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“Do This Not That” to avoid Back Strain, Pain and possible Injury

There is a popular book on the market right now entitled Eat This Not That which helps persons make better nutritional choices for their health and well being by comparing various food choices side by side with photos. It makes a compelling case for empowering a person’s knowledge on what are the most healthy food choices. This article would like to borrow that concept and apply it to teaching you a similar thought process to help you be empowered to know how to do some everyday tasks while avoiding dangerous back positions or movements that can contribute to back problems and pain. Your spine is a complex beautifully constructed structure composed of 24 bones/vertebrae which are separated by flexible and cushy discs, layers of muscles and ligaments and dozens of joint surfaces. The spine protects your spinal cord and nerves that travel out of the spinal cord through joint surfaces between the vertebrae in order to carry signals from the brain to the rest of the body. These nerves enable you to generate movement and feel sensation. Injury can occur at any of these component parts of this structure. Extreme trauma can cause devastating injuries. Microtrauma (small amounts of injury which can accumulate over time) can also wear and tear at the component parts of the spine leading to such things as: herniated discs which press on nerves and lead to weakness, pain and altered sensation, spinal arthritic changes in the joint surfaces which create narrowing of nerve passageways, pain and nerve compression, and muscular strain or changes in muscular integrity to support the spine (certain muscles become over...

Important Information for Concussion Recovery

Important Information for Concussion Recovery Concussions have become a very common event in sports participation and have been frequently reported in the news media over the past couple of years. This increase in press makes it sound like a relatively new “buzz” in medicine. Unfortunately, concussions have occurred for many years prior to this new focus on them. This is an area of medicine that has made great strides over the past 10 years focusing on the proper recognition, realization on the level of severity and potential future effects and the best treatment options. Physicians, physical therapists, athletic trainers and coaches now receive better education in the recognition and treatment of concussions. It is important that people utilize medical professionals in handling concussions and listen to their advice. We see a number of youth, adolescent and adult recreational and competitive athletes as well as non-athletes in our clinic that unfortunately have sustained a concussion. The goal of this blog is to educate you as the concussion recipient or as a care giver of someone who has sustained a concussion with some information that may lessen the symptoms of a concussion and expedite the brain’s healing process. Many of the grade school through high school students that we treat after a concussion have had to modify their school attendance and receive homework and / or tutoring at home because the hypersensitivity to light and noise and intolerance of sustained activities that require concentration. These patients must try to minimize excessive stimulation of the brain to allow it to heal. Activities such as watching television and playing video games are not...

“Handy Advice” for Preventing Hand Injuries

Our hands are a remarkable part of our human body.  They permit us to do so many things.  Just think how nice it is to hold hands with someone you love or to touch the face of  your child.  Your hands allow you to work both inside and outside the home.  If you are like most people, you may just take your hands for granted.  At Optimal Physical Therapy and Sports Performance, we often help persons who have experienced hand injury.  It is the hope of this blog to give you some prevention/protection tips to guard those precious possessions.  Here are some tips to avoid the most common causes of hand injuries: 1.  Proper form for carrying groceries  Trying to carry multiple plastic bags at once creates a challenge for fingers, wrists and elbows.  When you do this, you are putting strain on many delicate finger joints by lifting too much weight in an awkward manner.  It is better to carry from the bottom of the bag or opt for paper so that the larger muscles of your arms can assist with the carry.  Remember to balance the loads between both arms to prevent back injury as well.  It is always a better option to choose a cart over a basket at the market even if you are just running in for a few items.  A basket can easily become very difficult to grasp as the weight of its contents increase.  Also keep in mind that when you go to lift heavy gallon jugs or bottles, you should try to use both hands rather than finger grasping the handle.  This avoids significant...

Winter Wisdom for fall prevention

WINTER WISDOM Snow and ice are a reality for all who live in Western Pennsylvania.  For those who have osteoporosis, limited mobility due to age, arthritis or injury, the winter conditions can prove dangerous for falls.  Here are a few simple hints to help you stay safe and healthy through the winter months: Walk this Way:  Wear appropriate footwear.  Use boots or shoes with sturdy winter treads.  Use road salt, sand or kitty litter on sidewalks and driveways. Carry a small bag of this in a coat pocket or keep some in your car so that you can have access to it if needed. For example, you come out of a restaurant and it has become icy.  Ask for help with errands or shopping if it is too slippery for you to think of going outside. Stay Connected:  For many, depression is common in the cold, cloudy months of winter.  Bad weather can mean social isolation to many older people.  Make an effort to get together with friends, family and neighbors.  Invite someone over for tea or coffee, take someone you know who does not get out much to a trip to the store or restaurant.  Give someone a call and connect on the phone.  A little conversation can go a long way.  If approved by your physician, think about adding a vitamin D supplement to your diet to offset the limited sunlight for the winter months.  Vitamin D is vital for many body functions and without direct sun light, it is difficult for the body to make it on its own. Keep your heat on:  Many persons but particularly the...

Snow Shoveling Safety Tips

  SNOW SHOVELING SAFETY TIPS With the first major snow fall of the season, we have already had our first patient who injured their back while shoveling snow.  Here are some helpful hints that physical therapists wish more people understood before they try to clear the driveway, and walkways around their home: Snow shoveling is considered moderate physical activity.  It is aerobic in nature placing a strain on the cardiovascular system.  It is also weight lifting in nature particularly depending on the type of snow, how deep the snow is laid down before beginning and if there is ice on top or under the snow.  Snow shoveling is also repetitive in movement.  Not using proper body mechanics while completing this activity can lead to muscle strain and injury.  The good news is that snow shoveling can be very good exercise if completed properly.  The bad news is that snow shoveling should not be completed by certain persons as it places them at risk for fatal heart attacks.  Who should never attempt to shovel snow?  Anyone with a history of heart attack, heart disease, high blood pressure or high cholesterol should consider hiring someone to shovel for them.  Also smokers and persons who lead a sedentary lifestyle can be at risk.  If you question if you should attempt to shovel, you need to talk with your physician to get medical approval. If you are in good health, there are several things you can do to complete this task safely:  Prior to going outside, do a warm up activity in the house just as you would if you were working out...

Bone Health Across the Age Spectrum: What You Should Know

Bones serve our bodies in two ways: Bone serves a structural function in giving us a mobile skeleton which enables us to move and also protects and supports vital parts of our body. Bones also act as a reservoir by acting as a storehouse for essential minerals that our bodies need. Your bone is constantly changing, remodeling itself. It is a very dynamic and important tissue. Bone is always in a combination of 2 competing processes: forming new bone (bone formation) and breaking down bone (bone resorption). At different times in our lifespan, formation will dominate the process but at a certain point, resorption will outpace the formation processes and our bone density will reduce. How well we take care of our bodies during those strong formation years will impact us later when resorption will dominate. There are several things that can be done to help our bones lay down the strongest foundation possible but we have to grab the main window of opportunity for this biological timetable which is the first three decades of life with a strong focus on the adolescent years. By the time we reach 30 years of age, the resorption processes begin to have the upper hand. There is growing concern over the health of bone in American culture. Most people have heard of osteoporosis and the impact this has on primarily older persons. Osteoporosis shows itself later in life but its start actually lies in young adulthood. The more bone mass that we possess as a young adult provides us a safety net for higher bone mass to be sustained later in life...