Physical Therapist, Dr. Rachel Tavel, DPT, shares some tips to stay on top of your assigned home exercises during treatment and beyond.
Whether we like it or not, getting stronger takes work. Consistent work. If you are a patient here at Physio Logic, chances are you’ve been given “homework” by one of your doctors. Usually that homework consists of a set of exercises to do on your own in between physical therapy or chiropractic appointments.
We get it. Life is busy. With jobs, kids, and travel it can be hard to carve out time in the day to dedicate towards doing your home exercises. But coming to physical therapy 2 times/week is just not enough time for the actual changes to occur.
Research suggests it takes at 3-5 days of consistent, targeted strength training for at least 2-3 weeks to see changes in your muscles. Getting stronger requires repetition, time and challenging your body to the point that it must adapt by increasing muscle mass to respond to the new physical demands put on it. For better or for worse, there is no way to get stronger other than by putting in the time and doing the work.
And what better motivation is there than your own pain? If that’s not enough, here is a list of 5 tips to help you motivate and find that time in your day to do the exercises that will help you feel better.
- Schedule it into your calendar. For most patients, it should take no more than 15-30 minutes to complete all of your home exercises (and often even less time). Block off a 30-minute chunk of time in your Google Calendar (or whatever calendar you use) on all of the days that you don’t have PT. Look at it like it’s an appointment you can’t miss. Show up. Do them. Done.
- Set an alarm. Some people have more routine lives than others, but one thing is for sure: we’re all busy. Set a daily alarm on your phone for a time you know you’re generally free, like 30 minutes after you wake up or a couple hours before you usually go to bed. When that alarm goes off, don’t think twice. Just get down on your yoga mat and do the work. Your body will thank you later.
- Record your pain level, and watch it change. Take note of your pain level. Try using the 0-10 scale, with 0 being no pain at all and 10 being the worst pain of your life. Decide where you are at every day and record it on a piece of paper, or in that calendar appointment you made. Then dedicate one week to being 100% compliant with doing your exercises. Watch how your pain level changes. Go for two weeks of compliance. Let your own response to the work serve as motivation to keep doing them.
- Prioritize. If you have been given different exercises every session and feel unsure about which exercises to do, ask your physical therapist or chiropractor to prioritize the 3-5 most important ones. That way, if you feel pressed for time, you can still get your most important exercises in. We can also help modify your plan so that it takes no more than 15 minutes and can be done at the office or while watching your favorite show.
- Pair your home exercises with another activity. Maybe you already have a regular Pilates or gym regimen. Or maybe you spend 10 minutes every day waiting for the train (the perfect opportunity to do some scap squeezes or heel raises!). Sprinkle your home exercises into your day wherever they fit — use them as work breaks or add them to the beginning/end of your regular workout routine. Before you know it, you won’t have to do them, you’ll want to do them.
Remember to be patient. Know that it takes a lot of repetition to break a habit and create a new one. Know that these exercises are for you. They are to make you stronger and allow you to feel better. As healthcare practitioners, we can’t do the work for you but we can guide you and support you along the way. Eventually, all those minutes you set aside for exercise can lead to immense relief and maybe a happier, healthier version of you. That’s why you’re here, and that’s what all of us at Physio Logic want.