older woman getting her hand examined by female physical therapist

Chronic Pain

Many factors can lead to persistent pain. Physical therapy for chronic pain offers a wide range of services that can narrow down and treat the underlying problems and help you find relief and increase activity levels.

Physical therapy for chronic pain

Chronic or persistent pain is when pain lasts six months or longer beyond the expected healing time of an injury. Recent statistics indicate that 42-50 million Americans suffer from chronic pain.

Symptoms of chronic pain can vary from mild to severe and limit your ability to complete daily activities. Growing research suggests that the underlying cause of chronic pain is increased central nervous system sensitivity.

Causes of chronic pain

Chronic pain can result from a previous injury, like a muscle strain. Or, it can be a side effect of dealing with a chronic condition like arthritis. But, no matter the cause, it can be challenging to deal with ongoing, persistent pain.

older man stretching his arm with physical therapist

Chronic pain symptoms

Patients suffering from chronic pain may experience the following symptoms:

  • Persistent pain that lasts weeks to years
  • Type of pain varies, but many people experience aching, burning, shooting, and throbbing
  • Stiffness in the affected area
  • Difficulty doing daily activities

Chronic pain may also lead to:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia
female patient during a physical therapist consultation

How we treat chronic pain

Physical therapy is recommended as a first-line treatment for chronic pain by the CDC because it doesn’t require the use of addictive opioid medications. The benefits of physical therapy for chronic pain include decreased pain, improved mobility, increased independence, and reduced risk of other health problems.

A physical therapist will complete a comprehensive evaluation to determine the underlying cause of your chronic pain before creating a treatment plan. This examination may include screening the upper and lower quarter and assessing the sensitivity of your nerves.

Treatment for chronic pain may include:

  • Manual therapy
  • Modalities (heat, ice, ultrasound, iontophoresis, electrical stimulation)
  • Strengthening exercises
  • Flexibility exercises
  • Relaxation strategies
  • Graded exercise
  • Pain neuroscience education (PNE)
  • Pacing strategies
  • Conditioning exercises
  • Aquatic therapy

Chronic pain resources

Types of Chronic Pain

What Are the Most Common Types of Chronic Pain?

If you have physical pain that lasts well beyond the normal healing time, you are not alone. One in five adults worldwide lives with one...

Why Do You Hurt? An Explanation of Pain

An Explanation of Pain: Why Do You Hurt?

by Keri Rogers PT, DPT (Board Certified Orthopedic Clinical Specialist/Fellow, American Academy of Orthopedic Manual Physical Therapists) (Part 2 of a 2 part series) An...

Understanding the Benefits of Pain

Understanding the Benefits of Pain

by Keri Rogers PT, DPT (Board Certified Orthopedic Clinical Specialist/Fellow, American Academy of Orthopedic Manual Physical Therapists) (Part 1 of a 2 part series about...

What to expect

Your first physical therapy appointment is about creating a personalized treatment plan based on your health history, diagnosis, and goals. Here’s what you can expect at your first physical therapy appointment:

Your first appointment will last about an hour. Please arrive 15 minutes early.

If applicable, bring your physician referral or prescription, insurance card, paperwork, ID, and co-payment.

At your appointment, we’ll do an initial evaluation and discuss your care plan.

*Services are not available at every location. Visit our Locations page for more details.

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