For one reason or another, leaving the house for exercise can be unrealistic. But your health goals might not be to lose large amounts of weight or gain a ton of muscle. If you are looking to build flexibility and mobility or to improve your strength and general well-being, physical therapy stretches and exercises may be for you. In physical therapy, stretching is a popular way for patients to maintain good physical health. It’s proven to improve blood flow, ranges of motion, and posture if made a regular habit.
In the long term, these stretches and other exercises can assist in coping with chronic conditions or injuries. If you believe you require physical therapy for these things, then we suggest consulting a doctor or physical therapist about your health needs. Regardless, these exercises are for everyone wanting to restore their physical performance and health at home on their own schedule. Here are eight simple physical therapy stretches you can do at home:
- Hamstring stretch
- Levator scapulae stretch
- Door frame stretch/chest extension
- Piriformis stretch
- Standing quad stretch
- Cat-cow pose
- Crossbody stretch
- Hip extension
The first stretch is one that targets the hamstrings along the back of the thighs. Even though you feel tensions in your hamstrings, this motion can improve mobility and pain in the hips. Begin by lying on your back with your legs outward. Then reach for your first leg, bringing it towards your chest. Outstretch your leg and keep your leg as straight as possible. There are two ways to modify this stretch if keeping a straight leg is too painful. You could keep the knee slightly bent or use a stretching strap around your foot to make the stretch easier.
Levator scapulae stretch
Before you rely solely on medication, try this light exercise for relieving neck pain. This stretch makes use of two directions the neck can move to reduce any stiffness you have. Turn your head to the shoulder of your starting side. Using the arm on the same side, reach over your head to grasp the back of it. Apply pressure to lower your head into your shoulder to feel a pull on the opposite side of your neck. Hold the stretch and repeat on the other side.
Door frame stretch/chest extension
Working from home or sitting at a desk all day may cause some posture issues or sore shoulders. This next one of physical therapy stretches is meant to solve those problems! Even though we call this the door frame stretch, you can accomplish the same effect in a corner or by putting your arms behind your back. The point is to bring the shoulder blades back to extend the chest forward. Make your arms look like a football goal post and place your forearms against the walls of a corner or a doorframe. Pressing your arms into the surface and holding will make it easier for your shoulders to relax back for proper posture.
In case you didn’t know, the piriformis is a muscle behind the gluteus maximus that allows the hips to rotate and legs to turn outward. The stretch is made for those with hip pain or sciatic nerve pain. Start by lying on your back with feet flat on the floor and knees bent like you are doing crunches. Rest the ankle of your starting leg on the knee of the leg still bent. Bring your starting leg to your chest and lift both legs off the floor. Hold and feel the stretch in your hamstrings and hips and switch.
Standing quad stretch
Knee pain is a common reason for people to go to physical therapy either for a chronic condition or joint pain as they get older. This stretch requires something to place your weight on, ideally a chair or wall. With one hand on your support, bend one leg toward your buttock. Hold your lifted ankle with the opposite hand of your leg. Then pull and hold until you feel a stretch in your quad muscles in your thighs.
These yoga poses double as one of the physical therapy stretches to improve back pain. Yoga, like stretching, is an effective way to start exercising at home. Both poses take place with your hands and knees on the floor with legs behind you. Relaxing your spine down and lifting your head brings you to cow pose. Arching your back as high as you comfortably can and tucking your head into your chest gives you the cat pose it is named after. Holding and switching between poses stretches the upper and mid-back muscles for a more comfortable posture.
Along with the cat-cow physical therapy stretches, the crossbody stretch is one that relieves tension between the shoulder blades. Standing up, stretch your starting arm across your chest not bending your elbow. Then hook your other arm around to keep the arm at chest level. By holding and switching arms, you should feel the stretch in your upper back. A way to modify this stretch for ease is by laying on the side of your outstretched arm.
The last physical therapy exercise is for those who have hip stiffness or discomfort. Like the standing quad stretch, you will need a chair or surface to stand behind. Lift your starting leg behind you, keeping your knee straight and placing your weight on the surface in front of you. Then repeat with the other leg extended behind you feeling the stretch in the back of your thighs.
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