Six physical therapy exercises you can do at home.

For individuals experiencing pain and aches in the back, knees, hips, neck and other joints and muscles, physical therapy can help get them back to doing the activities they love.

Physical therapy is used to treat many types of conditions stemming from an injury, surgery or chronic disease, including sports injuries, such as concussion, rotator cuff tears and stress fractures; chronic or acute back pain; neurological conditions, such as stroke and Parkinson’s disease; women’s health issues, such as urinary incontinence; swelling after cancer surgery (called lymphedema); or overuse injuries, including carpal tunnel syndrome and tendinitis.

Physical therapy can also help you live a healthier, more active life by strengthening and stretching your muscles and joints, managing age-related issues such as arthritis and improving your overall function and mobility.

“At a physical therapy and rehabilitation center, a physical therapist will evaluate your condition and develop an individualized treatment plan to help achieve your goals,” said John Curreri, Physical Therapist at The Rehabilitation Center of Penn Highlands Healthcare in the Clarion Community Medical Building. “But for minor aches and pains, there are a number of simple exercises you can do at home to ease your pain and make it easier to move around.”

The following exercises are designed to strengthen and stretch your muscles. Before beginning a new exercise program, be sure to talk to your primary care provider.

Exercise No. 1: Straight Leg Raise
Lie on your back and bend your right knee, keeping your left foot planted. Point the toes of your left foot toward the ceiling, slowly lift your left leg to about 45 degrees (keeping your left knee straight), then slowly lower back to the floor. You should feel the front of the thigh muscles working throughout the movement. Do 10 to 20 repetitions, and repeat on the opposite side.

Exercise No. 2: The Bridge
Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet close to your buttocks and a little wider than hip distance apart. Squeeze your gluteal muscles to slowly raise the pelvis up from the floor while keeping your knees aligned over your ankles. Hold the top position for 3 to 5 seconds, then slowly lower down to start position. Do 10 to 20 repetitions.

Exercise No. 3: Clamshells
Lie on your left side and bend your arm to support your head. Bend your knees to 90 degrees, knees and ankles stacked. Slowly raise your right knee from the left, keeping your ankles together (do not allow your pelvis to roll back or open). You should feel the effort in the right thigh and buttock. Slowly lower back to start position. Do 10 to 20 repetitions, and repeat on the opposite side.

Exercise No. 4: Cervical Retraction
Start in a seated position with your shoulders pulled back and down. Look straight forward. Tuck your chin in and hold this position for 1 to 2 seconds. Try to bring your chin straight back, without moving your head downwards. Return to the starting position and do 10 repetitions.

Exercise No. 5: Thoracic Extension
Stand or sit up straight on a chair. Place your hands behind your head. While keeping your neck neutral, extend your upper back and squeeze shoulder blades down and back. Hold this position for 1 to 2 seconds. Return to the starting position and do 10 repetitions.

Exercise No. 6: Lumbar Extension
Stand up straight and place your hands on your lower back. Slowly bend backwards as far as you comfortably can, focusing on arching your lower back. Hold this position for 1 to 2 seconds. Return to the starting position and do 10 repetitions.

“How long it will take to see improvement in your condition depends on your injury or condition as well as your commitment to performing the exercises,” said John Curreri, PT. “If pain continues to interfere with daily life, talk to your healthcare provider.”

The Penn Highlands Rehabilitation Center offers comprehensive physical, occupational, and speech therapy services for a variety of conditions at more than 20 locations throughout the region. Recently, Penn Highlands Healthcare has opened locations in Clarion, New Bethlehem, Rimersburg, and Tyrone. For more information, visit