Re-writing the Ending to the Story of Chronic Pain

Manual TherapyMotionWorks Physical Therapy tells a different story to our patients with chronic neck and back pain, fibromyalgia, headaches including migraines, and complex regional pain syndrome.

Our story begins with listening to each patient, then sharing hope in a plan that is research-based and leads to a path of fewer and fewer medications replaced over time with health, wellness, life balance, and exercise. Research has proven that exercise is as effective as typical go-to medications gabapentin and topiramate. Dr. Murphy admits, “There is no easy street, but rather a slow and steady pace of improvement with some likely flares along the way.”

Taking the time to understand each patient’s journey and what got them to this place, and then reverse steps, taking their hand and guiding them into a life no longer governed by pain is the key to the MotionWorks approach to treating chronic pain. Dr. Murphy notes, “It’s part coach and part cheerleader as we show patients’ that their pain can be less, that they can exercise five days per week without flares, how much pain is okay during and after exercise, and what to expect all along the way. Setting appropriate expectations and continually guiding patients is re-assuring, and patients can really buy-in when they begin to see appropriate expectations being met with improvements in pain and function.”

Patients who are committed to their physical therapy program at MotionWorks are successful. Patients have returned to rewarding jobs and careers, working out, running 5Ks and marathons, and having babies now that they are off medications that would never be allowed during a pregnancy. “It’s all about the individualized treatment approach at MotionWorks. We don’t have a set pain protocol and exercise sheets for our patients with headaches and chronic pain. Rather each patient is individually examined and has their own personalized treatment plan appropriate for their needs and issues- with a blend of all that PT can offer them, manual therapy and neural mobilization alongside pain and activity education and a graded exercise program guaranteed to succeed for each patient- because it’s based on the patients’ needs, likes, abilities, access, and removing barriers to success in advance. This type of treatment takes lots of time and relationship building, but we find it’s the only way to make a real impact on our patients’ lives,” Dr. Murphy states. “We are so excited to offer this approach, because we know it works. It’s worked for our patients; it’s worked for us.”

Jill Murphy finishing a marathon

Dr. Murphy reflects back to her several years of chronic back pain as a young college student due to a high school sports injury that was never adequately treated as a senior attending a rural northeast Wisconsin high school. With limited access to great spine specialists, Dr. Murphy notes it took a while to get on top of her pain and learn lifestyle choices to prevent pain flares, like avoiding prolonged sitting, choosing sitting surfaces carefully, and avoiding heavy lifting. With the help of a fantastic physical therapist in Milwaukee who specialized in manual therapy, after several months of the right care, Dr. Murphy was able to run and work out regularly for exercise without pain. A mild car accident several years later caused yet another flare that nearly de-railed graduate school, but once again, with the help of a manual physical therapist and some smart modifications, she was once again able to perform the duties of a physical therapist, and a couple of years later move on to run full marathons without any limitations from her old back injury. “Patients can really buy into a plan from someone who’s been there, who’s walked in their shoes, understands their pain from a first-person perspective, and relates that yes, it takes time, but it absolutely works.”

The sooner patients can get to a PT who can effectively treat chronic pain, the better. “Re-writing the chronic pain story starts with prevention, with the acute back and neck pain or headache patient accessing the right resources right away before their pain has been present on a daily basis for weeks, months, and years at a time,” Dr. Murphy emphasizes. Although it is never too late to de-sensitize a wound-up sympathetic nervous system, it takes longer to improve if the pain has been present for years versus weeks or months. “The key is swift referral of patients to qualified physical therapists who specialize in treating the specific needs of the patient with back and neck pain and headaches. If the physical therapist is not a spine or pain specialist, patients may fail, not realizing they really didn’t get the correct physical therapy treatment, and just assume this is all that physical therapy has to offer. This is definitely a case where matching the patient to the correct physical therapist is critical to a successful outcome.”

MotionWorks Physical Therapy offers spine specialty care for acute pain patients, as well as headache and chronic pain physical therapy. With aquatic therapy, exercise instruction, and an eclectic hands-on treatment approach, MotionWorks physical therapists have solutions for even the most difficult to treat cases of pain.