Every year, millions of people are injured while participating in a sport or some form of physical activity. Because of this, whether you’re a professional athlete or simply enjoy a healthy dose of exercise, chances are you’ve experienced a sports injury at some point in your life.
When an injury occurs, the answer to a speedy and efficient recovery period is physical therapy. But what happens when your prescribed sessions come to an end? What do you do post physical therapy to ensure that you’re able to not only return to your normal activities but also avoid re-injury?
If your physical therapy sessions are winding down and you find yourself asking these questions, we’re here to help. Here are 7 tips for perfecting your post physical therapy self-care.
1. Set Goals
The first step in ensuring that you maintain the progress you’ve made in physical therapy is to set goals for yourself. Don’t forget that, in addition to assisting you in your recovery from injury, your physical therapist is highly knowledgeable in improving athletic performance overall.
Talk to your physical therapist about the goals you hope to achieve, big or small. Your sessions can be catered to your goals, and your physical therapist can work with you to create a plan that will enable you to come back even better than before. You can also get the guidance you need to feel comfortable continuing on your own once your sessions are complete.
2. Prioritize Sleep
Quality sleep is an absolute necessity, and underestimating the power of a good night’s rest, particularly if you’re recovering from an injury, is a major misstep. Your body does the majority of its restorative work while you’re asleep, making it an extremely important part of any routine but especially during and after physical therapy.
Aim for 7-9 hours of high-quality sleep per night, ideally during the same hours every night (yes, even on the weekends!). Having a regular sleep routine can make all the difference in terms of your recovery, not to mention your mental and physical health as a whole.
3. Focus on Diet
When your body is recovering from an injury, it’s essential that you fuel it with the nutrients it needs to repair any damaged tissues effectively. There’s no one-size-fits-all diet, what works best for you will be different from what worked for someone else. Working with a nutrition coach is a fantastic option if you’re unsure where to start with your diet.
In addition to doing your best to eat a nutrient-dense diet, you should be drinking plenty of water. Keeping your body hydrated is crucial for the nutrient distribution needed for healing.
4. Continue Exercising
When you’re finished with physical therapy, you’ll not only be stronger than you were when you started, but you should also be equipped with a set of exercises that will help you continue to improve. Physical activity is crucial post physical therapy!
If you’re feeling nervous or unmotivated, a group exercise program, or working with a personal trainer, can be beneficial. Having someone else to hold you accountable when you’re not feeling up to a workout can help kick your motivation into high gear.
5. Pay Attention to Form
As you continue your fitness journey, remember everything that you learned in physical therapy about proper technique and form. Whether you’re getting back out on the field to rejoin the game or back in the gym for strength training after physical therapy, it’s essential that you maintain the correct form. Doing so will keep you on the right track and protect you from re-injury.
If your physical therapist gave you a list of exercises, continue to do them, even if it’s just part of your warm-up. Just as you did in your sessions, you’ll be preventing stiffness and maintaining your full range of motion.
6. Stay Positive
After you’ve suffered an injury, the mental aspect of your recovery is just as important as the physical. Maybe you’re not quite where you want to be, or maybe your injury left you with a lack of confidence or a fear of becoming hurt again. Keeping your injury in the back of your mind is a good thing, as it can help you prevent re-injury, but it shouldn’t be your main focus.
Let’s say you hurt your rotator cuff golfing, and you’re working on shoulders again in the gym. Completing shoulder exercises after an injury can be intimidating, but try your best to keep a positive attitude. Think about your goals and where you want to be in terms of your sports performance and feel confident that with a little work and dedication, you’ll get there.
7. Ask for Help
If you’re feeling lost, there’s no shame in asking for support from a professional. They can help ensure that you’re on the path to success and protect you from mistakes that could potentially set you back in your progress.
Continuing with physical therapy post-recovery is always an option, but personal training after physical therapy is another excellent choice.
A qualified personal trainer will give you exercises that build on your performance without increasing your risk of re-injury, whether that be leg strengthening exercises after a knee injury or working with resistance bands following rotator cuff surgery.
Improve Your Results Post Physical Therapy
In order to get the most out of your physical therapy, your self-care can’t stop where your sessions end. By taking the proper steps to care for yourself post physical therapy, you’ll improve upon the results you’ve already seen through your sessions.
And though the end of your sessions might feel overwhelming, remember that your physical therapist will still be there if you need them. They can even help you improve your sports performance long after you’ve recovered from injury.
Need advice on designing the perfect post physical therapy plan? Contact Midland Sports Rehab today, our team is ready to help!