Appointments with your physical therapist mostly take place in the office, but your physical therapy (PT) take-home exercises are an equally essential part of your regimen. The good news is, it’s easy to hold true to your commitment to improve your physical health, regardless of where you are. At home, in the office, or riding in planes, trains, and automobiles, there’s always a way to bring your PT along. Here’s how.
In order to take your PT on the road, you’ll need to have a good plan in place and an ongoing relationship with your physical therapist. Don’t just leave town, ditch appointments, and skip your exercises or you’ll lose ground in your progress.
Start by making sure you understand the expectations. If you’re unsure of how to do any exercise, always ask your physical therapist. Many exercises hardly feel like exercise at all so it’s easy to overdo it. But before you try to elevate your exercises to the next level, check in. The small movements are probably doing more than you think and ramping it up can do more harm than good. In fact, PT is as much about the small muscles and connective tissue as it is about the large muscle groups so follow directions as closely as possible. However, if you feel the exercises are too difficult or they cause significant pain, contact your therapist. Similarly, if exercises seem unhelpful or entirely too easy, bring it up at your next appointment.
While you’re at it, discuss challenges you’ve incurred while trying to fit in your PT. For example, if you put in long hours at the office, let them know so they can cater exercises to that environment. The same goes for the car, the plane, or the hotel room.
At the Office
Most PT exercises are versatile and location independent, meaning you can do them anywhere. However, if getting on the floor at the office isn’t going to work, you can perform exercises against a wall, free standing, or even at your desk. Depending on what you’re being treated for, your therapist can help you identify exercises you can incorporate into your work day while using proper techniques.
On a Plane
If you struggle with back or neck pain, airplane rides can exacerbate the situation. Plus, it’s not easy to drop to the ground or lean against a wall while in the air. However, you can perform abdominal strengthening exercises in your seat, relax back muscles, perform stretches and properly support your neck. The key is to think ahead for airplane travel.
Take advantage of wait times in the airport, performing simple stretches and exercises instead of mindlessly scrolling on your phone.
Once on the plane, use your sweatshirt rolled up behind your back for lower lumbar support. Bring a tennis ball or racket ball to sit or lean on for counter-pressure. Also make sure you get up to walk the aisle every hour or so, as the fasten seatbelt sign allows.
At Your Destination
Doing physical therapy away from home is typically not much different than what you’re used to. Physical therapy at home generally doesn’t require any equipment, but if it does, be sure to bring your stretchy band or other lightweight aids with you. Most often, you can find a substitute. For example, if you typically place a yoga block beneath you, use a rolled up hotel towel instead. Similarly, skip hauling the weights and use soup cans at your vacation rental instead.
What to Do if You’re Going on Vacation
Firstly, and most importantly, don’t skip your physical therapy home exercises. You don’t want to set yourself back.
Secondly, check in with your physical therapist before you go. Your PT can give you stretching and strengthening exercises to progress through even when you can’t get into the office.
Thirdly, hold yourself accountable. If you’ve been attending PT in person two times a week and doing exercises at home three times per week, make a plan to keep it up while you’re away. Remember, PT home exercises generally only take 15-30 minutes a day. Do yourself a favor and stick with it so you maintain your strength and mobility. Create a routine, doing your PT first thing in the morning before you make excuses or get busy doing other things.
Finally, contact your PT if you have any questions or concerns, even when you’re away from home.