Exercises are an important part of recovery, even though they can be frustrating. Most people remember a time when they can perform more repetitions and sets, and with greater weights than what they are currently able to do. They try and quickly rush through the exercises to get them done, thinking faster is better. When we are exercising at the gym, we are challenging strong and healthy tissue, so it will respond in increasing its strength and endurance.
However, rehabilitation has a different set of goals and issues. We are working on weak and broken tissue. If you challenge and overwork broken tissue, it breaks more. The second major difference is that we are often trying to increase the strength, endurance, and muscle patterns of the stabilizer muscles. They respond better to slower movements. Rushing through the exercise does not benefit the stabilizers, and actually delays your recovery.
Rehabilitation is Not Like Working Out
Rehabilitation exercises should not feel like a great workout. We are often working the weakest muscle in the group or sequence, and it will wear out fairly quickly. If you feel exhausted after the exercises, you may be performing them incorrectly and only challenging the compensation muscles.
Many patients question if the exercises are even worth it. The response is always they are if you want to get better faster. Every patient chooses if they want to do the exercises or not. Long-term I can tell you that you will be stronger, have greater endurance, less risk of injury, and recover quicker from this episode of back or neck pain. Pain will diminish without the exercises but you will have an increased risk of future injury in the same area.
Exercises are always your choice, but we highly recommend them for your long-term quality of life and reduction of future injuries. So do them if you want, because it is your body. However you must respect my follow-up rule on failing to perform your exercises and stretches. You do lose the right to complain about not getting better fast enough or returned pain, especially after we spent the time and effort educating you on how to safely perform the exercises and why they're important to your long-term care. If you choose not to perform the exercises, that is your choice and also your consequence.