Pain Science Physical Therapy: Get Your Life BackPain can be scary. In some cases, people associate pain with superstitions and this makes it more distressing for those who suffer. There are a number of treatment options for chronic pain these days. This article will discuss how pain science physical therapy will help you recover from a life of pain and go back to the life you enjoyed previously.

In 2016, the CDC reported that approximately 20.4% of U.S. adults had chronic pain and 8.0% of U.S. adults were suffering from high-impact chronic pain. 

What is Pain?

No one likes to feel pain but it is a part of life. Most of us know what pain is because we have felt pain at least once in our life. But let’s go into more detail into the definition of the term – pain.

According to the International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP), pain is “an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with, or resembling that associated with, actual or potential tissue damage.”

The IASP added, “Pain is always a personal experience that is influenced to varying degrees by biological, psychological, and social factors.”

When did pain education start? How did humans start to perceive pain and study it?

The History of Pain

During ancient times, people understood pain associated with accidental injury. However, pain that is caused by an internal illness was hard to understand. Since no one at the time understood what causes internal pain, it was believed that that kind of pain was supernatural. For this reason, treatments were performed by shamans, sorcerers, and medicine men. They used amulets, talismans, and magic sculptures during rituals to ward off the demons and evil spirits they believed were causing the pain.

Centuries later, Aristotle the philosopher taught that the aim of the wise is not to seek pleasure but to avoid pain. He introduced the classical definition of the five senses (taste, sight, touch, hearing, and smell). He did not include pleasure and pain because he thought the two were like, in modern language, “emotions of the mind” or “passions of the soul.” They were emotions caused by the appropriate or inappropriate stimulation of the five senses.

During the 17th century, René Descartes published Principles of Philosophy. Here, he discussed pain in phantom limbs. He deduced that pain was felt in the brain and not in the phantom limb. He introduced the concept that the soul of pain was located in the pineal gland

Unfortunately, the Church at the time considered pain as closely linked to original sin. Descartes was aware of the influence of the Church and placated them by introducing the idea of a “soul.”

The 18th century or the “Age of Enlightenment” brought in a shift in medical philosophies due to a decrease of Church influence. However, it was only during the 19th century when medical texts started focusing on the links between physical and mental aspects of pain.

By 1965, Ron Melzack and Patrick Wall introduced the Gate Control Theory of Pain which is still taught in many US medical schools today. The theory suggests that the spinal cord contains a neurological “gate” that either blocks pain signals or allows them to continue to the brain.

Is Pain Important for the Body?

Pain has an important role in the human body. It alerts us to illnesses or conditions that we may have. It also protects us from harm by making us associate certain harmful actions with a sensation of pain (e.g. picking up a hot plate).

What are the Four Major Types of Pain?

There are different types of pain and our body processes each type of pain differently:

  • Nociceptive Pain

This type of pain is usually the result of tissue injury. Examples of this type of pain are arthritis pain, fractures, bruises, burns, post-surgical pain, and mechanical back pain.

  • Inflammatory Pain

This type of pain refers to increased sensitivity due to the inflammatory response of our body associated with tissue damage. Examples of this type of pain are rheumatoid arthritis and gout.

  • Neuropathic Pain

This is a type of chronic pain. It is usually caused by chronic, progressive nerve disease. In some cases, it is the result of injury or infection. Examples of this type of pain are neuropathy, trigeminal neuralgia, and radicular pain.

  • Functional Pain

When a patient feels pain that does not show any obvious organic origin, this type of pain is often labeled as functional pain. Examples of this type of pain are irritable bowel syndrome and fibromyalgia.


For many people, pain can be frustrating and debilitating. It can interfere with day-to-day activities such as work, sleep, and quality time with loved ones. Pain management will provide you relief and will allow you to go back to enjoying your life. 

What Types of Pain Treatment are Available?

Pain treatments can be classified into two, opioid and non-opioid.

  • Opioid Treatment

Opioids or narcotics are medications prescribed by doctors to treat pain that is severe and persistent. They are typically given to people with chronic back pain and headaches. They are also prescribed to treat patients recovering from surgery or experiencing severe pain associated with cancer and other illnesses.

Opioids are effective for pain treatment but they have potential side effects such as sleepiness, nausea, and constipation. Sometimes there are more serious side effects such as slowed heart rate, shallow breathing, and loss of consciousness. Furthermore, opioids can also be addictive.

In addition, if a patient suddenly stops taking opioids, he or she can become jittery and can suffer from insomnia.

  • Non-Opioid Treatment

The CDC reports that nearly 70% of the 67,367 deaths in 2018 involved an opioid. In fact, approximately 128 people die every day from an opioid overdose.

Fortunately, there are non-opioid treatments available for those who do not want to use narcotics:

    • Non-opioid medications

These medications are available over-the-counter or by prescription. These include ibuprofen, aspirin, acetaminophen, and some steroids.

    • Acupuncture

This type of treatment involves the insertion of very thin needles through the skin at strategic points on the body.

    • Injection or nerve block

This type of injection decreases inflammation or “turn off” pain signal along a specific distribution of nerve.

    • Surgery

Surgery can help correct abnormalities in the body that may be responsible for your pain. However, invasive procedures like this are not preferred by some patients.

    • Pain Science Physical Therapy

Pain science physical therapy is one of the best treatments you can have when you have chronic pain. Physical therapists are experts in treating pain and its source. They will design an exercise program that is customized to help you recover from your condition.

What are the Benefits of Pain Science Physical Therapy?

A program that involves regular exercise for a certain period a number of times a week will help you with pain management by:

  1. Relieving pain, promoting healing, and restoring function and movement
  2. Increasing the strength in your muscles
  3. Increasing endurance
  4. Adding more stability in your joints
  5. Making your muscles and joints more flexible
  6. Encouraging the production of your body’s natural pain-relieving chemicals such as endorphins

How Does Pain Science Physical Therapy Treat Pain?

Pain science physical therapy is done by a physical therapist who will focus on relieving your pain using passive or active therapy.

Passive Therapy

  • Manual therapy
  • Heat/ice packs
  • Ultrasound
  • Dry needling
  • Cupping
  • Electrical stimulation, including TENS (Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) units


Active Therapy

  • Stretching and range of motion exercises
  • Pain relief exercises
  • Specific strengthening exercises
  • Low-impact aerobic conditioning


Pain science physical therapy can be challenging because you will use parts of your body that have chronic pain or an injury. But it is a safe pain management treatment that has no side effects whatsoever.

At Vigor Physical Therapy & Rehabilitation, we have licensed physical therapists who are highly-skilled and have several years of experience in designing and implementing a program tailor-fit to each patient’s condition.

Vigor Physical Therapy & Rehabilitation is committed to your health and wellness. We provide all our patients with personalized, unparalleled care.

If you need more details about pain science physical therapy or if you have any questions, please contact us today and we will be glad to assist you.