Exercises are Strategies. Strategies are Exercises.

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Exercises are Strategies. Strategies are Exercises.

Clinicians will often prescribe therapeutic exercises to address various impairments and functional limitations. These exercises are specific in nature to help patients improve strength, range of motion, decrease pain, decrease disability, and improve overall general functional mobility.  Exercises can have a very powerful role in an individual’s rehabilitative journey.  Exercises are not only strategies to improve one’s health, but strategies are the exercises prescribed.

Here’s an example.

A patient complains of low back pain from sitting for prolonged periods of time. The individual reports that standing and walking are helpful to reduce their respective symptoms.  In this case, a clinician may prescribe standing back extensions to help relieve symptoms. 

The patient may only perceive this activity as merely an exercise part of a self-management program.  The patient may indicate there are “too busy” for exercises during the workday.

Assuming standing back extensions reduces symptoms; this is the perfect opportunity to help show the individual how standing back extensions is a strategy to allow this individual to work with less pain or impairments. That is when we should implement the term “strategy”.

Standing back extensions is potentially the individual’s strategy to allow them to sit for prolonged periods of time without discomfort. This strategy is a way for the individual to continue long-term self-management and a way to help manage symptoms during the workday.

Instead of overloading patients with tons of exercises, maybe we need to only provide a few “strategies” to help them succeed. If we give patients too many exercises, they may not do them to their fullest capabilities, and potentially will just totally ignore them all together.  This is why we need to emphasize the importance of strategies for long-term self-management.

Perhaps we need to change our terminology to help promote this line of thinking so the patient can have more ownership during their episode of care.

Article Written By Eric Trauber, PT, DPT, OCS, CSCS, FAAOMPT