Low back pain has become one of the largest causes of pain and disability in the United States. Billions of dollars are spent on trying to care for and remedy this issue. People are advised by friends, coworkers, and physicians to seek out certain types of treatment such as physical therapy, chiropractic care, medicines, diets, or other newfound treatment approaches.
So what to do? If your back is hurting which track do you pursue?
While pain can be a very complex problem there have been ways that consistently show how someone can at least better manage their pain if not altogether get rid of it. The Journal of Pain Research has proposed factors to consider when deciding how to address your pain.
Obviously, physical problems within your muscle or nervous system can be a direct cause of your pain. Structures in your body can become quite sensitive to pain causing a compounding problem that never seems to resolve. Even having a sedentary lifestyle or being deconditioned can cause structural deficits which can cause pain with movements or mobility.
Another area can be more of an environmental factor such as work satisfaction, perceptions or demands at your job or even the attitudes of your employer. These can cause a higher risk or predictability of pain.
Some people also say, “I have a ‘high’ or ‘low’ tolerance for pain.” These pain-related beliefs and attitudes can have a real effect on someone’s ability to recover from a painful condition. Often time someone’s expectations, beliefs, or perception of their condition can have a direct effect on their ability to overcome the condition.
Our attitude as physical therapists is to educate each individual on their specific condition, so they understand what will positively and negatively influence their symptoms. Also, we promote that the person have an ACTIVE involvement in trying to manage their care. Many studies have shown that individuals who actively participate in managing their condition do better than those who passively receive care.
You may be faced with many recommended options to help take care of your back pain. We would recommend that you first understand that there can be many causes of your back pain and especially many things influencing the level of your perception of pain. We feel a conservative approach such as physical therapy often helps people to manage or alleviate their symptoms. If physical therapy doesn’t work for you, there are other options that you can pursue as well.
Give us a call to sign up for a free consultation if you'd like one of our physical therapists to sit down and talk with you about your low back pain, and discuss what PT can do for you.
By: Steve Bartz, PT
You commonly hear terms like sprain, strain, broken bone, fracture, tendonitis, and bursitis, but do you know what they mean? We’re going to break down some common diagnoses so if your doctor tells you that you strained your hamstring, sprained your ankle, or your child broke their arm, you know a little more about what exactly that means.
Strain vs. Sprain
STRAINS are the overstretching or tearing of muscles or tendons (tendons are the dense tissue that connects bones to muscle). For example, if you're carrying something very heavy with poor form and injure your back, it may be a muscle strain in muscles of your back.
SPRAINS are the overstretching or tearing of ligaments (the bands of tissue that connect bones together in a joint). A common sprain you've probably heard of is an ACL tear or sprain (ligament in the knee joint), or an ankle sprain (most commonly in ankle sprains the anterior talofibular ligament on the outside of the ankle is overstretched when the foot rotates inward).
Both strains and strains can be debilitating depending on the severity of the tear/stretch. Both can lead to swelling, pain, and limited flexibility.
Fracture vs. Break
Fractures and broken bones are the same thing. There are many different types of fractures, but all involve trauma to a bone due to the stress on the bone being greater the the strength of the bone.
This stress on the bone that causes is to "break" (fracture) can be caused by different circumstances:
Tendonitis vs Bursitis
Tendinitis is the inflammation of the tendon (like we talked about earlier, the tendon connects the muscle to bone and is tissue making up a chord-like structure). You've probably heard of rotator cuff tendinitis (inflammation of the tendons that make up the rotator cuff).
Bursitis is inflammation of the bursae, which is a fluid-filled sacs that cushions bones and tendons/muscles to reduce friction.
Bursas and tendons are located near each other, and tendinitis and bursitis share some common symptoms. Often tendinitis and bursitis often occur concurrently at a given joint. These similarities cause the two terms to be assigned incorrectly when there's pain and swelling at a joint.
If you are suffering from a sprain, strain, fracture, or other musculoskeletal injury and live in the Hudsonville, Jenison, Grandville, or West Michigan area and need physical therapy, give us a call! These types of injuries are our specialty and it's our goal to get you better efficiently so you can get back to your favorite activities this Spring!
By: Lisa Pfotenhauer,
Cert. Exercise Physiologist
We have already talked about the difference between physical therapy and occupational therapy (see blog post below, PT vs. OT), so now let's talk about the difference between physical therapy and chiropractic work.
To reiterate, physical therapy is the treatment of disease, injury, or deformity by physical methods such as exercise (strengthening, stretching, neuromuscular training, etc.), hands-on treatment, massage, and other modalities (heat, electrical stimulation), rather than by drugs or surgery.
A chiropractor is a practitioner of the system of integrative medicine based on the diagnosis and manipulative treatment of misalignments of the joints. A chiropractor works to correct subluxations, which is a partial dislocation or a slight misalignment of the vertebrae, regarded in chiropractic theory as the cause of many health problems.
The main difference between a chiropractor and physical therapist is the chiropractor focuses on your body’s alignment, and physical therapy focuses on a person’s posture, proper joint motion, strength, and mobility from an injury, surgery or disease.
By: Rebecca Popma
It’s Spring again! When you look outside, the robins are back, the thermometer is trending upward, and it’s back to the diamond for one our favorite pastimes, baseball. This leads me to the topic of this blog: the overuse of the young baseball players’ arms.
Kids (or their parents) seem to specialize in sports at younger and younger ages. Many give up the variety of sports to specialize in one at a very young age. Travel baseball teams start as early as 9-10 years old. Some of them are even practicing almost year around. Also, there has been a significant increase in elbow and shoulder injuries in MLB and college pitchers. I believe this is in direct correlation with the number of pitches and types of pitches thrown by these players as they are coming up.
The first factor is the sheer number of pitches thrown. If a player starts at an early age and is talented, he will throw a lot of pitches by his senior year in high school. Let’s face it, the good pitchers are going to throw the majority of the innings. Coaches, player, and parents want to win. But, there are rules in place to look out for kids. The Little League limits 7-8 year olds to 50 pitches per day, 11-12 y.o. to 85 pitches per day and 13-16 y.o. to 95 per day. Their guidelines are well minded but vague. Each player has to be looked at separately. There is a huge difference between a 13 and a 16 y.o. Each child is at a different maturity level, body build, and over all conditioning.
Another factor to take into consideration is the season timeline that they are pitching in. Is it the first game of the year or the last? Even the pitchers in the Majors don’t throw over 100 pitches early in the season. They also have 3-4 months of “off season” to not throw and recover. It is crazy that some young athletes have less recovery time!
The second factor is the type of pitches thrown. I am not a fan of throwing curveballs at a young age. I think it’s much more important to work on pitch location and mechanics. Many young pitchers have poor mechanics, and trying to throw a curveball puts extra unwanted stress on the elbow. Dr. James Andrews (renowned orthopedic surgeon) advises not throwing curveballs before the age of 14.
These are just some general guidelines to go by. All kids are different, and each case should be looked at individually. But, the bottom line is, let’s do our best to keep our young athletes injury-free so they can enjoy the great game of baseball.
And if you or your athlete is struggling with an injury, don't hesitate to give us a call. We are passionate about helping athletes from the Jenison, Hudsonville, Grandville, Allendale, and surrounding areas make full recoveries, and we believe in educating them with techniques and exercises to prevent future injuries. 616-662-0990
Brian Colvin, MPT
We all know someone (or maybe experienced yourself) who has had a concussion. Concussions range in severity, and unfortunately are common in sports, particularly contact sports like soccer, football, hockey and wrestling.
What causes concussions?
Trauma to the head, often caused by motor vehicle accident, falls, and sports injuries, causes concussions. Your brain is made of soft tissue, cushioned by spinal fluid and protected by your skull. A blow or bump to the head can jolt your brain, causing it to literally move around in your head. This can cause bruising, blood vessel damage, and nerve injury, which leads to the concussion symptoms we see below.
How do I know if it’s a concussion?
Symptoms of a concussion include headaches (this is the most common), nausea, balance problems, sensitivity to light and/or noise, drowsiness, amnesia, trouble comprehending and concentrating, and feelings of being in a fog. When someone experiences a concussion, they may have just one or many of these symptoms, depending on the severity and how they respond.
What should I do if my child or someone I know appears to have a concussion? When do I call the doctor?
If your child experienced a blow to the head, it may take anywhere from 2 minutes to a few hours for concussion symptoms to appear. If symptoms of a concussion are apparent, you should consider taking your child to the doctor. If they did not lose consciousness during their concussion, they should wait until symptoms subside to return to normal activity (could be minutes, hours, or days depending on their concussion). They should get lots of rest and take precautions to avoid another concussion, and may be advised to avoid strenuous physical or mental tasks, and take time off from from sports, school, or work. Symptoms normally go away within 6-10 days.
If he or she loses consciousness or experiences a neck injury, you should take him or her to the doctor or the emergency room for observation and treatment.
Concussions can be dangerous, especially because once you sustain one, you are at a three to five times greater risk for experiencing another one. To decrease the likelihood of concussions for yourself or you child, always wear seat belts in the car, wear a helmet when biking, riding a motorcycle, skiing, etc. Have handrails on your staircase and safety gates on your stairs if you have young children. If you child does experience a concussion as the result of a contact sport, make sure they rest from that sport for the amount of time their doctor recommends, because repeat concussions (while their brain tissue and nerves are still healing) are much more dangerous to the brain than the first concussion.
Sources: Clevelandclinic.org: Concussions, January 2015; WebMD: Concussion (Traumatic Brain Injury), 2018; Center for Disease Control and Prevention: Traumatic Brain Injury & Concussion, February 2019
By: Lisa Bartz, C-EP
Happy first day of Spring!
The sun is finally out, and the temperatures are (mostly) above freezing! It’s time to start thinking about making the most of the longer daylight and enjoying the sun and warmer weather by exercising outside!
Whether it’s in your neighborhood, at the park, or just in your yard or on your patio, there are lots of exercises you can try outside:
Invite a friend to your outdoor workout, or find a group that does outdoor activities together! This makes it more fun and keeps you accountable to your workouts.
As you begin to exercise outside this spring, don’t forget to warm-up, especially with the temps still being cold. Your warm up can be just a few minutes long, inside or outside, and should focus on getting your heart rate up and should include dynamic stretching. Here are a few warm up exercises/dynamic stretches to try:
1. Leg swings - 10 reps on each side, to stretch the front and back of your hip and leg; hold something for balance if needed
2. Forward march with knee-to-chest stretch - 10 reps on each leg, to stretch your hip and groin
3. Walking quad stretch - 10 reps on each side to stretch the front of your leg and hip
Let us know your favorite outdoor exercise in the comments! As always, if you have a nagging injury keeping you from exercise, call us to set up a physical therapy evaluation: 616-662-0990.
By: Lisa Bartz, C-EP (Cert. Exercise Physiologist)
We get a lot of questions about the difference between physical and occupational therapy, many people think they are the same thing but actually they are very different!
Physical Therapy is the treatment of disease, injury, or deformity by physical methods such as exercise (strengthening, stretching, neuromuscular training, etc), hands-on treatment, massage, and other modalities (heat, electrical stimulation), rather than by drugs or surgery.
Occupational Therapy: a form of therapy for those recuperating from physical or mental illness that encourages rehabilitation through the performance of activities required in daily life.
To put it very simply, physical therapy is getting you back from an injury or surgery, occupational therapy is learning or relearning to perform daily tasks efficiently.
We focus on physical therapy here and have three physical therapists here that have over 20 years of experience each and specialize in many different areas, including back, neck, knee and shoulder injury or post-operative rehab. In January we added an occupational therapist, Laurie, to our team, and we are excited to accept new patients for occupational therapy.
Although PT and OT are very different, they do overlap in many areas:
• Teach people how to prevent and avoid injuries
• Both educate people about the healing process
• Both assist people with improving their ability to perform daily activities through training and education
Call us or your doctor if you have questions regarding which is right for you!
By: Becca Popma
After weeks filled with snow days, cooped up in the house with your kids, it’s time to get moving! Start with our quick warm up, then 3 rounds of 5 exercises, and remember to keep exercises slow and controlled to get the most out of your workout. Then finish with a deep breathing cool down.
Warm-up: Jump rope (with an invisible rope unless you have one!) for 60 seconds. Keep your shoulder back, core tight, and knees over toes.
2-3 Rounds of:
1.) 10 Walking lunges - 5 on each side, make sure your knee stays over or behind your toes. Add weights for a challenge.
2.) 30" to 60” Plank - Start short, increase time as you practice. Press through your shoulders and don't let your hips sag. Keep your elbows straight but not locked/hyper-extended.
3.) 10 Push-ups - Modify by doing them from your knees
4.) 15 Glute bridges - Keep your core tight and squeeze your glutes at the top
5.) 10 Tricep dips - Find a stable couch, bench, or other surface from which to do these. To make them easier, keep your feet closer to the bench, or don't dip down as far. To make them harder, move your feet farther away, and try straightening your legs.
Cool down: 2’ of Deep breathing - Lie on your back, and place one hand over your stomach and the other over your chest. Breathe slowly and deeply, and aim to feel your chest and stomach rise and fall simultaneously.
Vertigo is defined as a sensation of whirling and loss of balance, associated particularly with looking down from a great height, or caused by disease affecting the inner ear or the vestibular nerve; dizziness, loss of balance, loss of equilibrium, or spinning.
There are two types of Vertigo: peripheral vertigo and central vertigo.
Central vertigo is less common and is caused by the central nervous system (primarily the brain).
Peripheral vertigo is by far the most common. There are five types of peripheral vertigo:
1) Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV)
2) Meniere’s Disease
3) Vestibular Neuritis
4) Acoustic Neuroma
Of the five, Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV) is, by far, the most common.
Common symptoms of BPPV are dizziness, loss of balance, spinning and even nausea. The cause of BPPV is the disturbance of the inner ear crystals.
Physical therapy is often used to treat BPPV. Physical therapists screen each patient to see is their vertigo is BPPV, and if it is, there are several maneuvers used by PT’s to realign the crystals of the inner ear. Often the symptoms can be resolved or significantly improved in just 1 – 2 visits.
The first step, if you suffer from vertigo, is to see your medical doctor or physical therapist. If he or she diagnoses you with BPPV, try physical therapy. It might be a safe, quick and drug free approach to feeling better.
Brian Colvin, PT
Do you drive for a living? Have a long commute to work? Or find yourself bussing the kids around all day? These hours in the car really add up throughout the week, and a lot of people who spend hours in the car suffer back pain! Although you might not be able to change the amount of time in the car, you may be able to tweak a few things to keep you back and body happier during and after your travels! The two most common areas we see strained from driving are the low back (sometimes this can even cause symptoms like tingling, pain or numbness down the legs known as sciatica), and the upper back, neck and shoulders (sometimes this pain also radiates down the arms). Here are a few tips for healthy driving:
Neck, upper back or shoulder strain:
Also, take driving breaks as you’re able to. Sometimes taking a 5 minute break during your drive to stretch out and walk around can make a big difference if your comfort level!
Lastly, stretching your hips, back and shoulders regularly, and exercising the muscles around your hips and spine (back and core muscles) will also help you stay healthy and fend off the aches and pains causes by long amounts of time in a car or truck.
If you’re suffering back or other pain that’s aggrevated by driving, call us and we can take a look at it and build a program for you to combat your pain! 616-662-0990
Sources: Posture Direct: Tips to Improve Your Posture; Cleveland Clinic: Back Health & Posture (2015)
By: Lisa Bartz, Certified Exercise Physiologist (C-EP)
Steve Bartz, PT