My new physiotherapist thankfully gave me a new set of neck exercises, as my old ones took too long to do and only worked the same muscle groups anyway. These new ones were to be done two to three times a day, and each set took me about 20 to 25 minutes to complete. I prepared a short video to demonstrate them! This was taken at my current physiotherapy clinic… with me wearing a gown and all. LOL.

Again, I’m just going to put out this disclaimer out there…

DISCLAIMER: If you are rehabilitating from a neck injury yourself, please do not just copy my exercise program. Please seek the help of a professional. This was constructed by a specialists especially for me and I take no responsibility if these exercises do not work for you and your condition or cause you more pain.

My neck-xercises: Month 2 and 3

  • RANGE OF MOTION EXERCISES
    1. Extension, 20 secs x 3
    2. Flexion, 20 secs x 3
    3. Lateral flexion (side bend), 20 secs x 3 EACH SIDE
    4. Lateral rotation RIGHT SIDE, 20 secs x 3
    5. Isometric hold* RIGHT SIDE, 10 secs x 5 EACH HAND ON FOREHEAD
    6. Lateral rotation LEFT SIDE, 20 secs x 3
    7. Isometric hold* LEFT SIDE, 10 secs x 5 EACH HAND ON FOREHEAD
  • ISOMETRIC EXERCISES
    1. Lift head up, 10 secs x 10**
    2. Press head down on mat/ground (not on bed), 10 secs x 10
    3. W’s, 10 secs x 10

*In my first six weeks of doing these exercises, these isometric exercises were done without me turning my head (i.e., just resisting my forehead using my left and right hands, like here).

**My least favourite exercise!

Doing these exercises a few times daily is definitely The. Most. Boring. Part. of my recovery right now. No one loves doing physical therapy exercises, especially when you’re already injured and continue to feel pain.

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Patient non-compliance to home exercise programs is generally poor… from 50% up to 70%. Reasons for not doing the exercises at home? Barriers include the lack of time, support, and motivation. Research also suggests that patients who were already physically active prior to their injury are more likely to adhere to a home exercise program (it’s true for me, at least!), while sedentary folks have a hard time keeping up with one.

Here’s my advice for making this experience a whole lot more bearable:

  • Use an interval timer to be efficient with your time. I’ve had enough of looking at a stopwatch or counting in my head! I use Interval Timer for Android. This free app ($3.99 to get rid of the ads) is usually for HIIT workouts. I just listen to the beeps cueing when I stretch and when I rest.

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Example: For my first four exercises above, I have programmed 15 intervals of 20-second “low-intensity”intervals (go/stretch time because the screen turns green hehe) followed by five-second “high-intensity” intervals (stop/rest time because it’s in red). I have programmed the rest of my exercise program into one saved “workout” that I just play daily.

  • According to my timer, my entire exercise program should take me exactly 17 minutes and 50 seconds. But I can hit pause and restart whenever I feel that I need more rest or whenever I am in pain. Just take a break when you need it!
  • Work through the pain… it will get better! I removed the parts in my video when I paused my timer because my neck was in pain and I needed to massage it a bit. For instance…

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Um, yeah.

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  • Make sure the program you’ve been given is relatively simple and brief. It’s easier to stick to it. I’m so glad I got these new exercises! To all physiotherapists out there:

Patients are people, and as such have lives and often busy schedules outside of therapy. Give a program that can be done in a reasonable amount of time, for instance ten to fifteen minutes. This means about 3-5 exercises (which includes rest periods) Most people can squeeze in ten or fifteen minutes a day for an extra item on their daily schedule. Sure, it would be great if they could spend an hour, twice a day to dedicate to their rehabilitation, but giving a program of that length will likely result in it never even getting started. Pick your battles carefully. Would you rather have your patient do their program 15 minutes a day or be entirely overwhelmed by a program with 20 exercises, requiring 60 minutes, that never gets done? (Source)

Really, my range of motion exercises just stretches out my neck in its six main directions:

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… so they’re easy to remember. As for the isometric exercises, they’re just in the four directions (back, front, chin to shoulder on each side).

  • Make time to do the exercises but don’t be too hard on yourself. I honestly do the exercises just twice a day (I think I’ve done them thrice only ONCE). Sometimes just one full set and then one set with only the range of motion exercises (but I also did yoga or lifted weights on the same day). Most of the time I feel guilty when I don’t end up doing all the exercises at the end of the day… but oh well, tomorrow’s another day, right? I can only work so hard and the rest of my recovery just depends on time.
  • Allow yourself to do them anywhere, anytime! Except for the isometric exercises (on the ground or a mat), all the other exercises can be done while waiting in the car, on the bus, on the street, etc. You don’t have to be doing your full-on neck exercises to just stretch your neck. Exercise isn’t “all-or-nothing” – just five minutes here or ten minutes there can make a difference!
  • Make it FUN; build it into your day. Although I mostly do my exercises in silence (it lets me meditate LOL), I also enjoy doing them while listening to a podcast or watching YouTube, a show, or a movie. I usually do other stretches (left arm, legs) while I stretch my neck as well. Sometimes, when I would feel the least bit motivated, my husband would hop on our stationary bike while I would do my neck exercises so he could keep me company!
  • Apply heat on your neck before or after doing the exercises. I personally prefer applying heat BEFOREHAND. It lets my muscles relax more so that I’m not in so much pain. I highly recommend the Magic Bag that is specially made for the neck upper and back (around 28 CAD, available at Walmart). My former physiotherapist suggested it to me. A bag contains specially treated “oat grains” (I have no idea what these are) that are heated in the microwave. I just heat it for 30 seconds at a time for about two minutes and it gets very hot, retaining its heat for about 10 to 15 minutes.

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Apparently you can sew a bag like this yourself and fill it up with beans, and it works nearly the same (I’ve never tried it though). One of my former physiotherapy clinics applies heat on their patients AFTER treatment to retain the effects of exercise on the muscles. My current physiotherapist, however, told me that research has shown that the application of heat doesn’t make your muscles stretch a lot more – it just makes doing the exercises feel more comfortable. Hey, if I can be in less pain, then why not?

  • If you’re really unmotivated, track your workouts. I tried doing this but I fell off the wagon. Hehehe. I think I just lasted two days…
  • Set goals. It’s a lot more motivating to see results – mine is to regain nearly all of the mobility in my neck! So far I’m up to 65 to 75% (depending on the direction) – more on that in my next post!!!

Obviously this doesn’t just apply to neck injuries, but also all other injuries (motor vehicle, sports, work, etc.) requiring a home exercise rehabilitation program. Make the most out of the exercises your physical therapist gave you – they’re only effective if you actually do them!

K bye, I gotta go do mine now! 🙂

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