Headache? Take an ibuprofen or an acetaminophen. Back pain? Pop even more of those pills every four to eight hours. In need of something stronger? Take some naproxen—or even Flexeril—for relief. Diving into the never-ending list of medications for chronic pain relief is like spiraling into a Bajoran wormhole, never to come out again. However, there is a drug-free—and, for many patients, surprising—alternative to pain management: physical therapy (PT).
Treating your pain symptoms with pills can mask the underlying physical problem. So, while you might feel better, your condition isn’t actually improving. That being said, if you’re taking pain relievers or anti-inflammatories under a doctor’s orders, then keep it up and follow the prescribed dosages. If you go to PT, the therapist can get to the bottom of what is causing your pain. He or she will perform an evaluation, listen to what symptoms you’re experiencing, and create a plan with for you to reach maximum pain relief—sans pills.
The physical therapist will use a variety of techniques to relieve pain, including massage, soft tissue and joint manipulation, exercise therapy, and even muscle stimulation with Star Trek-like lasers and electrodes. Don’t worry, you won’t be shocked; the lasers and electrodes emit very low level waves that promote healing and can enhance the effects of topical pain-relief medication.
After a few physical therapy sessions, you might find you’re stronger and more flexible. Plus, you’ll hopefully notice long-lasting pain relief. Sticking to an exercise plan can help keep your chronic pain in check, and who knows? Maybe PT can propel you to Lieutenant Commander Data status—immune to human weakness.