PTD0215_MuscleCreamsFor aching muscles following surgery or from arthritis, you have probably considered using a variety of topical creams and gels for pain relief. Some of these pain relievers contain salicylates, the same ingredient that gives aspirin its pain-relieving quality. Some contain capsaicin, while others use ingredients that relieve pain by providing a counterirritant. When applied, these products may temporarily relieve pain in joints close to the skin, such as the fingers, knees and elbows.

If a topical treatment relieves your pain, why would you need exercise and other physical therapy treatments? You may be getting less pain relief than you think. Many different opinions exist about the effectiveness of over-the-counter topical pain medications. While many patients find that these pain relievers alleviate pain, scientific studies reveal only modest benefits, with some products doing no better than a placebo for relieving arthritis pain.

More importantly, you must remember that the goal of physical therapy is not merely to remove pain but to restore your strength and motion so that you can better perform your usual daily activities. We target specific areas of weakness so that your body can function effectively, without pain and without creams, rubs or other topical painkillers.

People with arthritis, for example, often avoid certain movements that cause pain. In the long term, however, that only leads to more pain and stiffness. Using physical therapy, we teach patients how to work out the stiffness without causing further damage. And whether you have arthritis or are recovering from joint-replacement surgery, we can educate you about your condition, allowing you to feel better between visits to our office.

Regardless of the source of your pain, let us know about it. In most cases, we can work with you to moderate the pain and prevent future pain and injuries—a course of treatment that will have you feeling much better in the long run than if you had merely slapped on a topical pain reliever.

February PTEdigest includes:

Do Muscle Creams Eliminate the Need for Exercise?
Giving Your Knee a Lube Job
Rewiring the Brain After a Stroke
Unjamming a Jammed Finger
Activity Trackers: The Ideal Motivator

Download PTeDigest February