When should I stop or modify exercise?

Physical therapy often involves therapeutic exercise as a key component of treatment intervention. However, for individuals experiencing pain or who haven’t exercised in a long time, it can be challenging to know what sensations to expect and when to modify or stop an exercise. This blog will provide insights on the different sensations that may arise during physical therapy exercises and guidelines on when to modify or stop an exercise.

  1. Understanding the Sensations: During strengthening or mobility exercises, it is common to feel tired, fatigued, or weaker as you begin performing an exercise. The aim is to create micro-damage or micro-tearing in the muscle group to stimulate muscle rebuilding, which can result in sensations of fatigue, soreness, tiredness, and weakness. This type of discomfort is normal and safe to work through.
  2. Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS): You may experience muscle pain or stiffness around 24-72 hours following a workout, which is called DOMS. This sensation is normal and manageable, as long as it doesn’t significantly impact your ability to function.
  3. Modifying Exercises: In cases of injury, recent surgery, or pain, it is essential to pay attention to how pain is reported. Sharp, stabbing, burning, numb, stinging, or pinch-y sensations are signs that an exercise needs to be modified or adapted. Physical therapists are trained in hundreds of different ways to modify or adapt exercises to achieve the same goal. It’s essential to communicate any pain or discomfort you may be feeling so your physical therapist can guide you accordingly.
  4. Temporary and Tolerable Sensations: When performing an exercise, it’s helpful to use two descriptive words – temporary and tolerable. This helps you determine whether the sensation you are feeling is normal and safe to work through. By putting the sensation in context, you may find that you can do more than you thought possible.

Physical therapy is a vital part of rehabilitation, and therapeutic exercise is often an essential component of treatment. Understanding the different sensations that may arise during exercises and knowing when to modify or stop an exercise is crucial for a safe and successful recovery. Working alongside a physical therapist who is specifically trained in the body’s movement can help you navigate the muddy waters of physical therapy and achieve your rehabilitation goals.