Dr. Sharman’s Musings

treating chronic pain

How Physical Therapy Modalities Can Be the Icing on the Cake

Of course we are all very familiar with the dramatic healing effects of chiropractic care. However, sometimes patients are in a lot of pain and suffering from acute injury or very chronic, stubborn stress and tension.

We often use physical therapy modalities in patients healing from an acute injury, such as a motor vehicle accident or fall, as it is so effective in reducing pain and inflammation in the soft tissue. However, we also find it very effective in reducing tension and spasm in the chronically stressed and tense patient. A typical example would be the patient who works at the computer all day and has a long commute resulting in extremely tense neck and trap muscles.

We recommend physical therapy modalities for assisting in pain relief, relaxing muscles and pushing out inflammation. These therapies reduce pain and inflammation in the soft tissue as well as reduce tension and muscle spasm – assisting in healing.

Treating chronic pain: What therapies we use

The two most common physical therapy modalities that we use in our office are electrical stimulation and ultrasound.

Electrical stimulation: Release body’s natural pain relievers, strengthens muscles and promotes blood flow

treating chronic painIn this therapy, also known as interferential, the chiropractic assistant applies four pads in a square shape around the area pain. A medium frequency electric stimulation is passed between the pads in the shape of an “x” over the area of pain. This crossing of electric current produces physiological changes within the tissue.

First, the stimulation causes the body to release its own natural pain relievers called endorphins. The stimulation also affects the pain gate mechanisms in a way that masks pain. Next, the stimulation can increase blood flow to the tissues in the treated area. This can help carry out inflammation. Although electrical stimulation can be used to contract muscles, we keep the intensity in a range most therapeutic for pain relief so patients do not feel any muscle twitching or movement whatsoever. The patient generally feels a sensation of tingling in the area of treatment during the therapy.

Therapeutic ultrasound: Promotes tissue relaxation, reduces inflammation and increases circulation

treating chronic painFirst, a gel is applied to the area of pain, then the ultrasound wand is waved over the skin with very light pressure. There are crystals within the probe of the wand that vibrate producing sound waves that pass through the tissue. As the sound waves pass through the local tissue, there is vibration within the tissue. This therapy offers a mechanical massage that can reduce inflammation, create tissue relaxation, increase blood flow, and break down scar tissue. Ultrasound is generally thought to soften tissue. We find it very effective on areas of muscle tension and spasm.

In our office, it’s helpful to have other ways beyond chiropractic to provide healing and relief in treating chronic pain and injuries. So, physical therapy modalities are often “the icing on the cake.” If you haven’t tried them and are curious, just ask me if it would be helpful for you!

Dr. Sharman

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