HOW TO CHOOSE A PAIN MANAGEMENT PROFESSIONAL

Alternative Therapies and Modalities

When it comes to musculoskeletal pain, professional care can replace pain medication as your first line of defense. Hands-on healthcare professionals such as physical therapists, chiropractors, occupational therapists, massage therapists and athletic trainers are the experts in the assessment, correction and prevention of musculoskeletal dysfunction and the treatment of acute and chronic pain. Not only do they have the knowledge to guide you through the full range of options for muscle and joint pain relief and the associated risks and side effects, but they have access to the best, professional-grade products to complement their care. In fact, research shows working with hands-on healthcare professionals can result in better outcomes for musculoskeletal pain1.

f your doctor prescribes therapy, it can be hard to determine which professional is right for you. Read the summaries below to get an idea of what type(s) of care you need and learn how to find a licensed clinician near you!

Soft Tissue Mobilization

PHYSICAL THERAPY FOR PAIN

According to the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA), physical therapists are “highly-educated, licensed health care professionals who can help patients reduce pain and improve or restore mobility - in many cases without expensive surgery and often reducing the need for long-term use of prescription medications and their side effects.”

WHEN TO SEEK OUT A PHYSICAL THERAPIST FOR PAIN RELIEF

The APTA defines the role of a physical therapist as:

  • Diagnosing and managing movement dysfunction and enhancing physical and functional abilities
  • Restoring, maintaining, and promoting not only optimal physical function but optimal wellness and fitness and optimal quality of life as it relates to movement and health
  • Preventing the onset, symptoms and progression of impairments, functional limitations and disabilities that may result from diseases, disorders, conditions or injuries.

If you are experiencing musculoskeletal pain, especially low back pain, hip or knee osteoarthritis or fibromyalgia, book an appointment with a physical therapist to understand the cause of your pain and develop a full plan of care including strength and flexibility exercises, manual therapy, postural correction and more.

WHERE TO FIND A PHYSICAL THERAPIST

Physical therapists can be found in a variety of settings, including outpatient clinics, hospitals, private practices, home health care, extended care, occupational environments, fitness centers and more. Use the Professional Finder to search for physical therapists in your area!

Dry Needling

CHIROPRACTIC FOR PAIN RELIEF

According to the American Chiropractic Association (ACA), chiropractic is “a healthcare profession that focuses on disorders of the musculoskeletal system and the nervous system, and the effects of these disorders on general health.” Furthermore, the ACA promotes that chiropractors “practice a hands-on, drug-free approach to health care that includes patient examination, diagnosis and treatment.”

WHEN TO SEEK OUT A CHIROPRACTER FOR PAIN RELIEF

The ACA notes that chiropractic is most commonly used to address neuromusculoskeletal complaints, including but not limited to:

  • Back pain
  • Neck pain
  • Joint pain in the arms or legs
  • Headaches

Studies have shown that chiropractic care can reduce the use of prescription opioids. Seek out chiropractic care to receive a broad diagnostic screening, spinal manipulation, therapeutic and rehabilitative exercise plans and nutritional guidance.

WHERE TO FIND A CHIROPRACTOR

Chiropractors can be found in private practices, hospitals, outpatient rehabilitation centers and athletic care settings. Use the Professional Finder to search for chiropractors in your area!

occupational-therapy

OCCUPATIONAL THERAPY FOR PAIN RELIEF

The American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) defines occupational therapists as professionals who “help people of all ages participate in the things they want and need to do through the therapeutic use of everyday activities. Unlike other professions, occupational therapy helps people function in all of their environments (home, work, school, community) and addresses the physical, psychological and cognitive aspects of their well-being through engagement in occupation.”

WHEN TO SEEK OUT A CHIROPRACTER FOR PAIN RELIEF

The AOTA suggests that occupational therapy can be most helpful for:

  • Regaining skills post-injury
  • Evaluating the impact of pain on a patient’s desired activities & quality of life and developing a treatment plan to help manage the pain
  • Helping children with disabilities participate fully in school and social situations
  • Providing support for older adults experiencing physical and cognitive changes

Seek out occupational therapy care if you need guidance to regain the strength, mobility and dexterity you need to perform daily functions and relieve debilitating pain. Occupational therapists can even provide adaptive equipment like splinting or braces if necessary.

WHERE TO FIND A OCCUPATIONAL THERAPISTS

Occupational therapists can be found in settings such as hospitals, private practices, home health care, schools, nursing homes and more. Use the Professional Finder to search for occupational therapists in your area!

TENS

MASSAGE THERAPY FOR PAIN RELIEF

According to Northwestern Health Sciences University, massage therapy is the “manual manipulation of soft body tissues (muscle, connective tissue, tendons and ligaments) to enhance a person’s health and well-being.”

WHEN TO SEEK OUT A MASSAGE THERAPISTS FOR PAIN RELIEF

Massage therapy services are commonly used for:

  • Chronic musculoskeletal pain management
  • Myofascial pain syndrome
  • Relaxation
  • Increasing range of motion and the flexibility of muscles and joints
  • Soft tissue injuries
  • Sports recovery

If you are experiencing muscle or joint pain, a massage therapist may be able to help you through the manipulation of the connective musculature. The mechanisms behind pain relief in massage therapy are still being studied, but a review of research2 has found massage therapy to be linked with increased levels of serotonin, decreased levels of cortisol, better relaxation, reduced depression and anxiety, lower heart rate and increased flexibility.

WHERE TO FIND A MASSAGE THERAPIST

Massage therapists work in private practices, athletic facilities, home settings and more. Use the Professional Finder to search for massage therapists in your area!

Frickin' athletic-training

ATHLETIC TRAINING FOR PAIN RELIEF

The National Athletic Training Association (NATA) defines athletic training as the “prevention, examination, diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation of emergent, acute or chronic injuries and medical conditions.”

WHEN TO SEEK OUT AN ATHLETIC TRAINER FOR PAIN RELIEF

The NATA outlines a full list of athletic training responsibilities in their Athletic Training Services document, but they can be summarized as:

  • Providing injury and illness prevention
  • Creating detailed plans of care to treat and rehabilitate injuries to improve patients’ functional and physical outcomes
  • Performing clinical evaluation and diagnosis of musculoskeletal injuries
  • Providing emergency care to individuals in a multitude of settings

If you are an athlete or work at a facility that provides athletic training care, seek out these professionals for both immediate treatment of musculoskeletal pain and injury as well as individualized plans of care to rehabilitate and prevent further pain or dysfunction.

WHERE TO FIND A ATHLETIC TRAINER

Athletic trainers can be found in schools, hospitals, sports facilities, physician practices, commercial settings and more. Use the Professional Finder to search for athletic trainers in your area!

Reference:

Ferreira PH et al. 2013. The therapeutic alliance between clinicians and patients predicts outcome in chronic low back pain. Phys Ther. Apr;93(4):470-8.

Field T. 2014. Massage Therapy Research Review. Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice. 20(4):224-229. doi:10.1016/j.ctcp.2014.07.002.