Chronic pain patients are often caught in a cycle of pain avoidance, which leads to inactivity. This creates an unhealthy lifestyle, which in turn reduces strength, endurance, range of motion, and overall confidence. Patients become more susceptible to injury and unable to work through the healing process. And so the cycle continues.
Some people with persistent pain may fear exercise because it has caused them pain in the past or because they fear that they may be causing further injury. With reassurance and support from your doctor and a healthcare professional (e.g. physiotherapist) you can develop an individual exercise program that is more suitable for you. As you build strength, your pain can decrease.
It is important not to overdo your activities, especially on the days you feel ‘good’ as this may make the pain worse the following day. If you do experience a flare up after exercise it might mean that you have increased the amount too quickly or there may be a particular exercise that isn’t right for you just yet.
An important point with exercise is that if you haven’t been doing any exercise for a while, you may well experience the soreness that goes with starting an exercise program as muscles that haven’t been used suddenly get a “work out”. This is OK. Learning to discriminate between a “flare-up” and normal muscle soreness is important.
Seeing a physiotherapist
At Sydney Spine and Pain our physiotherapist works as part of a multidisciplinary team. This collaboration facilitates optimal care by combining input from pain medicine specialists and psychologists with the physiotherapy management plan.
Enabling self-management of chronic pain
Physiotherapy intervention for chronic pain focuses on empowering people to manage their conditions. Training in self-management for people with pain is part of a person-centred approach that aims to educate people on pain science including neuroplasticity, lifestyle modification, and the optimisation of function and independence. Such an approach requires a partnership with clients that involves collaborative management of their condition, and may take place in a variety of settings (community, hospital, residential care) and with a number of approaches such as individual consultations or group education classes. Physiotherapists working in this manner have further training and experience in pain management techniques and work holistically to consider the biopsychosocial influences on a patient’s condition.
Frequently Asked Questions about Physical Therapy
What is the role of a physiotherapist in chronic pain treatment?
Physiotherapists play a critical role in providing support for people living with chronic pain. Physiotherapists assist patients with their pain in primary care settings with the aim of diminishing pain, improving quality of life where possible, and preventing acute and subacute painful conditions from developing into chronic pain.
Physiotherapists with additional training and experience in pain sciences work in rehabilitation centres, private clinics, and tertiary pain services as part of multidisciplinary pain teams to assist people with complex chronic pain to improve their quality of life by increasing their level of activity and participation in their community. Providing information and support to family and significant others, the workplace, and other healthcare providers is also an important physiotherapy role.