Can Physical Therapy Hurt You? A Comprehensive Guide

Physical therapy should not be painful but it can be uncomfortable sometimes. Learn how communication with your therapist can help reduce pain during treatment.

Can Physical Therapy Hurt You? A Comprehensive Guide

Physical therapy should not be painful. However, physical therapy should never go from discomfort and pain to real pain. The moment you start to experience real pain is the point at which you should stop your physical therapy regimen and consult with your therapist. You may need to modify your regimen to achieve your goals without creating pain or causing more harm.

Physical therapy doesn't hurt if done by a certified physical therapist. The expression “without pain there is no gain” may be familiar to you, and while catchy, it can contribute to a harmful mindset. It also causes people to hesitate or stop physical health changes because they are afraid of the discomfort they may feel. Interestingly, while it means that physical therapy can lead to a traumatic experience, the opposite is true.It's much more likely to worsen injuries and prolong the discomfort and pain you're already feeling if you avoid care at a physical therapy center.

Drink lots of water, it helps muscles recover. End each exercise with light stretches, as they help the body eliminate waste and promote muscle recovery.

Should Physical Therapy Be Painful?

The answer is both yes and no. It's normal to feel a little sore in your muscles, but if you feel sharp pain during physical therapy or have severe pain after a physical therapy session, contact your physical therapist. Without pain is there no gain? We have all heard the motto “without pain there is no gain” and, recently, we have seen the rise in popularity of extreme physical activities, in which participants push their bodies to the limit of fitness and pain for results.In addition to stretching or strengthening techniques, the therapist is also trained in pain management techniques including, but not limited to, heat, ice, and electrical methods to help minimize lasting pain or increased swelling after a therapy session.

Another important aspect of pain prevention is communication with your therapist.Often, the first question I ask a patient at their follow-up visits is “How did you feel after your last session? Take this opportunity to tell me how you really felt. Honesty is definitely the best policy here. Was there a time when you noticed more discomfort? Is your home exercise program too difficult to perform as expected? The therapy can be modified according to your individual needs. Since your therapist can't be with you all the time, we rely on our relationships with our patients to identify problems that could cause pain.

Tips for Preventing Pain During Physical Therapy

If one approach doesn't produce the results you need, or if something you're doing is causing you pain, your therapist can work with you to modify your regimen.

When choosing a physical therapist, look for one who has experience in many of the cutting-edge approaches, techniques, and technologies for treating your specific problem. Therapists are trained to pay close attention to you during treatment and will do everything they can to reduce pain. Each person's unique experiences, physiology, psychology, injuries, personality, and more will determine how they will respond to physical therapy. You may have heard someone you know refer to physical therapy as physical torture or pain and torture.

The only way to prevent something like this from happening is to contact your therapist at every step of rehabilitation, and it's the only way to speed up your recovery. You're more likely to suffer major injuries and discomfort, which increase rather than decrease if you choose not to see a physical therapist and instead create your own recovery plan. If you don't feel comfortable talking to your physical therapist about discomfort after sessions, you should find another therapist.


Knowing what to expect will help you address any discomfort physical therapy causes with confidence and success.

However, if you experience a level of pain that goes beyond discomfort or pain, you should contact your physical therapist and book an appointment to determine the cause of the pain.