Patient Care

No Pulling Their Legs: PTs Know If You’re Doing Your Homework

Apr. 21, 2014
If you’ve had physical therapy, you know what’s expected: You come to appointments and do exercises to improve whatever physical issue ails you. And you leave with homework: at-home versions of the exercises you practiced in clinic. Easy enough.
Until you step outside and the busy world takes control. There’s work, and family, and after-school activities. Even laundry may seem more appealing than those leg lifts or arm crunches your therapist told you to do a few times a day.
Before you know, it’s time for your next appointment. Will your PT know if you’ve slacked off? The answer is yes, so don’t try to pull your therapist’s leg, says UR Medicine's Corinne Keller.
man getting physical therapy
Your PT Knows the Truth
Physical therapists can easily tell if their patients are complying with their instructions.
The exercises prescribed for home are revisited at each therapy session, where therapists reassess technique and improvement in how well you can do the exercises. At-home exercise aim to improve strength, range of motion, and function, so if you don’t do them, your lack of progress is evident.
If you don’t follow your home program, you can’t build upon the gains you make during your clinic visits and your recovery will take longer. You need more than a few office visits per week to maintain the gains you make in strength and range of motion. Rehabbing from an injury is a daily process. Your PT gives you the tools to succeed, but you must be committed to program for it to work.
Follow-through is Essential
Physical therapy aims to:
  • restore normal function,
  • limit the chance of re-injury,
  • aid in prevention of future problems.
People who comply with their therapy and home exercise program are more likely to progress than those who do not. Setbacks and plateaus are more common for those who aren’t diligent with their therapy.
The payoff? Those who follow through tend to stay on track with their progress and are able to return to their normal activities sooner than those who don’t.
It’s Up to You
Physical therapists say your motivation to improve your function, coupled with the reason you needed therapy in the first place, has a lot to do with how well you’ll stick with your program. If your care is for a chronic pain problem, you may be less likely to follow your home exercise program than someone with an acute injury.
Those with chronic pain may struggle to stay motivated while coping with the challenges of a long-term problem. People with sports or other acute injuries are often highly motivated by their desire to return to their activity as soon as possible.
Bottom Line: You Benefit
Physical therapists are there to help you get well, stay well, and get back to a more normal life of activity. Take advantage of your therapist’s expertise and, if you’re having trouble following through on home exercise, talk frankly about it with your provider rather than making excuses.
Physical therapists understand how difficult it can be to stay on track and are there to help you reach your goals.
Corinne Keller, PT
Corrine Keller, PT, DPT, is a UR Medicine staff physical therapist with the Department of Orthopaedics and Rehabilitation. You can learn more about the health services provided by the Sports Medicine division by visiting