Chronic pain in muscles and joints is commonly minimized or eliminated through Physical Therapy (PT) interventions. Physical Therapy for Shoulder, Knee, Back and Neck Pain aims at promoting healing and restoring function and movement. A pain management specialist may focus on decreasing pain in these areas with either passive or active therapy, including manual therapies, heat/ice packs, electrical stimulation and dry needling.
The most prescribed active physical therapy interventions include movement based activities (including stretching and range of motion exercises), strengthening exercises, pain relief exercises and low-impact aerobic conditioning. The ultimate PT goals for Shoulder, Knee, Back and Neck Pain include:
- Enhancing joint flexibility
- Reducing pain level by targeting the associated muscles
- Helping the affected muscles relax
- Preventing further damage to the associated muscles
- Boosting pain perception and threshold, resulting in less pain and better ability to deal with it
Physical Therapy for Shoulder Pain
Pinching of the rotator cuff, biceps tendons, poor sitting posture, shoulder Bursitis, Frozen Shoulder or falling on an outstretched arm are the common causes of chronic shoulder pain. Physical therapy may be recommended as a shoulder pain treatment or rehabilitation method after a shoulder surgery.
Since the shoulder is made up of the Humerus (arm bone), the scapula (shoulder blade) and the clavicle (collar bone), a range of shoulder exercises can be prescribed to help improve the range of motion of the joint and improve the strength of shoulder muscles. Usually, physical therapy for shoulder pain lasts about four to eight weeks. After a few weeks of PT, one should notice an improvement in his condition.
Physical Therapy for Knee Pain
The knee may experience pain after surgery or arthritis. With physical therapy, the sufferer can ease his knee pain and get his strength back. Stretch exercises, Ice/heat and electrical nerve or muscle stimulation may be included in an individual’s PT plan to strengthen the associated muscles and make his knee feel and move better.
To prescribe an individualized plan, the therapist needs to check how well the knee bends, straightens and moves. The therapist also needs to check for any balance issues and weak muscle(s) in the front and back of the patient’s thigh, which support the knee. Once the troubled spot is identified, the patient will have to work on making the leg muscles stronger. Most common strength training exercises for knee include Hamstring Curls, Single Leg Dips, Step-ups, Straight Leg Lifts and Wall Squats.
Physical Therapy for Back Pain
Physical therapy is often recommended if an episode of low back pain has lasted between two and six weeks. Some spine specialists prescribe PT sooner if there is a frequent recurrence of severe, low back pain. A physical therapy program for back pain usually includes active exercises or passive PT modalities (heat/ice packs, TENS units, iontophoresis, Ultrasound) to reduce the pain to a more manageable level.
In addition to passive therapies, active PT, including hamstring stretching exercises should be part of a person’s daily routine. To strengthen the back muscles, 15 to 20 minutes of dynamic lumbar stabilization are often suggested on alternative days. Core muscle strengthening and low impact aerobics are also considered important for long term back pain reduction.
Physical Therapy for Neck Pain
Neck pain is most commonly triggered by posture problems. At times, recurrent neck pain is accompanied by stiff joints, upper back pain or shoulder blade pain. Depending on the specific diagnosis and pain level, a physical therapist may prescribe a combination of neck stretching exercises, neck strengthening exercises, aerobic conditioning and trigger point exercises (if needed).
Neck flexibility and stretching workouts can imitate the range of motion in affected cervical (neck) joints, and hence relieve the stiffness that complements pain. Specific strengthening exercises can also help an individual maintain improved posture, which in help eliminate recurrent flare-ups of pain. Certain aerobic exercises also increase blood flow to the neck muscles and soft tissues of the upper back. This, in turn, minimizes the chances of neck pain.