Help Us Help You, the Importance of Home Exercise Programs

When injuries arise and you must begin rehabilitation at a physical therapy facility it is very common to be given a home exercise program. Home exercise programs may seem like a very small component of the rehabilitation process but they are vital in recovering from an injury and they may even help you get back on your feet, participating in your favorite activities more quickly.

Home exercise programs are prescribed by a physical therapist and are selected based on deficits that were found during an initial evaluation. These exercises can be composed of strengthening exercises, stretches, postural corrections, foam rolling, or inflammation management. Every patient’s home exercise program is different and specific to his or her condition and presentation. The exercises that are prescribed are chosen to help in the correction underlying impairments such as muscle imbalances, trigger point release, or flexibility limitations.

Most individuals come to therapy two or three times a week, which is only about three to four hours depending on the length of therapy sessions. This is such a small percentage of time to help correct deficits that have often taken years to develop into dysfunction and pain. Home exercise programs allow gains from each treatment session to be carried over and maintained until the next session.

When injuries or painful conditions arise physical therapy often involves the retraining of muscles in order for them to contract and function properly. It is important to frequently activate these muscles in the proper way in order for muscle retraining to occur. When the primary deficit is joint motion limitations, therapy sessions will focus on improving motion at the joint through exercises as well as techniques performed by a therapist. In order for these improvements to be carried over to the next treatment session for further gains to occur, patients must perform exercises at home to maintain this improved mobility.

Once patients have completed rehabilitation and they are discharged from physical therapy they will most often be given exercises to continue performing. Most often patients do not continue the exercises because they feel that they are better. It is important to continue completing the exercise program in order to avoid falling back into the old habits that originally caused pain or injury. Old habits can range from the over activation of certain muscles that can create muscle imbalances and can lead to dysfunction, to improper posture that can place stress on certain areas of the body and cause pain. By completing the exercise program your muscles can continue to be trained to work properly in order to help prevent the recurrence of injuries.

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 most exercises can be performed while completing other activities. If the exercises are more difficult and require full attention it is recommended to allot a specific time for the completion of the exercise program, or breaking the program up into smaller segments throughout the day. When it is discomfort that is limiting the performance of exercises this should be discussed with your therapist. Your therapist will be able to describe what sensations are normal while performing the exercises. Your therapist can also modify the exercise so that less discomfort is experienced during the program. If understanding the importance or purpose of the exercise program is what is limiting the performance of the activity your therapist will be able to describe what the benefit of each exercise is.

At Total Performance Physical Therapy exercise programs are given to aid in the correction of underlying deficits. After an initial evaluation and throughout the duration of treatment home exercises may be given and progressed in order to help patients recover as quickly as possible. A therapist will instruct patients on how to complete their home exercises and explain their purpose. When an injury arises contact Total Performance Physical Therapy in order to begin the multimodal rehabilitation process.  For more information on physical therapy visit

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