Pain Relief and Management
Pain can have a tremendous impact on an injured patient’s overall outlook. It can disrupt relationships, impact performance at work and take the joy out of life. Oftentimes it is difficult to determine how we feel about life as a whole when we are thinking about the impact our injury has on how we feel at a specific moment in time.
Pain relief is typically a patient’s first concern when seeking out a referral to a physical therapist. At RHC, we try to establish strategies to help patients manage and take control of their pain. Teaching Respect versus Fear of pain is often an important first step in healing. Self pain management fosters a sense of independence, and we often see an amazing transformation in a patient’s attitude from the beginning to the end of treatment. Your RHC physical therapist’s goal is to understand not only where the pain is but also more importantly to determine what is causing it.
While complete pain relief is a good goal, there are times when a patient has to learn to understand why and how their pain relates to what they can safely do. Certain conditions cannot heal if they are always getting agitated, but some injuries do have to progress through pain in order for a patient to make gains. It is your physical therapist’s role to help you learn what type of parameters and boundaries need to be set.
Types of Pain
Chronic Pain: Pain that has been ongoing for several months or years, can be tougher to treat quickly. Here the focus is on restoring correct movements and strength, flexibility and symmetry to decrease abnormal forces. This provides the correct environment for healing to occur.
Acute Pain: Recent onset pain, or acute pain, requires a different approach. Treating this type of pain early on allows the therapist to prevent compensatory patterns or habits from complicating the healing.
Post-Surgical Pain: Even with total joint or arthroscopic surgeries it is important to at least have a few visits early on so that scar tissue restrictions do not develop. We find that if a patient is asked to wait several weeks before starting therapy, it is more difficult to achieve range of motion goals because scar tissue has already begun to form in limiting ways. Our core group of referring doctors trust us in these early days to keep the surgical area safe while gaining ground in the range of motion department.
Seeking the Cause of Pain
Pain is a symptom. If we spend our time chasing the pain versus looking at the body for what is creating it, we can lose valuable time in terms of pain relief. At times a patient needs a little extra treatment with modalities (pain relieving treatments such as ultrasounds and electrical stimulation), but these are not the cure-all of pain relief. This is why we strongly believe in the skilled art of palpation to find, identify and treat soft tissue and joint restrictions that are preventing normal function. When these dysfunctions are cleared pain generally goes away with them. It takes a collaborative approach with the patient and therapist to address all areas of care plan.
In a nutshell, whether pain is chronic, acute, post-operative, or muscle, disc or nerve pain, it is the job of your physical therapist to determine the cause of it and work with you to relieve it. Trends come and go, but a solid foundation in anatomy, kinesiology and body mechanics is the foundation to all treatment. It takes years of experience with numerous patients for a therapist to learn how it all fits together and integrate their areas of knowledge into a comprehensive treatment plan.