Injury Prevention Tips for this Memorial Day Weekend
Getting ready for summer seems like a great idea for Memorial Day. The weather is getting nicer and it’s time to prepare flower beds, plant flowers, create or clean up the garden, weed, mulch, get out patio furniture, and end the weekend with a BBQ and smores. This all sounds great until you wake up Monday and can barely get out of bed because of pain. Below are tips to prevent injuring yourself this holiday so you can enjoy all of your hard work and relax on Memorial Day.
Yard work is a form of exercise when done correctly. However, it is an exercise, and with any exercise program, it is important to warm-up correctly. In addition, it is important to use proper body mechanics. Failing to perform a proper warm-up, and utilizing poor body mechanics, makes you more susceptible to injuries.
Body mechanics is defined as posture in motion. Using proper alignment, the force of gravity in the body is minimized in terms of stress on the joints and work required by the muscles. Using the “ready position” during yard work tasks, allows your body to be in an optimal alignment for lifting, raking, and shoveling. The “ready position” is when your knees are bent, your feet are shoulder width apart, and your weight is on your heels. Your spine remains straight while you bend at your hips. It will feel like you are lowering yourself to sit down in a chair. “When in doubt, stick it out.” If you stick your seat behind you and keep your weight on your heels, it will help you maintain a proper “ready position”.
Below is an exaggeration of what your “ready position” should look like.
Raking and pulling weeds are reach and pull activities, and shoveling and digging are push and lift activities. Your warm-up should take 5-10 minutes simulating these motions. For example, maintain your “ready position” and step one foot forward. To simulate raking, reach your arms forward while stepping forward. Then pull back while stepping back. To simulate shoveling, squat down while stepping forward, almost like a mini lunge, and push your arms forward. Then, step back and use your legs to bring you back up, while pretending to lift something up with your arms. With either warm-up, repeat 10 times and then step forward with the opposite leg and repeat 10 times on that side.
Next, hold your rake or shovel with both hands, hands about shoulder width apart, and lift it over your head 10 times. Then place the rake or shovel behind your head. Keeping your knees slightly bent, gently rotate to the right, shifting your weight to the right, and then go to the left, shifting your weight to the left. Perform 10 times on each side. Next, pull one knee to your chest. Repeat 10 times on each side. Lastly, place your hands in the small of your back, and gently arch your back backwards. Repeat 10 times. Stop to perform this last exercise frequently while raking or shoveling. Both raking and shoveling are ‘bent over’ exercises. This stretch will help maintain proper body mechanics by allowing your back to go back to its natural curves.
Raking and Shoveling
Now that you’ve warmed up it is time to get to work! Proper body mechanics while performing raking or shoveling tasks includes body positioning performed during the warm up exercises. While raking, start in the ready position with one foot forward, reach forward with your rake while taking a step forward at the same time. As you pull the rake back towards you, take a step back. While shoveling you also begin in the ready position with one foot forward, as you reach forward with your arms you will squat forward with your legs, as if performing a mini lunge. Step back with your leg and pull your arms back towards you. Alternate which hand and foot you are leading with about every 10 minutes, and before you switch arms take a break and perform a few lean backs (these were also reviewed in the warm up) if it helps give your back some relief. With both raking and shoveling tasks make sure to keep the rake/shovel close to you, don’t reach too far forward as you are performing these tasks as this will cause extra strain on the low back. Keep your back straight and bend at your hips.
If you find yourself needing to pick up something make sure that when you do so you are maintaining a neutral spine, tight core and ready position. Bend with your knees versus leaning forward and using your back. As you are lifting your item make sure that you keep it close to your body. This can also be applied to tasks such as weed whacking, leaf blowing and taking out the trash. When you are performing these tasks make sure to keep those objects close to your body. As you are holding an item try to not keep your feet planted and twist you back. Take small steps turning to the direction you are going. If you have a wheelbarrow you should transfer your heavier item into this and then proceed to move it to where you need it. If you ever are questioning if something is too heavy to lift by yourself, seek out assistance from a family or neighbor. If possible you may also try breaking up what you need to carry into a lighter load. Grab a small bucket and fill it with dirt instead of carrying a 50lb bag. No need to strain your bag just to pick up that big bag of dirt!
Here is an example of what to do while lifting, though you may not be putting the item on the shelf, it is important to keep the load close to you and use your feet to twist rather than at your back/waist.
If you are working on anything overhead take a break every 5-8 minutes. If you can, utilize a ladder to bring your activity closer to you so you don’t have to reach. Prolonged overhead reaching can lead to fatigued shoulder muscles and in turn shoulder injuries.
If you are working on anything that involves reaching down try to bring that closer to you. If you can bring the task up higher. Such as with planting flowers, bring your dirt, pots and flowers onto a work bench and work and waist level. If you can’t bring the activity up higher than get down lower so that you are closer to it. You can do this by squatting down, if you are unable to squat, try kneeling. If you are kneeling down, try kneeling onto a mat or wearing knee pads. This will take some of that extra pressure off of your knee joints. If you are unable to squat down or kneel for an extended period of time try sitting on a chair or something sturdy that will bring you down closer to your activity. Even when you are sitting make sure that you maintain a tight core, and neutral spine. When you are mowing it is important to not lean forward, keep the mower close to you and use your legs to propel yourself forward. The main goal is to avoid leaning forward for an extended period of time in order to best avoid injury.
A cool down is just as important as a warm up when it comes to exercising and preventing soreness and injuries. Once you have completed your yard work take a 5 minute walk around the block and finish with some stretches. Giving your body this time to relax can help prevent unwanted soreness when you wake up the next day.
A proper warm-up and cool down, sound body mechanics (i.e. maintaining the “ready position”, tight core and neutral spine), taking frequent breaks, and changing your foot position every 10 minutes will help prevent back injury. Switching which arm you are using during raking, shoveling and overhead injuries can help to avoid an overuse injury. Also remember to DRINK YOUR WATER! Hydration is always important when performing any type of exercise. This is a general guideline to assist you with body mechanics as you get that yard looking beautiful. Please consult with a Physician or physical therapist for your individual needs if you are experiencing any pain with these activities.
Are you anxious to getting back to the gym? Or are you finding yourself not as active due to spending more time at home during these unprecedented times? Most of us are feeling sluggish and want to begin exercising or jump right back into the gym. However, the gyms are still closed until the end of the month and we have a great opportunity to possibly start, get back to, or progress a lasting workout routine at home. We also know starting where we left off two months ago can result in injury, so it is best to start now with a small routine to get back to your previous level of exercise before the gyms open up again!
Exercise is GOOD for us:
Physical activity has numerous health benefits, both mentally and physically. Benefits include improving muscular strength/endurance, decreasing blood pressure, and reducing stress and anxiety. There is a great sense of accomplishment when you reach a new fitness goal or can perform activities you couldn’t before.
Every journey starts with a single step:
Try not to get overwhelmed. Getting back into exercising or even beginning a workout regimen doesn’t need to be difficult, scary, or overwhelming. Start small and start easy. If you start with light weight or a shorter walk and it goes great, WOOT WOOT, then don’t be afraid to increase a little. Emphasis on a little! For example, if you start walking for 10 minutes and do that for a few days then try increasing that time by 5 minutes and continuing with this progression at a gradual rate. Before you know, you may find yourself walking for 30 minutes with ease! This goes for weight progression as well. Start with no weight while performing exercises, focusing on proper form. Once your form is good then try adding light weights. You may progress to a heavier weight when you feel you can complete 3 sets of 10 of an exercise with no difficulty and maintain proper form.
If you are someone who was exercising before and are trying to get back into your routine make sure you ease yourself in, do a percentage of that activity and work up to your previous level of activity slowly. For example, if before quarantine you were running 3 miles, start with running 1 or 1 ½ miles. If this is tolerated well for one week you start progressing ¼ mile each week until back to 3 miles. The human body is amazing in how it can change, but it doesn’t like to do it in a day. The way to avoid overuse aches, pains, and injuries is to slowly work up to more and more intense activities.
If you are just starting to get into exercising or have decreased balance, then you can still get a good workout in! Exercises performed in a chair are a great way to get moving and stay safe at the same time. If you start to feel like chair exercises are easy, progress to performing standing exercises at a counter, in order to hang on for balance.
Keep in mind, as you begin to exercise you may experience some muscle soreness. This is ok and normal, but it should not last more than a few days. If it is, then try decreasing weights, distance, sets or reps of an exercise, as you may be over doing it. A good way to prevent overuse of a muscle group is to work different areas of your body on different days. Split up which days you perform arm exercises and leg exercises. And you only have to begin with 20-30 minutes a day to get back into a routine!
No matter what type of exercise you are performing, a good way to gauge intensity level is with an RPE (Rated Perceived Exertion) scale. The RPE scale ranges from 1-10, with 1 being light level activity and 10 being max level activity. For most cases, when you are exercising you should be in the 3-4 range (moderate level range) of activity level. You may also use this scale to gauge progression with activities. If you are performing an exercise and feel like it’s a 2 in terms of intensity, then maybe it is time to increase the distance you are running or weights you are using to get yourself back up to that 3-4 range.
Where to Start and How Much should you start with?
Ideally you want to perform 3 sets of 10 of an exercise, 3-5 days a week. As you are starting out you may need to perform fewer sets and repetitions of each exercise or take rest breaks throughout and that is ok! As long as you are performing these exercises with proper form and maintaining pain free movements you are doing great! It is always important to remember to start out at a level of activity that you are comfortable with.
When it comes to walking or running, it depends on your previous level of exercise. If you have not done any walking or running in months or even years, then start with 10 min a day until you can do it without soreness and shortness of breath. Then increase 5 min every few days as your body allows. If you were a runner before, then start at a quarter or a third of what you were doing before stopping. Here a few running and walking charts we have found are good for beginners and those trying to work back into a long running program. As always, you can adjust a day based on how you are feeling. And make sure you stay hydrated!
You can do the walking challenge if you have never ran and want to start off slow! You can also make the 30-day walking challenge into running if you had been running shorter distances and need to start slow again! The second chart is for runners who are more trained but need a way to ease into things at a higher level. Remember, you can increase or decrease each day based on what you can tolerate!
In addition, It is important to incorporate a warmup into your exercise routine to prevent injury. The purpose of a warmup is to gradually increase your heart rate and get your muscles stretched in preparation for physical activity. Some examples of warmups are a short walk, jumping jacks, or arm circles. Once your heart rate is increased it is important to stretch the muscles that you are going to work out. Examples of common muscle groups in your legs to stretch are your hamstrings, calves, and quadriceps. Arm and neck stretches may include biceps, triceps, pecs (chest), upper traps, and levator muscles. These stretches can all be found on our website! Once you’ve completed your warmup and stretches you are ready to exercise!
If you are someone who is interested in getting back to exercising again safely, but are having any pain, difficulty or discomfort while doing so, then stop and consult with your Doctor or a physical therapist. A physical therapist will perform an evaluation and assess your body movement, flexibility, strength, balance and endurance. Based on the findings, we will work with you to create a customized exercise program that will help you reach your goals. Along with an exercise program, various manual techniques, such as soft tissue massage, Astym (tissue regeneration using various tools), mobilizations and manual stretching may be utilized to further improve your rehabilitation.
Let’s get off the couch and get started!
With March Madness upon us, it is likely we will see fans sporting their collegiate gear, roaring crowds, busted brackets and…ankle sprains? The prevalence of ankle injuries among basketball athletes is high, with ankle sprains being the most common injury. In addition to that, studies have shown that the injury is more likely to occur during competition rather than practice. Players will commonly twist their ankle on the landing after jumping for rebounds, shots, and blocks or when they plant and make quick cuts. More often than not, players will experience an inversion sprain. This is when the ankle rolls inwards and damages the ligaments on the outside of the foot.
We now know that ankle sprains are common, however, the severity of the sprain can vary. There are three different grades to categorize the severity.
Grade 1: Mild or First Degree
At this stage, when the ligaments are stressed with certain range of motion testing, the individual will experience pain due to the ligaments being stretched or slightly torn. A persons range of motion is limited in only one direction and there is limited bruising. There is tenderness and pain strictly over the injured area.
Grade II: Moderate or Second Degree
At this stage, there is slight laxity within the ankle due to the ligaments being partially torn. Instability of the ankle during weight bearing is apparent. In addition, bruising and swelling are present and the edema in the joint will limit range of motion. The individual will complain of diffuse tenderness and increased pain. This sprain typically is the most painful.
Grade III: Severe or Third Degree
At this stage, there is an abnormal increase in range of motion and significant laxity and instability due to ligaments being completely torn. The swelling and bruising is severe, however, the associated pain is less than that of a grade II.
After an athlete experiences an ankle sprain, what is the immediate course of action? Initially, the individual should implement the RICE method and use NSAIDS (i.e. ibuprofen, naproxen) to manage pain and inflammation.
Rest: Avoid weight bearing through the injured ankle.
Ice: Use ice to decrease the swelling. Ice can be applied to the injured area for 20 minutes at a time. Avoid placing ice directly on the skin.
Compress: Use compression bandages (i.e. ace wraps) to reduce fluid build-up and provide stability at the joint.
Elevate: Elevate your ankle using pillows or other supportive surfaces. The ankle should be elevated above the level of the heart to decrease swelling.
The athlete will generally follow-up with a doctor. From there, pending the severity, the doctor will decide if the individual requires crutches, elastic bandaging, walking boot, or cast. The healing time will range pending the grade of the injury.
After the pain and swelling have subsided, what’s next? Physical therapy! The doctor will likely recommend physical therapy to help regain range of motion, strength, flexibility, balance/stability, and ultimately restore function to allow for full return to sport.
Range of motion
The physical therapist (PT) will likely begin by passively moving the ankle, which means the PT controls the movement of the ankle. Range of motion exercises will transition from passive to active. At this point the athlete will control the movement of their own ankle. Exercises such as ankle pumps and ankle ABCs will be introduced.
As the athlete regains pain free motion, the PT will then introduce exercises to improve strength. These exercises will likely include the use of resistance bands and cuff weights or involve weight bearing to strengthen the muscles surrounding the ankle and foot.
After the ankle joint has been immobilized (via braces/casts) the surrounding muscles will have decreased flexibility. Most often, the gastrocnemius and soleus (calf muscles) are tight. The PT will use manual and active stretches to improve mobility.
After injury to ligaments, proprioception is negatively impacted. Proprioception is the sense and awareness of the joint position. When there is loss of proprioception it is accompanied by loss of balance. Therefore, the PT will incorporate balance exercises to improve proprioception and receptor activity within the ligaments to allow for increased control within the joint. The increase of control will allow for greater stability. Common exercises include use of single leg stance, uneven surfaces, or a combination.
Return to Sport Activities
After motion, strength, flexibility, balance, and stability are regained the PT will incorporate activities that mimic the demands of basketball (or any other sport, too!). These exercises will enhance agility and endurance.
Although ankle sprains can be a nuisance to basketball players, they do not have to be a devastating or career ending injury. With time and the guidance of a skilled PT, the injured athlete will be able to return to the court and continue playing the game they love.
Has this winter been a pain in your butt? On top of the winter blues and life, are you getting aches and pains in the back, buttock, and leg that just won’t seem to go away? If you answered yes to either of these, you may have piriformis syndrome. Piriformis syndrome occurs when the piriformis muscle is tight or when the pelvis is not in proper position resulting in mild to severe pain in the back, buttock and occasionally down the leg.
So what exactly is the piriformis muscle?
The piriformis muscle is a flat, band-like muscle located in the buttocks near the top of the hip joint while the sciatic nerve runs underneath this muscle. This muscle stabilizes the hip joint and lifts and rotates the thigh away from the body. During day to day activities this muscle helps us walk, shift our weight from one foot to another and maintain balance. When the muscle gets tight, you get the “pain in the butt”. In the picture below, you can also see how a tight piriformis can pinch on the sciatic nerve causing pain down the leg.
Can physical therapy help get rid of the pain in my butt?
The quick answer is YES!
Often times when patient’s come in with these symptoms, we discover their pelvis is not in the correct position. This may happen from miss-step, crossing legs, standing with more weight on one leg, walking on uneven surfaces, sports and exercise injury, muscle imbalances, poor flexibility, or leg length discrepancy. It is common to see the piriformis tightness is a secondary problem. This is why it is imperative your physical therapist addresses the primary cause by checking hip alignment, leg length, posture habits, body mechanics and the flexibility and strength of the muscles surrounding the hips, glutes, and abdominals. Correcting hip alignment, decreasing tightness, and strengthening the surrounding muscles will help to abolish the pain and prevent future issues. If the primary cause isn’t addressed the pain will come back over time.
Does this sound like you? Does your pain always come back? You may not have address the primary problem yet!
What can you do to help the pain?
Using a tennis ball or getting a massage to release the piriformis muscle helps! However, to keep the muscle relaxed, it is important to do the following stretches and strengthening exercises to avoid it getting tight again.
Here a few ways to help stretch the piriformis and relieve symptoms (please stop if any stretch or exercise causes increased symptoms or pain).
While lying on your back with both knee bent, cross your affected leg on the other knee. Next, hold your unaffected thigh and pull it up towards your chest until a stretch is felt in the buttock. Hold 30 seconds and repeat 3 to 5 times a couple times per day.
Below are some modifications of the same exercise.
Lay on your back and use a ball to help bring the knee toward your chest. This helps to take pressure off the knee if you have difficult bending your knee.
Sitting in chair, you can do this stretch virtually anywhere and you don’t have to get on the floor. Bring your foot (of the affected side) on your opposite leg. Gently lean forward at the waist until you feel a good stretch in your bum!
SCIATIC NERVE GLIDES
Here are some Sciatic nerve glides that will help to relieve the pain down the leg from the sciatic nerve being pinched. With these exercises, we are attempting to get the nerve to move more freely behind the piriformis muscle. Again, if any of these increase your symptoms, stop doing them.
SCIATIC NERVE GLIDE – Lying on your back
Start by lying on your back and holding the back of your knee. Next, attempt to straighten your knee as much as you are able to feeling a good stretch behind your leg (you may not be able to get it as straight as the picture). Lastly, hold this position and then bend your ankle forward and back as shown. Perform 10 ankle pumps 3 times.
SCIATIC NERVE GLIDE – Sitting
Start by sitting up straight in a chair or on the edge of a bed. Then, extend your knee and hold this position. Next, bend your ankle forward and back. You can also sit toward the edge of the chair and with your leg straight keep you heel on the ground and move your ankle back and forth in this position. Perform 10 ankle pumps 3 times.
As we mentioned earlier, you can’t just stretch to get results and keep them! So here are a few exercises we recommend to go along with your stretching. These five exercises help to strengthen the glutes and the core. Strengthening these muscles will help to stabilize the pelvis and take pressure off the piriformis so it doesn’t have to work as hard.
HIP ABDUCTION – SIDELYING
While lying on your side, slowly raise up your top leg to the side. Keep your knee straight and maintain your toes pointed forward the entire time. Keep your leg in-line with your body.
The bottom leg can be bent to stabilize your body.
PRONE HIP EXTENSION – BENT
While lying face down with your knee bent, slowly raise up your knee off the ground.
Alternating Leg Extension (Quadruped)
Begin on hands and knees with knees directly under your hips and hands directly under your shoulders. Keep your abdominals tight and engaged throughout this exercise. Raise one leg straight back as pictured without letting your hips drop to one side and without losing your abdominal contraction. Hold for 3 seconds, then return to the start position and repeat with the opposite leg. This is one repetition.
While lying on your back with knees bent, tighten your lower abdominals, squeeze your buttocks and then raise your buttocks off the floor/bed as creating a “Bridge” with your body. Hold and then lower yourself and repeat.
PELVIC TILT – SUPINE
Lie on your back with your knees bent. Next, arch your low back and then flatten it repeatedly. Your pelvis should tilt forward and back during the movement. Move through a comfortable range of motion.
We know the winter blues can be a pain in the butt, not to mention other life stressors such as work, family, sicknesses, and chores, so why not get rid of the real pain in your butt – your piriformis syndrome – to help deal with life!
All of these are just a recommendation and may temporarily relieve symptoms and not cure the problem without more treatment. If you need further treatment please reach out to us so we can help!
pictures courtesy of www.hep2go.com
What is stress?
Stress. We all have it. But where does it come from? And what is it? It’s the monthly bills, the upcoming assignment, driving in the winter weather, getting the kids ready for school, meeting work deadlines, and the list could go on and on. We all experience some type of stress on a daily basis. Stress can be overwhelming when it’s internalized and not properly managed. Therefore, it’s important we address our stressors to ensure they don’t consume us.
Why does it matter how we manage our stressors?
Stress can negatively impact one’s heart health. When we internalize stress, it can cause feelings of anxiety and increase heart rate. Our body then responds by releasing the hormone cortisol. Studies have linked high levels of cortisol to an increase in blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels. These changes can damage arteries found within the heart, increase the risk for heart attacks, and increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. In addition, to the natural response of the body, people often choose negative ways to cope with their stress. For instance, they’ll turn to comfort foods, consumption of alcohol, physical inactivity, or smoking. Each of these coping mechanisms can also cause harm to the heart by increasing risk of high cholesterol, high blood pressure, heart arrhythmias, coronary artery disease, atherosclerosis, and heart failure. It’s apparent that stress and harmful coping strategies take a toll on heart health, therefore, it’s crucial we find positive coping mechanisms.
What are positive coping strategies to manage stress?
1. Positive self-talk
Use “I can” statements when approaching stressful situations. This can improve your coping skills during difficult times. In addition, taking time to self-reflect and utilizing a glass-half full strategy can decrease levels of distress. A positive mind set can change perspective and improve one’s mentality with regard to stressors.
2. Physical activity
Exercise can help manage stress because it releases endorphins, which are natural pain-killer chemicals that allow us to feel good. The release of endorphins positively impacts our mood and decreases our levels of stress. Also, engagement of physical activity improves energy levels and cognitive function which can beneficial in combating stressors. Exercise can simply be walking!
3. Time management
Give yourself plenty of time to ensure you are not rushing around. Set the clock ahead 5 to 10 minutes to avoid running late. Make a schedule and stick to it. Stay organized through lists. Things you can prepare in advance, do so. Avoid procrastination. These are all helpful ways to improve time management and avoid unnecessary stressor.
4. Improve sleep
Lack of sleep can heighten our emotional response and increase stress. It’s important we have adequate sleep to fully function. It is recommended adults sleep an average of 8 hours per night. There is a variety of things you can do to improve quality of sleep. Avoid caffeine before bed, avoid excessive alcohol consumption, avoid naps, put technology away, turn the TV off, give yourself adequate time to wind down, and invest in a comfortable/supportive mattress and pillows.
5. Relaxation techniques
Engaging in meditation or yoga, listening to calming music, and using imagery are all good relaxation strategies. Meditation and yoga encourage a mind-body connection. Listening to calming music allows for time to decompress. Use of imagery, such as picturing yourself in nature or on the beach, is a great strategy to escape momentarily from the stressor.
Here are a few of our favorite yoga relaxation poses:
Legs Up on the Wall Child’s Pose Corpse Pose
6. Deep breathing
When feeling stressed, stop, close your eyes, and begin to take big, deep breathes. Inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth. Continue to deep breath for 3 to 5 minutes. Deep breathing allows for activation of the parasympathetic nervous system, allowing us to enter a state of relaxation. Also, it helps to release tension within the muscles and improve stress relief.
7. Engage in hobbies
Take 10-15minutes of your day to do something you enjoy, whether that be reading, sewing, running, doing puzzles, or anything of the sort. Engagement in hobbies allows you time to decompress and focus your energy on something you enjoy. It keeps you well rounded and provides a mental break.
Surround yourself with people that make you laugh, watch a funny TV show, look up funny memes, or use any other type of outlet that can provide some sort of comedic relief. Laughter relieves tension within the muscles, decreases stress hormones, improves immune response, releases endorphins (natural feel-good chemicals), and increases blood flow. A dose of laughter has a variety of mental and physical health benefits.
9. Reduce caffeine
Caffeine is a stimulant. If not consumed in moderation, it can increase feelings of anxiety and cause jitteriness. Learn your body’s response to caffeine and know your limits. If you can only handle one cup of coffee, only drink one cup. Don’t go overboard on the caffeine, it may give you a temporary energy boost but that energy may not be worth the side effects.
10. Eat a balanced diet
Eating a well-balanced diet filled with vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lean proteins, and good fats will properly nourish the body and increase energy. This will allow you to properly tackle the day and any challenges you may face.
Does stress overcome you at times? Do you often feel overwhelmed, get heart palpitations or anxiety? We encourage you to start with one or two things on the list to help you battle your stress and begin in the right direction toward better heart health!
February is American Heart Health Month! In the United States someone has a heart attack every 34 seconds. Coronary heart disease is the most common type of heart disease and kills nearly 380,000 people each year. That comes down to someone dying from a heart disease-related event every 60 seconds according to the Heart Foundation.
What does this have to do with physical therapy?
There are a lot of reasons to not be able to exercise and a few of those we can help with!
Gait/balance issues, pain in joints or the back, and being overweight are the most common reasons patients have a difficult time getting exercise to be more “heart healthy”. As physical therapists, we see many patients with these issues and those patients feel they can’t exercise for fear of falling, being in too much pain, and not being able to control their diet.
If you are suffering from poor balance and gait with a fear of falling, we can help! We see many patients in the clinic who drastically improve balance by training with gentle strengthening, balance and obstacle course practice. Balance is often compromised when our neurological system does not connect with the muscular system well. This could be caused from a previous stroke, injury, neuropathies, falling, or neurological disease. We have special equipment to improve the “proprioception” of the body which simply means where the body is in space. By using swiss balls, uneven ground, small rebounder, hurdles, cones, and resistance bands we can put together a program to help get you better balance. This will help transition you to a program to be able to walk or use a stationary bike. Any form of this exercise will help keep you healthier and moving!
Pain in the joints and back is the most common reason people don’t exercise. We see patients often who state “I can’t lose weight or exercise due to the pain in my knees (or insert any body part that hurts)!” However, after a month or two of therapy, these patients walk out ready to continue with an exercise program with less pain or pain free. These patients then tell us how they wished they would have come sooner!
Pain will occur in the body if there is an imbalance between the muscles, arthritis, or alignment issues. The imbalance in alignment or muscles causes stress on joints, increased tension of the nerves, decreased circulation, and postural deformity. During physical therapy, your therapist will address any and all of the imbalances you may have by performing manual techniques, modalities, strengthening and stretching exercises, and posture education. Manual techniques may include joint mobilization, soft tissue massage, Astym®, dry needling, and muscle energy to correct alignment issues. Exercises will include specific strengthening and stretching to areas that are weak and tight. And modalities may be hot pack, cold pack, electrical stimulation, or ultrasound. Your therapist will help walk you along a plan of care that works well with what your body needs in order to get you pain free and able to walk or begin an exercise program for keeping your heart healthy!
Being overweight can also become a challenge with exercising. Typically starting with a good diet, and a heart healthy diet, will help lose the weight. When exercising, start out slow! Begin by walking 5 minutes 3x/day and work up each week 5 minutes until you reach 30 minutes. The more you move, the more you can quick start your metabolism to burn fat and calories and the more you get your blood flowing. If your joints bother you too much to walk then riding a stationary recumbent bike is helpful to take weight off your joints. Physical therapists can help you get on a program to start cardio exercise and give you a few other exercises to tone and strengthen.
There really is no excuse to not be able to get your heart healthy again! If you are suffering from gait issues, pain, or overweight and need help getting to a good exercise routine we would be happy to help! We are here to support heart health and advocate for more exercise!
If you are like me, after the Holidays you look at your house and want to scream because of the mess (well more than normal). It looks as if someone ransacked your home, threw everything on the floor, took out the clothes from every dresser and threw it in the laundry room (or left a pile on your bed), and brought all of their leftovers to store in your refrigerator. I have three young kids so my mess may be different then your mess, but nonetheless, we can all say over a year (or maybe it has been 10 years) our cabinets get dirty, we keep things we don’t need, and our house just needs a good re-organization.
This year I am starting a new tradition: divide up the house into 12 rooms/parts and each month take a room to clean and organize. I’m going to share some of my organization tips with you to make things as simple as possible. And just think, after the first year, each year should get easier to do, right?!?!
- So where do we start?
- We start by making our list and dividing the house….no brainer, right?
Here is how I divided my house for the year:
Closets and Foyers
GarageThis is just a start! As you go through you may find you need to combine or divide things differently!
- Under each room write down what you want to accomplish.
For instance, in the kitchen I have clean refrigerator, pantry, inside and outside of cabinets, organize spices, clean baseboards and windows. In the living room I have to organize toys, clean baseboards and windows, frame paintings and hang (because we still have no pictures up after 5 years!).
Other things you may add can include painting a room, getting a new piece of furniture/storage, going through clothes or dishes, or cleaning the carpet. The list can be changed as you go and if you can’t get to it this year during the room clean, there is always next year.
Remember, this isn’t just about organizing, but cleaning too! So make sure you add to clean/dust the baseboards, windows and screens, and cabinets or floors as you feel necessary.
- Organize in your planner or write it on your calendar what room you are going to do each month and when.
I recommend to start with the closets first! That way you can clean out some space for things in other rooms that should actually be stored in a coat or linen closet rather than a dresser or the corner floor.
Next, I do the kitchen because I spend a lot of time in the kitchen and when the kitchen is cleaned and organized, my house feels more clean and organized.
After this alternate based on the amount of work you have in each room. Try to alternate a more time consuming room with a room easier to do the following month. When you do this, you won’t feel so overwhelmed each month to complete the tasks at hand and you won’t want to give up as quickly! If there is a month you will be gone a lot, make sure to put an easier room in that month.
Lastly, make sure you decide when you are going to do it. My kids won’t allow me to take a 6-8 hour day to get it all done, so I divide each room up into 3-4 days to accomplish it by the end of the month. If it works for you, then take one day a month and clean the room so it doesn’t seem like you are cleaning all the time (I would prefer to do one day a month….that means only 12 days of heavy cleaning a year!
2. Once we get our listing done we want to create a budget.
As you go through things, you may find you need new or more storage containers, or something is broken and needs to be replaced, or you have on your list to paint, get new pictures or plants, etc. Make sure you budget a certain amount each month so it doesn’t end up costing you a fortune to clean!
3. And last, set a goal for keeping things and getting rid of things.
As you begin each month set a goal for yourself to determine whether you want to keep it or not.
- My rule is: if I have not worn it/used it/noticed it in the last 2 years to discard.
- Make piles: “donate pile”, “sell pile”, “keep pile”. This will especially help in the kitchen, bedrooms, and toys.
- Make sure if you are donating, you take it right after so it doesn’t sit in the garage.
- And set yourself limits on selling items such as, if it doesn’t sell by the time I am posting something next month, I will add it to the new donate pile. The last thing you want is the stuff you are trying to get rid of clog up corners of the house because you aren’t actually getting rid of it!
- Make an electronic, paint, cords pile to be able to get rid of the old stuff that you can’t donate or sell. Search your area for a drop of for these items so when you are done, you know where to take it all.
So who is going to challenge themselves to organize and clean their house with me this year? Remember, if you can make time it is only 12 days of the deep cleaning in a year!
Pelvic What? Therapy?
We know, nobody wants to talk about “down there” and the many issues you can have or already experience. So instead, we will talk about it for you and let you know how therapy CAN help you! Warning – we are holding back nothing so you get the answers you need!
Can help with what? You may ask
Let us enlighten you!
Incontinence: This in when you are unable to hold urine or fecal matter. There are different types of incontinence including stress, urgency, overflow and total. The most common are urge and stress incontinence.
Prolapse: This is when your bladder, vagina, or anus start protruding and “falling” outside of you. You may feel a bump on the outside as you wipe and this is due to your internal organs beginning to drop.
Pelvic Pain: This can encompass a lot of people and symptoms and is primarily any pain you have in the lower abdomen. It may feel like cramping, stabbing, or tingling. It is typically from reproductive, digestive, or musculoskeletal systems being inflamed. It can also be called pelvic Inflammatory disease (PID).
Low back pain during pregnancy and post-partum: This is very common in pregnancy and is pain in the low back, Sacroiliac (SI) joint, and may also have pain down the leg causing sciatica.
Diastasis Recti: This is separation of the abdomen. It typically occurs after a quick weight gain, often associated with pregnancy.
Dyspareunia: Otherwise known as painful intercourse. It can also be associated with vulvodynia in which is pain around the vagina and vaginismus in which the vaginal muscles contract too much, typically felt more with pressure during intercourse and using the restroom.
No way therapy is able help with ALL that! I have been dealing with it for so long! How can it help? You may ask
The one thing all of these things have in common are “the pelvic floor”. The pelvic floor is consists of these muscles
- Levator ani: pubococcygeus (pubovaginalis, puborectalis), iliococcygeus
- Obturator internus
We know, big words, but these muscles are the basis of how we treat any pelvic floor dysfunction. As you can see in the picture above the pelvic floor is the “bottom of the bowl” with your hip and pelvis bones. As we discuss a few things, it is good to return to the picture as needed for reference. Typically with any of the issues mentioned above, the pelvic floor has some weakness and in the case of incontinence and prolapse, the weakness will be the worst.
So how do you strengthen the pelvic floor?
I am sure you have heard of Kegels before and may or may not try to do them on occasion. And when asked, how do you do a Kegel? You may answer “I pretend like I need to stop my urine flow”. This is good, however it does not completely entail the full pelvic floor. How I describe a Kegel to my patient’s is very direct, but it paints a good picture. Women have three holes “down there” that sit within the bottom of the pelvic floor bowl. If you just stop your urine flow to do a kegel you are only getting the front of the pelvic floor. What you want to do is try to pull all three holes up at the same time. A few good illustrations are 1. Think like you have the flu and have to run to the bathroom to make it on time. When doing this, we typically engage every bit of our pelvic floor to avoid an accident and 2. Pretend like you are sitting on some hot coals and the only way to avoid burning yourself is to pull the pelvic floor off the chair.
How many should I do?
When doing Kegels, don’t just do 30 all at once like you would for a normal workout routine. The pelvic floor needs to be engaged multiple times throughout the day so I recommend finding an activity you do often, i.e. checking facebook, checking emails, answering the phone, stopping at a stop light or sign, or changing and feeding you newborn, it can be virtually anything that is repeated throughout the day, and do one Kegel holding for 5 seconds, YES just ONE at a time. But if you are doing this activity 10-20 times a day, you are then doing 10-20 Kegels a day!
If all I have to do is Kegels, then why would I need therapy?
In addition to proper education and engagement of Kegels, we also look at pelvic alignment. Due to women’s hormones, the shapes of our pelvis, bearing children, and even the pressure during intercourse, our pelvis can become misaligned.
How do you fix it?
Using muscle energy techniques we can help correct the alignment of the pelvis. Muscle energy is a gentle technique that uses your muscle against the therapists’ gentle resistance to move the bones back to where they should be. There is no forceful thrust or manipulation involved and it should not be painful.
Can’t I just go to a chiropractor to fix the alignment?
Yes, you could, however in physical therapy we are correcting your hips using your muscles. When doing this, you are retraining the muscles to contract or to release depending on your goals, in order to keep the alignment. It takes fewer visits to achieve this when you use the muscles rather than a forceful manipulation.
And then what?
And then we stabilize and strengthen your core, pelvic floor, and hip muscles to keep the alignment. Using the muscles to realign the hips and then using the muscles around the hips to stabilize helps significantly to improve your outcome.
What types of diagnoses is this used for?
ALL of the conditions mentioned at the beginning of the article benefit from this!
- Incontinence and prolapse is primarily weakness in the pelvic floor. You can do kegels all day long, however if your hips are out of alignment, it can cause one side of the pelvic floor to be stretched, the other to be contracted and tight. When this happens, the kegels are not as effective. So to make it worth your time to do the kegels, we correct the hips first. This is also beneficial after a surgery for prolapse bladder.
- Pelvic pain and low back pain (associated with and without pregnancy) typically has some type of mal-alignment in the hips. Correcting the hips first allows us to strengthen the core, pelvic floor and surrounding hip muscles with better outcome.
- Dyspareunia can be associated with tightness and difficulty relaxing the pelvic floor, weakness in the pelvic floor, and hip alignment. If the pelvic floor muscles are in constant spasm, it can pull on the hips affecting the whole structure. So with strengthening the pelvic floor and alignment, we teach relaxation of the pelvic floor as well.
And a few other treatments:
Myofascial release: In some instances the pelvic floor muscles become too contracted and tight and you may have difficulty relaxing completely. This can cause the issues of vaginismus effecting intercourse or even the pressure with wiping. In order to help with this we can do an external release of the pelvic floor in which we focus on allowing the muscle to go from a contracted state to relaxed state by gentle pressure and massage.
Biofeedback: Are you having trouble getting the concept of doing a kegel correctly or feel like you are not doing it at all? A biofeedback machine helps you see how well you are engaging those muscles. It uses a probe in the vagina and can also have a lead on the abdomen wall to give you feedback on how well you are contracting and how well you are relaxing those muscles as well.
Painful Intercourse: Physical therapy for this issue is a lot about education as well as focusing on the aforementioned strengthening and manual techniques. Remember ladies, men are like microwaves, you hit the start button and they are warmed up and ready but women are ovens, we need to be preheated. When we “preheat” our bodies are much more relaxed and ready, which in itself can decrease the pain.
Astym for scar tissue: Astym is a technique using some tools that can help to break up scar tissue. For women’s health we think of c-sections or multiple laproscopies in which scar tissue can build up around the abdomen. The tools can help the bottom to resorb the scar tissue and then with strengthening get you feeling strong and painfree again.
Whew! This is a lot….but we are almost done!
Lastly, I think physical therapy post-partum needs to be discussed. Women’s health physical therapy is not JUST incontinence or even pelvic pain. It CAN BE simply, you had a child via either vaginal deliver or c-section and you need help strengthening those pelvic floor and hip muscles again.
Think of what your body goes through from conception to child birth!
As the baby grows inside of you your ligaments soften and start to stretch in order for your hips to open up and make room for the baby. Not to mention, your abs begin to expand and there is a lot more pressure on the pelvic floor. Yes, some back pain, round ligament pain, pelvic pain is common in pregnancy, however pain where you have difficulty walking, standing, rolling in bed, can be helped while you are pregnant and it is 100% safe for you and the baby! We focus on the hip alignment, stabilization, and strengthening as mentioned above.
Next when baby is born vaginally, you are stretching every muscle in your pelvic floor and the hips are separating. Think of all the weakness that can occur just from the stretching! Some women may even encounter a pubic symphysis separation which can be very painful (p.s. therapy CAN help!).
If the baby is born via c-section, think of all the layers of muscles being cut! Surely there will be a lot of weakness just from cutting through the muscle and fascia. And imagine if it is your 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and so on c-section!
So what do I really need to take from all of this?
PHYSICAL THERAPY CAN HELP!
Most women don’t recognize physical therapy is an option for them! They think having incontinence can be “normal”, pelvic pain is “normal”, back pain from pregnancy is “normal” and they don’t recognize it doesn’t have to be normal anymore. Most women also believe physical therapy is just for incontinence, however we see many women that are fully continent but the issue is more with pain in the pelvis, pain during intercourse, or no pain at all and has a diastasis recti preventing them from getting back in shape and into their full workout routines.
Does any of this “down there” talk seem to be hitting close to home for you? If so seek out a physical therapist! You will be glad you did!
October is Physical Therapy Awareness Month!
How Can Physical Therapy Help You?
What is a Physical Therapist?
A physical therapist (PT) is a licensed healthcare professional. The education involved in becoming a PT is intense and takes approximately 7 years to complete from start to finish. Once a PT becomes licensed, he or she will be required to fulfill a continuing education requirement of 24 professional development hours every two years, as required by the state. This requirement is to ensure that the PT’s are staying up to date on research and medical advancements. The PT profession prides itself on practicing using current evidence-based practices.
How do you know if you would benefit from physical therapy?
The answer is simple. If pain is limiting you from doing your activities of daily living or the sport you love then PT can help you. Pain will occur in the body if there is an imbalance between muscles. The imbalance can cause stress on joints, increased tension of nerves, decreased circulation and eventually lead to a postural deformity. Manual therapy (joint mobilizations, massage, Astym etc. by your PT), modalities (ultrasound, electrical stimulation, cold pack, hot pack etc.), posture education, exercises and stretching can correct these imbalances and prevent injury or impairments.
What should you expect at a physical therapy visit?
Your physical therapist will sit down with you on your first visit (PT initial evaluation) and take a thorough history of your condition. Then your PT will complete a comprehensive evaluation to determine if you have limitations in range of motion, flexibility, strength, balance, coordination and gait. Based on the findings the PT will educate you on your diagnosis. Together you will develop a treatment plan and goals that will address your areas of limitations and your desires to get back to what matters the most to you.
From there, during your future visits, you will come in warm up, perform exercises that will address your deficits, manual therapy may be performed by your PT and modalities may be used to help decrease pain. Throughout your treatment, your PT will reassess your progress and modify or advance treatment as needed.
Initially, you should expect to come in three times per week. As you progress, your frequency may drop down to two times per week. Depending on your diagnosis and severity of injury you can expect to be coming to PT for 1 to 3 months. The goal is to have you better as soon as possible.
At the end of your treatment plan, when goals have been met, your PT will sit down again with you and look at the original deficits and measure to see if the deficits have resolved or are improving. Your PT will give you the feedback and send the information to your physician so they can see where you were and how you progressed. If the majority of the goals were met then your PT will discharge you with a home exercise program.
How can you be involved in your treatment plan for PT?
It is imperative for you to be an active participant in your treatment plan. Your involvement will determine your success. Coming in for all of your appointments and communicating with your PT is essential to your healing process. Research has shown that coming in two to three times per week enhances your healing process.
If you think you may be a good candidate for physical therapy then please call us at (248) 460-1572 and we will help you get back to what matters most.
Ever feel hurried when grocery shopping? Often, to save time, we cut corners leaving ourselves more prone to injuries. We wanted to take a moment to define good posture, body mechanics and suggest a few ways you can incorporate these principles when grocery shopping.
Good posture is defined as maintaining the normal spinal curves. The spine has five groups of bones: 7 cervical (neck), 12 thoracic (mid back), 5 lumbar (low back), 5 sacral/4 coccygeal (sacrum). When positioned properly, the neck and low back have inward curves, and the mid back and sacrum have outward curves. Proper body mechanics can be defined as posture in motion. Back pain is seldom caused by a single injury or incident. Poor body mechanics and faulty postures (i.e. postures outside of the normal spinal curves) over time contribute significantly to back pain.
Proper body mechanics allows the spine to maintain its natural curves and minimizes the stress on the joints and muscles. The use of the “ready position” will allow you to maintain good posture while moving. The “ready position” is when you knees are bent, your feet are shoulder width apart, and your weight is on your heels. You spine remains straight while you bend at your hips. It will feel like you are lowering yourself to sit down in a chair. All the normal curves of your spine will be maintained and the large muscles in your legs will do most of the work. The “ready position” should be used with all activities of daily living, including grocery shopping/bending/carry and lifting.
Moving into the “ready position”
Poor Posture Normal Curves
When carrying your groceries keep the load even on each side of your body and only take in a few bags at a time. It is important to keep your spine upright and not lean to one side to avoid injury to your back.
Make sure you pick a good shopping cart. If you get a cart and notice it is pulling more to one side or isn’t rolling easily then stop and grab a different cart. Once you start loading the cart the small pull will intensify and cause increased stress your low back.When pushing the cart try to keep your body forward and straight and avoid rotating your body while shopping. It is important to not push a load with your spine in a twisted position because this can cause injury to your back.
When getting items from the shelves it is important to use proper lifting mechanics.
BODY MECHANICS – WAIST HEIGHT LIFTING
Start by standing close to the object with feet spread apart. Bend at the knees and hips and NOT at your spine.
Hold the object close to your body as you use your legs muscles to stand back up lifting the object.
Walk over to the surface you want to set the object on to and set it down. Be sure to NOT twist your spine but to pivot your feet so that your feet are pointed forward to where you want to set the object.
Slide the object on the shelf to off load your body.
BODY MECHANICS – KNEE HEIGHT LIFTING
Start by standing close to the object with feet spread apart. Bend at the knees and hips and NOT at your spine.
Hold the object close to your body as you use your legs muscles to stand back up lifting the object.
Walk over to the surface you want to set the object on to and set it down bending at the knees slightly. Do Not bend at the spine. Also, be sure NOT to twist your spine but to pivot your feet so that your feet are pointed forward to where you want to set the object.
Slide the object on the shelf to off load your body.
BODY MECHANICS – OVER HEAD LIFTING
Start by standing close to the object with feet spread apart. Bend at the knees and hips and NOT at your spine.
Hold the object close to your body as you use your legs muscles to stand back up lifting the object.
Walk over to the surface you want to set the object on and raise it up over head with a “one-hand-under and one-hand-over” technique as shown. Set it down and DO NOT extend at the spine. Also, be sure NOT to twist your spine but to pivot your feet so that your feet are pointed forward to where you want to set the object.
Slide the object on the shelf to off load your body.
Loading and unloading your car is a critical time to think about your body position. It is easy to forget about body mechanics as you reach in the back seat or into the trunk of your car. You want to bend at your knees and hips keeping the natural curves of your back and lift with your legs. Face the area your lifting from and move your feet instead of twisting your back to get to the area where you are putting your groceries. As you set the groceries in your car make sure you are facing the area as well.
So, the next time you are grocery shopping stop and check yourself before bending and lifting. Go through the steps for the “ready position” and incorporate them in your shopping routine. The couple of seconds you take to do this could save you from a back injury that could last for months/years.