When is the right time to start physical therapy?
Physical therapy can be a good thing, IF your injury is healed enough for the exercise to be beneficial. You might not be aware of two of the biggest reasons why physical therapy can often be ineffective, or make your pain worse. Two things that won’t help you recover: 1) Pushing through the pain, and 2) Beginning PT or exercise too early in your recovery process, and getting stuck in a cycle of reinjury.
When your pain is mostly gone, your injury is typically about 30% healed. At that point, you can add in some gentle physical therapy or exercises. When you’re still dealing with pain and/or swelling, your injury is still inflamed and aggravated. By beginning PT at this point, you can get stuck in a cycle of reinjuring your foot, and this will extend your recovery time. You should give your injury as much rest as possible while you’re still having pain, and only start exercising once your pain is gone, or barely there.
Some exercises can be harmful
You may have been given advice to do exercises or stretches such as rolling your foot on a frozen water bottle or tennis ball, doing towel or step stretches, or doing heel raises, and even wearing night splints. These methods can do further harm to your injury and set back your healing process, making your recovery longer and more painful. This is because the plantar fascia are not intended to stretch – stretching contributes to keeping your injury inflamed.
Some exercises are helpful – using certain gentle exercises can actually help reduce foot and heel pain when you first get out of bed. Ankle rolls, towel scrunches, and picking up a marble with your toes are less likely to aggravate your injury. Remember, if you’re still having pain, you should rest and use cold therapy.
You can find recommended exercises – as well as what NOT to do – at the link below.