A Literary Review of Physical Therapy Treatments in Chronic Pain Patients

Date of Award


Document Type

Honors Thesis



First Advisor

Dr. Brian Burrell

Second Advisor

Dr. Gerald Yutrzenka

Third Advisor

Dr. Becca Jordre


Chronic Pain, Physical Therapy, Gate Control Theory of Pain

Subject Categories

Physical Therapy


Chronic pain, pain that persists for over three months, plagues 30.7% of the United States population. Separated into four main classifications (Nociceptive, Behavioral, Psychogenic, and Neuropathic), the pain follows three main pain pathways (Nociceptive Pain Pathway, Peripheral Pain Pathway, Central Sensitivity) involved in either input, output, or processing of the nervous system or tissue properties. A multitude of health professionals including physicians, psychiatrists, and physical therapists work together to manage chronic pain symptoms including pain, fatigue, sleep disruptions, and depression. A common and easily accessible treatment option for most patients is physical therapy. Often chosen over other treatments such as medication therapy or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy because of its benefits as well as its lack of downfalls, physical therapy treatments reduce chronic pain symptoms through a variety of modalities. The efficacy of modalities including aerobic exercise, electrotherapy, biofeedback, massage, pacing, and ultrasound were reviewed. It was found that physical therapy treatments reduce pain symptoms, depression, fatigue, and increase functionality and overall mood by following the Gate Control Theory of Pain.

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