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    Success with Physical Therapy

    By Cinder Ernst

    I love physical therapy. It’s the best thing for you when your body hurts. Physical therapists have a way of “reading” what’s going on in your body. From that reading they can plot a path for your recovery. PTs are all about getting you stronger in the weak parts, and longer in the tight or short parts, so that you come into balance. That balance will often resolve pain and mobility issues so that you can get back to your life.

    One thing to note in today’s insurance centered world is sometimes your PT may only be able to address the body part that was mentioned in your referral. As you know, bodies are connected from head to toe, and sometimes one area is creating pain in a different area. The insurance limitations can be frustrating for both patient and therapist. Keep asking for what you want and need, and know that the therapist is on your side.

    I am a medical exercise specialist with 20 years of experience, and was a personal trainer for a decade beforehand. I’ve been at this fitness thing for a long time. I’m pretty good at reading bodies too, and plotting a course for improved mobility. One big difference between what I do and what a PT does is I will never direct you into a place of pain to aid in your recovery. I don’t know enough to do that safely. Often PTs will adjust or move you in ways that will hurt a bit later, but lead to your desired outcome.

    One of the most important aspects of your successful treatment outcome with physical therapy is to do the recommended exercises between appointments. This is where I and my 30 years of helping people to exercise come in handy. The first hurdle concerns how much, and how often, you are expected to do the rehab exercises. For instance, being asked to do something three times a day that takes ten or fifteen minutes and may feel lousy when you are doing it has failure built right in. It’s just plain hard to make yourself do it if you’re human.

    If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed as you receive your PT assignment, speak up. Let your therapist know you might not be up to all of it and ask if they could prioritize or shorten the assignment. If you get home and feel that way, then cut the assignment down to a manageable chunk and start there. You will still benefit to a certain extent from doing some of the exercises and that is all good. At your next appointment, be truthful about what you’re up to and not up to. Watch out for the “all or nothing” trap and do something. It will help; I promise.

    Here are some ways to fit in your exercises as you proceed through your day:

    • Some lying down exercises, such as slow roll-ups, will work in bed; try them and see.
    • Some standing exercises and stretches can be done while you handle other tasks—while water is boiling, the microwave is heating your meal or coffee is brewing.
    • Some exercises can be done while you’re brushing your teeth.
    • Some can be done at your desk, in your car, in the elevator or while you’re waiting to cross the street.

    Be creative in your day. You also might free up some time if you limit your social media use. I don’t have such apps on my phone, and that’s what I recommend to my clients. I often do rehab stuff lying on the floor watching TV at night. Be kind to yourself and keep an eye out for the improvements that come with your rehab efforts.

    Cinder Ernst, Medical Exercise Specialist and Life Coach Extraordinaire, helps reluctant exercisers get moving with safe, effective and fun programs. Her book, “Easy Fitness for the Reluctant Exerciser” (, is available in paperback and E-book. She specializes in fitness and rehab for plus-size clients, but her stress-free approach is suitable for all. Find out more at