Pain-Free Living: Managing Chronic Pain through Manual Therapy Techniques

Pain-Free Living: Managing Chronic Pain through Manual Therapy Techniques

manual therapy techniques for pain

Pam, 67, had been living with chronic back pain for at least six months. She tried to manage her discomfort as best she could by investing in heating pads and utilizing over-the-counter medication. Nothing worked. Finally, she visited a physical therapist, who applied a few manual therapy techniques for pain–and Pam finally found a path to relief.

Manual therapy is an umbrella term for several hands-on techniques physical therapists use to reduce pain, improve mobility, and promote blood circulation. Pam’s therapist used two common types of manual therapy: joint mobilization and soft tissue manipulation.

He also helped Pam understand the underlying cause of her back pain. She had developed degenerative disc disease, which is not a disease in the usual sense of the word but rather a common side effect of aging that causes the vertebral discs in the spine to break down. With that information, he was also able to provide her with a customized treatment plan to provide lasting comfort.

Chronic pain is surprisingly common. The CDC estimates that around 52 million American adults–21% of the adult population–struggle with some form of chronic pain, with 17 million people experiencing chronic pain to such a degree that it impacts their day-to-day lives.

There’s no doubt that chronic pain is difficult to manage, with many people turning to pharmaceutical use. But physical therapy at Omni Physical Therapy & Wellness offers several drug-free alternatives, including manual therapy.

To learn more about manual therapy and chronic pain, keep reading–or call our Garden City office to schedule an initial consultation!

Understanding Chronic Pain

Pain is a normal part of life. It’s our body’s way of telling us that something’s wrong. If you’ve ever accidentally cut yourself while slicing veggies for dinner or stubbed your toe on a piece of furniture, you almost certainly experienced a sudden flare of intense pain that faded fairly quickly. That was your body telling you, “Don’t do that again!

Such pain is also an example of acute pain–pain that lasts up to 2 weeks. While your stubbed toe was probably only painful for a few minutes, you may have experienced longer-lasting acute pain, too. For example, maybe you attempted to pick up a heavy piece of furniture and strained your back: a healthy, active person might recover from that injury on their own, but they’ll have to deal with pain for a couple of weeks or so.

In contrast, chronic pain lasts longer than three months–that is, longer than it would take for an injury to resolve itself. Chronic pain is much more complex than acute pain because it’s not simply telling your body something’s wrong. Instead, it results from an interplay between your brain’s pain centers and the affected area.

Chronic pain might have its root in an injury or underlying condition. But the reason the pain lingers for so long is that your brain interprets any and all sensations from the affected area as pain, even if there’s no more actual damage. This is not to say that the pain is “all in your head” (you’re obviously experiencing it). It just means that the pain itself often becomes bigger than the triggering event.

Manual Therapy Techniques for Chronic Pain

Addressing and resolving chronic pain is a complicated process. The first step is to try to reduce pain levels so that you can better function. Then we can work on a customized approach for resolving the pain, if possible–or at least reducing it significantly.

Manual therapy is one of the ways that the Omni Physical Therapy & Wellness  team can help you reduce those initial pain levels. We offer several different techniques that provide unique benefits. What they all have in common is that they’re performed with our therapist’s hands–adding an element of human touch that’s beneficial in and of itself!

Here are some of our most frequently used manual therapy techniques:

  • Joint Mobilizations: Movement helps keep your joints healthy (and provides pain relief). This technique provides some of the benefits of movement without asking you to exert yourself. Our therapist will gently guide your affected joint through its current range of motion.
  • Soft Tissue Manipulation: Your soft tissues include your muscles, tendons, and ligaments, and this massage-like technique helps break up scar tissue, improve blood flow, promote relaxation–and of course, manage pain.
  • Myofascial Release: Your muscles are wrapped in a tough protective tissue called myofascia. If it becomes tight, it can cause pain and stiffness throughout your body. This technique involves manipulating (releasing) the myofascia so you can find mobility and pain relief.
  • Trigger Point Therapy: Trigger points are tight, painful knots in your muscles or myofascia that create pain both at their location and elsewhere in your body. This technique loosens those trigger points, reducing pain and improving mobility.

What to Expect During Physical Therapy for Chronic Pain

We understand that many people struggling with chronic pain have had poor experiences with healthcare providers. Perhaps you’ve had your symptoms overlooked or your concerns ignored. At Omni Physical Therapy & Wellness , we work hard to ensure you get the relief you need without dismissing your experiences.

Our first step will be a comprehensive physical assessment to help us better understand your exact experience of chronic pain. This is not a quick, five-minute appointment! We’ll take a full health history, discuss your symptoms, and perform movement screens (as long as you can tolerate them) to help us get the necessary information.

From there, we’ll develop a customized treatment plan addressing your needs. If we can identify a clear underlying cause (such as Pam’s degenerative disc disease), we’ll provide a program for resolving it. But even if we can’t, we’ll work to develop a personalized pain management program.

We typically utilize manual therapy during the early stages of the program. While it won’t necessarily resolve your pain immediately, you may begin to see improvement over time. As you improve, we’ll incorporate additional pain management strategies, such as therapeutic exercises (assuming your body can tolerate them).

Manual Therapy Techniques: First Strikes Against Pain

Chronic pain can enormously impact your overall quality of life–but physical therapy at Omni Physical Therapy & Wellness  can help you get your life back.

Schedule an appointment with us today to get started!


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