There is a common misconception that 100% of your physical rehabilitation occurs INSIDE the clinic. This could not be farther from the truth. We would argue that LESS THAN HALF of the healing occurs in the clinic while the other amount occurs outside the walls of the clinic.
A good physical therapist will dig deep into all risk factors and causes of someone’s physical pain. Once a strong hypothesis is formed, the therapist will begin prescribing actions or adjustments to address each factor. A very important part of this plan is the home exercise program. A typical home exercise program may consist of 4-6 activities that begin to take the body through healthy physical activity. Compliance with this plan ensures the body will slowly steer away from the patterns that cause pain and replace those patterns with healthy pain free ones.
The plan is agreed upon together by the patient and therapist. Initially, each activity is performed side by side with the therapist’s supervision to ensure success. A therapist will make special notes, write diagrams, film video demonstrations, or print pictures to remind the patient of successful actions as the plan is being reviewed.
However, there are situations when a patient gets home and the activities do not feel the same. This is a common situation patients find themselves in.
So, how do you know if you are doing the exercises correctly?
First, you should feel the exercise in the muscle or area the exercise is targeting. Also it should not be painful in that area. It is a very common misconception that exercises need to hurt to be beneficial. Physical therapy exercises are never intended to induce a “harmful” sense of pain.
Second, pain should not worsen during or immediately after. That is contradictory to the purpose of the home exercise plan. It is important to be able to differentiate a “harmful” pain from a “therapeutic” pain. Any increase in pain during or after could be a sign of improperly performed activity and you will want to consult with your physical therapist before continuing.
Third, you are seeing a gradual improvement in the problem within the time expected. Assuming you are consistent with attendance and compliance with your treatment plan, the home exercises will be a primary driver of progress. If you aren’t seeing the type of progress you had expected, it may be that your home exercises should be re-examined.
Never hesitate to ask your therapy team to review or re-watch your home exercises if you have any concerns. Our physical therapists strongly believe in the benefit of a meaningful and targeted home program and want more than anything for our patients to succeed.
If you have any questions about how to get started with a customized home exercise program, or want more clarity around your current one, please call us at 504-407-3477!