Pain Management v. Physical Therapy: Which Treatment Is Right for You?

woman doing physical therapy exercises

Deciding Between a Pain Management Doctor and Professional Physical Therapy

Chronic pain drastically decreases quality of life and can prevent you from doing simple everyday activities. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 20% of adults in the U.S. suffer from some form of chronic pain.

Additionally, the CDC reports that 7% of U.S. adults suffer from high-impact chronic pain (HICP), which is a form of chronic pain that significantly reduces functional participation in social, self-care, and work activities.

When dealing with chronic pain or recovering from an injury, individuals are often presented with various treatment options. For those who have consulted with a physician, two common approaches are pain management and physical therapy (PT). Although both aim to improve a person’s quality of life and alleviate discomfort, all the pros and cons must be considered when making the pain management v. physical therapy comparison.

Pain Management v. Physical Therapy Defined

Pain management focuses on providing relief from pain using medication and other interventional techniques. Pain management doctors commonly use this approach to address chronic conditions or acute injuries that cause significant discomfort.

Professional physical therapy involves therapeutic exercises and stretches to improve mobility, strength, and flexibility. It focuses on restoring and enhancing physical function, making it an essential component of rehabilitation.

The Pros and Cons of Pain Management

Before speaking with a pain management doctor, it’s helpful to gain an understanding of the benefits and disadvantages of this treatment method.

Pros of Pain Management:

  • Pain medications provide immediate relief from chronic pain.
  • There are many different types of pain medications, including nerve blocks, injections, prescription drugs, and over-the-counter medications.
  • Pain management can be beneficial for individuals who require short-term relief while waiting for long-term treatments, such as surgery or physical therapy.

Cons of Pain Management:

  • Does not address the root cause of chronic pain.
  • May result in debilitating or harmful side effects, including constipation, nausea, vomiting, sleep issues, memory issues, weight gain, sexual dysfunction, and dependency issues.
  • Limited functional improvement.

The Pros and Cons of Professional Physical Therapy

Physical therapy can be used to treat numerous chronic pain conditions. The following breaks down the main pros and cons of this method of treatment.

Pros of Physical Therapy:

  • Professional physical therapy targets the root cause of chronic pain.
  • PT is non-invasive and drug-free, which minimizes the risk of side effects and drug dependency.
  • Because physical therapy aims for sustained improvement over time, it has a proven track record of providing long-term benefits for patients, such as increased mobility and strength.
  • Potentially avoid the need for surgery.

Cons of Physical Therapy:

  • Professional physical therapy requires commitment and consistency to achieve optimal results, which might not suit patients who seek quick relief.
  • Some therapeutic exercises may cause temporary discomfort during the rehabilitation process.
  • In certain cases of advanced degenerative conditions or extensive injuries, physical therapy alone might not be sufficient for complete pain relief.

Pain Management v. Physical Therapy: Choosing Between the Two Options

Both pain management and professional physical therapy have their strengths and weaknesses, which cater to different needs and circumstances. For temporary relief, pain management may be effective, but it won’t address the root cause of the issue.

On the other hand, professional physical therapy offers a holistic approach that targets the underlying problems and promotes long-term functional improvement; however, it likely won’t provide immediate relief from chronic pain.

When weighing your options between pain management v. physical therapy, the best course of action depends on the nature of the condition, the severity of pain, and individual preferences. Consulting with a pain management specialist near you will help you determine the most suitable treatment plan, ensuring a successful journey toward pain relief and improved physical well-being.

Remember, there is no one-size-fits-all solution, and combining various approaches can often yield the best outcomes. Depending on your healthcare condition, you may benefit from seeing a pain management doctor and PT specialist in tandem.

How to Speak with an Orthopedic Doctor About Chronic Pain

If you are one of the many individuals currently suffering from chronic pain, you don’t have to suffer in silence. Mid-America Orthopedics has decades of combined experience helping patients overcome their chronic pain and mobility issues.

Reach out to our practice today to schedule an appointment. During your initial examination, your orthopedic doctor will collect your medical information, perform a thorough examination, and make a diagnosis. Based upon the results, your physician will develop a personalized treatment plan.

For inquiries, call (316) 630-9300, or email us using the contact form on our website. For your convenience, we generally can schedule same-day or next-day appointments.