Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Pain Management Health Center

Font Size

Physical Therapy for Chronic Pain: What to Expect

Physical therapy is one of the best choices you can make when you have long-term (chronic) pain. It makes you stronger and helps you move and feel better. 

Ask your doctor to recommend a physical therapist. You'll probably need a series of PT sessions, and you should practice some of the exercises at home for the best results.

Recommended Related to Pain Management

Handicap Parking Permits: How to Get One

If you have a chronic illness like arthritis or lung disease that makes it painful or difficult to walk, you might qualify for a handicapped parking permit. Ask your doctor about eligibility. People with limited mobility can save time, energy, and frustration when they park in handicapped parking spots near the entrances to businesses. Each state has its own forms and criteria for handicapped parking permits. Typically, the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) runs the program. Check on your...

Read the Handicap Parking Permits: How to Get One article > >

Physical therapists have a lot of training. Still, it’s a good idea to ask them about their experience in working with people who've had conditions like yours. You can also ask them how many sessions you'll need.

How Does Physical Therapy Treat Pain?

You can think of PT as being like a super-focused type of workout. But you’re not trying to burn calories. The goal is to target the muscles in the areas where you feel pain, so those joints work better and have more support.

In a PT session, you may do more than one of these things:

Low-impact aerobic training. These workouts will rev up your heart rate and still take it easy on your joints. For instance, you might walk fast or use a stationary bike to warm up, instead of running, before you do your strengthening exercises.

Strengthening exercises. You might use machines at your physical therapist’s office, resistance bands, or your own body weight (think lunges, squats, and push-ups). You may work on your core muscles (belly, glutes, and back), as well as other parts of your body.

Pain relief exercises. These moves target areas where you have pain, so you're stronger and more flexible -- which should make it easier to live your life.

Stretching. This will be gentle, and your therapist will make sure that you're warmed up and you don’t stretch too far.

You may need to do some of these moves at home, between sessions. Your therapist will give you instructions on each exercise and how often to do them.

What Else Might I Do?

During your sessions, your therapist may also use:

Heat and ice packs. Ice calms inflammation. Heat warms up your muscles so they move better.

Today on WebMD

pain in brain and nerves
Top causes and how to find relief.
knee exercise
8 exercises for less knee pain.
acupuncture needles in woman's back
How it helps arthritis, migraines, and dental pain.
chronic pain
Get personalized tips to reduce discomfort.
illustration of nerves in hand
lumbar spine
Woman opening window
Man holding handful of pills
Woman shopping for vegetables
Sore feet with high heel shoes
acupuncture needles in woman's back
man with a migraine