Therapy Better than Pills at Eliminating Chronic Pain - PT Effect

Therapy Better than Pills at Eliminating Chronic Pain

Physical therapy and psychological therapy can work better than pills to treat pain
Read Time: 2 minutes
Oct 17, 2022

Chronic pain is an unfortunately common condition. Up to one in five Americans suffer from it. It’s such a problem that it has cost the United States more than $600 billion, which has gone toward treatments, lost work, and dealing with an opioid epidemic caused by millions of people becoming addicted to opioid medications prescribed to treat chronic pain.

But is there a better option? Both physical therapy and psychological therapy could be used either instead of or in conjunction with pain reliever medication. This could help to either reduce reliance on medications or eliminate their need at all, in some cases.

Does Psychological Therapy Help with Chronic Pain?

A study conducted by the University of Colorado Boulder found that patients with chronic pain who underwent a four-week psychological therapy program entitled Pain Reprocessing Therapy (PRT) found that their pain had been either reduced or eliminated afterward.

How Does Psychological Therapy Treat Chronic Pain?

In cases where the brain is still generating pain responses despite the lack of a continued injury, psychological therapy can help to rewire the brain so that it stops sending out those pain signals. The therapy’s job is to help the brain to unlearn that pain, which can work well provided the injury has already healed.

Does Physical Therapy Help with Chronic Pain?

a physical therapist treating a patient’s knee

In many cases, physical therapy can treat chronic pain better than medication can. Depending on the severity of the condition causing the pain, physical therapy may be used in conjunction with medicinal treatment. Whenever physical therapy is used alongside medicine, it can help to reduce the amount of medication needed to treat the pain.

How Does Physical Therapy Help with Chronic Pain?

Often, pain medication is used to treat the symptoms of chronic pain. It can dull the feelings of pain and help patients to live more normal lives. However, it doesn’t typically treat the cause of the pain. Physical therapy can directly address the source of the pain and both stretch out and strengthen muscles in order to eliminate the pain entirely.

What Does Physical Therapy for Chronic Pain Involve?

a physical therapist giving a back massage to a patient

Physical therapy typically involves exercises, stretches, and passive therapy. Passive therapy can include treatments like massage, heat, and ice. Additionally, physical therapy can include instructions for the patient on how to move without triggering pain, such as when walking, sitting, running, or lifting things.

How Does Physical Therapy Reduce the Need for Pain Medication?

Physical therapy treats the source of the pain. This means that, over time, the pain itself will decrease. At the same time, patients can reduce the amount of medication they’re taking until they don’t have to take it at all.

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Mark Shulman

Dr. Mark Shulman

Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT), FAAOMPT, COMT, CSCS


Fellow of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Manual Physical Therapists.

Mark Shulman

Dr. Allison McKay

Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT), PRPC


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