Brain Health Series: Balance, Walking, and Brain Health

Brain health in is a topic not discussed often enough, especially within the medical community. The conversation around mental health and access to mental health services has been increasing in recent years, however the aging brain is often left out of the conversation. There are so many questions left unanswered surrounding the decline of brain health associated with aging. The medical profession has made observations about those who ultimately experience brain atrophy and those who don’t, so we are slowly gaining clarity. However, there are still many questions left unanswered.

Research has identified some clear correlations and patterns in those who ultimately receive a diagnosis of dementia. Keep in mind, however, that correlation does not equal causation. We know that balance problems and risk of falls increase with increasing severity of cognitive decline. We know poor mental health increases the risk of developing dementia. We know that muscle weakness is associated...

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Brain Health Series: Chronic Pain and Brain Function

Brain health in is a topic not discussed often enough, especially within the medical community. The conversation around mental health and access to mental health services has been increasing in recent years, however the aging brain is often left out of the conversation. There are so many questions left unanswered surrounding the decline of brain health associated with aging. The medical profession has made observations about those who ultimately experience brain atrophy and those who don’t, so we are slowly starting to gain clarity. However, there are still many questions left unanswered.

Research has identified some clear correlations and patterns in those who ultimately receive a diagnosis of dementia. Keep in mind, however, that correlation does not equal causation. We know that balance problems and risk of falls increase with increasing severity of cognitive decline. We know poor mental health increases the risk of developing dementia. We know that muscle weakness is...

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For Better Health, Be Like a KidĀ Again

he other night, I was watching my barely one-year-old son attempt to pick up a garden hose in the backyard. Starting in a deep squat, he kept trying to stand up with something that was pretty heavy for his size. Standing unsupported without holding anything is a skill he has yet to master, and here he was trying something that seemed physically impossible. After about 50 tries, he finally got it and looked just so proud of himself when he did.

In watching my children grow over the last several years, I realized kids are invigorated by the most difficult of physical challenges. Driven by curiosity to learn about their environment, they develop new motor skills along the way. I am not sure where we lost this as adults, but developing this mindset and drive of a child would solve most of our health problems. Adopting this approach would bring more mindfulness to movement, paving the way for healthier aging. Let’s talk more about what we can learn from children to make our own...

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How Does Balance Work Anyway?

Every wondered how your body keeps its balance? Well wonder no more! This is the question we will address in this blog post.

We often work with balance issues that start to appear in all age groups. It's no secret that the human body is complicated. Balance is no different. Our brain relies on input from several different systems to map out our position relative to our environment and help us stay upright to move about our world.  

Our body uses three main systems for this purpose. All of these systems communicate information with one another using the nervous system, so your brain has awareness of what position you are in at all times. A majority of this happens on a subconscious level and it is not until there is a issue that we become aware. Balance problems arise when any one of these systems, a combination of them, or the communication between these systems start to malfunction. 

Vision

Our brain relies on input from our eyes to determine how we...

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3 Exercises for Weak or Painful Shoulders

Acute or chronic shoulder pain is a common reason a person might seek out the services of a therapist. In this blog post, we will cover the starting point of our favorite exercises for weak or painful shoulders. First, we will discuss different types of exercise and how we use each type to promote pain management. Then we will demonstrate shoulder alignment and give instructions for strong, healthy shoulder joints!

Sound like a plan? Here goes...

When we initiate a plan of action for either acute or chronic pain, we structure an exercise sequence in a specific order. The first goal is to calm down the pain response and bring more stability to the joint in order to allow for bigger movement. Once pain is addressed, we look at underlying movement patterns and reinforce patterns to promote optimal joint health! Let's take a look at the difference between different types of strengthening exercise and discuss a starting point for weak or painful shoulder joints.

Different types of...

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Try This: Exercise for Grip, Core, and Shoulder Strengthening

Image may contain: one or more people, people standing and indoorSeveral years ago, a study came out that found that those who had higher grip strength were less likely to die from cardiovascular disease. Research has also shown that weaker grip strength is correlated with a higher risk of falls in older adults.


Grip strength does not exist in a vacuum. We can infer from the results of these studies that higher grip strength is correlated with overall physical fitness. Those who are physically fit are less likely to experience heart disease and also less likely to fall. The goal then is to find activities that involve whole body movement.

Hanging is essential to developing strong shoulder joints, and by proxy improve grip strength. Most of our shoulder joints don’t have the proper range and strength for overhead hanging, so lateral hanging from a doorway is a great place to start (and most everyone can find access to a doorway).

Lateral hanging allows more control in beginning to explore activating your core while improving shoulder...

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Quick Test: What Does Actual Shoulder Mobility Look Like?

Image may contain: one or more people, people standing and indoor

Image may contain: one or more people, people standing and indoor

A key component in maintaining strong, healthy shoulder joints is understanding how to differentiate between using actual shoulder mobility v. other joints to compensate for a lack of shoulder mobility.

As the above photos demonstrate, more than one joint can be used to reach arms overhead. Many of us mistakenly believe we are strictly using shoulder mobility to accomplish this motion. The first photo shows someone reaching arms overhead to touch the wall behind them. At a glance this might look like fantastic shoulder mobility, but take a closer look at what is happening at the rib cage. It moved away from the wall to help move the arms further overhead. Once the end of actual shoulder mobility is reached, rib cage thrusting can help us achieve further movement without using the shoulders but using the low back instead. 

Is this a problem? Not always. But if you are looking to improve actual shoulder joint mobility, compensating with rib cage thrusting bypasses the...

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What is a Floor Transfer?

Image may contain: 1 person, shoes and indoor

Image may contain: 1 person, indoor

The ability to get on and off the floor without using hands is strongly correlated with early disability and death. This is why one of the first skills we cover with new clients is getting on and off the floor. Not only is this a life-saving skill but it is also one of our favorite strengthening activities! There are an infinite number of ways you can get on and off the floor, as well an unlimited options for sitting positions once you are on the floor. Having the confidence to know you can safely and easily get off the floor decreases your future risk of falls! If you are currently able to get yourself on and off the floor, continue to practice this skill daily. If you are unsure, see a physical or occupational therapist for a floor transfer test. 

A floor transfer test is nothing fancy. As shown in the pictures above, the test involves getting on and off the floor trying to use the hands as little as possible. This test can tell you a lot about your overall strength and...

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Alignment 101: Foot Alignment Points

Happy, healthy feet are the key to healthy movement. As we have said before, the feet are the foundation of your body. Just like you wouldn’t want a foundation of a house that is not aligned well or strong, you wouldn’t want the same from the foundation of your body. Again, when it comes to alignment we want to stress that the ultimate goal is not perfectionThe goal is to recognize that how you move plays a huge role in how your body functions. If you are wanting to change your function, spend time exploring your current movement patterns using alignment points to work toward making changes.

Standing with your feet at the correct width apart will allows you to access muscles of your hips that optimize your walking, stabilize your core, and help you keep your balance. Maintaining correct foot alignment requires mobility of the joints and strength of the muscles of your feet. The more mobile your foot and ankle, the better they absorb reaction force of walking...

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Quick Test: Are Your Hips Actually Weight-Bearing?

In order for your hips to be building bone density through the day, they need to be supporting the weight of your pelvis and torso in a certain alignment. 


A common pattern we see with resting standing positions is standing with the pelvis pushed slightly forward (as in the first picture). It is subtle but has major implications for bone health of the hips (not to mention the long term impact of this position on foot health, core strength, and balance).

Shifting the pelvis back so your body weight is carried over the heels (second picture) and maintaining this position throughout the day allows for optimal bone health. However, getting to this position if this is not your usual requires taking a closer look at the muscle groups that attach to the pelvis. 

A quick and simple test to help you determine where you carry your center of mass: make a plumb line from string with something weighted at the bottom. Position yourself facing sideways toward a mirror and find the boniest...

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