M1 Movement and Therapy

The Pain in Physical Therapy

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A few weeks ago, I posted the following question to my personal Facebook page:

“What's the first thing you think of when you hear physical therapy and/or physical therapist?”

I received a bunch of responses and I am thankful for everyone that helped me out in responding. With the exception of the sarcastic answers from some of my fellow colleagues, the answers were all over the board.

Here are some:

  • Injury
  • Injury prevention
  • Increased mobility
  • Drug free pain relief
  • (Someone posted a picture of me deadlifting my 1 rep max.)
  • Relief/rehab from injury
  • Traction and massage
  • Hope
  • Accessible
  • Being told what they’re doing is bad/wrong
  • Improve quality of life
  • Exercise
  • Major injury that needs months of therapy
  • Stretching
  • Guided exercises
  • Pain to get healing
  • $$
  • Does it work?
  • A better answer for back pain than pills
  • Painful exercise

I love a lot of these answers. But this is the pain of being a physical therapist. It’s probably the pain for a lot of professions.

A lot of the problem lies in the vast variety of backgrounds and biases that we’re all exposed to and develop in our education and throughout our careers. Combine that with someone’s unwillingness to be open-minded (because there’s no way our foundational education could be wrong or outdated!) and have their thoughts challenged, and we have a recipe for a ton of mixed messages being passed on to the public. No wonder people are so confused.

Here’s what physical therapy should and can be:

  • Up To Date: Your health provider should be doing their best at providing the best care for you by consistently challenging their beliefs and staying up-to-date on quality research.
  • Educational: What is the actual science of what is going on? A lot of things work in this profession, but maybe not for the reasons everyone thinks.
  • Positive: The words you and your provider use have a huge impact on how your body responds
  • Prevention: Allowing people to keep doing the things they love.
  • Recovery: Both from injury AND non-injury.
  • Performance: Optimizing movement strategies to improve your performance.
  • PAIN FREE: Movement, rehab, physical therapy, recovery, however you want to word it, should be PAIN FREE. It’s ok for it to be difficult, hard, taxing, etc. but it should not be painful.

Not all physical therapy and/or physical therapists are the same. Find someone you trust but don’t be afraid to ask questions and educate yourself! If you need help finding someone in your area, I’d be happy to help!

Join the conversation.