Exercise rehabilitation refers to the act of rebuilding or building functionality of the muscles or joints. Typically, exercise rehab begins in a clinical setting where a professional works with the patient, guiding them through various mobility and strength training exercises. The practitioner may also provide instructions for exercises to be done regularly at home to continue working on functionality between treatment sessions.
Exercise rehab treatments can be performed by a range of practitioners. That includes physical therapists, sports medicine professionals, occupational therapists and physicians.
How Does Exercise Rehab Work?
The main premise of exercise rehab is that you’re building strength, endurance, flexibility, range of motion and other functionality by exercising specific parts of your body.
The premise is similar to exercising for basic health: As you move through various levels of a workout program, you build muscle and improve strength and other factors. That makes you more able to do various exercises or level up with harder skills.
But exercise rehab isn’t about improving your general physical fitness. Its aim is to help regain the level of functionality experienced in a certain area before an injury. In cases where exercise rehab is being used after a surgery to treat a chronic issue, patients may be able to recover functionality that wasn’t possible prior to the surgery.
Exercise rehab may consist of stretching, working with weights, cardio, and other activities.
What Are the Stages of Exercise Rehab?
Exercise rehab is a highly customizable treatment option, which means providers can devise a program that works for each individual patient. Typically, this occurs over the course of a few phases:
- Pain relief. Early in exercise rehab, treatments may be focused on reducing pain or other symptoms associated with an injury, surgery or condition. That includes inflammation and limited mobility or functionality that might be severely impacting quality of life.
- Strengthening and improving function. As the patient moves forward with exercise rehab, the focus moves away from immediate symptom mitigation to building mobility, strength and function for the future. This may involve working to break poor movement habits that caused the injury in the first place or were adopted by the patient because of the injury. In place of those habits, proper movements are worked on.
- Maintaining gains. Exercise rehab may continue after functionality is restored to continue to maintain the gains that were made.