Chronic pain is the type of pain that affects one’s well-being for 12 weeks or more, even when the initial causes of pain, such as an injury, have already been addressed. According to recent statistics cited by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, around 20% of the individuals impacted by acute back pain end up developing chronic low back pain. Sometimes, adequate treatment may alleviate the most upsetting symptoms in the long run, while also reducing pain and discomfort; nonetheless, in other cases, pain may persist in spite of the surgical and medical treatments that the patient has undergone.
Facts about People Living with Chronic Back and Neck Pain
While acute pain can be defined as a normal sensation generated by the nervous system to signal the presence of an injury and alert patients to take better care of certain problematic health-related aspects, pain that is classified as chronic is persistent. Continuous pain signals fire one’s nervous system for long periods of time, ranging from a few weeks to a few years. All types of chronic pain have one thing in common: an initial mishap that may take many forms, including a serious infection, a sprained back, or causes of pain that have already been identified, such as cancer or arthritis.
Generally speaking, chronic pain impacts older adults. Some of the most common complaints include cancer pain, low back pain, arthritis pain, and neurogenic pain (the pain that one may experience as a result of peripheral nerve damage). According to a report mentioned by the American Academy of Pain Medicine, chronic pain affects more than 1.5 billion individuals from different parts of the globe, and approximately 4.5% of the entire population is impacted by neuropathic pain.
On the other hand, chronic neck pain or cervical lower back pain, can be associated with a series of potential underlying causes, including genetics and one’s inability to maintain a correct posture for long time periods. Unfortunately, this fairly common health concern is taken lightly by many patients. Left undiagnosed and untreated, chronic neck pain may trigger several alarming disorders and backbone complications, including herniated discs and spinal stenosis.
Physical Therapists Can Help People Impacted by Chronic Pain
People who are forced to deal with chronic pain on a daily basis should consider opting for conservative treatment options designed with their safety, comfort and smooth recovery in mind. Generally speaking, physical therapy tailored to one’s medical and non-medical needs and expectations is an excellent choice for individuals whose lives have been dramatically affected by long-term pain. In a nutshell, personalized physical therapy builds strength and boosts mobility, allowing patients to develop better pain-coping skills.
Physical therapists are knowledgeable and manage to identity and address not only the pain experienced by the patient, which is a mere symptom, but also its main source. Usually, physical therapists will take as much time as needed to get acquainted with a patient’s story and medical history, and pinpoint the stiff or numb areas that could add stress to the body parts that already hurt. Those areas will benefit from the best therapy meant to decrease pain and enable patients to move faster and better.
Physical therapy can be seen as a complex workout based on multiple essential components, including low-impact aerobics, strengthening exercises, pain relief exercises and stretching. This helps patients regain their flexibility, strength or mobility.
For instance, strengthening exercises-both the ones that involve the use of machines, such as resistance bands, or the patient’s body weight, like push-ups or squats- may give people the opportunity to tone and sculpt different body parts, and put certain groups of muscles at work to increase their strength. At the same time, pain relief exercises target specific areas where patients experience pain.
By gently working on these problematic areas, individuals can become more flexible and stronger, while also improving their pain management. Physical therapists are experts in diagnosing and treating musculoskeletal issues. They work closely with every single patient, identifying the main causes of pain, creating treatment plans and making sure that they are followed, and monitoring their clients’ progress every step of the way. Physical therapists may recommend exercises that patients could do at home, and even supervise their clients in their own environment, and guide them towards the best treatment results. During each session, physical therapists could rely on different types of aids to achieve to promote recovery, including heat and ice packs to calm inflammation (ice) or help muscles move better (heat), and also minimize pain. In some cases, physical therapists may also encourage their clients to discover the benefits of alternative treatment methods, including massage, transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation-also known as TENS- and spinal cord stimulation.
When to Consider Physical Therapy Treatment
Many people who have been dealing with chronic pain for a long period of time are probably asking themselves the following question: when should one consider treatment comprising physical therapy? In most cases, the answer is simple: it is never too late to discover the benefits of physical therapy, which may include a stronger, more flexible body, and improved pain coping capabilities.
After low back pain episodes with a duration that exceeds six weeks, patients should consider discovering the notable advantages of physical therapy. Moreover, some of the most reputable specialists recommend physical therapy even sooner, especially when patients are dealing with severe neck or back pain.
Most physical therapy programs are founded on two key pillars: passive physical therapy, in which the goal is to help patients reach a level of pain that is more manageable, and active exercises. Passive physical therapy is utilized by the patient, who doesn’t have to invest any effort in any of these processes. This type of therapy may involve the usage of ultrasound, TENS units, or heat and ice packs.
Aside from passive therapies, patients also require active exercises meant to help them regain control over the bodies, build strength and flexibility, and manage pain with more ease. Such workouts play an important part in the overall rehabilitation of the neck and spine. In general, exercise programs meant to improve the overall condition of one’s back after a disease or an injury should be based on a combination of key elements, including stretching and low-impact aerobics.
Treatment plans may include manual therapy and spinal manipulation, modalities to reduce pain and inflammation, as well as sets of exercises designed to strengthen and prevent pain. Ideally, physical therapists should recommend a combination of exercises that meet one’s medical and non-medical necessities, lifestyle choices, and personal preferences. For instance, low-impact aerobics have a prominent role in pain reduction in the long run.
Patients can choose their favorite activities from a long list of options, which may include water therapy or walking. Done for up to 40 minutes per day, three times a week, in combination with strengthening exercises recommended by a reputable physical therapist, these fun, rewarding activities can allow patients to win important battles with chronic pain and achieve new goals in terms of health and well-being.
Healthcare Therapy Services, Inc. is a contract rehabilitation provider of physical, occupational and speech therapy in a variety of care settings. We provide rehabilitation programs in skilled nursing facilities, assisted living, home care providers and hospitals. Our highly skilled therapists are expertly trained in addressing acute and chronic back pain and many have specialized certifications specifically for this condition. Be sure to share this article with a friend or loved who needs this knowledge to obtain some relief from back pain. For more information about our services and programs, go to www.htstherapy.com.