How does Movement Help Injuries Heal? Cushion for the Pushin’.

If you’ve ever been to a physical therapist, you know that exercise is usually prescribed as the primary treatment for a number of injuries and conditions. Clearly exercise has numerous benefits, but it can sometimes seem counterintuitive to place resistance or load through an injured area — doesn’t it need time to rest and heal? The short answer to that question is generally yes, especially immediately following the injury; however, the right amount of movement and exercise can actually promote healing and recovery from injury. This is where PT comes in.

My goal is to help you understand just how exercise helps restore normal functioning of injured body tissues. This article is part of a series that will discuss how various types of tissue depend on movement to recover. Today’s subject is cartilage, specifically the type that protects your joints from impact and is implicated in the onset of osteoarthritis. This type of cartilage is called articular cartilage. The scope of this article is how exercise helps a joint that is painful due to age- or activity-related changes, not acute articular cartilage injury due to trauma.

Articular cartilage covers the ends of bones where they connect to each other at joints. For instance, there is cartilage covering the end of your femur and the top of your tibia (shin bone) where they meet to form the knee joint. Over time, a loss of thickness in this tissue is normal and not always associated with pain. However, for many people, particularly those who aren’t very active, the loss of tissue can become painful and inflamed. This is termed osteoarthritis. It may seem counterintuitive that something often referred to as “wear and tear” is most common in people who don’t move very much and thus aren’t exerting much wear or tear on their joints. However, there is a distinct explanation for this phenomenon.

Cartilage receives most of its nourishment from nutrients being diffused or pushed into it from the fluid inside the joint. It does not have a very good blood supply like most of our other tissues. Therefore, it is reliant on movement to provide it with a fresh supply of nutrients; if you don’t move often, it doesn’t have a chance to receive adequate nutrition and degenerative changes can take place. The cushioning ability of the cartilage in terms of thickness and strength depends on frequent movement! Therefore, your PT will often address pain related to osteoarthritis using a graded exercise program.

Look out for the next article in the series about tendons and ligaments.

Written by: Dr. Scott Newberry

Making an Exercise Routine Fit Into Your Lifestyle

The World Health Organization (WHO) recently updated their exercise guidelines for adults to include 150-300 minutes of moderate intensity exercise and/or 75-100 minutes of vigorous intensity exercise. While this is the gold standard recommendation for maximizing the health benefits associated with staying physically active – and there are many such benefits – 2.5-5 hours of exercise per week can prove to be an intimidating prospect for many who don’t have a history or habit of hitting the gym (or home gym) on a regular basis.

I thus want to provide a less intimidating message for you to kickstart the habit of exercising on a regular basis: anything is better than nothing! The fear of failure associated with committing the time and resources associated with the WHO’s recommendations can foster an all-or-nothing mentality. This ultimately results in exercise “kicks” and burnout for many people, even when they have the best intentions of staying committed to fitness. I thus offer you an out: start small. Recent research has found even 30 seconds each of pushups and squats in the morning can yield benefits when it comes to strength and aerobic fitness. If you establish a routine this simple, you can gradually begin adding more exercises over time. Before you know it, it’ll become an embedded part of your day much like brushing your teeth or taking a shower. With time, you may even find yourself incidentally adhering to the WHO guidelines. No better day than today to get started!

Written by: Dr. Scott Newberry

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!