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Physical Therapy is Like Penicillin

It seems to me that sometimes, in physical therapy, people decide to stop scheduling their appointments before I’m quite ready for that to happen. I’m sure this happens to practitioners like chiropractors as well. For us, here in Spokane, physical therapy needs are based on many factors. Only one of those is the patient’s pain level. There are other reasons why people need physical therapy after a rotator cuff repair, ACL repair or car accident. When you first meet with your therapist you will probably remember that he tested lots of things about your injury, not just asked you about your pain. Why is this important you ask?

Physical therapy is like an antibiotic. Do you remember your doctor always telling you to take the whole course of the antibiotic even if your symptoms go away before you are done? The reason you need to do that is that the infection is not totally gone from your system until the antibiotic course is over. If you leave 5 or 6 pills in the bottle the infection will most likely make reappearance.

The same is true for physical therapy. When you therapist does your evaluation he finds lots of issues with your injury and only one of those is your pain. You may also have issues with range of motion, strength, endurance and function. At the end of your course of physical therapy, hopefully all of those issues will have been resolved. If you stop coming to your appointments because your pain is gone it is likely that all of your other issues have not yet been resolved. You didn’t finish your “course of antibiotics”. Most likely what that means is that with in a few weeks or if you’re lucky a few months your original pain will return. The good news is that your therapist knows not only how to decrease your pain but how to treat all of those other issues so that your pain doesn’t come back. If you commit to continuing your course of therapy until all your issues are resolved, not just your pain going away, it is much more likely your therapy will be successful for the long term. If your Spokane physical therapist completes your course of PT you will even be provided with strategies to deal with your issues in the future to help prevent their return. So when in doubt, talk to your therapist and if you still have issues with stability, strength or range of motion, continue your treatment until those are resolved and you will be much more successful.

After your physical therapy course has finished, and your physical therapist has discharged you from treatment, you will likely be given a home exercise program. Your PT should be able to give you some sort of timeline of how long you should perform your home exercise program. For some people this may mean for the rest of your life, but more commonly it will be for the next couple of months. Remember, pain is one of the worst indicators of biomechanical dysfunction.