Did You Do Your Physio Home-work?

It’s no secret that physiotherapy is the ‘go-to’ option for treating most injuries and physical impairments. Back and neck pain, sprains and strains, deconditioning and imbalance, sports injuries and aging … these will certainly improve when you have regular physiotherapy.

Truly effective physiotherapy almost always involves a home program. These are the exercises that you perform in-between your physiotherapy sessions to get you stronger, to increase your range of movement, to reduce your pain, and improve your mobility. In-short, to get you back fighting fit. Though we all know how important these exercises are, almost every patient struggles to keep up with the prescribed exercises. Here are a few tips that will help you be consistent with your home exercise programme more effectively:

Understand Why You’re Doing Them: This first tip is most important – understanding how the exercises are helping you. If you’re not sure, ask your physiotherapist. Understanding also helps you appreciate the original reason you sought out physiotherapy and invested your time and energy into it in the first place.

Be Realistic: Be honest with how much time and energy you can devote to your exercises and how they fit into your routine. Thinking you can do more than you actually can leads to failure. Discuss this honestly with your therapist.

‘Attach’ The Exercise To Something You Do Daily: This will help make it a natural routine – as it becomes a part of something you do daily, like brushing, lunch, taking a shower. Make it a rule to complete your exercises before a routine task. You can also pair the exercises with something you’re already doing (e.g., exercising while watching TV) so that the exercises do not add more time to your day.

Take Advantage Of Technology: Use your smartphone to set daily calendar reminders for your exercises and ensure you’ve enabled these notifications. Set specific repeating alarms when exercises are to be done more times a day.

Use A Daily Log-Book: Create a home exercise program checklist or log-book and every time you complete an exercise, document it. If you’re a ‘list person’, add it to your daily to-do lists so you’ll always know you have to mark it off.

Make It A Timely Habit: Do your exercises at the same time every day. This will result in a healthy habit formation.

Use Visual Reminders: Place exercise reminders in areas your eyes frequent – stick Post-it notes on mirrors, fridge, computer – even better, set it as your mobile screen saver! Print out your exercises and place it where you can see it prominently. Keep your exercise equipment (e.g., weights, resistance bands, foam rollers) in your office or rooms where you spend most of your time, to create constant visual reminders through the day.

Rank Your Physical Therapy Exercises: Identify key exercises with your therapist that are higher priority, so if you’re short on time, you can make sure to get these in. You can also choose to do the most important exercises first, so as to minimize the chances of missing them.

It’s Okay To Miss A Day Or Do Less: Sometimes we tend to miss out a day – maybe your symptoms have flared up or you’re tired or lacking mental energy. It’s okay! Everyone needs a break. Just resolve to get back on course with even more commitment. Remember, ‘Some physiotherapy is better than none’ – this principle serves those with an ‘all or none’ mindset, and are likely to avoid their entire exercise program if they miss even one session or day of exercise.

Space Your Physiotherapy Exercises Apart: Most exercise programs have rest time between sets of repetitions, then do them ‘Circuit Style’ to take advantage of the rest period in-between each exercise. For example, do your first set of shoulder strengthening exercises, then do your neck stretches, then back to the shoulder exercises, then back to the neck stretch. This will reduce the total time needed for your exercises. Getting stronger and improving your endurance is often about building up over time. If you don’t have time to perform your exercises all at once, it’s okay to break up a 3-set exercise routine into quick, 1-set mini routines performed through the day, but more often.

 Talk Honestly With Your Physiotherapist: Do you get the cold sweats when your physiotherapist asks you if you’re staying on top of your exercises? Whether you say that you haven’t missed a single rep, or you just bow your head in shame, your best bet is honesty. Your honest feedback is critical for the analysis of your progress and in formulating a future specific program for you. If you find any exercise you’re unable to stay on top of, speak to your physiotherapist so they can replaced with it a different one or teach it differently.

Involve Others: Include others to help you stay accountable, like family and friends who will remind you to do your homework. You could ask around if there’s someone else who also has an exercise programme and pair up to keep each other motivated.

 Remember How Important Fitness Is To You: How important is it for you to get rid of your pain? To get back to your sport, your hobbies, your job? To feel stronger, increase your confidence, and be your usual fit self again? Treat your physiotherapy exercise program as importantly as you would personal hygiene. You wouldn’t go a full day without a shower, would you? Better yet, consider your exercises as medicine, prescribed by your physiotherapist. Now, can you imagine taking your medication only half as much as you’re supposed to?

Reward Yourself: Only allow yourself to do something you look forward to (watching TV, surfing the Net) AFTER you’ve done your exercises. When you reach your fitness goals, celebrate it!

Cheers to your fitness!!


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