All Walking is Not Created Equal

When it comes to walking, most of us have a strong preference between walking outdoors, indoors, or on a treadmill. We tend to think these activities are interchangeable from a health perspective, but are they? The surfaces that we walk on change the experience of our body and the muscles that we use.

Walking overground should be powered by the backs of our legs with our torso vertical. In order to propel us forward, our muscles generate a pushing action behind us to push the ground away. On the other hand, a treadmill forces our body to do exactly the opposite, relying on a walking pattern driven by the muscles in the front of the hip and thigh to catch yourself because the “ground” is coming toward you. Therefore, treadmill walking is not the same as walking overground.

So Why Does This Matter?

For most of us, the muscles of the fronts of our hips are already shortened due to time spent sitting every day. Treadmill use encourages further shortening and overuse of...

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Let's Talk About Hamstring Stretching

Let’s talk about hamstring stretching...

The hamstrings are a large muscle group running up the back of the thigh that attach below the knee and to the base of the pelvis. Hamstring mobility is so important because walking, core stability, and the ability to get on and off the floor all depend on the positioning of the pelvis. Tight hamstrings (caused by lots of time spent sitting) keep the pelvis in a tucked position that is not great for optimal pelvic and core health. 

There are several different ways in which the hamstrings can be stretched. The most common one we see is the forward bend.

There is more than one way to perform a forward bend, however the point of a hamstring stretch is to change the length of the hamstrings. Therefore movement should be from the pelvis and not the spine.


A compensation we commonly see for tight hamstrings is an excessive rounding of the spine (picture 1). In this scenario, the spine is being over-stretched while there is not much...

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Announcing our Strengthening for Shoulder Pain Workshop on Saturday June 30th, 2018

One of our favorite exercises for chronic shoulder pain is isometric shoulder strengthening. An isometric exercise involves using the muscle without moving the joint through a range of motion. This is a great initial start to a strengthening program to bring stability to a joint.
 
Isometric exercises can be done in all directions to strengthen multiple muscle groups. This easy exercise can be performed by positioning yourself near something that can provide resistance, like a wall. Then gently push your arm into the wall and hold for a few seconds. Sounds straightforward enough, but this is also an easy exercise to compensate with different movement patterns. The pattern we most often see people doing is performing a shoulder exercise using their trunk rather than actually using their shoulder (as demonstrated in the above photos, be like picture 2 not picture 1!) Trunk stability in this exercise is essential for proper shoulder strengthening.
 
Wanting to...
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A Brief Overview of Chronic Pain

As the chronic pain epidemic continues to pour over into the opioid epidemic, new research continues to break down the complexity of chronic pain. Just a few years ago, chronic pain was viewed completely from a biomechanical perspective. When the medical community realized that treating only the injury was not only not working, but the epidemic of chronic pain continued to worsen they realized they needed to take a step back and look at the whole person. What has been discovered has been an eye-opening look at how chronic pain involves factors beyond what is happening within the body tissue. Now, we take a broader look at the whole person and understand chronic pain has a multitude of origins.

The Actual Risk Factors for Chronic Pain

Over time, physicians and other professionals realized the amount of tissue damage being seen on an MRI and the amount of pain a person was experiencing just were not matching up. Beyond that, those who underwent surgical procedures were showing...

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Try This Quick Test for Balance

Try this quick test for balance: how long are you able to stand on one leg without arm support? 

To set up: keep a chair or something you can hold if needed nearby and stand in front of a mirror with your feet hip width apart, shoes and socks off. Place your hands on your hips, shift your weight to one side and pick your opposite foot off the floor. How long can you hold this position?

An adult around age 30 should be able to comfortably hold this position for 30 seconds. In adults over age 65, an inability to hold this for at least 5 seconds indicates a greater risk of falls. Were you surprised by your results? 

We often get asked why we spend so much time practicing single leg standing in therapy. This skill is important because this is the position we spend the most amount of time in while walking! In order to take a step forward, you have to stand on one leg to allow the other leg to swing forward. If you are having difficulty with single leg standing, it is likely your...

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Movement Tips to Avoid Back Pain During Pregnancy

More than two-thirds of pregnant women report low back pain and up to one-fifth report pelvic pain during pregnancy. Reports of pain tend to increase later in pregnancy and interfere with daily activities, sleep, and work (3). About 20% of women who experience low back or pelvic pain during pregnancy report persistent pain for up to 3 years following pregnancy (2).

Chronic pain is complicated and much research has revolved around the term “pain catastrophizing”. Catastrophizing is a process of becoming fixated on pain, magnifying the effects of it, feeling helpless, and expecting negative outcomes associated with pain. Research shows that those who catastrophize are more likely to develop persistent chronic pain and disability. Women who demonstrated pain catastrophizing during their pregnancy were found to be less likely to have been active throughout their pregnancy and more likely to develop persistent pain after (2).

The recommendation of daily physical activity...

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When Body Alignment Does Matter: A Discussion of Chronic Pain and Function

Chronic pain is the leading cause of disability in the United States, with an annual cost estimated to be about $100 billion. These costs are associated with healthcare expenses, lost income, and lost productivity. A majority of adults experience acute pain at least once in their lives with about 28% later developing chronic pain (3).

With the nation’s growing opioid epidemic, there has been considerable emphasis on understanding the sources of chronic pain. Many mistakenly believe that tissue damage is directly correlated with a person’s risk of developing chronic pain. Statements from medical professionals to their patients which include “Your MRI shows that you have the spine of an 80 year old and you can expect to be in pain for the rest of your life” or “just avoid stairs or squatting entirely if it your knees are hurting” just further exacerbate the myths surrounding chronic pain.

There is much confusion regarding body alignment, movement,...

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For Better Health, Focus on Habits Rather Than Goals

“Losers have goals, winners have systems” -Scott Adams

Most of us fall into the trap of setting goals rather than focusing on the habits that help us achieve outcomes, particularly when it comes to our health.

We focus on the results rather than the processes. An important component of my interactions with people as a physical therapist is to discuss and agree upon goals for the course of care. By goals I mean what they are hoping to be able to do with the help of physical therapy. When I ask people what they want as an end result, most will tell me to be able to participate in hobbies like travel, dancing, or fishing without pain or having the energy to keep up with their grandchildren. These focus on quality of life rather than health metrics, such as pounds lost, blood sugar levels, or blood pressure readings.

However, when most people write out their health goals they focus on the metrics rather than quality of life. For example, one common goal is to lose a certain...

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High Heels and Your Health

For every 1 degree of heel your shoe has, 1 degree of spine, hip, and knee joint reaction is required to compensate…. meaning for every 1 inch of heel your shoe has, it caused 20 degrees of change throughout the joints of the lower extremities and spine! Think even a modest heel is not a detriment to your health? Think again.

Our footwear choices can be a detriment to our joint, bone, and muscle health. The amount of joint reaction caused by wearing heels can be contributing to knee and hip osteoarthritis, lumbar disc compression, and even pelvic floor dysfunction (new moms please avoid heels!). Improper footwear choices are also a common culprit of falls in older adults.

One of the highest impact steps you can take toward improving your health is changing your footwear. The purpose of a shoe is simply to protect our skin from the environment. The shoe should still allow your feet to experience as much natural movement as possible.

Start by looking for shoes that are flat,...

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Your Mindset About Aging is Impacting How You Age

It is an understatement to say that our society has a negative view of aging. It is pervasive in the ways we talk about older adults and our never-ending quest for “anti-aging” everything. We often make the mistake of associating aging with decline, and these views impact the way in which older adults view their health.

We all assume we will decline both mentally and physically as we age. But are we really declining because of age itself or because our views on aging influence our behavior? I would argue the latter.

Discussions about aging often involve emphasis on becoming too weak to participate in life in a meaningful way, or mental decline that is inevitable. When people start to believe they are “too old to…” they stop doing certain activities that are likely keeping them healthy. When people start to believe they can no longer do something simply because they are “too old” then we create a learned dependence upon others to do things...

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