Would you do your home exercise program forever if I told you to?
Personally, I have only had two patients in my career return years later to tell me they were still doing them. I was a very proud therapist. Both of these patients were retired and frequenting the gym on a regular basis before I ever saw them, so it wasn’t a far stretch to throw in a few extra stretches and exercises into their routine. This is obviously not the norm for most of us.
Now remember in a previous blog post, I had mentioned that the exercises are based on the “flags” that came up in your evaluation. Whether it is muscle tightness, decreased joint mobility, weakness, or even nerve tension, we picked these special exercises with you in mind. These specific areas that were showing a problem may improve over time, but for some with more chronic issues or those with changes in their anatomy (ex. scoliosis) it may be something they need to keep up to ward off future flare ups.
On your last day of therapy, you can chat with your physical therapist on what the most important group of exercises to keep up will be. Hopefully you will need just three to four exercises and stretches to put into your regular routine a few times a week to compliment what you are already doing. Regular activity is pivotal to health, so hopefully you area already working with a consistent routine. If not, you can also bring this up with your therapist and figure out the best solution for you.
Not everyone has a formal last day of physical therapy (what we call a discharge). Life gets hectic when you start to feel a bit better and you might forget you were even in physical therapy until weeks since your last appointment. You should hopefully have some exercises from your therapist from previous sessions and you can keep those up a few times a week if you are feeling better, or contact your therapist to see if there is anything extra or specific you should do in the future.
Regular strengthening, stretching, and activity is a key component of health and should be reflected in a routine you develop that works for your schedule. The problematic areas we find to work on in therapy may improve over time with the exercises that you are doing with us, but they are usually generally problematic areas for most and can cause life long issues depending on our work environment or lifestyle. It’s not a bad idea to make them part of your permanent program to avoid a flare up in the future. Preventative exercises can go a long way for your health and well being.
Do what you can when you can. Try to keep a regular routine of addressing the things you need to 2-3 times a week in the long term and you can prevent a good deal of issues that may creep up in the future.