No pain no gain is an exercise motto that promises greater rewards for the price of hard and even painful work. As a physical therapist, I hear this motto almost on a daily basis and unfortunately it does not always apply to the work that needs to be done during physical therapy treatment.
Pain is a subjective unpleasant sensory experience associated with actual or perceived damage to tissue. Individuals receiving physical therapy are there as a result of damaged tissues. As a result, therapy revolves around healing of those tissues. In physical therapy there is a certain amount of “pain” depending on the stage of recovery. Normal pain sensations could be either associated with stretching tightened tissues or strengthening weakened muscles. In other cases, therapy will focus on decreasing swelling or inflammation of an injured area. During this stage, pain should be avoid due to the risk of increasing swelling or inflammation ultimately slowing down the healing process
Due to the subjectivity of pain varying from person to person it is important to report any sensations of pain to your therapist when receiving treatment. They will be able to distinguish whether the pain you are experiencing is a normal sensation or pain that should be avoided. As physical therapists, part of our job is to monitor the pain elicited carefully and on an individual basis in regards to the patient’s diagnosis.
Remember no pain no gain does not always apply to physical therapy despite popular opinion!