Side Effects of Physiotherapy

Here Are Some Things You Might Experience With Physio Treatment

Physiotherapy is an incredibly helpful tool. It can help reduce pain, increase your range of motion, help you heal from injuries, or alleviate chronic conditions. But although its intended purpose is to make you feel better, physiotherapy treatments and exercises can have some side effects.

Read More: Who Can Benefit from Physiotherapy, and How Does It Help?

Common Side Effects From Physiotherapy

Potential side effects of physiotherapy range from the physical to the emotional and may be mild or more intense. Here’s a rundown of some of the most common ones.

Pain

Experiencing some pain after your physiotherapy treatment? In the course of treating your injury or condition, your physiotherapist may need to move your body (or ask you to move it) in ways that cause you some pain, either during or after the session. And the further you get into your treatment plan, the more pain you may experience, as you’re able to work harder. Your therapist can recommend pain relief options and help you determine how much pain is normal.

Fatigue

Physiotherapy is hard work for your body! You’re asking it to do things it may not want to do, like stretch to its full range of motion or bear more weight or activity than it’s used to. So, don’t be concerned if you feel quite tired after a physio appointment. Just allow yourself time to rest and recover.

Read More: 8 Signs It May Be Time for Physiotherapy

Tenderness

Parts of your body that have been worked on by a physiotherapist or a machine (like a TENS or ultrasound) may feel tender to the touch after your appointment. If you’re concerned, speak with your therapist before your next session.

Muscle fatigue

You may find your muscles feel very tired or even shaky after a physio session. If your therapy is intended to help you build muscle tone and regain strength, this is to be expected. Rest, hydration, and proper nutrition will speed your muscles’ recovery.

Muscle soreness

Feeling sore after physiotherapy? It is completely normal to be sore after a treatment, or even have a flare-up temporarily after. We are working on injured muscles/joints, therefore, it’s normal to experience slightly more soreness and pain after treatment, or experience more DOMs.

Back pain

If your back is hurting after physiotherapy, it may be due to the exertion of the treatment since the back is connected to most of our other body parts. But if back pain is what you’re being treated for, and your pain has increased rather than being relieved, speak to your therapist.

Swelling

Swelling can be your body’s response to challenging movements or exertions, so you may notice some swelling in the areas of your body that were treated during your session. Talk to your therapist about ways to address it (such as alternating hot and cold packs).

Psycho-emotional issues

Physiotherapy can improve your overall well-being, but it can also be stressful: You may resent or feel upset about the time it takes from your schedule, the slow progress of your recovery, or any setbacks you experience. If you feel upset as a result of your physio treatments, talk to your doctor or therapist about seeing a counselor, or other coping strategies.

Read More: 11 Benefits of Physiotherapy That Lead to Improved Wellbeing

Anxiety

Being in pain can cause anxiety – and so can anticipating pain. A qualified physiotherapist will discuss your treatment with you openly and patiently, so you understand what’s going to happen and have a clear idea of why they are asking you to do various movements and exercises, which may ease your feelings of anxiety.

Always talk to your physiotherapist about side effects

It’s important to discuss any side effects with your physiotherapist. They will be able to tell you whether what you’re feeling is within the normal range or if it’s unusual and should be examined more closely.

What you need to do after your physiotherapy session

How you take care of yourself after and between physiotherapy sessions is as important as what you do while there. Here are some pointers for feeling well between appointments.

Drink lots of H2O

Your muscles need hydration to help them recover after exertion, so be sure to drink lots of water when you get home from your physio appointment.

Exercise

Stay active between appointments by doing the exercises your physiotherapist assigns you, as well as other gentle movements like stretching and walking. If you move your body regularly, physiotherapy won’t come as a shock, and you’ll experience less pain and fatigue afterward.

Take note of unusual pain

As we mentioned above, some pain and tenderness are typical after physiotherapy. But if you’re usually a bit sore and this time you’re in agony, be sure to let your physiotherapist know, and contact your physician if needed.

Always follow any advice from your physiotherapist

If your therapist suggests you do something, there’s a reason for it. Whether they advise you to drink more water, stretch more often, use an ice pack or hot compress, or get more rest, it’s because they think it will help you feel better.

Read More: Top 10 Reasons to See a Physiotherapist

The Takeaway

Physiotherapy is intended to ease your pain – but that doesn’t mean the process will be painless. It’s hard work helping your body heal from an injury or cope with a chronic condition, so keep in mind that some side effects are normal, but always raise any concerns with your physiotherapist. They’re here to help! Contact our team to learn more or to book a physiotherapy treatment!

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Johanne Gordon - Registered Physiotherapist

Johanne is an experienced, fluently bilingual physiotherapist who graduated in 1992 with a Bachelor of Science in physiotherapy with magna cum laude honours from the University of Ottawa.

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