Three Exercises to Decrease Back Stiffness

Stiffness and pain in the middle and upper back is a common issue seen by physical therapists. There can be multiple causes of this including postural deficits, decreased strength, increased muscular tightness, and decreased mobility in the thoracic spine. There are many different exercises that can help to directly address these deficits. Here are a few that you can try at home.

1. Side-Lying Book Openers

Lie on your side with your knees bent. Keep your hips still while rotating your upper body. Follow your hand with your head. Hold for 10 seconds and repeat 10 times on each side.

2. Cat-Camel

While on your hands and knees, sink your back toward the floor and lift your head up. Next, tuck your head in while arching your back up. Hold for 10 seconds in each direction and repeat 10 times.

3. Child’s Pose Stretch

Sit back on your heels while reaching your hands as far out in front of you as possible. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds and repeat 5 times.

 

Written by: Dr. David Reymann

Stretching 101

To get the most out of stretching to prevent injury and muscle soreness, dynamic stretching should be performed before your workout and static stretching performed after your workout.  If you perform a static stretch before you workout, there is more potential to tear a muscle due to the lack of blood flow at the muscle.

To get the most benefit out of static stretching, make sure you hold the stretch at a point you feel a pull within the muscle. The stretch should be held between 15-60 seconds.  Perform 2-3 repetitions of each stretch on both sides of your body. If a stretch is painful, you should decrease the range of motion of the stretch.

If you are unsure what muscle groups to stretch in association with your workout, contact Harbor Physical Therapy.  Our physical therapists can create you a customized stretching program.

Six Reasons to Start Walking This Summer

While walking may seem like an obvious form of exercise, most people do not walk enough for exercise. The American Heart Association recommends getting at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic activity per week. The good news is that brisk walking falls under this category. Walking is a great form of exercise because it is easy to fit in your schedule, it can be done anywhere, and you don’t need any fancy or expensive equipment to do it. Here are just a few of the many health benefits of walking:

  1. Walking makes you stronger. Walking is a good way to get your muscles activated and helps to improve muscular strength and endurance.
  2. It is good for your heart. Walking helps to improve cardiovascular and pulmonary health and can improve your endurance for all of your daily activities.
  3. It can help you to maintain a healthy weight.
  4. It decreases your risk for many health conditions and diseases including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer.
  5. Walking can help to improve your mood and decrease stress.
  6. Walking is a weight-bearing exercise that helps to build strong bones. Maintaining good bone health will decrease your risk of osteoporosis.

Written By:
Dr. David Reymann
Staff Physical Therapist at Harbor Physical Therapy

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.

4 Simple Exercises to Prevent and Treat Low Back Pain

1. Bridges
Lie on your back with you knees bent. While maintaining a neutral spine, lift your hips off of the ground and squeeze your glutes. This exercise well help you to build core and glute strength for increased lumbar stability.

2. Clams
Lie on your side with your knees bent and feet together. Slowly raise your knee up without letting your hips roll forward or backwards. This exercise will help to build strength in your gluteus medius, which is important for stabilizing the hip and allowing you to have better control of the trunk and low back. Progress the exercise by placing a resistance band around the knees.

3. Lower Trunk Rotation
Lie on your back with your knees bent so that your feet are flat. Rotate your legs to the side while keeping your shoulders flat against the ground until a stretch is felt in your lower back. Hold for 10-20 seconds. Repeat to the opposite side. This is a good exercise to improve lower back flexibility.

4. Cat/Camel
While on your hands and knees, alternate between arching your back up and down. Hold for about 10 seconds each time. Just like the lower trunk rotation, this is another exercise that can help to improve low back mobility and decrease stiffness.

**These exercises may not be suitable for you if they worsen your symptoms or are too difficult for you to perform. It is recommended to seek out the expertise of a physical therapist if you are suffering from low back pain to provide you with exercises that are appropriate for your specific condition.  Please contact Harbor Physical Therapy for further assistance**

Written by: Dr. David Reymann

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.

How to Continue Exercising in the Winter

Winter weather is upon us! Even though temperatures are dropping, there are many options to continue exercising safely.

If you spent the warmer months exercising outdoors, but continued making monthly membership ‘donations’ to your local fitness center, use this winter to redeem your money’s worth of classes and workouts! Gyms offer plenty of indoor cardio, conditioning, and strengthening exercise options. Most gyms also offer fitness classes if you like the group setting. If a gym membership is not your thing, there are also many exercise options online, TV on Demand, or on DVD.

If you still plan to battle the elements and exercise outdoors through the winter months, be sure to make use of warm, protective clothing. Proper footwear, warm socks, hats, gloves, and layers are all important!

Also, remember winter brings shorter hours of daylight so use reflective gear whenever necessary! Always remember safety first and consider alternatives to outdoor exercise when icy or extra cold outside!

5 Reasons to Start Swimming to Benefit Your Health

Going for a swim in the summer can keep you cool when out in the sun. It can also benefit your health in several ways. Here are 5 reasons to hit the pool this summer:

  1. It offers a full-body resistance workout. In order to swim effectively, your body must incorporate the use of the muscles in your hands all the way down to your feet. The water offers resistance against the body that will help to keep your muscles strong.
  2. It promotes cardiovascular and lung health. Swimming laps in the pool can improve your heart’s ability to pump blood to the rest of the body. It can also improve lung capacity and efficiency.
  3. It reduces stress on the body and joints. Water provides buoyancy that lessens the impact of your body weight when swimming, providing a lower impact form of exercise than land based exercises such as running.
  4. It can decrease pain. Water can have a soothing effect on aching muscles and joints. It also promotes increased joint range of motion and body movement that may be difficult to perform on land if you have chronic pain.
  5. It is good for all ages and fitness levels. Whether you are young or old, in shape or out of shape, swimming is a fun way to help you achieve your fitness goals and keep you healthy.

Written by: Dr. David Reymann

How to Exercise Safely in Hot Weather

As the hot summer months approach, it is important to be aware of hot weather safety while staying active outdoors. Listed below are some precautions you should take before exercising outdoors this summer.

 

Stay Hydrated – The increased summer temperatures will lead to increased fluid loss through sweating. It is important to drink water throughout the day and increase fluid intake when exercising to replenish the body’s supply.

Dress Appropriately – Wear light-weight, light colored clothing to reflect heat and aide in the evaporation of sweat. Avoid dark-colored clothing that absorbs light and heat.

Take Your Time – Initially, decrease the intensity of your workout to avoid overexertion. As your body adjusts to the heat with more frequent workouts, gradually increase the length and intensity of your exercise routine.

 Watch the Temperature and Time of Day – Exercise in the morning or evening, when the temperature is cooler. If there is a heat advisory or the temperature feels too hot to exercise comfortably, consider taking your workout routine indoors.

Know Your Medical History – Certain medical conditions or medications may place you at an increased risk for an adverse event when too much stress is placed on the body. Consult with your health care providers to ensure that you are performing the appropriate types of exercises under the right conditions.

Listen to Your Body – If any of the following symptoms occur while out in the heat, it is important to seek immediate medical attention: confusion, irritability, dizziness, headache, nausea, vomiting, visual impairment, headaches, or muscle cramping.