What is a Pain Physio?

What is a pain physio? How is a pain physio different to a regular physio? Don’t all physios help people with pain? Questions often asked by patients, clients, health professionals, case managers and individuals involved with the rehabilitation process. 

Pain can present in many ways, and can impact on an individual’s physical, emotional, and social well-being. Traditionally, physiotherapists have been highly trained and skilled in helping improve people’s physical conditioning, this in turn can result in an enhanced feeling of emotional and social well-being. 

Many people often consider pain physios as the “talking physios”, often spending their sessions talking with individuals, teaching people to self-manage and may often be considered less skilled in the traditional physiotherapeutic interventions.


Image by Adi Goldstein, Unsplash

With evolving knowledge of the complexities of pain and the multi factorial elements, and contemporary pain science, a specialised breed of physio is evolving, psychologically informed physiotherapists. 

Psychologically informed pain physios work within a biopsychosocial framework, utilising core psychological principles including Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), and Compassion Focussed therapy (CFT), to not only optimise their assessment skills, but to also enhance behaviour change in those that they work with.  

Traditional physio has often been considered one-directional, in which an individual is assessed, diagnosed, and treated using a treatment regime devised with a strong bias towards a biomedical model of care. A biopsychosocial model of care allows for a more collaborative relationship between the clinician and the individual, and develops a robust therapeutic alliance, often facilitating a shift from a condition specific approach to a person centred approach. 

The role of a pain physio, is therefore, not to provide “passive” interventions, but to work with, and empower individuals to achieve their goals, re-engage in meaningful activities and develop a greater sense of confidence, whilst navigating a tricky pain conundrum. 

It is becoming increasingly apparent, that when working with individuals with pain, there are several key points:

  • Pain is real. Pain is a personal, subjective experience and just because individuals do not fit the textbook with their presentation, it does not mean the pain isn’t real!
  • The issues are not always in the tissues! What is happening in the tissues may be important.  However, this may be part of the picture, it is not the only answer why an individual is experiencing pain. 
  • Pain is complex. 
  • Making rehabilitation fun and meaningful will often assist with engagement, but may also help to de-threaten the situation.

If you would like to explore how a pain physio could help you, get in touch with the team at [email protected]

www.retrainingpain.co.uk