Physical Therapy: Treating the Problem, Not the Symptoms

Everyone experiences muscular or skeletal problems in their lives, no matter what their lifestyle. A dancer will have back problems, as will a couch potato, albeit through very different mechanisms. These aches and pains are part of life. What is worrying however is the number of people who choose to ignore these signs from their bodies and continue as if nothing is wrong, or even worse, mask the pain with drugs so they can continue doing the things that caused the pain in the first instance.

The Sticking Plaster Approach

It is very easy to take painkillers. Just wash them down with a glass of water and the pain will subside within a few minutes. But it is worryingly common for people to become addicted to these painkillers through continued use. As the cause of the pain is not being treated, it persists. Moreover, it gets worse as the individual continues performing the same movements that initially caused the injury. They increase the dose to deal with the extra pain then, when OTC drugs no longer hide the pain, they move on to harder prescription medication and the cycle starts again. By this point they cannot dance, play, run or perform without the use of the painkillers and addiction has set in. At some point even the strongest painkillers will no longer mask the pain so the person will just be left with a drug addiction and pain. Alongside their addictive properties, pain relievers such as oxycodone and codeine have a number of nasty side-effects that could lead to coma or death even in otherwise healthy individuals. Eventually, if the individual does realize they have a problem, they may phone a help line or check into rehab to mitigate the problems. Unfortunately, the injury and its pain that started the whole thing will still be there, waiting for real treatment.

What these people really need is physical therapy. The actual manipulation and massage of the muscles or joints that are causing the pain will, with time, actually treat the injury not the symptoms.

Understanding your body

The most important part of getting the correct treatment for a musculo-skeletal problem is listening to what your body is telling you. This is part of the reason that drug treatments for these disorders can be so wrong for an individual. Painkillers simply stop the body talking, they do not help the injury, so the injury will continue to get worse until the medication can no longer disguise the pain. By this point it may be too late for full recovery and the individual will be left with the injury and pain for life. But pain exists for a reason. It tells the mind there is something wrong with the body. If a patient allows themselves to listen to this inner voice then treatment can be remarkably successful. The first thing you should do is visit a physical therapist to talk over your problems, explaining in detail where the problem is and the possible causes. This will allow an experienced, professional therapist to recommend the right course of treatment and to start working to alleviate the pain.

Individual Treatment

Physical therapy offers individual treatment for what are highly specific individual injuries. No two football players will injure their knees in exactly the same way. A highly trained physical therapist will assess each patient on a case-by-case basis and then give the patient the unique treatment needed for their injury. Also, a pianist will a wrist injury will require very different massage and therapeutic techniques to a quarterback with a wrist injury. This is again where physical therapy techniques supersede those of drug treatments. Rather than a blanket approach, physical therapy takes in to consideration the location of the pain, the pain level, the possible causes and other attributes of the individual to tailor the correct treatment package.

Physical therapy will not be as quick as painkillers, but it will be longer-lasting. Treatments often take a number of sessions to start to see concrete results, though even after the first session their will likely be some relief from the pain. But working together, a patient and a physical therapist can help the muscles and joints recover from their strain so that the individual can continue what they love.