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Unmasking Pain with Physical Therapy

Featuring National Product Leader for Physical Therapy Michelle Despres

This post is part of an ongoing series on the opioid epidemic and pain management. Get caught up with part one and two.

Let’s be honest, no one likes to be in pain – especially when that pain is the direct result of an injury that is causing you to be off the job. In today’s healthcare system, we often think pills, like opioids, are the only way to make us feel better. While opioids can provide temporary relief from an injury, they are only masking the pain. In part three of ‘Managing the Pain of the Opioid Epidemic,’ we feature National Product Leader for Physical Therapy Michelle Despres’ thoughts on how physical therapy is a safer, more effective prescription for chronic pain management.

“Physical therapy offers a wide variety of techniques to manage pain. Unlike opioids, these treatments are tailored to the individual. We look at a patient’s mobility, limitations and lifestyle to approach treatment holistically – not just at the injury itself.”

Benefits of physical therapy

Early intervention is key. When physical therapy is prescribed as the primary treatment method, it establishes a measurable foundation for rehabilitation and recovery and might even help to prevent an injury from becoming a long-term disability.

Injuries that respond positively to physical therapy

Musculoskeletal injuries such as ligament or muscle sprains, carpal tunnel, herniated discs and bone fractures respond well. Physical therapy provides a safe, drug-free method of treatment that allows the body the chance to heal and learn self-management techniques to mitigate future painful episodes.

Physical therapy treatment options for pain management

Physical therapy treatments are offered through a mixture of hands-on care, movement and patient education. All injuries are treated differently depending on an injured workers’ mobility and injury. Some of these methods include:

  • Low-impact training workouts: these workouts raise heart rates but don’t put a lot of pressure on joints to target endurance.
  • Joint mobilization: to restore mobility in a joint that is painful due to altered motion.
  • Therapeutic exercises: machine work or resistance bands that may strengthen key muscles. These activities include pain relief exercises and movement strategies that directly target areas where pain is apparent.
  • Soft tissue mobilization: while deep tissue mobilization may feel painful in the moment, this hands-on technique allows a physical therapist to get to the source of the pain.
  • Stretching: gentle movements that lengthen muscles and restore motion. While the thought of treating pain with pain may not initially make sense,  physical therapy provides strengthening, repair and restoration to the affected body part.

Physical therapy may help avoid the use of opioids and long-term chronicity. Simply put, there is nothing to lose and everything to gain by trying physical therapy instead of opioids as a first line of treatment for musculoskeletal injuries. #ChoosePT

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