By: Amanda Althouse, DPT, EPc, 2016 Resident – Carlisle Center
It is outside of a physical therapist’s scope of practice to prescribe medication. But as movement specialists, we can recommend therapeutic exercise so that patients maintain active lifestyles.
Let’s call it “movement medicine.”
One of the biggest components of success in physical therapy is the home exercise program, or HEP. One could say the HEP is up to fifty percent of the reason you will achieve better outcomes; considering the average physical therapy visit ranges from 45-60 minutes, which may not be enough time to make the drastic change you need.
The home exercise program will most likely be prescribed on the first day and be geared toward your goals and the treatment that made you feel and/or move better. For example, if the radiating symptoms from your low back lessened after treatment on your back, your therapist will send you home with an activity to reinforce that movement on day one.
Make sure your therapist teaches you the exercise and provides instructions on a take-home piece of paper that also includes frequency, duration, and number of sets and reps so you know what is expected of you.
Staying motivated and adhering to your HEP can be difficult, but it likely will speed your pain relief or return to function.
As you improve and physical therapy treatment progresses, the HEP should too. If you are still completing the same exercises three weeks after therapy, your HEP needs to be updated to reflect your progress. Don’t hesitate to ask your therapist if your HEP is still appropriate and what you should continue to do, stop, or add to your program.
According to the American Physical Therapy Association, “Physical therapists can teach patients how to prevent or manage their condition so that they will achieve long-term health benefits.” The key phrase here is long-term health benefits.
If we want you to become independent in the management of your condition, we need to discharge you with an HEP to maintain the current therapeutic benefit from physical therapy in order to prevent recurrence.
We also need to eliminate your reliance on physical therapy as best as possible. The discharge HEP should provide you with tools to manage your condition in the event of symptom exacerbation. It is important to understand that your symptoms may return, particularly in the case of low-back pain. If we have not given you the tools to maintain a state of wellness for prevention and management of your condition, we have done you a disservice.