The first principle of water is buoyancy. The definition is the amount of upward force equal to the amount of water displaced. It's the same reason boats float. Because of buoyancy we feel unweighted in the water. The deeper you are in the water, the more water is displaced, and the more lift you feel in the water. Frequently, clients tell me, my legs (or my body) just FEEL SO HEAVY. That's where water becomes a solution. Those heavy legs are unweighted, allowing for free movement. We have people who can run in our pool who wouldn't be able to jog 10 ft without the assist of buoyancy. Not only does it feel the unweighting relieve a lot of pain, but the movement builds confidence and feelings of achievement that are sometimes hard to get in the gym.
The next principle of water is viscosity, which is technically "a measure of its resistance to deformation at a given rate". Basically, how thick is the fluid. It would be a lot harder to move through syrup than water because it's so thick. But the cool thing about about water viscosity is that it allows you to control the amount of resistance in each movement. The faster you move in the water, the more resistance you will feel. Each person can easily control the amount of resistance in each movement by controlling their speed. Liftng weights or using a machine can seem intimidating, plus, lifting weights only works your muscles in one direction. In the water, you get resistance in every diagonal or circular move you make. The water allows you to strengthen you bodies in movement patterns that you use everyday such as lifting, carrying, steeping, or climbing. One client practices the movement pulling up her pants while in the water. The movements don't matter how big or small.
My favorite reason for water exercise or therapy is the positive emotional and relaxation state that being in and around water provides. In his book, A Blue Mind: The Surprising Science That Shows How Being Near, In, On, or Under Water Can Make You Happier, Healthier, More Connected, and Better at What You Do, Wallace J Nichols talks about research shows the brain's reaction around water. The research proves that water can put us in a mildly meditative state, decreases our stress hormones, and increases our ability to focus. That state of mind is very difficult for those dealing with chronic pain, which makes getting in the pool, the perfect place to start a journey to recovery.
Knee pain is one of the most common diagnoses that I see in the clinic and more often than not it is due to arthritis. One source states that up to 2 million of the 14 million people with knee pain from arthritis are UNDER the age 45 when diagnosed. But getting that diagnosis doesn’t mean you have to stop walking, running, or living an active life, it means you have to be active to take care of your knee joints. You have a lot of years of road life left on the knees and taking care of them now can prolong or avoid any future disability or discussion of surgery.
Last week I spoke on WWL about the importance of hip strength and how to do a quick screen at home to see if you have significant hip weakness. Enjoy!
FAQ's on CBD? That seems like a lot of letters, right. Well, I'm talking about CBD Oil or the full name, cannibidiol. CBD oils and muscle rubs are the most popular products we sell in the clinic because they provide topical pain relief. Each time someone tries it, we usually get a lot of questions, so I put together a short list of questions and answers (because inquiring minds want to know!)
1. What is CBD? CBD is short for cannabidiol, which is a natural cannabinoid found in the industrial hemp plant. The cannabidiol interacts with our bodies by mimicking and augmenting the effects of the compounds in our bodies called “endogenous cannabinoids”. The endocannabinoid system plays a crucial role in regulating a broad range of physiological processes that affect our everyday experience – our mood, our energy level, our intestinal fortitude, immune activity, blood pressure, bone density, glucose metabolism, how we experience pain, stress, hunger, and more.
2. Where Does CBD come from? CBD comes from the hemp plant, which is part of the cannabis family of plants. It’s harvested to produce industrial products, including everything from CBD products to rope, clothing, and paper. It’s important to note that while hemp and marijuana are both plants in the cannabis family, they’re different in a few key ways. Hemp contains a higher concentration of CBD and a lower concentration of THC, while marijuana contains higher amounts of THC and lower amounts of CBD. THC is the intoxicating compound of cannabis. Our Nature’s Ultra CBD products are tested rigorously to ensure that they contain 0.0% THC (so no worries if you have to take a drug test 😉)
3. Why add essential oils to CBD? Research has shown that CBD work best in conjunction with THC for a "broad spectrum" effect; however, THC is still regulated by the DEA as a schedule I drug. One reason the two molecules work together is the terpenes found in THC help deliver the molecules move through cell membranes. Terpenes found in essential oils can increase the spectrum effect of the CBD to communicate better with nerves, neurotransmitters, protein receptors and enzymes. In addition, the fragrances from the essential oils activates our olfactory system and stimulates regulatory brain activity for emotions, stress, and memory recall.
4. What is the recommended dosage for first timers? According to Dr. Oliver Wenker in his book "The Power of CBD and Essential Oils" the recommended dosage is 50-200 mg/day for overall health and 100-700 mg/day for serious matters, if using an CBD isolate (which means no THC). The doses vary per person, but many see effect with very lose doses.
We sell Nature's Ultra CBD products infused with Young Living Essential Oils. Call us at 504-313-6502 for more information about our products or look at our Young Living Website
Over the last month our routines have all changed. Our communities have responded by keeping in touch virtually, not just for work, but for just about EVERYTHING! Work, school, church, shopping, conferences, exercise classes, webinars, doctor and PT visits, social get togethers, even wine tasting parties… you name it and someone is doing it virtually.
In one respect, I have welcomed the slower pace of not rushing place to place every day. We are so lucky to have this technology that is keeping up “together”, but I have certainly seen a physical cost. I like to call it “fanny fatigue”. And I mean that literally. I’m tired of sitting so much, and daily I’m hearing more and more stories from clients about pains that have started since increasing their computer time. On top of that, the change from crazy schedule to stay at home was so quick, that no one had a chance to set up their home office properly and ended up sitting in kitchen or dining room chairs that are not made for long term sitting.
In my own house we have dealt with elbow pain, neck pain, and back pain. You can see why...
So what is the best thing to do?
Here is a short list of small changes that can make big improvements for your posture when working on the computer and avoid the aches and pains that come with prolonged sitting and repetitive movements.
1. Adjust the height of your monitor so that you can look straight ahead. Ideally, the top line of the text on your screen should be at eye level. You may need to be creative and stack some books for boxes to bring your screen up. Your monitor should be about an arms distance away from your face (20-40 inches away).
2. Support your low back with a back rest if your chair does not have one already. You may use a pillow or a towel roll to fill in the curve of your back. I tell my clients if you can slump down and roll your shoulders forward, you do not have enough back support. The back support will back it easier for you to sit straight and have your arms by your side instead of reaching forward.
3. Adjust the height of your chair or keyboard so you have a 90-110 degree angle at the elbow. This will allow your wrist to lay flat (neutral position).
4. Your feet should be flat on the floor to provide support for your back. After adjusting you chair to fit the desk or table height, you may find that you need a small stool or box under you feet to keep them flat. You need to have a small gap between the back of your knees and the chair seat.
Need some help figuring your space out?
Telehealth and virtual PT can make this super easy and convenient! With a phone camera (and some help in your house), a physical therapist can look directly at your specific set up and make recommendations to improve your positioning, relieve stress from painful joints, and exercises to get you back to work (or school, or wine tasting...) pain free!
It’s mid January, which is about the time that resolutions start to fall off. Some research suggests that by February each year, 80% of resolutions have already been broken. Making a new habit is hard enough, but especially hard if you have other challenges or pain to overcome.
Or maybe, you didn’t even make a new resolution because you are resigned to inactivity due to back pain? So far this year (and it’s only the first full week), I’ve had clients tell me that..
1. Get Your Joints Moving!!
Movement is the key! Moving you to better health! These are phrases spoken in our clinic frequently. But when your joints are stiff, movement is often a challenge. It’s important to gain movement in the joints before strengthening, or else you will start compensating and create a whole new problem. Sometimes a hot shower is enough to get you moving, or maybe it’s getting back to a stretching program that has been helpful in the past. If you have a chronically stiff back, I recommend you see a movement expert (like a physical therapist) to learn a safe way to regain mobility before you start a strengthening program.
2. Pace Yourself!
We all tend to get very excited about new goals and jump in full force. How many of us have felt SO motivated with a new workout and then couldn’t move the next day? (I did it last week). Even when you have a good, safe exercise plan, “overdoing it” will could cause muscle soreness, inflammation, or re-injury to the low back. Our muscles provide support around the spine, but with an exercise routine those muscles are not prepared for, they will easily fatigue and fail to provide the necessary support your body needs for optimal function.
3. Stay Hydrated
One of the biggest mistakes that could be contributing to your pain and zapping your energy is being dehydrated. Dehydration can cause muscle aches, pains, fatigue, and dizziness. Recovery after a workout is delay with dehydration. Try to drink water throughout the day and avoid excess caffeine, including coffee, tea, alcohol.
4. Get Assessed by an Expert.
Your first thought may be to see your doctor before starting a fitness plan. While that’s not a bad idea for medical clearance, not all medical doctors are fully experienced at evaluating back pain. Medical doctors will send you for imaging and look for serious problems, like broken bones, but they do not take the time to assess your movement in detail and look and muscle imbalances. A specialist physical therapist will assess you in detail and will be able to give you more specific information on how your pain may affect any exercise or activity that you want to start. A physical therapist can make recommendations of how to customize your plan, give you reasonable expectations, and send you off towards your new goal with decreased risk for injury. If you need help trying to figure out a way to start – click here to schedule a free discovery visit with me to create a resolution you can stick with.
Happy New Year – Keep moving toward better health!!!
At our house, we are almost through the first full week of school. Already, my high schooler has complained of her neck and upper back hurting. I'm sure there are a number of reasons: sitting all day, beginning swim practice, then sitting on her bed with her books in her lap. And then, there is her back pack. This year, the books are bigger, and she carries a computer.
As a teenager, she will be able to adjust to the load with a little bit of strengthening, but what about the smaller, elementary kids? Have you seen your children or grandchildren with backpacks half their size, and to keep from falling backwards they have to bend over for balance?
The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons official recommendation is that backpacks should weigh no more that 20% of your body weight. This is a good rule of thumb for adults, but for small children the backpack should ideally be be closer to 10% of their body weight.
Tips to Lighten the Load
1. When choosing a backpack, look for lightweight, durable material. Leather or thick canvas backpacks can add weight before you even put a book in it.
2. Choose the smallest backpack that will fit the necessary books. If your child it like mine, he is particular about the color and design, but try to limit their options to the appropriate size.
3. Adjust the backpack to fit properly. Make sure the straps are tightened and the load is placed on their upper back, not sagging down on their low back.
4. Pack a separate lunch box and put in empty water bottles that can be filled once at school.
5. Use online resources or scan chapters. If the textbook can be read at home online or with a kindle, use those resources so the heavy textbook can be left at home.
6. Look for used textbooks. Sometimes you can find an inexpensive used copy of textbooks that can be left at home to alleviate carrying the heavy books back and forth.
7. Clean out backpacks frequently. Some kids are better than others in keeping organized. Make sure old water bottles, left over lunch items, and no longer used books are not getting lost at the bottom of the backpack .
If you or your family member continues to have neck or shoulder pain after adjusting the load, download our Free Ebook "8 Easy Tips to Decrease Neck and Shoulder Pain" for other ways to relieve symptoms.
As I work with clients, I’m continually talking about their goals, not so much about how much they want to be able to bend. Instead, I’m asking questions like…
What do you want to get back to doing that you can’t do now?
As treatment progresses, those answers change, get revised, clients have higher expectations as they start to feel better. Those are normal changes, and I’m happy when we can set the bar higher. But, every once in a while I get a surprise…
When can I go to the water park? The first time this 74 year old woman (with rheumatoid arthritis and a recent spinal fracture from a car accident) asked me, I just laughed and didn’t answer. The next time she asked I thought “how cute, she wants to go with her grandchildren.” Then, I realized she was asking for REAL, for HERSELF. She’s never been to a water park and she wants to mark it off her bucket list. Talk about setting the bar higher…
I had to think about my answer for while… of course, she can do whatever she wants, but what about the stairs, what about the impact at the bottom of the slide, what about the heat. Every negative about a water park ran through my mind. My goal is to keep people out of pain and avoid reinjury. But where’s the fun in that if there is no risk for something better?
Movement and activity are essential for healing and recovery. Muscle strength, joint motion, and weightbearing are all integral parts of healing and returning joints to their proper movement patterns. Of course, there are times when rest is appropriate; but in general, you need to get moving to avoid weakness, stiff joints, and compensating for the injury.
The opposite side of that is overuse and inflammation. I frequently tell clients “Quit while you’re ahead.” When you are at home, feeling good for the first time in weeks, you just want to tackle the world. Then the next day you’re hurting and depressed that you aren’t getting better. When we overuse a weak muscle, or strain a joint that doesn’t have enough support, we may experience irritation. Inflammation can cause swelling, redness, joint stiffness, and of course pain.
So how do you balance movement and inflammation? To progress at home, I recommend you just add a little activity each day. Add a little more resistance, or just a few more reps to your exercise. Remember, quit while you are ahead. The right balance of activity and rest is different for each person, but we try to avoid “two steps forward, one step back.” As a trained therapist, I know when enough is enough which is why I repeatedly get asked “ When do I get to go to the water park?
I know her goal, I know the bar is set high, and I know the work it will take to get there. But, as she continues to get stronger, I’m starting to believe this might actually happen. More importantly, she sees it too, which is why she keeps asking. Ultimately it will be her choice to weight the risks of inflammation and pain vs. the thrill of the water slide. We all have those choices, hopefully we will make smart ones.
If you need help finding your balance, schedule a discovery visit in order to see how therapy or training can help you get back to YOUR bucket list item.
Do I need to get a MRI first??
This is a very frequent question that I get from clients, especially those with neck and back pain.
Many clients think they need an MRI or Xray before starting physical therapy because “I don’t want hurt myself more”. Or, like my own mother said… “I don’t want to go to the doctor because they will make me get a MRI and I’m not going into that tube!” It’s normal to be anxious about your care, especially when you’re having pain shooting down your leg, or numbness in your arm. But don’t let those fears keep you from getting the care you need. The sooner you start addressing your symptoms the more likely you are to get relief without medication, surgery or injections.
I can certainly understand why it’s tempting to get an MRI, especially when looking for an answer and cause of your pain. MRIs are an amazing advancement in technology that can easily diagnose abnormalities in the spine or joints, tumors, cysts or other tissue damage. However, MRIs, and Xrays too, can give a lot of false alarms, especially when talking about back and neck pain.
What? False Alarms?
You see, MRIs are so good at what they do that they find many problems and disc degeneration that most of us already have starting as early as our late 30’s. Just because you have degeneration, doesn’t mean you have pain. Multiple studies have shown that MRI results of stenosis, disc herniation, and nerve compression are positive, even on test subjects with NO PAIN! In addition, the radiologists reading the MRIs have no clinical context of what pain the patient is having, and they will address any degenerative changes they see creating a list of diagnoses that may have NOTHING to due with the cause of pain. Even if the MRI is detecting a problem that is the site of the pain, the MRI can not predict your own body’s ability to heal. I’ve had a few myself, but in the end, they have made no difference in my recovery.
So how do I find out the ROOT CAUSE of the pain?
Most people don’t realize that 70-80% of all spine and musculoskeletal problems are “mechanical”, which means the problem is related to the way you move. You could have muscle imbalances, tight muscles and joints related to bad posture, previous injuries, or general “wear and tear” on our joints. Many of these problems start to show up in our 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s due to years of bad movement patterns and compensation. The easiest way to find out about these “mechanical issues” is to ask a physical therapist. These movement and strength imbalances are best corrected with … Movement and Strengthening!
Why not be over cautious and get an MRI anyway?
If you have had a traumatic accident, a fall, or a long history of pain, then YES, seek medical advice and probably a MRI. But it you have a history of a nagging pain, that has recently gotten worse, or started to affect your ability to do the activities you enjoy, then seeing a physical therapist is a good idea. A physical therapist is a movement specialist and can determine if it is not a mechanical problem and if you need to be referred to a physician. A physical therapist may be able to save you money for the cost of the MRI and the anxiety of “going into the tube”.
Here's another article that gives even more information about the overprescription of MRIs and how they can lead to chronic pain, use of medications, and higher disability scores.
You can always download our Free E-Book 9 Ways to Relieve Back Pain without Taking Pain Medications or Missing the Activities You Love for tips to try and manage back pain at home.
We help active adults get back to exercising, feeling fit, and participating in the activities they love without medications, injections, or surgery.
Catherine Courtney, PT
Specialist Physical Therapist