What is therapeutic exercise?
The goal of any exercise program is to leave you feeling healthier and stronger than when you began. Therapeutic exercise has similar goals, but incorporates a wide range of activities that help you regain or maintain your strength, flexibility, balance, endurance, or stability. Whether you have been injured, experienced an illness, or are simply noticing you are losing your physical abilities, therapeutic exercise can prevent impairment and disability while improving your overall fitness. Typically performed as a part of a hand therapy treatment plan, this type of exercise is prescribed by a hand therapist.
Types of Therapeutic Exercises
Each therapeutic exercise is classified by its purpose.
- Range of Motion – These exercises are aimed at increasing the range of motion in your joints and soft tissues. This may be done through active, passive or assisted stretching activities designed to help your joints move better, without pain.
- Muscle Performance – Increasing power, endurance and muscle strength is vital to good balance and stability as well as bone and joint health. Resistance exercises and endurance exercises are designed to increase muscle strength without injury.
- Posture – Hours spent at desks, bending over keyboards, poor muscle tone, or simple habit can all lead to terrible posture. What you may not realize is that posture has a direct impact on muscle strength, balance and a tendency toward injury. Posture exercises are aimed at correcting poor posture, not just when you exercise, but in your life in general which can alleviate aches and pains.
- Balance & Coordination – Every time you stand or sit, bones and muscles work in conjunction with one another to help you remain upright. Every time you stand, walk, sit, brush your teeth, cook a meal, or take care of your daily activities, you are testing your coordination between the muscular and skeletal systems in your body. Your ability to care for yourself or your loved ones depends on your ability to balance and the coordination of your arms, legs, hands, and feet. That is why balance and coordination exercises are so important, especially after an injury or illness. If you cannot balance, if you lose coordination, you lose the ability to care for yourself.
- Relaxation – Relaxation is part of therapeutic exercise? You bet! While it is important to work the muscles, joints, and soft tissues in the body, it is also important to help them relax. Pain relieving techniques including heat, cold, electrical stimulation, massage, or trigger point therapy can all help the body relax, improve your sleep, lower your blood pressure, and keep you coming back for more exercise!
- Area Specific Exercises – It’s easy to think of exercise as something we do with our muscles, but it is also important to help the body’s other systems. In these cases, exercises that target breathing or circulation may be recommended to help speed healing, improve blood flow or lower stress on the body.
How does therapeutic exercise relieve pain?
It may seem counterintuitive to exercise when you are in pain. After all, the last thing you want to do when you are uncomfortable is making yourself more uncomfortable. Yet when you treat pain with medication and rest, you are only allowing the supporting muscles to weaken, causing greater pain and less functionality of the area. A hand therapist is trained to evaluate your body’s function, strength and range of motion as well as your pain levels when you perform basic tasks. They can then create a customized treatment plan, including therapeutic exercise, that can strengthen weak areas, restore function to healing or surgically repaired joints, and reduce your overall pain levels. Not only can you experience a pain-free life, you can do so with greater strength and endurance than before. Still curious how hand therapy services and therapeutic exercise can help you? Let us conduct an appointment and help you get on the road to recovery.