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physical therapy: helpful or hurtful??

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,671
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:26 AM in Exercise and Rehab
Hi. Just noticed that a lot of people on here have had bad experiences with physical therapy. I, too, am having more pain now than when I wasn't doing what the therapist told me to do. I feel like I "should" be doing the exercises since she's medically trained and I'm not. If I do the extension while laying on my stomach, I'm okay as long as I don't push up too far (like a push up). But the therapist wants me to push and push and push... to the point where it feels like I'm hyperextending. The fact that others on here have mentioned poor results just lets me know that maybe I should listen to my pain more than another person. Any thoughts, suggestions??



  • I can tell you from my experience PT hurt worse. When I started PT, I didn't think I really needed it, I wasn't in alot of pain except in my head (daily headaches). After 5 PT sessions, my hands go to sleep at night, my right hand and fingers go numb while I'm using them and I am definitely in pain that I wasn't in previously. They told me that was because I was using muscles that I had been protecting and not using for so long. I stopped going and hopefully won't be forced back in.....I don't know, just my experience.
  • Thank you for your input. As for me, the p.t. worked after my first laminectomy. Now, however, I had a second (20 years later), and the p.t. is hurting me - not muscle wise, but nerve wise. The leg/sciatic pain has increased instead of decreased and lasts all day long. I've left a message with the therapist asking what she believes I should do. I will not do exercises that increase my sciatica when she has told me it should decrease the pain in my leg. Now I have pain in two legs and I can't get rid of it. This is only after 3 sessions.

  • The time I had in pt was good. The therapist I was going to would only let me do the exercises if it was not hurting. Just stretching muscles that I had not used in a while was one thing but if it was causing pain more than a streched muscle he told me not to do it. I went to PT two different times, once for my knee and it worked very well, I have not had knee pain again. Then I tried it for the low back pain, it did not help at all, I went for 3 months, 2 to 3 times a week. He tried several different methods too, but it just did not work this time. I went back to the Ortho for more ideas, now I had an ESI that lasted about a month and I go for another Jan. 14.
    I hope you find something to help your pain. Take care.
  • My personal experience has been then any PT I have had after any of the surgeries has hurt me worse and set me back. My 2nd surgeon didn't care if his patients went to PT or not. My 1st surgeon made me go. And my 3rd surgeon, the only neurosurgeon? Refuses to let any of his spine patients go to PT unless that physical therapist has been personally trained by my doctor.

    He said he is so tired of the traditional PT people pushing patients, making them do too much, and in many cases, causes additional injury or massive inflammation that takes weeks or months to get over. He is NOT a fan for spine patients.

    Cheri (I had 3 surgeons because we moved twice in one year.)
  • Okay, my surgeon only lets patients see the physical therapist that is part of his clinic..that is my brother so my experience has been a positive one and it just hurts my heart that people have had such bad experiences with physical therapy. I have had nothing but good results, first with someone who graduated with my brother but lived near me and then with my brother himself. Wish I had the ability to share their enthusiasm and compassion with everyone who has had a bad experience. :S
  • In regard to PT after spine surgery, esp a fusion, I am a strong supporter of it - it helped me hugely. However, I qualify this as follows:

    1. Find a Physical Therapist who specialises in rehab after spine surgery. Not all therapists are particularly experienced in this.

    2. The therapist should tailor a PT rehab programme specifically for you, based upon your condition.

    3. The therapist should review you at the beginning of each session and modify the program for the day according to how you are feeling on that day.

    4. You can certainly overdo it at home on the exercises given to you by the therapist and/or your doctor. That happened to me - I was a bit too enthusiastic and did all exercises daily, religiously. I kept hurting, and when I backed off a bit so did the pain.

    Keep positive!


    ...an old timer here and ex-moderator

  • I was sent to a p.t. by the spine surgeon that knows my past. He chose this particular therapist for me. I did cut back at home, but while in her office, she pushed me so hard, that the pain increased and never went down. I was at a #1 pain level when I saw her the first time. I am now at a #4 or so. So, I'm not happy.

  • csp...how long ago was that (I mean since PT) ? I have been sorer after PT too, but the pain reduced again after a few days. After several PT sessions, I could handle the PT without any additional pain.
  • I had pt last Wednesday and am going back tomorrow. I will make sure I don't push myself into positions I feel are too extreme though. I began therapy the day before New Year's Day. That's when it began to get worse and she just told me to keep on with it. I had just had 3 days of less than #1 level pain in my leg until I began the therapy. Just frustrating, that's all. I would like to avoid another surgery if possible. If I have surgery, it would be for scar tissue removal and wrapping the nerve, provided the doc still thinks this would be of benefit.

  • Here's the deal. As a spine P.T. there are some things you need to be aware of. #1. P.T. should NOT worsen your symptoms-sometimes it may temporarily as you try new things but a good therapist should NEVER have you keep doing things that increase your symptoms. The evaluation, which will sometimes flare you up, should tell the therapist what you can tolerate and where to start you with your program. Sometimes we do techniques or exercises that dont cause pain until later. That is still information that your spine did not tolerate it. Its all about gradually increasing your tissue tolerance. It needs to be challenged to improve and heal but NOT cause significant increase in symtoms. Anything that you do on your own whether its just sitting or walking and anything your PT does or has you do that produces symptoms or increases them should be stopped immediately. Its a signal that what you are doing is not helpful. Some complicated patients can take quite a bit of time to find what they can tolerate and progression may be very slow.
    I do believe every back pain pt especially post surgery should have P.T.-the right kind. Research has shown the stabilizing muscles stop functioning in the capacicty they were designed even after one incident of LBP. They do not resume their normal function without PROPER training. MRI studies have shown the atrophy of the stabilizing muscles takes much longer to recover without P.T. All of this puts you at a greater risk of future reinjury. The key is finding the right P.T. and listen to your body.
  • Some patients given the opportunity would never do PT and adapting to any change even when we have inherent pain and are asked to do more, is not easy. More have benefit than do not and it is wrong to suggest that PT is a bad thing.

    You would expect anyone with a central origin of pain for it to increase over unexpected areas, other legs or lower torso ect. If you go at it too hard from the start it will put people off and the skill is in encouraging the patient, we are all fearful of any increase having an adverse effect and that is normal, the problem is when its stops you progressing at all and we use the notion of catastrophising to hide that notion of continuance. It is a balance for every patient and the key is to show that regular activity will help in the longer term, some of the words used to deflect activity are behavioural and we should encourage positive mode through appropriate support.

    Many people ask what they can do and PT is something we should feel encouraged to do, a collective and accumulative strategy approach to managing pain if more effective than any single route according to Melzack and Wall and we are all developing improving techniques of which PT is one to seek any perceived improvement.

    Exercise helps with mood and diet in keeping us more positive that we are part of helping ourselves, and many here reflect the hard work and continuous tenacity needed to carry on, through any temporary increase of pain

  • I was told I had a slight herniated disc at l5 s1, I was told I had pelvic floor dysfunction, I was told to go to physical therapy for these issues, even though I had( at the most) uncomfortable but bearable issues, and I had no problems walking, sitting, dancing, or even doing a cartwheel. (im 44) After being poked and prodded (internal pelvic exam) for the pelvic floor dysfuntion and then sent on to Physical therapy and told to do kegals and back flexing and stretching, and hip rotations, I am in chronic debilitating pain for going on 4 months now. The physical therapists and my docs are now throwing around the term "trigger points" at me, when If that is even what is going on, then they activated them! My doc keeps telling me to continue with PT and my physical therapist told me not to come back until I wasnt in so much pain. That was 4 months ago, Now I limp every where, Use a wheel chair to go grocery shopping and lie in bed crying 75% of the time. I used to walk 5 mi a day, now I cant even make it around the block with the dog. The pain is LRQ to hip, occaisional right back buttock and occasional pins and needles in R leg or foot. My hip cannot take walking or sitting for more than about 10 mins until I am almost totally disabled. I dont know what to do. I wish I had never even gone to my doctor and complained ... all I wanted was a hysterectomy because my uterus was falling out and I had trouble peeing. I also have a bladder hernia, Then they did an MRI and found the l5 s1 MINOR issue, and now AFTER they caused the pain, they want to blame the smallest l5 s1 hernia I think Ive ever seen. ARRRRG.Hhhh. any advice? Thanks
  • I've done PT on 3 separate occasions for my back, and I'm about to go onto a 4th time (this time with different treatment plans and with my foot mixed in). I have to say that PT was awful for me, and I had to go through a minimum of 6 weeks of it before my (previous) insurance would approve a MRI (before my surgeries). I left there feeling so much worse then when I would go in for the appointment. The only thing that didn't hurt worse was using a TENS Unit, and that wasn't used that often. I'm hoping this 4th time around will be different because I've been approved for different things then what I was approved for previously.
    29 Weeks, 5 Days Pregnant
    Degenerative Disc Disease
    Diagnosed @ 16, 1st Surgery @ 16, 2nd Surgery @ 18
    Diagnosed at 19
  • sandisandi Posts: 6,343
    edited 08/22/2013 - 6:09 AM
    PT is essential to getting the muscles of the body stronger to help protect areas of our body that are injured. If you don't complete the scheduled therapy, then the original problem is going to get worse, due to the inactivity. You can not spend your time laying in bed or not doing anything and expect that the symptoms are going to improve. Physical therapy is going to hurt, at times, before it gets better. The muscles and structures are weakened enough to have created the physical problem so it is imperative to strengthen them again so that they can protect the structures that are not working as they should.
    A prolapse can be effectively treated by strengthening the pelvic floor muscles, rather than having a hysterectomy, but you have to do the excercises, each and every day, and several times a day in order for that to occur.
  • dilaurodilauro ConnecticutPosts: 9,846
    It is used after surgery, during flare ups and other preventive times.

    I've been through so many different physical therapists, centers over the past 30 years. I have a pretty good idea on what to expect and what not to expect;

    Take a look at: All about Physical Therapy

    Thats my view, now take a look at what Spine-Health has to say Physical Therapy
    Ron DiLauro Spine-Health System Administrator
    I am not a medical professional. I comment on personal experiences
    You can email me at: rdilauro@veritashealth.com
  • KWilliams45KKWilliams45 Posts: 1
    edited 09/06/2013 - 8:00 PM
    Physical therapy has really helped me. And I have many things wrong with my back. (spinal stenosis, arthritis, scoliosis, bone on bone L4-5, and bulging discs) If I don't do it every morning, (try to do it in the evenings too) then I don't have a very good day. You have to be faithful about doing it. And definitely don't do anything that hurts, do what feels okay. Never push it. I am also riding 14 miles a day on my new recumbent bike. Does not affect my back at all and it's about all I can do besides swimming. It's really helping me deal with all of this and I know I am getting stronger everyday. Focus on the areas you can work with. Never give up on yourself.

    I really believe physical therapy is a miracle worker! :)

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  • gochoosyggochoosy Posts: 6
    edited 10/25/2013 - 1:24 PM
    I, listen to my body, when my hip and sciatica hurts so bad that I cannot walk or take care of something so simple as getting in and out of bed, walking, doing dishes or taking my son to school. Then I am being injured by the physical therapy. I REFUSE to go to physical therapy and if it hurts too much, lets just give you some injection.. I dont believe in that crap, I think thats a good way to make any injury WORSE. Its almost Nov now, I am still in pain 6 months now., but some days are better than others now.. Before they werent. they were ALL BAD for about 4 months. I now walk a little bit longer, try to touch my toes a few times a day and I dont push it. I listen to my body, I have no idea if this pain will ever go away or if I am going to have to learn to accept it. But I refuse to put my self into debilitating pain, that's sadistic. It was Physical therapy that injured me.... before physical therapy I was extremely active, swimming, sledding, dancing, hiking, even cartwheels for christ sake. This is A HUGE change for me, but I know I MUST listen to my body. thanks
  • dilaurodilauro ConnecticutPosts: 9,846
    edited 10/25/2013 - 3:48 PM
    please take a look at Physical Therapy

    And the formal Spine-Health articles All about Physical Therapy

    I've had physical therapy on/off for over 30 years. There are definite plus's to PT and I will be the first to admit they can be a down side to PT. But so much depends on the patient, where you are in PT, etc.

    As with everything else, you need to get Physical Therapy a chance before you write it off
    Ron DiLauro Spine-Health System Administrator
    I am not a medical professional. I comment on personal experiences
    You can email me at: rdilauro@veritashealth.com
  • I seen chiropractor for that kind of pain and working out the knot. And using those electrodes machine took it away and has not come back plus 20 minutes on and 800 motron. -no Vicodin or any pain reliever helped just 800 mg every six hours if your stomachs can take it. Now today I had a different physical therapist for my 4 level PCDF and I think she did some bad things and she had better not have damaged or set me back. I had so much pain after leaving and my neck wants to lean forward like I was in my collar. The other guy has had 22 yrs experience. A muscle when I got home 2 Norcos and 4 hours later repeat of meds. I haven't had to do that. I will say something on Monday but finally I was ready for my 4 year old granddaughter to have sleep over and if I have major problems tomorrow I will be do upset. I know she did something wrong. So I guess Ron is right since my experience today. Hope you find relief.

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