How to Do Physical Therapy at Home
Physical therapy (PT) is often a crucial step in achieving lasting outcomes for patients recovering from countless musculoskeletal disorders. Your physical therapist will provide you with education and targeted exercises you can return to at any time in the future – particularly if you suffer from a condition like chronic back pain that requires ongoing attention and maintenance.
Examples of what can be done in a convenient and comfortable setting at home include:
- Core strengthening exercises
- Resistance training
- Balancing exercises
- Weigh training using small weights
Therapy can also significantly lower a patients’ treatment costs – provided they follow the therapist’s recommendations properly. If you want to gain control over your healing process, doing your PT at home will determine how quickly you heal, to what degree, and how long the benefits of your PT last.
What Is Home-Based Physical Therapy?
Home-based PT is prescribed so that people suffering from musculoskeletal conditions and injuries can regain their usual motion and strength more fully and quickly. Not only will you make more progress in between sessions with your therapist, but it allows family members to be involved in the rehabilitation process for patients who need extra support.
Physical therapists often prescribe home exercises for patients experiencing:
- Pain from a hip, knee, or spinal injury
- A repetitive work injury
- A loss of balance
- Muscle atrophy following surgery
- Difficulty walking
- Joint pain
When Does At-Home PT Begin?
Prescribed sessions with a physical therapist may last anywhere from a few weeks to a few months, but at-home treatments usually begin after your first visit. If you have been referred to a therapist after an injury, especially one that required surgery, stretches and exercises that can be done at home will likely begin as soon as you can perform them without pain or risking further injury. Getting started with PT as soon as possible is important to healing and regaining maximum strength and mobility.
Is Home-Based PT the Same as in the Clinic?
A physical therapist will create a home exercise program to help you improve your condition between visits. Incorporating your treatment plan into your routine at home provides you with more control over your injury or illness. Your therapist will provide you a list of exercises, outlining the amounts of sets to do each day. It will likely incorporate parts of the same routine you do with a therapist at a clinic, aimed at increasing motion, dexterity, and strength of the affected area.
If your PT sessions generally start with a hamstring stretch or core warmup, you can usually begin your home routine the same way. Ask any questions you have to make sure you’re positioning yourself properly at home, as well as to prevent future problems from occurring.
How to Create a Comfortable PT Space at Home
You don’t need much space to do your PT routine at home. Items for creating a comfortable space at home can include:
- A clear floor space and/or yoga mat
- Comfortable clothing
- Resistance bands
- Foam muscle rollers
- A safe environment
Without the specialized equipment and exercise stations of a medical clinic, some exercises will be off limits, but you can still improvise a bit at home. For instance, if you are working on your balance following a knee or hip procedure, you may need a counter or wall space for support. Ask your therapist for tips and recommendations to make your space at home as accommodating and safe as possible.
How Long Do Patients Continue Their At-Home PT Program?
Every injury is different, as is each patient. Following spinal fusion surgery, you may need to continue PT for years or decades to maintain core strength around the fused area and prevent pain or future injuries. But a flareup of tennis elbow may only require one or two months of strengthening exercises, in addition to brushing up on your technique.
So, it follows that how long you continue your therapy routine at home will depend on various factors:
- Your age
- The seriousness of your injury
- How much your symptoms have healed
- Whether your condition is chronic
Muscles and tissue rebuild much more quickly in younger patients. A 20-year-old athlete who has had rotator cuff surgery will most likely experience fewer limitations than a 60-year-old recuperating from the same surgery. But some people are prone to reinjury no matter their age. If that same 20-year-old has experienced chronic back pain due to a ruptured disc, he or she may need to continue doing core and back exercises indefinitely.
If you have any questions or concerns about doing PT at home due to a past injury or musculoskeletal condition, contact MidAmerica Orthopaedics online to find out more. Call 708-237-7200 any time to set up an appointment with one of our expert physical therapists so you can get started on healing.