HEP, HEP, Hooray

Why your HEP is important

Your home exercise program (HEP) is a custom curated program that is meant to be an extension of your rehabilitation process, outside of our outpatient setting. It is a crucial part of your recovery, and here is why.

“Why do I have to do these exercises at home if I’m already doing them here with you?”

This is one of the most common questions asked by patients. Physical therapists set up an exercise plan for you to follow to help increase your strength, flexibility and mobility. These exercises are designed to help you become free of the aches and pains that brought you to physical therapy in the first place. On average, you’ll only see your physical therapist 2-3 hours a week. That is not a lot of time to correct a dysfunction or condition that has been nagging you for months or even years. The home exercise program (HEP) is an essential part to your recovery. Home exercises help you maintain the therapeutic gains made during your physical therapy sessions. By keeping up with the exercises at home, it greatly decreases your chances of regressing back to your prior level of dysfunction. It’s like a two part equation for your recovery. Compare it to trying to live a healthier life style with diet and exercise. Both are important in order see significant changes in your health. If you increase your physical activity but don’t change your diet, you may not get the changes you’d like to see and vice versa. It takes both parts of the equation to make noticeable gains. If you maintain your physical therapy appointments and your home exercise plan, you will see the changes you want for your condition.

“The exercises are uncomfortable and make me sore.”

Another common phrase we hear. It can be expected for exercises to make you feel a little uncomfortable and sore during or after they are performed. The soreness you feel should be muscular in nature. If you feel it in your joints or bones, bring it to your therapist’s attention. If at any point the exercises are causing you sharp or intense pain, discontinue the exercise.  Any pain associated with the exercises should be discussed with your physical therapy team because it is our intent for you to feel better when you leave, not worse. The team picks exercises specific to the impairments you present with that typically are effective at remediating them but not everyone is created equal so each person may feel the exercises differently.  The exercises should not inhibit your day to day activities. If you performed the exercises and cannot move the next day, chances are you went over board and did too much or you may not be doing the exercises correctly. If this is the case, bring it to your therapist’s attention during your next session. They will be able to modify, correct or prescribe a different exercise so you don’t have any excess discomfort.

“Do I have to keep doing these exercises now that I’m all better?”

At the end of your therapy session your physical therapist will likely send you home with an exercise plan to continue with after you have finished your prescribed treatment plan. These are to help you maintain and prevent the injury from returning. It’s not uncommon for people to return to physical therapy for the same issue they came in for in the first place. Because you are feeling better, you tend to not think about doing the exercises, but in most cases, people fall back into their old movement patterns and postures that increase their likelihood of re-injury.

It has been estimated that about 35% of patients comply with their home exercise programs. Several studies have attributed this low compliance rate to lack of time, discomfort when performing the exercises, or not understanding the importance or purpose of the home exercises. If time is the issue, know that some of your simple exercises can be performed while doing everyday things like watching TV, doing simple chores, sitting at your work desk or while in the car. For more complicated exercises, try to make the time to fit it into your daily routine. If you can’t complete all the exercises at once, it’s ok! Break them up throughout the course of the day. It’s important that you just complete them.

When discomfort or an incomplete understanding of the exercises is limiting you from completing the home exercise plan, speak to your therapist and they will be able to clear up any confusion you may have about the exercises. They will be able to tell you what you should feel when performing the exercises.

If you are having any pain or discomfort that just doesn’t seem to be going away, take advantage of our complimentary pain consultation by calling any of our clinics. You’ll be able to talk to our highly skilled physical therapists and see if physical therapy will benefit you and your pain.

Written by Andy Broomhall, PTA

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