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)
TIGHT HAMSTRINGS are a common contributor to BACK PAIN!
There are lots of ways to stretch your hamstrings, and here's one:
Find a step or chair to prop one foot up on, and lean forward at the hips, pulling your belly button toward your thigh (not hunching over to bend your back). Lean until you feel a mild to moderate stretch in the back of your thigh, and hold for about 30 seconds on each side.
This may help your low back pain, because your hamstrings affect your pelvis position, and this can put stress on your low back.
Remember, there are LOTS of causes of back pain, so it's always best to get it checked out by a PT or your Dr!).
By: Lisa Bartz, C-EP
Ever been lectured about the importance of stretching before physical activity? I know I have!
But what we may not realize or understand is how important it is not only before strenuous activity but also just making it a daily routine.
Stretching helps with keeping the muscles strong and flexible. We need that flexibility to maintain a range of motion in the joints. Without it, the muscles and become tight and the chance of injury is increased.
Stretching before exercise: Stretching helps prepare your body for the exercise it's about to get so you won’t get injured. Make your pre-exercise stretching DYNAMIC.
Stretching after exercise: Reduces muscle fatigue along with helping your muscles recover faster after a difficult workout.
Benefits of stretching as a morning routine:
• Improve your energy levels
• Reduce soreness and increase blood circulation – Helps your muscles to relax and improves blood flow
• Relieve stress – Improving blood flow like I mentioned above can make you feel more at ease
• Enhance your flexibility - Increasing flexibility helps prevent injuries
• Improve your posture – Stretching your muscles in the lower back, shoulders and chest, can keep your back healthy and improve your posture
It may seem overwhelming to see all of this information and truly understand why stretching is important but if you just get into a routine, it may be hard at first, but it will pay off in the end to not get injured and feel better all around.
By: Rebecca Popma
Unfortunately, knee pain is common. The good news is, many cases of knee pain can be prevented, treated, and reduced or eliminated with proper treatment and exercise!
Here are a few tips for dealing with you knee pain. Remember, knee pain has many causes, and if you’re dealing with acute pain, severe pain, or knee pain from trauma, you should see your doctor or physical therapist to find the cause of your knee pain.
Air squats Backward lunges
Glute bridges Single leg balance
Calf raises Donkey kicks
Calf stretch 1 Calf stretch 2
Quad stretch Hamstring stretch
When should you see a doctor? If your pain is new, very painful, or persistent, it is a good idea to see a doctor or physical therapist right away and get advice on what treatment you may require or what your next steps should be.
By: Lisa Bartz, Certified Exercise Physiologist (C-EP)
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
When elbow pain strikes, what do you do? First, let’s take a look at what causes elbow pain. There are many different types of injuries related to the elbow. Today, I want to touch on two of the most common. They are easy to diagnose, easy to treat but can be difficult to totally get rid of the pain.
The two most common diagnoses are “Tennis elbow” and “Golfer’s elbow”. Tennis elbow’s clinical name is Lateral Epicondylitis. It is the inflammation of the common extensor tendon of the forearm and is located on the outside of the elbow.
Golfer’s elbow’s clinical name is Medial Epicondylitis. It is inflammation of the common flexor tendon of the forearm and is located on the inside of the elbow.
For the non athlete, there are many things that can cause or bring on these conditions. The two most common are 1) A strenuous or aggressive activity, like swinging a heavy hammer or lifting something very heavy, or 2) A repetitive or overuse activity, such as factory line work or keyboarding.
The good news is they are easy to treat!
1. REST. Avoid any activity that causes pain.
2. ICE. I feel that an ice massage for 5 minutes is most effective.
3. STRETCH the affected area. This is done by putting arm straight out in front. Pull wrist up to stretch the flexors for Golfer’s elbow or wrist down for Tennis elbow. Hold stretches for 10 sec for about 5 reps.
4. Lastly, you can purchase a STRAP to wear around your forearm about an inch below your elbow to give you some relief.
Now, as I mentioned earlier, although these conditions are easy to treat they can be hard to totally get rid of. Give it a month or so, and if it does not improve with these 4 tips, let your local Physical Therapist give you a hand. One last thing to remember: don’t let this condition go, the longer you wait the tougher these conditions are to treat.
By: Brian Colvin, PT
Often people will attend physical therapy with their own ideas of what they need to do in order to improve. I once had a 15 y/o female with complaints of neck pain and stiffness.
She had been attending sessions for chiropractic manipulation for the last several years prior to trying physical therapy. Her main complaint during our initial conversation was that her neck was stiff; that she always felt the need to “crack it” to loosen it up. Therefore I expected her to have a very stiff neck with limited mobility.
However, when I checked her range of motion, she had the most motion of any patient that I had ever evaluated! She could sit in a chair and turn her head so far that she could almost look behind her! The result of excessive manipulation was excessive mobility, but without stability. Her problem was not that her neck was stiff, but that it was excessively mobile and needed muscular support.
Conversely, I have had patients who were extremely strong and had excellent muscle tone, but were unbelievably stiff, lacking mobility in order to move normally.
Our goal in physical therapy is to develop an optimal balance of strength and stability. People need to have good range of motion in their joints, flexibility in their muscles, and strength in their muscles in order to have the body function at peak performance. A good physical therapist is able to evaluate these areas and prescribe the necessary corrective measures to achieve this optimal balance of mobility and stability.
By: Mason Riegel, PT
What do you do when you get a "Charlie Horse" in your leg? How can you prevent them?
Typically, Charlie Horses are muscle spasms of either the hamstring or calf muscles. They occur when the muscle is suddenly contracted after being in a shortened state (like waking up in bed with a sharp cramp) or when over-exerting the muscle such as when sprinting.
To prevent these it is important to gently stretch the muscle regularly to train it to handle the stretch without going into a spasm. Calf and hamstring stretching can help with this. Long slow repetitive stretches can reduce the chances of the spams, especially before bed. Good diet and hydration may help also.
So what do you do in the middle of a Charlie Horse to try to get relief? A very effective but tricky way to reduce a spasm in your calf while in bed would be to immediately role over onto your stomach and let the bed hold your foot in a position that points your toes down (away from you). It is important you do not actively try to point your toes down while getting into this position. By taking the stretch off the muscle, it can relax quicker.
The same is true for the hamstring. Try to pull your knee into a more flexed position using your hand and NOT flex your knee with your leg muscles. Relax and wait for the muscle to relax.
Most people to quickly LENGTHEN the muscle, but this can put the muscle into a sharper spasm. Here, we are trying to shorten the muscle further without contracting it.
By: Steve Bartz, PT
Sitting is the new smoking.
Have you heard this claim before?
The body loves movement, and static positions can take a toll on the health of the joints and muscles. However, we now live in a society where we find ourselves sitting several hours a day. Whether you are working, relaxing, reading, or surfing the web on your phone or laptop, we maintain a typical posture that places our neck and shoulders at a risk for injury.
I’m sure as you are reading this, 90% of you are somewhat slumped over, with your head forward and shoulders rounded. This position exponentially increases the relative weight of the head and places much more stress on the neck joints and muscles. You may feel your muscles tighten up and your joints stiffen with an extended stay in this position. The problem is, most people are unaware of their posture at work or at home until it’s too late.
So how do you avoid this position or recover from years of stress on your neck?
Here are some ideas!
Stretch the pectoral muscles: As you sit with this rounded shoulder posture, it places your chest muscles in a shortened position and they tighten up. Over time, they maintain this shortened position and pull the shoulders forward even more, making it difficult to straighten up and raise your arms overhead. One easy way to stretch these muscles is to stand in a doorway, place your hands on each side of the frame, and lean forward until a gentle stretch is felt in your chest muscles. Be careful this does not cause pain in your shoulders!
Strengthen scapula muscles: The main muscles that help you correct posture are localized around your shoulder blade. Muscles called the rhomboids help pinch your scapulas together, pull your shoulders back and help with a strong erect posture. If you have an old elastic band lying around or access to a gym, rows are one of the best exercises you can do to strengthen these muscles! If these are not accessible, you can sit on the edge of a chair and squeeze your shoulder blades together like you are trying to pinch a ball in the middle of your back. Hold the pinch for 5 seconds, relax, and repeat 20 times!
Become aware of posture: People who work at a desk or on a computer all day often get engrossed in their work and forget how they are positioned. Try setting a timer for every hour. When it goes off, assess your posture. If you find yourself hunched over, stand up, stretch, do some shoulder blade pinches and reset yourself before continuing work. This can be a very effective way to realign your neck and shoulders and avoid the pain!
By: Andrew Bult, SPT
Hypermobility is a condition characterized by excessive mobility of the joints. It can be a single joint, but is frequently found in multiple joints. Often people will describe hypermobility as being “double jointed”. People with this condition basically have joints that are excessively “loose”, due to having more elasticity in their ligaments. This is not necessarily a problem if the person has very strong muscles to support the joints, but often these people do not.
When a patient with hypermobile joints comes to see us in PT, they frequently complain of pain in the joints, and sometimes will complain of the joint feeling as though it is slipping out of place. Typically these patients will have excessive range of motion in their joints; more than what we normally would see. Also, they often complain of their joints “cracking” or “snapping” all of the time.
The best remedy for hypermobility is strength! People with hypermobility do not need to stretch more, but rather strengthen more! They need stability, not flexibility. A good strengthening/stabilization program can help provide stability to the hypermobile joints, which can reduce symptoms and improve performance.
Mason Riegel, PT
Steve Bartz, PT