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PT's Guide to Physical Therapy Home Exercises in 2023

Discover how to optimize physical therapy home exercises for patient retention and practice success in 2023.

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PT's Guide to Physical Therapy Home Exercises in 2023

Modern physical therapy involves more than just in-person sessions; home exercise programs (HEPs) are pivotal to healing and recovery from any injury. While every PT should provide high-quality care in a clinical setting, HEPs are just as important.

Many patients struggle to commit to a HEP for a few reasons, usually a lack of confidence or education, but failing to engage in exercise programs properly can result in adverse patient outcomes.

Fortunately, there are steps that PTs can take to ensure their patients feel empowered and capable of completing physical therapy exercises at home.

This article discusses both the challenges of HEPs and how PTs can collaborate with clients to create a sustainable, effective treatment plan in the clinic and at home.

Main Takeaways From This Article:

  • Many physical therapists face challenges with patients adhering to home exercise programs due to a lack of confidence, pain during movement, and minimal patient education.
  • Customized programs ensure patients experience pain relief and regain strength in their muscles.
  • Overviews, photos, and do's and don'ts in every home exercise program help patients to fully understand and visualize each movement and how to perform it properly.

Physical Therapy Exercises at Home: Challenges for PTs

While creating physical therapy exercises may be simple for a physical therapist, engaging patients and getting them to commit to a home exercise program can be challenging. In this section, we'll discuss the primary challenges a physical therapist may face when working with patients in developing and maintaining a home exercise program.

Engaging Patients in Home Exercises

Some patients may be highly motivated to complete their home exercises, while others may struggle to commit to performing these stretches and activities as recommended. The physical therapist's job is to motivate and encourage each patient to work their muscles and heal their injury, but it can be challenging. Some clients may be in so much pain that they don't want to adhere to the program, while others may not feel they can effectively perform the exercises without their physical therapist.

Home Exercises and Patient Retention

Non-adherence to physical therapy exercises can be as high as 70%, proving the challenge that physical therapists face when working with clients living with pain and injury. For patients committed to engaging in these exercises, pain reduction is more likely, improving their outlook on physical therapy and improving patient retention. On the other hand, for clients who fail to adhere to these programs, their pain often improves much slower, and their confidence in physical therapy can decrease.

Difficulties of Creating Home Exercise Programs

Each patient requires a unique treatment plan, requiring the physical therapist to spend significant time designing effective and personalized home exercise programs. Whether it's a superficial muscle injury or a more complex body system issue, creating custom exercise programs requires attention to detail and critical thinking to properly design a program that will benefit the patient.

How Good Home Exercise Programs Benefit Your Practice

By creating well-designed home exercise programs, you can adequately showcase your value as a PT, enhance patient outcomes, improve client satisfaction, and boost your success and reputation as a professional practitioner. The more success your clients experience with exercise programs at home, the more confident they will be in your abilities and physical therapy altogether.

Tips for Designing Physical Therapy Home Exercise Programs

Core Principles of Successful HEPs

A few factors consistently contribute to a successful HEP, regardless of injury. These core principles include the following:

  • Simple, straightforward movements that are easy to understand
  • Personalized plans that are directly tailored to each patient's injury and treatment plan
  • Every movement is easy to follow and complete with confidence
  • Each movement engages the muscles surrounding the injury adequately

Include Overviews of Each Exercise

Before diving into the exercises, include a brief but thorough description of each movement so patients feel confident and capable of performing each one.

Photos Enhance Exercise Comprehension

Some patients feel empowered by a written description, while others may be visual learners. In this case, using photos and videos that clients can reference will dramatically increase how accurately they recreate the exercises at home. If they need clarification on a movement, they can easily refer to the picture or video to ensure they're performing the movement correctly.

Include Caveats for Exercises

Some exercises are straightforward, while others may require a few caveats to ensure clarity. Many therapists include do's and don'ts that help patients ensure they're performing exercises correctly. These may include tips and recommendations like "Slowly lower your legs to avoid muscle strain" or "Avoid straightening your right knee during this movement" to prevent overextending.

Customize HEPs as Much as Possible

By offering a fully customized home exercise program for each patient, a physical therapist can increase their value as a health care providers and ensure their patients can reduce pain and improve their range of motion and overall function in the injured area.

Best Practices in 2023 for Home Exercise Programs

As technology evolves, physical therapists must follow suit. With access to online programs and software to communicate with patients, physical therapy involves much more than passing out HEP printouts and hoping clients do what's recommended. Modern therapists can provide programs with training and exercises in audio, video, and photo format to aid in comprehension for their patients.

Tips for Providing Value in HEPs

  • Design a HEP alongside each patient, getting their buy-in and empowering them to participate.
  • Make the HEP as flexible as possible to improve participation and outcomes.
  • Run through the program in person and provide feedback and encouragement so the client feels confident performing the movements independently.
  • Communicate often via text or social media, and have check-ins with your clients to see how they're doing and track their progress.
  • Collaborate with each client to determine what goals they want to achieve and how to get there with a HEP.
  • Make modifications as necessary and update the HEP to match the patient's progress.

Bottom Line: The Power of Home Exercises in Physical Therapy

Home exercise programs are critical to recovery on the path to healing. However, they present unique challenges; client engagement and education are the most significant obstacles in this environment.

Leveraging online home exercise programs allows physical therapists to empower their clients through comprehensive photos and videos. MWTherapy supports physical therapists in delivering modern, accessible HEP recommendations via cloud-based software. Explore the software and book a demo here.

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