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Physical Therapy vs. Pain Medication

As a unique patient, you deserve a treatment plan customized to your needs. Both pain medication and physical therapy have a place in the medical community. Depending on the symptoms, frequency, and severity of your pain, learn about prescription/over the counter pain medication and physical therapy as a possible treatment against pain.

Short-Term vs. Long-Term Pain
Post-surgery or after a major traumatic event, physicians may recommend a pain medication to deal with pain in the short term. For occasional headaches or sore muscles after a long day, ibuprofen should be fine. However, the CDC reports that 1 in 5 US adults suffer from chronic pain, or pain experienced on most days/on a daily basis. In these cases, temporary anti-inflammatory pain medication or pain suppressors are not enough to treat the real issue. Physical therapy thrives in treating an individual at the root of the issue, instead of suppressing the chronic pain.

The Source of Pain
Consider the cause of your pain. Acute, short-term pain often comes from the choices we made within the last two weeks or so. If you suddenly experience a new form of pain, it may have come from recent decisions such as:

  • Change in normal activity
  • Poor diet
  • Acute stress
  • Lack of sleep
  • Lack of exercise
  • Too much caffeine/alcohol

However, other sources of pain come from areas we can’t always control. Aging, years of stress/unhealthy choices, or past injuries are not things we can adjust on the fly. The following contribute to chronic issues:

  • Improper stress on joints due to work/lifestyle
  • Traumatic injury
  • Aging
  • Chronic stress
  • Migraines/headaches
  • Poor sleep/posture
  • Arthritis

If you experience pain that interferes with daily life or lasts longer than two weeks, physical therapy is an effective and often cheaper treatment compared to prescription medication. It helps your body break up scar tissue, strengthen muscles and treat the source of your pain. Pain medication may help in the short-term, but patients often find it less beneficial as time goes on, leading to upped dosage, side effects, and increased risk of addiction. For chronic cases, long-term pain requires a long-term solution.

Fighting Chronic Pain
Rarely do we get a prescription before an incident occurs. Whereas pain medication treats current symptoms, physical therapy is often used as both a treatment and a preemptive measure against pain. If you have a family history of back pain or a stiff knee, you shouldn’t wait for a blowout or replacement surgery to take action. Treating signs of chronic pain early increases the likelihood of better results and of permanently managing the pain.

Unknown Sources of Pain
Lastly, there are cases where the source of pain is completely unknown! For these (and chronic cases), we recommend a 30-minute consultation with a physical therapist. Through a combination of physical tests and a comprehensive history of a patient’s pain, we can come up with a treatment plan to manage and even end chronic pain. Contact i’move to discover a path to living pain-free.

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