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What are Therapeutic Exercises?

Therapeutic exercises are well-planned physical activities or systematic body movements or postures performed to improve physical function and reduce pain. These exercises may focus on one or multiple areas of the body.

When are Therapeutic Exercises Recommended?

Your doctor may suggest therapeutic exercises:

  • To treat pain and loss of function associated with acute or chronic injury or disease
  • For post-surgery rehabilitation
  • To prevent future injury or disability

These exercises help strengthen muscles to take the stress off painful areas. They also help you improve movement to avoid injury.

Planning your Therapeutic Exercise

  • Your therapist will interact with your doctor or surgeon to plan a therapeutic exercise program that is ideal for you.
  • Information on your health history and current health status is obtained.
  • Expectations and concerns regarding therapeutic exercise and outcomes are discussed.
  • An individualized plan is formulated.
  • The exercises may be specific to a joint or a region of your body. A generalized exercise program may be recommended in certain cases.
  • Proper movement and posture during the exercises are ensured by demonstration and supervision.
  • The exercises must be performed in a safe and distraction-free environment.

Orthopedic Therapeutic Exercise

Therapeutic exercises may be recommended for an orthopedic condition or for rehabilitation after orthopedic surgery. The therapy usually lasts 4 to 6 weeks. It involves stretching and strengthening exercises for your muscles, tendons, and joints.

The following therapeutic exercises are typically recommended:

Therapeutic Exercises for the Shoulder and Rotator Cuff

Pendulum Exercises: You will lean forward supporting yourself with one hand while moving the other hand back and forth.

Crossover arm stretch: Holding your elbow with one hand pull the arm across your chest and maintain this stretch for 30 seconds.

Passive internal rotation: Holding the ends of a stick behind your back, pull one end horizontally outwards to stretch the opposite shoulder.

Passive external rotation: Holding the ends of a stick in front of you, push one end of the stick while keeping your opposite elbow close to your trunk. This externally rotates the other arm passively

Internal and External rotation: These exercises are performed using an elastic band which provides resistance as the shoulder is internally and externally rotated.

Sleeper stretch: You will lie on your affected shoulder with an arm extending forward and your forearm raised up. With the help of your other arm pull the raised forearm downwards till you feel a stretch.

Elbow flexion and extension: While standing hold a weight in one hand and bend your elbow raising your hand to your shoulder.

Scapula setting: While lying face down bring your shoulder blades together and move them down along your back as far as possible.

Bent-over Horizontal abduction: Lie face down on a table with one arm hanging downwards. Raise the arms perpendicular to the body holding a weight in the hand.

Therapeutic Exercises for the Knee

Heel cord stretch: Stand with your affected leg behind your unaffected leg and the knee of the leg in front slightly bent. With both heels on the floor thrust your hip forward and remain in this stretch for 30 seconds. You can support yourself against a wall during this exercise.
Standing Quadriceps stretch: While standing with support bend one knee and hold your foot bringing the heel up to your buttocks. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds.

Supine Hamstring stretch: Lie on your back with your knees up. Holding your thigh with both hands bring one knee to your chest.

Half squats: Stand straight with your legs slightly apart. Lower your hips as if you are about to sit down (about 10 inches) and raise yourself up again without going into a full squat. You can place your hands on your hips or straight out during this movement.
Leg extensions: Sit on a chair and extend the affected leg until it is parallel to the floor.

Leg raises: Lie on your back and prop yourself up on your elbows. Keep your affected leg straight and raise the knee of the other leg with your feet flat on the floor. Now keeping the affected leg straight, raise it off the floor about 10 inches.

Hip abduction: Lie on your side with the affected leg up. Raise your leg up keeping it straight and then lower it down. The lower leg is bent for stability.

Leg presses: Lie on your back and hold the end of an elastic band. Bend one leg and place your foot on the middle of the band. Then straighten the leg against resistance.

Therapeutic exercise for the Spine

Head roll: Slowly roll your head in clockwise and anticlockwise directions while standing or sitting in a chair.

Plank: Lie on your stomach with your upper body raised and supported on your elbows. Raise your hips off the floor using your abdominal muscles then raise your knees off the floor using your buttock muscles. Hold the position for 30 seconds. You may also perform side plank by lying on your side on one elbow then raising your hips till your body forms a straight line.

Kneeling back extension: Get on your hands and knees. Round your shoulders rocking forward to stretch your back then lower your hips to your heels keeping your arms straight and your hands on the floor.

Knee to chest: Lie at your back and bend one knee towards the chest using your hand while pressing your spine to the floor. Perform this movement with the other leg and finally with both legs.

Bird dog: Get on your hands and knees. Raise one arm until it points forward and is in line with your back. Then raise the opposite knee until that leg is in line your back. Hold this position for 15 seconds.

Rotation stretch: Sit on the floor and cross one leg over the other with the knee above raised up. Place the opposite elbow on the outside of the knee and use that support to help you twist your upper body towards the side of the raised leg.

Bridge: Lie on your back with your knees raised up and your arms at your side on the floor. Lift your pelvis until your body forms a straight line from your knees to your shoulders. Remain in this position for 15 seconds then lower your pelvis down.

Abdominal crunch: Lie on your back with your knees raised up and your hands behind your head. Lift the head and the shoulder blades off the floor using your abdominal muscles.

  • Rothman Orthopaedic Institute
  • The University of California
  • Navy Medicine
  • Veteran Owned Business
  • Ao Spine
  • Thomas Jefferson University East Falls Campus
  • Backbone Healthworks
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