Chronic Pain; The Myths & Facts

Reason Why Most People Seek Help Of Physical Therapist or Other Health Practitioner

Pain is the reason why most of us seek help of a physical therapist or any other health practitioner. However pain is very dynamic. Its understanding is from a gross perspective; in respect to psychological pain or physical pain.

What Is Pain?

It was once thought that pain is an indicator of injury to your body tissues; now it is known that pain can also be a warning signal designed to alert us to potential tissue damage and to protect us from injury. However feeling pain does not necessarily mean a physical injury has occurred.

Often we use various words to describe the type of pain we perceive, such as; sharp pain, burning pain, stabbing pain, and aching. But also it is hard to know if you feel pain the same way your friend or relative feels. Meaning it cannot be quantified or measured with any best technology in the world because it is unique to everyone’s perspective. In relation to physical therapy the unique nature of pain you feel, will give your physical therapist some insight into why you are experiencing it.

How Therapist Know Type Of Pain One Is Suffering From

Traditionally, the period you have been experiencing pain is a significant indicator to a physical therapist. For example; acute (recently acquired) pain and Chronic (ongoing long-term) are not the same thing. In most cases, the time frame of the pain may limit you from doing daily activities. But also this does not necessarily mean that the amount of pain you feel is equal to the level of injury.

Some Of The Myths About Chronic Pain

Research shows that pain can be modified and can change for a number of reasons;

  • The amount or the intensity of the pain you feel is not an indication of the amount or seriousness of a possible injury you have sustained and there may be no injury present.
  • The experience of pain can change; pain felt today does not necessarily have to be the same felt tomorrow.

In most situations every now and then you tend to seek attention of a health practitioner because you have acute or chronic pain. And when you are attended to, it resolves and so you get better. Other times it is there for months and years: chronic pain. Chronic pain has now become a global health burden in musculoskeletal disorders (muscles and joint pain).

As Physical Therapists worldwide are about to commemorate The World Physiotherapy Day on 8th September 2019, marked by the World Confederation of Physical  Therapy (WCPT)… its  press release in July 2019 states that; (https://www.wcpt.org/sites/wcpt.org/files/files/WCPT_PressRelease_WPTD2019_0.pdf)

The Role Of Physical Therapist To People On Chronic Pain

Chronic pain is a significant global health burden – with low back pain and so causing more disability than any other condition. The role of physical therapists in helping people with chronic pain is to take control of their condition, increase their activity, and improve their quality of life.

Chronic pain can be associated with a wide range of conditions including low back pain, cervical and thoracic pain, shoulder pain, headache disorders, cancer, fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, and osteoarthritis.

Physical therapists have quick unique skills in recommending specific exercise programmes to help relieve chronic pain.

Benefits Of Using Exercise To Manage Chronic Pain

The benefits of using exercise to manage chronic pain include:

  • Maintaining flexibility and movement
  • Improving cardiovascular health
  • Building and keeping muscle tone
  • Improving mood and general wellbeing
  • Helping control pain
  • Increasing confidence to take part in activities
  • Taking back control of your life and reducing your fear

Dynamic Pain

WCPT President Emma Stokes said; ‘People who have chronic pain tell us that it can be difficult to get or stay active. But also a physical therapist can work with you to suggest activities or a programme that are right for you, and they can help you understand how pain works, reduce your fears around pain, educate you about your condition, encourage you to take part safely in physical activity, build your confidence, help you remain or return to work or participate in activities that allow you to live life the way you want to.’

Physical Therapists role in managing pain goes as far as enabling you to manage chronic pain you have gone through for a while and they not only focus on the biological aspect as the cause, but also guide you through your ‘mind-set’; about the  pain you are experiencing (psychologically) and the extent of limitation at work and with people around you (socially).

Knowledge: ‘tablet’ for chronic pain


In almost 70% of chronic pain cases I have handled, the fear of pain is at the spike. For instance; say you have been suffering low back pain for years, walked to every doctor and physical therapist around, but it is not working. Then when you seek further opinion, the doctor recommends you go back to a physical therapist. In this instance I try to ask, “Do you understand anything about your condition?” The answers I get are, always confused or most do not know anything about their condition.

This makes a patient fear even moving or turning in bed. The pain scale of imagination shoots very high every day and in real sense it does not even amount to the pain they have in their low back. Immediately one begins understanding and contemplating what is really happening in their lower back and how it will be managed, one is reassured and quickly starts responding positively to treatment. This is because, ‘knowledge can break the fear-tension-pain cycle’.

The Approach Required

Skilled and experienced therapists in their practice will always use the biopsychosocial model approach in their treatment plan. It involves understanding what is happening biologically (understanding your condition), how your thoughts influence your well being and the healing process and how the condition has alienated one from interacting with friends, family and even workmates. The three aspects are very key to the treatment plan simply because of the first ‘tablet’ is your mind-set. “Healing does start from the mind” ds of the many years one has been through pain while searching for treatment.

*All  images/quotes portrayed have certified access by WCPT.

Written by;

Moses Katasi

Physical Therapist

Chiropractic & Physiotherapy Health Centre

Chronic Pain; The Myths & Facts

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