Behavior change is an often-underestimated factor of a successful physical therapy or sports rehab program. As we all know it takes more than exercising during the time a patient is with you to fix his or her condition. Especially when their visits are limited to a certain number. That’s why we should enable them to do some of the work on their own and ideally turn that ‘homework’ into a lifelong habit. Here some practical insights on how to increase the changes of program adherence.
- Keep it simple
Most of us love exercises: the more complex and challenging the better. But this does not apply to all your patients. For some exercise is intimidating and overwhelming. It’s important to find exercises they can perform on their own without hurting themselves, while still improving their condition. Start with 2 – 3 exercises that can be done in 5 to 10 min. The most used excuse for not sticking to an exercise program is lack of time, but who cannot find 10 min per day? Once the patient has dedicated 5 – 10 min daily for some weeks, this will become second nature.
- Share your mid-term treatment plan
Explain in detail what you are planning to do over the course of time you are working together with clear goals and expectations for each treatment phase. It’s easier for patients to commit to something if they can see the big picture and will prevent them from skipping sessions or dropping out once they feel a little better. Understand what would motivate the patient to follow the plan such as being pain free or able to participate in certain activities, this will help you to make the plan and targets relevant to them. Also make the patient aware of his / her responsibility of the treatment success.
- Create check points along the way
Having check-ins or mini assessments to track progress can help identify achievements and increase accountability. Make them clear milestones of your treatment plan and make sure your patients are aware of them too.
- Update the program regularly
Once the patient is successful with the initial homework exercises and feels good about them, you can progress him or her to a slightly more challenging progression. This will not only make them physically adapt, but also keep the program fresh and interesting. Exercises can easily be progressed by changing the base of support to something more unstable, adding resistance or involving more muscles groups such as a side bridge combined with a clam shell vs. a side lying clam shell.
- Make it trackable
Asking the patient to log his / her daily activities will not only keep the patient more accountable it will also provide you with valuable data that can be discussed everything you meet in person. Next to sets and reps it is important that you tell your patients to record any pain and how they felt about the exercise intensity. This will allow you to identify if you should increase exercise volume or switch to different exercises.
Every new patient that walks into your office provides a new change to help an individual to create healthier habits and start integrating more movement into their daily lives. They might start with baby steps, but end up running a marathon.