The Do’s and Don’ts of Do-it-Yourself Physical Therapy

A quick online search will show that many people want to know “physical therapy you can do at home” and there are just as many popular results that offer all sorts of suggestions. From more garden-variety advice like foam rolling, to stretches that probably shouldn’t be tried without a spotter, you can find all sorts of online advice for ways you can get the benefits you’d find in a physical therapist’s office from the comfort of your living room. Yet as with anything found online, this is one more query result you should definitely take with a grain of salt. We offer some Do’s and Don’ts advice about seeking PT from the couch and through the services of your internet provider.

Don’t:

Try aggressive stretching, treatments, or poses for un-diagnosed problems. We get it – no one wants to see a provider and go through the whole process of the appointment and exam and follow-up care. In this case, having a trained medical professional recommend appropriate treatment is vastly preferable to making what you assume is a semi-educated guess and then more guess-work at home PT. Those stretches may not accomplish anything other than to cause you more pain and actually inhibit your progress.

Overdo things. Let’s assume you find an online home PT suggestion for a problem you already know you have. In this case, more isn’t better. When you’re under the care of an actual physical therapist, s/he will assign you homework with a specific number of sets and repetitions of an exercise. You can easily overdo, fatigue, and overwork muscles, tendons, and tissue that needs to recover.

Push past pain. Again, even assuming you find a home exercise that might help the issue you’re having, be sure not to ignore pain. A physical therapist will be sure to give you home exercises that don’t cause discomfort or pain and advise you of how to best manage any pain you’re already experiencing. Worsening pain or discomfort is a definite red flag.

Do:

Be conservative. Certain home treatments like ice, heat, and gentle stretching are much less likely to cause problems – even if you have misidentified the issue you’re searching in the first place. Another conservative treatment is rest: you’re far less likely to do any further damage by simply resting the offending area and taking a few days off from your usual hobbies and recreational activities.

Seek a solid source of information. If you absolutely must turn to Dr. Google, at least ensure that you’re finding the right source. There are many medical websites that are thoroughly vetted by medical contributors and which offer both appropriate advice and words of warning. Stay away from message boards and social media, where you’ll find plenty of misery but little real medical help.

Visit an actual physical therapist. It should go without saying that if you are irritated or exasperated enough to search for home exercises to do, you might want to just cut out the middle man (your laptop) and visit an actual, qualified physical therapist. S/he can create a real home program and also instruct you on the proper form – which is something you cannot get from a web page!

Body One Physical Therapy is full of caring, highly-trained physical therapists who are skilled at assessing patients and working with them both in office and also designing home programs. Get off the computer and visit one of our four Central Indiana locations: North Indianapolis, South Indianapolis, Fishers, and Zionsville. Don’t rely on a Google search when you could have a professional help you back to health!

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