Skip to main content

When suffering from pain, it can be difficult to know what is the best option for treatment. Many doctors recommend physical therapy as a powerful solution to ease acute and chronic pain. Physical therapists are experts in pain management, as well as addressing its underlying causes. While there are other forms of pain management, some may not offer the same long-term benefits of physical therapy, such as improved mobility and overall wellness. 

What Is The Difference Between Pain Management and Physical Therapy?

Pain management refers to a variety of options that doctors might suggest for pain relief. Physical therapy is medically proven to treat many conditions and improve function, but it isn’t the only prescribed treatment. 

Doctors may order patients to use over-the-counter and prescription medications to alleviate pain symptoms. Acetaminophen and Ibuprofen are often recommended for mild to moderate pain. For severe pain, doctors may prescribe opioids, such as OxyContin and Vicodine. However, opioids can be habit-forming and not recommended for those with a family history of substance use disorder.  

Doctors may even refer patients to pain management specialists. These are physicians who specialize in interventional and diagnostic pain medicine. Pain management specialists evaluate and treat many conditions. 

There are a variety of other alternatives that can provide pain relief.

Cognitive behavioral therapy: this can involve short-term counseling that may help reduce the body’s reactions to pain. 

Acupuncture: the use of hair-thin needles to stimulate specific areas of the body to relieve pain. 

Hypnosis: by focusing one’s attention, hypnotists may help reorient pain symptoms for relief. 

How Do Physical Therapists Treat Pain? 

Physical therapists begin by identifying areas of weakness and stress that are causing the body to hurt. After discovering the cause of pain, they will begin using an array of techniques that are best suited for the issue. 

Strengthening Exercises 

Strengthening exercises are used to treat weak muscles and joints that aren’t functioning properly. Exercise machines, resistance bands, and body weight workouts are examples of this technique. Often, physical therapists will help individuals improve their core muscles that relieve pain in many parts of their body, such as the back. 

Aerobic Training 

Low-impact aerobic training workouts will increase blood flow throughout the body without stressing any joints. This training can help reduce stiffness, improve flexibility, and improve comfort for affected areas. Examples of this include walking fast on a treadmill or using a stationary bike to warm up. 

Hot and Cold Therapy

During a session, a physical therapist may skillfully use ice packs and heat to treat pain points. Under their therapist’s supervision, individuals can see a reduction in inflammation and feel rejuvenated.


Physical therapists are skillfully trained in massage therapy techniques for pain management. These professionals will take great care to make sure the massage is helpful for individuals, without aggravating the source of pain. During massage therapy, there is good communication to make sure the individual is comfortable and finding pain relief. 

Electrical Stimulation

Some individuals may experience pain reduction from electrical stimulation therapy. Usually, this pain reduction technique involves a TENS unit that sends a low-voltage electric current to the skin over the affected area. This may offer relief by blocking pain signals to the brain. 

Does Physical Therapy Hurt?

Some may wonder if physical therapy can hurt when used to treat forms of pain. In some instances, physical therapy can be a little uncomfortable at times. However, physical therapists are trained to remedy pain and its underlying causes in the most effective way possible. Physical therapists work to provide relief that lasts, while also making their patient feel at ease during treatments. 

Physical Therapy at Galloway Ridge

At the Center for Physical Rehabilitation, our licensed therapists create patient-centered treatment plans to help individuals with pain management. If you or someone you know is dealing with troubling pain, we invite you to make an appointment and experience the benefits of physical therapy. To schedule an appointment or book a consultation, call us at: 919-545-2633.