Your Health Journey

As we start with 2018, it seems like the general consensus is that it HAS to be better than 2017!  We had some major events hit us hard, which derailed most of us, with any type of wellness/fitness goals.  Comfort food was in – the quicker the better, sleeping was difficult – different beds, exercise for stress management was put on the back burner – where exercise due to necessity (tearing down and rebuilding) was often mandatory.  When those types of things happen, bad habits start surfacing.  (or resurfacing).  It is frustrating, and we feel bad on many levels.  I am here to tell you however, that you can start today making small choices, daily, and over time you will see a big difference.  This isn’t anything you all don’t know.  This is the same, if we are talking about losing weight, getting in shape, or just overall feeling better.  If you have pain, you will feel better if you concentrate on eating right, and moving.  Start with some gentle walking – tell yourself 5 min a day.  If you do more?  Great!  If you just do 5 min?  Great!  You have met your goal!  Gradually add in more.  It is easier to add in something, then to take something away.  Think about it – if you say “I am giving up sweets, white bread, ice cream, etc” that is all you can think about.  However, if you switch it and say “ I am going to make sure that I eat 3-5 servings of veggies a day” – you start thinking about vegetables, and thinking of ways to get them into your diet.  And, when you feel full, and satisfied, you don’t have room, or as much of a desire for the not so nutritious foods.  If you are completely overwhelmed  with starting an exercise program, do some gentle weight training.  Weight training will help you get stronger, and burns calories.  You can gain cardiovascular fitness with weight training, but you don’t gain much muscle with cardio training.  Find a buddy, or accountability partner.  One that uplifts you!  (We all have those who help us procrastinate – find one that keeps us on task!)  With social media, this can be someone close by, or even out of state.  If you have pain – does the movement make it worse?  If so, get yourself checked out.  If not – gently move, and gradually you will be able to do more, with less pain.  If you have pain in your joints, or pain directly after your program, reevaluate the program, something is not right for you right now. You may need to have the program checked out by a professional, or may just need to do something different right now. If you have muscle burning, or pain a day or so later, that just means that you pushed yourself to your limit (maybe a bit beyond, depending on how sore!), and that is normal.  If you are concerned about hurting yourself, or start with some pain, get yourself checked out sooner rather then later. It is much easier to correct something that has only been going on for a few days or a week, then it is something that has been going on for months.  Also – the sooner you get yourself fixed, the sooner you can return to your new healthier lifestyle choices – and the more engrained those habits are, the harder they are to break.  Here is to a Healthy 2018!  (For recipes search #wildlyhealthy2018 if you are interested.  – if this is ok Helen, use it, if not – don’t! ☺)

Stress causes havoc on the body!

Just in case you all were not aware, stress causes multiple physical challenges to the body.  They can include pain, (headaches, back, hip, chest and jaw are common areas), acne, upset stomach (including diarrhea, constipation and nausea), lingering sickness, and heart problems.  Since the flood, I have seen a lot of all of the above.  One thing that you can do to help with stress is to  improve your time management, which includes having enough time for rest.  Many of us are adding rebuilding homes, and/or businesses into our already busy schedule;  however,  it is very important for us to get our rest, as well as schedule in some time for fun (especially laughter) – get a funny movie, book, watch comedy on you-tube.  Look up! (did you know that you physically cannot frown if you are looking up?)  Exercise:  Just get moving – it can be a formal class, a walk around the park or a bike ride.  Just make sure that the area is a positive area.  Walking around piles of debris doesn’t help your stress levels.  Do stretching – yoga, or just general gentle stretches.  Eat healthy.  (If you feed your body crap, you will feel like crap.)  Do deep breathing exercises.  One of my favorites is to breathe in for a count, hold your breath for that same count, then count out twice that as you breathe out.  Add a count to each, if you can each breath in.  Another technique is to start a journal of gratitude.  Writing, or thinking of all the things you have to be thankful for, helps put life into perspective, rather than dwelling on the things that are frustrating you at this time.  If these things don’t work, you might want to contact your physical therapist, as they have multiple techniques that can help with the tightness in your muscles and the pain.

 

Simple modifications to prevent pain

Many individuals in today’s society are taking pain pills and are seen by PTs and MDs for muscle and joint pain. Often the pain is due to a position or activity that is repetitively being done. Be aware of positions you are in for long periods of time, and move yourself out of them.  There may be some easy adjustments in daily life which can help decrease the discomfort and pain.  The use of pain pills has caused many other problems for the individuals and society. Preventing the pain, or reducing it is the ideal solution.  Here are 3 simple changes that can be made which can help prevent pain.

Often men have a wallet which is kept in one back pocket of their jeans on pants. Sitting for extended periods of times either while driving, or at a desk, can place the hip and pelvis in poor alignment. This is even worse if the wallet is thick such as ½-inch. Back, hips, and leg pain will not resolve If a person sits day after day on a wallet located in one position. By adjusting the size and the location of the wallet at least some of the muscle pain can be reduced. It is worth it to try a different size wallet, or removing it from the pocket while sitting.  Using a money clip is another option also.

Speaking of wallets, we come to purses. Of course a purse usually holds much more than a wallet. This can cause the weight of a purse to greatly increase. Holding a heavy purse by one hand on one shoulder will keep the body out of alignment also. The best response is a lighter purse or maybe a cross over purse, or a back pack type purse which takes the weight of the purse across the body.   

Besides needing to adjust the weight or size of a purse, some women also need to purchase a good bra. Women who sit at a computer or do a lot of driving will have difficulty if their bra does not support them. A good bra will have a wider strap for the shoulder, or crisscross in the back. A flimsy bra can soon cause neck, shoulder, and or upper back pain.  In current society, we all are in the position with our arms in front of us for long periods of time, almost everything we do is in that position.  Add that to an unsupportive bra, and it really pulls on your upper back and shoulders, bringing the shoulders forward, causing pain.

Watching your posture, and modifying activities that you do repetitively that bring you out of good posture, is a good start in helping to decrease your pain.  Sometimes your muscles have become used to those positions, and are weak and tight, and may have to be addressed with manual therapy.  But try changing your posture first!

Out Patient Therapy vs Home Health?

When do you choose outpatient vs home health?  For starters, to receive home health services you have to be homebound.  That means that it is difficult or impossible to get out to another facility.  Home health provides nursing, physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, and possibly social services and aide care (depending on your insurance).  The therapy provided is always one on one.  It is structured to help you to be safe and independent in your home, such as helping you safely cook, navigate in your home without falling, get in and out of bed safely, dress and bathe safely and independently, etc.  Outpatient services are, of course, at another facility.  Outpatient clinics, provide  physical, occupational and speech therapy, but nursing/physician services will have to be at their clinic – as well as any other social services you may need.  Therapy design is different also.  In an outpatient setting, the therapy programs are planned to specifically help you, the patient, move better, communicate better, interact better both at home and in the community.  It is designed to help you decrease your pain and increase your function so that you can be more active at work and play.  For both, how much and how well you progress depends on how much and how well you do the “homework” provided by your therapist.  In an outpatient setting, you get more motivation from interacting with the other clients.  Because of the setting – equipment is available to help you to progress more with exercise and also is more conducive to be able to perform hands on services, such as massage, myofascial release, etc.  Both home health and outpatient services have their benefits; it just depends on where you are in your personal health.

Flexibility to your health

Flexibility is one of the biggest components of being well that is very much overlooked.  If you don’t have the mobility in your joints, your mind will have your body do whatever you ask it to, but there will be breakdown somewhere – and probably not where you are tight.  Think about a car for example – if one wheel had something tight, causing it to be out of alignment – the car would still go down the road but things would start shaking, and you would see where you want to go – and correct it with the steering wheel (just like your eyes see where your body wants to go, and you still go straight) but after time things can rattle off, or break down, much like your body – knees start hurting, arthritis sets in, discs get blown.   Everybody is different in how and where it is tight, but here are the 5 most common stretches I give as a physical therapist.

  1. Gastroc/soleus stretch.  Stand with your toes up against the wall, (one foot at a time), and bring your hips towards the wall.  You should feel it in your calf.
  2. Hamstring stretch.  Sit with one leg propped up and lift your chest, leaning forward from your hips, stretching the back of your leg.
  3. Hip flexor stretch.   Get on the floor on one knee with the other knee up.  Make sure there is plenty of room between your knee and the heel in the front.  Tuck your buttocks, and lean forward (don’t arch your back – just stand up straight) If you don’t feel it, bring your front foot farther forward.
  4. Pectoral stretch.  Stand with your forearm supported in a doorframe, gently turn your body (keep your shoulder back and down) till you feel the stretch across the front of your chest.
  5. Upper trap stretch.  Sit up straight and tall, gently sit on one hand, tilt your head in the opposite direction and gently stretch it down with your opposite arm.

I generally say hold each stretch for 30 seconds, and do each 3 times.  (depending on how tight and how sore you are).  Never do the stretch to pain – if you have stretching discomfort, that is what you are looking for, but if there is pain, back off, and/or have someone check you out.  Keeping your self flexible allows for motion in your joints, so when you ask them to move, you can move painfree.  In general movement it isn’t as noticeable, but if you are a weekend warrior, or decide to go out and play with kids/grandkids, you typically have to move more, and if you don’t have the flexibility, it can cause pain/problems in joints, or pulled muscle.

Cupping?  What is THAT?

Did you watch the Olympics?  See those circles on Michael Phelps shoulders?  That was from cupping.  Cupping has been around for thousands of years, coming from the Asian community.  It has been here in America for years, some physical therapists and massage therapist use them.  The typical cups used here in the US are plastic, and the suction is created with a pump.  There are also silicone ones as well as glass (which the suction is created with heat, not typically done by physical therapists).  Sometimes a painless bruise happens at the area, which is actually breaking down the weak capillaries.  New ones are formed, increasing the blood supply, thus bringing nutrition and healing to the area.  Sometimes the cups can be used statically (staying in the same place), sometimes manipulated (moving the cup on the body).  Sometimes one cup is used, sometimes multiple, depending on what and where the issue is.  

For years, I have personally used a small version of cups (think snake bite kit) for scars, especially from surgery.  In the past few years, I have started using larger sized cups, allowing treatment in a bigger area.  The majority of the modalities typically done to the body, is a push in (manually push in with hands, pushing sound waves in with ultrasound, electricity with TENS units, light with laser, etc) with suction (or cupping) it is a pull out.  This helps to pull the soft tissue, specifically fascia (the opaque tissue around all of the muscles and organs), and helps it to become unstuck. Therefore, allowing for movement between the skin and the surrounding tissue.  Often there is pain and limitations due to areas of the body being stuck down.  Abdominal scars can contribute to back pain for example.  And I have seen scaring in the chest from breast cancer surgery limit the range of motion in the wrist. Another common area is binding down, or tightness in the soft tissue in the calves contributing to back and even neck pain.  Using the cupping, releasing the tissue (along with stretching, and other manual treatment) I have had great result with shin splints and plantarfacitis.   Sometimes scar tissue can form from accidents, falls, being hit by something, forming a deep bruise that may not even show up.  There are times that the pain shows up as pain in other parts of the body that were not obviously injured.  Our bodies are truly amazing, and “well connected”.  ☺   When we ask our body to do something (like get up from a chair)  and your  the typical motion isn’t available due to scarring, or other issues, the body will use something else to get the job done.  For example, a golfer who didn’t have enough rotation in the hip, kept getting heel pain, because the rotation came from the heel, as it couldn’t come from the hip.  This causes pain, and limits your ability to work and play!  So, if you are offered cupping as a tool to help with your pain/mobility issue, it may look like it hurts, because of the bruise that may occur, but typically it does not, so go for it!