In the field of physical therapy, there are three letters that can cause some of the greatest distress among therapists: H-E-P. HEP stands for home exercise program, and it is one of the most pivotal components of any patient’s rehabilitation – which is why therapists can become frustrated and concerned when it is not followed.
Home exercise programs are not only important just for the sake of doing exercise at home (or just doing what your therapists says), it is important for the overall well-being and continued health of the tissue that required you to seek therapy in the first place. Most patients do not have the ability to see a physical therapist in a clinical setting 4 or 5 times a week, because work and life gets in the way. That’s why an HEP lasting only 15-20 minutes per day can be of the utmost importance in overall progress, and it can sometimes be the deciding factor in a positive vs a negative outcome.
When prescribing a home exercise program, most therapists do not have the patient do exactly what they would do in a therapy session. Rather, they select 4-5 exercises that they determine will be the most beneficial for a patient’s progress. When patients perform these exercises outside of PT, they continue to gain added strength, mobility, and stability. This not only has a positive impact on the patient’s performance level in their daily lives, but it also allows them to make more progress when they are in PT during in-clinic hours and are being observed by skilled clinicians.
Physical therapists are not magicians (although some people may think we are), and having hands-on skilled work for only 20 or 30 minutes two or three times a week alone is not enough for a patient to make progress and recover quickly. PT is a two way street during rehabilitation – it is the primary responsibility of the therapists to own, dictate, and carry out a specific plan of care, but patients also have to take ownership of their bodies and their commitment to recovery.
Patients often wonder why or how elite and professional athletes stay healthy during their competitive season and throughout the rest of the year. What most people may not realize is that those exact athletes are being seen by professional clinicians seven days a week, and sometimes receive 2-3 treatments per day to prevent and recover from injury. This adds up to quite an extensive amount of time devoted to rehab and preventative care. While most of us don’t have access to the same resources as pro athletes, we all have the same number of hours in a day. Yes, we may miss one of our favorite TV shows or some couch time, but health and quality of life far outweighs anything that falls into the previously mentioned realm. We can all find at least 15-20 minutes per day to devote to ourselves, our well-being, and always moving towards the ultimate goal – good health.
Remember to work on your craft daily, and contact your local Foothills physical therapy clinic if you are in need of a skilled PT.