Physical Therapy: The First Line of Defense Against Pain
Pain management has become a daily practice for many of us, greatly affecting our quality of life and influencing our ability to earn a living. In this week’s blog, our physical therapist Sarah Johnson shares a particular breathing exercise that may have a profound impact on reducing your pain without having to rely upon opioids and other destructive measures, and it’s easy enough that you don’t have to leave your living room.
Why Physical Therapy
When we have pain, the body will protect itself by decreasing movement in the region as a way to splint or protect where the pain is emanating from. However, with decreased movement there can be altered muscle function leading to increased stiffness and increased pain, so simply trying to “take it easy” won’t necessarily work. Physical therapy can help to teach activities that can be done throughout the day to improve muscle and joint function and actually decrease pain.
In addition to corrective exercises, there are other forms of pain management (without use of medication) that can be especially helpful for people with neck and/or back pain such as diaphragmatic breathing. Diaphragmatic breathing entails:
- lying on your back with appropriate support for neck and back
- one hand is placed on the chest while the other hand gently lies on the abdomen
- gently breathe in through the nose for 4 seconds, allowing the neck muscles and abdominals to relax as the hand on your abdomen rises
- finally, purse the lips together to slowly breathe out for a count of 8 seconds.
The goal is to keep the hand on the chest relaxed as the diaphragm allows air to enter the lungs and causes rising of the hand on the abdomen. By controlling our breathing in this fashion, we increase the blood flow and oxygenation throughout our body which can aid healing as well as decrease tension in our muscles.
As opioids are becoming far less prescribed by physicians because of their destructive side effects, physical therapy is becoming much more of a first line of defense against pain.