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How To Know When To Stop Physical Therapy? What You Need To Know

when to stop going to physical theraphy

You injured yourself, and your doctor recommended physical therapy. You’ve been attending appointments and are wondering when:

Your pain will go away
You can stop your PT treatments

If you’re questioning whether you should continue your physical therapy course, this guide is for you.

We’ll address why stopping physical therapy treatment may be prudent and address the situations in which you should stick it out and continue to do the work.

Table of Contents

What Are The Benefits of Physical Therapy?

Physical therapy addresses the illnesses or injuries that limit a person’s ability to move and perform functional activities.

This is done with the guidance of a certified physical therapist through:

  • Exercises 
  • Manual therapy and manipulation 
  • Heat and cold therapy; and 
  • Other interventions.

Physical therapy benefits most people suffering from:

  • Arthritis
  • Back pain
  • Bursitis
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Head and Neck pain
  • Herniated Disks
  • Hip pain and/or replacement
  • Joint pain and/or replacement
  • Knee pain and/or replacement
  • Sciatica
  • Scoliosis
  • Shoulder pain
  • And much more

When it comes to physical therapy if you put in the time and the work you’ll see benefits.

Physical therapy helps you:

  • Reduce or eliminate pain
  • Recover from/prevent injury
  • Avoid surgery
  • Improve strength
  • Improve range of motion
  • Improve balance

when to stop going to physical therapy

How Long Should Physical Therapy Last?

Whether you’re swamped with a busy schedule, or you just want to know what you’re getting into, you’re likely wondering how long you should plan for physical therapy appointments on your calendar.

The answer: it depends. Your course of therapy will depend entirely on your ailment or injury, as well as how quickly your body responds to PT.

One or two sessions with instructions for home exercise may be sufficient, or you may require several months of physical therapy.

Bottom line, the length of your course of treatment is a decision that you and your therapist will make together depending on your:

  • Condition
  • Goals; and
  • Progress

Keep in mind that progress may come more quickly if you:

  • Attend all scheduled appointments
  • Address any concerns, pain, etc. with your therapist
  • Complete all home exercises assigned by your therapist

When To Stop Going To Physical Therapy: 2 Signs That it’s Time

Unlike exercise or going to the dentist, physical therapy isn’t something you’re supposed to do indefinitely.

Physical therapy is designed to run its course. It’s designed to get you from a starting point to an ending point.

So, how do you know when to stop going to physical therapy?

The decision to stop physical therapy should be one made in collaboration with your physical therapist and your physician, but 2 very different reasons it may be time to end PT include:

  1. You’ve reached your goals
  2. You’re not seeing progress

#1: You’ve Reached Your Goals

When it comes to physical therapy, it’s important to set goals with your therapist at the outset.

Is your goal to return to your previous level of activity? Maybe you’ll be satisfied once your pain is gone?

Your physical therapy plan will be developed based on these goals.

Once you and your therapist are satisfied with your success in terms of the goals you decided upon at the beginning of your program, it’s time to move on. You’ve completed everything you set out to do!

#2: You’re Not Seeing Progress

Physical therapy might stop if the patient isn’t seeing results or making progress within the time-frame their physical therapist thinks they should be.

After all, it can be frustrating to attend regular appointments, perform all the instructed exercises and still not make progress toward your goals.

Let’s say Rachel injures her meniscus while playing soccer. She sees her doctor following the injury, who recommends physical therapy to strengthen the muscles around the knee to keep it stable. But, after attending PT sessions with her therapist for several weeks and completing recommended exercises on her own time, she still isn’t making progress.

What happens next?

It May Not Be Time to Quit, But Time To Reassess

In this example, Rachel and her physical therapist agree they’re not seeing the kind of improvement they’d hoped for her. So, it’s back to the drawing board.

Rachel heads back to her orthopedic surgeon. After additional imaging and examination, they discover the meniscus is still damaged, despite physical therapy.

The doctor recommends outpatient arthroscopic surgery to repair the torn knee cartilage and additional physical therapy post-surgery.

Keep in mind, the first plan of action is just that — a first plan.
In this situation, Rachel, her doctor, and her physical therapist were hoping to avoid surgery by first taking a less aggressive approach. But as it turned out, a trip to the operating room was deemed necessary.

After surgery, Rachel returns to PT. This time, the exercises are incredibly effective when it comes to rebuilding her strength and mobility and she’s back on the soccer field a few months later!
to stop going to physical therapy

When to Stop Physical Therapy: Should You Stop if it’s Too Painful?

Maybe you dread each and every physical therapy appointment. The exercises are hard and uncomfortable.

Here’s the thing, physical therapy isn’t supposed to be easy. In fact, you may find the movements and exercises incredibly challenging.

However, if physical therapy crosses from discomfort to pain, you should talk with your physical therapist and your physician about that pain. Try to be as specific as possible about exactly what you’re feeling and where.

It’s possible there may be an underlying cause for this pain that needs to be addressed. It may also be possible that your body is adjusting to new movements, or mobility in general if an injury has had you sidelined from activity for a while.

Are You Thinking of Stopping Physical Therapy Early? 2 Things To Consider

According to a study by Strive Labs, only 30% of physical therapy patients attend all of the appointments authorized by their insurance.

That means the majority of patients are not completing their full recommended course of care. If eliminating pain and regaining mobility is the goal, ending therapy early isn’t ideal.

If you’re considering stopping physical therapy before you’ve completed the number of recommended appointments, there are two things you should consider before making your decision:

  • Stopping too early could lead to injuries
  • Consistency is key

At In Motion O.C., our therapists care about your health and your progress. We urge physical therapy patients thinking about skipping appointments or ending treatment early to open up to their PT and have an honest conversation about why they’re feeling the way you are.

Together, we can come up with solutions to whatever issues you may be having, whether it’s physical discomfort or something else.

#1: Stopping Too Early Could Lead to Injuries

One major reason not to stop physical therapy treatment too soon?


Yes, the very thing that brought you to a physical therapist in the first place.

When you start seeing a physical therapist, they design a treatment plan and program specifically for you and your injury.

Let’s say you hurt your back. Your physical therapist has developed an eight-week program to help address your pain, rebuild strength and regain lost mobility. But you’ve got a busy schedule and feel like you’re doing better, so you stop going to appointments after five weeks.

Two months later you tweak your back again and find yourself back at square one.

You return to your physical therapist who explains this could have been avoided had you continued your original treatment plan as intended.

This is something therapists see time and time again. Patients put in the work only to quit too early. When that happens, they often don’t see optimal results and even worse, risk inquiring themselves again.

#2: Consistency is Key

You can’t expect to go for a handful of runs and then be able to run a marathon.

Physical therapy is no different. In order to see results, you need to put in the work.

Physical therapy won’t be nearly as effective if you skip appointments when they aren’t convenient or don’t regularly complete home exercises assigned by your therapist.

Consistency is key.

Physical therapy isn’t a quick-fix. Most soft tissue injuries take at least 6-8 weeks to heal. Other ailments can mean an even longer course of treatment.

Don’t grow frustrated if healing takes longer than you’d like it to. Give your body time and give your physical therapy program time before calling it quits.

Should You Stop Doing Physical Therapy Exercises at Home Once Your In-Person Therapy Sessions Have Ended?

You may have physical therapy appointments just once or twice a week, depending on your injury.

In order to continue positive progress, physical therapists often assign their patients “homework,” meaning exercises to be completed outside of therapy. These exercises will come with specific instructions, including how often to perform them.

Some patients find value in continuing these exercises even after they’re no longer seeing a physical therapist for in-person sessions. Maybe the exercises make them feel stronger or more flexible.

Other patients are content to stop these home exercises as soon as they’ve completed their physical therapy program.

This comes down to your needs and preferences, but it’s definitely something you can and should discuss with your PT prior to your last session.

when to stop going to physical theraphy

Live Your Life Pain-Free With the Help of In Motion O.C. Physical Therapists

There’s no reason to live your life in pain. Get the relief you deserve with the best physical therapists in the business.

In Motion O.C. designs physical therapy programs tailored to meet your physical needs.

Popular programs include:

  • Women’s Health Programs
  • Neck Health Programs
  • Back Health Programs
  • Vestibular Rehabilitation Programs
  • Fall Prevention Programs
  • Hip Rehabilitation Programs
  • Performance Therapy
  • ACL Prevention
  • Runner’s Analysis

If none of these meet your needs, we’ll customize a program built just for you. Each personalized program includes:

  • One-on-one evaluation
  • Hands-on techniques and instruction on proper movement patterns
  • Work or sport-specific training
  • Access to a variety of modalities or taping techniques to aid in healing

Being voted #1 Physical Therapist in the entire country on Yelp was no coincidence.

Our clients have plenty to say. Check out these testimonials and call In Motion O.C. today for your free consultation.

In Motion O.C.