Physical therapy appears on nearly every post-injury and post-surgery to-do list for a good reason — it’s the best way to retrain your body to use the injured part and restore full function.
In fact, our McNulty Spine board-certified, award-winning, nationally renowned orthopedic surgeon, Patrick S. McNulty, MD, FABSS, FABOS, considers physical therapy an integral aspect of recovery for musculoskeletal problems like:
Despite his extensive surgical skill, his philosophy is always to seek the most conservative treatments, which means physical therapy. In many cases, PT can resolve the problem and delay or eliminate the need for surgery.
However, physical therapy isn’t just for rehab; it can also be a powerful pain reliever. At first glance, physical therapy and its gradual approach to pain relief may pale in comparison to quick-acting opioids that deliver instant gratification, but the national opioid addiction crisis makes it clear that such powerful medications can become dangerous and even lethal.
If you’re looking for a safer, longer-lasting way to kick your pain to the curb for good, here’s how PT fits into your overall pain management plan.
1. Physical therapy improves flexibility
Pain often stems from tight muscles because rigid muscle tissue remains tense and contracted, which irritates nerves that send pain signals to your brain. Professional physical therapists know how to target specific muscles and use special stretching techniques to increase your blood flow in those areas and release muscle tension. Through hot and cold therapy, TENS therapy, and manual therapy, PTs can restore your muscles’ flexibility and relieve your pain.
2. Physical therapy strengthens your muscles
You may not think of strengthening your muscles as a high priority when battling chronic pain, but if your pain is due to arthritic joints, stronger muscles may be exactly what you need.
For example, knee osteoarthritis can make it difficult to bend and walk without pain, so the longer you live with the condition, the more your leg muscles atrophy. Physical therapists focus on the large muscles that support your joints — in this case, your quadriceps — to reduce pain. Strong muscles also protect your joints from injury, provide stability, and may slow the progression of arthritic pain.
3. Physical therapy uses movement to manage pain
Many physical therapy modalities center on movement, and movement, it turns out, is one of the best medicines for pain. One study found that exercise training effectively treats chronic pain syndromes like fibromyalgia by increasing the pain threshold and decreasing pain sensitivity. Exercise can also change your brain’s response to pain by releasing serotonin, your body’s natural pain reliever.
4. Physical therapy reduces inflammation
Inflammation occurs when your body sends a flood of fluids containing healing properties to an injury site. It’s beneficial for a short time, but it contributes to your pain when it sticks around. Chronic inflammation leads to chronic pain, but physical therapy can help flush those fluids out of your body.
5. Physical therapy improves sleep quality
You know you feel crummy when you don’t get enough sleep, but your body is experiencing more than just drowsiness. Your health hinges on getting 7-8 hours of solid sleep nightly, and if you’re in pain, you’re probably not meeting the minimum standard.
When your sleep suffers, your pain increases. It can be challenging to break the cycle, but an experienced physical therapist can help you by reducing your pain so you can sleep. In turn, better, longer sleep further decreases your pain sensitivity.
Other treatments for pain
In addition to physical therapy, Dr. McNulty offers multiple approaches for chronic pain, including nerve blocks, joint injections, and spinal cord stimulation, to name a few of our advanced treatments.
When necessary, he also performs state-of-the-art surgical procedures to address the root cause of your pain.
Don’t suffer unnecessarily — call McNulty Spine in Las Vegas, Nevada, to schedule a consultation with Dr. McNulty or request an appointment online.