November is a month when gratitude takes its place in the spotlight of American culture. Yet, with the challenges our country has faced this year, a popular notion as we approach the final weeks of 2020 is “let’s just get this year over with.”
While this sentiment may seem understandable, our team would like to remind people that it’s possible to be thankful for, and even embrace, the challenges we experience in life.
When we consider what we have to be grateful for this Thanksgiving season, in other words, let’s not overlook the ways challenges can have a positive effect on our lives.
Yes, it’s been a tough year in many ways, but being able to express gratitude in the face of all these challenges isn’t just good for the soul. Research shows it’s also good for overall health.
One study from 2012, for example, reported that grateful people generally experience fewer aches and pains and report feeling “healthier” than other groups. This is no surprise when you consider that, based on various research, grateful people exercise more, get better sleep, and follow up on regular health check-ups.
From a psychological perspective, higher levels of gratitude increase happiness, reduce depression and aggression, and cultivate resilience in life.
We could all use a little more positivity, whether we’re talking about 2020 or any other year. The key, even in the face of big challenges, is to actively identify and express gratitude in our day-to-day lives.
How? Consider the following advice:
Embrace Your Challenges:
This is oftentimes easier said than done, especially during the fallout of a long-term global pandemic. Keep in mind, though, that when approached constructively, challenges often bring out our best selves. They make us stronger and more focused, confident and capable.
Celebrate Minor Victories:
You’ve heard the phrase, “Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good.” This simply means that victories regularly come in increments, and that small improvements are often worth celebrating. Keep this in mind as you work to achieve your goals (regardless of size) and as we continually strive for post-COVID normalcy.
Acknowledge & Express Gratitude:
Knowing you have a lot to be thankful for isn’t the same as regularly considering, jotting down and expressing your positive thoughts. Being grateful should be an active process.
By forcing yourself to consider specific things you’re grateful for every day, you’ll train your mind to more naturally think in these terms. Expressing gratitude in overt (i.e., writing a thank-you letter) and creative ways can give this positivity an even bigger boost.
Surround Yourself with Positivity:
The levels of positivity in the company you keep can directly affect your ability to be feel gratitude. Being around positive people and those you love and respect can feel energizing and lead to greater levels of optimism in your life.
As a way of giving back to others in your community, volunteering – especially during this era of the coronavirus and economic downturn – can make you feel more grateful about your own life. Studies have shown that helping others through volunteering can also increase our personal level of well-being.
We all know that visiting your physician for an annual physical is critical in maintaining long-term health, just as dental exams twice each year helps ensure oral health throughout a lifetime. But what about annual check-ups with a physical therapist?
According to physical therapists across the country, including those with the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA), annual physical therapy checkups provide the third critical (and often overlooked) piece in long-term health and preventative care.
“The annual physical therapy checkup provides something that no other health provide checkup provides,” said physical therapist Lisa Culver, senior practice specialist with the APTA. “By using the movement system as the lens to look at how a person’s doing, we can play a part in disease prevention, help patients take better control of their health, and avoid or better manage a lot of chronic conditions.”
This includes identifying weaknesses, limitations, defects and other factors affecting one’s musculoskeletal system – issues that could lead to discomfort, pain or injury. Based on the results of a physical therapy “checkup” examination, a physical therapist is able to provide clients with individualized treatments and/or programs meant to help prevent future, movement-limiting issues.
“Too often, I hear older patients as, ‘Why didn’t someone tell me this earlier,’” wrote Carole B. Lewis in the Atlas of Science. Lewis works in the George Washington University’s College of Medicine, Department of Geriatrics. “Their forward head, their muscle weakness, ankle inflexibility or balance issues did not develop overnight.”
“Annual physical therapy screens and exercise programs starting at age 50, or younger, could prevent injurious falls, reduce compression fractures and improve quality of life,” Lewis added. “Most people know that physical therapists are essential to rehabilitation after surgery or accidents, but too few realize that physical therapists are the key to optimal aging.”
Physical therapists are highly-educated, licensed health care professionals who help patients reduce pain and improve or restore mobility. During a preventative checkup, a physical therapist will evaluate such things as movement/injury history, balance, aerobic capacity, functional strength, flexibility and quality of movement (i.e., gait, reach, bending, etc.).
In addition, a physical therapist will work with each person to address any personal limitations, weaknesses, pain or other impairments that may be holding them back from reaching their lifestyle and movement goals.
“Everyone, but especially middle-aged and older persons, will benefit significantly from annual screenings conducted by physical therapists … much like annual dental checkups,” Lewis said.
As the school year gains momentum during the COVID crisis and more kids and families adjust to various levels of at-home learning, parents and instructors should not overlook what should be a standard facet of all children’s curriculum: physical activity.
Kids need to be given time to move around, exercise and play, even as they adjust to a new structure and a new way of learning. This is critical not just for a student’s physical health, but to also ensure he or she is better able reach their academic potential.
How does one affect the other?
Studies show regular exercise can have a positive effect on young people’s concentration, development, self-esteem, and academic scores. It also helps them get a better night’s sleep and lowers their stress throughout the day.
And, just like adults, kids need the chance to step away and unwind, especially during a time when they’re trying to adjust to something new and potentially stressful. Getting this time to burn off some energy will help improve their focus when it’s time to get back to lessons and learning.
Of course, we’d be remiss if we didn’t also point out that encouraging regular activity also helps establish lifelong habits that can enrich a child or adolescent’s long-term health and physical development.
School-aged kids and teens need at least 60 minutes of physical activity each day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
To help ensure kids can reach this activity goal while also reaping the mental and academic benefits of exercise as they learn at home, we recommend the following to parents and guardians:
If your school doesn’t include physical activity as part of its daily remote-learning schedule, add it in yourself. Pick at least a couple of times each day when your student will get a chance to step away and be active. Just call it recess!
Be consistent with times to make this a daily habit. And, if you have an indecisive child, be sure to include play or exercise suggestions that can guide them toward an activity.
Take the Lead, Make It Fun
If you’re home with your child or children (as a stay-at-home parent or as a remote worker), join them during their recess time. Make it a fun family time by playing outside, going for walks or bike rides, doing exercises in your living room, having a quick dance party, etc. This will do you some good, too.
Along with regular “recess” activities, encourage your kids to stand up, stretch and move around for a minute or two every 30 to 60 minutes. Young bodies are resilient, but even kids can start to feel tightness, discomfort and pain when bending over laptops or tablets for long periods of time.
Urge them to stand up, walk around, and do some shoulder rolls, neck rolls and back bends/twists. Don’t let them sit slouched over a desk without taking time to balance out the body. This is also a great time for them to hydrate and grab a healthy snack.
Despite being the largest and perhaps most complicated joints in our bodies, our knees are naturally docile.
They’re easily influenced by what’s going on above and below them, in other words, not making many decisions on their own.
That’s why when one experiences knee pain, the true causes of the joint’s wear and tear can almost always be traced up or down the leg – oftentimes in both directions.
The Kinetic Chain
Tight muscles, improper footwear, bad balance, the lack of strength in the hips … all of these issues that exist far from the knees can lead to an irregular compression in the knee joint, leading to pain and possible injury.
The knees may get all the blame, but more often we should consider them as a canary in the coal mine when it comes to movement, strength and/or balance issues. Yes, wear and tear in the knees can also become its own issue over time, but it’s possible to slow this by identifying and addressing the real issues affecting the knees.
Case in point, a study performed by the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis found that hip strength exercises performed by female runners vastly reduced the incidence of knee pain, or “runner’s knee.” Improved mechanics through increased hip strength was credited for the reduction in pain.
Another study, this one published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, linked the growing incidence of knee pain in the U.S. (65 percent from 1971 to 2004) to the same steady rise in obesity.
A Holistic Approach
Studies like these simply support the general approach physical therapists take when treating knee pain as well as most other pain and injury issues: always take into consideration patients’ entire kinetic chain, from the feet up through their bodies.
That’s why when someone walks through our doors of our clinic and says they’re experiencing knee pain, our physical therapy team doesn’t just look at their knees. We approach the issue globally.
At our clinic, we evaluate everything from the feet up through the hips, otherwise we’ll likely miss the real cause of the patient’s issues. Such an evaluation should always include an analysis of movement, balance, flexibility and strength.
Treatments for knee pain may include a mix of remedies that includes the use of proper footwear/orthotics, the establishment of a flexibility program, strength and balance exercise regimens, and perhaps even a plan to shed some excess body weight.
If you regularly experience knee pain while you’re going about life and doing the things you most enjoy, it’s always a good rule of thumb to get yourself evaluated by a physical therapist. Call us today to schedule an appointment.
If your knee’s chirping, so to speak, that’s usually a good indication that something elsewhere in your body needs some attention.
Physical therapists say this is a common question among both avid runners and those who may start running for exercise or to participate in that first 5K.
It’s a question that highlights a common concern about running – that it’s an activity that’s good for the heart but bad for the knees.
For most people, though, the answer is a resounding no.
A majority of runners can rest assured there’s really little evidence that running, when done properly, damages the body or increases a person’s risk of developing arthritis in their knees.
In fact, research has shown the opposite.
According to an analysis of multiple studies, for example – findings that were published in the Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy in 2017 – 10.2 percent of non-runners develop osteoarthritis in knees or hips, while these ailments develop in just 3.5 percent of recreational runners.
Further research has revealed that when it comes to the risk of developing osteoarthritis, running takes a back seat to other, more worrisome factors like knee injury history, genetics, occupational exposure to risky movements, age, and obesity.
Movement is Medicine
This and other research simply support the much broader viewpoint that living a more sedentary lifestyle puts one at a much higher risk of chronic pain and conditions, like osteoarthritis, than living a more active life.
In fact, a phrase used often by physical therapists – “movement is medicine” – most often holds true.
Unless someone has other underlying conditions that make running difficult or which cause more wear and tear on the muscles and joints – such as bad form or overtraining – runners can rest assured that recreational running is safe on the knees and joints.
That’s certainly not to say runners are immune to pain and injury. Issues like runner’s knee, shin splints, Achilles and foot pain, and so on are experienced by thousands of runners every year.
These conditions, however, are often due to issues such like bad running mechanics, muscle imbalances, improper footwear, overexertion, or not enough rest and recovery between workouts.
Physical therapists regularly work with runners of all ages and levels to identify these underlying causes of pain and injury. Through professional running and movement assessments, as well as a physical examination of affected areas, PTs can pinpoint, then address, the true sources of the pain.
They can can then ensure the safety and longevity of runners through one or a combination of strategies, like strength and flexibility exercises, the establishment of better running mechanics, new running shoes/insoles, or the development of a more individualized exercise regimen.
With health in sharp focus as a result of the pandemic, now may be a good time to look at the team of experts you have in place and see if there are any improvements you could make. You probably have a family doctor, dentist, and optometrist. Maybe you have some specialist physicians, a trainer, or a massage therapist. If a physical therapist isn’t a part of your healthcare team, you’re missing out on taking care of a big part of your health. To understand why you need a physical therapist, you need to understand what they do.
Physical Therapists Help You Do Things
The American Physical Therapy Association defines PTs as “health care professionals who diagnose and treat individuals who have medical problems or other health-related conditions that limit their abilities to move and perform functional activities in their daily lives.” So physical therapists help you do things that you have trouble with. That could be going for a hike, playing with your kids, or getting through a day of work without pain.
Physical Therapists Reduce Pain
Chronic pain is a huge problem worldwide. A big part of that is low back pain. Statistically, around 80% of people will have low back pain in their lifetimes. Physical therapists are trained to treat pain without surgery or medications. If you have back pain, an arthritic knee, neck pain, or an old injury that won’t go away, a PT may be able to help.
Physical Therapists Keep You Healthy
The APTA goes on to say that “PTs work with individuals to prevent the loss of mobility before it occurs by developing fitness- and wellness-oriented programs for healthier and more active lifestyles.” That means that a physical therapist can help you determine your risk for injury, choose the right fitness program, and improve the quality of your life by improving your health and ability to move.
Physical Therapists Can Help You Live Longer
It’s well known that the risk of many of the leading causes of death can be reduced by exercise. Some of these conditions would include heart disease, cancer, lung disease, diabetes, and stroke. By helping you move better with less pain, finding the right exercise program, and helping you to make healthy lifestyle choices, a PT could help you live longer.
Physical therapists have a unique set of skills and expertise that can do a lot to improve your health and quality of life. If you don’t have one, consider adding one to your healthcare team.