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One in five Australians now lives with persistent pain. Persistent pain (or chronic pain) can be defined as pain that persists beyond 3-months. In some instances, the pain may be a result of a specific injury such as a fracture or a sprain, but the pain will persist beyond normal healing time (i.e., 6-8 weeks). However, in many other instances, pain may be present without a specific injury occurring. For example, pain may arise at a time of stress, fatigue or lack of sleep. Persistent pain can have a profound impact on an individual’s life, affecting physical, emotional and social well-being. 

Very similar to our general health, the health of the structures in our bodies is maintained through:

  • regular movement
  • keeping strong
  • exercising regularly
  • maintaining a healthy body weight
  • caring for our mental health
  • regularly sleeping well
  • remaining social, and 
  • not smoking or drinking too much alcohol. 

So, when these things go wrong, our nervous systems can become sensitised and pain may persist. Persistent pain can be very distressing and exhausting and can impact a person’s ability to carry out day to day tasks, affect their mobility, reduce their muscle strength, cause sleep disturbances, anxiety, depression and reduce overall quality of life. Physiotherapy aims to address these aspects holistically, focussing on the whole person, rather than just treating the painful area. 

Some key components of physiotherapy that are beneficial when helping someone who is challenged by persistent pain include:

  • Comprehensive assessment

Physiotherapists will conduct a thorough assessment, including taking time to hear someone’s story and identify the contributing factors to someone’s pain experience. Understanding each person’s unique pain experience helps guide the development of an individualised treatment plan, targeting each person’s goals and needs.

  • Education

Helping someone ‘make sense’ of their pain, plays a vital role in empowering someone to take an active role in managing their pain. Physiotherapists will discuss topics with people including pain education (i.e., helping someone make sense of their pain experience), lifestyle modifications including sleep hygiene tips, activity pacing strategies, stress management techniques, and movement advice. Empowering people with knowledge enables them to make informed decisions and participate actively in their recovery. 

  • Manual therapy

Manual therapy techniques, which include ‘hands-on’ techniques, can be effective in reducing pain and improving movement quality. 

  • Exercise and movement

Exercise and movement are a cornerstone of physiotherapy for persistent pain management. An individualised exercise program will be designed to address specific impairments, including improving someone’s ability to move efficiently and their strength. A movement program will also focus on enhancing people’s ability to be re-engaged in activities they enjoy. 

  • Psychological support

Addressing the psychological aspects of persistent pain is crucial for successful management. Physiotherapists may work closely with psychologists to help people develop positive coping strategies, manage stress and address any underlying psychological factors contributing to their pain.

  • Multidisciplinary approach

Physiotherapists often collaborate with other healthcare professionals, including pain specialists, psychologists, dietitians and GPs, to provide a comprehensive approach to persistent pain management. This multidisciplinary approach ensures a holistic treatment plan is developed to address each individual’s goals and needs. 

If you are challenged by persistent pain, call one of our clinics today for assistance. Physiotherapists can help you to understand why you have pain and get you back moving, active and living again. 


  1. Moseley, L. and D. Butler, Fifteen years of explaining pain: the past, present, and future. The Journal of Pain, 2015. 16(9): p. 807-813.

2. Caneiro, J., A. Smith, S. Bunzli, et al., From fear to safety: a roadmap to recovery from musculoskeletal pain. Physical Therapy, 2022. 102(2): p. pzab271.