Getting the Most Benefits from Your Physical Therapy Experience

By: Dr. Sarah Rodriguez.

If you are dealing with an injury or physical condition that is limiting you in some way, your doctor may have prescribed several sessions of physical therapy. If you have never been to physical therapy and are considering it for the first time, or if you have seen a physical therapist in the past without much success, then read on for 5 tips to get the most benefit from your physical therapy experience and ensure a successful road to recovery.

5 Tips to Get the Most Benefit from Your Physical Therapy

1) Compliance with your home exercise program:

  • During an initial evaluation, it is very common to prescribe patients with a set of home exercises to perform at home in order to supplement the work that is being done during physical therapy sessions. At Physio Logic, we review the exercises in detail and provide patients with handouts and/or e-mails that include pictures, detailed descriptions, and prescribed frequency, sets, and repetitions for each exercise. 
  • Do your exercises! They are given to you to assist in your recovery, help you achieve your rehab goals in a shorter amount of time, and encourage independence in managing your condition. As a clinician, it can be very frustrating when patients do not do their “homework” or take their home exercises seriously. Patients who are non-compliant tend to be the same ones who do not see improvements or make much progress.

2) Stick with the prescribed plan of care:

  • Your doctor or physical therapist will typically prescribe a certain number of physical therapy visits for a specified number of weeks. While frequency will vary depending on the condition and severity and may change depending on the patient’s progress, many patients begin by coming in several times a week for the first few weeks, and gradually wean off as their recovery progresses. 
  • It’s important to understand that PT requires time and commitment, and each session tends to build off the progress made from previous sessions. When attendance is sparse or inconsistent, patients lose valuable gains that were made in strength and mobility during previous sessions. You are not doing yourself any favors if you are coming in once every other week for 3 or 4 sessions when it was recommended that you come in twice a week for 6-8 weeks. Similar to those who are non-compliant with their home exercises, these patients progress slowly, if at all.

3) Wear loose, comfortable clothing, and be ready to move!

  • When possible, wear clothing that easily exposes the site of injury. In order to provide the most effective treatments (while gloved and masked, of course!), we as physical therapists need to be able to treat the body part without tight or restrictive clothing or bulky jewelry getting in the way. This may inhibit our assessment of your mobility and body mechanics, limit the manual therapy we are able to provide, and alter how well you are able to move.

4) Pay attention to your daily habits and activities:

  • Since your time in physical therapy is limited each week, try to be mindful of what you are doing on your own outside of your physical therapy visits. What patterns do you notice? Are your daily habits and activities helping or hindering your progress? For example, did you agree to help a friend move out of their apartment and lift heavy boxes when you are in the midst of dealing with back pain? Or were you craving a cardio workout and went for a run when running is what causes you pain? Take mental or physical notes on patterns you notice about yourself, then discuss these with your physical therapist so that they can make appropriate modifications or recommendations. 
  • Here are some other factors to consider that may be affecting your progress in therapy. These are worth noting and discussing with your physical therapist:
    • 6 Reasons Your Physical Therapy isn’t Working:
      • Ergonomics: Now more than ever, many of us are working from home and our WFH set-up is less than ideal. How can you set yourself up for better posture and alignment?
      • Posture: Notice how you hold your body throughout the day. Are you constantly slouched forward? Are you straining your head and neck to look at your computer screen? Are you often looking down to check your cell phone?
      • Rest: While movement and exercise are always encouraged, rest days are equally as important to allow adequate recovery time. Is it possible that you might be overdoing it?
      • Quality and amount of sleep: Are you getting enough restful sleep?
      • Stress: Are outside factors such as work, family life, relationships, or the pandemic causing you increased stress and anxiety? How is that stress manifesting in your body?
      • Nutrition: What foods are you putting into your body?

5) Commitment to your physical therapy plan of care:

  • At the end of the day, you get what you put into your physical therapy journey. You can’t expect a “quick fix.” Successful physical therapy requires the patient’s commitment to getting better. While physical therapists work to guide, educate, provide treatment, and assist you in reaching your rehab goals, you alone are responsible for your body, so own it! Stick to the plan. Stay focused. Stay curious. Don’t give up easily. Work hard. Your commitment is bound to bring you a speedier and more wholesome recovery.

If you feel you’re not getting the full benefits of physical therapy or are planning on doing physical therapy, give us a call. We’d be happy to schedule you or just talk to see how to increase the benefits of physical therapy for you.

Contact Us