Do you suffer from recurrent aches, pains and stiffness in your muscles and joints?

Are you finding it harder to perform daily activities that you once found easy, like getting up and down from the floor, getting out of a chair or playing sport?

Do you want to feel more confident, capable and stronger in your day-to-day activities?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, Functional Exercise Therapy can help you.

functional exercise

Functional Exercise Therapy is the application of therapeutic movement in order to resolve injury and pain, regain and improve your physical capacity and improve your physiological health.

We all possess a unique repertoire of movement in our day to day activities, which has been rehearsed and refined since we first began moving. During and after experiencing injury and pain, our movement capacity can be reduced. When we seek treatment for our aches and pains, therapists often have ideals about how the body should move, perform and express itself. Unfortunately these ideals are often far removed from our own highly efficient and established movement patterns. As a result, rehab exercises are often based on what the therapist thinks the body should be doing, instead of what the body can already do and what it needs to do as a whole to achieve its individual goals and tasks.

You only learn what you practice, so make sure your treatment is tailored to your functional needs

I regularly encounter people who have been told to do strange things like pull their belly buttons in, stabilize their scapula and perform isolation exercises like ‘clams’ in order to rehabilitate from injury. These examples portray activities that are unfamiliar to our functional movement needs, so the question is- Why are we asked to perform novel and non-functional movements instead of focusing on what the body and brain is already accomplished in and familiar with?

If our patient’s goals are to regain and improve their movement losses after pain or injury, reductionist muscle-based exercises are not the best approach.

Our central nervous system is highly skilled and familiar with organizing goal-based patterns of movement, not individual muscle actions. Nearly all our movement is task driven and is rarely performed in the context of individual muscles or joints. We never perform the same movement twice and will naturally seek the most efficient movement strategy to achieve a task or goal. By asking our patients to focus on individual muscles and ‘textbook technique’ during exercise rehabilitation, we are potentially making their recovery harder than necessary and working against the wisdom of the body.

As manual therapists, for too long, we have been taught to focus on individual body parts instead of the unique movement requirements of the whole person. As an osteopath I was trained to look for subjective imbalances and restrictions throughout the body and then administer passive treatments to try to correct them. The reality is, that by poking, prodding, cracking and stretching people, we are not correcting anything at all, and in most cases, things simply get better by themselves. The therapist’s touch can be very comforting and therapeutic but we should not fool ourselves into thinking that we can reorganize and correct the body any quicker or better than a persons own central nervous system.

Exercise therapy works on many levels

With regard to exercise as a healing modality, there is no doubt that it is one of the most effective interventions available, and in many cases it doesn’t matter what exercise we do as long as certain principles are followed. However, in the presence of musculoskeletal injury and pain, exercise can be effectively tailored to enhance the healing process and recover any functional losses. With an understanding of the healing process, the mechanism of the pain and the principles of functional movement, we as therapists can help patients make a rapid and thorough recovery from injury and pain.

Functional Exercise Therapy is the most effective conservative treatment for osteoarthritis, low back pain and orthopaedic surgery rehabilitation.

Functional exercise therapy isn’t about doing funky things with stability balls and cable machines, it’s about doing what the body already knows and recognizes. If you’re not replicating the movement patterns you wish to regain, then you are not exercising functionally. By adding variables such as range, speed and force to the movement your nervous system is already familiar with, your individual functional capacity and movement skill can be quickly regained and improved.

Musculoskeletal injury and pain often results in strength, range of motion, muscle mass, co-ordination and endurance losses. Research suggests that even the uninjured body experiences strength losses of up to 15% per decade beyond the age of 50. After injury, it is important to strategically move as soon as possible, in order to minimize the losses mentioned above. A great example of this is joint replacement surgery, where patients are encouraged to use the traumatized area as soon as possible after surgery to avoid the aforementioned losses.

Functional exercise therapy is a truly holistic treatment for musculoskeletal injury and pain because it not only resolves pain and injury, it also improves function and overall health. There is simply no other drug or medical intervention that has such a holistic, beneficial and protective effect on the body. To date, exercise therapy is the most effective conservative treatment for a host of common musculoskeletal issues including low back pain, osteoarthritis and orthopaedic surgery pre/rehabilitation.

The science behind movement is absolutely fascinating and complex but the application in rehabilitation and healing is both fun and simple, so if you are hampered by injury, stiffness, weakness or pain, and need treatment that will improve your physical ability, self confidence and life, get in touch to see how I can help.


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