What To Do If You Experience More Pain After Physical Therapy

Physical therapy is often a necessary part of healing from an injury, accident, or illness. But sometimes it can seem like something's gone wrong because you feel more pain after you start your sessions. Before you worry that you've been thrown into the wrong treatment, remember that there are some very benign -- and expected -- reasons for why you might feel some pain.

Mistaking for Soreness

First, be sure that pain isn't actually soreness. If you're working muscles you haven't worked in a long time (or, as the joke goes, that you never knew you had), you're going to feel some soreness, just as you would after a trip to a gym. Treat this soreness like any other exercise-induced soreness. Rest, sleep, maybe a warm bath, and some over-the-counter medication like ibuprofen if that isn't prohibited by your doctor.

Another type of pain or soreness could be from muscles and joints that have stiffened up. If your shoulder was immobile for a while, for example, moving it again can make the tissue inside protest in the form of mild pain. It's unpleasant, but it should go away rather quickly.

Undiagnosed Problems

There is always the risk that you have undiagnosed problems that were aggravated by the physical therapy. If the pain you experience is severe or gets worse (or simply doesn't go away), go back to your doctor for another evaluation. You could need different treatments or an adjustment in the exercises you're doing in therapy.

Overdoing It

One more potential cause of pain is that, well, you tried lifting something or participating in a sport and overdid it. And that doesn't necessarily mean that you overexerted yourself during a therapy exercise -- it's common for people who are feeling better to take on more activity as they live their lives, like more yardwork, lifting heavier items, and so on. If you tried doing anything like that, you might have injured yourself a bit or stressed out your muscles or joints.

It's tempting to try to get back to your regular level of physical activity the moment you feel better, but give yourself extra time so that you don't set back your progress.

Your outpatient physical therapist can help you determine when you're ready to start adding more activity back into your days. If you're truly concerned about pain, see your doctor; otherwise, give it a day or so and see if you feel better.