During your first few physical therapy sessions, you were given a wealth of information. You were given an explanation of physical therapy, a copy of your treatment plan, and instructions for a series of exercises you’re supposed to complete at home.
Those at-home exercises - also called your home exercise program - look difficult and you worry that you’ll get hurt. They can’t be that important, can they?
But your physical therapist is insistent: Those home exercises are crucial to your full, fast recovery and will help you progress faster in your physical therapy.
Yes, it is!
You’re only in physical therapy for a limited amount of time, usually 45-60 minutes per session. That leaves a lot of time the rest of the day or week where you’re not necessarily performing activities designed to strengthen your muscles and aid in your recovery.
Sure, you may be moving around a little bit, but chances are pretty good that you’re more likely to actively avoid activities and movement that use the injured parts of your body.
If you’re not using those body parts and working on improving your range of motion and strength, you’re losing all the progress you make during physical therapy throughout the rest of the week.
To give yourself the best possible chance of a favorable outcome from your treatment, you need to practice the exercises given to you for at home according to your physical therapist’s instructions.
Sticking to your physical therapist’s instructions and practicing your home exercise program provides a wealth of benefits for your treatment, such as:
You love the feeling you get when you successfully complete a difficult exercise during physical therapy, and it’s great to get the praise of your physical therapist.
By working on your at-home exercises, you improve your muscle memory, allowing you to more quickly progress through treatment and work on more advanced exercises with your therapist. This helps you get the most out of your physical therapy treatment, improving your overall outcomes.
Physical therapy often comes with setbacks, where the patient has to begin again in learning an exercise. These setbacks are more likely to happen if you’re sitting around at home in between physical therapy sessions instead of getting up and working your muscles.
If you make an effort to work through the home exercise plan, you may find that you experience fewer setbacks in your treatment, allowing you to get back to your daily routine faster and use less pain medication.
You may find that the exercises your physical therapist has you do at home are fun and help you feel better throughout the day.
This extra little boost of physical activity may encourage you to begin a more active lifestyle, taking walks and going to the gym for some light exercise. That change can help improve your mood, help you get healthier, and lead to increased confidence in yourself and your abilities.
Sometimes, patients who have been through physical therapy return months or years later with similar complaints as the first time. They’ve re-injured themselves or exacerbated an underlying condition, and now they’re back to square one.
However, by complying with your home exercise plan and continuing with the exercises even after you’re done with physical therapy, you can decrease your risk of re-injury, keeping you out of physical therapy and allowing you to live your life.
Many of the exercises you learn in physical therapy and during your home exercise program are designed to help you learn how to properly use your body. By learning the proper mechanics and ways of doing things, you may learn positive lifelong habits.
For example, if you practice an exercise that’s meant to help you use proper posture, you may find that you hold that posture naturally after a while, without even thinking about it.
It’s never easy to deal with an injury or illness that takes away your ability to do the things you love to do. But with the help of a skilled physical therapist, you may be able to get back to your daily routine faster and with less pain.
At the Centers for Advanced Orthopaedics - MMI Division, we are experienced helping patients with a variety of conditions regain proper function and mobility, prevent re-injury, and leave a happy, full life. Schedule your appointment today!