What is Pain Management?
In physical therapy terms, pain management modalities are the techniques used to relieve pain, inflammation, and encourage faster healing in dysfunctional tissue. There are several modalities used for pain management, including ultrasound, electrical stimulation, cold laser, and dry needling.
How does it work?
Two of the most common modalities used for pain management therapy are ultrasound and electrical stimulation.
Therapeutic ultrasound is performed with a machine that sends high frequency waves into dysfunctional tissue, creating a deep heating effect. This deep heat serves to increase blood flow to the tissue, which aids the healing process. Moreover, the deep heat reduces inflammation and creates greater elasticity in the tissue, which helps to relieve pain in the affected area. In applicable cases, the increased dexterity of the tissue created by therapeutic ultrasound improves range of motion and makes the area “looser” for more effective manipulation.
Electrical stimulation therapy is applied with a machine that sends light electrical currents into dysfunctional tissue through pads attached to the skin. There are various types of electrical stimulation used in physical therapy, but in general, the currents directed into the tissue cause muscles to vibrate, which helps with the healing process. In terms of pain management, these light currents also stimulate and create a temporary numbing effect in sensory nerves, which lowers their sensitivity, hence mitigating pain.
When is each an effective treatment?
Ultrasound, electrical stimulation, and other pain management techniques are used as part of a larger treatment plan to treat pain and encourage healing in dysfunctional tissue. Your therapist may use one or both of these specific modalities, depending on the nature of your injury.
Why do we utilize pain management modalities?
This answer may seem obvious, but controlling the pain of a client is essential to a successful therapy plan. Apart from the obvious benefit to the patient, mitigating inflammation, tightness, and other pain-inducing maladies in the tissue is beneficial to the therapeutic process as well. Both ultrasound and electrical stimulation can generate a healing response in damaged tissue. Each modality also increases tissue dexterity and increases range of motion, which facilitates other manual therapy treatments.