Visits to a physical therapist can help restore comfort and movement after injuries or wear and tear. Fortunately, you can replicate many physical therapy exercises using items around the house. With your therapist’s approval, you can use these everyday items for physical therapy exercises in between sessions.
If you’ve been using a cane to help you get around, that cane can do double duty by helping you strengthen your joints and muscles with some easy at-home exercises. A cane can serve as a weight to lift if you’re still working your way back up to barbells. If you’re struggling with a stiff shoulder, you can extend your arms outward and gradually raise one arm at a time. Even lifting your cane up and over your head can help you get some flexibility back.
Plantar fasciitis strikes active seniors hard—especially those with flat feet, as fallen arches bear more burden than usual. Remedying this inflammation can prove tricky, but some simple towel drills can help you alleviate the pain in the soles of your feet. By curling your toes to grab the towel and draw it to you, you can build up more strength and flexibility in your feet. If these preliminary towel exercises are effective, you can ratchet up the difficulty by incorporating a water bottle and attempting to put your talented toes to work there.
Another everyday item you can use for physical therapy exercises is the humble can of soup. A soup can generally weighs about 16 ounces, or one pound, making it a perfect stand-in for an introductory dumbbell. Slowly raising and lowering your arms with the cans in your hands can build back strength in your shoulders with just the right amount of resistance. When you’re done, you can always pop a can open and fix yourself lunch—just make sure it’s a low-sodium soup.
There are many uses for tennis balls that don’t involve a racquet and a net. You can strengthen weakened hand muscles through a series of tennis ball squeezes—be sure to squeeze as tightly as you can and hold it for a few seconds each time. You can also try “tennis ball massage” strategies that deal with soreness and stiffness. A tennis ball can relieve pain in a sore jaw if you lie on your side and roll the ball between the chin and ear. Rolling a tennis ball under your foot can alleviate pain from plantar fasciitis—just be sure to keep a steady balance as you do it. Place a tennis ball between you and the wall and use your shoulder to roll it up and down to treat shoulder pain. Just be sure not to do these tasks under your dog’s watchful eye—they might think there’s a game of fetch coming up.