How Stress Leads to Back Pain

There is a lot going on in the world right now. And it’s impacting people in different ways. Many folks I speak with have been experiencing a rollercoaster of emotions — and their bodies are reflecting that. It’s resulting in symptoms such as more headaches, tension in their jaw, neck pain, and more back pain. Holding stress in your body is an interesting phenomenon, and there is still a lot of research to be done as to why exactly this happens.

Here are some of the top theories and reasons why stress can increase back pain.

Social conditioning:

Many of us are taught from a young age that expressing emotions, particularly negative emotions, is “bad” or “unacceptable.” The result is that you may have learned to hold stress inside your body when faced with a stressful situation. Researchers who study this believe that the muscle tension we develop is the result of “unspoken social beliefs” that we adopted as children in order to feel accepted or liked. This pattern carries into adulthood and becomes embedded into our subconscious systems, i.e. our nervous system. Later on, when faced with certain types of stress, our muscles react based on how we’ve taught our nervous system to repress (versus express) and immediately tense up. If you grew up learning to bury emotions and tension in your back, you’ll still feel more back pain as an adult whenever you’re stressed.

Trauma:

Trauma is often thought of as one, big physical event that is typically violent. But you can experience less obvious emotional or “micro-traumas” over the years that go unrealized over the course of your life. Then there is accidental trauma, such as a car accident or terrible fall, that was not deliberately afflicted on you. Regardless of the type of trauma or its perceived severity, the point here is that your body reacted in a certain way when you experienced it, and it “remembers.” Sometimes not right away, and sometimes not until years later, but stressful, emotional events such as what is going on in the world right now can trigger your body to react to trauma all over again. This could result in back pain if that is where your body held or experienced the stress at the time of the trauma.

Environmental Stressors and Habits:

This is something we help people with all the time in our office. Your daily physical and postural habits have a huge impact not only in how your body feels from day to day, but in how well it recovers from pain or injury. If you’ve been following us for a while, you know that sitting too much is one of the number one causes of persistent and chronic back pain. And stress plays a role in this. When you’re stressed, you tend to be less motivated and you may opt for unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as more TV and more couch time. You stay home instead of heading out for a walk or to exercise. This type of behavior, often influenced by stress, can exacerbate and even cause back pain.

Regardless of how or why stress impacts your body or your back pain, there is one thing I know for sure: MOVEMENT HELPS.

But what if your back pain has gotten so bad that now you can’t move, even if you want to? Or just the idea of moving and exercising has you fearful that you could worsen your back pain?

The first step is awareness. Is stress truly the main source of your back pain, is it something else, or is it a combination of the two? Knowing why your back actually hurts in the first place is essential for determining the correct intervention. If your back pain is primarily due to stress, and you’re about to undergo back surgery, that surgery won’t help you. Your back pain will just come back the next time you are stressed.

If you’re looking for help with back pain and are wondering whether or not stress could be the reason you’re feeling more of it right now, sign up for a FREE 30 minute Discovery Session with one of our specialists. Many of our clients, after meeting with us for the first time, tell us how relieved they are to find out there is hope for getting rid of their back pain, even if they’ve suffered for years.

Pilates Class at CJPT & Pilates

When Gyms Reopen — Will Your Body be Ready?

The state of New Hampshire is slowly reopening, and we are so excited that small-group fitness classes can return to gyms and studios on June 1st! While many businesses, including ours, have adapted by offering online services — most clients we speak with can’t wait to get back in the studio again. 

The big question is — will your body be ready?

If you’ve stuck with your strength and mobility routine and have been working out regularly from home, then you have a better chance than most to bounce right back.

But not everyone has taken advantage of online virtual exercise services, and many I speak with have opted to do nothing and just wait. Many have resorted to more frequent walking, running, or biking as a substitute for their usual exercise routines.

Any physical activity is better than no physical activity, but daily cardio is not the same as strength training. It’s just not going to be enough to get you by if your plan is to jump right back into the same pre-Covid workout routine that you left behind.

It takes months to gain appreciable muscle strength and improve mobility… but it only takes two to three weeks to lose it all.

The biggest mistake that I expect to see once gyms and even our own Pilates studio reopens is that people will assume their body is ready to pick back up exactly where it left off. And within about two to three weeks of that, injuries WILL start to happen.

What can you do?

If you’re not in any pain, but all you’ve been doing is cardio, then it’s a good idea to start incorporating strength and mobility back into your routine now. Your body will be much happier when it gets back into the gym or studio, and you’ll be less likely to experience some kind of injury. My best recommendation is to utilize the online services that your favorite gym or studio already offers — or find a facility that is offering them. In our studio, for example, we have online virtual Pilates classes daily. We guide you through the movements using precise cueing, and watch you while you’re moving. This allows us to give you in the moment corrections and make sure that you’re getting the most out of your workout. While it’s not exactly the same as your instructor being right there next to you, it’s the next best thing.

If you’re already experiencing pain or stiffness, perhaps because you’ve been walking or running more than you’re used to, you’ll want to talk to a movement specialist like us before you jump back into your previous exercise routine.

We know how to screen your muscles and joints properly, and can guide you toward not only getting rid of your pain, but we will also ensure that you’re set up to thrive in your workouts once we’re allowed to reopen again. Another big misconception I see is that people assume their pain will just go away once they start exercising again. While that may be true for some, most of the time it goes the other way, and your pain either gets worse or manifests itself somewhere else because your body starts to compensate for the problem.

I spoke with a gentleman earlier this week who was suffering from knee pain and stiffness because he went from walking 2-3 miles per week to walking 2-3 miles per DAY with his wife. He wants to get back on the golf course, and due to the restrictions on using golf carts, more walking is going to be necessary. His knee won’t be able to handle that in its current state, plus it will get worse if he pushes it. So I’m excited that he took us up on our offer to talk for free about what was going on with his knee. Now we’re going to get him the help he needs!

If you have any questions about pain that you might be experiencing, or want to ask about getting into a Pilates class this June, give us a call!

We are still offering FREE Zoom or in-person consultations to help people figure out what to do about their pain while they are stuck at home or slowly re-entering the world.

people walking with face masks

Beyond the Mask: Five Ways to Build Immunity and Stay Healthy

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed so much of how we live, work, communicate, and think about our health. While precautions like face masks can be helpful, the best way to avoid getting seriously ill is to have a strong, healthy immune system. In our office, we’re helping people’s immune systems by making sure they stay active, healthy, and mobile. We’ve been helping people with back and knee pain recover quickly and manage their conditions from home, so they can get back outside and keep moving and exercising.

Exercising regularly is just one way to keep your immune system strong. Here are five more ways to make sure you’re building immunity during  these strange times!

 

1. Hydrate

 

Staying hydrated is one of the best things you can do for your health in general, but it’s especially important when you’re trying to fight disease. Each individual cell in your body that works for your immune system needs to be fully hydrated to perform its job optimally — and that all depends on how much water you drink!

 

2. Stay Moving

 

In the era of working from home and passing time with friends or family on Zoom, it can be hard to get up from your computer and make sure you’re staying active. But it is so important that we interrupt our sitting and make time to exercise! Keeping your blood flowing allows pathogens to be filtered out more efficiently — plus, sweat can even kill pathogens on the surface of your skin. 

 

3. Get Good Sleep

 

Sleep deprivation has been proven to increase the risk of illness, as well as increasing the risk of more serious long term effects. Sleep is when your body’s cells get to repair themselves — including those immune cells! Plus, getting enough sleep at night can help lower your overall stress. 

 

4. Eat Well

 

Nutrition is key for building and maintaining immunity. You should try to avoid processed foods and integrate more clean alternatives like nuts, berries, eggs, and fish. 

 

5. Get Outside 

 

Scientists are telling us that the novel coronavirus thrives best indoors, and out of UV light. All the more reason to get outside! Soaking up that Vitamin D will boost your immune system and just make you feel better in general. Not to mention that going outside is the one of the best ways to get exercise right now with gyms being closed! 

If you’re currently suffering from back, knee, or any other kind of pain that is preventing you from moving and exercising, give us a call.

We’re currently offering free consultations, both in-person and virtually, to help you figure out what’s going on and give you all the information you need to make the best decision about what to do next.

 

5 Ways to Save your Back While Stuck at Home

Staying at home during the coronavirus pandemic doesn’t have to mean staying stationary. If you already have occasional or chronic back pain, it’s so important to take extra care of your spine during this time! Even people who rarely experience back pain may see new flare-ups due to increased time spent sitting at home.

For many, work stations at home are not ergonomically ideal or perhaps even nonexistent. On top of that, social-distancing and closed fitness facilities are likely to reduce our overall level of activity and mobility throughout the day. Combined, prolonged, poor posture and reduced mobility are the main ingredients for increasing back and neck pain. But have no fear! There are still many ways to prevent your back pain from kicking up, even while stuck at home!

1. Stand Up & Take a Load Off

When we sit for too long, the burden of our weight is placed abnormally on our spine and can cause damage over time. Before long, those small loads add up to real pain. It makes sense when you consider that our bodies were designed to stand, sit, crawl, run, kneel, bend and move through the world in many different ways. It was never designed to sit in one position for prolonged periods, day after day. Sit too long, too often, and it can lead to bulging discs and weak, brittle muscles that are prone to tearing and other damage.

The solution? Limit your sitting to half-hour periods with a few minutes of standing in between, and you’ll reduce the uni-directional forces on your spine. In other words, if you sit for a long time at work or at home, stand up and walk around a little bit every thirty minutes. Aside from participating in regular strengthening exercise, like Pilates, this is the easiest way for the average person to prevent back injury (and heal your back faster if you already have an injury).

2. Watch for Curves

We have natural curves in our spine that help us handle stress and loads.  Whether sitting or standing, it’s important to maintain these curves.  When standing, our spinal curves occur more naturally and are usually easier to maintain.  When we sit, the protective curves in our spine are harder to maintain and often disappear.  And while a healthy core and strong back muscles are important to back health, they won’t protect your back if you sit for long periods, or when the curve in your lumbar area disappears while you’re sitting.

Fortunately, the solution is as simple as rolling up a towel and placing it between your chair or car seat and the small of your back (just above the belt line). Using a purpose-designed lumbar roll is my favorite choice, and what I use for low-back support. You can use a lumbar roll in your office chair, car, and on the plane if you’re flying! If you want to learn where you can get on of your own contact us about them here. Or see in more detail how to use them in our free e-book!

3. Extend instead of Bend

The human spine (and entire body) craves balance, which means both extension and flexion.  But we spend the majority of our time in flexion, bending over to put shoes and socks on, brushing our teeth, driving, sitting at work and then driving home. At home we bend forward to cook, sit some more as we eat and then curl up on our couch or an easy chair. As long as we’re not gymnasts or circus performers, it’s safe to say we could all use a little more extension in our day.  A really good exercise is to stand and place your hands on your lower back for support and then arch back as far as you can go.  Repeat this 10 times, at least once per day.  This is also a great activity to do when you are interrupting your sitting during the day.  If you’ve never arched you back like this before, it may feel stiff or even hurt a little at first. But, with a gradual increase in frequency, it will feel less stiff and more natural over the course of a few days.  If it doesn’t, or becomes troublesome for you, stop and consult with a qualified physical therapist who specializes in back pain.

4. Stay Hydrated

We all know that drinking water is important, but don’t forget WHY! Water lubricates the joints, keeps the body’s soft tissues and fascia hydrated, and boosts exercise performance (yes, including at-home Pilates!). Water also improves skin health and elasticity — keeping you looking (and feeling) young! Water is also essential for digestion, flushing the body of waste and reducing unnecessary snacking. Water makes up 90% of our blood – which helps regulate the body temperature, deliver oxygen to all the cells in our body, and improve concentration and reasoning. Now more than ever, to stay healthy and mobile – make sure you are getting at least 7-8 cups of high quality H2O per day!

5. Build Stability

Mobility and then stability! Stability comes from a strong core. It can seem challenging to maintain strength with little equipment at home, but there are, in fact, plenty of ways to activate your muscles without any equipment at all! A basic strengthening flow daily can help keep our muscles active, blood flowing and reduce likelihood of pain. The flow you see below targets some of our most commonly weak muscle groups in a simple-to-do floor routine.

 

If you like these tips and want to learn even more ways to prevent debilitating back episodes, you can sign up for access to our FREE COVID-19 back pain survival guide right here!  And don’t forget to check out our Virtual Pilates programs if you’re looking for a way to exercise in your home that will target — and resolve — back pain. We have virtual small group classes at least once every day, Monday through Friday. We’re here for you through this quarantine and beyond!

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Will strengthening your core get rid of back pain?

One of the number one reasons people come to see us at our practice is because they want to strengthen their core — in hopes that it will put an end to their back pain.

Pilates has long been known as the staple in core strengthening. We’ve been incorporating Pilates into our physical therapy practice for the last 10 years and it’s been transformational for my clients. Pilates is a full body strengthening system that emphasizes breath, precision, coordination, and core strength — and it helps our clients connect to their bodies in a way that they haven’t been able to achieve with traditional strengthening methods.

But here’s the thing about core strengthening and back pain:

Core strengthening — especially Pilates — is one of the best ways I’ve found to prevent back pain and keep it gone. But core strengthening alone is not enough to completely resolve a back problem, especially one that keeps coming back every few months.

The statistics show that 4 out of 5 people will suffer from a debilitating back episode at some point in their lives.

And while many back pain episodes appear to resolve on their own with rest and avoidance of activity, there are underlying problems that can go on unaddressed for years. Problems that won’t get resolved by strengthening your core.

For example, you could have a bulging disc that is responsible for irritating or pinching a nerve in your back. Research shows that 80% of the time, something like a bulging disc can be resolved with corrective movements of the spine. That’s actually why most back surgeries where they just cut the disc out fail. And it’s also why general strengthening exercises, even those that specifically target your core, also don’t completely resolve the problem.

You must address the underlying root cause of why your disc continues to bulge over and over, and learn how to correct it.

Once you know that, you can use something like Pilates and core strengthening to give you the best possible shot at your disc not bulging again. But even so, it can and most likely will, which is why you need the combination of both specific corrective exercises and proper strengthening to truly get control over your back problem for good.

It’s why we love combining both in our practice. Our specialist PT team works closely with our Pilates team to ensure that all our clients are not only getting the proper strengthening for their backs — but the proper movement as well!

If you’re wondering what kind of corrective movements you might need for your spine, or just want to know what to do about your general aches and pains – come to our FREE Health & Posture class on April 2nd! We’ll be talking about back pain, sciatica, and answering any other questions you may have. But make sure to reserve your spot — they go fast!

Setting Goals for the New Year? We can help!

A new decade is on the horizon, and so are new health and wellness goals for many of us!

Are you already discussing resolutions or considering ways to make 2020 your best yet? The new year is a great opportunity to form new habits that will help us become our healthiest, happiest selves. Setting detailed goals is a constructive way to approach the 2020’s that can help you feel more motivated and hopeful about the future.

The idea of New Year’s resolutions is great, but most people only stick to them for a couple weeks.

Resolutions are so often left unfulfilled in part because they’re usually pretty general statements that are made without much forethought, intention, or planning. At some point we’ve probably all resolved to “get healthy” or “eat more vegetables” or “spend less money.” All worthy ideas, but can you see why people don’t follow through?! There’s WAY too much wiggle room, and nowhere near enough specificity. That’s why oftentimes, setting goals with distinct processes will help you accomplish much more than a run-of-the-mill resolution.

There are two essential factors in goal setting. First, the goal must be attainable. Secondly, you must define concrete steps that you intend to take towards reaching that goal.

Most of us want to be healthier, but what does that actually look like? One person’s journey to becoming healthy could be totally different from another’s. These goals can be made in conjunction with a health professional such as a physical therapist, especially if they relate to mobility, strength, and physical activity. Many of us have intended to “exercise more,” but those two words rarely yield results. A more effective goal might be to enroll in a Pilates class, take a half hour walk outside five days a week, drink the recommended 64 ounces of water each day, or to do ten minutes of stretching every morning after getting out of bed.

A group program such as Pilates can be especially helpful because it gives you a sense of accountability and camaraderie. In fact, our signature Pilates 101 program is relaunching in January, and we are so excited about it! Pilates 101: Get [Your] Back to Health is a one-of-a-kind 8-week program that delivers safe, yet highly effective Pilates-based core strengthening exercises that are easy on the joints, designed to lessen back pain, and help improve your flexibility and posture.

If you can track, schedule, or measure the steps of your goal, you’ll know when you’re making progress. If those steps happen alongside people who share similar goals and under the direction of a movement expert who can support you for two whole months — even better!

So, let’s finish off this decade strong — and don’t miss out on Pilates 101! These spots go fast, so apply now to make sure you don’t miss your chance.

Five Ways to Stay Active on Thanksgiving Day

Thanksgiving is just a few days away! While rest and relaxation might be top of mind for you, it’s still important to incorporate some movement and activity into your holiday. This is especially important if you’re suffering from something like back or knee pain! I always caution my clients before weekends or big holidays to make sure they keep moving! Rest might prevent you from feeling pain temporarily, but in the end it doesn’t do your joints any favors. “Motion is lotion,” I always say – and your joints need it!

If you want to avoid a stiff back or knees on Black Friday, here are five easy ways to stay active on Thanksgiving Day:

1. Sign up for a Turkey Trot

Most towns hold a 5k Race that can be fun for the whole family on Thanksgiving morning. The Seacoast Rotary Club is having one right here in Portsmouth! This is a great way to get your heart pumping and metabolism going first thing in the morning, setting a healthy stage for the day. If running is not your thing – then go for a walk! You could walk the 5K race or just schedule your own that morning before you begin your Turkey Day festivities. 

2. Stretch at Rest Stops

If you have a long drive ahead of you on Thanksgiving Day, schedule in some rest stops where you can get out and stretch. Or at the very least, stretch before you get in the car and as soon as you get out.This advice is especially important if you are suffering from back pain, or are prone to back problems.  Prolonged sitting is one of the biggest culprits for back pain suffers. It’s especially tricky because you might not have the pain while sitting, but instead feel it much later, making it difficult to tie the cause and effect together. My favorite stretch to give clients is to simply arch backwards with your hands behind your back for support.  It’s a great way to keep your back from getting stiff and painful.

3. Help with set up or clean up

Offer to help set the table or clean up!  This is an easy way for you to not only be a huge help to your gracious host, but to stay active before and after dinner.  It will force you to get up, walk around, and hopefully avoid that after dinner food coma. If you’re in your 60’s or 70’s, the younger members in your family might not want you to get up. They might think they are being helpful by letting you sit and relax all day. Don’t let them do that to you! Tell them you are happy to get up and stretch your legs and move your joints around.  Your body will certainly thank you – plus – you’ll be setting a good example for the young people in your family. 

4. Stretch during commercials

Whether you’re watching the Macy’s Day parade or Thanksgiving Day football, commercials are the perfect cue to remind yourself to get up and stretch! I can’t stress enough to you how detrimental prolonged sitting is to your body.  It seems harmless, but it can wreak havoc on your body. I guarantee you that on Monday I’m going to see an influx of clients with back pain in my office. I want to help you avoid that problem! Every commercial, get up and stretch.  Even better, do a few squats are heel raises at the same time.

5. After dinner walk

Before you sit down and relax after that big dinner, go for a walk! Even if you decided to do that Turkey Trot in the morning, it will still be a good idea to go for a nice relaxing walk after dinner.  Get the family or grandkids together. Take the family pet. Walking is one of the best exercises on the planet, and it’s something I prescribe to just about every client I work with. It’s one of the most functional activities that we do and it’s so good for you.

Now, if you’re currently suffering from any kind of back, knee, hip, or shoulder pain that is keeping you from trying out any of these strategies for Thanksgiving Day, then you should get in touch! Our physical therapists can help point you in the right direction and advise you on the best course of treatment to get you doing things you love again. You can even request a FREE Discovery Session if you want to talk with us. This is a completely free, no-obligation appointment that will give you all the information you need to make the best decision for YOUR health!

knees

Happy Halloween! Spooky Noises coming from your Knees?

“What are those cracks and noises coming from my knees? Is there something wrong??”

Our clients come in with this question all the time. They usually feel nervous and fearful that the noises they hear may indicate something more serious is going on within the joint. Is there damage occurring whenever they hear this sound? Do they need to avoid activities that provoke these symptoms? Will they need to rely on pain pills and surgeries in order to maintain their mobility if their joints deteriorate? 

Crepitus refers to these clicking, popping, and creaking sounds that a large portion of the population experience on a regular basis.  This phenomenon can occur at any joint, but is most commonly reported in the knees, shoulders, ankles, hips, and spine. 

Although these noises often don’t produce any pain, they can cause anxiety. Individuals start to develop their own beliefs about what is going on, and ultimately alter their behavior to avoid these cracking or popping sensations.

What causes these noises?

Many structural factors can contribute to joint noises.  Some of the most common are:

  • Tendons rubbing along bony prominences (bumps on bones)
  • Nitrogen bubbles popping due to pressure changes within the joint
  • Small labral or meniscus tears that get caught or pinched as we move

However, we don’t have the luxury of utilizing x-ray goggles during our examinations.  This means that we often cannot be certain of exactly which structures are creating these sounds.  What we do know is they aren’t a reason to be highly concerned as long as they aren’t associated with pain or swelling in the affected joint.  

How can I prevent it from getting worse?

The best way  to prevent these symptoms is to keep moving!! Motion is lotion. Regular movement throughout the day allows our joints to lubricate themselves, kind of like applying WD-40 to a creaky door hinge.  Additionally, it’s important to keep the muscles surrounding your knees strong and balanced. This helps to offload the forces through the joint, which limits “typical” wear and tear on cartilage and bony structures.

What if I’m noticing pain or inflammation in the joint that’s making these noises?

If you have a specifically noisy joint that’s also painful or swollen, it’s best to come in for a formal examination with a physical therapist – ideally someone who specializes in movement mechanics.  We train you in correct, healthy movement that both relieves your body of pain in the short term and protects it from further damage in the long term.

If finding the solution to your problem is something you’re interested in, you can come in for a free Discovery Session at our practice in Portsmouth, NH! All you have to do is fill out this brief form here and we’ll contact you. Discovery Sessions are great for people who want to talk with a specialist about what might be causing their problem, and we’ll help you figure out what the next best steps are.  Our goal is to give you all the information you need so that you can make the best decision for your health – without any obligation or commitment.

We also know not everyone is ready to commit to regular physical therapy appointments, and that’s why we offer free health and posture classes!  These events are for people in our community who want really valuable, expert information about movement, pain, and overall wellness. We know it’s confusing out there with all of the information floating around on Google and Facebook, and this is a valuable first step towards getting some answers for your problem.

Hopefully you found this information helpful, and the only thing scaring you this Halloween will be haunted houses instead of the noises coming from your joints!

PS – If you found this information helpful, please share this with a friend or on your Facebook feed.

How you actually CAN recover from chronic back pain

There’s nothing more discouraging than being in pain and feeling that there’s no way out of it. Back pain is such a common issue, and unfortunately, many people hold onto the mistaken belief that if you have a “bad back” you’re stuck with it for life. Not true!!

It is totally possible to recover from chronic back pain and return to the activities you used to love.

Great news, right? Let’s talk HOW. 

First of all, keep moving.

There are people in healthcare who will tell you to just avoid anything that irritates your back and accept that you can’t be as active as you once were. But what if basically everything triggers back pain? What if your job requires you to be on your feet or you simply want to tie your own shoes or pick up your grandkids? You don’t have to resign yourself to sedentary days spent popping ibuprofen every four hours and missing out on life. Don’t listen to the people who tell you to avoid movement — because in fact, the solution is the exact opposite. Consistent, correct movement heals your body and keeps it from shutting down. If you’re suffering from back pain, it may be a sign that your movement habits are off. You could benefit from working with a specialist physical therapist to retrain your body in how to move properly throughout your day, thus eliminating unnecessary stress on your spine.  

Along the same lines, make sure you educate yourself.

We offer a FREE workshop at our Portsmouth office every month to answer questions from our community, and our next topic is back pain and sciatica! You may feel like surgery and medication are the only options out there for recovery, but in reality they are just two of the less effective strategies for treating back pain. One of our clients, Sean, was dealing with multiple herniated discs and spoke with us on this exact topic. 

“I was considering back surgery until I found CJ Physical Therapy. I walked out of 

therapy with such relief that the thought of surgery was no longer an option. Therapy 

worked so much better than the steroid injection just a few months earlier, that it gave 

me hope of actually being able to feel like I did before the injury a year earlier.”

Nobody wants to get surgery, but if you haven’t been told about any noninvasive therapeutic routes to remedy your pain, surgery may seem like the only option. But time and time again, we have clients come to us with severe back pain and injuries that are often prescribed surgery — and time and time again, they have FULLY recovered through an individually customized program of physical therapy

If you’re dealing with chronic back pain, don’t be afraid to reach out.

We understand if you’re not yet ready to commit to PT — that’s why we offer FREE Discovery Sessions for potential clients. This 30 minute session is a chance for you to speak with one of our specialists and determine for yourself if we’re the best people to help you. It’s a completely free, no-obligation appointment that will give you all the information you need to make the BEST decision for YOUR health — whether that’s working with us or not! 

5 Tips to Save your Neck and Back During Summer Travel

Summer is FINALLY here, which means many of us are getting ready to do some traveling! Whether you’re headed up to the mountains for a weekend or planning a flight across the Atlantic, it’s so important that you make sure you’re taking care of your body. Back and neck pain are the most common travel-related complaints we get from clients, and we want to make sure everyone has these five tips in their back pocket to prevent pain and injury!

1. Interrupt your sitting

The biggest strain on your body while traveling — whether you’re on a plane, bus, train, or in a car — is undoubtedly the prolonged periods of sitting in cramped spaces. Our bodies are made to move continuously throughout the day. On road trips, getting out of the car is critical for keeping your neck and back healthy. If you pull over at rest stops for a bathroom break, try adding a five or ten minute walk each time. Take advantage of scenic vistas to walk around, and ask your physical therapist for tips on healthy stretches that work for you to lengthen your spine and work through any pain or stiffness.

Flying is notorious for triggering back pain and spasms, especially in older adults. If you fall asleep on planes, you’re also more likely to end up sleeping in an uncomfortable position (often putting a lot of strain on your neck) and wake up feeling stiff and sore. If you can, we recommend choosing an aisle seat on planes so that you can get up and move more frequently without bothering your neighbors. Try getting up every 30 minutes to an hour on longer flights to walk to the back of the plane, stretch, and spend five minutes standing (if it is safe to do so, of course!). And if you plan on sleeping for part of the flight, try using a supportive neck pillow to reduce the strain on your vertebrae.

2. Use lumbar support

In addition to neck pillows on flights, you might want to invest in some reliable lumbar support for all modes of travel. We use lumbar pillows specially designed to take the pressure off of your spine that accumulates while sitting for prolonged periods. They help maintain the natural arc of your spine and promote healthy posture. You can even use a lumbar support pillow when sitting at your desk at work or home!

3. Stay hydrated

We all know that it’s important to stay hydrated, but why is it especially critical for avoiding back and neck pain during travel?

Well, water is the vehicle responsible for transporting nutrients to your cells, including the nutrients your muscle cells need to do their job. Dehydration causes muscle cramps because it deprives your body of electrolytes. Proper hydration increases strength, balance, and flexibility. Water also helps to lubricate your joints, which is a bonus for keeping your spine working smoothly and allowing it to support the movements of your entire body. So if you’re planning to hit the road soon, make sure you bring a reusable water bottle and fill it up regularly. And the extra bathroom breaks will give you an excuse to stay moving!

4. Pack light

No matter where you’re going or how you’re getting there, traveling involves packing, and packing too much stuff can be a quick recipe for back pain. Anyone who has flown knows that lugging multiple bags and/or suitcases around an airport is not only exhausting and stressful, but can leave you sore and unbalanced for days. Plus, you may have to lift a heavy bag in and out of the overhead compartment or carry a backpack with you as you’re exploring your destination.

Even if you’re traveling by car, you still have to load and unload your bags, carry them to wherever you’re staying, and still make sure there’s enough space in the vehicle for everyone to have decent legroom! Your best bet is to pack light, no matter what kind of trip you’re taking. If you’re bringing a suitcase with wheels, pack heavier items in there so that you don’t put unnecessary strain on your neck and shoulders. Opt for a backpack instead of an over-the-shoulder bag to avoid uneven distribution of pressure, and stock it with your water bottle, small travel essentials, and healthy snacks.

5. Prepare your body

The best way to prevent injury or pain in general is to maintain an active lifestyle that incorporates healthy, biomechanically correct movement on a daily basis. If you have a trip coming up, it may be worth investing in your health beforehand and meeting with a physical therapist to take an inventory of your body’s specific needs as well as potential problems. A physical therapist can help you learn how to strengthen your whole body in a way that both improves flexibility and gets rid of tension and pain. They can also teach you specific, individually customizable exercises to do during travel that will help your body take care of itself and prevent injury.

Are you taking a trip soon? Try these suggestions and let us know if they worked for you! You can also reach out to schedule a FREE Discovery Session with us! This 30-min session is a chance for you to speak with one of our specialists, tell us everything that’s been going on with you, and determine for yourself if we can help prepare you for your travels or improve your strength and mobility in general.

Happy summer, and safe travels!