Key messages

Therapies that have the most benefit are the ones that you can become an active participant in. That way, you can use the therapies on your own, at any time that you need them, with confidence that you can succeed.

  • Physical therapies use strategies that affect the body tissues (muscles, joints, bones, and nerves) to reduce pain and improve your physical function and overall wellbeing.

  • Active therapies have long-term health benefits that can make your muscles,bones, heart and lungs stronger so you are more fit, and have more energy to participate in various activities.

  • Passive therapies (e.g., massage, hot/cold packs, ultrasound, acupuncture, hydrotherapy) do not require any effort from you, but there is very limited evidence that they work as a standalone treatment for chronic pain. Therefore, it is recommended that you only use passive therapies as a way to get your body ready for more active therapies.

  • Combination therapies use multiple approaches to treat chronic pain. An example of combination therapy is using an active therapy like exercise together with a passive, manual therapy like a massage.

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