Different modalities for chronic pain management: physiotherapy vs medication

Living with and managing chronic pain effectively

If you are living with chronic pain on a daily basis, we understand completely why you would be looking at different ways to manage your pain and alleviate your symptoms.

With so much information available and a variety of differing advice depending on which type of expert you visit, it can be impossible to know where to begin. This stress can also put pressure on chronic pain sufferers, making the pain worse. In this blog, we will discuss the role of physiotherapy and medication in chronic pain management and which could be more effective in the management and alleviation of symptoms on a long-term basis. But first, we need to understand what chronic pain is and how it differs from ‘normal pain’.

What is chronic pain?

Chronic pain is pain that can happen anywhere on your body and lasts for over 3 months, either constantly or coming and going. Chronic pain generally interferes with daily activities, including work, socialising and supporting yourself or your family. Chronic pain is not just about physical pain but about other debilitating symptoms, including sleep troubles, depression and anxiety. Chronic pain can be difficult to manage without the correct support and may often feel like you are taking two steps forward and one back.

Chronic pain vs other pain

How can you tell the difference between chronic pain and other pain? When do you know when the pain has switched from one to the other? Whilst both pain types may be caused by accident or injury, acute or other pain may not last too long and will go away when your body heals from whatever caused the pain. Chronic pain, however, will continue for a long time after the body has healed and can even happen for no obvious reason.

The role of physiotherapy in chronic pain management

A physiotherapist is there to support and help those who are living with pain. A physiotherapist’s aim is to improve the quality of life of their patient and assist in learning and developing skills needed to manage their chronic pain. Physiotherapy plays an imperative role in the management of chronic pain as it will help to improve and increase function and movement, as well as potentially alleviate pain and discomfort.

Whilst medication will seek to improve the pain in an immediate capacity; physiotherapy focuses on managing the impact of chronic pain on a daily basis. Using qualified techniques including hydrotherapy, acupuncture and laser treatment, combined with general physiotherapy, physiotherapists like Physio Healing Hands aim to make their patients’ lives more manageable.

A physiotherapist will begin treatment by undertaking an in-depth assessment to understand the medical, psychological and physical aspects of the patient’s pain. A physiotherapist will also look at any medication that is currently being administered and whether the patient has previously been treated. Only by undertaking this assessment will the physio be able to fully understand the extent that the chronic pain is taking over their patient’s life, what treatment is needed and how long this is likely to last. 

A physiotherapist will also work as part of an MDT (Multi-Disciplinary Team) if required. Patients often have an MDT when they have been seriously injured, are under social care or are facing a court case due to life-changing injuries. A physio will work alongside psychologists, pain consultants, surgeons and social workers to offer a well-rounded and holistic approach to a chronic pain plan.

Taking medication to manage your chronic pain

Whilst medication is more and more often being refused or turned away from in favour of more holistic forms of treatment, for chronic pain sufferers, medication and painkillers are often the only forms of immediate relief available. If you are a long-term chronic pain sufferer, you are likely to be under the guidance of a GP who will have prescribed you the most appropriate medication related to your pain. It is imperative that this medication is taken as directed and regular medication reviews are undertaken. This is because often, chronic pain sufferers are prescribed very strong painkillers, and these, of course, can come with serious side effects, including addiction.

Whilst medication is used to treat immediate pain symptoms; there are a number of drawbacks to using medication alone without another form of therapy. Medication merely supports the immediate pain and doesn’t look to cure or offer long-term support to the pain at its root. This can often mean chronic pain sufferers may feel better than they are and injure themselves further by accident. As mentioned previously, strong painkillers also have serious side effects, including addiction which can bring its only challenges if not caught in time. Lastly, if you are using a particular medication for a long period of time, you may find that your body gets used to it, and it no longer helps the pain.

Medication should be a short-term solution that is used to help alleviate immediate symptoms of severe pain on difficult days. It can also be used in conjunction with physiotherapy appointments if they are particularly difficult. Medication and painkillers, however, should not be used as a standalone solution for chronic pain sufferers without consulting other therapies that could further support pain management.

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Physio Healing Hands – your chronic pain specialist

Based in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire and supporting the Home Counties and beyond with our chronic pain physiotherapy services, Physio Healing Hands actively believes in the management of long-term pain through a variety of therapies and medication when used sparingly and correctly. Our extensive background working as a spinal nurses with spinal injury and rehabilitation clients means we are in a strong and understanding position when it comes to your individual chronic pain journey.

If you are living with long-term pain and you are looking for support from a specialist physiotherapist, get in touch with Physio Healing Hands today and book your consultation. If you are unable to attend our clinic, please let us know, and we can make arrangements to visit you at your home.

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