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How much PT before you couldn't handle the pain anymore?

morris8790mmorris8790 Posts: 57
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:32 AM in Exercise and Rehab
Hi everyone, Just wanted to get input from others on their experiences with PT. I have been dealing with an annular tear at L4-L5 and L5-S1 herniation w/nerve impingment for about 7 months now. When first injuryed they put me in PT for 2 weeks and I stopped because the pain was so bad I could barely walk and I had foot drop . My legs and back hurt so bad I thought I was going to lose my mind. When I would tell my PT that I was getting worse she just looked at me like I was nuts!! So now after 7 months of being very limited on my activities they want to try PT again and I am scared to death! I am still in alot of pain if I just hang around the house and limit my activity and change positions throughout the day I can manage my pain with my meds. I will only venture into town once or twice a week because getting in and out of the car hurts me. And to walk through a store is torchure!! My legs burn and ache and I shuffle my feet and my back feels like its grinding. I try to walk around my home everyday and the pain is better than a couple months ago but if just what little I do try to do hurts so badly how do they expect me to do PT? To much movemend sends my pain to a 10+ and a normal here lately has been a 4-6. I've seen 2 N/S and 1 ortho. And n/s's say at this point I need a fusion but they don't recommend it because they feel it will make the nerve damage worse in my legs because of scare tissue. And the ortho says we could try a decompression and most likely have to go back in for a fusion but he also feels that the leg pain could get worse. I thought relieving the nerve would stop more nerve damage I'm confused about that. Sorry for long post but would love to hear your experiences.
Thanks for any input.


  • Hi thought I would try to repost since no one has replied. Had my 1st session today and it wasn't to bad my PT said she is going to use the MacKenzie (sp)method on me so maybe we will have better results this time. I would still like to hear others experiences with their PT or if your just beginning we could keep each other updated on our progress.
  • The hard part about PT is knowing when the pain is "wrong" and knowing when it is "part of the process". Without strengthening your bodies core muscles, you give no support to your spine and it is allowed to move more and will cause more pain and can cause more damage to the nerves that are impinged. The surgeons know that by working on strengthening the core you can bring greater stability and in many instances reduce pain and keep things from progressing. It is quite common for someone to want to stop PT because it increases pain right of the bat. What is needed is a good PT who can guide you as to what is good and what is bad pain. Usually as a rule of thumb a PT will tell you that if the pain caused by the PT doesn't settle down over night, then it isn't good. However it's important to let them guide you in that regard.

    PT can also use things at their disposal to help bring the additional pain brought on by the PT back under control.

  • Until all my visits were used up. I mainly liked the massage, ultrasound and heat... I would GLADLY do my exercises because I knew those were coming after.

    Other than that, I can't say I remember much. Except, they told me they would start with my back, then after all that was said and done, work with my neck. When I told my PM this she was like "What?" and rolled her eyes....

    The main thing is that some of the exercises, I continued doing after the PT was over. (even though my mind kept waiting for the sweet reward of heat, US and massage after....) I had one of the big pilate balls and use that for sit ups, wall squats, etc. Then, I couldn't walk and stayed in bed 6 weeks thinking I'd get better... Had surgery, and here I am today!

    It's good your therapist is open to trying new modalities. That may JUST be the ticket and the difference this time! Good luck either way.

    I think you SHOULD keep us posted.


  • Hi, all
    Just wanted to let you know that after 3 PT sessions my case manager and I decided no more PT. My symptoms rapidly got worse so now I'm off to see a new PM and possible ESI's (if I don't chicken out) if those don't work then Dr. says surgery. I haven't been to therapy for a week now and I'm in a very bad flare up, I feel like I have set myself back to how I felt 4 months ago (Just down right miserable) taking everything in me just to take two steps at a time. And this heat is making my feet swell like crazy!
    I'll keep you all posted. Thanks for listening!!!
  • PT is something that should be up to you, because afterall it can injur you more in my opinion. I was a health nut before I herniated my disk. I went to pt and noticed it wasn't doing anything, they sent me to an athletic trainer, I can workout on my own? So i kept up with my exercises as well as others and just reinjured..

    I think it is beneficial but you have to establish "your" boundaries
  • My PT pretty much allows me to do what I feel is my limit - something I don't like. You're correct in that you have to establish your boundaries but sometimes it's nice to have an example to work from.

    I always feel great after PT, wish I could go more, but there were times when I've aggrevated a muscle tear being too aggressive with those darn surgical tubing hip exercises.
  • dilaurodilauro ConnecticutPosts: 9,877
    I am a firm believer in Physical Therapy for new patients coming out of surgery. It is so important to regain the condition that you were in prior to surgery. Muscles need to be strengthened, tendons stretched, etc
    Initially Physical Therapy can be painful. Think about it, you just had surgery on your back and now you are trying to rebuild yourself. It is going to hurt. Normally it takes about 4-8 sessions before you start to see improvement. A big problem is people give up before that. They have pain so they decide to stop PT.
    There is always a fine line between pain created while rebuilding your body vs pain created by introducing something that is harmful to you.
    I have probably logged over 300 PT sessions since my first surgery. Some of those were not good, while some helped me so much. A lot depends on the individual therapist. When I've gone, I have always set the schedule so that I see the same therapist. After a while, a good therapist will get to know your body almost better than you do. Just by looking at the way you walk in, they can pinpoint some problems.
    One negative side of Physical Therapy is that most therapists are in good health... So that start working on you slowly then after a while they migrate from what I call the passive side of Physical Therapy into the aggressive mode. At times
    they can push you too far. Its hard for them to look at your and not want to push you.. The term
    No Pain No Gain comes into mind with some therapists.
    You always need to listen to your body. But you need to be careful. You cant quit especially in the beginning because the pain is so much. If it is that unbearable, contact your doctor discuss it with them so that your doctor, your therapist and yourself will be on the same page
    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

  • thanks for taking the time to share your experiences it helps alot. I know that 3 sessions is not much but the amount of pain I was experiencing was not normal. Had a visit to my primary yesterday and he agreed that I was not ready for PT will see what new PM says today. Will let you all know.

  • I believe that PT can be a very healing tool, but I had an unusual experience. First of all, before they diagnosed me I had a session and the exercises she had me do resulted in an inability for me to stand up straight for two days...THEN..after diagnosis, I was sent to WC PT and one of the top people there worked on my neck...Thought she was great..but I reported a few things that concerned me..i.e. fleeting headaches that I had never had before..odd and painful...Well, we continued and during the last session, she gave me an extra strong manual traction pull that was SO uncomfortable for me..She NEVER should have done that as I have multiple neck issues proven on XRAY and MRI...spondylosis and spondylothesis at one level..spurs..DDD at three levels /one of them bulging..oh, and I know there is something else too.whatever can go wrong is wrong...

    After that pull, that night I felt a strong pinching pain in my neck and actually felt something sliding. IT was very weird and scary. The next morning, upon awakening, I had an intense attack of vertigo. Suffered from this for three months AND of course, she and the doctors believed that she had done nothing wrong...So, tread cautiously.
    The doctor I consulted outside of this practice was incensed and said she should NEVER have been mobilizing my neck....It was one of the worst experiences of my life, and I believe, it has somehow hastened the progression of my neck disorders.
  • Morris
    This is part of the necessary process of improvement and if the pain is too much then you risk stopping before the benefit have had time to appear. This may just be the man thing going at it hard, as the old you that may have been possible and this newer individual will not be able to sustain that pace. If you keep going till you drop that inertia will take you well past the pain level and carry on even after you have stopped doing PT.

    Can you run 10K, no only an idiot would suggest that, even honed athletes have to pace themselves back or into it, start very slowly even half speed and go from that.

    C ideas that when is the pain the wrong type is never easy to assess only you know, when and where you should stop can only be down to you, we all would expect some increase in pain doing any activity and more so if we had not done any for a long long time.

    Take care, on your marks, get set………rest.

    How long are you on the sub’s bench, keep going you will do this.

  • I gotta say I'm not looking forward to it,in the past I had a couple bad experiences,not the therapist fault,but I had multiple things going on and the things that hadn't been diagnosed were made worse. I think I have the same situation now,I know I do. But with my NS suggesting yet another 2 fusions
    I will certainly see what PT will do for me. If nothing else,I will know I am at least trying to help myself. As my NS says,"Surgery is always optional" but the pain doesn't seem to be....I will let you know if I survive....Sagehen
  • Yes - she had a messed up spine, was about 24 or so too. Just about the age I was when all of this started. So it was cathartic to relate what I had learned over the last 20 years. And how is fit into her understanding of the my issue and her's.

    I spent about 6 sessions and got to a point where we both agreed that I knew what I was doing, just go and look after myself.

    This spring - when I re-injured - she was out on Disablity, she had hurt herself and was out for awhile. I was handed off to a Great gent - who was from England. I asked him to start me over and I re-learned all of it again. I did pick up a couple of tricks that helped me greatly.

    I have found that even though it hurts like heck, I have to move. All of the research I have found, about treating my lumbar spine, from around the world, indicates that most all of us get better if we keep moving. Stopping for a day or two does not hurt the process, but stopping for weeks, like I was told back when this first started was the worst thing to do to me. Had I known this, It would have changed things greatly.
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