Importance of Home Exercise Programs
Physical therapy is a designed primarily to give solutions to individuals experiencing pain, loss of strength, range of motion, or function. Treatment ranges from basic strengthening and conditioning to vestibular issues and wound care. Whatever the reason or need for physical therapy, the individual will receive, upon initial evaluation, a home exercise program.
Ask any individual who has experienced physical therapy treatment and most of them will tell you they were issued exercises the first day, whether it be a simple stretch or applying ice to an inflamed joint. The importance of the home exercise program is to allow carryover of new exercises learned in the treatment session that day. The exercises are designed to alleviate pain, strengthen weakened or deconditioned muscles or retrain the brain to improve overall function. Each exercise serves a purpose and should be progressed once the patient has mastered the technique. The phrase “practice makes perfect” would be better stated as “perfect practice makes perfect.” And with any new task, there is always room for improvement.
On the day of the initial evaluation, the therapist determines what part of the problem is contributing to the individual’s loss of function. At each treatment session, the patient is issued about 3-5 new exercises to practice independently and then reviewed at the next session with the therapist. If any pain is reproduced that is not muscular in nature, the individual should cease the given exercise and discuss alternative options with the therapist. The time in follow up sessions should be used to fix any problems the individual has, correct form, or change and progress the level of difficulty. Sometimes an exercise is designed to challenge the individual, and it may not always feel comfortable at first. It is the individual’s responsibility to address any concerns or issues with increased symptoms they have that do not feel normal or increase pain.
Once the exercises have been executed perfectly by the patient, and the patient is ready to continue independently, it is not uncommon for the therapist to follow up with a patient a week or two later to determine the exercises effectiveness. Some injuries or surgeries will take a year to recover from and regain full function; however, the therapist’s role will minimize and the patient will take more control over how to progress their exercises safely. The patient should leave therapy confident knowing they have the tools needed to maintain full and normal function. The individual’s responsibility is not finished once discharged from treatment as the exercises are to carry the patient forward and sometimes maintain the function regained while in therapy. A lot of the exercises given by a therapist to alleviate pain can be revisited if an individual should have symptoms return. Remember, the goal is to educate each individual on ways to avoid coming back to physical therapy for the same injury time and time again.
If you are a previous patient or wondering about what kind of exercise is appropriate for you, don’t hesitate to contact a therapist at Mizuta & Associates for some guidance.