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Should Physical Therapy Hurt?

Physical therapy aims to ease pain and improve your quality of life whether you are suffering from occupational discomfort, injury, or disease. Physical therapists need to examine and assess your health condition before coming up with a treatment plan that is specific to your diagnosis. If you are scheduled for physical therapy or just want to know the experience, one of the thoughts that cross your mind is whether the procedure is painful. This article discusses whether physical therapy should hurt and how therapists devise a tailored treatment plan for their patients.

Pain and Physical Therapy

There are two types of pain: good pain and bad pain.

partial view of physiotherapist stretching patient on massage table
You may experience good pain when performing endurance or strengthening exercises. The muscle soreness that occurs after such activity is caused by the buildup of lactic acid in muscles and is expected to fade away after a while. Bad pain is a feeling of discomfort that indicates irritation or damage to the body muscles and tissues due to improper technique, overuse, or too much motion.

Since you will be using parts of your body that experience chronic pain or have been injured, you may feel pain during physical therapy. Feeling sore after a deep tissue massage or after stretching is often associated with good pain because it has a purpose. There is an excellent chance that you may start feeling less pain after a few sessions of physical therapy. As the pain fades, the injured muscles or tissues heal progressively making a patient feel stronger, stable, and more confident.

There is a distinction between pain and progress in physical therapy as it is similar to how strength training works. If you feel sore after physical therapy then that is a sign that your body and muscles have been stressed but in a good way. There must be some kind of resistance for the muscle to grow and become stronger. Although it can be annoying and uncomfortable, good pain is often a necessary part of growth and recovery.

Tailored Treatment

Physical therapy is not a one-size-fits-all treatment and therefore, it is tailored to address the source of pain for each individual. For instance, physical therapists use their hands to move the joint slowly through its range of motion if a patient suffers from sore knees or joint problems. It is unrealistic to think that a patient will not feel pain during a therapy session because physical therapists are aware that some stretching exercises or techniques used can be painful. The intensity of pain may vary depending on the severity of the injury or the health condition of the patient.

On the contrary, a therapy session should not end in agony since there are cases where patients have been pushed too hard. The therapist needs to check with you regularly to be sure that the session is not getting too painful or intense.

Other Tools Used in Physical Therapy

There is always more to physical therapy than stretches and performing exercises. Your therapist can give you other tools to help manage pain such as cold packs or heated wax. Alternatively, they can show you how to use supportive devices such as a transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation unit (TENS). This device sends mild electrical pulses to the nerves to relieve pain or inhibit pain transmission. Once you have mastered the stretches, exercises, and techniques in the therapist’s office, they can clear you to try them out at home. Physical therapy aims at giving patients more control over their pain and overall lifestyle.

Modifications to Reduce Pain Caused by Physical Therapy

It is important to talk about your physical levels of comfort with your therapist so that they can adjust your treatment plan accordingly. A therapist will ask a few questions about your experience after the last therapy session. This includes any improvements as well as the challenges you are facing in therapy. It is important to answer honestly because it is your therapist’s job to make modifications that eliminate parts of the treatment that cause you intense pain. One of the immediate modifications may include adjusting the duration or frequency of treatment sessions.

There is no guarantee that physical therapy is pain-free because your body heals faster the more you do physical therapy and rehabilitation. Good pain occurs if physical therapy is going as it should because pain signals are sent to the brain to avoid injury in a specific body part. Physical therapy not only improves body functions but also improves your overall health.

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