The Role of Physical Therapy in Pain Management

As Pain Doctors regularly explain to patients: “pain relief through physical therapy is based in the knowledge that all forces in the body affect each other. When a nerve is pinched it can be due to compression from the muscle or fascia. Reducing that strain and restoring fluid movement will help alleviate the pain. It works similarly for other types of pain” [1].

Indeed, it is often only when sufferers visit a Pain Consultant, that they learn that: “nerves and blood vessels that attach to all structures in the body (including organs and musculoskeletal structures), travel through muscle and fascia tissue” [1]. To that end, Pain Doctors work with a multi-disciplinary team, which includes consultants, practitioners and therapists.

The Low-Down on Chronic Pain

Long-term (chronic) pain refers to a condition in which sufferers experience variable degrees of pain. This pain can be prevalent for a period of several months to many years (which is why booking an appointment with a Pain Consultant should be a priority (and should hopefully be done before the condition deteriorates and causes permanent damage).
Common chronic pain conditions include:
• Arthritis
• A herniated disc
• Cancer
• Nerve damage
• A sprain or fracture (which has never healed) [2].

Of note: in every case, the pain is likely to impact a specific joint or muscle group, and in many instances, it is severe enough to affect one’s concentration and ability to carry out certain motions (e.g., bending). Furthermore, over time, sufferers may realise that due to the resulting pain, they can no longer move a particular joint or muscle [2].

The Benefits of Physical Therapy

“Therapists work to restore the balance of coordination, flexibility, and strength, so that movement, blood and nerve flow are not hindered” [1]

When it comes to long-term pain, there are a number of treatment options which are available. – Therefore, when you visit a Pain Doctor, once they have reviewed your medical history and previous treatment record, asked any pertinent questions, and arranged for any necessary tests and scans, they will devise a holistic Personalised Treatment Program, which (subject to any contraindications), may include physical therapy. And as Pain Specialists are aware: “treatment can not only help address why the patient is feeling a particular sensation in the first place; it can also strengthen related muscle groups to improve endurance and range of motion” [2]. So to that end, physical therapy plays an important role in managing pain.

Physical therapy is different to other modalities that help to reduce pain. This is because it is designed to ameliorate pain in the long-term, rather than just temporarily. It has been hailed as a beneficial route for patients who wants to avoid consuming opioids – a pharmaceutical option that has can have serious detrimental effects, including potential addiction.

Different Types of Physical Therapy

There is a broad spectrum of options within the field of physical therapy, and your Pain Doctor will refer you to a practitioner who offers the best type of treatment for you. – And in the event that you do no have a beneficial response to treatment, then they can try out a different modality. The range of treatments run from special massage techniques to joint manipulation, electrical stimulation and dry needling. And at this point, it should be noted that “just because something doesn’t work the first time or even if it worsens pain, that does not mean that a person has failed physical therapy. There are infinite possibilities to modify a person’s program to keep it comfortable and keep making progress” [2].


[1]. University of Utah(2023). “Pain relief through physical therapy.”

[2]. Integrated Rehabilitation (2023). “How physical therapy can help manage chronic pain.”