If you have been keeping up with my blog you know that last week I wrote part one of this two part series about chronic pain. This time I want to get into the details about signs and symptoms, how the condition is diagnosed, and then as usual – how physical therapy can help with the condition.
Signs and Symptoms
Research finds the following signs may be associated with a chronic pain syndrome:
– Body stiffness. Sometimes when you try to become more active stiffness can make you feel as if your body is not as able to perform day-to-day activities.
– Decreased circulation. The general lack of activity will decrease the circulation of much-needed blood to your cells, and your body tissues may not get as much oxygen as they need.
– Fearfulness. Many people begin to fear increased pain when they have a chronic pain condition, and as a result they avoid activity.
– Deconditioning. Not moving your body results in less tolerance when you are finally ready to be more active.
– Weight gain and/or a worsening of other conditions. Lack of activity can lead to unwanted weight gain – and as you add pound you can aggravate the symptoms of other conditions.
– Depression. Chronic pain conditions are also commonly associated with feelings of anxiety or depression.
– Increased use of medication. Chronic pain patients increase medication over time to keep themselves comfortable.
How Is It Diagnosed?
In order to diagnose this condition your physical therapist will need to perform a thorough evaluation. This will include:
– Asking you specific questions about your past and present health
– Asking about what medications you currently use
– Asking you about your symptoms: their location, intensity, how and when the pain occurs, as well as other questions
You might be asked to fill out pain and function questionnaires so that your physical therapist can understand how the pain is affecting your day-to-day life. You therapist will perform tests and movements with you. These tests will help identify problems with posture, flexibility, muscle strength, joint mobility, and movement. You physical therapist will observe how you use your body for home, work, and social/leisure activities. This information will help him/her prescribe a program that will boost your quality of life, and get you moving your best.
How Can a Physical Therapist Help?
One of the most important things that your physical therapist will do is work with you to educate you on chronic pain, and help you find solutions to improve the quality of your life! He or she will help you improve movement, teach you pain management strategies, and most importantly – help reduce your pain.
Physical therapy treatments may include:
– Education. Obviously this is to help you improve your knowledge and understanding of chronic pain. Your therapist will teach you how to manage your pain and help you work toward performing your normal daily activities again.
– Strengthening and flexibility exercises. These are to help you move more easily with less discomfort. Most likely your therapist will design a program of graded exercises for you. Graded exercises are to help you improve your coordination and movement, which in turn reduces the stress and strain on your body, and decreases your pain.
– Manual therapy. This consists of specific hands-on techniques that manipulate or mobilize tight joint structures and soft tissues. Manual therapy is used to increase movement (range of motion), improve the quality of the tissues, and reduce pain.
– Posture awareness and body mechanics instruction. This is a very important element, that will help improve your posture and movement. This training helps you use your body more efficiently while performing activities. Your therapist will help you adjust your movement at work, or when performing chores or recreational activities, to reduce your pain and increase your ability to function.
So – now that you know all about chronic pain, and how we can help, it’s time to pick up the phone and give us a call. It’s important to understand that it’s not hopeless – and that you can decrease your pain and return to a more normal life. Of course as always if you have any questions please leave them in the comments below and I will get back to you asap. Otherwise you can give us a call, or fill out our contact form online.