Physical therapy WORKS – Take it From the Ones Who’ve Done it!

Still not sure about PT? Have you heard a lot of conflicting information about what we really do as physical therapists? Do you need relief from an injury or chronic pain but you’ve been told surgery is your only option?

You’re not alone.

So many of our clients have come through our doors for the first time with those same questions. They may have been told over and over again by doctors that their pain or injury isn’t fixable – or if it is, they need extensive surgery and/or drugs. Many have never tried physical therapy before. Some are nervous because they think that it will be painful, and others doubtful that they’re going to learn anything new or helpful. But time and time again, those same individuals end up seeing amazing improvements in strength, mobility, health, and lifestyle. They consistently report how grateful they are to be simply living pain-free or able to participate in their favorite activities again. And we are always so proud of them for putting in the work and being an active participant in their individualized treatment plan!

I could go on and on about the results our awesome clients have seen, but no one says it better than themselves.

When Jeff first came to us he had a shoulder problem that was keeping him from working out at the gym the way he wanted. He’s also a dentist so leaning over his patients all day wasn’t helping. We worked on strategies during the day to help his mobility and then we tackled his stability! He came in and let us know that he was back to his full chest workout and pushups – with zero pain!

David, age 56, suffered from chronic neck and shoulder pain before coming to us for help.

“I couldn’t run more than 2 miles without radiating neck and shoulder pain and I was really uncomfortable at work. Working with CJ Physical Therapy, I learned how to manage my neck without going the surgery route. Now I can run as far as I like without any neck or shoulder pain.”

Another 56 year old, Kathie, took advantage of both our physical therapy and Pilates programs to resolve her shoulder pain.

“Before coming to CJPT & Pilates I was dealing with a shoulder problem that kept me from things like buckling my seat belt, walking the dog, and putting dishes away. I wanted to try something different from the traditional routes I’d tried in the past. Combining physical therapy and Pilates, and working with someone who understood my personal needs, was the difference that gave me my life back.”

Gale, age 65, experienced a positive difference with our practice that she hadn’t received in the physical therapy that was referred to her following a surgery.

“I was dealing with terrible pain and numbness in my arm and wrist after surgery, and there was still no relief after 15 weeks of regular physical therapy. After coming to therapy here, I can now cook, put on make-up, and I’m no longer worried about getting back to hiking or backpacking which I love. Best experience ever!”

Nothing makes us happier than getting to be a part of a positive change in someone’s life. And we love to hear how PT has impacted not just our clients’ health, but their lives overall! Several of our clients have even shared video testimonials of their experience working with us, which can be found here. They are living proof that anyone can benefit from physical therapy. You can be as skeptical as you want – you just have to be willing to give PT an honest shot. And chances are, you’ll be glad you did!

If you’re wondering if physical therapy is right for you – or if a different kind of physical therapy is right for you – please reach out!  We are so happy to help.  If we can’t help you – we’ll find someone that can.

Why You Need an Accountability Team

The Importance of Accountability

Lately I’ve been feeling like there are just not enough hours in the day to do everything I need to do, and to be honest, it’s thrown me off track a bit! We have so many awesome things going on here at CJ Physical Therapy and Pilates, and despite how exciting our development and growth has been recently, it can be stressful to stay on top of everything.

However, I need to remind myself how lucky I am to have good, supportive people around me who I can rely on as my “accountability team.” They’re the people who will hold me accountable for the things I really need to be doing, redirect my focus if I’m pouring all my energy into less crucial tasks, see things I’m not seeing, and sometimes to simply give me the thumbs up (or down). For me – that’s my husband and my AMAZING team at CJPT and Pilates (many of whom you’ve had the awesome chance to meet)!

The lovely ladies of CJPT & Pilates!

Strangely enough, this topic has been coming up A LOT lately with our clients too!

I can’t tell you how many times someone comes into my office stressed out and worried because they didn’t get to do their exercises this week, they didn’t do them exactly right – or worse – they try to delay or put off getting help because they don’t have time to do the exercises…

Helping you help yourself

First – getting help for a back, neck, or knee problem that’s been lingering for awhile – or that you’ve been putting off for awhile – isn’t just about doing exercises. That’s actually where most people are confused and get it wrong (if it were that simple – well, frankly – I’d be out of a job!).

Where I help people the most is by becoming a part of their support and accountability team! Often when I first meet with someone, it starts with getting to know what’s going on in their life. How busy are they? Do they spend most of their time in a plane or car because of work? Do they have three little kids, or grandkids, they’re trying to keep up with? Do they have one or two really energetic dogs that have them running around the house or yard all the time?

I want to know what your real life is like. That way we can come up with a realistic plan that will set you up for success. Expecting you to suddenly go to the gym every day when you don’t even have a membership is kind of ridiculous. So is expecting you to NEVER bend over when you’ve got two little kids at home, for example. It’s important that you are working with someone who understands you, your life, and is prepared to be part of your support and accountability system. You don’t need someone who is just going to make life more difficult for by recommending unrealistic treatments or imposing demands that simply won’t work (or more importantly LAST) with your individual lifestyle.

Here for the Long Haul

Now, being a physical therapist in the traditional sense, it would be very easy for me to do some manual work on the table for each of my clients, and even go through some therapeutic exercises that I know will get rid of their pain quickly. BUT… does that actually get you through a physically and mentally strenuous week? Does a quick fix really help in the long run?

No – and that’s why having a support and accountability team – especially when it comes to your health – is absolutely vital.

Don’t work with people who simply put bandaids on the problem in the form of drugs or quick fixes. Work with someone who is willing to dig in and find a real solution, support you along the way, and hold you accountable for the time and energy that you need to invest in your health as well!

If you’re interested in adding a specialist physical therapist (and/or Pilates instructor) to your accountability team, you can reach out anytime or even request a time to talk to one of our specialists for FREE. Thanks for reading – and for holding ME accountable to sharing this advice with you!

Carrie working on a knee

When Your Knee Problem Isn’t Really a Knee Problem…

Knee pain is one of the most common complaints that bring people to physical therapy. Ironically, the truth about knee problems is that they’re often not actually knee problems! Many of our clients have struggled with chronic pain, instability, or stiffness in their knees, but for the majority of these individuals, those knee issues actually stemmed from a different part of the body.

 

Carrie working on a knee

Carrie working on a knee

With most knee pain, the underlying issues can either be traced to a locality directly below the knee- the ankle or foot- or directly above it- the pelvis, hips, core, and low back. Not engaging your core throughout your daily movement actually puts a huge amount of strain on your knees, because as your legs swing and rotate, the torque that should be occurring through your pelvis and hips is overloaded onto your knees. As we age, we may start feeling a sense of wear and tear or weakness in our knees that actually comes from a lifetime of improper movement. The purpose of a physical therapist is to 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.

Poor balance is a common symptom of a weak core, and being off balance in your movement is bound to affect crucial joints such as your knees – especially in simple everyday activities like climbing stairs and walking. That’s one of the many reasons why we like to combine physical therapy with Pilates in our practice. Pilates-based rehabilitation is a unique, core-centric approach to teaching healthy movement patterns. We love seeing our clients become stronger, balanced, and pain free as they are able to combine the full body workout of Pilates with the practiced eyes of a physical therapist who can identify movement problems and guide the client through correcting them.

The fact is, knee problems are rarely just knee problems, and if you have chronic knee pain, it’s worth asking a physical therapist to help out! If you want more accessible information about knee pain, check out our Facebook Happy Hour video right here! Then you can even request a free discovery session with us to see what PT is all about, and how we can work together to create a customized plan of action for your individual needs. We’d love to hear from you!

Woman sleeping facedown on a bed.

Tired all the Time? Get Moving!

All of us have experienced tiredness, exhaustion, and fatigue. Sometimes it hits after a late night spent working or socializing. Other times, our exhaustion seems to come out of nowhere. With our fast-paced modern lifestyles, it’s not surprising that statistics from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report around 15.3 percent of women and 10.1 percent of men regularly feeling very tired or exhausted in the United States.

A lack of sufficient sleep isn’t the only factor that could be contributing to your fatigue – poor dietary habits, excessive napping, unhealthy amounts of stress in your daily life, and living a more sedentary lifestyle are all possibilities according to a recent article published by Medical News Today. It might seem counter-intuitive that more exercise could help you feel less tired, but it’s the truth! Sitting on the couch is one of the worst things you can do for chronic fatigue or tiredness (not to mention the impact it has on your back). Moderate amounts of exercise are proven to boost your energy, not drain it – and getting a good workout in during the day will help you sleep better at night.

Woman sleeping facedown on a bed.

If you rarely exercise with intention, or spend most of your day at a desk, it can be challenging to transition into a more active lifestyle. Many people in such circumstances benefit from joining a group fitness class or finding an “exercise buddy” to hold them accountable. Our Pilates classes right here in Portsmouth are a great option because they’re geared towards beginners, and Pilates gives you that full body workout that will leave you feeling invigorated and energized afterwards – but ready to fall right asleep at bedtime! The mindfulness aspect of Pilates as well as the exercise make it helpful for reducing stress, which in turn reduces fatigue.

We say all the time that movement is medicine, and it’s true in more ways than one. Movement is medicine for the aches and pains of your joints and muscles, but it’s also medicine for your stress and exhaustion. Exercise stimulates endorphin release, triggering positive feelings of elation or mild euphoria. Shifting into a more positive mental state during a day when you’re feeling completely drained will help you cope better with whatever you’re dealing with, in addition to giving you more energy to get through it. You don’t need to spend hours at the gym every day – just 30 minutes of movement each day, whether it be walking, running, biking, Pilates, yoga, golf, etc. will make a difference.

Surgeons in surgery

Surgery versus PT: What You Need to Know

“I have to get surgery for my torn meniscus. I’m going to be out of commission for a while.”

“My back problems have gotten so bad that my doctor says I need surgery to repair the herniated disk.”

“The MRI doesn’t look so good. Hopefully surgery will be a quick fix.”

Sound familiar? Most of us know someone who has been told that they needed surgery for a knee or back issue – or have received that disheartening news ourselves. A herniated disk is one of the most prevalent back problems in adults, and is often treated with lumbar discectomy as the first option. The goal of this surgery is to remove the herniated portion of the disc from the patient’s back, releasing pressure on surrounding nerves and muscles. The goal is for the patient to be able to live without pain post-surgery, but this process usually involves lots of medication and prolonged periods of rest. Another common injury that frequently leads to surgery is a meniscus tear. Your meniscus stabilizes and cushions the knee joint. A tear would be viewed easily on an MRI, which can cause many doctors to immediately prescribe surgery. Following that type of surgery, you would probably spend about two weeks with your leg completely immobilized. Then you would be introduced to a rehabilitation plan that included physical therapy – not to recover from the original injury to your knee, but to recover from the surgery that supposedly fixed it.

Surgery, in the right circumstances, can be extremely beneficial. But unfortunately, it is over-prescribed and often unnecessary, especially for individuals with back and knee pain. Seeing a herniated disc or torn meniscus on the MRI screen may trigger an automatic prescription of surgery and medication- but these “quick fixes” may not be your safest or most helpful options. In fact, MRIs can produce false positives and lead to invasive surgeries for specific injuries that didn’t even exist in the first place. MRIs are a useful tool, but their readings should always be taken with a grain of salt. When given the opportunity, your body will do its best to heal itself. Why not try careful, guided exercise and strength-building before you submit to incisions and long, medicated recoveries?

This is where physical therapy comes in. Consider working with a specialist physical therapist to address your specific injury or pain- someone who doesn’t just prescribe exercise and passive modalities, but genuinely wants to help you recover in a natural and low-risk manner. A specialist physical therapist will carefully listen to your history, analyze your symptoms, come up with a customized plan of action, and problem-solve WITH you versus trying to solve the problem FOR you. One of the primary goals of our practice is to use guided, natural movement to help your body recover to full strength and health based on your own individual needs. Pilates-based rehabilitation is also a uniquely tailored approach to recovery that can make a huge difference. Most knee, back, and other injuries occur because the surrounding muscles are too weak to support those joints and systems properly. You may think that your regular exercise and stretching is enough, but working specific muscle groups can leave others underdeveloped and makes your body unbalanced as a whole. Pilates is a full body workout that starts from your core and balances you both mentally and physically! It won’t create further damage to any injuries because it’s so low impact, and working with a professional will allow you to customize your session to your own individual needs.

Do you live in the Seacoast area and want to learn more about why surgery shouldn’t be your first – let alone ONLY – option for recovery? Click here to get in touch, ask questions, and schedule an appointment. If you’re struggling with back pain, you can even download our FREE report on five easy ways to get rid of back pain WITHOUT surgery! And don’t forget to browse our selection of Pilates classes located right here in Portsmouth.

5 Summer Activities on the Seacoast to Keep You Active, Healthy, and Mobile!

With the weather getting warmer, it’s time to start appreciating all the amazing assets that the Portsmouth area has to offer for summer fun! The best way to prevent back pain and all-around stiffness or soreness is to stay moving as much as possible, and what better way to do so than out in nature?

Here are some of our favorite places to walk, bike, and otherwise enjoy the outdoors!

1. Great Bay National Wildlife Refuge

The Great Bay National Wildlife Refuge includes more than 1,000 acres of protected land in Newington, NH. Its two main trails are open to both hiking and biking and offer a close look at the flora and fauna of the Great Bay area. While visiting the reserve, you might see bald eagles, foxes, otters, turtles, deer, and a huge variety of songbirds. There are two main trails for the public to explore this unique and largely untouched area. The half mile Upper Peverly Pond path is a boardwalk trail, meaning it is fully wheelchair accessible and inviting for both young children and seniors! The William Furber Ferry Way trail is a more ambitious, yet not intimidating, two miles that delves deeper into the forest and features a beaver pond and old orchard.

NH Wetlands

2. Picnic by the Sea at New Castle

New Castle’s Great Island Common is a perfect destination for a relaxed, yet active day spent outdoors. You can spend the morning kayaking, an excellent core and upper body workout, and then kick back with a picnic on the beach or lawn. The park area also offers a large playground if you’re accompanied by young children. No matter where you stand, you’ll have a breathtaking view of the ocean, multiple lighthouses, and boats entering and leaving the harbor.

3. Rent a Zagster bike and take a bike tour around Portsmouth or head for a scenic ride along the beach.  Portsmouth just installed five bike stations around town. All you need to do is download the app and you are ready to go!  You can pay just $3 for a one-day membership and then your first 2 hours are free.  The bikes are attractive cruisers equipped with a storage basket, front and rear lights, and electronic locks that are accessed right from your smart phone.  Check out all the info here.

4. Odiorne State Park

Odiorne is the ocean lover’s ideal hike- gorgeous views of the rocky coastline, twisting trails through the woods that open up onto a salt marsh, and a paved bike path all in one place. Odiorne is comprised of about 330 acres of protected land, and is open year round to walkers and explorers! In the summer, you can even go tidepooling while you walk along the shore. You might find sea stars, snails, minnows, crabs, and more! And you will undoubtedly see seagulls throughout the entire coastline walk. On the wooded trails, you could come across deer, songbirds, chipmunks, and squirrels. Odiorne is a great place to stretch your legs and get some fresh air while enjoying the seacoast at its best!

5. Try Stand-Up Paddleboarding

Stand-Up Paddleboarding is a perfect way to get a core workout in while enjoying the ocean! This low-impact outdoor activity has gained popularity over recent years not only for being great exercise, but also because standing at your full height above the water gives you a unique view of your surroundings – which are beautiful at any location along the Seacoast! The balance and core stability that goes into paddleboarding is something we focus on with our Pilates program as well. In fact, Pilates and paddleboarding would be great activities to pair this summer!

Want to get yourself pain-free for the summer? Give us a call, and we can discuss activities that can help improve your overall mobility and create a plan to bring you your strongest, healthiest summer yet!

How Olympian Karen Chen Uses Pilates to Overcome Back Pain

18 year old Karen Chen is already a figure skating sensation – she is one of only three female figure skaters representing the United States at the 2018 Olympic Games in South Korea and recently released a book about her journey to becoming the US National Figure Skating Champion in 2017. However, Karen has had to deal with several injuries and ongoing back problems in her road to international athletic success.

Karen Chen skates in the Championship Ladies Short Program for the 2018 US Figure Skating Championships at the SAP Center in San Jose, Calif., on Wednesday, January 3, 2018. (Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group)

In her book, Finding the Edge, Karen explains that she started experiencing debilitating back pain as a teenager. She was competing at a very high level in figure skating and was worried that her back issues would prevent her from following her dreams of becoming an Olympian someday. She says “I was so worried about my spine and so nervous about the pain that I was tense all the time. And that tension made everything worse. I was tight and my muscles were constantly seizing, which only intensified the sharp pain radiating from my back down through to my legs” (Parade). Karen saw multiple doctors and received varying opinions and advice. Some even thought she might not be able to continue skating. But as Karen says in her book, “champions figure out a way to persist. And in order to help my back, I added more Pilates and core stability work to my off-ice training. All those core muscles help hold my vertebrae in position. If my core was strong, the vertebrae weren’t as likely to slip around and cause further problems.”

We say this all the time to our clients. Pilates strengthens your whole body, starting with your core, and actually prevents back pain! Karen Chen told Us Weekly that she practices Pilates every day. And now she’s competing on the biggest stage in sports, living her dream, because she refused to let her back pain limit her. Instead, she found a way to resolve it that did not involve surgery, pain pills, or other invasive procedures. Now Karen Chen is stronger than ever, and ready to compete in Seoul this week.

Curious about how Pilates can help you? Get in touch! You don’t have to be an Olympian to benefit from Pilates – all you need is the desire to lead a strong, pain-free life. Friend us on Facebook to stay up to date on all the latest news on our Pilates programs right here in Portsmouth, NH.