The Benefits of Physical Therapy in treating Chronic Pains
Photo by EmpowerPt
The stage was set, high school tennis play-offs. I was serving to start the match. I swung the racket at the ball. Suddenly, I felt a sharp, jarring pain in my arm. As I continued to play the pain became more and more unbearable. I could not hit at full speed and lost the match. I was devastated. When my father asked me why I was hitting so soft I responded with a simple, “I pulled something.”
The next week at school was terrible. I struggled to lift my bag, book, and even computer! Teachers and students started to take notice. I knew that now it was probably time to come clean to my parents and see a specialist. The following day I headed to Boston Shoulder and Sports Center to have my arm checked out. After x-rays and thorough examination I was diagnosed with distal bicep tendonitis. My condition was in a tough position because it was not severe enough to require interventional surgery, nor minor enough to go away with a day's rest. I was recommended by the physician to take rest and start physical therapy immediately.
Physical therapy started the next week. The first day I could not even open the door with my injured arm. My physical therapist Ryan saw the condition I was in and immediately got to work. He performed various massaging techniques, cup therapy, and electric stimulation. He gave me a sheet of paper with various stretches and exercises that were recommended to be done at home to prevent pain. I walked out the building already feeling improved, however the pain set in once again that night. I grabbed the sheet he gave me and performed the stretches, it really helped.
Fast forward four months and my condition was drastically improved. Every day activities were back to normal and I could even compete in tennis again. Physical therapy not only helped to heal my injury but made me stronger as well as taught me the preventative measures to take. However, a question remained in my head, was physical therapy this effective to everyone?
In a randomized controlled trial performed by Nilay Sahin et al, the effectiveness of physical therapy and exercise on pain in chronic back pain patients was tested. The patients were put through a rigorous, targeted physical therapy and exercise program. The results were incredible. In the meta-analysis performed, Nilay Sahin et al were able to find that patients with chronic lower back pain treated with physical therapy showed a significant improvement in pain and functionality, compared to those who received no conservative treatments.
With many studies now proving the efficacy of physical therapy, some patients are now being forced to make the decision between using opioids and a sustained physical therapy program. In many cases opioids are a necessary treatment such as in cancer treatments, palliative care, and in certain acute pain situations. However, for broader, more general pain management the CDC recommends nonopioid approaches such as physical therapy. The CDC recommends this due to the fact that opioids mask the pain by interrupting pain signals while physical therapy treatments treat pain through movement and massage techniques to provide a lasting cure.
Physical therapy provides patients a way to relieve pain while also teaching a variety of preventative measures. It has been proven to be an effective treatment method for chronic pains and is regarded by many to be one of the leading methods for long term pain management.
Thank You to all of the hard working physical therapists and physicians who help patients cope with chronic pains.