Here’s the part no one wants to hear - physiotherapy alone will not improve your function long term. I can’t keep you in tip top condition by myself and, no matter how good your Physio is, they unfortunately do not have magic hands. WE NEED YOU! Yes, we can spend 30 minutes on a joint and get it moving more than it was at the start of the session, but if you carry on doing what you’ve always done, that joint is going to go right back to where it started.
So what do I need you to do? I’m afraid the answer is simple - do your home exercise programme! Muscles need to be strong so that you can move well and stabilise joints effectively. Unluckily for us humans, it takes around 6-8 weeks of exercise before any strength changes come about. You may see some improvements before that time, but this is due to your brain learning how to switch muscles on and use them effectively. With the nerves turning on more fibres and doing it faster, it appears you’ve got stronger. There is a scientific paper that shows that the term “Don’t use it, you’ll lose it” is a very real concept. Look at the picture below. Doesn’t it just speak a thousand words - or maybe just three - “Do your exercises!”
During outpatient and residential rehab sessions here at Dorset Orthopaedic you are almost guaranteed to get a home exercise programme. This will consist of 6-8 exercises that target your specific areas for improvement. We will ask you to do them 3-5 times a week and upgrade them as you get better and find them too easy. The exercises usually take between 20-45 minutes and require little or no equipment.
As technique is everything, we will practice the exercises while you’re here. Quality should always be prioritised over speed - you want to make sure that every ounce of effort you put in is worth it.
I also like to give out a personalised exercise sheet. As our exercise programmes are made to suit each individual, taking into consideration the area and level of amputation, their current fitness levels and the area we want to strengthen, we don’t have any pre-made programmes. Sometimes you can’t beat a good bit of pen and paper…cue my famous stick men!
Now, there is a reason I’m a Physiotherapist and not an art student, but these stick men work and that is all that matters. There is something so satisfying and personal about sitting down with someone and drawing out their exercises with a description that helps them to remember them. You just don’t get that from an app or computer programme.
Below are some of the most common exercises I like to give out and a little cheat sheet of matching exercises to problems. But remember, it’s all about technique and what each individual needs. Hence you’re better off seeing someone before trying to embark on a new exercise programme, even if it’s just for one session, so that you know for sure what you’re doing is really going to help you!