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Welcome to the world of physical therapy. You just met with your PT, had an evaluation and then your therapist said, “Here’s your homework”. Wait, what? There’s homework?

Yes, there’s homework!

During your evaluation, your PT pinpointed specific issues that could be contributing to the issue that brought you into the physical therapy clinic. We then advised you on specific activities, adjustments in movement patterns, activity modifications, and/or strategies to recover from pain. All of these recommendations need to extend beyond the treatment session and become a part of your daily life. These all can translate to your home exercise program. In fact, when you have completed your rehabilitation program, your body should have new and better habits and you shouldn’t even have to think about those recommendations!

Why are home exercise programs important?

All therapy has homework because therapy is a process! There’s lots of ground to cover while in the clinic, and homework extends the benefits of your time in the clinic. Specifically, when you are working on changing a movement pattern, the musculoskeletal and nervous systems need to learn and adapt. Getting your body to adapt takes a while! For example, if you came to physical therapy and said your biggest challenge was poor posture while sitting and working from home. You don’t just learn to sit upright all day within one session. First, you need to learn proper posture, followed by how to achieve it, and then develop the endurance to stay there. If you only worked on these things within a short physical therapy session, your body wouldn’t be able to recreate the changes readily.

What does a Home Exercise Program do for me as a patient?

Physical therapy is all about self-care. You are here to “fix a problem”. That problem can be persistent pain or an injury. By attending physical therapy, you took the first steps in addressing the problem, but you need to continue on the path. Part of self-care is the Home Exercise Program. Typically, the HEP will decrease your pain quicker by frequently working through the issues and limitations related to your complaints. Your body adapts more quickly to the “new normal” when you increase the input into your nervous and musculoskeletal systems. Also, who doesn’t want to feel better sooner? On the plus side, the quicker your body adapts the fewer physical therapy sessions you will need!

Will I still get better if I don’t do my homework?

Just like in school with the saying “C’s get degrees too”; you will move forward with the rehabilitation process, but it may not be as smooth or quick to return you back to the life you want to live. Your home exercise program is your ticket to the fast track of recovery.


“Written by Amy DelVecchio, PT, DPT, OCS”