Most people have heard that “PT” stands for “pain and torture” or “physical terrorist.” Therapists are worse than terrorists because they can’t be negotiated with. I even joke with some of my patients that I was trained in interrogation techniques.
Most of us through our life experiences attribute pain to injury, damage, or some sort of threat to our bodies. Like the feeling of burning your hand, any pain signal sent to the brain is contextualized to be similar to that experience.
Therapy is meant to help individuals move past barriers and limitations that are preventing their full recovery. Unfortunately, that often involves pain. There is a reason we don’t move past barriers ourselves. We don’t like causing ourselves pain and/or we don’t know what is ok and what isn’t. Pain is pain: a message to the brain that you interpret and to which you must attach context. That is why we say “good pain, bad pain”– not because it feels different, but rather because we are able to label it depending on the situation. We can give it meaning–good or bad, helpful or harmful, necessary or unnecessary…
The therapy process is not easy, which is why we are often unable to do it on our own and require help or guidance. Physical therapists understand the physiology, anatomy, and physical forces on the body. They can contextualize the pain and help you understand what is good and bad pain; not all pain is good and not all pain is bad. Most patients believe that therapists hold firm to the adage “no pain, no gain.” While this is not a true idea in and of itself, it is propagated because, in some cases, a little pain is required for appropriate healing.