Stair Negotiation Physics

Many people with pain in the front of their knee comment that going down stairs is more challenging and painful than going up. Let’s take a quick look at why that is!

In the images below, Dr. Scott compares the forces at work when going up vs. down a step. The yellow arrow indicates the force of gravity and the green arrow is the force placed through the kneecap. A larger arrow = greater force, and as you can see the higher degree of knee bend when going down creates a higher force, and thus more stress, on the knee. This can cause increased pain and make descending steps quite challenging for those with a painful knee condition.

Written by Dr. Scott Newberry

Dr. Scott going up the step
Dr. Scott going down the step

Cold Weather and Joint Pain

With the fall season in full swing, colder weather is well on its way. A common question amongst people with joint pain is does the weather actually play a role in my joint pain? The answer to this is yes (to an extent). While it may not be the sole reason for your joint pain, changes in the weather can have certain effects on your musculoskeletal system.

Take colder temperatures for example, a decrease in temperature can cause our muscular tissue to tighten up which in turn can restrict joint movement, causing an increased sense of stiffness in the joints. Decreased temperatures can also cause the fluid in your joints to thicken slightly, which can decrease its ability to move around the joints as freely as it would in warmer weather, causing that sense of stiffness. 

Another element of weather that has a role in joint pain is atmospheric pressure. Before a shift in the weather (rain or snow), the pressure of the air experiences a significant drop. A drop in atmospheric pressure allows the pressure within the body to expand. This internal rise in pressure can cause subsequent increased pressure in the joints, causing increased aches and pains. So when a friend predicts rain because their knees are aching, you may want to make sure you have an umbrella on hand in the days that follow. 

Just because colder weather is coming to stay for a while, does not mean you should have to live with that increased pain and stiffness in your joints until Spring. This is a great time to get up and move, as increased physical activity will help increase blood flow to your muscles and help warm up those joints.

Written by: Dr. Taylor Ryan staff physical therapist at HPT

Think Before you Lift

No matter what your occupation is, it is very likely that you pick things up (and put them down) from lower surfaces at least once throughout the day (both in and out of work). Whether it be packages, weights, children, groceries, something you dropped on the floor, etc., knowing how to properly lift is extremely important for your physical health.

When lifting, it is important to remember the 5 L’s:

1. Load- know your limits! If an object is too heavy, do not be afraid to ask for help.

2. Lever- for heavier objects, it is important to decrease the lever arm (your arm length usually). Lifting something closer to your body will decrease the  strain on your back and also make it easier to lift.

3. Lordosis- always do your best to maintain a neutral spine when lifting and avoid bending over (even if it is for something of little weight). It is also important to remember to minimize the amount of twisting you do when lifting something. Rather than twisting to put a box/groceries/etc on a table, try doing a small pivot.

4. Lungs- believe it or not, breathing is important in a heavy lift. A good rule of thumb is to take a deep inhale when preparing for the lift and then exhale during the lift. The biggest thing to remember is to NOT hold your breath when lifting something heavy.

5. Legs- you’ve probably heard it loads of times, but here it is again – lift with your legs NOT your back. Your legs can produce more power during a heavy lift than your back. Using your legs can also help you maintain a neutral spine.

So whether you are at the gym lifting weights, picking up your phone, lifting up groceries, or picking up your young one, remember these tips and your back will be sure to thank you.

Written by: Dr. Taylor Ryan, staff physical therapist at HPT

Tips for Exercising in the Heat

As the COVID-19 outbreak and the summer heat, humidity, and thunderstorms continue, you may feel less motivated to get outside and exercise. Here are a few tips to get you motivated for exercising in the summer:

1. Exercise early in the day or later in the evening to beat the heat and avoid crowds.
2. Bring water with you.
3. Take breaks when you feel tired.
4. Wear supportive shoes.
5. Wear light and moisture-wicking clothing.

What if I am having pain with exercising?

Stop the exercise! The next time you work out, try that exercise again to see if it causes you pain. If it does, stop the exercise again. On the third trial, if the pain has not gone away, it is time to get that pain checked out.

Harbor Physical Therapy is here to help! You can schedule an appointment directly with us. We will analyze your movement patterns and help to address areas of weakness and tightness to get you back on your feet in no time. Happy exercising!!

Written by:
Dr. Chloe Smith and Dr. David Reymann

Staying Hydrated with Exercise

Drinking too much or being dehydrated can decrease your workout productivity. To determine if you are well hydrated, take a look at your urine volume and color. If your urine is light yellow in color and you are going on a regular basis (every 3 to 4 hours), you are well hydrated. If your urine is dark, you are dehydrated.

It is important to make sure you are well hydrated before working out. It is recommended to drink between 8 to 16 ounces of water 15 minutes before your workout. During your workout, it is recommended to drink 4 to 8 ounces every 15-20 minutes. If you are working out vigorously for over 90 minutes, it is recommended you drink 8 to 10 ounces of a sports drink every 15 to 30 minutes.

Managing Plantar Fasciitis

Plantar fasciitis is the most common cause of heel pain, particularly in individuals 40-60 years of age. It is typically worst when taking the first few steps in the morning, after sitting for long periods of time, or after prolonged walking.

Try decreasing these symptoms at home by following these steps:

Rest: try to modify or limit the activities that are causing your heel pain such as prolonged walking or athletic activities.

Ice: Rolling your foot over a cold or frozen water bottle for about 15 minutes at a time can help decrease pain. Perform this 3-4 times a day.

Self Massage

Exercise: Plantar fasciitis is commonly associated with tight calf muscles. There are two muscles in your calf, the gastrocnemius and the soleus, that can contribute to heel pain. Try performing these stretches and strengthening exercises at home to help decrease pain.

 

If symptoms do not improve at home, be sure to contact your physician or physical therapist. Always check with your physician prior to beginning a new exercise routine to ensure it is safe for you.

 

Written by:

Dr. Holly Hibbard
Staff Physical Therapist at HPT

 

 

Vestibular Disorders and Physical Therapy

Vestibular disorders are characterized by various types of dizziness such as feeling lightheaded, spinning, floating, tilting, whirling, and feelings of unsteadiness. These episodes of dizziness can last for seconds to hours and may be associated with changing positions, laying down, or can even occur while you are sitting still.

Feelings of dizziness can be very worrisome and it is important to see your physician to investigate more serious causes of dizziness such as a brain or heart condition. However, many causes of dizziness are less serious and are associated with a mechanical problem with your inner ear.

In these cases, a physical therapist at Harbor Physical Therapy can help diagnose these conditions and design an individualized program to help alleviate symptoms of dizziness. Patients with diagnoses such as vertigo, benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV), migraines, imbalance, dizziness, and many others may benefit from physical therapy to assist in decreasing feelings of dizziness and improve balance so individuals are able to return to their daily activities.

5 Reasons to Ride Your Bike this Spring

In addition to saving money on the costs of other modes of transportation and being environmentally friendly, biking has many health benefits that make it a good option for getting around the neighborhood this spring. Here are a few reasons why:

1. Cardiovascular Health – Biking will help to elevate your heart rate and provide a great aerobic workout. This will promote heart and lung health and can lower your blood pressure and risk for heart disease.

2. Low Impact Exercise – Compared to other forms of exercise such as running, biking has a very low impact on your joints, which is good if you are susceptible to having joint pain.

3. Good for all Fitness Levels and Ages – Even though it is low impact, that doesn’t mean it has to be easy! By adjusting speed, distance, and resistance, the exercise you get while biking can be as challenging as you want it to be. This makes it a good option for everyone, whether you are a high level athlete or are trying it for the first time.

4. Muscle Strength – Biking works the muscles in the legs as you are pushing the pedals, core muscles as you stay upright, and the muscles in your arms as you hold onto and steer the handlebars. Having more strength in these muscles can improve your ability to perform all of your daily activities such as standing, walking, and going up and down stairs.

5. It’s Fun! – Biking is a fun way to get around and explore. For safety, make sure you wear a helmet to protect your head. If you have any health issues and are unsure if biking is appropriate for you, check with your physical therapist or doctor first.

Fall Prevention

Falls in the elderly population can lead to serious injury and should be avoided at all cost. Multiple factors place a person at an increased risk for falls. These factors include advanced age, poor vision, muscle weakness, poor balance, fear of falling, and home and environmental hazards. There are many steps that you can take to prevent falls. Here are just a few:

  1. Keep rooms in your home free of clutter to prevent tripping.
  2. Walk in shoes that have a good grip. Avoid wearing socks to decrease your risk of slipping.
  3. Keep your home well-lit to avoid tripping on objects that are hard to see.
  4. Make sure that all rugs in the home, as well as the bathtub and shower floor are nonslip.
  5. Stay active to improve strength, balance, and flexibility.

If you have a history of falls, are fearful of falling, or feel that you have problems with walking, balance, or decreased strength, a visit to a physical therapist can help to address these issues and prevent any falls in your future.

Written By: Dr. David Reymann