Wednesday, December 20, 2017

How to Stay Active for the Long Term

Change the Calendar, Change Your Routines!

This time of year always brings memories back of performing in the ballet version of The Nutcracker. It really was an amazing time but it was also physically demanding. By the end of the run, I would need a few days of rest before I could get back to being my active self, even as a teenager.  When people find out I am a physical therapist that used to dance, the response is usually, "Oh, so you got into physical therapy because you got hurt at some point, right?" I was lucky enough to make it through my dance career without any major injuries. However, looking back, I really don't think it was all luck.

In addition to dance, I also played lacrosse. Yes, those are two very different physical activities, but that's the point. I would do weight lifting, sprinting, practice for lacrosse a few times a week and then have dance class and rehearsal the other days. By constantly changing up what my body was doing, I didn't allow for wear and tear injuries to occur and my body's strength was well rounded. I was reaping the benefit of cross training.

The metaphor I use with patients is this: when you look at the stairs of an old house, the wood is worn down in places where people placed their feet for decades. Your body is the same way; if you always do the same activities week

after week, your body gets worn down in the same ways. What wasn't a problem before is now painful or hard to do. That's why your, physical therapist/physician/trainer/chiropractor/etc might tell you to change things up in your fitness or activity routine.

Cross training is a proven concept. Professional athletes take yoga to stretch and unload joints. Factory line workers change positions on the line to prevent overuse injuries. So how does this relate to you? Someone who plays basketball often may want to do something different once a week, like a spin class. Now, you're not wearing down your body in the same way and you're making your strength well rounded. If a teacher spends all day standing, swimming would be a good way to unload joints while still working on cardiovascular fitness.

Whether you are a dancer, athlete, manual worker, or just trying to stay active for the long run (which should be everyone's goal), cross training is an important concept for everyone to practice. Physical therapists can help by evaluating your current weakness and figuring out ways to fix them. A physical therapy consult is a good way to get started.

 PTW’s Sean Vanin, DPT is the Clinical Supervisor at our Quakertown clinic. For an initial evaluation, call Sean at 215 538 9911 today! 

Why Stretch?

The Importance of Stretching!

It’s cold out… you don’t want to go to the gym…. you really don’t want to waste time stretching….
Believe me, I get it. I am definitely one of those people that needs to give their self a little pep talk in the winter to stay with my workout plan and stretching.
It is important to properly warm-up and stretch before exercising or participating in some of those enjoyable snow activities like snowball fights and skiing/snowboard and the not so enjoyable ones like shoveling.

Stretching has been shown to have many benefits:

Decrease Risk of Injury – stretching before participating in something physical prepares your muscles to function at their optimal performance.  They are now ready to adapt to the changes that your muscles go through when being physically active.

Improve Flexibility and Range of Motion – I hear daily that “I used to be able to touch my toes as a kid.” Well the reason you can’t anymore i
s because you didn’t keep up with stretching as your bones grew and muscles lengthened.  Don’t worry; you can still improve your flexibility if you work at it.

Reduce pain and stiffness – In many cases a lot of patients low back pain and knee pain is due to their muscles being very tight which causes the joints to not move properly and therefore put abnormal stresses on joints and cause pain.

Improve blood flow and circulation – Stretching helps to improve blood flow and circulation by allowing for enhanced transportation of oxygen and nutrient-rich blood throughout the body.

Minimize wear and tear on joints – Again, if muscles are at the appropriate length and tensions then they don’t cause abnormal stress on joints which can lead to premature joint breakdown and arthritis.  

Improve muscular function – Stretching helps to improve oxygen and nutrient rich blood to circulate better throughout the body and also helps to remove the byproduct lactic acid from your system more quickly. It also helps to prepare the muscles for activity which is especially true in the case of dynamic stretching.

Reduce stress – Chronic stress can cause a number of undesirable responses in the body. Regular stretching has been shown to reduce mental tension, and when combined with mindful breathing techniques, it may also help to decrease anxiety and depression.

PTW’s Stephanie McDougal, PT, DPT is the Clinical Supervisor at our Souderton clinic. For an initial evaluation, call Steph at 215 855 1160 today! 

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Winter Is Coming...

Winter Is Coming...Be Prepared!

There is a lot to think about when it starts to snow in the winter.  How am I going to shovel?  How will be able to get my car out?  How am I going to get to all my appointments?  However, one thought that causes the most fear in many people is, "What if I fall on the ice?"  What if I told you balance and strength training could reduce your risk of falls?  

In physical therapy, one of the components we constantly assess for patient's wellbeing is their balance.  There are a multitude of tests that tell us if someone is at a higher risk for falls because of poor balance.  When we discuss balance in PT, we talk about a very important system called the proprioceptive system.  This system is involved in telling your body when it is starting to sway or fall.  It then is supposed to tell your body which muscles to activate to keep yourself from falling.  This system becomes less and less effective as people age, or if it is not used.  

So why is this system so important then?  It is the safety mechanism built into your body that keeps you from falling.  Walking on the sidewalk, climbing stairs, reaching out of your base of support, etc. all activate this system, but is that enough to get you prepared to walk on slippery surfaces?  Additional balance training exercises would be required to truly prepare your proprioceptive system for the challenges that come with snowy and icy sidewalks in the winter.  This is because the only way to truly prepare for walking on unsteady surfaces is to practice on unsteady surfaces in safer conditions.  

If you're concerned about getting around this winter, talk to your PT and see if additional balance training is something you would benefit from.  Because "Winter is coming", will you be ready for it? 

PTW’s Brandon Lewandowski, DPT is a PTs at our Lansdale clinic. For an initial evaluation call 215 855 9871 today!