Physical Therapy: Therapeutic Exercise Examples

May 18, 2023

physical therapy therapeutic exercise

Physical injuries and conditions can be painful, restrictive and can greatly affect your overall quality of life. Fortunately, many different forms of therapeutic exercises can help you improve your strength, flexibility, and range of motion.

Whether you have a muscle injury, a chronic condition, or are recovering from surgery, a therapeutic exercise program can help to improve your overall function, reduce pain, and speed up healing.

Types of Therapeutic Exercise

There are several types and classifications of therapeutic exercises that your physical therapist may recommend. The exercise program will depend on your condition, abilities, and stage of healing.

Engaging in endurance exercises such as walking, biking, or swimming, can significantly enhance cardiovascular function, bolster muscular endurance, and elevate overall fitness levels.

Strength and flexibility exercises concentrate on enhancing muscular strength, endurance, and power by targeting specific muscle groups. These types of exercises include bodyweight exercises, progressive resistive exercises using resistance bands, and targeted strength exercises using gym equipment, such as dumbbells

Physical therapy exercises are also classified according to the stage of healing, which is critical when developing a treatment plan. For example, with acute injuries such as sprains or contusions, healing is generally divided into three stages: acute, sub-acute, and post-acute. 

Acute: The acute stage involves resting the injury, reducing swelling, and avoiding any form of activity that can make it worse.

Sub-Acute: During the sub-acute stage, therapeutic modalities like heat, cold, and ultrasound therapy may be used to relieve pain, while gentle range of motion exercises can help start the healing process. 

Post-Acute: The central objective of the post-acute stage is to resume regular activities, and consequently, stronger active movements may begin at this point. Endurance, strengthening, and flexibility exercises can be incorporated from this stage until the individual has regained full function. 

Assess Your Condition 

Before beginning any exercise program, assess your condition and consult with your physical therapist or healthcare practitioner. If you aren’t quite ready to participate in a full exercise program, a modified program may be recommended. Active-assisted exercises and passive exercises are two types of exercises that your therapist may recommend, depending on your condition and ability. Active-assisted exercises involve a therapist or caretaker, while passive exercises can be done independently. 

Pain-Free Exercise

It's important to note that the type of exercise you do will depend on your pain level. If you're experiencing chronic pain or pain from an acute injury, it's essential to engage in pain-free exercises. Pain-free exercises are those that could be performed without causing or worsening pain. The point of therapeutic exercises is to improve function and reduce pain, so it's crucial to stay within your pain-free range.

Techniques for Practicing Therapeutic Exercise

Performing therapeutic exercises correctly will help you achieve your therapy goals. Resistance exercises, for example, should start with light resistance and gradually increase as your muscle strength improves. Range of motion exercises should be practiced within your pain-free range to avoid over-stretching or hyper-extension.

Therapeutic Exercise is Different from Physical Activity

It's important to note that therapeutic exercise differs from regular physical activities. While physical activity may help to improve overall health, therapeutic exercise is part of a treatment plan specifically designed to improve your physical condition. Therapeutic exercise is a type of physical therapy, and it’s a treatment that should be prescribed by a licensed physiotherapist.

Studies have shown that therapeutic exercise can also improve balance and reduce falls in older adults, prevent pain in individuals with osteoarthritis, and reduce symptoms in those with chronic pain.

AliMed’s Rehabilitation and Physical Therapy E-Catalog has a range of therapeutic exercise products that serve as an excellent resource for physical therapists, athletic trainers, and individuals on their journey to recovery. 


AliMed, Inc. is a manufacturer and distributor of medical supply products, and is not a medical authority. The contents contained in this article, including text, graphics, imagery, and other materials, are for informational and educational purposes only. AliMed does not provide or intend to provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment, and the information contained here should not be treated as such. If you have questions about a specific medical condition or specific personal use of a medical device, always consult your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.

This blog was created with the assistance of artificial intelligence. Although every effort has been made to present information that is accurate and true to the best of our knowledge, this content may contain omissions or errors. AliMed does not regularly update information or resources for this content and does not guarantee, make any warranties, and accepts no liability for the accuracy or completeness of the information presented.