Today we are going to talk about why it is so important that you complete a full “run” of your physical therapy… just like you have to finish your antibiotic treatments!
Have you ever been prescribed a course of antibiotics? Your doctor always says, “take the entire course, even if you are feeling better”. As the antibiotic reduces the infection, we start feeling better and we are tempted to stop taking our medicine. Our doctor knows better. The infection is not gone, and we need to finish our course of treatment.
Physical Therapy can be viewed the same way. It is important to complete your entire course of Physical Therapy, even if you are feeling better! When your Physical Therapist evaluates you, they are looking at many different aspects that will allow them to assess, diagnose, and develop a treatment plan specific to you.
Many times, these are findings that will not have resolved even when you are starting to feel better or your symptoms are reducing. There can be underlying nerve issues, movement dysfunctions, poor movement patterns, joint dysfunction, mobility, or strength loss that are a part of the initial problem that still need to be addressed.
Much like the course of antibiotics, if the underlying infection, or in our case tissue (muscle, joint, disc, tendon, nerve, etc.), has not completely resolved it is likely to resurface. Most people look to avoid pain and when they start hurting, they rush in to be treated. When the pain resolves, they assume everything is normal and are ready to get back to life as they knew it.
Often the tissue(s) causing the pain has reduced in its irritation enough to not produce symptoms but has not completely resolved. This is the most important time to continue. There are reasons why back pain has a 90% reoccurrence, and this is due primarily to most people not completing the plan, and most importantly, not completing the healing of the injured tissue.
When the pain is gone and the tissue is 80% healed but we stop the process of therapy and return to “life” before recovery is complete, we stand a good chance of having that pain return.
To give in, or not give in. that is the question!
It can be tempting to cancel or stop attending therapy when you do not have pain. If you are at this point, ask your therapist what they are finding and how that could relate to the resolution, or return of symptoms. Make sure you have a good understanding from your therapist on what you are doing to progress through your plan of care, even if symptoms have started to resolve.
This will allow for better compliance and a decreased incidence of relapse of symptoms. It is easy to take your foot off the brake when the pain disappears (after all pain is the great motivator), but pain can often be only one indicator of a deeper problem.
We ALL need to be stronger and healthier!