Wednesday, July 18, 2012

My physical therapy routine

I've been in physical therapy twice in the past two years for my knee and hip problems.  My basic PT routine at home usually takes me a good hour to complete thoroughly... but it does work!  Therefore, I am a huge fan of physical therapy.  This is especially the case because I hate taking medication.  So any successful methods to treat physical injuries which don't require medication get an A+ in my book.

Over time, I've amassed quite the repertoire of PT exercises and stretches.  I thought that I would share my standard physical therapy routine.  This routine was prescribed to me based upon a diagnosis of IT band syndrome and some muscle imbalances (i.e. weaknesses in my hips and glutes).

In general, I do all of these stretches in two or three sets of 30 seconds per leg/side.

1. Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch

2. Piriformis Stretch

3. Hamstring Stretch

I usually foam roll each side for about 1-2 minutes per side, or until I can't stand it anymore, whichever comes first.  My left side, which is my injury-prone side, always gets more foam-rolling time than my right side.

On a side note, I used to use just a standard white 36-inch foam roller.  But a few months ago I got a Trigger Point Foam Roller, which has been great.  The best part about it is that it's easy to travel with (it fits into a suitcase and you can stuff socks or t-shirts into the hollow center).

4. Foam Rolling - IT Band

The model is smiling. 
Comparatively, I never smile when I do this.  It hurts.

5. Foam Rolling - Quads
My form is typically not this good.  I usually hold 
myself up on my elbows instead of on my hands.

6. Foam Rolling - Hips

I do these exercises in two to three sets of 12-15 reps per leg/side.

7. Clamshells
You can do this with a resistance band around your knees, too.

8. Squats

I do several variations of squats.  Sometimes I'll do them while holding the exercise ball in different ways against the wall, while squatting at an angle, etc.  Other times I'll do the squats with hand weights.


9.  Monster Walk

I use varying levels of resistance bands for these.  I'll also do
these on a direct side-to-side basis, as opposed to at a diagonal.
I have a long hallway at home in which I'll do two round-trip laps of the monster walks.

10.  Planks (Front and Side)

I hate doing planks.  Hate them.  They are by far my least-favorite PT exercise. 
Because of this, I will never have abs of steel.  Ever.
I usually try to just hold these planks for as long as I can.

As noted above, there are several variations for almost all of these stretches and exercises, but you get the basic idea. 

Even though I do get bored of doing all the exercises and stretches day after day, I am so thankful for how much PT has helped me.  When going through injury, there have been many times in which I feared that I would never be able to run long distances ever again.  But PT has opened up a whole new world of possibilities for me.

Stitch (from Disney's Lilo and Stitch) holding the world.
(Stitch is one of my absolute favorite Disney characters.
He's "also cute and fluffy!!!")

I would love to hear about different physical therapy exercises/stretches others have been doing which they've found helpful.  Please do share!


  1. That is an awesome routine! Thanks for sharing it!

    I have heard great things about the trigger point foam roller and wonder if I should give it a try! I just use the super dense black one now :)

    1. Thanks, Kim!

      The next time we get together, I can bring the trigger point foam roller along, if you'd like. That way you can give it a whirl and see what you think!!!

  2. This is an awesome post! I'm going to bookmark it for future reference.

    I only do 2 foam roller stretches- just my back and calves, but you have so many other ones. I must stray incorporating these into my routine. :)

    1. Thanks, Xaar! I am envious that you don't "have" to foam roll your IT band - it is NOT fun. But I would love to hear about the foam roller stretches you do for your back, I need to start doing some of those, too!

  3. In addition to the side laying leg raises against the wall, my current PT has me doing one-legged bridges, clams with a resistance band while in a side plank, and standing on a step on my right foot while swinging my left leg (my bum one) back and forth to loosen up my hip. Plus all the torturous ones he makes me do at the actual clinic.

    1. Those all sound very familiar to me, too! Torture is right! But hey, it's all worth it for the opportunity to run pain-free, right? That is the dream...

  4. That’s the spirit, Emily! Doing plank exercises can be so tiring at times, but it is one of the most helpful exercises if you have hip issues. In fact, it is also one of the popular isometric exercises, which are recommended for injury rehabilitation or hip reconditioning. It can also increase flexibility in muscle groups throughout your body.

    1. Thanks Sienna! I am always amazed at how much all of our muscles are interlinked with each other. It's hard to focus on just a single body part because it affects everything else. And planks are definitely challenging all-around!!!

  5. In addition to what Sienna said, plank exercises help strengthen one's midsection, upper-body and lower-body muscles. Furthermore, plank exercises have mental benefits that can improve one's mood because it can also help us calm down, and relax, putting our mind at ease.

    1. LOL, I don't know about planks improving my mood, personally. I usually am gritting my teeth towards the end of them. But I'll happily take all the physical benefits from them without focusing on the mental benefits. =)

  6. My favorite among these PT routines is the hamstring stretching, and I myself, am a witness to its wonders. Before, I usually suffer from chronic back pain, but after doing some hamstring stretching, my lower back pain reduced and my flexibility increased. At first, I really felt uncomfortable doing this, but after doing it for so many times now, I just really enjoy it. :D

    1. Ooooh, I love the hamstring stretches, too. It seems like I could stretch out my hamstrings at least twice a day and still feel like it makes a difference. It's one of my most perpetually tight muscle areas, for sure!

  7. I totally agree with you! I would also prefer to engage in physical therapy, rather than to take medications to treat physical injuries. Physical therapy also makes our body strong and healthy in a natural way. I appreciate your shared thoughts about your standard physical therapy regime. They are all interesting to try. Thanks for sharing, Emily! All the best to you!

    Derek Sparks @ Forgey Chiropractic

    1. Thanks so much, Derek! To this day, I have to stay on top of my physical therapy routine. You don't think that the exercises do much after awhile, especially when you start getting so bored of them - but there is a reason they work!!!