Being in pain sucks. There is really no other way to put it, but I want you to know there is a light at the end of the tunnel and it can get better! So here’s the one thing I really want you to know to know about getting rid of pain….
BE DEDICATED AND CONSISTENT!!
This is the message that I think all the Physical Therapists of the world want you to hear loud and clear, and we honestly cannot even begin to stress how important it is! A Physical Therapist cannot heal you if you are not willing to put in the work to heal yourself. It really is as simple as that. Yes, sometimes you will leave a PT session and feel “instant” pain relief. No, I promise it's not because we have magic hands. If you really want that pain to go away for good, you have to do your part too!!
In the world of pain management, movement is king. Too many people rely on the hands-on part of Physical Therapy, but this is not ultimately what is going to make you feel better long term. Manual therapy can be an amazing tool, but it is only one piece of the puzzle. To be honest, it’s usually not even the most important part. You may notice that you feel great after a PT or massage session, but the pain slowly returns after a day. Why is that the case? As I already mentioned, contrary to popular belief, we do not have magic hands!! Crazy, I know!
Your muscles take time to respond to changes that you are trying to make. It takes 4-6 weeks for the muscle to actually adapt to strengthening or stretching techniques, and that is only IF you are consistent. That’s a long time!! Too many people do their exercises really consistently for 3 or 4 weeks, and then give up because they “don’t feel like it’s working.” Well, it is usually working, you just haven’t given it enough time to make a lasting change. Be patient kids ;-)
After an injury, it’s really important to consistently work with a trained professional so they can assess your movement and muscle imbalances to figure out why you are having pain in the first place. As you are learning the right exercises to address those imbalances, it’s super important to have that feedback to make sure you are doing things correctly. This is also the stage where hands-on therapy can be super effective at addressing your pain and injury. BUT (here’s the big but) if you don’t do anything on your own time, I can assure you that your pain will take significantly longer to go away.
Working on stretching or strengthening one hour a week during PT won’t cut it. Even working on it for 20 minutes a day will still take time. Think about it- we move around (or sit) all day in the patterns that caused us to have pain in the first place. Spending 20 minutes a day on exercises isn't enough to undue the other 23.5 hours we are moving in those possibly dysfunctional ways. It’s about making an effort in the little day to day stuff we do where the real magic happens! Be dedicated and consistent, and I promise you will see the results. Just don't get frustrated when it takes time!
When we are talking about pain relief, I think that it’s really important to note that you should never be dependent on another person to "get rid" your pain. YOU need to learn to be in control. As PT’s, we would be doing you a HUGE disservice if you became dependent on us to “heal you.” Instead, our job (or any healthcare provider) is to empower you and give you the tools you need to be successful. And then, go do that stuff. Every. Single. Day.