If you are set to undergo physical therapy to recover from your injury or surgery, you may be wondering “does it hurt?” While the answer is often “yes,” it’s a good kind of pain.
“Good pain” occurs when you obtain a high level of therapeutic benefit, especially during an endurance exercise or strengthening. If done correctly, therapeutic exercise produces a gradual increase in “burning” sensation within muscles as a result of stored carbohydrate being used as fuel more quickly than created, creating lactic acid. This burning discomfort goes away within a few seconds once the exercise is complete, as your bloodstream absorbs the lactic acid.
Beneficial pain also occurs during manual techniques and stretching exercises used at the end of your range of motion. Stretch receptors within your muscles and tendons send signals to your brain that you are nearing the end of the range of motion and should stop stretching before you suffer an injury.
On the other hand, “bad pain” is often a sign that sensitive tissues are being damaged and/or irritated. It usually occurs near or within a joint. It can also happen due to nerve irritation.
Keep in mind, whenever you are “hurt,” it is your brain interpreting a stress in an unfavorable way. Those who have experienced chronic pain for years have brains which perceive discomfort differently than those without chronic pain. Fortunately, good pain can overcome bad pain.
If you believe that the pain you are experiencing in physical therapy is excessive, in the wrong place and/or of the wrong type, you may need to speak with your physical therapist about changing your program.