility
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome

Inflexibility can also contribute to other pain by putting added stress on areas that otherwise wouldn’t be under stress if the patient had good flexibility. Hamstring tightness is the No. 1 problem I see with back pain patients.

Pills mask pain – physical therapy treats it.

pillsWhile hot packs and cold packs are fine for temporary relief, over-the-counter (OTC) medications and prescription drugs for pain management can have negative long-term effects. OTC pain relief meds can cause kidney and liver damage with prolonged use.

Prescription narcotics, like Vicodin and Oxycodone can wear on your kidney and liver, and can lead to dependence.

There are a number of ways to manage chronic pain with physical therapy in lieu of pills. After meeting with a patient to get a better understanding of his/her pain, a therapist will design a physical therapy program based on the specific causes for the pain. Programs can include:


  • Manual massage
  • Body mechanics/postural training
  • Ultrasound/electric stimulation
  • Mechanical traction
  • Iontophoresis/Phonophoresis
  • Paraffin bath/hot and cold packs
  • Movement therapy and exercise
  • TENS therapy (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation)

Less movement leads to more pain experienced by a patient. Exercise routines of at least 30 minutes three to four days a week will help strengthen muscles, increase endurance, and improve joint stability and muscle flexibility, all of which help with chronic pain management. The physical therapy portion will help alleviate any inflammation, joint stiffness, and muscle soreness, giving the body a better opportunity to heal itself by promoting the production of the body’s natural pain-relieving chemicals.

The first step is contacting your local physical therapist and scheduling an appointment. Therapists have the expertise to put you on the right path, ensuring a productive and safe physical therapy program, and getting you back to living your life free of chronic pain.

If you would like to set up an appointment, fill out our contact form and our office that is closest to you will be in touch soon.