Physiotherapy rehab at home may not be the first thing on your mind during these current uncertain times. Or you may be constantly searching for relief if your pain and/or injury are constantly nagging at you and causing discomfort. In either case, life is not currently continuing as ‘normal’.
Writing a blogpost during these unprecedented times seems somewhat futile. However due to the sudden enforced closure of physiotherapy practices, care of my clients has been interrupted. Frustratingly, I have not been able to see my clients through to full fitness. As physio’s in France we did not want to stop work. However, most of us quickly recognised how essential it was to stop. And for me, this made the decision easier. I know that many practices across the UK are closing their doors too.
So I have written this blogpost for those of you that are still recovering from or rehabbing an injury. This is not a blog to give you exercise ideas, but to explain how to progress the exercises that you already have safely at home. I hope that by explaining how you can progress physiotherapy rehab at home it will help to give you some direction.
If you are one of my clients reading this then you will have a comprehensive exercise programme that you can continue with. If not, then hopefully this will give you some inspiration as to how to proceed. Obviously, I recommend that each individual person has a programme worked out for their own individual needs and stage of injury. However, this may be easier said than done during these uncertain times. So read on to find out how you can progress your physiotherapy rehab at home and challenge yourself more.
Remember, it is the rehab and exercise that will make the long term difference. A lot of people will be able to get better without hands on therapy, although guidance and education is advised. Although physiotherapy aims to accelerate healing and reduce pain, our bodies often have an incredible way of getting better on their own. In many cases, rehab can be as simple as training around an injury.
So, if you are going to do your physiotherapy rehab at home there is no need for equipment. Instead, use your imagination and get creative. You can use:
- bottles of water or tins of beans for weights. You can always place them in a bag or backpack if you need to increase the weight and don’t have enough hands!
- Use cushions or pillows to create unstable surfaces to challenge your balance or propriocetion.
- Use chairs or your staircase for exercises requiring varying heights
To continue to make progress with your injury you will need to continue to challenge your body with your exercises. If you hit a plateau or your exercises become easy, you won’t continue to move forward. Before you start make sure that you are warm. There are a number of ways you can progress your current exercises including but not limited to:
- 1 – increase the number of repetitions or number of sets
- 2 – decrease the rest time between sets
- 3 – increase the frequency that you are doing the exercises. For example, do twice a day instead of once a day or increase to 5- 6 times a week from 3 – 4 times
- 4 – increase the weight or resistance that you are using
- 5 – increase the range of movement that you are working through
Mix and match your exercises and aim to do them at least 3 – 4 times a week. Strength and endurance exercises should challenge you and fatigue you, without significantly increasing your pain and symptoms. As a rule of thumb, do not allow your pain to go higher than a 4 out of 10 on a pain scale (10 being the worst pain you’ve ever experienced). However, this may vary for different conditions so if in doubt consult a physio. It is not unusual to experience some pain when you are doing your exercise, however you do not want you pain or symptoms to linger for a significant period once you stop the exercises. Again, this may vary according to your injury and how long you have had the pain, but I would recommend that your symptoms become manageable within 20 minutes of stopping your exercises.
Focusing on your rehab may help you to cope during periods of isolation. Have a think about what you want to achieve when your pain or injury is better. Write down your goals so you know what you are aiming for. Are you aiming to complete a run, be it 5km, 10km, a marathon or an ultra? Or is your goal more specific to life at home, for example you would like to be able to descend the stairs painfree? Once you have written down your goals, break them down into manageable steps.
For example: ‘I wish to be able to lift my grandchildren without back pain’
Break this goal down into smaller steps and try and think about how you may achieve these smaller steps. e.g.
- I aim to be able to stand up from a chair pain free.
I will achieve this by
- not sitting for too long
- sitting in a well supported position
- practicing the transition from sitting to standing as a repeated squatting exercise
- regularly doing any other exercises that have been set for me by my physiotherapist
2. I will practice good lifting technique.
I will achieve this by:
- reaching down to the floor, firstly without any additional weight.
- As pain allows I will add light weights. You can build this up every few days as long as it is not irritating your problem or increasing your pain.
Be aware that to protect your back you may wish to bend from the knees and keep your back as straight as possible. However, I would exercise this with caution – do what comes naturally to you. The spine is made to bend. It is allowed to flex. There are only a few instances where you may want to avoid too much bending from your spine in the short term. For example, if you have a known disc problem.
3. I will practice lifting with a twist
I will achieve this by:
- trying to lift a very light object from the floor on one side of me and reaching it overhead to a cupboard on the otherside.
4. If all of the above has gone well over a period of one to two weeks, I can try and lift my grandchild.
- Initially I will only do this for very short periods.
- I will try and alternate which side I hold them on.
If you have almost recovered from your pain or injury, keep going with the rehab for a bit longer. Make sure that you can maintain the levels of fitness that you have achieved over the next few weeks. How can you stay motivated? Well I wrote a whole other blogpost on 7 easy ways to empower self-motivation which may help.
Use this time to follow yoga and pilates videos on youtube. There are hundreds, if not thousands of fitness influencers producing exercise videos that you can safely do at home. Just be careful not to over do. If you haven’t exercised for a while, start very gently and then gradually increase how much you do each week. Use this time to be conscious of how you look after yourselves and your health.
There are many physiotherapists offering online consultations or televideo sessions. Make the most of these resources. If you are one of my clients, don’t hesitate to get in touch if you have any questions.
We are living through a time of crisis and uncertainty. Everyday life has changed for us all. But your injury can change for the better. Be patient, keep working and don’t overcomplicate things. Pain does not necessarily mean tissue damage is present. Often it is acting as a warning signal. And sometimes these signals are on red alert when they needn’t be! Take one day at a time, set yourself goals and we’ll see you on the other side.
Here are links to some of my favourite home gym equipment:
We do not recommend introducing these exercises without consulting a physiotherapist if you have any current injuries or back issues. We do recommend seeking advise from a healthcare or fitness professional when starting new exercises.
The purpose of this blog, is to provide general information and educational material relating to physiotherapy and injury management. ALP has made every effort to provide you with correct, up-to-date information. In using this blog, you agree that information is provided ‘as is, as available’, without warranty and that you use the information at your own risk. Furthermore, we highly recommend that you seek advise from a fitness or healthcare professional if you require further advice relating to exercise or medical issues.
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