“Physical therapy and home exercise are two parts of a whole. Skipping home exercise provides the same limited advantage as dieting only one day a week, taking only a fraction of prescribed antibiotics or removing a cast before a broken bone has healed. “
The goal of physical therapy is to improve range of motion, muscle strength and physical condition. In very general terms, physical therapy retrains the body to move to the best of its current ability after an illness or injury. Your body naturally will continue to avoid painful movements and therefore continue to regress. Additionally, poor habits can perpetuate an injury; such as sitting in a slouch or constantly bending over to pick up an object. In order to keep any gains from one therapy session to the next, it’s imperative to complete the home exercises to keep your muscles from regressing back to their dysfunctional state.
As with any other long-term medical treatment, this physical therapy rarely works with office appointments alone. In order for muscles to “wake-up” and begin responding appropriately, frequent and consistent practice is necessary. Some literature suggests it take 10,000 repetitions to retrain a dysfunctional muscle; surely, your office visits lone will not be enough to reach this range.
As with any other long-term medical treatment, physical therapy rarely works with office appointments alone. In order for muscles to “wake-up” and begin responding appropriately, frequent and consistent practice is necessary. If a person relies only on visits to a physical therapist and does not perform home exercise, the body will not build improved function or retain muscle memory between visits. Some literature suggests it take 10,000 repetitions to retrain a dysfunctional muscle; surely, your office visits lone will not be enough to reach this range.
How to stick to a Home Exercise Plan
An August 31 article, titled “4 Ways to Stick to Your Physical Therapy ‘Homework,” uses real-life examples of individuals who kept up with the HEPs provided by their physical therapies as a springboard for a set of tips to help keep patients on track. These tips are:
- Find a purpose
2. Meet your match
3. Be honest
Among the 4 tips offered in the article is a suggestion that patients find a physical therapist who is “well-matched” to the patient’s personality and lifestyle, given that physical therapy tends to involve a lot of 1-on-1 time between the patient and the physical therapy. In addition to finding the right physical therapist, the article recommends that patients connect their HEPs with a “broader purpose” or ultimate activity goal, that they strategize time management to identify opportunities to do the exercises, and that they be honest with their physical therapists when they haven’t met their HEP goals.
I encourage you to think of physical therapy as a way of learning how to help yourself. A physical therapist alone is not going to make you better, but he or she will teach you how to make yourself better.