One of torture's legacies is pain, which can take various forms - both physical and psychological. Physical therapists at Freedom from Torture work to help people who have been tortured to reclaim their bodies from the torturers' imprint.
Healing the body
Freedom from Torture clients who have endured beatings, suspension by the arms and/or have been forced to sit or stand in contorted positions for lengthy periods of time, often experience lasting problems and sometimes disability.
Clients living with chronic pain may also suffer from depression and fatigue, preventing them from seeing exercise as potentially beneficial to their rehabilitation.
'Unlike acute pain, chronic pain is less responsive to treatment and intervention so it is a case of finding ways of managing the pain rather than curing it. The aim is to help clients feel more comfortable with their bodies, which they may have grown used to regarding as damaged and violated.'
Liz Hart, lead physiotherapist
Freedom from Torture offers specialist physiotherapy and massage therapy. These treatments can bring about major improvements and clients can be shown coping strategies for dealing with long-term conditions. Specially trained therapists help clients regain good posture, learn and perform appropriate exercises and provide advice about breathing techniques designed to encourage relaxation and achieve personal goals. Treatment might explain graduated exercise, advice on pacing, relaxation techniques and other strategies to help them cope with chronic pain.
Liz Hart explains the approach:
'Some people who are in pain are frightened to exercise because they think the pain is telling them not to move. We encourage people to be more active, which has been shown to be useful in pain management. Treating chronic pain is very much about managing it. With many of the clients I see, I can't take away the pain, but I can help the client establish that they are in charge, not the pain.'