Patient receiving pain rehabilitation care on a table

Pain Rehabilitation

Medical Reviewer: Anita L. Davis PT, DPT, CNPT
Last Updated: April 9, 2024

What is pain rehabilitation?

Pain rehabilitation is the application of movement, education and manual therapy to treat pain conditions. These services are provided by physical therapist and physical therapist assistants to help recover from painful conditions and regain an active lifestyle.

What conditions are commonly treated in pain rehabilitation?

Physical therapists are uniquely positioned to treat pain conditions such as:

  • Back pain/Neck pain
  • Headache/migraine
  • Strain/sprain
  • Arthritis
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Neuropathic pain

Evaluation process

As you begin physical therapy, your therapist will conduct an examination to discover what is contributing to your pain condition. This will start with an interview about your symptoms and lifestyle factors. The examination also includes measuring your movements, strength and balance. A comprehensive exam also includes manually touching and moving the area involved. After this, your therapist will discuss a treatment plan designed to decrease your pain and improve function.

What does treatment include?

Physical therapy may include various exercises aimed at improving range of motion, endurance, coordination, or strength. Often this is a progression leading to the ability to complete your specific daily activities with greater ease and less pain.

Manual therapy may also be a part of the plan where the therapist assesses and mobilizes (or moves) the tissues that are tight and stiff. Such resistance to movement can be painful and impede mobility.

Finally, there may be a need for modalities to further assist in the treatment of pain. Different forms of electrical stimulation are available to assist in pain reduction. Some therapists are even skilled in advanced techniques of dry needling. Dealing with a painful condition often has more than just physical consequences. Frustration, sleep disturbance, and uncertainty may develop when pain had been more persistent.

Physical therapists are also able to help teach skills to cope with pain during your care. You may learn a relaxation exercise, sleep strategies and different strategies to develop your comprehensive plan.

How long is the program?

You and your therapist will determine the length of treatment. You could meet with your therapist 1-3 times per week based on the treatment plan that works for you.

Medical Reviewer

Anita L. Davis PT, DPT, CNPT

Physical Therapist
Dr. Davis has focused her career on treating people with chronic pain conditions. She developed and managed the rehabilitation program for the Brooks Rehabilitation Comprehensive Pain Rehabilitation Program for 30 years. She is sought out by local physicians for her ability to treat a difficult population. Dr. Davis is also part of an interdisciplinary team at Nemours Jacksonville assessing and treating pediatrics with chronic pain. She has presented at local and national conferences on issues related to chronic pain evaluation and treatment, psychologically informed practice and telehealth applications. Her passion for treating patients with persistent pain has led to establishing a support group for individuals with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome which now serves over 300 members worldwide. She is also a consultant for the Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Association (RSDSA). Dr. Davis is an active member of the Florida Physical Therapy Association and serves as an officer in the Telehealth and Technology Special Interest Group. She has been a contributing author on articles related to musculoskeletal pain and is currently involved in ongoing research regarding telehealth implementation and qualitative assessments of those with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome.
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