Not all physical therapists are created equal, nor does gaining range of motion have to be extremely painful! I know there is this idea amongst the public that PT has to hurt to effective, but in most cases nothing could be further than the truth. Sadly enough there are plenty of PT’s out there who also believe ‘No Pain, No Gain’ to be true.
Here is why it does not have to hurt:
– When the brain starts feeling ‘stress’ it goes into protection mode. Pain signals coming in to the brain result in signals back to muscles, fascia, and joint capsule to literally tighten down to protect the painful structure. So the entire time your PT is cranking on your new Total Knee Replacement, or you are cranking on it at home per their instructions, your brain is busy fighting back. The result is lots of pain and minimal progress.
– Pain fires up your sympathetic nervous system, the part of the system that handles ‘fight or flight’ situations. My good friend and physical therapist/strength coach Charlie Weingroff has been consulting with Nike and their athletes on this very topic. What they have found is that athletes who are in this sympathetic state even at rest exhibit increased stress hormone levels that result in poor sleep patterns and poor recovery from workouts and games. This elevated level of stress over the long term can have some serious effects not only on athletes, but on the rest of us as well.
The moral of the story here is that increased pain and stress levels can delay healing and recovery. Some pain is going to be present when you’re dealing with an injury or surgery, but your therapy should not be making you consistently feel worse Not what you want when trying to recover from an injury or surgery, and certainly not an ideal situation for someone trying to gain range of motion, strength, and returning to work or athletics.
At Elite Physical Therapy and Sports Performance, we recognize that there are a number of soft tissue and joint mobilization/manipulation techniques that can improve range of motion and quality movement without creating excessive pain. Some techniques may be a bit uncomfortable at the time of application, but what little pain there is should go away quickly with an obvious increase in joint motion and overall movement quality.
In most cases, there are better ways to gain range of motion and strength than trying to push through restrictions and pain. If you’ve got any questions concerning our soft tissue and joint manual techniques, feel free to contact us.