How to Reduce Inflammation by Changing your Diet

Swelling and inflammation are problems that can lead to the pain you are feeling.  To help decrease inflammation, and therefore pain, it is important to follow a healthy, well-balanced diet. The Food Guide Pyramid can help you to make wise choices by including a variety of whole grains, fruits and vegetables and eating sugar, sodium and fat in moderation. It is also important to choose more fresh foods and limit processed foods, as these have been known to lead to inflammation.


  • Choose whole grains like whole wheat bread, brown rice, and whole grain cereals.
  • Try to avoid processed or refined grains- meaning that they are white and the good parts (fiber and B-vitamins) have been removed.

Vegetables and Fruits:

  • All are good sources of fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
  • Make sure to get a variety of color to get all of the nutrients and aim for at least 5 servings daily.
  • Vitamin C
  • An antioxidant that fights inflammation
  • Supports healthy connective tissue
  • Involved in collagen formation
  • Sources: broccoli, melons, oranges, mango, sweet potato, spinach, collard and mustard greens, strawberries, red bell peppers, kiwi, pineapple, Brussels sprouts, tomatoes
    • Magnesium
    • Works with calcium to promote bone formation
    • Sources: seeds, nuts, legumes, unrefined cereal grains, dark green leafy vegetables
      • Antioxidants and Phytochemicals
      • Have anti-inflammatory properties
      • Choose berries and other brightly colored fruit and vegetables
        • Boron
        • Some studies have shown this trace mineral to help with osteoarthritis
        • Helps cartilage and bone to absorb calcium
        • Sources: apples, legumes, leafy vegetables, carrots, pears, grapes, grains, some drinking water

Fats and Oils:

  • Total fat 25-35% of calories
  • Choose healthy fats from unsaturated sources
    • Olive oil has been shown to reduce pain and inflammation – can be used in place of vegetable oil in baking
    • Focus on Omega-3 fatty acids
      • Powerful anti-inflammatory agent
      • Sources: cold water oily fish (salmon, tuna, mackerel, anchovies, herring, sardines, lake trout), walnuts, flaxseed, canola oil, pumpkin seeds, soybeans
      • Speak to your doctor if you are interested in adding fish oil for flax supplements
      • Limit saturated fat from animal sources to less than 7% of total calories
        • An 1800 calorie meal plan should have <60 grams total fat and <14 grams saturated fat


  • Choose low fat or fat free dairy products daily
    • Low fat calcium products have been found to promote wt loss
    • Calcium
      • Contributes to positive bone growth and maintenance of bone density
      • Sources: low fat/fat free milk, yogurt and cheese, fortified soy milk and orange juice, dark green leafy vegetables, canned sardines and salmon with bones
      • Vitamin D
        • Low levels of vitamin D can lead to more rapid progression of osteoarthritis
        • Sources: fish-liver oil, butter and cream, egg yolks, liver, fortified milk and dairy products, fortified cereals


  • Needed to build healthy tissues
  • Choose lean poultry, fish and seafood, nuts, legumes and seeds
  • Fatty red meat may trigger inflammation- choose lean cuts and limit
  • Soy proteins
    • May held reduce pain and inflammation
    • Sources: soybeans, soy nuts, tofu and soy milk
    • Try to limit processed soy foods
Foog Guide Pyramid
Food Guide Pyramid

Written by Julie Katz, Registered Dietitian- Baltimore, MD


Sitting Posture at the Computer

How to Maintain Good Sitting Posture at the Computer

We spend a lot of time sitting in front of the computer. Sitting at the computer improperly can lead to injuries at the neck, back, wrist and elbow.  Below are guidelines to help maintain good posture while sitting in front of your computer.

  • To support the low back while sitting, make sure to sit with your back touching the back of the chair and use a lumbar support.  The lumbar support should fill the space in the curve of the low back to avoid pressure on your spine and reduce muscle fatigue in the low back muscles.
  • Your feet should sit comfortably, flat on the floor.  If they don’t reach the floor, use a footstool. Your hips should be slightly higher that your knees.
  • Do not twist or reach while you are using the computer and make sure your work is in front of your body.  Your wrists should be straight and avoid using a wrist rest.  A wrist rest tends to put a strain on the neck and shoulders because it elevates the height of your wrist from the table surface.  Your keyboard should be at elbow level and you want your elbows and upper arms resting close to your body.
  • The computer monitor should be an arms length distance away from you (about 20 inches). Your eyes should be in line with a point on the screen 2-3 inches below the top of the monitor.  Research suggests that having the center of the screen 17.5 degrees below eye level is optimal for neck alignment and for reducing glare.
  • Try to take breaks from sitting because being in one position for too long can stiffen muscles.  A couple of exercises you can do during the day to prevent neck stiffness includes: rolling the shoulders forward and backward, gently rotating your head, and side bending your head to stretch the neck muscles.


Harbor Physical Therapy is offering FREE Wellness Sessions at the Merritt Athletic Club Fort Avenue on November 15th from 7AM-9AM and 2PM-6PM.  Please contact Harbor Physical Therapy 443-524-0442 or the Merritt Athletic Club 410-576-2004 with any questions. 

Merritt Athletic Club Fort Avenue
921 East Fort Avenue
Baltimore, Maryland 21230

Physical Therapist vs. Chiropractor

Many patients are curious about the difference between these two health practitioners.

Chiropractors specialize in manipulating bone structure (such as the spine) to improve the function of the joints and or nervous system.  They are very well known for manipulating the spine to help decrease low back pain.  A lot of patients frequent a chiropractor’s office several times a year for many years to manage their ailments.  A chiropractor has an aggressive approach to treatment.

Physical Therapists specialize in treating injury or dysfunction with exercises, manual techniques, neuromuscular re-education, and postural re-education to improve function throughout life.  A patient will attend a physical therapist 2-3 times a week for on average 6 weeks to improve function/decrease pain and gain education on how to further these gains with independent exercise.  Physical Therapy is a conservative treatment option and one which should be used in the first line of defense against injury.

In my professional opinion, it is in the patient’s best interest to understand the difference between these two disciplines before choosing the treatment option that is appropriate.  With acute injury, one should first go to a physical therapist.  If the patient has tried physical therapy and finds they have not met their goals, then they should look into seeking a chiropractors services.  A chiropractor offers more of an aggressive approach to treatment by using manipulations so a lot of times this is inappropriate for an acute injury, such as a car accident, ankle sprain, sport injury, etc.

If you are unsure what type of discipline best suits you, feel free to contact Harbor Physical Therapy with questions.

Why Do My Joints Ache When the Weather Gets Cold?

Many patients come to physical therapy asking ‘why’ – why they have increased pain when it rains, snows, or just when the weather gets cold.  This question has been researched minimally and considering the amount of patients that report these findings, one would think there would be more research on this topic.

The main theories are as follows:

1. Change in Barometric Pressure – This theory is based on a study of a balloon in a Barometric Chamber.  The Barometric pressure is decreased and the balloon increases in size.  Therefore, the drop in pressure can similarly cause tissues around the joints to swell.  Because a drop in barometric pressure precedes a storm, patients can ‘predict’ when a stormfront is approaching.  Typically, patients with arthritis or a previous joint injury are the patients that report these weather-related findings.

2. Psychological – Another theory mentions that people tend to feel pain in their joints during bad weather, rather than preceding bad weather.  The theory claims that people are less likely to feel the pain on warm, sunny days.  This concept could be due to the increased release of endorphins, with increased sun light and people mentally feel better when it is nicer outside.

3. Humidity – This is my personal theory.  I believe patient’s joints have increased lubrication when there is more humidity in the air.  Just like a hinge requiring lubrication to move in a fluid motion, our joints require constant lubrication to move without restriction and pain.  Therefore, when the humidity decreases, there is a decrease in lubrication of our joints, which in turn causes pain.  This is why most people with arthritis like to move down south to enjoy year-round warmer weather.

In summary, there is no definitive reason why people report increased pain at their joints when the weather changes.  It is suprising how little research is done on this topic.  I believe there is validity for people feeling the change in weather in their joints; however, there does not seem to be a clear reason why it is experienced.  Thoughts?

Clinical Question – Strain vs. Sprain

What is the difference between a strain and a sprain?

Strain- A strain occurs to a muscle or tendon from an acute injury.  An example of this is when someone is in a car accident.  The person’s muscle/tendon is over contracted or over stretched depending on the position of the person during the accident.  Common symptoms are pain, weakness, decrease range of motion, and muscle fatigue. 

Sprain- A sprain occurs to a ligament in response to an overstretch or tear. An example of a sprain is when a patient steps off a curb and lands on the outside of their foot, this results in an ankle sprain.  Common symptoms are pain, swelling, brusing, and decreased range of motion.

Article Response – Wall Street Journal, “Getting Fit Without the Pain”

I recently read the article “Getting Fit Without the Pain” in the Wall Street Journal on September 28, 2010.

This article did a good job of educating America about going to a Physical Therapist not only for an injury, but to begin exercising safely.  As we age, we tend to develop aches and pain along the way.  For some people it is their knee, others their shoulder, etc. Physical Therapists educate patient’s on how to safely begin their exercise goals and which exercises are better suited for them based on their past medical history.  By going to a physical therapist before starting an exercise program, you are less likely to cause injury to yourself while exercising.

As the article states, ” what physical therapists are very good at is identifying barriers to exercise-knee injuries, chronic ankle pain-and building a program around them that creates incremental improvement.  After receiving a fitness program from a physical therapist, many patients will hire a personal trainer to implement it.  But prevention is where many physical therapist say their progession could make the most difference. ”

When going to a physical therapist to begin an exercise program, the therapist will evalute your muscles and joints from head to toe.  Therefore, we can create a program catered to strengthen/stretch the key areas needing improvement.  This in turn will help prevent injury in the future.

Harbor Physical Therapy offers Wellness Evaulations to create an exercise program catered to your needs.   If you are interested in learning more about how you can prevent injury when starting an exercise program.  Please give us a call at 443-524-0442.

Click here for a link to the article.

Clinical Question – Tendinitis

What is Tendinitis?

Tendinitis is an inflammation of a tendon.  This is most often caused by overuse.  Common areas that develop tendinitis are at the elbow, back of the ankle, knee, and shoulder.  Symptoms of tendinitis are tenderness to touch over the tendon, pain with movement, decrease range of motion, decrease strength, and swelling of the tendon.  Physical Therapy is beneficial for patients with tendinitis because it decreases symptoms and strengthens/stretches the injured area to prevent re-injury.

Clinical Questions – Frequency of Therapy

How often do I have to come to physical therapy to get better?

Depending on what diagnosis brings you to physical therapy, the physical therapist will determine the appropriate frequency per week.  Typically, post-operative patient require 3 times a week initially and gradually progress to 1-2 times a week.  As you continue to improve, the therapist will decrease the frequency of your treatment to progress you to independent exercise.

Clinical Question – Sitting Posture

Will strengthening my stomach muscles help me with my sitting posture at work?

Yes, by strengthening your core muscles it will allow you to maintain an ideal sitting posture for a longer duration.  Having weak core muscles will cause you to sit with a more forward flexed posture and you will not be able to sustain good posture throughout your workday.