We all know that time is a valuable commodity. It’s amazing how fast your day/week/month fills up with obligations pulling you one way or the other, and it’s hard to find the time for anything, especially your Home Exercise Program (HEP). That’s what your physical therapy visits are for, right? Not so fast…Physical Therapy and HEP go hand in hand and you need both to recover quickly and to prevent further injury.
Physical therapy focuses on improving range of motion and muscle strength; it also proves valuable as a pain management technique. Physical therapy retrains the body to move as before or to the best of its current ability after an illness, accident or injury. As with any medical treatment therapy at office appointments alone rarely works. A physical therapist (PT) often includes a HEP for their patients to follow. These HEPs are of great importance and may in fact be of greater importance than the office appointments. Appointments serve as a guide but HEP is the main ingredient to quicker recovery.
When you exercise at home you condition the body between your PT visits as well as strengthen your body. If you do not take the HEP seriously and choose to ignore these exercises your body will have a difficulty in building improved function and movement and your muscles will not retain the muscle memory in between the PT visits. In order for the body to accomplish increased levels of mobility at the therapy appointments home exercises must be performed.
If HEP is so important then how come we tend to ignore them and not take this program serious and what can we do to remedy these factors? There are many reasons that a person may not perform these exercises at home but here a few to consider.
- Pain: patients may experience some pain and discomfort and these increased or even unexpected pain levels will keep them from exercising. As a part of your HEP your PT will also inform you as to what you should expect during exercise as well as what levels would be of concern however if the pain exceeds your pain level please stop.
- Lack of Motivation: due to the loss of movement and ability to perform certain physical functions, many people begin to feel isolated and alone causing the individual to lack the motivation to perform the exercise. You are not lazy and you are not alone; talk to your family and friends and ask them to give you a boost of encouragement. Your PT may have some great motivational suggestions as well.
- Sadness: when a person experiences loss of movement, constant pain, or other reduced body function they may tend to be frustrated, sad and unhappy. If you are experiencing any of these emotions and they are hindering you from performing your home exercises, please communicate this to your PT and doctor. Your PT can help you maintain a positive focus.
Below are a list of ways to help you succeed in your HEP.
- Define your purpose or goal: Do you want to play a particular sport again, run around and play with your children, be able to walk or type an email on the computer without chronic pain? When you tie your treatment to the goal at hand it will help you persevere for the journey ahead. At Oklahoma Physical Therapy we can help you connect the exercise and the purpose by setting progression goals throughout your treatment. We will start with small goals and move towards the larger goals so that one day you can be back to normal.
- Find a therapist you can connect with: Since you will be spending two to three hours a week with your physical therapist at their clinic then it is important that the two of you connect. If there is a connection then there is more of a likelihood that you will want to please him/her by completing your exercises at home. At Oklahoma Physical Therapy we have skilled and professional therapists who care about you and your progress and we look forward to connecting with you and meeting your goals.
- Plan and Find the Time: Most people are busy today with work, family and extracurricular activities that finding time at home to complete your HEP can be a challenge. We recommend that you develop a strategy as to how you are going to completed your exercises at home by asking when, where, how, what will get in my way and what is my plan when an obstacle or challenge gets in my way,
Next time you find yourself in need of physical therapy due to having a surgery, pain, weakness, loss of balance, or any other reason, remember your HEP is a crucial part of your recovery. Not only does increasing the frequency of your exercise to performing it outside of the clinic help to build strength and endurance faster, it also helps to improve your movement habits, reducing the risk of re-injury. The road to healing includes lifestyle change, and your HEP is a concrete, helpful tool to assist you in getting back to doing the things and being the person that you want to be.