Chronic, long lasting pain can be due to an injury or conditions like fibromyalgia or arthritis. People with chronic pain can become less active because of their pain, resulting in decreased muscle flexibility and strength, decreased activity endurance and unbalanced postures. When someone has chronic pain, it can be difficult to know how to start an exercise program safely without aggravating the pain. Exercise should be an important part of everyone’s routine, especially if you have chronic pain. Exercise releases natural endorphins, or brain chemicals, that help improve your mood while also blocking pain signals into the blood stream. Exercise has another pain-reducing effect: it strengthens muscles, helping prevent re-injury and further pain.
This is where physical therapy can help. Physical therapy starts with an individualized assessment to determine each person’s individual needs. Just as people have different body types, they have different patterns of movement, different alignments and different habits. Physical therapists monitor each individual and develop a program to correct what is causing pain. Most home exercise programs include gentle stretching, strengthening exercises, pain relief exercises and low-impact aerobic conditioning. If you want to learn about water exercise options or transition to a gym exercise routine, physical therapy can help with that, too.
In addition to exercise, physical therapy can help you learn new techniques to better manage your pain. The way that you position and use your body during activities, called posture and body mechanics, can affect your pain. A physical therapist can give you tips to use and position your body differently to put less stress on your joints and use your muscles more efficiently. Taping for joint support or muscle relaxation can also be a helpful tool to manage your pain at home. You and your physical therapist will be able to determine what strategies and techniques will work best for you.