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Let Your Physio Treat Your Pain - The Sooner The Better

Have you recently hurt yourself moving in a particular way? A common examples would be an acute episode of back pain resulting from lifting something heavy in an awkward position. I'll use the common back pain as my example here but the same approach can be applied to other body areas. 

What is the best way to look after your injury at this point?

Research tells us that 80% of people will recover from acute low back pain, possibly with the use of pain medication and/ or anti inflammatories but without the need for any further treatment, within 6-8 weeks.

That's all well and good but what if you are one of the 20% who go on to develop persistent and debilitating pain? There is no sure way of knowing whether or not you will recover completely.

So, there are two options at this point

First,

you can wait and see and hope for the best. You might be lucky and avoid any longer lasting debilitating effects.

Or second,

you could decide to consult with a Chartered Physiotherapist specialised in musculoskeletal pain management as soon as possible and not leave things to chance. 

The advantages of consulting a Chartered Physiotherapist within a few days of developing low back pain include the following:

  • You will recover more quickly, usually within 10-14 days if treated properly. Treatment options for acute low back pain include spinal mobilisation, electro therapy and medical acupuncture. When used in combination, these techniques are very effective in alleviating pain and assisting in the return of movement and function. Therapeutic exercise techniques can also help with pain control and restoring movement and in the early stages these need to be gentle, specific and not provoke pain.

See related article - Can Manual Therapy Alone Offer Sustainable Pain Relief?

  • The chances of developing persistent, ongoing pain will be reduced significantly with Chartered Physiotherapy treatment. In effect you will be reducing the risk of falling into the 20% who don't recover. This is because with the correct exercises you will not be left with strength deficits after the pain subsides which could otherwise leave the back vulnerable to ongoing injury.

  • In addition, with good pain management counselling from your Physiotherapist you will be less likely to become hyper-vigilent and catastrophise the pain and so avoid the onset of something called fear avoidance.

This is extremely important because new scientific evidence tells us that fear avoidance behaviour could explain why pain goes on to become persistent and debilitating.

Read more about fear avoidance in this interesting article - What Happens When We Feel Pain?

  • Assuming the acute pain episode settles and does not become persistent, the likelihood of the pain coming back and becoming a chronic condition is reduced with Physiotherapy treatment.

Read more about the differences between acute and chronic pain.

  • With early Physiotherapy treatment you are far less likely to need ongoing medication, investigations such as MRI scans or X Rays or referrals to orthopaedic or pain management specialists. Not only does this mean a lot less disruption to your life but will result in significant cost savings.

Of course there are rare instances when, depending on the type of injury and clinical presentation, an early referral to a specialist for further investigation may be required and this would be arranged by your Physiotherapist. However most mechanical back pain can be successfully managed without the need for specialist intervention by a suitably qualified Chartered Physiotherapist.

See this article for further interesting reading - Back Pain - Are You One Of The 33%?

Who to see first

It's also worth remembering that as first line practitioners, you do not need a GP referral to consult with a Chartered Physiotherapist. In most cases over the counter medication recommended by a pharmacist such as paracetamol or ibuprofen is suffice to assist with the rehabilitation process. If stronger medication is required your Physiotherapist would arrange an appointment with your GP for a prescription.

In our Mount Merrion clinic we often have clients who consult with our team and say

I should have come to you sooner!

They are usually quite right because back pain treated early often requires only 2-3 sessions confirmed by a recent clinical audit. My recommendation based on 13 years of experience would be not to take a chance, particularly with your spine which is quite literally the backbone of the human body.

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by Simon.


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