Prevent Injury With At-Home Physical Therapy


At the ripe, young age of 24, I have already gone through two stints of physical therapy – once for my lower back and most recently for my shoulder. My lower back was weak and felt sharp, excruciating pain therefore I was required to perform an odd muscle contraction exercise followed by extensive electrical stimulation combined with the muscle contractions. Regardless, my back actually became stronger although it still aches occasionally. My shoulder was abused for 20+ years by throwing baseballs and ski crashes. It resulted in bone spurs and a partially torn rotator cuff. The treatment: at-home physical therapy. I have to thank my orthopedist for being honest and saving me money by providing me with the necessary exercises immediately following my diagnosis. It also saved me from surgery and I ultimately got my shoulder strength back, although I still have to perform the exercises to this day.

What I concluded from my two “therapies” was that physical therapy can be performed at home. That being said, I still believe a physician should be sought first if the pain is unbearable. However, I learned numerous exercises that I could complete in the privacy of my own home after being diagnosed with these so-called injuries.

What I also concluded was that injuries could potentially be prevented before they even occur. This of course is not some newfound conclusion by me, but physical therapy is in fact not just a way to rehabilitate, but an opportunity to prevent injuries. If you have the dedication, basic physical therapy-like exercises can be performed during your workouts or in your spare time. Many do not even require the use of equipment let alone a gym membership leading back to my previous conclusion.

Rather than taking part in physical therapy, we can perform workouts and exercises routinely to prevent injury. As you progress through your workouts, you can begin participating in more advanced exercises that may involve physical therapy equipment, often weights or exercise balls.

Below I will explain a few physical therapy exercises that you can perform at home, without equipment, whether you are feeling pain or just want to proactively to avoid common injuries.

Knee Exercises

  • Common Injury: Many people for pain around and/or under their kneecap – this is known as patellofemoral pain syndrome.
  • Targeted Treatment: Stretching and strengthening exercises that target the soft tissues around the knee, including the hamstrings, calves, and quadriceps.
  • The Exercise: The straight leg lift involves lying on your back with your injured leg (or targeted strengthening leg) fully extended forward and elevated several inches, 6-12 approximately, off the floor. Hold this position for five to ten seconds, lower your leg back to the floor, and repeat five to ten times.

Shoulder Exercises

  • Common Injury: The shoulder experiences a number of conditions, including bursitis, arthritis and tendinitis as well as ligament and muscle strain and shoulder separation.
  • Targeted Treatment: Improve/restore joint function and treat conditions listed above.
  • The Exercise: Stand with your unaffected arm closest to the back of a chair, lean forward and hold the chair lightly for support and balance. Let your injured arm hang below your chest and gently swing it back and forth several times, then side to side multiple times and finally in small circular motion, both clockwise and counterclockwise. Progressively increase the range of motion each time.

Lower Back Exercises

  • Common Injury: Lower back pain.
  • Targeted Treatment: Stretching and strengthening the abdominals and erector spinae.
  • The Exercise: Perform basic crunches or situps to strengthen the abdominal muscles. The bridge exercise exercises the erector spinae muscle group, which is in your lower back. To perform the bridge, lie on your back resting your head in your hands, with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Elevate your hips your torso and thighs align diagonally and hold for 5+ seconds.

Hamstring Stretches

  • Common Injury: Hamstring pull, or strain, which can occur when muscles and tendons beyond their conventional limits.
  • Targeted Treatment: Stretching your hamstrings may help rehabilitate hamstring pulls or strains gently.
  • The Exercise: One method of stretching involves sitting with your legs extended forward and reaching toward your toes until you feel a light stretch in your hamstrings. Emphasis on light, you do not want to feel excessive pain by reaching too far and too fast. Hold the stretch for 10 to 30 seconds and try to increase the distance of your reach gradually.


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