What makes physical therapy three-dimensional? That question actually has multiple answers, but the one I want to explore today is that at 3DPT we believe in treating the whole person. This includes their mind, body, and spirit.

Obviously, as physical therapists our primary focus is on the body, but there is a connection between our physical perception of pain and our mental state. If we have two people with the same neck injury but one of them has depression and/or anxiety, we know that person is likely to report higher levels of pain and their progress in physical therapy may be slower. We can’t ignore the affect of their mental and spiritual state on their injury or we will not be as successful in helping them.

According to Harvard Health Publishing, “as researchers have learned more about how the brain works, and how the nervous system interacts with other parts of the body, they have discovered that pain shares some biological mechanisms with anxiety and depression.” They recommend multiple treatment options, including exercise, yoga, and mindfulness, all of which can be incorporated into physical therapy treatment in some way. You can learn more at https://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/the-pain-anxiety-depression-connection.

People who are chronically stressed or suffer from anxiety may start to experience neck pain, tension headaches, and/or problems with their jaw due to clenching their teeth. These all respond well to physical therapy, but we also need to teach them ways to help manage their stress and reduce the tension in those areas so it doesn’t repeatedly bring their symptoms back. We can also empower them with techniques to treat their own symptoms so the next time their stress spirals out of control and flares up their pain, they can get themselves back on track.

Despite what we’ve all heard, pain is not in our heads. But our perception of it is, and that perception is influenced by our emotions and therefore has to be factored in to treatment. At 3DPT, we are blessed to have the opportunity to help our communities improve their physical health, but we want to go beyond that to support their mental health and spiritual well-being as well.