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Is Pretty Good Enough?

Is "Pretty Good" Enough to Stop Working Toward Your Goals?

Today, I’d like to share a cautionary tale about re-injury that we see very commonly in our physical therapy clinic. People who have been injured but are doing quite well with treatment and recovering quickly will start to feel “pretty good.” They return to many of the fun activities that their pain was keeping them from doing. They get back to jogging, playing with their kids around the house, or even get back on the golf course to play the game they love.

At this point, during a PT treatment, they will often say they “still feel it a little,” but it is not much of a problem. This is where trouble can begin…

Learning The Hard Way

We know from experience that “pretty good” is not good enough. But at this point, many decide that the pain is so faint, they don’t really need to continue with treatment.

I’ll explain exactly why this can cause big problems and cost them more money in the long run, if they’d just completed that last 2 or 3 treatments and attained 100% recovery. 

But first, let me tell my own story of making this same type of mistake when I was younger (and part of the reason I became a physical therapist). I was a big baseball player growing up, and after an initial shoulder injury, worked really hard to get back on the field. Being young, dumb, and stubborn I went back to throwing too quickly and ended up injured again soon after I had just started feeling better. It was predictable, but I didn’t know any better at the time. 

Once I started back with my exercises and strength training for my shoulder, things eventually calmed down, but this poor decision lead to a long string of shoulder injuries which eventually ended my baseball career. This was a lesson learned the hard way, and I vowed to do my best to not allow this to happen to my clients. 

When doctors of physical therapy recommend a certain amount of treatment, the goal is to ensure that each patient gets the right amount of the right “stuff”, whether that’s stretching, strengthening, or whatever they need. If you see your treatment through its entire ‘prescription’ you give yourself the best chance of recovering fully and staying better. “Good enough” is not good enough. 

How Quitting When You Feel “Pretty Good” Leads To Re-Injury

Symptoms, abnormal movement patterns, and weaknesses need to be 100% resolved. Consequently, if you prematurely stop your therapy, it leaves the door open for re-injury or the return of stronger symptoms. This is because abnormal movement patterns/strains will still be occurring to some degree, and those can build up over time just like they did before. Stopping at “80% better” because you feel “pretty good” and you’re no longer significantly limited in your activities can eventually put you back to the start. Unfortunately, this can cost you much more over time and knock you back out of your favorite activity or ability to work.

It is important to see your treatment plan of care through its entirety for these 3 reasons:

  • Pain shows that something is wrong even if it is minor. When the pain is still there or it returns over time, it still means something is wrong and should be addressed ASAP.
  • When you see your sessions through to the end, you give yourself the best chance of avoiding re-injury. And that means your pain doesn't come back in the future.
  • The body is much quicker to adapt to new scenarios than it is to heal. Adaptations can get in the way of us truly healing and staying 100% better. Developing good habits can prevent adaptations and allow you to heal long-term. 

So whether you’re getting therapy at our St. Louis clinic or somewhere else, see your therapy through until the very end. Then you will be able to get back to doing all the things you like to do. You don’t have to live in pain or accept pain as normal. 

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