If you have been watching the Olympics this week you have seen stories of athletes performing remarkable feats while having some sort of injury.
How do they do that? High pain tolerance? Pure motivation?
For us Non-Olympians, regular people, we frequently feel “fine” during the day, but then at night “it (back, knee, hip) REALLY hurts”. Does that sound more familiar to you?
Each of us perceive pain totally differently and there are multiple factors that affect our pain, besides just having a “high tolerance”.
Here are nine things you should know about pain.
1. Pain is processed in the brain, not at the site of injury.
We used to believe that pain originated within the tissues of our body. We now understand that pain does not exist until the brain acknowledges the signals from the nerves. It is a warning sign that your body, or a specific part of the body may be in danger. It is the way our brain and body communicate and serves as a defense against injury. For example: Your hand is on the hot stove. Your nerves send a message to the brain of extreme heat, you feel pain and you move your hand away quickly.
2. The degree of injury does not always equal the degree of pain.
Think of a paper cut, those suckers hurt!! That may hurt more than a broken bone because we have more sensory receptors in our fingertips than in bone.
3. Despite what diagnostic imaging (MRIs, x-rays, CT scans) shows us, the finding(s) may not be the cause of your pain.
Advancements in imaging have been a powerful tool for modern medicine, but they are often give too much information. For example, multiple studies have shown that MRI of the back frequently find herniated discs in patients who don’t even have back pain. See my previous blog that gives more information on MRI and false positives.
4. Psychological factors, such as depression and anxiety, can make your pain worse.
Pain can be influenced by many different factors, such as psychological conditions. One symptom of anxiety can be joint pain. Some research notes that back pain is more common in those with anxiety or mood disorders than those without. According to the Harvard Health Publishing “researchers have learned more about how the brain works, and how the nervous system interacts with other parts of the body, they have discovered that pain shares some biological mechanisms with anxiety and depression.”
5. Your social environment may influence your perception of pain.
Frequently, people’s pain level increases in a stressful situation, such as work or at a doctor’s office. The pain signals may kick in as a form of “self-protection”.
6. Understanding pain through education may reduce your need for care.
According to a study of post-operative pain management, those who were educated pain expectations and management prior to surgery reported less severe pain during the first 24 hours postoperatively, experienced fewer and less severe pain medication side effects, returned to normal activities sooner, and used more nonpharmacologic pain management methods postoperatively compared with those who did not receive the education.
This makes complete sense, because if we understand what is about to happen, the fear and anxiety levels are much less, and therefore pain perception is lower.
7. Our brains can be tricked into developing pain in prosthetic limbs.
Also known as “phantom limb pain”, patients who are recovering from an amputation can experience pain or tingling from the limb that is no longer there. This confirms that pain in processed in the brain and it’s not always from the site of the injury.
8. The ability to determine left from right may be altered when you experience pain.
Networks within the brain that help you determine left from right can be affected when you have severe pain. If you are experiencing pain, have you noticed your sense of direction is a bit off, or that you have difficulty focusing? You can’t answer questions quickly, or you forget what you were going to get when you walked back into your bedroom? Communication between your brain and your body is not always sharp when pain signals are involved and the experience of pain may not be exactly where the cause of pain is. You may hear of this a radiating pain. For example, people with a rotator cuff tear may feel the pain along the lateral side of their arm, not at the shoulder.
9. There is no way to know whether you have a high tolerance for pain or not. Science has yet to determine whether we all experience pain in the same way. While some people claim to have a "high tolerance" for pain, there is no accurate way to measure or compare pain tolerance among people. We cannot compare how someone “feels” pain. Pain experience may even vary in the same person depending on what is going on around them.
If you have pain that limits your movement or keeps you from taking part in work, daily living, and other activities, call us for a free 30 minute consultation to find out how we can help. 504-313-6502
We are getting older every day, whether we like it or not, and aging frequently brings on new aches, pains, and changes in our bodies that we aren’t very keen about. But with the right type and amount of physical activity, we can help stave off many age-related health problems and continue to do the activities we love. Research done in the Louisiana Healthy Aging Study in 2013 shows keeping active outside the home with social activities and clubs directly correlates with long term physical health. So the two mirror each other... staying physically fit keeps us doing things we enjoy, and doing things we enjoy helps keep our physical independence and mobility.
Here are 7 tips from a Physical Therapist to help you "Age Well" and enjoy the Golden Years.
So what’s the common denominator here? Exercise and Physical Activity.
If you need some guidance to get started, keep active, or just need a push to the next level, call for help at 504-313-6502 or leave us some information and we will call you! Physical Therapists are Movement Experts and our fitness trainers can also set you up with a program and some accountability!
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!!!
Every week I hear many patients ask us the same question: “how can I keep active even
while I’m recovering from an injury?”. I get it.... you’re fed up of resting
the problem area in the hope that things will get better. Is this you? Keep reading!
We often find that the general advice given by doctors (and sometime even the internet!) is
that ‘rest’ is the best thing for an injury. In the hope of healing faster, the patient then rests
the problem area for prolonged periods of time. Later, though, once he/she attempts to get
back to his/her activities, the pain is still there and often it’s even worse than it was at the
There are two major flaws in the ‘rest your problem’ strategy. The first issue is that an active
person finds the idea of prolonged rest to be almost impossible, if not unbearable. Secondly,
resting the area for long periods of time can actually be even more harmful – but, more on
Let’s take a look at a fairly common scenario I encounter with my clients on a regular basis.
Quite a few of the patients I treat are generally active adults, and though they may not be
professional athletes, they do enjoy running or cycling over the weekends. I often find that
once an active patient sustains an injury – like a leg or groin injury in a runner – he/she finds
it difficult to swallow the doctor’s “rest” pill. In fact, all those kind of patients want to know
is when they can start running again!
And I absolutely love hearing that question! In fact, I dislike the “rest” prescription as
much as the actual patient! Here are the two major problems I always try to make our
patients aware of:
Firstly, rest almost NEVER actually fixes anything. Think about that for a moment. Our runner
has injured his leg and is advised to rest it. What happens when he does? Well, the root cause
of the problem isn’t addressed – in fact, it is often hidden behind painkillers. The problem
with this is that the real healing just cannot begin. It’s as though the patient is, really, just
wasting valuable time.
Secondly, resting the problem area for prolonged periods of time results in what is called
“whole body de-conditioning”. That is to say, just because the patient experiences pain in the
leg does not mean his/her entire body is incapable of staying active. Here’s the problem with
a full-body rest-up: the entire body loses strength, power, endurance, and flexibility. Once
this happens, the recovery time needed practically doubles! Remember, healing the problem
area – and SUCCESSFULLY addressing and fixing the root cause of the problem – is really only
possible when the muscles surrounding the issue are strengthened. This strengthening helps
with support and flexibility, ensuring that the muscles in the affected area no longer
overcompensate and create pain. Not strengthening these critical surrounding muscles only
aggravates the issue at hand. The key is to adapt the patient, that is, to ensure that he/she
keeps active in a safe/sustainable way – always building back up to the run, the walk, or the
cycle. Doing this keeps the patient motivated, strong, and gives him/her the best possible
start on their journey to health.
So, if you’re resting because you’re injured, but you only find more pain at the end of the
day, then it’s time to make a change. Here at Blue Wave Physical Therapy and Wellness, we can help you.
Our team will help you get back to the activities you love in no time at all. With custom-made exercises
suited to your routine and recovery, we aim to heal the root cause of the problem. If you heal the root cause of the
problem then you are sure to create a strong foundation for the MAINTENANCE of a pain free
life. This means that running, walking, or any activity you love will no longer cause anxiety
or worry. We want you to get back to doing what you enjoy!
If you’re ready to finally sort that pain out, to get off of the sofa and back out running or
doing what you love, give us a call TODAY. We look forward to helping you get back to health
safely, quickly, and effectively.
I know that when I’m hurting, the last thing I want to do is get moving. But I also know that’s what I need to do. That’s one motivation for me to get to the pool in the mornings. Our bodies are made for movement. When we don’t move, we get weaker and lose flexibility, our circulation slows down as well as our digestion. Frequently, our lack of movement and inability to do the things we want to do can lead to symptoms of depression and anxiety.
Apparently, a lot of Americans are hurting due to injury or disease. I’m sure you have heard that Americans are in the middle of an “Opioid Epidemic” from pain medications such as Vicodin, Lortab and Oxycontin. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), 11% of American experience pain on a daily basis. In 2012, 259 million prescriptions for opioids were dispensed, and 1 and 4 of the people receiving those prescriptions already struggle with addiction. Another study of Medicaid patients showed that 61% of opioid related deaths were related to chronic pain diagnoses. That’s why the CDC released a new set of guidelines in March 2017 with safer alternatives for long term- pain management. Physical therapists can play a key role in those alternatives.
A physical therapist is trained to guide a person through movement to improve the pain instead of masking it with medications. The “side effects” of physical therapy include improved mobility, increased independence, decreased pain, and prevention of other health problems through movement and exercise. As part of their new guidelines, the CDC cited “high quality evidence” supporting exercise as part of physical therapy treatment for familiar conditions like low back pain, hip and knee osteoarthritis, and fibromyalgia.
Before starting an opioid pain medication, talk to your physician or consult your physical therapist for information about alternatives and realistic pain management goals. Blue Wave Physical Therapy and Wellness helps those with chronic pain by using manual therapy techniques, specific stretching, education of safe movement and body mechanics, and gentle progression of movement.
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