Whether we like it or not,
getting stronger takes work. Consistent work. If you are a patient here at Acadiana Physical Therapy, chances are you’ve been given “homework” by one of your therapists. Usually that homework consists of a set of exercises to do on your own in between physical therapy 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.
What better motivation is there than your own pain?
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 physical therapy. Look at it like it’s an appointment you can’t miss. Show up. Do them. Done.
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.
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 (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.
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.
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.
If that’s not enough, here is a list of exercises that will help you feel better.
- Walking uphill, jogging or running.
- Heavy calisthenics (push-ups, sit-ups, jumping jacks, etc.)
- High impact aerobic dancing.
- Jumping rope.
- Using a stair-climber or skiing machine.
- Stationary bicycling, with vigorous effort.
In the weeks after your injury, it is important to get enough rest while gradually returning to your usual routine. Try to take it steady, rather than swinging between too much and too little activity.
People who are worried that they have sustained serious damage sometimes avoid usual activities. This does not help them to recover, but in fact can lead to loss of confidence and physical fitness and fatigue. It is important to remember that the symptoms of mild head injury improve over time and do not cause longstanding problems or future dementia. Try to gradually resume your usual activities in the weeks after the injury.
Be realistic about giving yourself time to recover. Start by planning fairly light activities at first, with low-stress, routine tasks. It may be helpful to limit activities that put you under pressure for a while, for example things that require intense concentration or quick decisions. Try spending a little more time on these sort of tasks each day, instead of attempting to do it all at once.