Chronic pain is defined by pain that has lasted longer than 3 months. The National Institute of Health reports that 80% of Americans will suffer from back pain in their lives. Of the people that have back pain, approximately 7% of those people will suffer chronic back pain. If you do a little quick math, you will find that approximately 18 million people in the United States will suffer from chronic low back pain. That statistic is staggering, and it doesn’t even take into account the people in the U.S. that have chronic neck pain. Chronic pain doesn’t have to be severe to be addressed and treated. If your pain and problems are limiting your ability to live life the way you want, then you deserve treatment and improvement.
Treatment methods for chronic pain include medication, injections, counseling, physical therapy, and some surgical options. While any of these methods could work for you, physical therapy has been shown to be efficient and cost effective. A recent study published in the Journal of Orthopedic and Physical Therapy shows that “patients who chose to enter care via the direct access physical therapy-led spine management program displayed significantly less costs ($1,543 on average) than those who chose traditional medical referrals”. This statistic is particularly relevant in today’s health care atmosphere because of the rising cost of healthcare. Physical therapy is cheaper, less invasive, and more comprehensive because it uses a whole body approach to treatment.
The whole body approach takes into account not only the location of the pain, but also other areas of the body that can be contributing, as well as psychosocial components. Treatment of chronic pain cannot just focus on one joint or area. One must evaluate the body as a whole and determine how all the different pieces are working in concert with each other, including the brain. Those that have had pain for a long time know that the problem is no longer just physical, but also mental. Unless both components are addressed, it will be difficult to gain control over it and achieve a lasting resolution.
True chronic pain can take several months to properly address, but that doesn’t mean that meaningful progress cannot be made in a short period of time. Treatment should focus on small victories. Much of the program can, and should, be done independently with guidance from your PT. The ultimate goal is to gain an understanding of your problem and learn management techniques that can be used to proactively address the pain.
If you are someone with chronic pain that has not sought treatment, now is the time! Waiting to see if the pain goes away is not a treatment, it is wishful thinking. A physical therapist with experience treating chronic pain problems is an excellent resource to get you on the road to recovery. Contact a physical therapist today and let them guide you on the path to taking control of your life and well being!