We are seeing more and more people who come into therapy having done some for a fair amount of research on their conditions. We applaud this and strongly encourage our patients to be as educated as possible about their condition and how to resolve it.
However, one of the major pitfalls that we frequently see is when someone comes in believing a certain exercise or approach will guarantee them success. Unfortunately, every person’s situation is unique. Often, these “cookie-cutter” approaches are a convenient way to pacify or imply a quick fix to your problem.
As physical therapists, we believe that a program customized to your specific, individual condition will yield the best and most efficient results for your rehabilitation, which might look different than that of another person struggling with pain in the same body area. We want to use a laser-focused approach rather than a scattered, catch-all approach. Tailoring the program to meet your specific needs will focus your intention on your specific goals and deficiencies rather than being overwhelmed by too much information in an inefficient program. Not only is this more efficient, it is also safer and more likely to be effective since we identify the cause of the problem in your evaluation.
For example, back pain could be caused by arthritis, a disc bulge, inflammation, or something completely different. Although these may manifest in a similar back pain, the treatments for these different causes would look completely different.
The Internet provides a vast amount of information, some good, some bad. You can learn a lot about your condition and potential treatment options by doing a little research. Try to look at things from all points of view – not only as a patient, but also as a physician, or even a physical therapist! Typically, there is not a “magic cure” that guarantees complete healing to a particular body part, but knowing your treatment options is a powerful tool in helping you decide which course of action to take.
By: Steve Bartz, PT
Kettlebells are one of the most underrated pieces of workout equipment around. They can be added to almost any type of workout and is a great way to progress the workout. Here are a few exercises to try with a kettlebell:
1. The Swing – a lot of people do this exercise incorrectly; take a look back at our blog on kettlebell swings to learn the correct way!
2. Squats – Goblet squats, squats with a single-arm shoulder press, jump squats – there are many different ways to do this with a kettlebell!
3. Bilateral Row - Grab two kettlebells. Place them in front of the feet and bend the knees slightly. Bend over to grab both kettlebells and pull them towards the stomach, keeping the elbows close to the body and the back straight.
4. Lunges – Maybe lunges are too easy for you and you want some challenge, try them with a kettlebell, or two! Have one kettlebell will challenge your balance, while two will push your strength. If you mastered that and want to progress even further, try alternating legs with the kettlebell elevated above your head.
5. Crunches and “Cherry Pickers” – Try using a kettlebell with crunches to add more resistance. “Cherry Pickers” are doing a crunch with alternating twisting to each side every time.
By: Becca Popma
One of the common conditions that we treat here at Hudsonville Physical Therapy is muscle tension headaches. Headaches can be a very complex condition, with many different contributing factors. However, when it is determined that the headaches are “muscular” in nature, physical therapy is a very effective solution.
One of the most common causes of muscle tension headaches is poor posture. When we sit or stand with correct posture, our head is centered over our torso, and is in a balanced position. However, many people do not sit or stand with proper posture. Our typical posture is what we refer to as a “forward head” posture, where our head is out in front of our torso. Heads are quite heavy (14-16 pounds on average), and when the head is in front of the torso, gravity is pushing it downward. So in order to keep our head up, the muscles in the back of our neck and shoulders have to continually hold our heavy head up. Over time, this causes the muscles to fatigue and get tense, leading to muscle tightness and pain.
Another cause of muscle tension headaches is stress. People tend to carry their stress through their neck and shoulders, leading to abnormal amounts of tension and lack of rest for the muscles. Over time this takes its toll and leads to chronic muscle tension and headaches.
Most people will begin taking some type of medication (pain relievers or anti-inflammatories) to treat their headache. This can provide short term benefit, but unfortunately is not a long term solution because medication does not treat the cause of the pain, only the symptoms. However, physical therapy gets to the root cause of the problem and provides a long term solution!
So what is this solution to muscle tension headaches? Typically it involves several of the following interventions:
1. Postural Education. It is essential to teach our patients proper posture so that they can eliminate the strain on their muscles caused by faulty posture. If we do not do this, the headaches will likely return. This includes identifying potential posture problem areas including use of laptop computers or cell phones.
2. Identifying stress and the body’s response to it. People often know why they are stressed, but have difficulty eliminating the effect of the stress on the body. One effective technique is by teaching correct breathing. When stressed, people often breathe with their “accessory muscles” through the neck and shoulders. This leads to shallow, quicker breathing and increased tension through the neck and shoulders. The diaphragm is supposed to be our main breathing muscle, and the diaphragm is located in the abdomen. When we breathe correctly, we use our diaphragm (abdomen) to breathe, which results in deeper, more efficient breathing. This breathing provides more oxygen to our body, which it needs. Diaphragmatic breathing also eliminates tension in the neck and shoulder muscles and helps our body to relax.
3. Soft tissue massage. When muscles have been tense for a long period of time, it’s almost as if they don’t know how to relax anymore. A skilled physical therapist is able to work on these tight muscles and release this chronic muscle tension, which can be extremely helpful in eliminating symptoms.
4. Stretching and mobility exercise. Tight muscles lose flexibility, resulting in reduced range of motion in the neck. PT can help to stretch these tight muscles and restore full range of motion in the neck, which enables the body to move without compensation.
5. Exercise. We need to identify the proper muscles to strengthen, so that the muscle tension problems do not return due to having weak muscles. This includes strengthening the deep cervical flexor muscles (front of the neck) as well as the scapular and shoulder girdle muscles. Maintaining a good exercise routine often makes the difference between having chronic headaches and being headache free.
Those are just some of the treatment interventions used by physical therapists. In all cases, it is important to have a thorough physical therapy evaluation to determine your specific needs. If you have been struggling with tension headaches, give us a try. You’ll likely wonder why you didn’t do it sooner!
By: Mason Riegel, PT
Meet the Therapist: Brian Colvin, PT
Brian has been a loyal member of the team since 1995 – a year after Steve opened the practice! We asked Brian a few questions so that you can get to know him better:
1. What’s your favorite part of your job? I like to see patients as the progress from visit to visit. It’s rewarding to see their hard work pay off, and them to be able to return to their normal lives and their favorite activities!
2. What’s your favorite diagnosis to treat? Post-surgical knees and shoulders, because I see huge functional improvements as people get their strength and range of motion back.
3. What are some of your favorite things to do on the weekend? I love spending time with family and friends. Most weekends you can find me and my wife attending a handful of sporting events for all four of our kids, ages 10, 13, 15 and 17! They keep us busy with a variety of sports including baseball, soccer, swimming, water polo, cross country, and basketball.
Summer is in full swing, and you may already be more active than you've been all year! It's a great time to exercise because it's warm out, there's no ice to slip on, and you can get some Vitamin D while exercising.
Here's a few ways to improve your health and up your exercise game this summer!
1. Go outside and walk or run! If you don't like walking or running, bike or swim - find a cardio exercise that you enjoy!
2. Incorporate a strengthening routine a couple days per week! Focus on large muscle groups using exercises like squats, rows, push-ups, and planks. Make some of your exercises complex movements to target more muscles, like bicep curls with a shoulder press, or push-ups with a single-arm row, or squats with a lateral raise. Vary your exercise routine to continue challenging your body and developing different muscles!
3. Add some stretches to your workouts at the end. Stretching is most effective when your muscles are already warm, so do it after a walk or after your strengthening exercises. A few areas to focus on are your hamstrings, hip-flexors, IT band, calves, shoulders, chest, wrists, spine and neck. Yoga is another great way to work on your mobility (and strength).
Remember, even if you're not exercising for a long amount of time, or many days per week, the exercise you do is going to strengthen your muscles and joints and is good for your cardiovascular system. More is better than some, but some is better than none!
If you have any questions, or are dealing with pain with exercise, call us at 616-662-0990 to set up a free consultation with one of our skilled and caring physical therapists.
By: Lisa Bartz, Certified Exercise Physiologist
Steve Bartz, PT