Got Joint or Muscle Pain? Physical Therapy May Help

Live Healthy

This is the third of a three-part series. For more, read Part 1 and Part 2.

Surgery and prescription drugs can be the best course of treatment for certain diagnoses, but there is increasing evidence demonstrating that conservative treatments, like physical therapy, can be equally effective (and cheaper) for treating many conditions. 

Low-back pain is routinely over-treated, despite abundant evidence that physical therapy is a cost-effective treatment that often avoids advanced imaging scans like MRIs that increase the cost of care and the likelihood for surgery and injections,” says Jesse Pasag, staff physical therapist and orthopedic clinical specialist at Wilcox Medical Center. 

According to Pasag, physical therapy has proven as effective as surgery for meniscal tears and knee osteoarthritis, rotator cuff tears, spinal stenosis and degenerative disk disease, among other conditions. 

“Patients typically come to us after they have experienced some type of injury – a rotator cuff sprain, low-back strain or stroke – that has caused them some sort of dysfunction that is impeding their ability to perform daily tasks at home, work or at play,” Pasag says. “Physical therapists are here to provide our patients with the means to improve their overall function.” 

By getting to the root cause of the pain, rather than treating its symptoms, physical therapy also can catch health problems in their early stages, before they cause major harm. 

Below, Pasag recounts in his own words how he helped an individual patient regain her quality of life after living in constant pain for years. 

Recently, I had a patient, TH, come to our office for treatment of a chronic neck condition. She reported having her neck pain for years, but had a recent exacerbation of her pain after the birth of her youngest child. The persistent neck and upper back pain kept her from enjoying the physical activity she was previously accustomed to. 

When she first came to me, she was very motivated, yet somewhat skeptical as to whether or not physical therapy was going to help her with the problem she’d been dealing with for years. 

After our evaluation, I performed a few manual therapy techniques to help improve her neck mobility and movement. I also her taught some exercises to compliment what we did in the clinic. 

Her body responded well and she began to notice less pain in her neck with certain movements at the end of the evaluation. 

A week later, TH returned to our clinic “feeling great” in regard to her neck condition. She had been doing her home exercises and only required a little bodywork to complete her session that day. She was instructed on a few exercises to help her move her neck painlessly at home. 

A couple weeks later, TH returned to therapy stating that she was happy and had recently resumed her fitness training:  jogging, weight training, cardiovascular exercises, etc., and has been doing it all with no neck pain. 

TH is a great example of how physical therapy can help a patient regain her life – improving the quality of life – by combining treatment techniques with a well-designed home exercise program. 

After only three treatments, TH and I felt she was ready to complete her rehabilitation on her own and she was discharged from physical therapy with a smile on her face. 

If you suffer from chronic pain and are unsure if physical therapy could help, check with your primary care physician (PCP) first. 

There are many different types of physical therapists, each of whom specialize in treating different types of pain. Your PCP can refer you to the physical therapist who is right for you, and who will guide you in a hands-on approach to help relieve pain.



Published on: May 7, 2016