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Too Afraid to be Treated?

One of my patients told me her boyfriend had a really bad neck, had been suffering for years, and really needed to see me.  On a return visit she informed me her boyfriend was too afraid to come in because he worried treatment would hurt or make him worse   I don’t blame people who are afraid; we are all afraid of the unknown.  Most people don’t know what a physical therapist is really going to do to them!    I won’t deny that my patients often complain that the treatments hurt.  Soft tissue injuries often require muscle release techniques that are painful and stiff joints need to be mobilized, but I continually relate to my patients about pain levels throughout each session.  The patient is always in control of what I do.  Most of my patients realize that the muscle pain during treatment is temporary and that they will feel looser and less painful the next day.  It’s also not 60 minutes of pain.  During each session we discuss how they are feeling, how they responded to the last treatment, and if it helped or not.  I may do one technique for 5 minutes then switch to something different, taking breaks in between.

Skilled body workers are aware of differing thresholds of pain, as some people tolerate pain quite well while others respond dramatically to the slightest pain.  Some people are very stoic, using words like “uncomfortable” or “sore” when others might use words like, “it’s killing me”.  It may take several treatments just to figure out how to communicate with each patient to insure they don’t let me do too much.

Please remember that those of us who do hands on work are doing so for your best interest.  It is our intent to help people feel better, not worse.  So if you are in pain and you want to seek treatment, find the most skilled practitioner to meet your needs.  Then fully relate your concerns about pain levels in the treatment plans.  I always try to err on the side of caution as it’s always easier to do more on the second treatment then to backpedal after flaring someone up.  And remember, if someone is doing something you don’t like, don’t understand, or it hurts, speak up.  Question them about what they are doing, and if need be, tell them to stop.  We all have one body and we know it better than anyone else!

Mary Boyd, MS, PT owner of Mountain View Physical Therapy can be reached at 290-5575.

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