Steps to More Effective Physical Therapy at Home
Physical therapy is proven to benefit anyone looking to improve their strength and mobility, reduce or eliminate joint pain, and prevent injuries, or as a recovery plan following an injury or after surgery. Physical therapy is for everyone, even if you’re just looking to improve your day-to-day quality of life.
Beginning a physical therapy regimen starts after your primary care physician or a specialist (such as an orthopedist or chiropractor) refers you to a physical therapist. You might even tell your doctor that you’re interested in PT and ask if it’s the right plan for you.
After consulting with a new physical therapist, they’ll devise a plan of care for you. Normally, PT appointments are in-office and on-site at a clinic or rehab center, but in some cases, home physical therapy is an option to help improve faster in between office visits, and an effective way to continue your care. Here are some ways to maximize your home PT and get the most out of your exercise program in the comfort of your own home.
Get Better Physical Therapy at Home
Home PT can take many forms, including:
- Virtual therapy, where you can have live PT sessions at home with your therapist via the internet
- House call visits, where your therapist visits you in your home
- Solo in-home therapy, continuing the treatment — “homework” — prescribed by your therapist
Since the pandemic, many physical therapists have offered their patients virtual physical therapy, so check with yours if that’s an option. Live therapy sessions may be held over Zoom, Microsoft Teams, FaceTime or another video chat service, so see what your therapist recommends, and ensure your internet connection is fast and responsive. While you can use your mobile phone for virtual therapy, a laptop or portable desktop screen is a better choice; the larger screen enables a better two-way viewing experience for you and your therapist to adequately complete your exercises.
Create a Comfortable Space
Enabling effective PT sessions at home — with your PT or by yourself — means creating enough floor space and a comfortable surface. Though some exercises can’t be completed without the necessary equipment at the doctor’s office, you’ll need just a few essentials for your PT routines. These might include:
- Ample floor space cleared of any furniture or objects that could block movements like stretching
- A yoga or exercise mat to lay on
- Resistance training bands
- Foam roller
- Light free weights (optional)
Seek out a room for your PT that offers counter or wall space for exercises requiring you to stand, practice your balance or for additional support (for instance, following knee or hip surgery where building your strength in a standing position is important).
Priority and Progress
If your home PT involves exercises prescribed by your PT to complete on your own time between in-office visits, staying motivated and dedicated to your homework is important to getting stronger and seeing results.
Firstly, make your PT a number one priority. Mark your calendar and set your alarm for specific dates and times to do your PT homework. PT deserves effort and follow-through; by building out a schedule, you hold yourself accountable and stick to your routine. Treat home PT just as you would making the effort to go in person for PT sessions.
Second, make sure to track your progress. Keep a log (typed, written in a journal — whichever you prefer) of details about which exercises you’ve completed, plus sets and reps according to what your PT has prescribed. You should also make note of any exercises you feel you’re excelling in and/or struggling with. Sharing your notes with your PT helps “connect the dots” between home and in-person PT.
Know your Limits
At home, by yourself, use your own discretion as you perform PT exercises, especially if your therapist isn’t present. Don’t overdo it. Take care when stretching; poor form or overstretching can lead to injury due to muscles and ligaments tightening more instead of loosening up, and overstretching can lead to microtears that create scar tissue.
Likewise, your PT is normally there to gauge how far you can take your exercises in the presence of some pain or discomfort. On our own, while we may want to test our limits and push movements further than a PT may advise, this can worsen or aggravate any issues you may be suffering from. When exercising at home, don’t exceed your pain threshold. If pain prevents you from performing certain exercises, or you feel worse after home PT, consult your doctor.
Explore Home Physical Therapy Options with TheraTec
If you’re interested in home PT, TheraTec’s wearable sensor tracks range of motion and reps on any part of the body. Connecting via Bluetooth to the TheraTec Patient App on your smartphone, you can share results with your PT at your next visit to monitor your progress.