Why is good balance so important? The reason can be summed up in one word: CONTROL.
Think about it… we balance our checkbook – or lose control of our finances, we balance our diets – or lose control of our good health, we balance our schedules – or lose control of our time, we balance our bodies – or risk injuries and accidents. To maintain control of our bodies is foundational to our ability to maintain control of our lives. To move safely and comfortably in our lives, we need to maintain a solid awareness of where our bodies are in relation to the things around us.
Do you know how to check your balance?
Check out this video with our own, Josh Halas, DPT, Strength & Conditioning Coach, to learn how.
Do you know what causes balance problems?
While balance problems are common with aging, there are other factors and events that can impact your physical balance. Among these are medications, head injuries, bacterial and viral infections, blood circulation disorders, arthritis, and more.
Do you know how to prevent balance problems?
Here are 4 things you can do:
1. Get your vision and hearing tested annually.
2. Monitor your medications. Ask your doctor or pharmacist if your medications can affect your balance.
3. Manage chronic diseases, like diabetes, carefully.
4. If you fall, let your doctor or physical therapist know about it.
Do you know how Physical Therapy helps with balance problems?
First, your Physical Therapist can help reduce your fear of falling by addressing the specific problems that have been discovered.
Using an individualized treatment and exercise program, you can improve your mobility, and regain your ability to move with more ease, coordination and confidence.
As you work with your Physical Therapist, you will see an improvement in your strength, a reduction in muscle weakness, especially in those muscles most important to your balance (your trunk, hip and core muscles).
You will be able to increase your activity, as you learn how to identify muscles that are tight and learn to stretch them properly, resulting in an overall improvement in your flexibility and posture.
Physical Therapy is highly successful in helping you improve both static balance (standing or sitting) and dynamic balance (keeping your balance while moving).
Considering how important good balance is to our overall well-being, we encourage you to check your balance regularly and seek out help if you feel unable to sit or stand upright comfortably.
In the span of one hour, pay attention to how many times you use your hands. To hold your phone, feed yourself, do your job, drive your car, scratch your face, rub your eyes, help your loved one, open a door, pick up anything… the list goes on and on. Our hands are extremely important, but rarely are they fully appreciated. Until, that is, we have trouble using them…
In our PT world, where pain-free mobility is our primary focus every day, we realize that physical therapy often gets a lot more attention than occupational therapy and specifically hand therapy. In this issue, we want to take a moment to give a “high-five!” to hand therapy and provide you a greater understanding of the problems hand therapy helps and the intensity of the training it takes to become and stay a Certified Hand Therapist.
While hand therapy commonly references treatment of the hands, it actually includes treatment of the upper extremities, including the arms, hands, wrists, elbows, forearms, and shoulders. People who have any of the following conditions benefit from hand therapy:
• Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
• Golfer’s Elbow
• Tennis Elbow
• Traumatic Injuries (surgical and non-surgical)
• Flexor Tendon Repairs
• Burns and wounds
• Hand pain
• Repetitive Motion Disorders
• plus, a number of other conditions…
At our clinic, we focus a lot on the function of the hand and areas such as pain management, scar management, swelling, sensory re-education, range of motion, strength and more. We also fabricate custom splinting right here on site.
Becoming a Certified Hand Therapist (CHT) is intense and likely one of the reasons there are just under 6,500 CHT’s around the globe.
A CHT must first become an Occupational Therapist or Physical Therapist, have at least 3 years of experience, plus 4,000 hours of experience providing upper extremity rehabilitation before they can become certified. And, once they are certified, they have to renew the credential every 5 years through at least 80 hours of continuing education. We are really fortunate to have a highly experienced and respected CHT on our team and she has been with us for over 20 years.
In recognition of this important therapy and learn more about how she helps patients regain their abilities, check out this video with our own Kris Moonan, OTR/L, CHT.
Most healthcare professionals would agree that back pain is a complicated issue. While up to 80% of Americans will suffer from back pain at some point in their lives, there are so many causes of back pain that it’s often difficult to pinpoint the exact reason, making it hard to treat and relieve such pain. Sources can include arthritis, spinal injury and nerve compression.
There are, however, three main causes of lower back pain which can be avoided with proper self-care.
CAUSE #1: Poor sitting posture.
Many of us have jobs that require us to sit at a computer for hours* at a time, staring at a small screen and perhaps involuntarily hunching over our keyboard. this can lead to problems with the intervertebral discs, making it difficult to not only sit, but also stand up and sit down in chairs.
If you have a job that requires sitting for any length of time, paying attention to your posture could help you avoid back pain. Remember to sit with your back straight, but retain the natural curves in your back; if you need support, you can put a lumbar roll or even a rolled up towel in your chair behind the small of your back to help.
It is also very important to move throughout the day so you can keep your muscles loose.
CAUSE #2: Poor lifting techniques.
How many times have you sat through a training video that reminds employees to lift with the legs, not with the back? Incorrect lifting posture can create a lower back injury quickly. Always make sure that your knees are bent and your back is straight. Never jerk heavy objects up; move slowly and carefully instead. And if the object is heavier than 30 pounds, get help, either from another person or some machinery.
Don’t forget that this applies to small objects as well as large ones. Bending down many times to pick up toys can put just as much strain on your back as one lift of a heavy box. Even for light objects, bend at your knees and save your back.
CAUSE #3: Lack of lumbar extension.
Lower back pain can often be a sign that your lumbar muscles are too tight. We recommend trying some lumbar extension exercises to relax and stretch the muscles.
Making a few smart adjustments to your daily routine are a good guard against back pain. Maintain correct sitting posture, consistently utilize proper body mechanics and do daily extension exercises. While this is not a guarantee against all lower back pain, it does significantly reduce its likelihood.
Running regularly or competitively can be one of the most exhilarating experiences a person can have. Runners who enjoy the thrill of completing a marathon or appreciate the sense of well-being that accompanies a simple daily run, are often the most committed, healthy individuals you’ll meet.
To maintain this activity, however, they need solid support; they need to understand how they are holding their body frame, how their feet hit the ground, what shoes are best, and much more.
As technology has advanced, we’ve been able to blend our knowledge of body mechanics with video analysis, giving us the ability to provide a whole new level of support to runners. We can now study a runner’s movement, history and habits to conduct an assessment and provide an analysis that helps them learn how they can:
As you can see when viewing this video, we are providing runners support that includes both responsive and preventative physical therapy.
Following our gathering of the runner’s history and goals combined with an analysis of the video taken, we provide a written assessment of what we learned along with recommendations. This report includes suggestions for proper training, posture, exercise, and related activities. Prior injuries, restrictions, or problem areas with running are all taken into consideration.
With the support we provide, runners are well-equipped to maintain this activity, and reach the goals that are important to them. The runners we have worked with are reporting a positive impact in their performance and good health.
If you are a runner or know someone who is, give us a call to learn about this helpful individualized service. Prevention, rehabilitation, performance. Mobility. Solid support, that’s our commitment.
Getting older can be scary. We worry about weaker bones and osteoporosis. We worry about losing our balance and falling, which can lead to serious injury. And many of us worry about losing our memory. Older adults and their family members should know that there is a difference between becoming a little more forgetful (what some elders call their “senior moments”) and the early signs of dementia.
Dementia is more than being forgetful; it’s categorized by the loss of cognitive skills, or the way that a person can consider and make decisions. The National Institutes of Health explain that compared to mild forgetfulness, dementia impacts daily life, interferes with decision-making, and affects every-day tasks. Dementia can affect “memory, language skills, visual perception, and the ability to focus and pay attention.” It is caused by damage to brain cells; when the brain’s cells can’t communicate properly, the way we navigate the world around us is affected.
Dementia is not always permanent. It can be caused by excess fluid in the brain (normal pressure hydrocephalus), infections, head injuries and brain tumors, or reactions to alcohol or medication. If these conditions are treated, it is possible that the dementia will recede.
While irreversible dementia isn’t curable, the process can be slowed with both medications (prescribed by your doctor) and some types of rehabilitation therapy. Specially trained speech-language pathologists help patients with dementia and memory loss retain cognitive skills as long as possible. According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, the professional organization of speech-language pathologists, SLPs focus on the “cognitive aspects of communication, including attention, memory, sequencing, problem solving, and executive functioning.”
Others on the rehabilitation team can also help people with dementia. Occupational therapists can help to set up safe environments without obstacles; if the person is still living at home in the early stages of dementia, an OT can do an assessment to reduce the risk of falling and remove the risk of dangerous items (like flammable liquids or the use of the stove). OTs and SLPs can create a home environment where reminders are posted about daily tasks, helping the patient to remain independent for as long as possible. And physical therapists can work with the person to keep him or her physically active for as long as possible, which can also contribute to slowing down memory loss, while reducing the chances of falling.
There are many reasons to sign your kids up for sports teams. They’ll build strong muscles and bones by being active, make friends and learn how to get along with others, and become more confident as they improve on the field. But many kids burn out and quit playing before they graduate from high school. Why? Here are a few reasons and how to prevent burnout.
Some parents emphasize competition over fun.
Parents who recognize their child has a notable talent for a specific sport (such baseball or tennis), will sometimes encourage their child to sign up for multiple leagues for the same sport.
Constant practice and competition trigger physical and mental burnout.
Physical burnout increases the risk of injury. This is due, in part, to the fact that many sports require repetitive motion— such as, repeated kicks of a soccer ball with one leg, the constant swinging of a bat in baseball, or the motion required to serve in tennis.
Some kids and parents attach sports to scholarships and fame.
When unchecked, a child’s or parent’s (or coach’s) desire for great results, can lead to significant pressure and stress for a young person. The fun of sports can quickly be erased and with it a child’s natural talent can erode.
So, how can parents and their kids prevent burnout?
Remember… kids are kids.
Ask any eight-year-old what his favorite color or cartoon character is, and he won’t hesitate to answer. But if you ask him again a week later, his answer may be completely different. So why should he choose which sport to do at such a young age? In reality, by the time that boy reaches high school, the sport he loved as an eight-year-old has become a chore. Weekend fun with friends is passed over for tournaments played out of state. Holiday breaks are spent refining techniques with specialized coaches. Athletes who burn out like this may quit playing all sports.
One of the most notable ways to prevent burnout is to encourage kids to participate in multiple sports. Sports yield tremendous benefits to children in helping them improve their motor skills and learn how to be a part of a team. Athletes that have off seasons or play multiple sports throughout the year, will strengthen multiple muscle groups and let other muscles recuperate.
Aside from reducing the risk of overuse injuries and mental burnout, these multi-sport players gain more athleticism. The skills gained in one sport can enhance those for another. And best of all, each sport feels fresher on the field when not played every week, and the athlete can enjoy the sport for what it is — a game.
We all have skips in our memory from time to time — misplacing our keys, forgetting an event or appointment, or failing to remember the name of an acquaintance. But as we age, particularly as we reach and pass the age of 65, it is easy to wonder if such small lapses in our memory can be signs of something more serious, like Alzheimer’s disease, or dementia.
The good news is that most of us won’t develop such serious diseases, the tough news is that some memory loss is common as we age — the American Psychological Association says that both our “episodic memory,” which remembers the small things in our daily lives, as well as our long-term memory, which stretches back to childhood, often declines as we grow older.
That being said, recent studies point to a variety of ways that we can reduce age-related memory loss and improve how our brain works from day to day. Here are 6 excellent tips from the Mayo Clinic and the American Psychological Association:
Stay mentally active.
Mental activity can keep your brain in better shape, and this can be done in a variety of ways. You can do mind games, like crossword puzzles, or computer training games designed to improve mental acuity. You can learn how to speak a new language or play an instrument. Even volunteering at the local school or library can help you keep your brain active.
Participating in social activities can help to reduce depression, which can contribute to memory problems. In addition, being social has been shown to improve longevity of life and overall health.
Train your brain.
When you learn new things, try using mnemonics, acronyms and associations to help remember them. Mnemonics use words to remember a sequence. Acronyms simply use the first letter of every word. And associations create a visual link to a name or location, like picturing a night sky when wanting to remember, Eve, the new nurse’s name.
A lack of sleep can create cognitive problems and it is always in your best interest to seek help if you have frequent problems with this important activity.
Eat a balanced diet.
Studies have shown that people who eat more fish, fruits and vegetables (also known as the Mediterranean diet) have lower risks of heart disease and diabetes, as well as healthier brains. In addition, diets heavy in omega-3 fatty acids, found in salmon and other fish, have been shown to improve the networking in your brain.
Be physically active.
There are many reasons to exercise — physical activity can reduce the risk of a variety of diseases, and it makes you feel better both physically and mentally. In addition, however, it has been shown to provide a variety of mental benefits, including improving memory, increasing cognition in older patients, and reducing brain shrinkage. A physical therapist can help you identify exercise activities that are a match for your fitness level and physical condition.
Whether you’re hurting because of an injury, an accident, an illness, or the normal wear and tear that comes with aging, one thing is for sure; when you’ve got hip pain, you just want it to stop. While hip pain has a number of different causes, determining the cause is key to receiving the most appropriate treatment. Today, we would like to look at the two most common causes of hip pain, explore ways to prevent it and learn how physical therapy can help.
Most Common Cause # 1: Arthritis in the hip region results in pain, stiffness, swelling, and decreased range of motion. The most common type is osteoarthritis, also known as degenerative joint disease. Osteoarthritis is the excessive wearing of cartilage between the ball and socket, and the bone-on-bone contact causes significant pain and loss of motion.
Most Common Cause # 2: Injuries. The most common hip injuries include tendonitis, bursitis, contusions and sprains. These can be caused by a particular activity, repetitive stress, overuse injuries or some type of trauma. All result in inflammation of the tendons and ligaments causing painful movements, swelling, discomfort while resting at night, or possibly a dull ache and stiffness. The joint cannot function properly and without pain when there is swelling or inflammation associated with these injuries.
While there are factors that you may not be able to control, here are 4 powerful steps you can take to reduce or prevent the hip pain:
Physical therapy aims to reduce pain and help you regain mobility by building strength and increasing flexibility. It’s all about reducing the amount of stress placed on the joints. By strengthening the muscles around the hips, the joints get extra support and absorb less stress. Increasing and maintaining flexibility avoids any abnormal and unnecessary stress on your joints that often goes hand in hand with the loss of elasticity.
To learn more about how physical therapy, we encourage you to contact us with your questions.
The process of healing a bone fracture is most commonly determined by the type of bone fracture that occurred. Helping us understand different types of fractures, the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA), provides the following descriptions:
• The simplest type of fracture is defined as a non-displaced fracture. This means that the bone may be broken, but the pieces are still properly aligned within the body.
• The more complex fractures range from fractures that only include one break but are not properly aligned (displaced fractures), to a bone having multiple fractures, the fracture(s) affecting the soft tissue around the break, or even the fracture piercing the skin.
The more complex the fracture, the longer it will take for the bone to heal, which will mean activity will be curtailed for a longer time, increasing the possibility that physical therapy will be necessary to regain function.
Another factor that impacts the healing process, is where your fracture has occurred. For example, with a wrist or elbow fracture, it may be easy to walk around, but you will most likely have to limit the use of your wrist and arm. Your physical therapist can be of great help even while your arm is still in a cast, adapting your exercise regimen to remove any stress to the affected bones.
Lower extremity injuries, i.e., fractures below the belt, are more difficult to come back from — when you have a cast on your leg or even a walking boot, your mobility is more limited. Once you have been fitted with your cast, your physical therapist can teach you how best to move around given the limitations of your cast.
After a cast is removed, it’s normal to have some pain and stiffness in the affected area. Physical therapy will include a strengthening regimen to regain any muscle that was lost while the bone was healing and it can help you to regain strength and range of motion, allowing you to return to your previous level of activity.
Keep in mind that every fracture and every patient is different. Be sure to follow the directions from your physician and physical therapist carefully in order to recuperate safely. And if you have any pain for an extended period of time, whether while in a cast or after it has been removed, we encourage you to seek medical attention from your doctor.
Ah the great outdoors! Summer is here! Let the camping adventures begin! Sitting by the fire with friends and family, roasting marshmallows, reading a good book, playing in the water, fishing at the lake, listening to the birds sing when you first wake up… sounds pretty great doesn’t it?
While there is no doubt that camping has all the right ingredients for a good adventure, the fun of it can be disrupted if you don’t take care of your back properly. For this month’s newsletter, we’d like to offer 3 easy tips (or perhaps reminders!) that you can use to protect your back and your mobility.
ONE: PACK SMART
Given the need to bring a little “home” to your campsite, it’s natural to overpack and want to squeeze your supplies into a small number of containers or boxes. The problem with this, however, is that the heavier those few containers get – the harder they are on your back.
You can protect your back by being selective about what you take and using more containers with less weight in them.
TWO: USE PROPER BENDING, LIFTING, AND CARRYING TECHNIQUES
Setting up camp can be physically demanding requiring lots of bending, lifting and carrying. As you set up your tent, carry supplies, make a fire and other activities needed to get set up, remember the importance of protecting your back by squatting down and bending at your hips and knees only. When you’re lifting, bring whatever you are going to carry close to your body and straighten your legs to lift it up. Using these movement techniques will help to increase your enjoyment and reduce distracting strains or injuries.
THREE: SLEEP WELL – INVEST IN GOOD BACK SUPPORT
Sleeping on the wrong surface can cause back pain that can take away your chance of having a good time. To maximize the possibility of sleeping well and feeling good in the morning, invest in a good air mattress and air pump. The investment you make can a real difference in your back health and the overall positive experience camping can provide.