older woman works with a physical therapist

Live Comfortably - October 19, 2021

Get the Full Benefits of Physical Therapy with These Top 10 Tips

By Amanda Ranowsky

During the summer of 2020, my dad had surgery on his spine. He’d endured back pain for years and had increasingly frequent bouts of acute pain in his lower back. Finally, it reached a point where his doctor recommended surgery to fuse two of the vertebrae in his lower back together.

The surgery went smoothly, but his recovery did not. He had adverse reactions to the anesthesia and pain medication he received during his surgery, leading to several difficult days in hospital while they waited for him to stabilize and an agonizingly slow recovery.

When he was finally released from the hospital, he was in no position to leave home again for follow up visits or the physical therapy sessions that would help him regain strength in his back and be able to move comfortably again. That’s when Goodwin House Home Health stepped in.

Physical Therapy and Home Health

Most of us have heard of physical therapy. We may have experienced it ourselves following an injury or surgery, or in the treatment of a chronic condition.

Physical therapy (PT) is a form of treatment that aims to help you move, function and live better. When you do physical therapy, your therapist may guide you through exercises and stretches, work with you to practice using assistive devices like canes or walkers or provide massage, hot or cold therapy treatments to ease muscle pain. They also will usually teach you exercises to practice in between sessions as part of your treatment plan.

Physical therapy usually takes place in an outpatient facility. Home health physical therapy is an exception. As the name suggests, home health physical therapy takes place in your home, though there are some differences in the care provided.

Home health physical therapists, like those who visited my dad, aren’t simply physical therapists who conduct sessions in your home. They provide specialized care that has been prescribed by a doctor for a limited duration of time, usually immediately following an injury or hospital stay.

“You have to qualify for home health,” said Kelly “KC” Cardillo, a physical therapist assistant with Goodwin House Home Health. “You have to be homebound and require a lot of effort for you to leave home.” For home health physical therapy, the goal is to get you to a point where you are strong enough to leave your home to continue your treatment in an outpatient facility.

Wherever you are receiving physical therapy, KC offered top ten tips that she encourages you to follow to get the most out of your sessions.

Before Your Session

You have limited time to work with your physical therapist during each session. Ensure that you’re able to use every minute of that time toward building your health by preparing ahead of your appointment.

Tip #1: Drink More Water!

Hydration is one of the most important things you can do for your health. Make sure to drink water before, during and after your PT session to prevent low blood pressure and lightheadedness, and to keep from tiring early in your session.

Tip #2: Get Comfortable

Be dressed and ready ahead of your appointment. Wear clothes that are comfortable and allow for easy movement. Be sure to wear socks and shoes as well. Eat a light snack before your therapy session to keep up your blood sugar and your energy during the session. Finally, use the toilet shortly before your session. This will help you to be comfortable during the session and reduce the chance that you need to take time out of your session to use the bathroom.

Tip #3: Remove Distractions

Turn off or mute your cell phone. If you’re receiving home health, use a space that lends well to the best session. Put pets in another room, turn off your TV and try to have as much clutter cleared away as you can so that you have room to work.

Tip #4: Gather Everything You Need

If you’re receiving home health, have equipment such as bands and weights out and ready, as well as any paperwork your therapist will need to track your progress. If you’re going to a facility for your therapy session, be sure to have your insurance card and copayment ready, as needed, when you arrive.

During Your Session

Communication is key to getting the most out of your PT session! Talk to your therapist about how you are feeling and any questions or concerns you might have. Make sure you understand the goals they have set for your treatment, and don’t be afraid to ask for clarification if you need it.

Tip #5: Give Your Therapist an Update

Tell your therapist if you are having any pain or change in your health since your last session. Please also share if you have had any changes in medications or if you have had any recent falls.

Tip #6: Tell Your Therapist What Works for You – and What Doesn’t

Tell your therapist about the activities you enjoy, and the ones you’re not so fond of. This gives your therapist the opportunity to make your session fun and specific to you.

Tip #7: Equip Yourself for Success

Your therapist may recommend you acquire some equipment to support your recovery such as walker skis, a strap for stretching, ankle weights, etc. You may be able to purchase the equipment through your therapist at a discounted rate, or you may choose to purchase elsewhere. Talk with your therapist about the tools that would be most useful for you.

After Your Session

Getting benefits from your PT session goes beyond the session itself.

Tip #8: Schedule Your Next Appointment

Have your calendar handy so that you can schedule your next appointment as soon as you are finished with your current one. It’s important to keep up with the frequency of appointments recommended by your therapist, and scheduling your next appointment right away will help you stay on track.

Tip #9: Expect Fatigue

It’s very common to be fatigued after a PT session. Before moving on with your day, sit for a few minutes to let your body rest and recover. Use this time to hydrate!

Tip #10: Do Your Homework

Your therapist will often prescribe exercises for you to do at home, between sessions. To get the most out of your sessions, you need to do these exercises as prescribed. Doing this “homework” on the days you don’t have PT will help you keep up the strength and mobility gains made during your therapy sessions.

Back on Track

Thanks to the stellar efforts of the Goodwin House Home Health team, my dad’s recovery got back on track. Within a few weeks, he was discharged from home health, and could begin physical therapy sessions in an outpatient facility. He kept up faithfully with the treatment plan they prescribed and has now made a full recovery. A year on from his surgery, my dad is back to golfing, one of his favorite hobbies.

If you ever find yourself in need of physical therapy, follow these tips to ensure you’re getting the most out of your sessions, and don’t be afraid to ask your therapist for tips that are geared to you.

“We’re in this profession to help people,” said KC. “We’re always available to answer any questions, and we always want to hear how our patients are doing.”

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As Marketing & Communications Specialist, Amanda Ranowsky partners with colleagues throughout Goodwin House Incorporated to tell our stories and raise brand awareness. From printed collateral to digital marketing, Amanda covers many bases. Before joining GHI, Amanda worked for a small, family-owned business where she gained experience in content marketing. Amanda’s creative expression extends beyond the office. She is an active member of community theater and chorus groups.

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