Physical therapy and home exercise are two parts of a whole. Skipping home exercise provides the same limited advantage as dieting only one day each week, taking only a fraction of prescribed antibiotics or pain meds, or removing a cast before a broken bone heals completely. If you neglect home exercises, you do not receive maximum benefits from physical therapy. You can’t expect to stay pain free. So in short you can only expect to get out of it what you put into it!
Why Home Exercise Is Important During Physical Therapy
Physical therapy is specific to your needs and differs case by case but in short we aim to restore or improve range of motion, muscle strength and/or length and improve your physical condition. All of this allows for improved functional ability during work and your daily life; it also proves valuable as a pain management technique.
As with any other long-term medical treatment, physical therapy does not work with office appointments alone. Therapy requires patients to be diligent in following a home exercise program developed by a physical therapist. The home exercise program almost always surpasses the office appointments in importance. Your initial appointment is the guideline to your treatment, but a home exercise program is the basis for sustaining a healthy and active lifestyle long after your therapy sessions are over.
Exercising at home conditions the body between PT visits and allows us to determine what is working, what is not, and how we can progress you. If a person relies only on the office visits and does not perform home exercise, the body will not build improved function or retain muscle memory between visits. The reason the body accomplishes increased levels of mobility at each therapy appointment comes from the exercises performed between the visits.
Main Reasons for Avoiding Home Exercises
People escape home exercises for a myriad of reasons that boil down to a few basic causes: increased pain or discomfort, lack of motivation or unhappiness, or lack of time. During your visits, if its pain that inhabits you then we can help, if its motivation then we can help motivate you. But if you just don’t have enough time you’ll need to decide how important your mobility and freedom are. This is when your home exercise program becomes important.
During therapy we work hard to help you figure out what strength or muscle imbalances are keeping you from doing what you love to do. Developing a specific HEP is something that you will continue to perform after therapy which will help promote a healthy and active lifestyle. Your exercise program helps in maintaining strength and function gains made during therapy. If you don’t stay on top of your home exercises you may find that gains made in therapy are gone after a few days of not exercising. This is why your therapy visits and HEP go hand in hand and feed off of each other. Please remember this: skipping them may set back your recovery. They will help you work towards a solution and get you on your way to living the life you want: NOT being limited to doing only part of your dream.
Sources: PenRehab.com, HandsOnPT.org