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Advice please!! physical therapy messed me up!!!

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,671
One of my doctors sent me to physical therapy - I've been there all of 3 times. This last time, she was trying to see what would make me worse and what would make me better. Well, now I'm so much worse, I'm more than just a little mad. When I saw her the first time, I had the pain level of about a 1. Now my pain is up to a 4 and won't stop. (I'm extremely pissed off if anyone can't tell!) I've had this pain for 5 days straight and can't relieve it - just squatting to sit on the toilet makes the pain worse. I'm in shock that p.t. could do this.

The exercises she had me do were: 1) put my toes right up to the wall while facing it and hold onto a bar on that wall. Then she had me squat down as far as I could and she pushed down on my shoulders several times. When I stood up, she said "is that better or worse?" I said, "worse." This is the position that always aggravates my symptoms.
2) She also had me ly on my stomach and push myself so far up that pain went down my left leg, which has NEVER happened before (only my right). She said as long as the pain is only there when I do the exercise, I'm okay. Well, today I still have the pain. It's 5 days later.

So, now I have pain to the extreme in my right leg and sometimes in my left. Can anyone relate to this? Is it possible for my p.t. to have re-ruptured my previously operated on disc by having me do these exercises?

I'm just so angry right now. Please, advice needed...anybody?????



  • Hey CSP,
    Sorry to hear about your problems there with the pt. Although I cannot relate as of yet, I sympathize with you. I just got released for 50% weight bearing and now get to start pt and this is the reason I'm scared. Uncaring bastards. Hope you get better.

  • Hi CSP, yeah, it can sure feel like hell. But they cannot push you further if the exercise causes pain. Once you tell them it hurts, they should stop and note that in their chart. Then the therapist should have you do a position that eases the pain like lying in a fetal position with the knees drawn up comfortably (it helped me out). They should provide you heat pads or ice packs. Don't feel bad, I didn't do well with my post op PT. The insurance won't continue paying if you are not making progress. Keep all the exercise printout so that you can do them at home once you are released from PT. I think you should call your doctor if you're still having a lot of pain. The last thing he wants happening is you getting injured. A good therapist who listens and is very knowledgeable is crucial to your success.
  • dilaurodilauro ConnecticutPosts: 9,846
    it can be so beneficial at times and at other times be potentially destructive. I have done PT generally directly after surgery or after a flare up. But I limit the time I will spend with them.
    The initial sessions are generally not aggressive enough to hurt anyone. But as sessions continue (could be 2,3, or 4 weeks), they tend to move to more aggressive actions.
    Recently, I had a problem where I could not lift my arms more than 90 degrees. My pain management doctor ordered some Physical Therapy. It was against my better judgment and I told my doctor so. Still, she wanted me to try and I willing to try almost anything to eliminate all my pain medications.
    When I went to PT, I told them that just passive stuff. Well, after 2 sessions when they had my stretching my shoulders and arms, I knew the flare up was coming and it came on with a vengeance. Its now been 7 weeks and I am still in a flare up.
    So yes, PT can mess you up. Most of the time under most situations, it is helpful. But the dividing line needs to be with yourself. Physical Therapists by nature are in good shape, so they tend to 'push' their patients so that they also become good physical specimens. That aint always the case! Trust your judgment, if something in PT doesnt seem right, speak up
    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
  • Thank you for your comments. Sorry if I'm sounding harsh about people who are potentially trying to help me. I just am shocked that something and someone you trust can do you harm. (My therapist truly wants to help me.) I just hope and pray that these exercises haven't re-herniated that disc.

  • I went to PT to try the conservitive method before surgery, I was having spasm at L5-SI never had any problems in my upper back..The first time they did traction they almost dumped me off the table in the floor, they had the table sideways to try and take pressure off the nerve. After a few visits I started feeling like something was poking out of my back at L2-3 where I only had a bulge, well needless to say I ended up with a large hernaition and burning and surgery at L2-3 and thats not even where my problem was. Now after surgery I found some excercises that will strengthen my core and stabalize my spine , no more pt for me, they caused me alot of grief and I am still hurting in my thoracic area..
  • I was sent to PT as the first step in my treatment. After 5 visits, I called my Doctor and begged her not to make me go back. I hurt more after those sessions than I ever did before. The PT guy almost seemed like he was unsure of himself. He would do a lot of "hmmmm...I wonder if this will work...hmmm..let's try this".....scary.....I hoper I don't ever have to go back.
  • Wow! Can't believe this many people have had p.t. problems. I thought it was just me. The thing is... I exercise every day - religiously, because of my back. And still... the exercises she tried sent nerve pains down both of my legs. So, it's not that I'm out of shape, but her exercises were sooooo extreme. I mean, who does a push up so hard that their body becomes a letter V (while on stomach). If you have to bend that far, it obviously isn't the exercise that works. (I feel bad... I know she's trying to help me. AFter all, she's only charging me $10 per visit. And that's without insurance.)


  • dilaurodilauro ConnecticutPosts: 9,846
    but what doesn't?

    It makes a world of difference in who your physical therapist is. When you find a gem, hold on to them.
    I have had two over 30 years of PT and I would do anything they asked of me. They knew my body and mechanics better than I did.

    SO folks, don't give up on Physical Therapy. If there is a problem deal with it with your doctor and therapist. No reason anyone should have to 'suffer' as a result of 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
  • I am a huge proponent of physical therapy. My therapists have helped me so much. But I have also have had therapists who simply read the doctor's notes and didn't pay any attention to how I was feeling, for instance that my damaged nerve was really angry after PT and I didn't go to work the next day. So, I don't think your problem is so much with therapy as with the therapist. Tell your doc and find someone else (in my humble opinion), Susan
  • I've been through a lot of PT, and one of the first things they ought to let patients know is that the first few weeks you will have increased pain. I've had both good and bad experiences with PT, and absolutely agree that the therapist has a lot to do with it. They do have to go through certain tests to see what your limitations are so they can chart improvement. My best advice would be to try and stick with a therapist you feel is listening to you and not to do something you already know will worsen you without discussing a different way to do it first.

    The PT place I've gone to before and after my last back surgery was undergoing a turnover when I first started there. When I was bounced from different people, I ended up with the cookie-cutter treatment for back pain by most of the therapists and assistants. I have severe nerve pain in my groin and leg and ended up injured shortly into treatment. After being gone for some time, I came back and decided to only see one therapist who I felt was taking everything into consideration. I even went to a different facility to stick with her after having my back surgery last year as I wanted someone who was working with me.

    I hope things get better for you.
  • I had had my first surgery in December, 05, a laminectomy/discectomy. I ended getting vertigo horribly bad (unrelated) and I was sent to PT for that. They had my get on a fitball and rotate my hips and also get on a rebounder and job. Every 5 minutes I kept saying "Are you sure I should be doing this, I just had surgery 2 months ago......over and over and over. The therapist kept saying yes, quit worrying.

    Well, I could not get out of bed the next morning. And I had surgery again in March.

    So YES, they can hurt you. My 3rd surgeon (only neurosurgeon) is VERY anti physical therapy unless he has personally trained them because he said they can push us too hard and truly cause further damage. Especially if my personality, which is bubbly, always smiling even if I am dying of pain. They just didn't believe I was in pain.

    The therapist kept calling my house for several days to apologize I think but I wouldn't take her calls. I was so devastated. How could she have done that to me? She was working with several clients at once, and talking to other therapists the whole time. I was considered "mild" since they were just making sure my balance was OK. She paid NO attention to the fact that I had just had surgery. She I'll never know if she ruined it, or if other things contributed. I did fall moving to another state, but when I was in severe pain and could not get up the next morning, I KNEW something had happened with that disc.

    I called my doc, he saw me right away, took more films and yep - badly herniated again. But I was moving, so we had to wait for treatment. When I asked about the PT, he was mum. They all keep their mouths shut, you know.

    We have to learn to stand up for ourselves and say "NO, that hurts, I'm not doing it". If we don't protect ourselves, who will? They aren't the ones who suffer for days afterward, are they? I don't know if PT's in general think we are all weenies and try to get out of everything. I don't know. I find most of us to be anxious to get better and willing to do almost anything to help us improve.

    Take care,

  • Yes, I believe that therapists kind of think we're "whimps" too. I, too, smile even when in pain at the therapists. I'm just so happy to be learning that something new could help me that I get excited - even if it hurts. Maybe I should cut that out.

    By your pic., you would never know you were in pain. You do have a big smile. So, maybe that does throw them off.

    I will be careful today - I go back at 10:30 this morning. Yes, I'm nervous, but I will stick up for myself this time. If they don't like that, oh well... it's my back, not theirs.

  • Hi csp

    For me going to a PT pre surgery actually caused my disc to herniate further and i couldnt walk after it. I was so furious i rang them crying saying what had happened.

    I think we do know our bodies better than we realise and they probably should be our guide rather than the 100% voice on what we do.

    I am not sure why you would be in a V shape after surgery. My neuro said absolutely NO lying on my stomach ever again..it is the worst thing for my back.(might be different disc though).

    oh i just re-read your post. I had pain in both legs after surgery sometimes too, and the doc said if you flare up with inflammation it is not unusual to get similar pain to before surgery due to pressing on nerve, it in not necessarily a herniated disc again.

    I hope you are feeling a bit better
  • I noticed you had the same surgery I did - I also had mine done in May of '08. I had a laminectomy on L5-S1. The doctor said he didn't find much, but he did find a lot of scarring from previous surgery done in 1987. After the laminectomy, I gradually (very slowly)got better for 4 months. Then it felt like I hurt myself again. Ever since, I have not been the same. I've had leg pain again up until now. I've had an MRI and a CT/myelogram. Nothing really showed up on either, or so they said. An "abnormal signal" showed up on the S1 nerve root, but my doc said it's just a little scar tissue. Well, that's exactly where the pain goes - down the leg where the S1 nerve is supposed to affect. The ct/myelogram showed nothing in that area. But it did show clumping of nerves up above (L2 - L4). I thought that was odd and now I have to have that addressed with the doc.

    I did physical therapy after both of these tests were done, so now I'm worried it has re-ruptured. She had my stomach on the table, pushing up with my hands on top of 2 phone books and my toes also propped up on phone books. So, yes, the V is the best way to describe this. I was shocked that this made things worse.

    My biggest fear is that doctors begin to think I'm crazy or just imagining things, since nothing is showing up on my tests. I want them to realize that I'm telling the truth about the pain and that I just want to be able to walk and do my job without every little movement causing leg pain. When nothing shows up on MRI's and myelograms, they seem to think you're crazy.

    I wish I knew what to say to my doctor to get him to realize how painful this really is...

  • I took this pic after my SCS (spinal cord stimulator) trial. I call it my "Pain Free Eyes" picture. And now I have the permanent SCS, so things are good.

    Like you, I try to smile and be "good" at physical therapy, which is what I think gets us. They think they can push push push. But I was shocked when my neurosurgeon told me his beliefs and that he is tired of "fixing" patients who have been re-injured in PT. Well-meaning PT, but still. I haven't been to one ever that didn't push me too far, and like you said, I KNOW it is because I am such an overachiever. I should practice crying, spontaneous crying. lol
  • I had back sugery l5s1 in nov 08. I had physio after the surgeon said it was ok. He recommended a pilates physio- doing a lot of core strenghtening- very gentle excercises and she also does hands on gentle physio.

    If you feel something is being pushed too far- STOP or tell the physio to take their hands off you.

    As time moves on physio does become more physical but it should always be within your comfort zone.

    Physio really does help me but we are not all built the same way!

    Good luck
  • I had back sugery l5s1 in nov 08. I had physio after the surgeon said it was ok. He recommended a pilates physio- doing a lot of core strenghtening- very gentle excercises and she also does hands on gentle physio.

    If you feel something is being pushed too far- STOP or tell the physio to take their hands off you.

    As time moves on physio does become more physical but it should always be within your comfort zone.

    Physio really does help me but we are not all built the same way!

    Good luck
  • My first physical therapist gave me no real results--sometimes just making it worse. She was a hottie, but she had no clue how to deal with sciatica. So I did some research and found something called the McKenzie technique and found that some physical therapists have actual certification in using it. So I went ahead and got an appointment with him.

    He did so little with me I thought he was an amateur. Little did I know he was in fact a genius who actually cared about his patients. Those tiny little mobilizations and minimal amount of excercises he put me through got me over my above and beyond the plateau I was in with my last PT who was trying all sorts of things.

    In a few weeks I had great results with him because he never pushed too hard. With nerve impingement you need to take it slow and steady. Find a McKenzie Certified physical therapist. Those people are trained to work with back problems and have tons of experience with sciatica. I talk to my physical therapist before I do my doctor.
  • It's too late - my therapist already pushed me too far and I'm messed up. The leg pain is bad and I did what she told me to do, even though it went down my leg. I don't know if my disc is re-ruptured or if the nerve is just flared. I'm so tired of having mri's done. This seems ridiculous. She gave me core strengthening exercises too, but I love those. They don't really affect my leg pain, they just help with strengthening my stomach and back. Can't wait to see my doc.

  • Yes, if you find a good PT it makes such a difference! I have had 2 who were excellent - explained exactly why I was doing each exercise/stretch and where I should feel it, said that I should feel better/not worse after PT, etc. Granted there has been some mild muscle soreness the next day - like you would expect form any new exercise.

    However, I do know that some expect you to do too much or do not appear to be as knowledgable as they should be about back conditions, etc. More than once I have simply said I would not do some exercise that a PT wanted me to do - usually doing the initial evaluation of trying to find out what I can and can't do. I just tell them it makes me hurt and they mark down that I can't do it. I have also found it works pretty well to start out doing just a fraction of the repetitions the PT says to do at home - like 5 instead of 20 and then work my way up very slowly.

    I hope you get relief from your pain soon!
  • I just hope my disc wasn't re-ruptured just so she could figure out what hurt me and what didn't. I'm not talking about muscle pain, but leg and foot pain. She said, "If it only hurts while you're doing the exercise and not afterward, it's okay to do it." Well, it still hurts today, and I started there the day before New Year's. So, I'm a little worried.

  • PLEASE people stand up for yourselves. Back in December a physical therapist pulled me out of the pool (I was referred for aqua therapy) and started to "experiment" with me. She put me under 40 lbs of thoracic traction and did not seem to know how to hook the harness up to me. Both my doctors were upset and said NEVER should have been done without a doctor order. I have been in miserable pain since and even went through more water therapy which did not help either. I am praying for better results this year.
    Unrelenting pain
  • OverItAllOOverItAll Posts: 89
    edited 03/30/2015 - 12:05 PM
    I've had two really awesome PT s and two really mediocre ones, such a mix. If you are feeling nerve pain, definitely stop and walk out if they don't listen. So very sorry you have had such a negative experience. Like neurosurgeons, no two PTs are built alike. I hope you don't discount the entire profession based on one bad PT, that said, ask around and do your research before trusting another...and share this experience so they know what to be careful of, hope the nerve pain is back down to a 1 again soon!
  • I have been going to p/t for 4 weeks now   for 2 herniated disc on my right side I had surgery  back in January  my dr said I still had a small one on my left side but not to worry about it .so now after 4 weeks of p/t my therapist  increased  my exercises  to more strengthen   so I could get ready  to go back to work  except now iam having pains on my left side back and leg  .could  I have made the other one worse by doing these exercises    I truly hope not  I don't want to go through  surgery  again   because the therapist  screwed  up
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