TMH Living Well: Physical therapy relieves chronic pain
TMH Rehabilitation Center
TMH offers outpatient physical therapy and occupational therapy services. The TMH therapists have a wide variety of expertise to help you with everything from headache pain and disease management to orthopedic and sports-related injuries.
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Having chronic pain can feel extremely life-limiting and affect your motivation to work out and your good mood. Maybe you’ve got chronic knee, shoulder or back pain due to an old sports injury. Or possibly you suffer from arthritis or MS. Whatever the source, physical therapy (PT) could be the answer.
“With chronic pain, most people who have been dealing with it for a long time think they just have to live with it. Depending on the root cause, physical therapy can make a big difference in helping them heal or at least get on the road to recovery,” said Luke Geer, PT, DPT, rehabilitative services manager for The Memorial Hospital.
Geer himself lives with chronic back pain, but he doesn’t let it stop him from being a triathlete. He keeps his pain in check with regular physical therapy exercises.
“Chronic pain takes chronic management,” he said.
When pain is chronic it’s often due to muscles that are not functioning properly or a joint that’s lost its range of motion. Physical therapy can produce good outcomes by finding what’s dysfunctional and correcting it with manipulation followed by strengthening and flexibility exercises.
“When we can restore the movement or strength in that joint or muscle, we can relieve pain and help people get back to normal functioning. Even if a joint is completely worn out and surgery is the answer, physical therapy before and after surgery can produce better results in the end,” Geer said.
The TMH physical therapy team will work closely with Dr. Kevin Borchard, a total joint fellowship-trained orthopedic surgeon who will be joining TMH this summer to head up the hospital’s orthopedic program. The program will incorporate pre- and post-physical therapy to compliment orthopedic surgeries. Surgery combined with physical therapy is a recognized best practice in medicine.
A lot has changed in physical therapy in the past 20 years. In the past, PT focused mostly on strength and flexibility exercises that patients would learn and do at home to keep chronic pain at bay. This is still part of the equation, but today physical therapists often add manual intervention.
“Manual intervention produces better outcomes. If a muscle is bound up for years it can’t simply be strengthened. We first have to work with the muscle manually to soften it and regain a normal range of motion,” Geer added.
A big part of achieving success with physical therapy is being faithful doing the exercises your PT gives you, at home. The exercises not only strengthen muscles, but also literally wake up or retrain muscles that have become “turned off” due to improper use or injury.
“We don’t want to see people on an ongoing basis; rather, we want to graduate them to be independent managers of their own bodies,” Geer said.
The Memorial Hospital has a staff of five physical therapists, all with their own unique skills. Specialty skills include pediatrics, neurology, chronic pain conditions, cancer rehab, general ailments and manual therapy. The program is looking to add a specialist trained in lymphedema and women’s health.
“We’ve got a great team with over 90 years of experience. We’re able to treat nearly every issue a patient might have independently or collaboratively as a group. We work hard to create the best patient outcomes we can,” Geer said.
This weekly article with tips on living well is sponsored by The Memorial Hospital at Craig – improving the quality of life for the communities we serve through patient-centered healthcare and service excellence.
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