Consider PT First- Let your PT analyze your pain
Mechanical vs. Inflammatory pain: Which is it?
Whenever I meet a new patient, I tell them my role is to listen to their story and help determine the best way manage their pain and hopefully get rid of it for good.
I do this through taking a thorough history that helps me to classify the problem so I can design a treatment plan that will address specific concerns and meet your needs.
There are times that the best path is straight to the surgeon’s office. And there are times when the best option is rest. With the ultimate goal of getting better, all options are on the table.
Distinguishing mechanical vs inflammatory pain is the first step to figuring out how to manage your pain. Mechanical pain can easily be managed with a combination of exercise and manual therapy. Inflammatory pain, on the other hand, are like embers in a campfire. Without the right attention at the right time, this can progress to a forest fire in your body, with uncontrollable pain. Understanding which pain you have, and how to manage it, is the key to getting better. Below are some tips to help you decide which is which:
Mechanical pain is pain that often comes on with certain positions or activities. For example:
You might have back pain when sitting for too long, or
You might have knee pain when running and going up stairs
Once you change activities or positions, your pain tends to change.
It can come on for no reason at all, you can feel it when making a very simple move, such as rolling over in bed or bending over to pick up a pencil.
Here’s the frustrating part: People with mechanical pain will often describe good and bad days, where one day they may have excruciating pain with running, and the next day they may have very little pain at all.
This pain is almost always constant.
In general, it gets worse with activity and better with rest.
Inflammatory pain tends to cause a dull ache all day, especially at night.
Here’s the tricky part: Most people have some combination of mechanical and inflammatory pain.
Let your Physical Therapist analyze this pain and help you determine if your pain is mechanical, inflammatory, or both. Let your Physical Therapist design a treatment plan specifically designed to address the mixture of pain you are experiencing. And, if it seems that exercise and manual therapy are not enough, let your Physical Therapist guide you towards the best option.
If you decide to try PT first, know the following things:
In Oregon, you do not need a prescription from a physician to see a Physical Therapist
However, some insurance plans do require you to get a prescription from your doctor. So, if you want to see a physical therapist first, look at your insurance policy and check the rules.
If you have had success with a Physical Therapist in the past, contact them again. Even if you are not sure if they can treat what is bothering you now, they are more likely to know the PT community well enough to refer you to the best Physical Therapist to assess your problem.
If you are working with a new Physical Therapist, you should notice significant improvement with your primary concerns in 2-3 weeks. If not, your Physical Therapist should be able to explain why it may take longer. If they are unable to explain why you should consider going to another Physical Therapist.