Exercise programs are used to help maintain physical fitness and overall health, to encourage the healing of injuries, and to prevent reoccurrence. Although it is widely recognised that exercise in general promotes wellbeing, for physiotherapy purposes we focus on stretching and strengthening exercises.
How does it work?
• Muscles are made up of many strands called muscle fibres, which are themselves composed of tens of thousands of thread-like myofibrils which can contract, relax or elongate. The stretching of muscles begins at an even smaller level, with millions of bands within the myofibrils called sarcomeres.
• When dealing with injuries to muscles, often the fibres within a muscle have become disorganised and damaged – what we call scar tissue. If untreated, scar tissue can cause a muscle to remain tight, and put excessive forces on the skeleton causing pain or discomfort in the tissue itself or to joints in the proximity of the damage.
• By stretching a muscle we can help to realign any disorganised fibres, rehabilitating the muscle tissue.
What is it used to treat?
• Stretching is effective for breaking down damage within soft tissue such as muscles and tendons, and to alleviate pressure on the skeleton caused by scar tissue formation. Stretching can also be used also to prevent injuries.
Strength training is the use of resistance to muscular contraction to build strength, aerobic endurance or size of skeletal muscles. Within physiotherapy, strength training can be based on one or several methods, including resistance bands, free weights, medicine balls and gym balls.
How does it work?
• The strength of a muscle is essentially the ability of a muscle to contract. When a muscle is subjected to an overload – for example by lifting a weight or by resistance training - trauma is caused to the muscle fibres.
• The body repairs damaged fibres by creating new cells (hyperplasia) resulting in an increase in a muscle fibre size. The muscles are also re-enforced with additional myofibrils to increase the strength of the individual fibres.
• This response is intended to decrease the damage done to the muscle the next time the muscle is subjected to the same load.
What is it used for?
• Strength training is used when muscles have become damaged or weak, and are putting undue stresses on the body. Strength training encourages damaged scar tissue to heal properly and prevent future recurrence. If one muscle in the human body is disproportionately stronger than its opposing muscle, this can cause undue pressures on the skeleton and must be addressed.