By: Tiffany Anderson
Long-term pain management has traditionally included the use of prescription painkillers. Narcotics can be addictive and deadly and take the lives of nearly 15,000 people every year due to overdoses. With the new healthcare reform and the number of new patients physicians will have to treat, the death toll (which is already 3 times more than it was in 1999) will continue to rise. These numbers reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are shocking; to say the least, but what can we do to put a stop to this rising epidemic?
Today in PT’s latest cover story talks about a new approach to chronic pain management through physical therapy that focuses on the nervous system. Physical therapists (PTs) work with patients to pinpoint the source of their pain and try to come up with ways to effectively manage it. As if that isn’t challenging enough, studies have shown that chronic pain is tied to the brain.
Patients who experience chronic pain are more susceptible to feeling further pain because their brains have become more sensitive to pain. The way a patient reacts to pain and stressful situations could inhibit recovery if they are anxious, tense and exhausted. PTs can help patients become more aware of their body and promote proper exercise and relaxation techniques that break the daily habits prolonging their pain.
While exercise is often the best remedy for chronic pain, patients are deterred out of fear of further injury or inability to manage the pain associated with their road to recovery. So long as the activity isn’t further damaging the injured tissue, patients should be encouraged to stay active and be assured that with routine diligence, pain will subside over time. Studies conclude that the brain has the ability to reinterpret pain and the adoption of this approach, theoretically, will reduce our reliance on deadly painkillers.