strength training after physical therapy

Patients or individuals recovering from injuries must get into strength training after physical therapy. Engaging in this type of training improves muscular imbalances, coordination, and general health to avoid another trip to your therapist.

Strength training should complement physical therapy to reinstate the body’s flexibility, strength, and stability. Programs that complement physical therapy sessions are called post-physical therapy exercises. For patients still in pain or recuperating from injuries, these may seem burdensome. The result, however, justifies the additional load in terms of physical and mental exertion.

Some types of post-physical therapy exercises are isometric exercises, progressive resistance exercises (PRE), and agility training. Neuromuscular training, balance, and plyometric exercises are also common post-therapy regimens.

Isometric exercises involve creating tension in both the joint and muscle by pushing against a maximum force with minimal effort like wall presses. To perform progressive resistance exercises, use a dumbbell to add tension in both the joint and muscles. Plyometric exercises require rapid stretching and contraction to induce neuromuscular interaction, improving healing while regaining mobility and strength. Certain hybrid strength training programs combine several types of exercises to optimize rehabilitation period or recovery results. However, only skilled and experienced physical therapist should combine such exercises because of the high risks of injury involved.

Although there are many fitness programs designed to complement the recovery process of patients undergoing physical therapy, few deliver on the promises they make. Some programs for strength training after physical therapy do not actually help people recover from injury. In fact, there are regimens that put patients at risk of more injury. Therefore, it is important to carry out due diligence when selecting a personal trainer for strength training or physical therapy. Look for a physical therapist who understands strength training and can guide a personal trainer. You could also find a personal trainer who has a history of working with patients after physical therapy.

Important considerations before engaging in your chosen strength training after physical therapy  

strength training after physical therapy

Before starting any strength training regimen, you must take some information into consideration. The first is your physical ability and mental state. A good example would be swimmers. If you’re a professional swimmer, you need a rigorous physical training regimen to reduce the likelihood of injury and fatigue while maintaining your form. Other swimmers, such as those that swim for leisure at home, might not need physical therapy unless they are older, have been injured, or have undergone surgery.

The second consideration is provisions for safety and avoiding re-injury or additional injuries. It is not uncommon for overly enthusiastic people to ignore safety and personal fitness to improve themselves and end up in a worse state. While majority of physical therapy programs are designed to rehabilitate and reinstate, mismanagement and over enthusiasm may put you at risk of injury.

Here are some  steps that could help you avoid injury while in strength training after physical therapy;

  1. 1. Identify the right pre-exercise dynamic warm-up routine that applies to you.
  2. 2. Engage in warm-up sets for each weight exercise of the entire strength training regimen.
  3. 3. Always avoid overloading yourself and keep off the maximum loads when new in a routine or returning from injury.
  4. 4. In case of pain or discomfort, stop the exercise immediately. Never ignore your body’s messages on pain, strain and discomfort when returning to a new stimuli! This is particularly important if you are doing an exercise for the first time! If you are an athlete and can differentiate pain from soreness, this still applies at the beginning, but you have some wiggle room.
  5. 5. Create a suitable cooling down routine that involves breathing exercises, relaxation, and mental training.
  6. 6. Do not get carried away by the need for improvement. Set a safe pace and frequency with enough rest and recovery period between the sessions.
  7. 7. Always make sure your physical therapist or personal trainer is at hand to assist. Never attempt any exercises that involve weights without proper instruction and guidance.

Importance of strength training after physical therapy

strength training after physical therapy

Here are some reasons strength training after physical therapy is important.

  1. 1. Rebuilding muscle –If you had surgical treatments, are suffering from certain muscular conditions, or have injury from accidents, you may need to undergo physical therapy. While it may improve joint movement and pain, strength training after physical therapy may be necessary to rebuild muscles. Certain treatment regimens such as chemotherapy for cancer and MS cause muscles to waste away. Surgical interventions for some injuries and diseases also affect various muscles that are rendered immobile due to nerve damage or surgical implants. A simple low back strain also perpetuates over time and is often a sign of an area which failed over years of improper stress distribution and overload. Therefore, strength is key for retraining and redistributing bodily stress at the injury site and the entire body. Strength training complements the physical therapists’ work by enabling such patients to build muscle tissue and incorporate strength during recovery. These exercises help the patient to recover muscular mass while building strength through various forms of resistance training exercises.
  2. 2. Restoring bone strength and density –Some patients that require physical therapy have undergone medical treatments that confine them to the bed for extended periods. Such sedentary lifestyle leads to muscle loss associated with the loss of bone density. As patients recuperate in a stationary position, their muscles waste away due to lack of exercise and exertion leading to weak bones. However, strength training provides them with the chance to recover bone density through muscular regeneration. While undergoing normal physical therapy, they are also placed in special strength training programs aimed at building lost muscles to reverse bone density losses and improve their bone structure. Various forms of resistance training exercises that characterize strength training enable them to improve their musculoskeletal health, which optimizes the rate of overall recovery.
  3. 3. Recharging metabolism –One of the most important processes among people requiring physical therapy is metabolism. Without a healthy metabolism, all other treatment and rehabilitation processes fail because the body cannot access and utilize the nutrients it requires to heal itself. One method that medical practitioners and physical therapists use to improve their patients’ metabolism is strength training. It encourages patients to exercise their muscles using resistance training exercises which requires a constant supply of glucose and proteins. By incorporating strength training alongside physical and medical therapies, PTs encourage their bodies to build muscle thus improving their metabolism. Strength training assists their bodies to utilize the nutrients it acquires through food better thus improving overall metabolism and health.
  4. 4. Improves mental health – Exercises that improve strength, flexibility, and overall health have been shown to have a positive mental effect on the subject. Strength training forms an important part of many contemporary physical therapy programs because of its mental health benefits. Some people who have been into accidents or who have gone through a debilitating illness often experience depression, anxiety, or other forms of mental health condition. Including strength training exercises in their physical therapy programs could uplift their spirits and help them recover faster. It also builds confidence in movement. After an injury, some may fear movement or strain on the injury. Learning that exercise can be performed safely and understanding that it’s normal to have soreness and aches from training (good pain!) are keys for recovery and building mental fortitude.
  5. 5. Decreasing physical discomfort associated with muscle pain – Chronic pain is a common reason many get the services of physical therapists. This type of pain could be caused by past injuries, past surgeries, or poor ergonomics at home, in the car or at work. Repeated exposure to harmful stimuli could eventually result in pain that cannot be treated using painkillers. PTs often use strength training exercises to alleviate chronic muscle pain. These exercises encourage the muscle cells to regenerate while rehabilitating the joints involved. When carried out after physical therapy, such exercises complement the body’s natural tendency to heal on its own.
  6. 6. Combating immobility caused by certain treatments and injuries – Some medical interventions may have debilitating side effects, such as loss of limb function or temporary paralysis. Part of the physical therapy objectives is to restore mobility and control while reducing pain and discomfort. Strength training complements the process by exercising both the musculoskeletal and cardiovascular systems. It could also improve motor control in some patients.

During the course of the strength training process following physical therapy, one should always strive to have a positive attitude. Although a professional PT or trainer can assist with counseling, it helps to be positive and have the right frame of mind when starting the therapy. While online guides offer a lot of useful information, nothing can replace advice and assistance from a professionally trained and certified physical therapist or fitness trainer. You should never attempt strength training without professional advice and assistance. Additionally, don’t combine strength training exercises with dietary supplements or steroids without consulting a healthcare professional. Doing so could put you at risk of other conditions and injuries.

References:

  • 1. Ingraham, P. (2016, November 12). Strength Training and Pain Rehabilitation. Retrieved from https://www.painscience.com/articles/strength-training.php
  • 2. Davis, K. (2017, April 28). 33 Resistance Band Exercises You Can Do Literally Anywhere. Retrieved from https://greatist.com/fitness/resistance-band-exercises
  • 3. Rehabilitation & Exercises. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.sportsinjuryclinic.net/rehabilitation-exercises
  • 4. Miller, P. R. (2016, May 31). Guide to Physical Therapy After Spinal Fusion. Retrieved from https://www.spine-health.com/treatment/physical-therapy/guide-physical-therapy-after-spinal-fusion