If you’ve been to see a physical therapist, you’ve likely been given a home exercise program to complement the rehabilitation activities that you have worked on in the clinic. Research says that if you do your home exercise program, you’ll have a significantly better chance of meeting your goals and feeling better. Not following through with your home care program increases the risk of recurrent injury or flare-ups and is associated with less positive treatment outcomes in the long term. Unfortunately, consistency with home exercise programs tends to be terrible. It is estimated that only 40 to 50% of patients do their exercises consistently, and many may not complete the activities in the way that they’re supposed to. There may be a variety of barriers to accomplishing this important part of your rehabilitation program. But your physical therapist can’t be with you all of the time and certainly can’t do your exercises for you. So what can you do to make sure that you get the most out of your physical therapy treatment plan? Here are a few ideas.
Think about what’s likely to get in your way – your schedule, that you’ll forget, or that you don’t have the space or equipment that you feel that you need. Once you figure out the problems, work with your therapist to come up with solutions. Maybe you would benefit from putting your exercises into your daily schedule with an associated reminder. Or you might need to talk further with your PT about how to work with whatever equipment that you have available, or to modify activity so that less equipment or space is needed. You might also speak with your therapist about creating a home care program that can fit into the time that you have. If you anticipate solutions to problems before they present themselves, they become smaller issues.
Address Pain and Beliefs and Expectations about Activity
You’ll need to work with your PT on better understanding what feelings to expect during or after home exercises. If your exercises cause pain, you are not likely to want to do them. Try out the exercises that your PT has prescribed. If you are having pain, ask your PT about modifications to make things more comfortable. It is possible that something is not quite right with the set-up or the movement that you are attempting on your own, and that your therapist can help to remedy the issue with further review of the activity. The other thing that might need to be addressed are your beliefs and expectations about how your home exercises will work. If you do not believe that the exercises will help, or fell that they are a waste of time, you are less likely to follow through with the activities. Ask your PT to help you to understand why they’re prescribing particular exercises and what they’re meant to do. Once you know why you’re doing those activities, you’re more likely to complete them and to observe the effects that they are designed to achieve.
People who have social support are more likely to exercise regularly. This is why Cross Fit and Camp Gladiator and other group exercise classes are so popular. You might try to find a family member or a friend to help you stay consistent with your exercises by doing them with you. Your PT can help here too by following up with you and helping you to track your exercise participation. Having someone ask if you’re doing your exercises, and about how they’re going will help to keep you accountable and more likely to keep up a consistent activity routine.
If you like technology and gadgets, utilize tools to help you to be consistent with your exercises. There are plenty of apps that can track your exercise. Seeing that streak of days that you’ve exercised will motivate you to continue. Smartwatches and activity trackers can fill the same role. Setting goals for the day or the week or the month and then marking progress towards these goals can be very satisfying. And reflecting back to prior points in time can help you to see the progress that you’ve made towards feeling better or moving more easily. Regularly completing your prescribed home exercise program will help you to get the most out of physical therapy. With a little planning and a little help, you can make sure that you get the best outcomes and feel successful and satisfied with your therapy achievements!