Chronic Pain and Physiotherapy

Our “go-to” person for all things sciency when it comes to what’s effective and what’s not in physical therapy is expert science writer Paul Ingraham.

You see, just as in psychology, the field of physiotherapy is beset by truly bad research that unfortunately makes it to the coalface of therapy so that people are given meaningless or inappropriate treatment, often at great cost that makes it additionally harmful when the client’s earning capacity has been limited.

Here are a couple of examples.

  1. When people have long term chronic pain it’s nowadays often presumed this is because of their attitude. That might sound shocking to you, but a lot of physiotherapists, especially in Australia, believe this due to some really dodgy research studies. There is zero evidence that changing people’s attitude to their pain reduces their pain. What that kind of therapy does is gaslight people into shutting up about their suffering. It’s cruel and unnecessary.
  2. The second example is dodgy research trying to prove that specific exercise programs can help people who have long term chronic pain. However without exception what these studies fail to do is make an honest comparison to clients “merely remaining active” through a sport, hobby, or interest. When studies do make that comparison, they fail to show superiority of ANY exercise program.

So the upshot of this is that clients are getting talked into expensive treatment programs with physiotherapists who believe the bunk they in turn have been sold by researchers eager to commercialise their dud studies. This is not to say that physiotherapy is necessarily unhelpful. There is probably no-one better to help assess your functionality, and support you to be appropriately and safely active in your day-to-day life. It’s just the other stuff that’s bunk: acupuncture, massage guns, kinesio tape, massage, laser, specific exercises, etc.

The articles and resources you’ll see in this section might help to make good decisions when it comes to deciding if and when you might reach out to a physiotherapist.

PS: please note this article is about long term chronic pain, not acute pain in the recovery phase following injury or surgery. In those cases specific exercises are proven to be helpful to restore strength, function and flexibility.

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