Digging out boxes of holiday decorations, hauling packages to and from the car, hiding gifts away on the higher shelves at the back of your closet … the Holiday Season certainly requires its fair share of bending, lifting and reaching. This, coupled with the cooler weather, makes December the ideal time for a refresher on proper lifting methods.
Back pain, after all, can put a real damper on the Holiday Season.
As one of the most common conditions treated by physical therapists, back pain and injury will even about 80 percent of all Americans at some point in their lives, making it one of the top causes of disability in the U.S. Fortunately, it’s a condition that’s preventable, and one of the ways of doing this is to learn proper lifting techniques.
But, preventing back pain isn’t the only concern when we talk about proper lifting. Using the proper techniques for lifting and carrying awkward and/or heavy objects is about minimizing strain on the entire body.
The goal, in other words, is to put yourself in a position that allows the body’s musculoskeletal system to work as one cohesive unit, without putting too much strain on one area, such as the lower-back or shoulders.
So without further ado, strongly consider the following tips for proper lifting during this Holiday Season … and throughout your lifetime:
Don’t ever assume your body’s ready to lift heavy objects without first being thoroughly warmed up. Take the time to stretch you lower back as well as your legs and hips. Also, do a few jumping jacks to get the blood flowing to the muscles in your body.
Avoid reaching for a heavy or moderate-sized load. Get up nice and close to the box or object to minimize the force (in the arms, shoulders and back) needed to lift, and always hold it close to your body.
Bend & Lift with the Knees
We’ve all heard this before, and it’s true. But in doing so, keep your back straight and your body upright as you lower yourself to the object in question, then use your legs to rise back up.
Get a Grip
This seems to go without saying, but if you can’t get a strong, comfortable grip on the object in front of you – even if you know you can carry the weight – don’t try to be a hero. Find someone to help you or an alternative way of getting the object from A to B, such as a hand cart or dolly.
Reverse the Steps
When you get to where you’re going, set the item down just as you picked it up – but in reverse. Keep it close to the body, lower with the legs and move slowly and deliberately. You can just as easily injure yourself setting objects down as you can picking them up.
In addition, keep from twisting or reaching while lifting and/or carrying a load. Don’t rush through the process of lifting, and if you’re tired, put the work off until later
And finally, if you do feel pain during or after lifting, or you have an injury or condition you feel is holding you back from moving properly, visit a physical therapist for a full assessment prior to trying any sort of heavy or awkward lifting.
The weather is hot, the gym is closed, and you’ve been relaxing – enjoying the lazy, hazy days of summer. Taking a day off here and there is no problem, but if you’ve been consistently missing your regular run, bike ride, or gym session and notice some aches and pains showing up, you might have the beginnings of deconditioning.
Exercise creates many changes in your body – your heart begins to pump blood more efficiently, your muscles use oxygen more efficiently, they contract in a more coordinated manner, and your body gets more efficient turning food into fuel to name just a few. Deconditioning is the reversing of these changes. Exercise is a “use it or lose it” kind of thing, and deconditioning is the process by which we “lose it.”
How long does it take to decondition?
As with most things related to a system as complex as the human body, it depends. According to the ACSM, two weeks without exercise can lead to significant loss of cardiovascular fitness. Two to eight months of detraining can erase virtually all of your gains. As you detrain, cardiovascular fitness tends to decline first, with muscle strength declining later.
Other factors are your age, and your exercise history. If you’re younger, you’ll probably lose fitness at a slower rate than someone older. If you’ve been consistently exercising for a long time, or at a high intensity, your losses will probably be slower than for someone who just started.
If you’re just undergoing a period of increased time commitments at work or with family, using a shortened exercise routine can help minimize your losses. Even one session a week will help you keep most of what you’ve gained. Other options are to use shorter but more intense interval training sessions, or breaking up your activity into multiple short chunks during the day. If your layoff was longer, it may take just as long to retrain as it did to make the gains initially. If you’re having those aches and pains due to inactivity or need help designing a safe program to either maintain your fitness or gain it back after a layoff, your physical therapist can help. Injury and illness are other common reasons for detraining. Your PT can not only help you recover faster, but they can also find activities to maintain your fitness while safely working around an injury or illness.
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The fact that the season of giving, joy and celebration can also be our most stressful time of year is one of the worst kept secrets of the Holidays.
And yet, year after year, we charge
forward, often fighting through tension-type headaches to complete our
shopping, plan for get-togethers with friends, and fulfill all our family
But why fight through the headaches, asks Sterling Heights physical therapist Ashesh Vyas, when a physical therapist can often provide relief from tension-type headaches by correcting the problems that cause the pain?
What is a Tension Headache?
“A tension headache often starts with pain
or dysfunction at the back of the head or neck – discomfort that can spread
around your head, and even to your eyes,” said Vyas,
owner at Active
Kare Physical Therapy in Sterling Heights.
“What we as physical therapists can do, after a thorough examination and a
series of questions, is determine the likely causes of your headache. Then, we
can treat these causes.”
According to the World Health
Organization, a tension-type headache (TTH) is the most common primary headache
disorder in the world, typically related to stress or associated with
musculoskeletal problems in the neck.
One study published in the U.S. Library of
Medicine called tension-type headaches the second-most common illness
worldwide, affecting 80 to 90 percent of people at least once in their lives.
Tension headaches, as they’re often
called, are frequently described as a feeling of pressure or tightness, often
like a band around the head that spreads into or from the neck.
According to the American Physical Therapy
Association (APTA), these headaches may be caused by stress, fatigue, poor
posture, or problems with the neck or jaw – like an injury.
How Physical Therapy Helps
“Once we determine the cause of your
tightness and pain, a PT can work with you to correct the underlying problem
that’s leading you to experience these headaches,” Vyas said. “This can be fatigued muscles from bad posture, or a lack
of strength or mobility in your neck and shoulders.”
Often, treatments will focus on three
areas: improved posture, improved strength in the upper back, neck and
shoulders, and improved mobility in the neck and spine through stretching and
pain-reducing movements. This is also known as manual therapy.
“We’ll not only provide relief through
treatments in the clinic, but physical therapists also work with people to
correct the issues which caused the headache in the first place, be it
improving posture or simple changes in lifestyle,” said Vyas. “PTs always treat with an eye toward future prevention.”
If the Holiday Season has already become a
headache for you this year, schedule an assessment with the Active Kare Physical Therapy team to learn more
about what’s causing your tension headache and how it can be successfully and
affordably treated through physical therapy.
Despite being one of the top causes of disability in the U.S., affecting around eight in 10 people in their lifetimes, back pain is an ailment often misunderstood by those affected.
Such misconceptions can cause those suffering from back pain to seek solutions, potential treatment paths, and even lifestyle alterations that aren’t necessarily in their best interests.
Back pain can be as frustrating as it is debilitating, especially if past preventative measures and treatments haven’t been helpful. And, this can lead a person down paths that don’t result in the best and most necessary evidence-based treatments.
These paths can sometimes lead to treatments that are more expensive or personally invasive – and perhaps even unnecessary – such as MRIs and surgery.
MRIs, shots, surgery, medication, etc., should mostly be considered last resort-type solutions. The fact is, most back pain issues will go away on their own in a few days. And even when they don’t, most remaining cases can be successfully resolved through safer, more affordable and more effective treatment approaches.
To help health care consumers make better decisions when considering solutions to their back-pain issues, we’d like to shed some light on the following common back pain myths:
1. Bed Rest Helps with Relief & Healing
Once a common treatment for back pain, research strongly suggests long-term rest can slow recovery and even make your back pain worse. Instead, treatment involving movement and exercise (i.e., stretches, walking, swimming, etc.) often works better to hasten healing and provide relief.
2. The Problem’s in My Spine
Back pain can be caused by a wide array of issues throughout the body as well as one’s environment. It can be a response to the way you move when you exercise, how you sit at work, the shoes you wear, the mattress on which you sleep, or simply your body compensating for movement limitations and weaknesses. Back pain doesn’t necessarily mean you have a “bad back,” or are predisposed to back pain.
3. I Just Need an ‘Adjustment’
Those accustomed to visiting a chiropractor for back pain issues often claim to find relief from having their spine adjusted, or “cracked.” While this process can release endorphins that offer some temporary relief, only about 10 percent of all back pain cases can actually benefit from spine mobilization. Exercise is often more effective, as is determining and treating the pain’s source. (See item No. 2.)
4. Medication’s the Answer
A popular quick fix, medication should never be viewed as a long-term solution to chronic back pain issues. Over-the-counter pain relievers can help get you through in the short term, but many prescription pain meds can be dangerous, addictive, and even make the pain worse in some instances.
5. I’ll Probably Need Surgery
Of people experiencing low-back pain, only about 4 to 8 percent of their conditions can and should be successfully treated with surgery, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Even 90-plus percent of herniated discs often get better on their own through a combination of rest and physical therapy.
6. I Need a Referral to See a Physical Therapist
Multiple studies have concluded that physical therapy is one of the safest and most effective ways to both treat and prevent back pain. And in nearly every state, patients can access physical therapy services without first getting a physician’s prescription.
The longer days and warmer weather of the season can be invigorating, enticing runners of all levels to up their games. But while this time of year may motivate one to increase the duration, frequency and intensity of their runs, Sterling Heights physical therapist Ashesh Vyas cautions that if the increase is too sudden, it could put the runner at the risk of a painful condition known as shin splints.
“Shin splints isn’t a serious condition, but it can be painful and will most certainly hold runners and other active people back from their workout, and perhaps even other things they enjoy in life,” said Vyas, Owner of Active Kare Physical Therapy in Sterling Heights.
Known in the medical world as medial tibial stress syndrome, shin splints present as soreness, tenderness and pain along the inside of the shin bone (tibia). At first, the pain may only be felt during a run or workout, Vyas said, but the condition may progress to the point where pain may be felt well after exercise.
With about 3 million reported cases per year in the U.S., shin splints account for 13 to 17 percent of all running-related injuries. Dancers and military recruits also record a high incidence of shin splints.
“People who take part in activities that involve high-impact stress on the legs are most susceptible to developing shin splints, especially during a time when the intensity of their exercise has suddenly increased,” said Vyas. “This increased stress can overwork the muscles, tendons and bone tissue in the lower leg, which can manifest as pain.”
The key to overcoming shin splints, according to Vyas, is to rest. Take a few recovery days off from high-impact activities and exercises, and allow the body to heal. If you experience inflammation, ice can also be beneficial.
However, it’s important, Vyas added, that runners and others susceptible to shin splints take steps to prevent the onset of the condition. Consider the following tips:
Avoid overdoing it. When increasing the distance, duration, intensity and/or frequency of an exercise regimen such as running, do so gradually. Slowly building your fitness level over time is safer on the body than making quick, monumental leaps that can overload your shins.
Wear proper shoes. Not only should you always wear a good pair of shoes, but the type of shoes you wear should fit your foot type. The right shoe for someone who’s flat-footed, for instance, won’t be right for someone with high arches, and vice versa. Also, wear the right type of shoes for your chosen activity or sport.
Mix up your workouts. We all have our preferred ways of exercising, but mix it up once in a while. Alternate running with, say, cycling or swimming – something that still challenges you but with less impact on the body.
Analyze your movement. A thorough, biomechanical running analysis performed by a physical therapist can identify movement patterns that may be leading to the onset of shin splints. You may find out that one small tweak in your running form can keep your shins healthy and pain-free.
See a physical therapist. Besides performing a running analysis, a physical therapist is trained to analyze your entire kinetic chain to identify any imbalances or weaknesses that could put you at risk of pain or injury. From advising you on what shoes to wear to creating a personalized exercise regimen to help you move and perform better, teaming up with a physical therapist is an ideal step for those serious about pain and injury prevention.
Everyone wakes up feeling some pain in their joints or muscles from time to time. But if you find yourself consistently waking up stiff and achy, it might be time for pain-relief work with Dr. Ashesh Vyas. Aching or stiff joints may be a minor problem that is easily remedied; in other cases, your doctor may have diagnosed a condition or ailment that will benefit from physical therapy. We’ve worked with a wide range of patients who struggle with aches and pains, and we would be happy to work with you to help you enjoy a better quality of life as well!
Why Am I Stiff and Achy When I Wake Up?
Joint tissues become irritated throughout the day and by the evening, when your mind is tired, you might not even notice it. When you fall asleep and remain mostly immobile overnight, that allows the inflammation to grow thicker and irritate the joints even more. The result is that when you wake up in the morning, your joints are stiff and achy. After you start moving around, the inflammation becomes more liquid-like and the pain will lessen. One common remedy for this, which your physical therapist is likely to recommend, is that you stay properly hydrated throughout the day. Staying hydrated allows your body’s tissues to function at their normal pace, whereas dehydration slows down your chemical processes.
More Serious Medical Conditions
If your doctor has diagnosed you with a more serious medical condition that impacts your joints and tissues, physical therapy can probably help. Here are some of the most common ailments that can be relieved with the guidance of a physical therapist:
All of these conditions can cause aching, stiffness and joint pain. A physical therapist will work with you to help you try to achieve a greater range of motion with affected limbs or joints and to relieve the pain so you can enjoy a better quality of life.
Tips for Stiff and Aching Joints
Your physical therapy regimen will largely depend on your specific symptoms or diagnosis. However, there are a lot of common recommendations that work hand-in-hand with physical therapy. Here are some tips that your physical therapist will likely share with you on your journey to wellness.
- Get Good Sleep. Getting enough sleep at night creates a circular benefit with physical therapy exercises. When you get enough sleep, it increases your ability to effectively exercise. When you exercise regularly, it helps you to get better sleep. Better sleep habits and physical exercise are a powerful “one-two punch” for keeping aches and stiffness away.
- Use Better Posture. If your work requires you to sit at a desk for long hours, or if you stay sedentary for long periods every day, try to get up every half hour for some light stretches. Move around to keep your circulation going, which helps to relieve joint pain. Proper posture when sitting or standing will help your joints to function properly. When we use bad posture, it puts strain on areas of the body that weren’t meant to be stressed.
- Improve Your Diet. Be sure to consume lots of brightly colored fruits and vegetables. These healthy foods have more antioxidants and vitamins, which fight off the inflammation that can lead to joint pain. A better diet also helps you to get better sleep and helps your body receive more benefit from exercise.
Physical Therapy Exercises
You don’t have to be a bodybuilder or an Olympic-class athlete to work with a physical therapist. Most of the exercises and stretches that your therapist will recommend are simple to perform and don’t require any special equipment — and most of our patients are just regular people (not super athletes).
Contact ActiveKare Physical Therapy in Sterling Heights, MI, today to schedule an appointment.