When to Discontinue Physical Therapy


What is physical therapy?

Physical therapy is often used as a standard treatment for chronic pain or pain related to an injury. However, it can also help treat other medical conditions, including back pain, headaches, diabetes, injuries, etc. A physical therapist typically treats areas of weakness by encouraging movement.

When should physical therapy be discontinued?

Each person, injury, illness and situation is unique; therefore, there are no definitive determinations for the length of time for physical therapy treatment. A medical professional or physical therapist may be able to recommend general guidelines, such as a few sessions for a minor injury or a few months for a chronic condition. However, all individuals respond to physical therapy differently, so it may be difficult to know when to stop treatment.

The two main reasons to stop physical therapy include goals not being met and lack of progress.

  • When goals are not reached — Typically, at the beginning of a physical therapy plan, the therapist will help individuals set goals, such as a reduction in pain or the ability to participate in certain activities. Once the individual reaches those goals, it is usually a natural stopping point for physical therapy.
  • If progress is not being made While there may be days or weeks when progress is slow, a complete lack of progress may be a reason to stop physical therapy. Some injuries or conditions may not respond to physical therapy. Individuals should consult with their therapist or a health care professional to determine if a lack of progress implies that a different treatment is needed.

When to modify treatment

In certain situations, modifying physical therapy may be a better choice than discontinuing it altogether. For example, if an individual is frustrated by slow progress, a therapist may be able to modify activities or add in different types of treatments. If an individual does not feel like their physical therapist is listening to them or if a clinic is inattentive, trying a different clinic or therapist may be a solution.

Ultimately, individuals should be in regular communication with their physical therapist and medical professional concerning their progress. Working together as a team helps with the determination of the best time to discontinue physical therapy treatment.

Additional sources: Commonwise Home Care, Medical News Today, and VeryWell Health