Can physio make things worse?

So, you’ve been experiencing significant pain and limited function for some time, and are open to the idea of getting help for it. The only problem is that you’re unsure of where to go and whether it will help or harm. You’re considering physiotherapy, but are worried that it could make things worse for your condition. Well, today we’ll chat about whether or not physio could make things worse, and what to do if it does.


Physiotherapy is a healthcare profession. It doesn’t involve one single treatment, but rather a large variety of different treatment tools and techniques. As a result, every physiotherapist will practice and provide treatment in a different way. But can physio really make things worse?

Certain physiotherapy treatments do have the potential to increase your pain. With every treatment, there is always a risk that your pain could get worse. However, many conditions have a lower chance of getting better on their own. Furthermore, if a condition can get better without treatment, it may take significantly longer to improve than it would with treatment.

It’s important to determine what the right treatment is for you and your condition, as well as the right dosage of that treatment. A physiotherapist will be able to assess and diagnose your physical impairment, and guide you down the right path to treating and managing it. Unfortunately, like all healthcare, nothing is completely certain.

While a physiotherapist can provide you with a good idea of what is going on with your condition and what should help, they cannot guarantee that the treatment won’t increase your pain. While physiotherapy treatment shouldn’t increase your pain, in some cases the dosage may be too high and could lead to a temporary increase in pain. It’s important to monitor your symptoms whenever you’re starting or changing your treatment. If your pain increases, you must gauge whether that pain increase is tolerable and acceptable for you. If you feel the pain is acceptable, it may settle as you get used to the treatment, and will likely start to improve after some time. If you feel the pain has increased to levels that are not tolerable, the treatment must be adjusted according to your sensitivity.

In this case, the treatment might not necessarily be bad or harmful, but the dosage may just be too high for your current symptoms. The first thing to do here is modify the treatment. For example, if the treatment is an exercise, you may need to adjust the intensity, duration, frequency, or type of exercise to accommodate for the increase in symptoms. Rather than stopping the treatment altogether, it’s better to modify it first as you may still be able to benefit from it. If you’ve modified the treatment multiple times and it’s still making things worse, you may need to discuss alternative treatments with your physiotherapist.

It’s important to note that physiotherapy treatment should be a collaborative effort between you and your therapist. Your therapist is there to guide you and work with you to make decisions about your condition. As such, you are an equal partner in the treatment and management of your condition. The more open and honest you can be with your physiotherapist, the better your outcome will be. So, while physiotherapy shouldn’t make things worse, some treatments may increase your pain. Be sure to discuss your symptoms with your physiotherapist, so that together you can modify and develop the most optimal treatment plan for you.


Is physical therapy worth the money?

Investing in physical therapy is  investing in your health and wellness. In this way, physiotherapy is always worth the money. Investing in your health is one of the best ways you can spend your money, as our health is the most important thing we have. With that said, it doesn’t necessarily mean you need to see a physical therapist multiple times a week, every week. Physical therapists are a resource to guide you on your health and wellness journey. As such, you can work with them to determine exactly how much guidance you need. While some individuals may need or want a lot of guidance, others may only need a few appointments to receive the assistance they need. So, physical therapy is always worth the money, but you can decide how much guidance you need from a therapist.


Still not sure what to expect with physiotherapy? Call us at 519-895-2020, or use our online booking tool on to book an appointment with one of our knowledgeable physiotherapists, and they will be sure to help you understand your injury. 



Liam Newlands

Physiotherapist at Strive Physiotherapy and Performance

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