No matter how hard we try, pain is unavoidable. It may be uncomfortable, but pain is actually pretty helpful. It’s the body’s way letting us know that something is wrong and that it needs attention. Most of the time, this “pain signal” eventually goes away either on its own or after tending to it (like putting ice on a sprained ankle). But for some people, the pain signal continues long after the problem has been resolved. When it lasts for three months or more, the term “chronic pain” is used, which is usually a troublesome issue to fix.
Your Nerves are Sensors – Pain is an Output from the Brain
When you injure yourself, pain-detecting sensors become activated in that area. These sensors then send a message in the form of an electrical signal to the brain, which processes the signal and sends out a message that something is wrong. After most injuries, this signal stops after the cause of pain is resolved, meaning the injured area has healed. But with chronic pain, these nerve signals continue sending messages that you are in pain even though there is no longer any injury.
Unfortunately, the reasons behind why chronic pain occurs are not well understood. For some individuals, pain from conditions like headaches/migraines, arthritis, back pain, infections or nerve damage is the original source of pain. But even more confusing are cases in which there was no known injury or condition responsible, and yet the patient continues to experience similar chronic pain symptoms.
Chronic Pain Can be Effectively Treated with Natural Physical Therapy Care
Unlike injuries in which there is a specific cause of pain and disability, chronic pain is often far more difficult to treat, since the problem is more related to the nervous system than any physical issue. On the bright side, recent research is helping experts better understand the mechanisms behind chronic pain and what treatments are effective for addressing it. Physical therapists often see patients with chronic pain and are equipped to treat them with a variety of interventions that have been found to be helpful. Some of these include:
- Education on how the brain and nervous system are causing the pain
- Strengthening and flexibility exercises
- Hands-on (manual) therapy techniques
- Posture and body mechanics awareness
A recent study investigated the use of routine physical therapy and the addition of a technique commonly used by therapists called cervical mobilization for chronic neck pain. They found both to be beneficial, which can be seen in the study’s conclusion:
The results suggest that a combination of cervical mobilization with routine physical therapy is more effective for reducing pain and disability and improving neck muscle endurance and neck flexibility in patients with chronic mechanical neck pain compared to routine physiotherapy alone
So for those of you who have been dealing with any type of chronic pain and are frustrated with your progress, the best decision you can make is to see a physical therapist for a personalized, comprehensive treatment program that’s right for you. For more information, click here to contact us.