Solving the Persistent Pain Puzzle PART 5: If YOU Want to get Better quickly, Minimise Symptomatic Treatments


In our earlier posts we looked at the causes of persistent pain.  We also discussed how the key to effectively dealing with persistent pain and achieving long-term relief is to continually focus on eliminating underlying causes. 

When a client first presents with persistent pain we may identify quite a long list of contributing factors to their pain but with skilled manual therapy treatment many can be eliminated within a couple of sessions.  We then have a much shorter, less complex and more manageable list of factors to focus on, such as  a couple of weak or tight muscles which need work for long-term relief and preventing pain recurrence.  

Spending too much time and money on symptomatic treatment for which there may only (at best) be short term respite from pain is less than ideal. 


What does symptomatic treatment of Persistent Pain look like?   

After reading our series of posts on persistent pain you now know that merely treating the symptoms of persistent pain is not going to eliminate the cause.  So how do you tell if you’re only getting this “second-rate” treatment? 

There are a couple of easy signs to recognise:

  • Your practitioner only focuses on where you are sore.
  • If your practitioner does treat elsewhere but is unable to offer a logical and credible explanation as to why they are treating this area and how it relates to your condition.
  • You rely on medication as your only treatment for pain – medication does NOT change any of the underlying causes.
  • Your practitioner is a “one trick pony” – they only have one skill set to offer. For example, they only crack your spine, mobilise a joint or can only massage.  If their first attempt at eliminating the causes of your pain was inadequate then other skills will be required.
  • You haven’t been offered a two-part diagnosis (or even any diagnosis at all!): Part One is the medical type of diagnosis (a label for what is wrong) and Part Two is the list of causes. A massage therapist is not legally qualified nor permitted in Australia to offer a diagnosis.
  • You only experience temporary relief from your treatment and no logical credible explanation is offered as to why a longer course of treatment may be required. Some problems do take longer to fix than others but there are always reasons why this is so and they should be given to you.


Never forget that the aim in eliminating persistent pain should always be to identify and treat the underlying causes (part two of your diagnosis).  Symptomatic treatment should be offered sparingly as it distracts from addressing the real causes.

In further posts you will learn that persistent pain is multifactorial in origin and the causes are usually dysfunction in any of the body’s systems, not just an isolated joint or a muscle problem.