Exercises and DIY from the Internet: Should I Try Them?

Here is the Answer Barrhaven: Yes…but!

Here are a few things you should know…

As a person who often Google and Youtube new cake recipes, DIYs, “how-to”s… I love when my patients are proactive in their rehabilitation and are open to trying different things to get rid of their pain! You should, however, follow a few important rules in your search for appropriate exercises on the internet so you do not hurt yourself (as we all know, there are QUITE a LOT of exercises out there).

What Should I Look For?

  • Credentials of the Author
    • Make sure that the exercises you found are from a reputable website.
    • The author or person suggesting these exercises should be a professional in rehabilitation and not just your everyday Joe pretending to be an expert.
  • Pay Attention to the Results of the Exercise
    • Main rule you need to follow: DO NOT continue the exercise if it makes your pain WORSE.
    • If it hurts a bit at first, but after a few repetitions, it feels easier, and it is not worse after, you are fine to continue.
    • If your pain starts travelling down your limb(s)(i.e.: from neck to arms, from low back to legs, etc.). STOP.
  • Try to be Specific in Your Search
    • If you have a diagnosis from your doctor, you should include that in your search.
    • For example, instead of googleing “elbow pain exercise”, try “exercise to help tennis elbow”.
  • Be Careful
    • If you have a traumatic injury or needs rehab post-surgery, it is better to seek professional help.
    • If you have even a doubt that your pain could be something serious, go see your Medical Doctor! Do NOT wait!

What if These Exercise Don’t Help? …and Why?

If you follow the previous checklist to keep you safe while trying the exercises you find, some of you would be pain free and back to your everyday life. For others, even though they tried the exercises they have found, it shows no signs of improving. Here are some possibilities of why that is:

  • Wrong Diagnosis
    • It is not uncommon at all that I see a client in clinic, and they have been given the wrong diagnosis by a medical or rehab professional. You have to match the right treatment to the right problem. Otherwise, it will be like trying to cure a headache with a band-aid. It will not work.
    • There are quite a lot of conditions that have very subtle differences in signs and symptoms, and could often mimic each other (think heart attacks and referred pain to the shoulder)
  • Generic Exercises
    • Exercises from the internet cannot target the individual. Everyone is different and react differently to each exercise. Since they cannot see the patient, they have to keep the exercises very generic and would not be able to offer alternatives.
    • More often than not, you do NOT need a list of 10 exercises to get better. Not a lot of people have the time to do all of those anyways. In clinic, I often only need to prescribe 1-2 exercises that are highly specific to the injury my patient have, to get rid of their pain. This is because it is very targeted to the person and his/her injury.
  • Out-Dated Exercises
    • Research is constantly updating and giving us more information and knowledge on what is the best thing to do for different conditions. These internet articles are often not up to date, and might sometimes recommend things that are proven to be wrong.

When Do I Know I Need to Go See a Professional?

I usually tell my clients in Barrhaven that if they have had the pain for longer than a week, and it is not showing signs of getting better, they should probably go see a physiotherapist. Again, if you have any doubt that your pain could be something serious, go see your medical doctor immediately. If your pain is recurring and keeps coming back, a physiotherapist can help with that too!

Here are some related articles you might be interested in:

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About the Author:

Lily Zhang

Lily Zhang is a registered physiotherapist with training specializing in the McKenzie Method.  She graduated from McGill University and is currently working in Barrhaven (Ottawa, ON). She has over 10 years of professional training/clinical experience in orthopedic physiotherapy.  You can Follow Her Blog @PhysioVive Facebook Page.

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