Patients attend physiotherapy and physical therapy (PT) due to pain problems and/or functional impairments. Although the main focus for therapists has traditionally been physical examination and treatment of tissue structures and biomechanics, over the last few decades a growing body of research has highlighted the importance of central nervous system processing and psychosocial contributors to pain perception. Treatment with PT aims to reduce disability and suffering by reducing pain and increasing tolerance to movement.
How Does Physical Therapy Treat Pain?
Physical therapists are experts not only in treating pain, but also its source. Yours will look for areas of weakness or stiffness that may be adding stress to the places that hurt. And they will treat those areas with certain exercises to ease pain and help you move better.
In a physical therapy session, you may do a mix of:
Low-impact aerobic training. These workouts will rev up your heart rate and still take it easy on your joints. For instance, you might walk fast or use a stationary bike to warm up, instead of running, before you do your strengthening exercises.
Strengthening exercises. You might use machines at your physical therapist’s office, resistance bands, or your own body weight (think lunges, squats, and pushups). You may work on your core muscles (belly, glutes, and back), as well as other parts of your body.
Pain relief exercises. These moves target areas where you have pain, so you’re stronger and more flexible which should make it easier to live your life.
Stretching. This will be gentle, and your therapist will make sure that you’re warmed up and you don’t stretch too far.