When most people think of diagnostic imaging, they think of X-rays, CT scans and MRIs, but the use of musculoskeletal ultrasound is becoming more popular for physical therapists. With most states having direct access laws, physical therapists are becoming primary care providers for musculoskeletal injuries. Despite a long history of therapists effectively using imaging in the military, and some managed care organizations like Kaiser Permanente in Northern California, in the United States PTs usually can't order X-rays, CT, or MRI scans. They can, however use  musculoskeletal ultrasound. 

A musculoskeletal ultrasound is very similar to the more common sonogram used during pregnancy. Both use sound waves to create an image of what's going on in the body in real time. Ultrasound can show a PT many structures in the body and can be used to help diagnose strains, sprains, inflammatory conditions like tendonitis or bursitis, nerve entrapments, and hernias.

Ultrasound is not popular with PTs just because they are limited in the ability to order other imaging. Research and clinical experience supports ultrasound as the preferred diagnostic test for many musculoskeletal injuries. Here are some benefits of ultrasound that support why:

  • Ultrasound uses no radiation and has no known harmful effects on humans
  • Real time imaging allows ultrasound to capture movement in the tissues, something x-ray, CT, and MRI can't do
  • Ultrasound is widely available, and less expensive than most other types of imaging
  • Ultrasound may provide greater detail of soft tissues like muscles, tendons, or joints
  • Ultrasound can be used on people who can't have an MRI such as patients with pacemakers, and certain metallic implants
  • Patients don't have to remain still for an ultrasound, meaning it can be easily used on people who are claustrophobic or nervous about other imaging types

 

With such a list of advantages, it seems that ultrasound is a great type of imaging technology. This is true, but it's not without a few drawbacks. These would include:

  • Difficulty penetrating bones, and through large amounts of soft tissue, limiting the ability to see the deepest tissues in the body
  • Ultrasound also has difficulty showing the internal structure of bones, making other techniques better for detecting suspected fractures
     

 

Most people think of heart rate or blood pressure when they think of vital signs. It is common to use numbers to quantify health and risk of disease. The American Heart Association encourages people to "know their numbers" referring to blood pressure, blood cholesterol, blood glucose, and weight. However, research is now showing the importance of moving properly for health. Let's take a look at some of the numbers you can use to quantify your movement health:

Walking Speed

Walking speed has been called the "sixth vital sign" in medical literature recently. It is easy to measure, and takes into account strength, balance, coordination, confidence, cardiovascular fitness, tolerance to activity, and a whole host of other factors. It has also been shown to be predictive of future hospitalizations, functional decline, and overall mortality. Normal walking speed is considered to be 1.2 to 1.4 meters per second.

Push Ups

Push ups are popular to build strength, but a recent study found that they can show us a lot about your heart too. Researchers found that men who could do 40 or more consecutive push ups were at a 96% lower risk for cardiovascular disease than were men who could do less than 10. The push up test was also more useful in predicting future cardiovascular disease than aerobic capacity measured on a treadmill.

Grip Strength

Hand grip strength has been shown to be strongly correlated with health. The stronger your hand grip is, the less likely you are to suffer from cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease, COPD, and all types of cancer. In the study, muscle weakness was defined as grip strength <26 kg for men and <16 kg for women. Grip strength below these numbers was highly correlated with an increase in disease.

Standing From the Floor

If you can't easily get down on the floor and back up your health might be in trouble, according to a study that looked at more than 2,000 people. The study asked people to go from standing to sitting on the floor and back up with as little support as needed. They found that if you need to use more than one hand to get up and down from the floor that you were 2 to 5 times more likely to die in the next 7 years than someone who can do it with just one hand, or even better, no hands at all.

Moving well is obviously important to overall health and longer life. These tests can give a snapshot of how you're doing. If you're having trouble with any of them, considering seeing a movement specialist - your physical therapist.

 

Think about the last time you made a big purchase, say $1,000 or more. Did you go out and buy the first thing you saw? Take one recommendation from somebody? Or did you research it, learn some things, compare it to other options, and select something that was right for you? Most people tend to be educated and research large purchases like cars, televisions, or the newest iphone. So why do we so often fail to do this with healthcare?

By becoming more educated healthcare consumers we can go from passive patients who take the first recommendation that comes from a practitioner to an active consumer who weighs options and makes choices. Here are some questions to talk through with your practitioner the next time a healthcare decision comes up.

What are the benefits or expected results?

When a treatment or procedure is recommended, the patient often assumes that it will make them "better." But what the patient expects and what the healthcare provider expects are often two different things. For example, a patient having back surgery expects to be pain free after surgery. The surgeon probably doesn't expect that to happen. Outcomes from back surgeries are terrible. A large study of 1450 patients in the Ohio worker's comp system showed that after 2 years 26% of patients who had surgery returned to work. Compare that to 67% of patients who didn't have surgery. There was also a 41% increase in the use of painkillers in the surgical group.

What are the risks and downsides?

Patients want to hear about the benefits of a treatment, but they often don't ask or care about the risks. To be an educated consumer, you need to. If one treatment has a 3% edge over another, but has a high risk of making you itchy or causing frequent headaches, do you want it? Going back to the back surgery study from before, the researchers found a 1 in 4 chance of a repeat surgery and a 1 in 3 chance of a major complication. With surgery you risk infection, blood clots, complications with anesthesia, and a whole host of other things. These risks need compared with other treatments. In the case of back pain, physical therapy is a valid alternative with a much lower risk profile. You might have some soreness with physical therapy, you might sweat some and be challenged with exercise, but the risks of PT compared to surgery are minimal.

What are the alternatives?

Don't feel bad asking about alternative treatments. If you were looking at  a certain car you wouldn't go out and just buy it. You'd at least consider the competitors and probably even test drive them. You should at least look at the other options in healthcare too. Maybe the first recommendation that your practitioner makes is the right one for you, but if you don't consider the alternatives you'll never really know.

Why this treatment over the other ones?

This is the question where the rubber meets the road. You've learned about all the options, now you can see if your practitioner is balancing the risks and benefits to make the right choice for you. Staying with the back pain example, research shows that more than 40% of people who seek care for back pain will not receive a treatment of known effectiveness. Back pain is also the #1 reason for opioid prescriptions, despite a 2016 recommendation from the CDC to avoid prescribing opioids for back pain, and opt for non-drug treatments like physical therapy. By asking for the rationale and carefully weighing options, you can avoid being one of the people who gets an ineffective treatment.

What's it cost?

This last question is becoming more important as patients bear an increasing share of the cost of healthcare. Even if you don't have a high deductible plan or hefty co-pays, by being financially responsible today, you'll probably see smaller price increases in your premiums down the road. That back surgery that we've been talking about? It'll likely cost between $60,000 and $80,000. So if we put the whole picture together, a patient who takes the first recommendation for surgery will have a $60,000 procedure that leads to a higher risk of disability, and a higher risk of long term painkiller use, while risking infection, and blood clots. Don't forget the 25% chance that you'll get to do it all again in a repeat surgery. Seems like a bad deal. An educated consumer would learn that physical therapy is a viable alternative to surgery with comparable outcomes, much less risk and lower cost. In fact, a large study of 122,723 subjects showed that people with back pain who got physical therapy in the first 14 days lowered their healthcare costs by 60%. It's easy to see why bargain shoppers love PT!

 

Youth sports injuries have been on the rise for years, and baseball players are not immune to this trend. 1 in 5 players between the ages of 9 and 15 will have an injury each year. The good news is that only 5% of these injuries result in surgery, or being unable to continue to play baseball. More good news comes when you learn that the majority of injuries are preventable with proper training and awareness.

Many of the injuries seen in baseball are common to other youth sports and include things like:

  1. Sprains and strains
  2. Fracture
  3. Minor injuries like bruises, scrapes, abrasions, and muscle cramps

Keys to preventing these types of injuries are making sure that players have a proper base of strength and fitness to participate, adequate warm up before practice and games, and making sure that players have enough recovery time built into their schedules throughout the season.

Injuries Unique to Baseball/Softball

In addition to the common injuries above, baseball sees a large number of injuries due to overuse. These most commonly occur in the shoulder and arm, typically in a pitcher. Parents of athletes who pitch need to be aware of the risks of pitching and guidelines to minimize them. Studies have shown that pitchers who average more than 80 pitches in a game are 4x more likely to get injured. They have also found that pitching for more than 8 months out of the year, causes your injury risk to increase by 5x.

Tips to prevent pitching injuries

  1. Pick a team to pitch for -if you play on multiple teams, choose oneto pitch for and play a different position on the other to reduce the chances of injury
  2. Don’t play a position that requires a lot of throwing on your non-pitching days, like catcher
  3. Take 2 to 4 months off each year from pitching to rest your arm
  4. Keep your arm healthy and strong. The thrower’s ten was developed specifically for throwing athletes and is a good place to start.
  5. Stop pitching if you feel pain, or fatigue. Throwing through problems will change your mechanics and put you at risk for serious injury
  6. Follow the guidelines for rest days and total pitches below.

If you're 14 or under: 

Pitches Thrown Rest Days

1-20

No rest day required
21-35 1 rest day
36-50 2 rest days
51-65 3 rest days
66+ 4 rest days

 

15 and under can throw a bit more

Pitches Thrown Rest Days

1-30

No rest day required
31-45 1 rest day
46-60 2 rest days
61-75 3 rest days
76+ 4 rest days

Finally, you should aim to keep under the maximum number of daily pitches set by Little League Baseball and Softball:

Age Max Pitches Per Day

7-8

50
9-10 75
11-12 85
13-16 95

 

Recent research is showing that surgery might not be needed as often as we think. A large review estimates that 10% to 20% of surgeries might be unnecessary and that in some specialties such as cardiology and orthopedics, that number might be higher. The reasons for so many unneeded surgeries being performed are varied, but the most common are that more conservative options aren't tried first, or lack of knowledge by the operating physician. 

Physicians undergo long and rigorous training programs to become surgeons, but if they don't work hard to keep learning, their knowledge often stops growing when they leave residency. Recent research is showing that certain common surgeries aren't any better than a placebo. Two such examples are kyphoplasty - a procedure for spinal compression fractures, and partial meniscectomy - a procedure used to treat tears of the meniscus in the knee. If a surgeon hasn't continued to learn, they won't know that these surgeries often don't offer any more benefit than a non-surgical treatment and will continue to perform them. 

Every surgery, even "minor" ones carry risks. These include complications from anesthesia, blood clots after surgery, delayed healing of the incision, infection, and unintended damage to nerves or other organs near the surgical site. Some of these risks cause discomfort for a period after surgery and go away, but others can result in permanent disability or even death. For some patients and conditions, surgery is a great treatment option, but with all the associated risks, when surgery can be avoided, it should be. 

For musculoskeletal problems like back and joint pain, sprains, and strains, seeing your PT before a surgeon can help keep you out of the operating room and get you back to life without surgery. Studies have shown that physical therapy is just as good if not better than surgery for a multitude of conditions and carries less risk. Some examples would include rotator cuff tears, meniscal tears, spinal stenosis, low back pain, and osteoarthritis. 

Physical therapy can't fix every problem, and for some patients surgery is the best choice. However, research is showing that surgery isn't a cure-all, and is sometimes just a very expensive and risky placebo. In most cases, starting with physical therapy is the right choice, and for many patients, PT is the only treatment necessary.

Strength training is an important type of exercise, but becomes even more important as people age. Without resistance training, we begin to lose somewhere between 0.5% and 1% of our muscle mass each year.  

With this loss of muscle mass comes higher levels of arthritis pain, more difficulty with things like getting out of a chair or going up steps, higher risk for falls and injuries, and eventually the possibility of loss of independence.  

Research has shown that people of any age can benefit from strength training, so just because you’re getting older doesn’t mean that you can’t get any stronger. When many people hear “strength training” they automatically picture someone straining under a heavy barbell. However, strength training can be performed with resistance bands, machines, dumbbells, barbells, and many other types of equipment. The key to strength training is that the resistance gets stronger as you do.  

The data we have also shows that increasing strength can reduce pain from arthritis, and make things like climbing steps, carrying groceries, taking a bath, and preparing a meal easier. Strength training can also help to reduce your risk of falls and maintain your independence.  

If you’d like to begin strength training and start reaping the benefits, your physical therapist can help you design a plan that’s both effective and safe. They can teach you the correct movements and monitor your progress, helping you increase your resistance the right amount at the right time.  

We’ve all heard that a proper warm up is important before exercise, and that skipping it can lead to injury. As physical therapists, one of the more common places we see people skipping warm ups or doing them improperly is at the golf course. For many golfers, the warm up is carrying the golf bag from the trunk of the car to the cart. For others hitting a bucket of balls at the driving range or taking some practice swings is a warm up.  

The golf swing is a complex, full body motion that puts a lot of force through the bones, muscles, and ligaments. Jumping straight into swinging a club without properly preparing those bones, muscles and ligaments puts golfers at risk for injury. A good rule of thumb to help you remember what a proper golf warm up looks like is that you can’t swing to warm up, you have to warm up to swing. 

A proper warm up happens right before you start golfing, so that means you’ll be doing it at the course. If swinging a club isn’t a good warm up, what does one look like? It’s a series of dynamic activities that raises your heart rate to 60% of your maximum. The easy way to figure this number out is to subtract your age from 220 to get your maximum, then multiply that by 60% to get your target heart rate for your warm up. So for a 55 year old, the maximum heart rate would be 165 (220-55) and 60% of that is 99 (165 x 0.6).  

Each exercise below should be done for about 1 minute on both sides of your body to keep symmetry and be done a pace to get your heart rate up to the target you calculated.  

 

Neck circles 

Drop your chin down to your collar bone, then rotate your head in a circle, bringing your ear to your right shoulder, up to the sky, to your left shoulder, then down at the floor. Repeat for 30 seconds and then switch directions. 

 

Neck Rotation 

Turn your head to the left and hold for 2 seconds, then to the right and hold for 2 seconds. Continue for 60 seconds. 

 

Torso Rotation with Club 

Stand in a 5-iron posture with your feet shoulder-width apart, and a slight bend in your knees and waist. Hold the club in front of your shoulders with crossed arms, and keeping your hips steady, rotate your shoulders from side to side.  The end of the club should point forward at the biggest point of the stretch 

 

Side Bends with Club 

Stand with your feet shoulder width apart.  Hold the club on your shoulders behind your neck. Keeping your back straight, bend to your left and hold for two seconds, then to the right and hold for two seconds. Make sure you’re not bending forward or backward as you bend from side to side. 

 

Shoulder Circles 

Do small shoulder circles for 30 seconds, first clockwise and then counter clockwise. 

 

Toy Soldiers 

Walk forward, kicking one leg and then the other out in front of you while keeping your back and knees straight. As you kick, reach your arm on the same side, aiming to touch your toes to your fingers. Keep your toes flexed toward your body as you kick. 

 

High Knees Walk 

Walk around where you are, and with each step, grab your leg just below the knee with both hands and pull it as close to your chest as possible, feeling a stretch in the glute. Hold the stretch for a second and then release and take the next step. 

 

Reverse Lunge Calf Stretch 

Stand with feet shoulder-width apart and step back with one leg. Keep your back knee straight with your heel on the ground as you bend your front knee and drop into a slight lunge. Hold for a moment and then switch legs, alternating legs for 60 seconds.  Hold onto a wall or chair if you need to. 

 

You might wonder where the static stretching is in this warm up. Research has shown that static stretching (holding a stretch for a long period of time) done before activity can actually hurt your performance. Static stretching is important as part of the cool down after activity, however. So before you head to the 19th hole, stretch and re-hydrate with some water.  

What is Parkinson’s? 

Parkinson’s affects about a million adults in the United States. It is a progressive nuerodegenerative disorder meaning that over time it does get worse, and that it’s caused by degeneration of neurons in the brain. The specific neurons affected produce a chemical called dopamine. Parkinson’s causes tremor, slow movement, loss of coordination, and muscle stiffness. 

While Parkinson’s does not have a cure, symptoms can be managed, and progression can be slowed allowing people with Parkinson’s to live a high quality and active life. 

 

What can be done? 

Currently, the primary treatments for Parkinson’s are medication and exercise. There are surgical options for people who have exhausted the medications available, or who suffer profound motor deficits. Additional studies are ongoing looking at medical marijuana and other complementary or alternative treatments as well.  

 

Medication 

It is important for people with Parkinson’s to work closely with their neurologist because each patient will require a different combination of medications.  

The first choice for many patients will be one of the levadopa drugs. This chemical is converted into dopamine in the brain to reduce symptoms like tremor, rigidity, and poor coordination.  

There are other drugs that may be used in place of, or in combination with levadopa to manage symptoms. Most patients will need ongoing assessments and changes in their medication regimen as their symptoms progress and change 

 

Exercise 

Research has shown that exercise can help with both motor and non-motor symptoms in people with Parkinson’s. The most important thing for people with Parkinson’s is to get started with exercise early in the disease process and to be consistent with exercise. Your exercise program should focus on a few different components: 

  1. Flexibility exercises 

  2. Aerobic activity 

  3. Muscle strengthening 

Some types of exercise like Tai Chi, yoga, Pilates, biking, or dancing combine several of these elements. 

Your physical therapist will complete an individualized evaluation to determine the areas where you have the most trouble, then work with you to design an exercise program to address these areas. They can help you find beneficial types of exercise that you enjoy, which will help you stay consistent with your program and reap the most benefits.  

There are exercise programs specifically designed for treatment of Parkinson’s disease, including the LSVT BIG program. This is a program delivered by a specially trained physical therapist over 16 sessions that focuses on getting people to make bigger movements. The BIG program has been shown to improve balance, increase quality of life, and help people walk faster with bigger steps.  

While there is no one answer to manage symptoms and slow progression of Parkinson’s disease, working with your physician and your physical therapist using a combination of medication and exercise has been shown to lead to the highest quality of life.  

What is Urinary Incontinence? 

Urinary incontinence is the involuntary leakage of urine. 25 million Americans experience this condition, and ¼ of women between the ages of 18 and 59 have urinary incontinence. There are different types of incontinence, with the most common being stress and urge incontinence. 

  1. Stress incontinence is when leakage happens during coughing, sneezing, or laughing.  
  2. Urge incontinence is a result of the bladder being overactive or unstable. People with urge incontinence often often have triggers that cause the involuntary loss of urine, such as hearing running water.  

What Can Be Done? 

Physical therapy can be used to effectively treat urinary incontinence. A typical program consists of a combination of exercise and education. Exercise is used to improve the strength of the muscles of the pelvic floor, providing better support to the bladder and improving your ability to control the flow of urine. Education helps you learn how the bladder normally functions and changes you can make to improve your symptoms. Examples of these changes are making sure that you are adequately hydrated, avoiding “just in case” peeing, and dietary changes to avoid bladder irritants like spicy foods, citrus fruits, caffeine, and carbonated beverages.  

A common example of a pelvic floor strengthening exercise is the Kegel. Although this exercise is well-known and commonly attempted, it is frequently done incorrectly. Many people substitute muscles that are not part of the pelvic floor during a Kegel like the abdominals, glutes, or hip adductors.  

 

To perform a correct Kegel: 

  1. Avoid contracting your abdominals or glutes
  2. Tighten the muscles as if you’re trying to stop the flow of urine 
  3. Then imagine a string pulling those muscles up towards your belly button.  

Physical therapy can help you take back control of your bladder and stop worrying about where the next restroom is. If you’re experiencing urinary incontinence, a pelvic PT can provide a comprehensive evaluation and develop a treatment plan specifically for you! 

 

Chances are, you or someone you know has had back pain. Each year 15% of the population has their first episode of back pain, and over the course of our lives, 80% of us will have back pain. Even though back pain is common, the medical community does a poor job managing it. Stories of chronic pain, opioid use, multiple surgeries, and a lifetime of disability are far too common. 

Let’s look at some of the common treatments for low back pain and see how they stack up against physical therapy: 

 

Medication 

Low back pain is the #1 reason for opioid prescription in the US, however in 2106, the CDC recommended against the use of opioids for back pain in favor of “non-drug treatments like physical therapy.” 

 

Imaging 

Having an X-ray or MRI for back pain is common, however it’s rarely needed or helpful. Research has NEVER demonstrated a link between imaging and symptoms. As we age, degenerative changes on imaging is common. 

  1. 90% of people age 50 to 55 have disc degeneration when imaged, whether they have symptoms or not 

  2. In 2015 a study that looked at 1,211 MRI scans of people with no pain found that 87.6% had a disc bulge 

  3. Just getting an image increases the chances that you’ll have surgery by 34% 

 

Surgery 

The US has sky high rates for back surgeries - 40% higher than any other country and 5x higher than the UK. You’d think that with all the back surgeries we do, we’d be pretty good at it but the outcomes are terrible! A worker’s comp study looked at 725 people who had spinal fusions VS 725 people who didn’t. The surgical group had: 

  1. A 1 in 4 chance of a repeat surgery 
  2. A 1 in 3 chance of a major complication 
  3. A 1 in 3 chance of never returning to work again 

 

Physical Therapy 

 

  1. Current clinical practice guidelines support manual therapy and exercise 
  2. Research proves that early PT lead to better outcomes with lower costs, and decreases the risk of surgery, unnecessary imaging, and use of opioids 
  3. A study of 122,723 people with low back pain who started PT within 14 days found that it decreased the cost to treat back pain by 60% 
  4. Unfortunately only 2% of people with back pain start with PT, and only 7% get to PT within 90 days. 

Despite the data showing that PT is the most effective, safest, and lowest cost option to treat low back pain, most people take far too long to get there. Almost every state has direct access, meaning that you can go directly to a physical therapist without a doctor’s referral. If you see your doctor for back pain, and PT isn’t one of the first treatment options, ask for it!

 

Your physical therapist can play a big role in helping you maintain or improve your balance as you age. Unfortunately, falls are becoming increasingly common in adults age 65 and over. Just because they’re common, doesn’t mean they’re inevitable though. Research shows that falls are caused by a variety of factors, and many of them can be improved. Let’s take a look at some of them and some tips to help you get back into balance.
 

Lower Body Weakness

As we age, without resistance training we lose muscle mass every year. Weakness in your lower body has been shown to increase your fall risk. A physical therapist can design an exercise program to help you strengthen your legs and lower body safely.

Inactivity

Another reason we lose muscle mass and our balance decreases is inactivity and deconditioning. People who have fallen in the past often have a fear of falling again, which leads them to do less. As their activity levels decrease, they get weaker and even more fearful of falling.

This downward spiral can be stopped with balance training from a physical therapist to build your confidence on your feet and allow you to become more active.

Group exercise classes are another great way to become more active, work on your balance and meet new friends at the same time. Ask your PT for recommendations for a class near you.
 

Vision Problems

Many people don’t realize that your body uses your vision for balance. If you want to prove this to yourself, try standing with your feet together with your eyes open, then compare that to doing it with your eyes closed. Visual problems can also make you miss things like bumps and changes in the surface you’re walking on, or objects that you could trip over.

If you’re having problems with your vision, see your eye doctor for an exam and recommendations on what can be done.
 

Medications

Certain medications can increase your risk of falling and impact your balance by making you sleepy, slowing your reactions, or causing weakness. Some examples of medications that can increase fall risk are certain types of antidepressants, blood pressure medications, and water pills.

Your physical therapist can help you work with your doctor or pharmacist to review your medications and consider changes to improve your balance and reduce your risk of falling.

When it comes to helping you improve your balance, and reduce your risk of falling, your physical therapist is an important part of the team. They can evaluate you to determine where your problem areas are, and design an individualized program for you. They can also refer you to other professionals who can help like your eye doctor and your pharmacist. If you’re starting to feel out of balance, your PT can help you stop falls before they start.

What is Osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis is a condition that causes degeneration and weakening of the bones. It is most common in women, but can affect men as well. It is also more common as we age, with 55% of Americans 50 or older affected.

Bone is living tissue and like all living tissues, old cells are constantly being removed and replaced by new cells. In normal bone, the removal and replacement of cells happens in a balanced process. In osteoporosis, bone is weakened when the removal of cells outpaces the addition of new cells.

Osteoporosis is often called a “silent disease” because there are often no symptoms until a fracture occurs.
 

How can Physical Therapy Help?

Your physical therapist will complete a comprehensive evaluation and develop a treatment plan to address your specific needs. In most cases, your PT will include weight bearing activities, or resistance exercises using weights or bands because these types of exercises have been shown to strengthen bones.

Your PT might teach you proper posture to decrease the stress on your spine and help reduce the risk of fracture. Another way to reduce unnecessary bone stress is to learn proper posture and alignment during daily tasks like reaching for items or bending to pick up an object.

To help reduce the risk of fracture from a fall, your PT might incorporate balance activities, or specific strengthening activities. 

If you already have a fracture, your PT can work with you to reduce pain. They can also assess you for things like braces or splints that may help you heal or improve your posture.

 

Every year one in four people over 65 falls. That means that millions of older adults fall every year, and 1 in 5 of those falls results in serious injury like broken bones or a head injury. Less than half of the people who fall will tell their doctor, maybe out of embarrassment or maybe because they assume that falling is a part of the aging process. But falling is not inevitable, and with some help from your doctor and your physical therapist, your chances of falling can be significantly reduced.

Research has shown that many risk factors contribute to falls. Some risk factors can be changed, like lower body weakness, difficulties with walking and balance, vision problems, use of certain medications, foot pain or poor footwear, and home hazards like throw rugs, extension cords, and uneven steps or floors.

A physical therapist can screen you for fall risk. They can also have a positive impact on many factors to reduce your fall risk through interventions like strengthening exercises, balance training, or teaching you to use a device like a cane or walker to keep you more steady when you’re walking. A physical therapist can also teach you how to make easy changes around the house that can reduce your risk of falling. Some easy examples would include:

Using night lights to help your vision at night
Removing throw rugs, extension cords, or clutter that you could trip over
Installing grab bars near the toilet or bathtub

A PT can help you work other professionals like your eye doctor if your vision is increasing your fall risk or with your doctor or pharmacist to review your medications to see if they could be making you feel dizzy, weak, or sleepy.

Falling is common in people over the age of 65, but that doesn’t make it a normal part of the aging process. If you have fallen, your chance of falling again is doubled, but by working with your physical therapist and the rest of your healthcare team, you can reduce your fall risk and maintain your independence.

 

Most people know that physical therapists often recommend exercise as part of their treatment. What most people don’t realize is how simple that exercise can be. Instead of complicated workouts, heavy weight lifting, or running for miles, physical therapists often surprise people when they recommend walking.

While it seems like an easy exercise, walking still has powerful health benefits. Walking 30 minutes a day, 3 times a week has been shown to improve cardiovascular endurance, and reduce blood pressure and weight. Lots of people are using activity trackers and apps to track steps during their daily activities, and this too has been shown to have benefits. These include reducing disability and pain associated with conditions like knee osteoarthritis. While many people aim for 10,000 steps per day, research shows that as little as 6,000 steps a day can reduce pain and disability while boosting cardiovascular health.

If you’re thinking about starting a regular walking program or just increasing the amount of walking you do throughout the day, it’s important that you do it the right way. The general recommendation for building any physical activity is to take whatever amount of the activity you do in a week and increase it by 5% or less per week. A good general starting place would be 3,000 steps per day, and an example program following the 5% rule might look like this: 
 

Week 1: 3000 steps (1.5 miles)

Week 8: 4500 steps (2.25 miles)

Week 2: 3150 steps

Week 9: 4800 steps

Week 3: 3300 steps

Week 10: 5000 steps (2.5 miles)

Week 4: 3500 steps (1.75 miles)

Week 11: 5250 steps

Week 5: 3750 steps

Week 12: 5500 steps (2.75 miles)

Week 6: 4000 steps (2 miles)

Week 13: 5800 steps

Week 7: 4200 steps

Week 14: 6000 steps (3 miles)

 

If you’re not sure if you’re ready to walk the recommended 6,000 steps a day, you can always visit a physical therapist for a review of your medical history and baseline testing to find out what a safe level for you to start at would be. A PT can also help you design a program to safely meet your goals.

One last thing to consider is footwear. Although walking is less stressful than running, it’s still important to take care of your feet. Shoes designed for running work well to cushion and support your feet when walking too. If you need help picking the right pair, a PT can help and so can the staff at a good specialty running store.

 

Most people know that physical activity is important. In fact, not getting enough has been linked to illnesses like heart disease, stroke, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, high blood pressure and lung disease. So the important question is not if you need to be doing some form of physical activity to protect against diseases like these, but how much is enough?

The US Department of Health and Human Services answered that question for us in 2008 with their recommendations for physical activity. To improve or maintain health, adults over 65 need to do 2 types of physical activity: aerobic exercise and strengthening. 
 

Aerobic Exercise

To meet the recommendations for aerobic exercise you should try to be active daily, and perform your aerobic activity for at least 10 minutes at a time. Each week you should aim for

150 minutes of moderate intensity activity
OR
75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity.

The general rule is that 1 minute of vigorous activity is equal to 2 minutes of moderate intensity activity, so a combination of moderate and vigorous activity can also be used to satisfy the recommended 150 minutes each week.

Some examples of moderate intensity aerobic activity would be:

Walking
Water aerobics
Riding a bike on a level surface
Doubles tennis

Vigorous intensity activities include:

Running or jogging
Riding a bike fast, or on hills
Singles tennis
Hiking uphill
 

Strengthening

Muscle strength is important for all daily movement, and in older adults it can help to maintain strong bones, as well as reduce the risk of falling. The recommendation for strengthening is to work each major muscle group twice a week.

Examples of strengthening activities include:

Carrying heavy loads
Lifting weights
Exercises using your own body weight like push ups, sit ups, or squats

For each exercise you should try to perform:

At least one set
8 to 12 repetitions in each set

Your resistance should be heavy enough that the last repetition is hard to complete.

These guidelines are general recommendations and do not take into account previous injuries, medical conditions, or limitations that individuals may have. Your physical therapist is an expert in exercise and physical activity who can help design a program to maintain or improve your health while considering your past medical history, limitations, and goals. Your PT can teach you safe exercise technique, and help you safely progress your program as you get fitter to continue making improvements in your overall health.

 

 

Now that spring has arrived, temperatures are starting to rise in many parts of the country. And that means the transition from heating our homes to cooling our homes is right around the corner. No matter what method you use to cool your home during the warm spring and summer months (central air conditioning, window units, or fans and dehumidifiers), each spring you cross your fingers that your approach still works. If not, you might be calling an expert for a tune-up, or in extreme circumstances, you might need a complete overhaul.
 

Just like an AC system that has probably been dormant for many months of the year, a body that hasn’t been physically engaged on a regular basis may have trouble getting started again. And yet, this time of year, the warm temps draw many people to city and suburban streets, tracks and trails, ready to take that first run of the season. A good percentage of these spring runners haven’t kept up their strides throughout the winter. It should come as no surprise that a 4-mile run for a previously inactive person is going to stir up a few aches and pains.

Especially as we age, our ability to move undergoes changes. But whether we’re talking about a college student or a retiree, returning to an activity without proper planning is a recipe for disaster. That’s where physical therapy comes in. Physical therapists are trained to treat injuries and ease pain, but they can also help their patients prevent injuries and safely prepare to participate in new activities.

Think of physical therapists as “movement consultants” who can ensure that your body is physically ready to tackle a new challenge—or resume a favorite leisure activity. Here’s another example to illustrate what we’re talking about: Let’s say that you play in an adult soccer league and you’re preparing to play in your first game of the season in a few weeks. You probably hung up your cleats when the last season ended months ago, but expect to pick up just where you left off. But it’s simply too much to ask for your 2019 debut on the field to be on the same level as the last game of the previous season, when you likely had reached peak performance.

This is a good time for your PT to step in and help you shake off the rust. The rehab professional can customize an exercise plan to help you slowly return to sport and avoid an injury that could sideline you for the whole season. Or like cleaning the filters before firing up your air conditioner for the first time this year, the rehab expert can help to ensure that your body is prepared to return to its former activity level following a hiatus.

 

We all feel like life is spinning out of control at times, but if you have dizziness, that spinning feeling is for real. A physical therapist can help with many common forms of vertigo and dizziness. In this article we’ll take a look at two examples of conditions that cause dizziness commonly treated by PTs.
 

BPPV
 

Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (or BPPV) is the most common cause of vertigo, a false sensation of spinning. BPPV is a mechanical problem in your inner ear that causes a feeling of spinning with certain head positions or movements. BPPV is caused when some of the small crystals normally embedded in gel in your inner ear get dislodged and end up in the semicircular canals of your inner ear. These canals are filled with fluid and sense head motion. The crystals disrupt the normal function of the canal, which sends an abnormal signal to your brain. Your brain interprets this signal as head movement, even though your head is still, causing you to feel dizzy.

Your therapist can take you through a series of motions to determine which is the problem ear and which canal the crystals are in. After that a specific maneuver involving head motion allows gravity to pull the crystals out of the semicircular canal. Usually symptoms can be greatly improved in 1 to 3 treatments, but some patients continue to feel mild dizziness or sensitivity to head motions even after the crystals are removed from the canal. Your therapist can also evaluate this and prescribe home exercises to correct this problem.
 

Cervicogenic Dizziness
 

This is a condition that causes dizziness, but is related to problems in the neck. This is a much more rare condition than BPPV, and does not cause a true spinning sensation. There is no specific test for cervicogenic dizziness, so it’s important to get a thorough evaluation from a qualified professional like a PT to rule out other problems that may be causing your dizziness.

In most cases the dizziness improves with treatment of the neck pathology alone using things like exercise, manual therapy, and education on proper posture. For the patients who don’t improve with treatment of the neck alone, adding vestibular rehabilitation often improves symptoms. Vestibular rehabilitation may include eye exercises, balance exercises, or graded exposure to what makes your dizzy.

Treatment of vertigo and dizziness is a specialized form of physical therapy that requires specific training. If you’re experiencing dizziness or vertigo, getting a full evaluation by a qualified PT is a great first step to stop yourself from spinning out of control. They can diagnose the specific cause of your dizziness and design a treatment plan to address it.

 

Exercise has great benefits for your physical health - it can strengthen your muscles, improve your cardiovascular system, and reduce your risk of diseases like stroke and diabetes. But, did you know that exercise can have benefits for your mental health too?

Why exercise lifts your mood

Exercise causes your brain to release chemicals including endorphins, adrenaline, serotonin and dopamine. These chemicals all work together to make you feel good. In addition to the chemical changes in your brain, exercising can lead to a feeling of accomplishment and relaxation of your muscles, also helping you feel good. 

Exercise and depression

Exercise on it’s own is not a cure for depression, but research has show it can be as effective as medication for mild to moderate depression. In fact, the most commonly prescribed antidepressants are SSRI drugs, which work by increasing the amount of serotonin in your system. As mentioned above, exercise also increases the amount of serotonin in your system, so the effect on depression shouldn’t be a surprise. 

Make time for yourself

Many people believe they are “too busy” for exercise. Being “too busy” for something really just means that you’re prioritizing something else above it. By placing exercise high on your priority list, you’re prioritizing yourself. This is a great way to help boost your mood and your confidence, because you’re taking a portion of your day for yourself.

Choose physical activity you enjoy

While any physical activity will help release endorphins and serotonin, choosing something you enjoy can help boost your mood even further. In addition, by using physical activity that’s fun for you, you’ll be more likely to be consistent. Consistently exercising is important for getting the most benefit out of it. 

 

Dealing with the pain and limited mobility associated with an injury or illness can be stressful for so many reasons. You might have questions like, “How long will I be sidelined?” and “What do I need to do to get better?” Or maybe you’re worried about how you’ll pick your children up from school, walk to the train for your commute or prepare meals for your family.

These are all perfectly normal concerns. Luckily, there are some ways that you can gain control over the situation and ensure that you return to the activities you care most about—especially if physical therapy is part of your plan.

What you can do before your very first appointment—and during physical therapy—to take control of that injury-related stress? First and foremost, it’s important to come prepared for physical therapy. And no, I’m not talking about dressing appropriately and arriving on time (or even better, 15 minutes ahead of your scheduled appointment). That stuff is important, of course, but there’s one thing you can do in the days leading up to your appointment that will set you up for success.

Any guesses? I’m talking about starting a list. What kind of list? Well, every time that you feel pain in the affected area or notice an activity that is harder than it was pre-injury, add it to the list! And the more specific you are, the better. Here’s an example to help drive this point home: Let’s say that you’re recovering from a moderate meniscus tear and you have an appointment with your physical therapist in three days. Take notes on how your knee feels first thing in the morning after you’ve been off your feet. How does your knee react when you stand up from a chair—does it feel unstable? Or do you find that you need to clutch the back of the couch on your way to the bathroom? Sharing each of these details helps your physical therapist understand your limitations beyond the injury printed on your intake form.

Now let’s take that list a step farther and add some details about the activities that you typically participate in on a regular basis. Let’s say that you normally play a weekly round of golf, spend your mornings weeding your garden or meet up with friends for a four-mile walk two evenings a week. These activities have become an important part of your life so let’s make sure that they’re factored into your list, perhaps in the “what you hope to get out of physical therapy” category.

Painting a clear picture of how active you are—and what types of activities and sports you participate in—can help your physical therapist design an individualized treatment plan and to better help you on your road to recovery.

Have you been to physical therapy lately for an injury? Did you find anything else that helped maximize your time in rehab or that improved communication with your physical therapist?

 

Osteoarthritis (OA) is one of the most common joint disorders, especially in adults over the age of 60. Two of the most commonly affected joints are the hip and the knee. Common symptoms are morning stiffness, where you feel like you need to get up and moving for 20 or 30 minutes before you “limber up”, creaking or popping sounds from your joint, as well as pain and swelling which is typically worse towards the end of the day.

For a lot of people, the thought of knee or hip arthritis leads right to joint replacement surgery. While total hip or knee replacement surgery is an effective treatment for severe pain and disability related to OA, it’s not for everyone and certainly shouldn’t be the first line of treatment. Hip and knee replacements are major surgical procedures and are accompanied by significant risk. On top of that, both require months of recovery and rehab, and neither is a guaranteed solution with data showing that between 1 in 5 and 1 in 10 patients are not happy with the outcome after total joint replacement.

So if replacement isn’t the first and only option, what else is there?

Exercise
Many studies have shown exercise to be beneficial in reducing pain and disability resulting from OA. Exercise can help regain range of motion and reduce stiffness around the joint. It also helps strengthen the muscles surrounding the joint which reduces the stress placed on the joint during activities.

Manual Therapy
Manual therapy is a hands on approach that can including joint manipulation (a quick thrust, often accompanied by a “pop” or “crack”), joint mobilization (more gentle, graded movements of the joint), and soft tissue mobilization (various forms of massage). These techniques have been shown to be effective in treating OA, especially when combined with exercise.

Weight Loss
Significant benefits have been shown in overweight patients with OA who have shown a 10% weight loss. We take thousands of steps in a day, and each step puts stress through our hips, knees, feet, and other joints. When you consider reducing that force by a few pounds a few thousand times a day, a little weight loss can add up to a big difference!

These are three effective and conservative treatment options that your physical therapist can use to help decrease the pain that you’re feeling from arthritis. With a through evaluation, your PT can determine which options will best help you meet your goals and get back to whatever level of activity you’re aiming for. On top of these options you PT can also consider things like bracing, and help you consider options your physician might be able to provide like injections or medications.

Just because joint pain is starting to slow you down, doesn’t mean you have to live with the pain, face surgery, or give up your independence. Conservative treatment options from your physical therapist are an effective way to treat osteoarthritis and can help get you more active with less pain!

 

Between work, family commitments, and running errands, it’s understandable why weekend warriors cram all their physical activity on Saturday and Sunday. Unfortunately, this pattern of 5 days of inactivity, and being active on the weekend often leads to injury.

The most common types of injuries seen in weekend warriors are:

Muscle strains such as hamstring strains
Ligament sprains, most commonly in the ankle
Tendonitis, especially in the Achilles
Low back pain
Shoulder pain

To decrease your chances of injury, there are some things you can do. The biggest step you can take is to avoid going from no activity to full out competition. Try to maintain a basic level of fitness through general aerobic activity, strengthening, and stretching throughout the week. If you know what type of sport you’ll be participating in, adding in some sport-specific conditioning is a good idea. 

In addition to maintaining a basic level of fitness, here are a few other tips specifically for the weekend warrior:

Build your activity level slowly If you’ve taken a layoff over the winter, build up slowly to your first 5k, or the spring softball season

Give yourself time for a proper warm up A dynamic warm up is best, including some jogging or other aerobic activity to get your heart rate up, along with some high knees, braiding, butt kicks, or toy soldiers will get your body ready for activity

Stretch when you’re done Research has shown that static stretching before activity probably doesn’t have much benefit, but stretching after has been shown to reduce soreness and help recovery

Make sure your technique and equipment are up to par Poor equipment can put you at higher risk for injury. If your technique is off, especially in sports like golf or tennis, you can be at higher risk for injury. A visit with a physical therapist or coach can help correct issues. 

Don’t push through pain Some soreness after an increase in activity is normal, but if it doesn’t go away, gets worse, or is severe, get it checked out. 

If you’re having pain, suffered an injury, want help designing a training program to get you ready to compete, or just want a physical to make sure you’re ready for activity, a visit with a physical therapist is a good idea. 
 

 

When you kick off a new project at work, chances are you spend a fair amount of time setting and reviewing goals. These goals help you—and those you’ll be working with—get a clear sense of what you’re looking to achieve and begin to map out a plan of attack. Along with specific goals, you also probably find it helpful to set some key milestones to ensure that you stay on task and to prevent your motivation from waning.

These same principles apply when going to physical therapy for an injury. Communicating what you hope to get out your therapy sessions can help your physical therapist to individualize the treatment plan and design an exercise program that aligns with your goals. The idea is to move from “I’m here because my knee hurts” to “I’d like my knee to feel better so I can get back to doing X, Y and Z.”

Let’s talk about a concrete example to illustrate goal-setting in action: A father of three ruptures his Achilles tendon while playing a game of pickup basketball after work. When he lands in rehab, he explains to his PT that he’s due to walk his oldest daughter down the aisle at her wedding in a few months. This gives the PT a specific goal—and a timeline—to aim for. Of course, not every patient has a goal tied to such a momentous occasion. It can be as simple as carrying your groceries to your car unassisted or lifting your grandchild into a high chair. Either way, it’s important to have goals—and to communicate them clearly to your physical therapist.

Your PT wants you to get better but without the right guidance from you, he might default to following a checklist and design a program that unknowingly misses your goals. Only you know precisely what you want out of PT: If you have a wrist injury and getting back to your knitting hobby is important to you, then be specific! Another patient could come in with the same injury but have completely different goals, so guide your PT to help you achieve what’s most important.

Proper communication ensures success, and that means you can’t passively participate in your care and simply listen to what the PT recommends. Instead, communication needs to be a two- way street. So next time you’re at physical therapy, speak up: Make sure that your PT knows precisely why you’ve made the appointment, what you hope to get out of it and why it’s important to you. This information not only helps your PT make important decisions about your care but also to think of new ways to keep you motivated during therapy.

 

If you find yourself making an appointment to see a physical therapist for a new injury or a nagging pain, make sure that you prepare in advance. Being prepared to answer this one simple question can help to ensure that rehab is a success: What brings you to physical therapy today? After all, you wouldn’t walk into a kickoff meeting at work without first giving some thought to the goals that you planned to share with your team, would you?

 

Recently we have seen a rise of diseases in children that in the past had only been seen in adults. Things like obesity, type 2 diabetes, and high blood pressure are being seen more frequently in children. One of the best ways to combat the rise of these diseases is to make sure that your kids are getting enough physical activity.

The Department of Health and Human Services has developed guidelines recommending that youth ages 6-17 participate in 60 minutes or more of physical activity 7 days/ week. This is total activity time, so 1 hour, 2 30 minute sessions, or 4 sessions of 15 minutes each in a day would all satisfy this recommendation. Most of this activity should be at either moderate or vigorous intensity.

An easy way to distinguish vigorous vs moderate intensity exercise is as follows:

Moderate intensity allows you to talk but not sing during or right after activity

Vigorous intensity allows you to say only a few words at a time

As part of the 60 minutes daily, it is recommended that children participate in muscle strengthening activities 3 days/wk and bone strengthening activities 3 days/wk. Some activities that would fit into these categories are listed below:

Muscle Strengthening Activities

Games like tug of war 
Climbing playground equipment
Push ups, pull ups, or sit ups
Activities like crab walking, bear walking, or wheelbarrow with a partner

Bone Strengthening Activities

Hopscotch
Jumping rope
Skipping
Sports that include jumping like basketball or volleyball

To get and keep kids participating, physical activity should be fun and incorporated into playful activities that are age appropriate. Being involved in physical education in school is important, especially if children are not involved in extracurricular activities that meet the requirements.

Summer camps can be a great way to keep kids active during summer vacation.

For more information check out:

https://health.gov/paguidelines/midcourse/youth-fact-sheet.pdf

https://www.cdc.gov/healthyschools/physicalactivity/facts.htm

 

Turning the page on the new year is a chance to wipe the slate clean—and to be better versions of ourselves. And when it comes to what we want to improve, goals that fall in the health and wellness arena top all other New Year’s resolutions. In fact, three of the top four resolutions in a 2018 YouGov poll were health-related: eat healthier (1), get more exercise (2) and focus on self-care, e.g., get more sleep (4).

There are three types of people who choose a goal from the health and wellness category as a New Year’s resolution: the resolution newbie, the resolution master and the resolution flunkee. Let’s see which category you most identify with—and how focusing on the right strategy can help you get healthier in the new year.

Resolution Newbie. Maybe this is your first time making a commitment to your health and wellness. Good for you! Did a recent event like a health scare or loss of a loved one make you see the light? Or perhaps you want to be more active to enjoy activities with your grandchildren or to carry your own bag on the golf course. Whatever your goals are, taking that first step is a big one so you’ll want to be sure that you’re prepared for the challenge. Particularly when exercising for the first time or returning to an active lifestyle after a long hiatus, it’s important to have the proper information and tools to be successful. And that means tapping the healthcare resources available to you: Clinicians like nutritionists and physical therapists can make sure that your body is prepared to take on new challenges and work with you to a design a program that will help you achieve your goals.

Resolution Master. Perhaps you fall into a different camp: You vowed to get healthy in 2018 and you achieved it! For 2019, your resolution is to continue the work you’ve begun. After all, living a healthy lifestyle is a lifelong commitment; it’s not something you do for a while and then revert back to your former habits. As you prepare to embrace the new year, are there any small tweaks you can make to advance your goals? Maybe you’re thinking about training for and running a half marathon, but don’t know where to begin. A physical therapy evaluation is a great place to start—PTs are trained to assess your movement patterns and identify any limitations or weaknesses. Based on that information, the PT can design a personalized exercise program to help you safely and effectively prepare for the grueling half marathon course.

Resolution Flunkee. Let’s say your plan for 2019 is to get in better shape and improve your overall health (we support that resolution!), but this isn’t your first rodeo. Your 2018 resolution was pretty similar but it’s one year later, and you’re in the same place you were on New Year’s Eve 2017. What stood in your way—was it time? Affordable options? Access to healthy choices and activities? If any of these barriers sound familiar, then along with your resolution, you need an action plan. Without planning ahead, you’ll find yourself staring down the year 2020 with the same goal in mind. But let’s not focus only on the negative—what went right last year? Maybe you made sleep a priority, which in turn helped you to make better food choices at breakfast but by afternoon, you found yourself choosing to energize with a soda and candy bar when all you probably needed was an apple and a 15-minute walk. Take some time to think about the previous year—good and bad—and take with you what you need, and leave the rest behind. Afterall, you can’t plan where you’re going without understanding where you’ve been.

Which resolution type are you?

 

You know exercise is important to your health. It helps you feel better physically, gives you energy, and helps you deal with the stress of your busy life. 

But what do you do when life gets too busy to take an exercise class, go for a run, or get to the gym?

It’s easy to start skipping exercise when life gets busy, but that leads to less energy, and aches and pains cropping up. This makes you feel like exercising even less, and leads to a downward spiral. That means that finding time to exercise when life is busy is even more important.

If you can find 8 minutes, you can maintain your strength even on your busiest day. 

Exercise doesn’t have to take lots of time. In fact, your 8 minutes don’t even have to be all together. You can break them up throughout the day. Doing one exercise for one minute every hour while at work counts just as much as doing 8 minutes of exercise after the kids are in bed and before you collapse on the couch. The following exercises use your body weight for resistance, so you don’t need any equipment. They also use many muscle groups at onces so you can maintain strength in your whole body in a short amount of time.

  1. The plank; Lying on your stomach, with your forearms on the ground, elbows under the shoulders, and arms parallel to the body. Toes tucked under, engage your stomach muscles and lift your body up. Hold for 20 seconds, rest 5 seconds, and repeat 3 times.
  2. Push up; (do on your knees if you need an easier version). 20 seconds of push ups, 10 seconds of rest and repeat.
  3. Quadruped -Start on your hands and knees with your hands under your shoulders, and you knees under your hips. Lift and reach with one arm and the opposite leg, maintaining a stable core. Hold 10 seconds and repeat on opposite side. Repeat 5 times.
  4. Bridge; Lying on back, with your knees bent, engage your abdominals and lift your hips. Hold 20 seconds, rest 5 seconds, and repeat 3 times.
  5. Lunge; Stand tall and take a large step forward with the right leg, shifting your weight forward. Lower your body until the right thigh is parallel to floor and your right shin is vertical. (do not let the knee shift past right toe). Return to the start and repeat on the other side. Repeat 20 times.
  6. Squat to heel raise; Feet shoulder width apart, core engaged and arms raised high above the head. Perform a squat and return to standing then rise onto your toes. Repeat 20 times.

#preventpain #staystrong

 

Payless recently conducted a very telling social experiment. You probably heard about the shoe chain’s stunt in the news but just to recap quickly, “The Payless Experiment” tricked consumers into buying their typically budget-friendly shoes at sky-high markups. To carry out the clever ruse, the discount retailer invited style influencers to a (fake) launch party for a new high-end label in one of Los Angeles’ glitziest shopping areas. The attendees believed that they were buying fashionable, high-quality footwear and therefore didn’t object to the three-figure price tags.

Aside from being a brilliant marketing ploy for Payless, what lessons does “The Payless Experiment” have for our current healthcare system, and specifically for patients suffering from low back pain? The experiment is a commentary on perceived vs. real value but also how easily people can be swayed into believing that something is reliable as presented. Think about someone who has had weeks of pain and dysfunction stemming from low back pain: she wants to find a solution that will relieve her symptoms. If a physician presents surgery as the best option—and she’s assured that her pain will go away—then it’s going to sound appealing, right?

Today’s consumer has so many choices when shopping for just about anything from apparel to healthcare. But while it’s customary to shop for the best price for a goose down jacket (without sacrificing quality), shopping around for the best solution (and value) for our ailments is less typical. Doing our due diligence in healthcare may ultimately bring us back to the first proposed solution, but it also may introduce us to solutions that we didn’t know existed.

In the case of low back pain, one such under-heralded solution is physical therapy. Physical therapy, yoga and acupuncture are gaining in popularity as equally (or more) effective and less costly than surgical procedures, injections, MRIs and pain relievers—and for good reason.

Physical therapists are trained to restore and improve patients’ mobility, reduce soft tissue pain, improve function and build muscle strength. They not only develop custom strategies to treat persistent or recurrent low back pain, but educate patients on the prevention of future issues. Some preventive techniques include adopting and following a regular exercise program and learning to lift correctly by keeping the object close to the body.

As the holidays kick into high gear, you likely have a long list of gifts to buy. I’m willing to guess that you have a strategy in place for selecting appropriate gifts for each recipient. As you match the right price point, size and color to each person on your list this holiday season, think about approaching your healthcare needs with the same level of scrutiny. After all, finding the right solution at the right price for our health needs contributes to improved long-term outcomes and better piece of mind.

 

Got back pain? You’re not alone. Eighty percent of Americans suffer from low back and neck pain at some point in their lives. Let that sink in. With such great odds that you—or someone close to you—will one day become a statistic, wouldn’t it make sense to arm yourself with preventive strategies and knowledge? Physical therapy is a good place to start.

By performing a thorough evaluation, a physical therapist can identify the muscular, postural and skeletal limitations that could one day lead to an episode of back pain. As part of the assessment, she will observe as you perform a series of exercises and then gather an account of your daily activity level and environmental factors like operating machinery or working at a desk 40 hours a week.

The PT will then use all of this knowledge to design a personalized exercise program and teach you a few APTA-approved strategies to prevent back pain:

• Use good body positioning at work, home and during recreational activities.
• Keep the load close to your body during lifting.
• Ask for help before lifting heavy objects.
• Maintain a regular physical fitness regimen—staying active can help to prevent injuries.

Lifestyle can play a big role in back pain. In fact, inactivity and incorrect body mechanics while participating in certain activities are two of the biggest contributors to back pain. In addition to the strategies listed above, it’s also helpful to pay attention to little things throughout your day that could add up to bigger problems down the line. Let’s go back to that desk job for a minute: How often do you get up to walk, stretch and move throughout the day? A good rule of thumb is to stand up or move every 30 minutes. You may get bonus points with your boss, too, as your productivity soars due to the increased activity.

While low back pain rarely becomes serious or life-threatening, it can be quite painful and interfere with our daily lives. Working with a physical therapist can help patients identify the factors that might contribute to back pain and help to develop a prevention plan. But the healthcare professionals are also a great place to turn when you’re seeking treatment for back pain or hoping to prevent a recurrence.

With such good odds that you could one day become a low back pain statistic, why not do everything in your power today to change your trajectory? Seems like another good reason to find an activity (or better yet, two or three activities) that you enjoy, make it a regular part of your day and stick to it!

 

Today’s physical therapy was successful by all measures: Your PT spent time listening to your symptoms, collected a thorough medical history, diagnosed your issue (tennis elbow), and sent you on your way with a bunch of exercises to do at home. During the appointment, you watched intently as the physical therapist demonstrated each home exercise and you understood the directions clearly at the time. There’s just one problem: Now that you’ve returned home, you can’t seem to replicate the exact elbow positioning that elicits the desired stretch. And the exercise handout isn’t helping.

To make matters worse, you’re headed out of town for the weekend and the PT clinic can’t accommodate you for an in-person appointment until next week. During that time, you have two options: Continue doing the exercise how you think it should be done and risk doing it incorrectly—and possibly doing harm—or not doing the exercise at all until you’re able to see your therapist.

Wouldn’t it be helpful if there was a way to show your PT what you’re doing—without leaving your house—so he could pinpoint the source of your problem and help you to adjust your movements for maximum benefit? That’s precisely the type of experience that telerehabilitation could bring to physical therapy. Being able to get timely and accurate feedback from a rehab professional can improve your chances of a quick and safe recovery.

Now you’re probably asking, “Why didn’t my PT tell me about this?” Well, telerehab is not (yet) a mainstream offering for physical therapy, but all signs indicate that more clinics will get on board in the coming years once they’ve tackled the regulatory and reimbursement issues. At some clinics, patients with certain diagnoses are given the option to schedule a “virtual visit” with their physical therapists. There also are a growing number of services that provide patients with a series of injury-appropriate videos—with clear demonstrations of the exercises that should be completed at home. This is just a sampling of the many ways that telemedicine will help to ensure that patients perform their home exercise programs correctly.

You’re probably familiar with the age-old notion that practice makes perfect, the very idea that proficiency of a particular activity or skill comes with regular practice. But in the case of rehabbing from an injury or illness, Vince Lombardi said it best: “Practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect.” And the hope is that telerehab is just what the therapists need to ensure that their patients adhere to their prescribed home programs and complete their exercises safely and accurately.

 

You’re sitting in your living room and glance at the clock: just five minutes until your physical therapy appointment is scheduled to start. You still need to lace up your shoes, grab your wallet, jump in the car and drive 10 miles across town. The walk from the parking alone will take five minutes! How will you ever make it on time?

With rapid advances in telehealth technologies, this scenario could soon become a thing of the past—at least for some of your physical therapy visits. Instead of racing out the door, it’s possible that soon you’ll be able to flip on a telerehabilitation system from your living room. While the arrival of telemedicine in the rehab world doesn’t mean that your care will be delivered entirely through a screen, it does mean that you’re likely to have fewer in-person appointments with your physical therapist.

While we still don’t know exactly what telemedicine will look like for physical therapy—or when it will become a mainstream offering—we do know that the benefits for both patients and clinicians are numerous. The #1 benefit that draws patients to telehealth services of any kind is convenience. Here are a few ways that televisits could make physical therapy appointments more convenient for patients:

  1. Saves precious time. Time spent traveling from the home, office or school to the physical therapy clinic (and back again) can really add up. While the time saved by visiting with a physical therapist virtually varies from patient to patient, who doesn’t need extra time (even five minutes!) to fold laundry, complete a homework assignment or answer the boss’ email?
  2. Puts more greenbacks in your wallet. Traveling to the outpatient clinic costs money— whether you travel by foot (sneakers and other appropriate attire), car (gas and parking), or by bus, train or rideshare service (fare). Other factors to consider are childcare costs and the wages lost by potentially missing work.
  3. Keeps stress levels in check. The details involved in getting to a physical therapy appointment can be stressful, especially for those with competing priorities like childcare responsibilities or travel barriers like unreliable transportation.

In today’s world of e-retailers and smartphones, convenience is important to consumers. Today’s consumers can use an app to have groceries delivered to the home in less than an hour or ask a voice assistant to play their favorite songs without getting up from the couch. Naturally the demand for a similar experience is spilling over into healthcare.

Beyond the obvious advantages of cost savings and convenience, telehealth technology would allow PTs to observe, guide and educate patients to ensure that they complete their home exercise programs and other rehab-related goals on-schedule and safely.

To access the complete mareting toolkit associated with this article, including a press release, social media posts, and shareable images, visit the PPS Marketing Resources page.

 

Is the source of your low back pain a mystery? You’re not alone: Nine out of 10 patients don't know the primary cause of their back pain. The problem is that most people seek treatment after they’ve begun exhibiting symptoms of back pain. While this may seem logical on the surface, we’re here to tell you that there’s a better way.

The key is to go to a physical therapist before you begin to see the signs and symptoms of back pain. I’m sure that right about now you’re asking, “Why would I do that?” One, because physical therapists are trained to recognize the physical dysfunctions that may one day lead to back pain. And two, because eight out of 10 Americans suffer from low back pain at some point in their lives, so the chances are good that you could become a statistic one day.

Seeing a physical therapist on an annual basis is one of the most effective ways to prevent back pain from occurring in the first place. Doesn’t that sound like the better alternative? Great, now that you’re on board, let’s talk about what you can expect during that annual physical therapy appointment. The first time you go, your physical therapist will collect a complete picture of your medical history. During subsequent visits, it’ll be important to update your physical therapist about any changes to your health during the previous 12 months, but it won’t be necessary to review your entire medical history again.

Next, your physical therapist will perform an examination using a variety of tests and measures including a movement screen. A movement screen is a screening tool that’s designed to identify imbalances in your mobility and stability that may contribute to limited function or other impairments. This gives your PT the ability to see how your back, hips, core, shoulders, knees and ankles perform during a series of carefully selected exercises.

The information gathered during an examination helps your physical therapist to identify changes from one year to the next, a critical step in assessing your risk for back pain and a host of other debilitating conditions. If a problem is identified early enough, then your physical therapist is better equipped to discuss preventive measures instead of designing a treatment plan. And that’s how you identify the root cause of back pain and derail issues before they even begin. Mystery solved.

To access the complete mareting toolkit associated with this article, including a press release, social media posts, and shareable images, visit the PPS Marketing Resources page.

Recently we have seen a rise of diseases in children that in the past had only been seen in adults. Things like obesity, type 2 diabetes, and high blood pressure are being seen more frequently in children. One of the best ways to combat the rise of these diseases is to make sure that your kids are getting enough physical activity.

The Department of Health and Human Services has developed guidelines recommending that youth ages 6-17 participate in 60 minutes or more of physical activity 7 days/ week. This is total activity time, so 1 hour, 2 30 minute sessions, or 4 sessions of 15 minutes each in a day would all satisfy this recommendation. Most of this activity should be at either moderate or vigorous intensity.

An easy way to distinguish vigorous vs moderate intensity exercise is as follows:

Moderate intensity allows you to talk but not sing during or right after activity

Vigorous intensity allows you to say only a few words at a time

As part of the 60 minutes daily, it is recommended that children participate in muscle strengthening activities 3 days/wk and bone strengthening activities 3 days/wk. Some activities that would fit into these categories are listed below:

Muscle Strengthening Activities

  1. Games like tug of war
  2. Climbing playground equipment
  3. Push ups, pull ups, or sit ups
  4. Activities like crab walking, bear walking, or wheelbarrow with a partner

Bone Strengthening Activities

  1. Hopscotch
  2. Jumping rope
  3. Skipping
  4. Sports that include jumping like basketball or volleyball

To get and keep kids participating, physical activity should be fun and incorporated into playful activities that are age appropriate. Being involved in physical education in school is important, especially if children are not involved in extracurricular activities that meet the requirements. Summer camps can be a great way to keep kids active during summer vacation.

For more information check out:

  1. https://health.gov/paguidelines/midcourse/youth-fact-sheet.pdf
  2. https://www.cdc.gov/healthyschools/physicalactivity/facts.htm

To access the complete mareting toolkit associated with this article, including a press release, social media posts, and shareable images, visit the PPS Marketing Resources page.

Some health habits are instilled in us at a young age. For as long as you can remember, for example, you made annual treks in the family minivan to both the pediatrician and the dentist. As you entered adulthood, you probably transitioned to a primary care physician, and maybe even a different dentist better equipped to address adult needs. Anytime you’ve moved or switched insurance carriers, one of your first priorities has been to track down new providers. Now you may even choose to schedule visits more than once a year, when necessary. You probably figure that between the two healthcare professionals, all of your health needs are covered, right?

As it turns out, these healthcare professionals aren’t specifically trained to assess your musculoskeletal system, which is comprised of your muscles, bones, cartilage, tendons, ligaments, joints and other connective tissues. Then who is the right healthcare professional to ensure that these essential internal structures are working properly and helping to support, stabilize and move your body? A physical therapist.
At a yearly physical therapy “checkup,” your PT will gather your medical history and observe as you participate in screening tests and other assessments to establish a baseline of your physical abilities, fitness level and personal health. Physical therapists are educated on how your musculoskeletal system functions properly and are trained to identify dysfunctions before they grow into bigger problems.

To maximize the encounter with your physical therapist, it’s important to be prepared before your appointment. To ensure that you cover everything and address any issues you may be having, make a list that includes:
• Health issues like diabetes or high blood pressure • Current medications, including supplements • Physical fitness activities • New activities you’re considering • Fitness goals
The information exchange between you and your PT is critical to forming an ongoing relationship, and to ensuring that you’re functioning and moving at top form. By understanding what sports and recreational activities you’re currently participating in and the fitness goals you’re aiming to achieve, your PT will be better prepared to make recommendations and tailor a home exercise program designed to help you achieve your goals.

Making wellness a part of your everyday life and taking steps to ensure that your musculoskeletal system is functioning at top notch can be very empowering and rewarding. Why not begin—or continue—that journey with a physical therapist? Now that you know how to prepare for a physical therapy checkup, and understand what you can expect during the appointment, the next step is to call and schedule your annual visit.

To access the complete mareting toolkit associated with this article, including a press release, social media posts, and shareable images, visit the PPS Marketing Resources page.

 

It is becoming more popular for young athletes to specialize in a single sport. The advantages seem obvious. Putting in more time early and “outworking” the competition should lead to a better chance of success later right? Even though that seems to make intuitive sense, early specialization may not be giving kids the advantages parents think and comes with some risks.

 

The Advantages

The obvious advantage is skill acquisition. Baseball players use the off-season to work on hitting or pitching mechanics, basketball players work on their shooting, and tennis players might work to develop their serve. Specific skills like these do take time and repetition to develop. Athletes who spend more time developing them will likely have more skill. But what are the costs?

 

The Disadvantages

Focusing on specific skill acquisition comes at the cost of overall athletic development. Athletes who participate in many sports gain more athleticism and tend to have more strength, balance, speed, and agility.

Athletes who participate in a variety of sports give their bones, muscles, and tendons exposure to a wide variety of forces. Athletes who specialize early have more repetitive stress that puts them at a higher risk of injury.

Specializing early in a sport puts athletes at risk of burnout and psychological fatigue. When athletes participate in club sports, travel teams, or extra off-season practice for the wrong reasons or when they’re not fully invested mentally and emotionally, it can be detrimental. Athletes who suffer psychological burnout are much more likely to lose interest in their sport, or even worse - physical activity in general.

Lastly, research has not supported the idea that early specialization leads to long term success. In fact, it shows the opposite. A study of international athletes looked at the time that they began specialization. It found that the elite athletes played multiple sports during their developmental years (defined in the article as 11 and younger). Near-elite athletes specialized at a younger age. The study concluded that waiting to specialize until the athlete reaches physical maturity could be more likely to result in elite status. A study of Olympians came to the same conclusion. A 2014 survey by the USOC found that Olympians averaged 3 sports per year from ages 10 - 14, and 2 sports per year from 15 - 18.

 

Conclusion

Early specialization may lead to earlier acquisition of sport specific skills, but comes with multiple disadvantages:

  1. Focusing on specific skills comes at the cost of developing general athleticism
  2. Athletes who specialize early have a higher risk for injury
  3.  Early specialization is associated with burnout
  4. Elite athletes and Olympians tend to have been multi-sport athletes who specialized late, indicating that early specialization does not lead to long-term success

For athletes who aspire to play at collegiate or higher levels, specialization becomes necessary at some point. While the right time to specialize will vary from athlete to athlete, there are some guidelines.

  1. An athlete’s age can be used to gauge how many hours a week they should be practicing a specific sport (A 12 year old should spend no more than 12 hours a week on a certain sport)
  2. For most sports, waiting until an athlete has reached skeletal maturity is generally recommended
  3. Specialization should happen when the athlete chooses to do so, without external pressures

To access the complete mareting toolkit associated with this article, including a press release, social media posts, and shareable images, visit the PPS Marketing Resources page.

 

 

Let’s talk about the last time you—or someone close to youinterviewed for a new job. Chances are that the first step was a phone screen with your potential employer, and when you passed that portion of the process with flying colors, you were then invited for an in-person interview. At that stage, the employer probably asked you to answer a series of questions and to demonstrate your skills through a test or two. The process is set up in a way that narrows down the options until the most suitable candidate is found. Makes sense, right?

Just as job recruiters screen applicants to find the best fit for an open position, your PT will ask you to perform a series of exercises so that she can observe and understand your body mechanics to uncover any issues or limitations. Used in combination with a full evaluation and assessment, these so-called movement screens are just one tool in identifying the most appropriate treatment or prevention program for you. But unlike that test you may have taken during a job interview, the screen is not testing your skills or abilities, it’s simply a way of identifying how your body functions during a variety of movements.

Now that spring is in full swing, it’s the perfect time of year to make an appointment with your physical therapist for a movement screen. The warmer weather means more time spent outdoors participating in sports and other recreational activities that may be physically demanding. A PT checkup that includes a movement screen will ensure that you’re physically able to engage in popular spring and summer adventures, whether it’s exploring in the woods, tending to your garden, or swimming at your family’s lake house.

Physical therapists perform movement screens for a variety of reasons, including:

  • To identify areas of strength and weakness
  • To uncover issues or rule them out
  • To determine readiness to begin a safe exercise program
  • To improve sport performance (for both novice and elite athletes)

A movement screen is something that you can have done whether you have a nagging injury or are simply ready to kickstart your activity level after a long hiatus. Gaining an understanding of how your body performs during basic exercises such as squats and lunges helps your PT ensure that you can safely jump on a bike or into a pool this summer. And just like an employer screens candidates to identify the one individual who is likely to thrive on the job for many years to come, a movement screen can help you develop a lasting and fulfilling relationship with the activities you enjoy most.

To access the complete mareting toolkit associated with this article, including a press release, social media posts, and shareable images, visit the PPS Marketing Resources page.

 

Basketball is the most popular youth sport in the US. A study by the National Athletic Trainers Association found that 22% of male basketball players have an injury that causes them to miss playing time each year. 42% of the time, that injury is to the ankle or foot, making this the most injured area.

Some other common injuries to basketball players include:

Lower Extremity

  1. Muscle strains such as a groin pull, quadriceps, hamstring, or calf strain
  2. Knee ligament injuries such as ACL, LCL, MCL tears or sprains
  3. Ankle sprains, including high ankle sprain
  4. Ankle fractures
  5. Overuse injuries such as patellar tendonitis, IT band pain, shin splints

Upper Extremity

  1. Falls, leading to fractures, dislocation, or sprains of the wrist, elbow, or shoulder
  2. Jammed fingers

Head

  1. Concussion as a result from a collision between head and the ground, usually from falling

 

Knowledge of the most common types of injuries gives us a place to start thinking about prevention. While not all injuries can be prevented, there are some things parents and players can do to reduce the risk of being injured.

  1. Have an annual physical completed by a physical therapist or other qualified professional

    This should include baseline testing of strength, ROM, and a baseline concussion test
  2. Make sure you have an adequate base of strength and aerobic fitness

    The annual physical mentioned above should identify areas needing addressed here. Your PT or other professional can help design a training a program to address your specific needs
  3. Improve your balance and proprioception - this can help reduce the risk of the foot and ankle injuries so common in basketball

    This can be accomplished with off-season strength and conditioning as well as participation in injury prevention programs to work on jumping and landing skills
  4. Avoid overuse injuries and burnout

    Taking time off throughout the season and the year will let the body recover
  5. Hydrate adequately before and during practice and games

  6. Wear properly fitted shoes

  7. Be aware of the environment

    Especially when playing basketball on outside courts - the court may not be smooth and even everywhere.

To access the complete mareting toolkit associated with this article, including a press release, social media posts, and shareable images, visit the PPS Marketing Resources page.

 

You know exercise is important to your health. It helps you feel better physically, gives you energy, and helps you deal with the stress of your busy life.  

But what do you do when life gets too busy to take an exercise class, go for a run, or get to the gym? 

It’s easy to start skipping exercise when life gets busy, but that leads to less energy, and aches and pains cropping up. This makes you feel like exercising even less, and leads to a downward spiral. That means that finding time to exercise when life is busy is even more important.  

If you can find 8 minutes, you can maintain your strength even on your busiest day.  

Exercise doesn’t have to take lots of time. In fact, your 8 minutes don’t even have to be all together. You can break them up throughout the day. Doing one exercise for one minute every hour while at work counts just as much as doing 8 minutes of exercise after the kids are in bed and before you collapse on the couch. The following exercises use your body weight for resistance, so you don’t need any equipment. They also use many muscle groups at onces so you can maintain strength in your whole body in a short amount of time.  

  1. The plank; Lying on your stomach, with your forearms on the ground, elbows under the shoulders, and arms parallel to the body. Toes tucked under, engage your stomach muscles and lift your body up. Hold for 20 seconds, rest 5 seconds, and repeat 3 times. 

  1. Push up; (do on your knees if you need an easier version). 20 seconds of push ups, 10 seconds of rest and repeat. 

  1. Quadruped - Start on your hands and knees with your hands under your shoulders, and you knees under your hips. Lift and reach with one arm and the opposite leg, maintaining a stable core. Hold 10 seconds and repeat on opposite side. Repeat 5 times. 

  1. Bridge; Lying on back, with your knees bent, engage your abdominals and lift your hips. Hold 20 seconds, rest 5 seconds, and repeat 3 times. 

  1. Lunge; Stand tall and take a large step forward with the right leg, shifting your weight forward. Lower your body until the right thigh is parallel to floor and your right shin is vertical. (do not let the knee shift past right toe). Return to the start and repeat on the other side. Repeat 20 times.  

  1. Squat to heel raise; Feet shoulder width apart, core engaged and arms raised high above the head. Perform a squat and return to standing then rise onto your toes. Repeat 20 times. 

#preventpain #staystrong 

The posts on the Marketing Blog are intended for the use of physical therapists and physical therapy clinics. PPS members are free to utilize any content on this blog in their clinic's respective websites and newsletters. You can simply copy & paste from the blog itself or download the word documnent template from the Marketing Resources area of the PPS website. 

 

The joys of a family vacation can be overshadowed by the ‘pain’ of hauling excessive luggage, sleeping in a different bed and extended periods of sitting. Here are our favorite tips to keep you feeling your best while traveling so you can enjoy your destination.

Take breaks while driving

Every hour or two, stop and walk for a few minutes. It’s also not a bad idea to do some standing back extensions. Sitting places your spine in a flexed position, so moving it the opposite direction can prevent pain.

 

Support your back

If you’re going to be sitting for extended periods, like on an airplane, using lumbar support can keep you more comfortable. A lumbar roll, or small pillow works well placed between the seat and the small of back. Using a rolled jacket or blanket is another good option.

 

Choose the right luggage

Suitcases with wheels let you avoid lifting and carrying. If you’re flying, check your bags to avoid the overhead lifting. A backpack that can be worn on both shoulders makes a great carryon and is easier to handle than a bag you can only use one hand on.

 

Dress to move

Comfortable shoes and clothes let you walk when you have the opportunity. If you have down time, like waiting at the gate at the airport, or waiting for your hotel room to be ready, use the opportunity to take a walk instead of sitting.

 

Pillow talk

If you have a long flight, train or car ride where you plan to sleep, use a neck pillow. This helps you avoid sleeping with a twisted neck, then waking up in pain. If you’re worried about the comfort of the pillows at the hotel, don’t be afraid to bring your own.

 

Listen to your body

Vague discomfort is often a warning sign that you need to move!

 

Don’t take a vacation from exercise

Maintain your usual activity level. Research local exercise facilities before you head to a new town, take your running shoes, and travel with your theraband and foam roller. The more you can maintain your activity level, the less likely you are to end up in pain.

 

With these tips, you should be able to arrive at your destination feeling ready to enjoy your time with your family instead of in pain, stiff, or sore.

 

To access the complete mareting toolkit associated with this article, including a press release, social media posts, and shareable images, visit the PPS Marketing Resources page.

 

Chances are that you probably haven’t given much thought to how your neck and back are faring in the era of the smart phone, but studies show that you most certainly should. It’s practically a reflex these days to pull out our smart phones when we’re standing in line, sitting at the airport or riding the subway. And while it’s great that we rarely need to venture beyond our pockets for entertainment, our bodies are beginning to retaliate—and mourn the pre-texting days. So, what exactly are these contemporary conveniences doing to our bodies? A surgeon-led study that published in Surgical Technology International assessed what impact surgeons’ head and neck posture during surgery—a posture similar to that of smart-phone texters—has on their cervical spines. With each degree that our heads flex forward (as we stare at a screen below eye level), the strain on our spines dramatically increases. When an adult head (that weighs 10 to 12 pounds in the neutral position) tilts forward at 30 degrees, the weight seen by the spine climbs to a staggering 40 pounds, according to the study. 

How pervasive of a problem is this? According to the study, the average person spends 14 to 28 hours each week with their heads tilted over a laptop, smart phone or similar device. Over the course of a year, that adds up to 700 to 1400 hours of strain and stress on our spines. As a result, the number of people dealing with headaches, achy necks and shoulders and other associated pain has skyrocketed. Trained to address postural changes and functional declines, physical therapists are well-versed in treating this modern-day phenomenon, widely known as “text neck.”

Over time, this type of poor posture can have a cumulative effect, leading to spine degeneration, pinched nerves and muscle strains. Scheduling an appointment with a physical therapist can help people learn how to interact with their devices without harming their spines. The PT will prescribe an at-home program that includes strategies and exercises that focus on preserving the spine and preventing long-term damage.

Exercise is an important part of taking care of our spines as we age, but what we do when we’re not in motion matters, too. So next time you pick up your smart phone or curl up with your e-reader, do a quick check of your head and neck posture. Your body will thank you for years to come.

To access the complete mareting toolkit associated with this article, including a press release, social media posts, and shareable images, visit the PPS Marketing Resources page.

 

Are you among the millions of Americans who have high aspirations for how you’ll spend the extra time during your post-retirement years? Whether you plan to travel the world, pick up fly fishing, spend more time woodworking or sign up for a golf league, your physical fitness level will be a factor.

A 2010 study suggests that the fitness declines we typically attribute to advancing age are largely caused by living sedentary lifestyles—which are on the rise due to the prominence of desk jobs in the workplace and activity-limiting personal technologies including smart phones and voice-activated remote controls in the home. Still, this runs contrary to the widely held belief that any declines in our physical abilities are caused solely by biological aging. Do we really have control over how active we’ll be in our “golden years”?

In a word, absolutely. The study—which examined 900,000 running times of marathon and half-marathon participants aged 20 to 79—found no significant age-related performance declines in those younger than 55 years old, and only moderate declines among the older cohorts. In fact, more than one-quarter of runners aged 65 to 69 were faster than half of the runners aged 20 to 54.

And for those thinking that these runners must have been lifelong enthusiasts of the sport, the study revealed that 25% of runners aged 50 to 69 were relative newcomers—and had started marathon training within the previous 5 years. The researchers concluded that even at an advanced age, people in the “non-athlete” category who engage in regular training can reach high performance levels.

If this revelation is intriguing, then perhaps it’s time for you to get moving! If you aren’t currently active, then you likely have questions and concerns about where to start. And if you regularly engage in physical activities, then you’ve probably set goals that you’d like to achieve. Either way, there’s no shortage of tools and resources to help you live a more active lifestyle but one reliable place to start is with a physical therapist.

The benefits of beginning with a physical therapist consultation are many: PTs are trained to assess your abilities and limitations, consider your health concerns, demonstrate safe exercises and build a plan to increase strength, function and mobility. Whatever your passion is, physical therapy will help you be fit and injury-free so you may enjoy life’s many pursuits.

To access the complete mareting toolkit associated with this article, including a press release, social media posts, and shareable images, visit the PPS Marketing Resources page.

 

When the calendar year comes to a close, we often find ourselves physically and mentally depleted from the holidays and the end-of-the-year rush. It’s no wonder that three of the most common self-improvement resolutions uttered as the clock strikes midnight are: eat more healthily, lose weight and commit to a regular exercise program.

January is a great time to press the restart button and revisit our ongoing quest to be better versions of ourselves, and not just because the longstanding New Year’s Eve tradition tells us to. Each year, however, Americans struggle to turn the goals they’ve set out for themselves into long-term change. In fact, according to Statistic Brain Research Institute, of the 41% of Americans who make resolutions each year, just 9.2% successfully achieve their objectives.

When it comes to committing to a regular exercise program, don’t become a statistic! For those looking to make exercise a regular habit, enlisting help in achieving your goals is one way to ensure success. You might consider recruiting an exercise buddy (to make you accountable), using a calendar app to schedule workouts (to dedicate time in your day) or consulting a healthcare professional (to supervise your program and keep you safe).

Physical therapy is a great resource for those interested in beginning a new exercise program or overcoming a nagging injury. Rehab professionals are trained to assess limitations and dysfunction, teach proper body mechanics and prevent—and treat—injuries. Your physical therapist will ask about any issues you’re encountering, evaluate your functional abilities, gather a thorough medical history and discuss your fitness and activity goals.

One rule of thumb is to start slow—particularly if you’re trying a new form of exercise or haven’t been active for some time. And once you start to form the habit of regular activity, mix it up by engaging in multiple activities rather than focusing on one. Many lingering injuries occur because of overuse or repetitive stress, most often at the hands of participating in one activity—such as running or biking—exclusively.

If you’re experiencing pain, inflammation or weakness, make an appointment to be evaluated by a physical therapist. The movement specialist will assess and identify the cause of the nagging injury and teach you how to modify your behavior to distribute stress to different parts of the body and reduce the repetitive nature of your movement patterns.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean putting your resolution to exercise regularly on hold. Your PT can work with you to identify an appropriate fitness program, including the safest frequency, intensity and duration of each workout session. The best part? There will be no excuses because you’ll have all the tools you need to be make this your most fit year yet.

To access the complete mareting toolkit associated with this article, including a press release, social media posts, and shareable images, visit the PPS Marketing Resources page.