The 5 steps of the chronic pain cycle and how PT experts can help you short-circuit it

August 2, 2022

Chronic pain isn’t a linear condition; it’s a cycle that spirals outward, worsening over time. Pain leads to a fear of increased pain, which leads to a lack of activity that creates more severe pain.

Interrupting the chronic pain cycle is one of the key steps of pain management. If you can short-circuit the cycle to prevent it from moving endlessly from one stage to the next, you can start to have small moments of relief.

Below, we’ll discuss the five steps of the cycle and explain how physical therapy can help you break it.

The five steps of the chronic pain cycle

Here are the five stages that chronic-pain sufferers cycle through:

1. Pain — The whole process starts with pain and discomfort. Signals are sent to the nervous system to let the brain know that something may be wrong in the body. The problem might be a disease, inflammation, a neurological condition or any number of other things.

2. Fear of activity — Fear is a common response to pain. When it hurts to exercise or even move around, you may not want to do those things very much.

3. Loss of strength and flexibility — A lack of exercise leads to a weakening of the muscles and stiffness in the joints. Inactivity also causes inflammation in the joints and atrophy in the muscles.

4. Increased pain — Weak and stiff joints lead to further pain, as they aren’t able to support the body in daily activities, causing further inflammation. All of this leads to more pain than you had to begin with.

5. Depression and anxiety — Chronic pain is closely linked to depression and anxiety, both of which can lead to a further decrease in physical activity and increased physical pain.

How physical therapy can break the pain cycle

Physical therapy can break the chronic pain cycle by helping you strengthen your muscles and increase the flexibility of your joints. Your physical therapist will also work with you to develop strategies for managing and reducing your pain throughout the day.

With stronger bones, increased flexibility and a toolbox of pain-management tactics, you can stay active and break the chronic pain cycle.

Alliance PTP is ready to help you find top-notch PT for chronic pain

At Alliance Physical Therapy Partners, we’re proudly bringing together physical therapy practices across the country to help people get the high-quality PT they need. Want to see a physical therapist in person? We can put you in touch with an Alliance PTP partner that’s close to you and that can help you address chronic pain. 

Not keen on in-person PT sessions or not close to an Alliance PTP partner? No worries. We also offer effective and affordable virtual physical therapy through our Agile Virtual Physical Therapy platform. 

Contact our team today so we can help you find the most effective physical therapy services for your injury or condition.