9 Signs Physical Therapy is Working…and You Are Recovering

Sometimes it's hard to see the progress through the fog of injury recovery...here are some ways to tell you are making progress, even if you feel like you aren't.

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It’s easy to get bogged down during the recovery process & the fact you may not be at your end goal yet.⁣ As a physical therapist, it’s my job to get you better but also make sure you go about the journey celebrating the small wins too. ⁣ If you don’t “see” any progress yet, but you catch yourself thinking of moving differently because of the body part you’re getting treatment for– that’s huge! ⁣

A change in body awareness is one of the first and MOST important signs of progress in PT and should not be taken likely. ⁣

If someone tears their ACL and is not back on the court yet, it’s to say say “well I’m not playing, so I’m not better” & focus on the smaller picture. But they ARE better. They are better than they were yesterday. They now have new data about how their knee behaves, maybe a new range of motion goal (which is why celebrating new numbers are so important!), and maybe they’ve even dropped down to 1 crutch instead of two. PROGRESS.

Other days, the patient is still just as achy as before. Maybe they had a good week, and now they’ve overdid it and they’re hurting again. “2 steps forward and 1 step back.” ⁣This is also NORMAL. This is also PROGRESS! They were doing SO much better that their body has a whole new threshold before your body lets you know it needs a break. And that threshold is likely much higher than the first day you walked in.

⁣So here are 9 obvious, and not-so-obvious, signs you’re actually recovering from your injury.

9 More Obvious Signs You’re Recovering

  1. Your pain is less frequent and/or less intense.
  2. You have less swelling.
  3. You have more range of motion.
  4. You feel stronger or like your muscles are “waking up.”
  5. Your exercises are easier for you & you can do more of them.
  6. Your wound or scar is healing & looks better.
  7. Your PT visit frequency has decreased.
  8. You’re doc has said you don’t need to follow-up with them again.
  9. You’re able to do more things.

9 Not-So-Obvious Signs You’re Recovering

  1. You’re more aware of things that may have been aggravating your symptoms.
  2. You make a conscious effort to avoid aggravating motions, habits, or activities.
  3. You’re applying your PT’s suggestions.
  4. You don’t notice your pain or symptoms as often.
  5. You’re less fearful of movement.
  6. You’ve learned new exercises & ways of moving that better suit you.
  7. You feel more in control of your own body.
  8. You’re motivated to set new goals.
  9. You’re having fun again.

Celebrate the small wins. I tell my patient’s I’m guiding your recovery and using my hands along the way, but in reality– you’re the one doing the most PT because YOU spend the most time with your body. ⁣


Recovery takes discipline and commitment. It’s not easy. Repetition is what triggers change and the body has its timeline for physiology to take place. But you WILL get there, and I’m right here rooting for you. 

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