You injured yourself. The healing process is over, and now it’s time to restore movement. If you have a script for physical therapy, use it completely before you start trying your own form of therapy. Consult with your therapist to determine which exercises are best for you. However, if your doctor never gave you a script for PT, you’re on your own and you must create your own therapy.
Currently, this is my situation. After breaking my neck and wearing a cervical collar for 3 months, I was released with no PT script. This is frustrating because it is so much easier to have someone else check your form while doing a tough exercise than it is for you to do yourself. So, if you have a PT script, use it!
However, if you have been released from PT or are released and encouraged to move, here’s a guide on how to create your own therapy.
Create Your Own Therapy
1. Learn everything you can about your injury and the bones and muscles involved.
With the internet at our fingertips, there’s no reason why you should stay ignorant about your body. Think of it this way, if you couldn’t take your car to a mechanic anymore, you would learn everything about your car that you could so that you could take care of it. It’s the same principle here. Physical therapists are like mechanics for the human body. If you have an issue and no PT to help you, it’s time to start learning!
2. Think about everything that happened to your body while you were healing.
Let’s take my broken neck as an example. Yes, the cervical collar makes it so the whole cervical spine doesn’t move, but what else? Well, there’s a relationship between your head and tail, so it stands to reason that if my head hasn’t been able to move, my pelvis and sacrum might also be kind of off. Plus, it’s likely that all spinal movements (flexion, extension, rotation, and later flexion) have decreased.
With a weaker spine, my core is overall weaker. This means that I also have weaker abdominals, adductors, and gluteal muscles. So, when I pick my exercises, I will want to include exercises for these muscles as well.
Finally, think about what wearing a neck brace has done to your shoulder mobility. The neck brace forces your shoulders away from your ears and limits your arm movements. Therefore, you will also want to include exercises where your arms reach overhead and be sure to perform gentle stretches to open the shoulders.
3. Decide what movements need to be reintroduced to your body.
Again, we will use my neck situation. I was release by the doctor and given a sheet of paper saying that I need to be able to look up, look down, look to the right, look to the left, lower my right ear to my right shoulder, and lower my left ear to my left shoulder. This is all correct, however, the head frequently moves in a multi-planar direction.
When I look behind me to see if a car is coming, my head rotates both directions, but it also angles forward and slightly backward to check my car’s blind spot. It’s for this reason that only performing these simple 6 stretches won’t cut it. Although the mobility they provide is necessary, the head and cervical spine also need to have the skills to perform a couple of these stretches at the same time. The best way to build this skill set is by practicing multi-planar movements.
Now, let’s take a more straight-forward joint like the knee. If you have had a knee injury, you need to be able to bend and straighten your knee. Your exercises that you choose should directly pertain to bending and straightening your knee joint.
4. Pay attention to your actions.
Focus on every movement you make. It’s all on you now to rehabilitate yourself, so err on the side of caution and make sure that you don’t re-injure yourself. Take it slow. Breathe. Take breaks if you need them.
5. Find what works and keep doing it.
When you find exercises that seem to work for you and help you get stronger, make sure to keep those in your rotation. Give yourself an exercise routine most days of the week. As you get stronger and start lifting heavier weights as part of your therapy, you will want to make sure that you’re not working the same muscles on consecutive days.
6. Remember that this is all part of the process.
You’re not the first to travel down this road, and you’re not the last. With the internet at our fingertips, it’s so easy to find people who have gone through or are going through something similar. Don’t be afraid to reach out. Read up to find out what other people in similar situations have done to get better. If you have questions, ask them.
Rehabilitation can sometimes be more painful and annoying than healing, but it’s all just part of the process. Take deep breaths to help you keep your cool, and diligently do your exercises. Your recovery depends upon your metered perseverance. Do a little bit every day, and be careful not to over-do it. Slow and steady wins the race.
Did you create your own therapy? What are you doing? Let us know in the comments below.
For more on what I am doing for my cervical spine rehabilitation, I made a Cervical Spine Rehabilitation Video.
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