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6 Ways Therapeutic Exercise can help during recovery

When you say the words “physical therapy” most people automatically assume you have had surgery. Yet physical therapy goes beyond post-surgical care restoring strength, endurance, flexibility and stability to people who have been injured, are in pain, or have experienced illness. Through therapeutic exercise, it is possible to have your function restored and live a life that is pain-free. Contact us to schedule your consultation and find out how we can

Therapeutic exercises: Building a stronger you

When you think about Physical Therapy, most people automatically assume you have had surgery or some other injury resulting in the need for rehabilitation. Yet physical therapy goes beyond post-surgical care- physical therapy works on restoring strength, endurance, flexibility, and stability to people who have been injured, are in pain, or have experienced illness, and even those just wanting to overall improve their physical performance during different activities.

What are Therapeutic exercises?

Therapeutic exercises can be used in a variety of settings, as mentioned above, physical therapy is one option. Another field is occupational therapy. In both of these rehabilitation settings, the focus of therapeutic exercise is to rebuild lost functions when dealing with daily activities. Through therapeutic exercise, it is possible to have your physical function restored and/or live a life that is pain-free.

To understand therapeutic exercise better, it's important to understand the different types of physical therapy:

  • Neurological Physical Therapy- Treating things like post-stroke and spinal cord injury
  • Vestibular Physical Therapy -Concussion and vertigo
  • Both Neurological and vestibular rehabilitation can work on balance disorders
  • Orthopedic Physical Therapy-Post surgical and injuries to muscles/bones
  • Sports Physical Therapy -Treating a sports-related injury

The goal of any exercise program is to leave you feeling healthier and stronger than when you began. Therapeutic exercise during physical therapy has similar goals but incorporates a wide range of activities and movements that will help you regain or maintain your strength, flexibility, balance, endurance, and/or stability.

Reasons, why one might consider physical therapy to learn about therapeutic exercises, will vary from person to person:

  1. To achieve an optimal level of symptom-free movement in daily activity.
  2. To restore function to an area that may have had a decline due to medical illness or injury.
  3. To prevent the loss of function- as seen in many neurological cases.
  4. To prevent and/or decrease impairment or disability
  5. To improve a person's overall health

Whether you have been injured, experienced an illness, or are simply noticing you are losing your physical abilities, therapeutic exercise can prevent impairment and disability while improving your overall fitness.

Typically performed as a part of a physical therapy treatment plan, this type of exercise is prescribed by a physical therapist. Your physical therapist will evaluate your condition- along with reviewing your medical history and then assign a variety of therapeutic exercises to complete a treatment plan that fits well with your life.

The difference between Therapeutic exercise and therapeutic activities

Both types of actions drastically improve a person's physical function but are quite different by design. Therapeutic exercise refers to specific exercises that address weakness or loss of mobility but are not functional tasks. An example of this would be a person using dumbbells' to mimic a chest press motion, this increases function and gains strength, but is not an everyday movement.

This being said, therapeutic activities refer to everyday tasks which improves range of motion and strength. Something such as reaching for an object on the top shelf would be considered a therapeutic activity- the difference being that the exercise, overhead shoulder press, which strengthens the shoulder, is the exercise that mimics an everyday activity, but is not one. T

Types of Therapeutic Exercises

Each therapeutic exercise is classified by its purpose.

  • Range of Motion – These exercises are aimed at increasing the range of motion in your joints and soft tissues. This may be done through active, passive, or assisted stretching activities designed to help your joints move better, without pain.
  • Muscle Performance – Increasing power, endurance, and muscle strength are vital to good balance and stability as well as bone and joint health. Resistance exercises and endurance exercises are designed to increase muscle strength without injury.
  • Posture – Hours spent at desks, bending over keyboards, poor muscle tone, or simple habits can all lead to terrible posture. What you may not realize is that posture has a direct impact on muscle strength, balance, and a tendency toward injury. Posture exercises are aimed at correcting poor posture, not just when you exercise, but in your life in general which can alleviate aches and pains.
  • Balance & Coordination – Every time you stand or sit, bones and muscles work in conjunction with one another to help you remain upright. Every time you stand, walk, sit, brush your teeth, cook a meal, or take care of your daily activities, you are testing your coordination between the muscular and skeletal systems in your body.
  • Relaxation – Relaxation is part of therapeutic exercise? You bet! While it is important to work the muscles, joints, and soft tissues in the body, it is also important to help them relax. Pain relieving techniques including heat, cold, electrical stimulation, massage, or trigger point therapy can all help the body relax, improve your sleep, lower your blood pressure, and keep you coming back for more exercise!
  • Area Specific Exercises – It’s easy to think of exercise as something we do with our muscles, but it is also important to help the body’s other systems. In these cases, exercises that target breathing or circulation may be recommended to help speed healing, improve blood flow, or lower stress on the body.

People also associate physical therapy and therapeutic exercise with manual therapy. Manual therapy is great for achieving a faster reeducation in pain reception, however, it may not be the best practice for particular injuries or individuals. Oftentimes, a combination of manual and therapeutic exercise is prescribed in order to work on both pain and strength during physical therapy treatment. Each diagnosis differs and will determine the type of services that will best fit your specific treatment plan.

How does therapeutic exercise relieve pain?

It may seem counterintuitive to exercise when you are in pain. After all, the last thing you want to do when you are uncomfortable is make yourself more uncomfortable. Yet when you treat pain with medication and rest, you are only allowing the supporting muscles to weaken, causing greater pain and less functionality of the area.

A physical therapist is trained to evaluate your body’s function, strength, and range of motion as well as your pain levels when you perform basic tasks. They can then create a customized treatment plan, including therapeutic exercise, that can strengthen weak areas, restore function to healing or surgically repaired joints, and reduce your overall pain levels.

Not only can you improve your overall quality of life, but you can experience pain-free life movements, you can do so with greater strength and endurance than before.

Still curious how physical therapy services and therapeutic exercise can help you? Call one of our physical therapy locations, or click the "book an appointment" button above! Let us help you get on the road to recovery!