Today I’d like to share a cautionary tale about re-injury that we see very commonly in our physical therapy clinic. People who have been injured but are doing really well with treatment and recovering nicely will start to feel “pretty good.” They return to most of the activities that their pain was keeping the from. They get back on the trail running, playing with their kids around the house, or even go back on the golf course to play the game they love.
At this point, during a PT session, they will often say they “still feel it a little,” but it is not much of a problem. This is where trouble can begin…
Learning the hard way
We know from experience that “pretty good” is not good enough. But at this point, many decide that the pain is so minor, they don’t really need to continue treatment.
I’ll explain exactly why this can cause big problems and cost them a lot more money than if they’d just completed that last 1 or 2 treatments and attained 100% recovery. But first let me tell my own story of making this same type of mistake when I was younger.
I was in Mexico doing some work with local indigenous villages helping them build a school. I ate some local cuisine that I was assured was not washed with their water.
As anyone who has spent time in Mexico knows, even eating eating produce washed with local water can create some serious health issues. I invariably got sick from the cuisine—which was amazing by the way.
This led me to come back to the main city to a hospital because I was getting quite dehydrated from the intestinal issue I was dealing with.
After meeting the doctor, I was given some antibiotics and told very clearly to finish out the prescription even if I was feeling better. Of course, being 20 years old, I took most of the antibiotics but stopped once I felt “good enough.”
What happened next was predictable and quite common. Once I stopped taking the antibiotics, I felt terrible again. This is a lesson we sometimes learn the hard way.
When doctors of physical therapy prescribe a certain amount of treatment, the goal is to ensure every patient gets the right amount of “medicine” we provide.
If you see your treatment through its entire prescription, you give yourself the best chance of recovering fully and staying 100% better. “Good enough” is not good enough.
How quitting when you feel “pretty good” leads to re-injury
Symptoms, abnormal movement patterns, and weaknesses need to be 100% resolved. Consequently, if you prematurely stop your therapy, it leaves the door open for re-injury or the return of stronger symptoms.
This is because abnormal movement compensations/strains will still be occurring to some degree, and those can build up over time just like they did before. Stopping at “80% better” because you feel “good enough” and you’re no longer limited in your activities can eventually put you back to square one. Unfortunately, this can cost you much more over time and knock you back out of your beloved sport/competition or ability to work.
It is important to see your treatment plan of care through its entirety for these 3 reasons:
- Pain is a sign that something is wrong even if it is minimal. When the pain is still there or it returns, it means something is still wrong and should be addressed quickly.
- When you see your treatment through til you are completely pain-free, you give yourself the best chance of avoiding re-injury. And that means your pain does not come back in the future.
- The body is much quicker to adapt than it is to heal. Adaptations can get in the way of us truly healing and staying 100% better.
So whether you’re getting treatment at our Austin clinic or somewhere else, see your therapy through til you are 100% pain-free. Then you will be able to get back to doing all the things you love. You don’t have to “just live with” pain … even if it’s minor.