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Chronic Pain Considerations: FAQs & Being Proactive

Pain Management

Is there help for long-term pain? 

Physical therapy can help people live comfortably again. 

Pain that simply won’t go away can be debilitating. Even the smallest tasks can feel excruciating.  

For many people with chronic (long-term) pain, the problem is years in the making, according to Matthew Kehrer, a physical therapist at Adventist Health Feather River. That’s why there’s no quick fix.  

Here, Kehrer answers your questions about how physical therapy (PT) can relieve long-term pain. 

What exactly is chronic pain? 

This pain lasts for more than three months and is often associated with an illness or injury. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 28 percent of Americans live with it. 

Kehrer says most chronic pain problems involve arthritic or degenerative conditions in the neck, knees, shoulders and back. “Almost everyone has experienced low back pain in their life,” he says. 

How can PT help my chronic pain? 

“The human body is amazing at compensating for weakness, such as a simple limp, but there’s a toll to pay when you limp hundreds of thousands of times,” Kehrer explains. 

People with chronic pain often have range-of-motion loss, muscle imbalances and atrophy — alongside psychological problems such as fear. PT uses exercises, stretches, skills training and education to alleviate your pain. 

“Wouldn’t it be nice to work your body enough to feel muscle soreness and fatigue rather than pain?” he asks. “It’s amazing how much improvement people will make in their day-to-day life with a small change to their condition.” 

What if I’m in too much pain for PT? 

A physical therapist’s goal is never to increase your pain, but instead to promote movement and function, Kehrer explains. Discuss your pain with your therapist, who can choose exercises that help but don’t hurt. 

Kehrer also recommends sharing your hobbies and activities with your physical therapist. They can tailor the treatment to help you reach your goals, whether that’s playing with your grandkids or running a 10K. 

“We want you to succeed as much as you do, and if we find things in the clinic you enjoy, you’ll be successful,” he says. 

At-Home Exercises For Chronic Pain 

Adventist Health physical therapist Matthew Kehrer recommends these two exercises to relieve low back pain. To start each one, lie on your back with your knees bent and feet planted on the ground. 

To stretch: Lower trunk rotation 

Do this first thing in the morning in bed. Let your knees fall slowly to the left, then the right, but do not force the stretch through pain. Repeat for two to three minutes. 

To strengthen: Glute bridge 

Drive through your feet and push your hips toward the ceiling. Your knees, hips and shoulders should be in line. Squeeze your glutes, then slowly lower your hips for three sets of 15.