The order of operations

I’ve worked with 1000s of clients as a physical therapist and throughout the years I noticed that they all followed a very similar path to recovery. Each of the patients had to go through various milestones before they progressed to the next level in their rehabilitation. It’s important to follow these steps, as each one serves as a foundation for the next.

The first stage in the injury recovery pathway is activity modification. There are limited situations where complete rest is warranted (even in the hospital, patients are encouraged to exercise, as it accelerates recovery). Read more it here.

Following an “order of operations” is the key to your recovery and function. Here are the steps:

  • Activity modification
  • Reduce Pain
  • Improve range of motion
  • Increase strength
  • Increase stability
  • Improve quality of movement
  • Improve endurance 
  • Return to function

Physical therapists often get caught up with a ‘tight’ or ‘weak muscle’ and immediately prescribe exercises to address said dysfunction. However, the missing link is addressing the pain itself. At this stage, every action you take should be focusing on reducing or eliminating pain. More often than not, there will be at least one or two techniques that will make that happen. 

You can’t progress to the next step unless you address your pain first.

So take a look at your current routine (if you have one) today. Is there a strategy to address your pain or at least work around it? If not, book a call and let’s discuss a plan of action for you. 

If you’re ready for the next step in the order of operations, stay tuned. We’ll talk about range of motion and stretching tomorrow.

Dr. Ashley Mak, PT, DPT, CSCS


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