Pain is an unpleasant experience that happens when a part of your body is damaged or could potentially be damaged. Pain can have a significant impact on an individual’s quality of life, daily functioning, mental health, and overall well-being. It often requires comprehensive management and a multidisciplinary approach, with physiotherapists being key members of the team. Physiotherapists can help provide pain relief through a variety of techniques, as will be illustrated below.
Chronic Pain Relief
Pain persisting longer than three months is defined as chronic. Chronic pain can have a significant impact on all areas of an individual's life. According to the Canadian Pain Task Force Report 2021, an estimated 7.6 million Canadians live with chronic pain, many of whom report it adversely affecting some or most daily activities. Various risk factors contribute to the development of chronic pain, providing a substantial opportunity to intervene early, to prevent pain from becoming intractable, and to mitigate its many impacts . So, what can you do if you are someone suffering from chronic pain? Physiotherapy can help.
Physiotherapy can help manage chronic pain, including musculoskeletal pain, neuropathic pain, and headache disorders (see the chronic pain article on the blog for more information). Some common conditions that fall under these categories are osteoporosis, osteoarthritis, multiple sclerosis, and sciatica. Physiotherapists employ various pain management techniques such as joint or soft tissue mobilization, exercise, and education. Regular exercise helps manage chronic pain by increasing blood flow, promoting the release of endorphins (natural pain-relieving hormones), and improving overall physical function.
Education on the individual’s condition is important to help them understand factors contributing to their pain and teach self-management strategies.
Persistent post-surgical pain (PPSP) is a common condition following surgery, resulting in persistent pain and reduced quality of life. In a systematic review conducted by Robinson et al., 2019, researchers found an emerging body of evidence to support the use of physiotherapy as a treatment option for adults with PPSP. There were positive impacts across a range of outcomes including pain, quality of life, physical function, and depression.
Physiotherapy can help with mobility, strength, balance, and coordination. Physiotherapists provide valuable education to patients regarding their surgical procedures, precautions, and self-management strategies. They equip patients with the knowledge and skills necessary to actively participate in their recovery so they can get back to their daily activities.
The types of post-surgical rehabs physiotherapy can support are orthopedic surgeries (e.g., hip, knee), cardiac surgeries, abdominal and pelvic surgeries, neurological surgeries (e.g., spinal cord or peripheral nerve injuries) and breast surgeries.
Physiotherapy plays an important role in injury prevention by focusing on enhancing physical function, optimizing movement patterns, and addressing risk factors that may contribute to injuries. As the leading cause of injury, falls are a significant public health issue across age groups and settings in Alberta.
In 2019, 161,539 Albertans visited emergency and urgent care and 18,702 Albertans were hospitalized due to a fall . Falls happen at home, school, in recreation and leisure, sports, in the community, at work and even on vacation. While falls are a significant concern, especially among older adults, physiotherapy interventions have been shown to reduce the risk of falls by ~23% in community-dwelling older adults .
Physiotherapists can conduct pre-participation screenings to assess an individual's physical condition, identify potential risk factors, and determine their readiness for specific activities or sports. This screening may involve evaluating strength, flexibility, balance, coordination, and movement patterns to identify any imbalances or limitations that may increase the risk of injury.
Common injuries that can be prevented through regular physiotherapy visits are musculoskeletal injuries (sprains, strains), overuse injuries (stress fractures) and balance-related injuries.
Holistic Treatment Approaches
Physiotherapy is often considered a holistic approach to treatment, as it focuses on the overall well-being of an individual by addressing physical, psychological, and social aspects of their health. Physiotherapists conduct thorough assessments to understand the individual's condition, medical history, lifestyle, and goals.
Physiotherapists develop individualized treatment plans that take into consideration all the above factors, which may impact recovery. Physiotherapy focuses on improving physical function and mobility to enhance overall quality of life. This may involve therapeutic exercises, aquatic therapy, manual therapy such as soft tissue massage and modalities such as transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) or acupuncture.
Physiotherapy takes a holistic approach to pain management, considering not only the physical aspect of pain but also the psychological and social factors that may influence pain perception and experience.
Physiotherapy helps address mobility limitations by performing a comprehensive assessment to identify the underlying causes of mobility issues. Based on the assessment findings, physiotherapists develop personalized treatment plans tailored to the individual's specific needs and goals.
Physiotherapists provide gait training to individuals who have difficulty walking or maintaining a normal walking pattern. They work on correcting gait abnormalities, improving walking efficiency, and enhancing overall mobility. In some cases, the use of assistive devices such as walkers, canes, or orthotics may be recommended to support and improve mobility.
Physiotherapy focuses on improving functional abilities by incorporating task-specific activities into treatment. This involves practicing movements and tasks that are relevant to the individual's daily life and functional goals. By simulating real-life activities, individuals can improve their ability to perform specific tasks and enhance overall mobility.
Physical therapy can help
Physiotherapy plays a significant role in pain reduction by utilizing education, exercise, and a hands-on approach. Physiotherapy provides patient-centred care and can help improve quality of life. If you are interested in more information on how physiotherapy can help you, please reach out.
1. Robinson A, McIntosh J, Peberdy H, et al. The effectiveness of physiotherapy interventions on pain and quality of life in adults with persistent post-surgical pain compared to usual care: A systematic review. PLoS One. 2019;14(12):e0226227. Published 2019 Dec 13. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0226227
2.Alberta Health Services. Preventing falls. Alberta Health Services. Accessed June 1, 2023.
3. Sherrington C, Fairhall N, Wallbank G, et al. Exercise for preventing falls in older people living in the community: an abridged Cochrane systematic review. Br J Sports Med. 2020;54(15):885-891. doi:10.1136/bjsports-2019-101512