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Does Physical Therapy Hurt? In Motion O.C. Addresses This Common Patient Question

A common question that patients about to receive physical therapy ask is, “does physical therapy hurt?”

The short answer is no. Physical therapy should not be painful.

It’s not unusual to feel hesitant—or even nervous—about physical therapy. After all, a complete stranger is about to start poking around the part of your body that’s already causing you pain and discomfort.

Well, don’t worry. We are going to dispel all the myths you may have heard over the years about physical therapy so that you can go to your first appointment feeling confident and ready to heal.


what is physical therapy

What is Physical Therapy?

Physical therapy is a form of treatment that aims to ease pain and increase your quality of life.

Whether you’re suffering from an injury, disease, or occupational discomforts, physical therapy can:

  • Relieve pain
  • Improve mobility and flexibility
  • Improve balance
  • Prevent or treat sports injuries
  • Prevent patients from requiring surgery
  • Rehabilitate after a stroke
  • Recover after you give birth
  • Improve posture and workplace ergonomics
  • And more…


A physical therapist is a licensed health professional with specific training.

Physical therapists will examine you and assess your condition before devising an individualized treatment plan specific to your diagnosis.

Will Physical Therapy Make My Existing Pain or Discomfort Worse?

One of the most common fears of physical therapy patients is that the therapy will worsen the pain they are already experiencing.

We get it. Who wants to put themselves through that?

However, through proper communication with your physical therapist, no treatment should ever cross the line between uncomfortable and painful.

Every patient is different, and each has their own threshold for pain, which is why communication is so important.

Therapists are trained to pay close attention to you during your treatment and will do everything they can to diminish the pain.

Does that mean you won’t feel any discomfort?

Not necessarily.

Think about it this way…

If you’ve ever worked out in a way that your body is not used to—or maybe you spent a day gardening—you probably felt soreness in your muscles over the next few days.

This is what we call “good pain.”

Good pain, or discomfort, is a necessary part of the healing process.

As you put time and effort into your therapy your body will begin to recover and the pain will continue to lessen.

The key to successful physical therapy is your involvement. Put in the work, even when it’s uncomfortable, and you will see results.

Should Physical Therapy Hurt?

When performed by a licensed physical therapist, physical therapy should not hurt.

But it can be challenging.

You will have to work, and you will feel discomfort and soreness during and after each session.

Don’t let this discourage you.

In order to get stronger, you have to train your body. This may include deep stretches and exercises that push your comfort boundaries, but it should never be painful.

Every patient responds to therapy differently, so it’s important to remember that your therapy can be modified if it’s too difficult or uncomfortable.

Communicating your specific goals—as well as your reactions to the therapy—will ultimately benefit your recovery.

What to Do if You Experience Physical Therapy Pain During Treatment

The most important part of your recovery is you.

Your physical therapist will develop a treatment plan, but that plan will only work if you want it to.

Imagine this…

Let’s say you’re recovering from knee surgery and your therapist is giving you exercises to increase your range of motion, and build strength in the affected area.

As you exercise you start to feel pain.

It gets worse as you continue—but you don’t want to embarrass yourself or make your therapist feel bad—so you don’t say anything.

Over the next few days, you start to notice that your knee is swelling and you are having trouble putting weight on it.

Do you think you’ll want to go back to therapy or do any of the at-home exercises prescribed by your therapist?

Probably not.

Communicating with your therapist during every step of your rehab is the only way to prevent things like this happening — and it’s the best way to speed your recovery.

At In Motion O.C. our physical therapists build relationships based on trust and communication.

We want to hear from you. Your recovery depends on it.

physical therapy pain during treatment

What to Do if You Experience Pain After Physical Therapy Treatment

It’s possible that you may feel worse after physical therapy, but you should not have pain.

Should you be sore after physical therapy? Yes.

When you are mobilizing, stretching, and strengthening the affected area you are going to be required to do exercises and movements that can cause soreness after your session.

However, if you experience a level of pain that goes beyond discomfort or soreness, you should contact your physical therapist and book an appointment to determine the cause of the pain.

Your therapist will discuss your options for pain control and will adjust your therapy accordingly.

Severe Pain After Physical Therapy is Not to be Expected

While it’s not uncommon to feel sore after physical therapy, you should never experience severe pain.

It’s important not to confuse soreness with pain.

Muscles that have become tight and weak over time require stretching and exercise which results in a lactic acid build-up that can cause irritation.

Your therapist may suggest icing your muscles after therapy to decrease some of the symptoms that may occur.

If you think you’re experiencing more than just expected muscle soreness, or if you consider your pain to be severe, you should speak to your physical therapist so they can modify your treatment accordingly.

Is it Possible to Do Too Much Physical Therapy?

Feeling gung-ho?

While it’s great to get into the spirit of your rehab, it’s also important to listen to the exact instructions given to you by your therapist regarding at-home care and exercises.

Signs that you may be overdoing it include:

  • Muscle soreness that doesn’t go away
  • Pain or swelling in the areas you’re working on in rehab
  • Muscle failure when doing your exercises

Physical therapy requires patience, and your therapist will design a program that will have you building strength and increasing mobility over time.

Rome wasn’t built in a day—your rehab is no different.

How Can Too Much Physical Therapy Increase Pain?

When you veer away from your treatment plan and work yourself too hard, not only will you likely feel pain, but you may be slowing and even reversing the effects of your rehab.

Pushing yourself past the point of muscle soreness or fatigue can lead to painful damage to the area you’re working on in rehab.

Every part of your body has a threshold for how much it can handle. When you push past that threshold, you run the risk of injury which will ultimately lead to pain.

can too much physical therapy cause pain

Modifications to Reduce Pain Associated With Physical Therapy

With everything you now know about pain vs soreness, you should be able to speak to your therapist about your physical levels of comfort.

Your therapist will likely ask questions about how you felt after your last session, like what you feel is improving, and what challenges you’re facing in therapy.

Answering honestly and without reservation is important to your therapist because it’s their job to make modifications to eliminate any part of the treatment that could be causing you pain.

Aquatic Therapy

If your therapist decides to make modifications to your treatment, aquatic therapy is appropriate for a multitude of conditions and can be tailored to your goals.

The addition of aquatic therapy has many benefits, including:

  • Reduced blood pressure
  • Decreasing of swelling and edema
  • Improved aerobic capacity
  • Improved range of motion
  • Reduced joint stress
  • Strength training
  • Decreased pain
  • Improved balance
  • Improved confidence and morale


A Doctor of Physical Therapy will enter the pool with you and guide you through a range of exercises and movements.

In the pool, you’ll be able to see just how much more your body can do.

In Motion O.C. has a state-of-the-art facility, including an indoor pool that is heated to 92 degrees for your therapeutic comfort.

Why is Aquatic Therapy a Good Modification?

Aquatic therapy allows patients to do exercises they are unable to do on land.

The warm water unloads pressure from the joints in the body, and significantly reduces pain.

With enhanced muscular relaxation, you’ll be able to move more freely, build strength, and promote healing.

Adjust Frequency or Duration of Treatment Sessions

The number of treatments your therapist recommends will depend on the extent and severity of your condition.

Patients are also required to do some homework to aid in their recovery. Your therapist will prescribe exercises and movements for you to do at home.

It’s always best to follow your Doctor of Physical Therapy’s recommended treatment plan.

But, if added pain is creating setbacks in recovery, your therapist may consider adjusting the duration or frequency of your sessions.

If you aren’t following your at-home recovery program, it’s difficult for your therapist to know why your symptoms aren’t improving—or why they’re getting worse—and make the necessary modifications.

Dedication to your recovery is just as important as communication with your therapist.

Schedule a Free Consultation with In Motion O.C. to Discuss Your Physical Therapy Options

In Motion O.C. offers the best in physical therapy.

Our clinic is unlike any other and we excel in providing patients with a first-class experience.

Our team is hand-picked and assembled from the best of the best.

Our Doctors of Physical Therapy are trained in the most up-to-date techniques and our facility is equipped with the therapy tools required for successful rehabilitation.

Voted #1 Physical Therapist in the entire country on Yelp, our customers have spoken. Check out these testimonials and call today for your free consultation.

Our mission is to provide you with unparalleled service, in a professional clinic, with people who truly care about your recovery.

In Motion O.C.