The Role of Physical Therapy in Managing Chronic Pain

Imagine this: you wake up feeling energized and ready to tackle the day. You move without a hitch, free from the aches and pains that used to slow you down.

That’s the power of physical therapy for chronic pain – a safe and effective way to regain control of your life.

Chronic pain affects millions of Americans, impacting their work, hobbies, and overall well-being.[1] It’s a constant companion, whispering doubts and stealing your joy. But before you resign yourself to a life of discomfort, there’s hope. Physical therapy can be your key to unlocking a pain-free future.

Forget about relying on medication or living with constant discomfort. Physical therapy offers a different path. It’s a personalized approach that focuses on strengthening your body, improving your mobility, and teaching you self-management techniques. Think of it as an investment in your well-being, a chance to break free from the shackles of pain and embrace a life full of possibilities.

So, what’s stopping you?

If you’re tired of chronic pain dictating your life, take the first step toward a brighter future. Let physical therapy be your guide to a life free from pain and filled with joy.


patient with chronic pain

What is chronic pain?

Chronic pain can be a confusing and frustrating condition. But, understanding its basic nature can help you cope and seek effective treatment.

Simply put, chronic pain is pain that persists beyond 12 weeks. [2] This differs from acute pain, which comes on suddenly due to an injury and typically fades as the injured tissues heal.

Now, imagine tripping and spraining your ankle. The immediate, sharp pain is acute, caused by tissue damage. As your ankle heals, the pain gradually subsides.

Now, imagine the pain never fully goes away, even after your ankle appears healed. This persistent pain, lasting longer than 3 months, is chronic pain. It can interfere with your daily activities, concentration, and overall well-being.

While the cause of chronic pain isn’t always clear, it can sometimes linger even when the initial tissue damage has healed. This can be frustrating, leaving you searching for answers and effective treatment options.


Signs and Symptoms of Chronic Pain

Chronic pain isn’t simply an annoyance; it’s a complex experience with various physical and emotional signs. While the specific symptoms can differ based on the cause and location of pain, here are some common clues to watch for: [3]

Physical Symptoms:

  • Aching, burning, throbbing, or shooting pain: This can be constant or intermittent, and its intensity can fluctuate.
  • Stiffness and tightness: Muscles and joints may feel stiff, making movement difficult or painful.
  • Fatigue and weakness: Chronic pain can drain your energy, leaving you feeling tired and depleted.
  • Sleep disturbances: The discomfort can disrupt your sleep patterns, making it hard to fall asleep or stay asleep.
  • Headaches, dizziness, and nausea: These can be associated with certain types of chronic pain.
  • Sensitivity to touch or temperature: The affected area may be tender to the touch or sensitive to changes in temperature.

Emotional and Behavioral Symptoms:

  • Anxiety and depression: Chronic pain can be emotionally draining and lead to feelings of anxiety, depression, and hopelessness.
  • Irritability and mood swings: The constant discomfort can impact your mood, making you easily frustrated or irritable.
  • Changes in appetite: Pain can affect your desire to eat, leading to weight loss or gain.
  • Social isolation: Avoiding activities due to pain can lead to social isolation and loneliness.
  • Difficulty concentrating: Pain can make it hard to focus and complete tasks.

Remember that not everyone experiences all of these symptoms. Some may have only a few mild symptoms, while others may experience more severe symptoms.


physical therapist helping man exercise

Physical Therapy for Managing Chronic Pain

Chronic pain can feel like a constant shadow, stealing your joy and limiting your potential.

But there’s hope!

Physical therapy (PT) is a powerful tool for managing chronic pain that offers a personalized approach to help you reclaim your life.

Think of PT as your roadmap to pain relief and improved mobility. Through targeted exercises, hands-on techniques, and pain management strategies, your physical therapist will work with you to: [4] [5]

  • Strengthen muscles and improve joint flexibility
  • Restore proper movement patterns
  • Manage pain effectively
  • Empower you with self-management skills

By addressing the root cause of your pain and teaching you self-management techniques, PT can help you break free from the cycle of chronic pain and move towards a healthier, happier life.


Chronic Pain Conditions Effectively Managed with Physical Therapy

Physical therapy can effectively manage a wide range of chronic conditions, helping you regain mobility, reduce pain, and improve your overall well-being.

Let’s explore some of the specific conditions that respond well to this approach:


  • Back pain: Lumbar pain, sciatica, neck pain
  • Joint pain: Osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, bursitis, tendonitis
  • Fibromyalgia: Generalized muscle pain and fatigue
  • Sports injuries: Sprains, strains, fractures, post-surgical rehabilitation
  • Headaches: Migraines, tension headaches
  • Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders: Jaw pain and dysfunction
  • Postural issues: Kyphosis, scoliosis, lordosis
  • Amputations: Phantom limb pain, gait retraining


  • Peripheral neuropathy: Nerve damage causing pain, numbness, and tingling
  • Multiple sclerosis (MS): Muscle weakness, spasticity, and gait problems
  • Parkinson’s disease: Tremors, stiffness, and balance issues
  • Stroke: Hemiplegia, weakness, and impaired coordination
  • Spinal cord injuries: Paralysis, pain, and spasticity


  • Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS): Fatigue, muscle aches, and sleep disturbances
  • Endometriosis: Pelvic pain and menstrual irregularities
  • Interstitial cystitis/bladder pain syndrome: Bladder pain and urinary urgency/frequency
  • Chronic pelvic pain: Pain in the lower abdomen and pelvis
  • Whiplash: Neck pain, headaches, and dizziness
  • Post-surgical pain: Pain following surgeries
  • Post-cancer treatment pain: Pain and fatigue after cancer treatment


Electrical stimulation in physical therapy.

Treating Chronic Pain with Physical Therapy

While medication often functions as a temporary mask for pain, physical therapy takes a different approach. By delving deeper into the underlying cause of your discomfort, your PT can develop a targeted plan to address the root issue. Whether it’s muscle weakness leading to instability, joint stiffness limiting your range of motion, or altered movement patterns causing strain, your PT will identify the culprit and tailor a program to address it directly.

For example, if your chronic pain stems from weak core muscles, your PT might prescribe strengthening exercises specifically designed to build core strength and stability. This will help alleviate pain by providing better support for your spine and reducing strain on other muscles.

Similarly, if your pain originates from tight hamstring muscles, your PT might incorporate flexibility exercises to improve your range of motion and reduce tension in the area.

This personalized approach ensures that your treatment plan effectively addresses the underlying cause of your pain, leading to long-term relief and improved function.


Benefits of Physical Therapy for Chronic Pain

By combining various treatment modalities, a PT program can help you:

  • Reduce or eliminate your pain
  • Improve your mobility and flexibility
  • Increase your strength and endurance
  • Boost your energy levels and overall well-being
  • Prevent future injuries
  • Empower you to take control of your pain

Remember, physical therapy is a journey, not a destination. With dedication and the guidance of your PT, you can overcome chronic pain and embrace a life filled with movement, joy, and possibility.


woman celebrating being free from pain at sunset

Take Control of Your Chronic Pain with Sonoran Pain and Spine

Living with chronic pain doesn’t have to be your new normal. At Sonoran Pain & Spine, we’re here to help you break free from the grip of chronic pain and reclaim your life. We believe in a multidisciplinary approach, and incorporating physical therapy into your treatment plan can be a powerful tool for managing your pain and improving your overall well-being.

Remember, physical therapy offers a multitude of benefits, but it isn’t just about passive treatments; it’s about empowering you to take control of your pain and chart a path toward a healthier, happier life.

Don’t wait any longer to experience the transformative power of physical therapy. Contact Sonoran Pain & Spine today to schedule a consultation and start your journey towards a pain-free future.



  1. “Chronic Pain Among Adults — United States, 2019–2021 | MMWR.” 14 Apr. 2023, Accessed 6 Dec. 2023.
  2. “Chronic Pain – StatPearls – NCBI Bookshelf.” Accessed 6 Dec. 2023.
  3. “Chronic Pain Symptoms | Stanford Health Care.” Accessed 6 Dec. 2023.
  4. “Manual physical therapy for chronic pain: the complex whole … – NCBI.” 12 Jun. 2017, Accessed 6 Dec. 2023.
  5. “Effectiveness of physical therapy and exercise on pain and … – NCBI.” Accessed 6 Dec. 2023.