September 4, 2015

Home Programs Are Like Dieting

Home programs for stroke survivors are like dieting.  Both are "shoulds" that make me feel guilty when I don't do them.  Even though I'm an OT being a good patient gets boring after a few weeks. Yet I'm doing home exercises 7 years after my stroke because each one is anchored to something I want.

Here is an exercise I've recently added to my home program that illustrates what I mean by anchored.  After I felt my OT massage a painful knot out of my shoulder I was determined to stop it from coming back.  The painful knot formed because I was using my shoulder to lift my arm instead of using my elbow to lift my hand.   My OT taught me how to keep my shoulder relaxed. 

I start with my arms down at my sides and raise both hands to the middle of my chest using only my elbows.  Now I'm putting less stress on my shoulder muscles when I lift my hand.  Avoiding pain is a powerful anchor.  I do this exercise three times before I take my pills with yogurt each day.  I set out the yogurt, spoon, and pills before I start.  I'm afraid I'll lose the sensation of what normal movement feels like if I stop to gather supplies.  An anchor that feels personal turns "I should" into "I want to."


  1. You're so right about "shoulds"!

    Some of the things that are most productive for me are not "fun"--emptying the dishwasher, put away laundry--but that I know they have to done. If I can think of a slightly different way to do them--like putting laundry away but positioning myself so that I have to really reach--seems to be the best way to improve.

  2. You have ESP. My next post is about "shoulds" like emptying the dishwasher.

  3. Hi Rebecca

    I still use my shoulder more than I should. I do that rolling of the shoulders exercise to loosen it up and then, like you, I concentrate on moving my arm from the elbow down. The more repeats for both make it easier for me. Now to just get constant with the exercise.

  4. I try to anchor an exercise to a functional task because it triggers my memory (e.g. take pills - do elbow exercise 3 times). I think consistently doing an exercise a few times each day is better than waiting to find a big chunk of time to do a lot of reps.