why does physiotherapy hurt so much

Why Does Physiotherapy Hurt so Much?

Physiotherapy is a key part of rehabilitation and pain management for numerous conditions. However, many people have concerns about why it sometimes hurts and whether this pain is necessary or beneficial. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll unravel the truth behind why does physiotherapy hurt so much and give you strategies to manage it effectively.

The Nature of Physiotherapy

Physiotherapy, also known as physical therapy, helps restore mobility, improve functioning, and ultimately promote a better quality of life for individuals recovering from injuries, managing chronic conditions, or dealing with disabilities.

Common Types of Physiotherapy include

  • Orthopaedic physiotherapy (for musculoskeletal disorders such as fractures, sprains, and strains)
  • Neurological physiotherapy (for conditions such as stroke, Parkinson’s disease, and traumatic brain injuries)
  • Cardiovascular and pulmonary rehabilitation (for patients with heart or lung conditions)

Types of Pain Experienced During Physiotherapy

When it comes to physiotherapy, pain is something that often comes up in discussions. Many individuals wonder why they experience pain during their sessions and if it’s normal. While each person’s experience can vary, a few common types of pain can be encountered during physiotherapy.

One type of pain is muscle soreness or discomfort. This can occur after performing exercises or stretches that target specific areas of the body. It is important to remember that this soreness is usually temporary and a sign that your muscles are being challenged and strengthened.

Another type of pain is joint discomfort. This can arise when working on improving mobility and range of motion in certain joints. Some discomfort may occur initially as the joints move in ways they may not be accustomed to.

There may also be nerve-related sensations such as tingling or numbness experienced during certain techniques like nerve mobilization exercises. These sensations should only last for a short period and should not cause any long-term harm.

It’s essential to communicate openly with your physiotherapist about any pain you experience during your sessions. They are trained professionals who can adjust exercises or techniques accordingly to ensure you remain safe while progressing towards your goals.

Remember, experiencing some level of discomfort during physiotherapy doesn’t necessarily mean something is wrong; in fact, it often indicates progress! Your therapist will guide you through the process, ensuring your comfort while helping you achieve optimal results over time.

Why Does Physiotherapy Hurt So Much?

During physiotherapy sessions, the therapist works on your muscles, joints, and other soft tissues to bring about relief and recovery. While they intend to heal and help you regain function, the process may sometimes cause temporary discomfort or pain. Here’s why:

Muscle and Joint Mobilization

Specific techniques are used to increase the mobility of your muscles and joints, which can be uncomfortably tight, stiff, or immobile due to injury, surgery, or inactivity. As the therapist stretches and applies pressure to these areas, it can cause some discomfort.

Breaking down Adhesions and Scar Tissue

As part of the healing process, your body might form adhesions (bands of scar tissue) that can restrict movement and cause pain. Physiotherapists break up these adhesions to restore flexibility, but the process can be temporarily painful.

Reactivation of Dormant Muscles

In some cases, your muscles may become weak or inactive due to disuse. Physiotherapy works to reactivate and strengthen these muscles, but the initial activation can cause discomfort as the muscles adjust to the new demands placed on them.

Distinguishing Between Good and Bad Pain in Physiotherapy

It’s essential to differentiate between “good” pain – which signals healing and progress and can be expected during physiotherapy – and “bad” pain, which might suggest a problem or an overly aggressive approach.

Good pain can be described as mild to moderate discomfort that comes during or after a physiotherapy session and may last for a few hours or up to a day. This type of pain indicates that your body is responding and adjusting to the treatment.

Bad pain might include severe, sharp, or stabbing sensations that do not subside after a day, cause significant distress, or prevent you from performing your daily activities. These are signs that your body might not be responding well to the therapy, and you should notify your therapist immediately.

How to Manage Post-physiotherapy Pain?

Knowing how to manage discomfort or pain effectively while undergoing physiotherapy is crucial. Here are some tips:

Communicate with your therapist: Keep an open line of communication with your therapist about your pain levels and any concerns you might have.

Ice and heat therapy: Applying ice to the affected area can help reduce inflammation and numb pain, while heat therapy can soothe sore muscles and joints.

Rest and recover: Give your body time to recover after each session by incorporating ample rest and sleep into your daily routine.

Pain medication: Discuss the use of over-the-counter or prescribed pain medication with your therapist or doctor to manage persistent pain.

Key factors to consider while opting for Physiotherapy

When choosing to undergo physiotherapy, consider the following factors:

Your specific needs and goals: Ensure that your therapist understands your unique situation and creates a personalized treatment plan to address your needs.

Finding the right therapist: Look for a qualified, licensed, and experienced therapist who specializes in your particular condition and has a good rapport with you.

Final Words

While pain during physiotherapy can be concerning, it’s essential to remember that it is often a natural part of the healing process. By understanding pain in physiotherapy and following the strategies outlined in this guide, you’ll be better equipped to manage discomfort and see real progress towards improved physical health.


"Hasan", I am a physiotherapy Doctor. I have completed my B.S.c course (4 years) under Rajshahi University, Faculty of Medicine, Rajshahi. Currently I am working as a clinical physiotherapist at a renowned physiotherapy center and I am continuing my MPT (Master's of physiotherapy) degree at CRP, Savar.

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