Going to a physical therapist when you have back pain or after a knee replacement surgery can make all the difference in your recovery. But what if you can’t afford to go to a physical therapy clinic, or you are unable to get time off from work for the appointments?
Today we’ll look at three tips for doing physical therapy at home, so you can recover quickly without breaking the bank.
As a physical therapist, I’ve helped thousands of patients make progress using home exercise plans. Success with PT at home requires more than simply buying a few pieces of equipment. It takes commitment and consistency, just like any other workout plan. But with the right tools, you can replicate almost any exercise in the PT clinic for less than $100.
Skip the Weights – Get Some Bands
You don’t need expensive weights or equipment to complete Physical Therapy at home. Most of the resistance work I do with my patients involves body weight exercises and various resistance bands and 1- to 3-pound weights. You can easily make your own weights by filling a water bottle with sand or using a soup can. But I do recommend purchasing a good set of resistance bands.
They actually work; check out my video here to learn how resistance bands will help you build strength.
Look for these key items in your home resistance bands:
- Over-the-Door Latch: As it sounds, this attachment allows you to anchor your bands higher so you can target specific muscles more easily. It will also help you adjust the position of the bands along a door frame to replicate the angle needed for various exercises.
- Two Handles: Be sure your resistance bands come with two handles that attach to the bands. Some resistance bands do not have handles – these are called “loop style” bands and are useful to have as well. But I’ve found that handles prevent wrist strain and provide the best ergonomic setup for at-home exercise.
- Durable Latches on Bands: Most resistance bands come with latches or carabiners that are easy to adjust while you work out. Just make sure the latches are made of a durable material like metal, because plastic latches can break and cause injury. Look for metal latches/carabiners and avoid the cheap, easily breakable alternatives.
Where Can I Find Resistance Band Workouts?
Try to stick with videos from physical therapists who understand your specific diagnosis, because doing the wrong exercises could make your situation worse! Here are a few physical therapy YouTube channels that provide helpful treatment videos:
Track Your Progress
One of the most important aspects of physical therapy often goes unnoticed: tracking your progress. In the clinic, PTs use physical therapy documentation to track your progress in terms of resistance, repetition, and performance.
You don’t need anything fancy to track your own progress. Just use a simple sheet of paper or an easy-to-use spreadsheet to track the exercises you perform each day. Regardless of how you choose to track your progress, focus on these items:
- Weight & Resistance: Which bands did you use today? How much weight were you able to lift in your workout? Did the movement cause pain or discomfort?
Document the weight or resistance band you used for each exercise so that you can increase the resistance week after week.
- Sets & Repetitions: How many repetitions of each exercise did you perform? Did you do 3 sets of 10 reps, or did you have to settle for 3 sets of 5 reps because that’s all you could do in a pain-free range?
- Track the Days: On which days did you perform exercises? Are you giving yourself enough time to recover? You’ll never know if you don’t track the days, so make sure you keep record of how often you’re performing the exercises. This will also help you stay accountable and stick to a schedule.
Consult With a Pro
Sometimes it’s best to consult with a pro, especially if you’re stuck or don’t know how to progress. There are so many physical therapists available for virtual visits, even if it’s just a one-time check-in or consultation.
Your PT may provide a customized home exercise program through apps like MedBridge, a tool I use for every patient I treat in the clinic. What’s nice about having a customized plan like this f is that you can reference the handouts and videos later to make sure you’re performing the exercises correctly.
Put in the Work; See the Results
Following a workout plan for rehabilitation isn’t easy. It takes commitment and a lot of work, whether you are going to a physical therapist in person or trying to do physical therapy at home. So commit to a plan, and don’t hesitate to reach out to a professional if you need guidance!
About the Author:
Tim Fraticelli is a Physical Therapist, Certified Financial Planner™ and founder of PTProgress.com. He loves to teach PTs and OTs ways to save time and money in and out of the clinic, especially when it comes to documentation or continuing education. Follow him on YouTube for weekly videos on ways to improve your physical and financial health.