Author: Pace Therapies
Date: August 10, 2023

Side Effects of Physiotherapy: What You Need to Know and How to Manage Them

Physiotherapy is a beacon of hope for those struggling with musculoskeletal conditions. Whether it's chronic back pain, sports injuries, or post-surgical rehabilitation, physiotherapy has proven to be a highly effective treatment method. By employing a range of techniques such as massage, exercise, and heat therapy, physiotherapists can alleviate pain, enhance mobility, and promote overall well-being.

However, like any medical intervention, physiotherapy is not without its nuances. While the benefits are substantial, it's essential to recognize that there can be side effects. These side effects of physiotherapy are typically mild and temporary, manifesting as soreness or stiffness after a session. But don't let this deter you! In the hands of skilled professionals, these effects are often a normal part of the healing process.

Why is it crucial to understand the side effects of physiotherapy? Knowledge empowers you. Being aware of what to expect can help you manage any discomfort and communicate effectively with your physiotherapist. It's all about creating a treatment plan that's tailored to you, ensuring that the road to recovery is as smooth and comfortable as possible.

In the following sections, we'll delve deeper into the common and rare side effects of physiotherapy, providing insights and tips on how to manage them. So, if you're considering physiotherapy or are already on this healing journey, read on to equip yourself with the information you need.

Common Side Effects of Physiotherapy

Physiotherapy is a dynamic process that engages the body in ways that may be new or challenging, especially when targeting specific injuries or conditions. While the benefits are profound, it's not uncommon to experience some side effects. Let's explore the most common ones, starting with soreness.


Soreness is the most common side effect of physiotherapy, often felt in the area that is being treated. But why does it happen?

Imagine your muscles as a tightly-knit fabric. During physiotherapy, certain techniques stretch and challenge these fibers, causing microscopic tears. It's like tugging at a thread in a well-woven sweater. These tiny tears are a natural part of the muscle's response to new or intensified activity. They stimulate blood flow and healing, leading to stronger and more resilient muscles.

The soreness you feel is your body's way of saying, "Hey, we're working on something here!" It's a sign that the treatment is targeting the right areas and that your body is actively repairing itself. The soreness will typically subside within a day or two as the tears heal, leaving you with improved function and flexibility.

It's worth noting that soreness is not a cause for alarm. It's a temporary guest, often seen as a badge of honor in the world of rehabilitation. Communicating with your physiotherapist about the intensity and duration of the soreness can help tailor the treatment to your comfort level.


Stiffness is another common companion on the road to recovery through physiotherapy. It's like the body's overprotective friend, often showing up after a session of physiotherapy. But what's behind this sensation of stiffness?

When an area of the body is injured or undergoing therapeutic treatment, the body's natural defense mechanism kicks in. It's as if the body is wrapping the affected area in a protective shield, tightening the muscles around it. This tightening is what we perceive as stiffness.

Think of it as a castle raising its drawbridge. The body is simply trying to protect the injured area from further harm. While this response is well-intentioned, it can lead to a sensation of tightness or restricted movement.

The good news? Stiffness is usually a temporary visitor. As the body recognizes that the physiotherapy is beneficial and not a threat, the muscles begin to relax. The drawbridge lowers, and the stiffness subsides, often within a few days.

Communication with your physiotherapist about any stiffness you experience is key. They can adjust the treatment or provide specific exercises to help ease the sensation. Remember, stiffness is not a roadblock but a signpost, guiding the way to a more tailored and effective treatment plan.


Bruising can occur if the physiotherapist uses massage or other techniques that involve applying pressure to the skin. This pressure can cause the rupture of small blood vessels under the skin, leading to the appearance of a bruise. 

While it might look concerning, bruising is usually harmless and will fade away within a week. It's like a temporary tattoo, a mark of the work being done to heal and strengthen your body.

Prevention and management of bruising are often as simple as communication and care. If you're prone to bruising or have concerns, make sure to discuss this with your physiotherapist.

They can adjust their techniques or apply less pressure to minimize the risk. After all, physiotherapy is a collaborative journey, and your comfort and preferences are paramount.

Remember, a bruise is not a sign of failure or harm; it's a natural response that sometimes occurs during therapeutic treatment. With awareness and open communication, it can be managed and even prevented.


Redness is like the body's blush, a temporary flush that can appear during physiotherapy. It's a side effect that might catch your eye, but what causes it, and how can it be handled?

Redness can occur if the physiotherapist uses techniques that involve applying heat or cold to the skin. Think of it as the skin's way of saying, "I feel that!" The redness is caused by the dilation of blood vessels in the affected area, a natural response to changes in temperature.

Imagine a bustling city street widening to accommodate more traffic. The blood vessels expand to allow more blood flow, leading to that rosy glow. It's a sign that the body is responding to the treatment, directing more blood and nutrients to the area.

The good news? Redness is like a fleeting sunset; it's beautiful but doesn't last long. It will usually go away within a few hours, leaving no trace of its brief appearance.

Handling redness is typically a matter of patience and understanding. If the redness is accompanied by discomfort, you can discuss it with your physiotherapist, who may adjust the treatment accordingly. Otherwise, enjoy the natural blush as a sign that your body is actively engaging in the healing process.

Other Side Effects

While the common side effects of physiotherapy are well-known, there are other effects that might be less familiar but equally important to understand. Let's explore these, starting with fatigue.


Fatigue is like the gentle reminder from your body that it's been working hard. It can occur after a session of physiotherapy, and it's a natural response to the physically demanding nature of the treatment.

Imagine running a marathon or spending a day hiking up a mountain. Your body feels tired afterward, right? Physiotherapy can be similar. It challenges the muscles, joints, and overall system, pushing them to heal and strengthen. This effort can lead to a feeling of fatigue, a sensation of being pleasantly worn out.

The fatigue is your body's way of saying, "Hey, let's take a moment to rest and recharge." It's a sign that the treatment is working, engaging the areas that need attention.

The best part? Like the tiredness you feel after a satisfying workout, physiotherapy-related fatigue will usually go away within a few days. It's a temporary state, a small price to pay for the long-term benefits of improved health and mobility.

Muscle Spasms

Muscle spasms can occur after a session of physiotherapy, especially when the treatment stretches and activates muscles that may have been dormant or underused for a while. It's as if the muscles are waking up, saying, "Hey, we're back in action!" This sudden awakening can lead to involuntary contractions or spasms.

While muscle spasms might feel strange, they're usually a temporary phenomenon. They're the muscles' way of adjusting to the new demands being placed on them, a sign that the physiotherapy is targeting the right areas. The spasms will typically go away within a few days as the muscles become more accustomed to the activity.

How to Manage Side Effects

Physiotherapy is a powerful tool for healing and rehabilitation, but it's not without its side effects. The good news? Most side effects are temporary and manageable. In this section, we'll explore practical advice on managing side effects, with an emphasis on "rest," "ice," "compression," and "elevation."


Rest is like the golden ticket to recovery. After a session of physiotherapy, your body has been working hard, and it deserves a break. Think of rest as the intermission in a play, a time to recharge before the next act.

  • Importance: Rest allows the body to heal, repair, and rejuvenate.
  • Tips: Listen to your body and take breaks as needed. Ensure a good night's sleep and avoid strenuous activities that might strain the treated area.

Ice Application

Ice is the body's natural fire extinguisher, cooling down areas that might feel hot or inflamed after physiotherapy.

  • When to Apply: If you experience soreness or swelling, apply ice to the affected area.
  • How to Apply: Use an ice pack or a bag of frozen peas wrapped in a towel. Apply for 20 minutes at a time, allowing the skin to warm up between applications.

Compression and Elevation

Compression and elevation are like the dynamic duo of side effect management, working together to reduce swelling and promote healing.

  • Techniques:
    • Compression: Use an elastic bandage to apply gentle pressure to the affected area.
    • Elevation: Elevate the affected area above heart level to reduce swelling.
  • Benefits: These techniques can minimize swelling, enhance blood flow, and speed up recovery.


Physiotherapy stands as a beacon of healing, a tried-and-true method for treating a myriad of musculoskeletal conditions. From alleviating pain to enhancing mobility, its benefits are profound and far-reaching. But like any journey, the path to recovery through physiotherapy comes with its unique landscape, marked by occasional side effects.

These side effects, whether it's the common blush of redness or the rare dance of muscle spasms, are typically mild and temporary. They're like the footprints on the sand, signs that you've been moving, healing, growing. Understanding these side effects, recognizing them as part of the process, and knowing how to manage them with rest, ice, compression, and elevation can make the journey smoother and more comfortable.

But remember, you're not alone on this path. Your physiotherapist is your guide, your partner in this healing adventure. If you experience any side effects that concern you or persist beyond the expected time, don't hesitate to reach out to them. Open communication and professional guidance are the keys to a successful and enjoyable rehabilitation experience.

So, embrace physiotherapy with confidence and curiosity. Be aware, be proactive, and trust in the process. Your body is a remarkable machine, capable of healing and thriving. With the right care and attention, the side effects of physiotherapy become stepping stones, leading you to a healthier, happier you.

Pace Therapies - Established since 2009 in Surrey, PACE Therapies have been providing Physiotherapy and Sports Massage at Guildford Spectrum.
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