Does Physical Therapy Hurt?
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
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.