There is so much equipment available now for rehabilitation therapists. This ranges from inexpensive, even home items, up to large and expensive purpose-built equipment.

As a small business owner with a low budget, or as a therapist who works remotely where size and weight are restrictions, how do you know which items to spend your hard-earned takings on?

There are lots of points to consider with this and it will be slightly different for everyone depending on your own specific requirements, client base and budget.

The most important thing to try to achieve with each item in your equipment tool box is that it has multiple uses. Using your money and space on an item that is only used for one thing means it may only be used infrequently and doesn’t represent great value for money or good use of limited space.

With all of this in mind, here are my suggestions for the top five items in my equipment arsenal:

1. Rehab bands

Rehab bands (also known as resistance bands, therapy bands, exercise bands, therabands, etc.) are the ideal equipment for small and mobile therapy businesses. They are inexpensive, take up virtually no space and can be used to strengthen almost any skeletal muscle.

Vary the angle, speed and length of the band to make it easier or harder as needed. No need for heavy weights, which take up space and aren’t as versatile as a simple rehab band.

Chances are your clients are more likely to invest in a piece of band costing a few dollars than a set of weights, anyway.

This can even be an additional revenue stream for you…buy a long roll, cut them into two-meter sections and sell them to clients for a few dollars. You’ll soon make your money back!

2. Small massage balls

A set of three to five small massage balls is ideal. I favor a set where there are varying balls of different “hardness,” meaning you can start with a softer one and work up as tolerance allows!

Massage balls are great for really getting into tight areas and working on specific trigger points. Demonstrate to your clients how to use them and suggest they get themselves one to use every few days at home.

Not only can these be used for demonstrating self-massage for your clients, but also for exercises involving a ball. These may be throwing and catching exercises for shoulder, elbow or wrist injuries. Or it may be advanced balance training involving catching whilst on an unstable surface or standing on one leg.

3. Treatment table

For anyone who is trained in and uses soft tissue therapies, this is a must have. Lightweight, portable ones start from around $100.

Even if you don’t require one for such treatments, they can still be a great tool. Many physical therapists incorporate treatments such as neuromuscular techniques and partner-assisted stretching, where a table can be really helpful to get more leverage and to make you and your client more comfortable.

4. Wobble board

A wobble board is a great, small and inexpensive piece of equipment. Its main job is obviously as a device to improve proprioception or balance. It can be used simply to stand on, either both feet or one at a time, and also for throwing/catching exercises or exercises like squats, push-ups and planks to add another dimension of challenge for your clients.

A wobble board can also be used as a slant board — great for stretching the calves. Similarly, it can be used to raise the heels when performing squats — either as an assessment or to strengthen with better form whilst separately working on ankle mobility.

5. Foam roller

Most famously used for self-massage of the excruciating variety, foam rollers do actually have a number of other uses. A basic one is cheap and they all take up very little space.

If we’re talking about self-massage, or more officially “myofascial release,” a foam roller can be used to help loosen all leg muscles, as well as a number of torso and upper body parts.

Other than inflicting pain, rollers can be used to help with posture correction, as well as for exercises to aid balance and core control.

In addition to these items that need purchasing, you can also find a number of everyday items around the house that can be really useful in a rehab setting. For example:

  • Empty aerosol cans (like hairspray or deodorant), which are great for rolling along the arch of the foot for relief in conditions like plantar fasciitis.
  • A soft belt or scarf is good for aiding with self-stretches for the hamstrings where the client can’t reach up or hold the leg up. Also good for the calf muscles if you need the client to stretch them in a seated position.
  • The stick from a broom or mop makes a great “dowel rod” that can be used for loads of exercises, from assisted “wand” exercises for shoulder rehab, to ensuring good posture on bending drills.

I hope this article will help those just setting out in their new venture to think carefully about their purchases and prioritize which items they really need to spend that all important setup money on!

You could buy everything on this list for around $200, so when money is tight you really don’t have to spend a fortune to get yourself up and running.