Five Foods that are Great for Your Joints

One of the most important factors in living an active lifestyle is the health and endurance of your joints. If you’re in pain, you’re much less likely to exercise, and joint pain will likely keep you much more sedentary than is healthy. But did you know that there are several foods that can make a huge difference for your joints? The following are some examples of nutritious foods that can help get you moving pain-free.

1. Nuts

You can’t go wrong with a healthy assortment of nuts. Being so high in protein, they’ll give you long-lasting energy, but they’re also great for repairing damage due to inflammation in your joints. They’re also full of healthy fats- something your body needsto repair itself!

2. Red Apples

Apples are red because of a type of compound called anthocyanins, which also happen to be strong anti-inflammatories! They’re also full of antioxidants that have been linked to arthritis prevention, cancer cell inhibition, and decreased cholesterol. Apples can be an easy to-go snack, or you can mix them into oatmeal, make a fruit salad, or even add thin apple slices to your favorite sandwich for a refreshing crunch and flavor.

3. Salmon

Salmon and other oily fish have an abundance of omega-3 fatty acids, which are an integral component of joint health. They help keep your cartilage strong and your whole body flexible! Omega – 3 is something your body needs to function, but can’t make on its own – so it’s crucial that you give your body these fatty acids through your food!

4. Carrots and Other Orange Veggies

Vitamin A is key when it comes to fighting inflammation – and carrots have tons of Vitamin A! So do other orange vegetables like sweet potatoes and butternut squash. Vitamin A also helps keep your immune system, skin, and vision at their best. Carrots are an easy and tasty snack when eaten raw, either solo or combined with ranch dip and other veggies. You can also bake these orange veggies together for a delicious dinner side dish!

5. Berries

First of all, berries are delicious. They can be eaten so many ways, and are an especially sweet pick me up in the morning! The health benefits are awesome – berries contain anthocyanins, which are antioxidant compounds that fight inflammation. Berries are known as a food that both combats arthritis and leaves you feeling full, without overeating! Plus, they’re sweet enough to serve as a dessert, and definitely healthier than most other dessert options. What’s not to love?

If you struggle with occasional or chronic joint pain, and want to combine these awesome foods with a concrete plan that will get you moving at your best, get in touch. At CJ Physical Therapy and Wellness, we’re all about helping people make the best decisions for their health and living life to the fullest – without pain pills, procedures, or expensive surgeries!

Would a Tech-Detox be Good for your Health?

Technology is a huge part of all of our lives, and there’s nothing wrong with that. We rely on digital technology to do our jobs, communicate with friends and family, find answers to our most pressing questions, and so much more. If you’re reading this right now, it’s because you have access to the internet via your computer, phone, or other device.A 2016 report published by CNN tells us that on average, Americans spend over 50 hours per week online. This “world at your fingertips” has so many great assets, and yet it can be damaging to your health if you never take a break.

Too much screen time can disrupt normal sleep patterns and cause insomnia, lead to increased feelings of isolation, and decrease your attention span over time. And from a physical therapist’s standpoint, walking around looking down at your phone or sitting hunched at your computer for hours on end is terrible for your spine!

There’s no need to give up technology altogether – smartphones and other devices are an important part of the world we live in. However, research shows it can be incredibly beneficial to engage in a sort of “detox” from your gadgets and take a break! This doesn’t have to be as extreme as locking up your phone for a week or quitting social media altogether. You can take small strides towards freeing up those hours that you would otherwise spend online. For example, you can turn your phone off in the evenings, for instance at 5 or 6:00, so that you are not staring at a screen for several hours before bed. This allows your brain to produce its natural levels of melatonin, which your body needs to both fall and stay asleep! Another option would be to delete certain apps off of your phone. Is Facebook a big time suck for you? Try eliminating it from your mobile devices so that you can only access it from a computer. That way, you can prevent distraction when you’re out and about this summer. You can also delete those games that you play out of boredom or habit- which will free up your storage as well as your time! It’s hard to put away the phone altogether, because many of us rely on it for things like its camera function and music. If you’re carrying your phone with you constantly, try putting it on airplane mode. You won’t get texts or social media alerts, but you’ll still have access to your camera, music, calendar, and clock (including timers, alarms, and the stopwatch). You’ll be less distracted, but still get to enjoy the versatile functionality of your smartphone.

If you spend a lot of time during the day on the computer for your job, or have other commitments that require screen time, consider incorporating timed breaks into your day every 25 minutes to stretch and/or walk around. Easy everyday movement and mobility exercises really help to invigorate the body, and taking these breaks will ease tension in your back. You can read more about how prolonged sitting is tough on your back here. If your job requires constant sitting, try to stay up and moving when you get home. It’s easy to flop onto the couch after a long day, but consider stretching or doing a simple in-home workout while watching TV. Or instead of devoting hours strictly to TV watching altogether, you can catch up on your shows while making dinner or folding laundry, for example. Pairing a mobile activity with a passive activity like watching TV will not only make you more productive, but it will also save your back from the pressure and imbalance of prolonged sitting!

Do you have a tech-detox tip to share? Let us know on Facebook! We love to hear your thoughts, and invite you to get in touch if you have any questions about your back pain, mobility, or activity level.    

What’s in Your Water? Healthy Hydration Tips

It’s officially cold and flu season, and keeping your body healthy while everyone’s stuck inside together requires a little extra effort. Staying hydrated is crucial to fighting off those viruses that everyone seems to be sharing. And if you really want to amp up your hydration routine, try adding fruits or safe-to-eat essential oils! These simple infusions can improve your immune system, clear toxins, and help you feel more energized and relaxed!

Adding fruits and herbs to your water is an easy way to make your water taste delicious – while giving you a huge boost of vitamins and antioxidants as well! Drinking fruit infused water has additional health benefits that are lacking with plain drinking water. For instance, citrus fruits such as lemons, oranges, grapefruits, and limes contain high levels of Vitamin C. Slicing up these fruits and adding them to your water can help repair tissue, prevent heart disease, and keep you from getting sick! Herbs are also a great asset to your overall health. For example, mint soothes the stomach while basil acts as an anti-inflammatory agent. There is even substantial research to show that rosemary can actually boost your memory. Mango improves eye health and pineapple aids digestion – the list of benefits goes on and on!

Another option that we advocate for is infusing essential oils are an excellent alternative. We love them so much that we’ve partnered with doTERRA and diffuse them in our office regularly. Did you know that you can just put a few drops in your water (make sure you’re drinking from a glass container) and it will make your water taste good while also promoting mental relaxation, energy boosts, and improved immunity. Our favorites are lemon, lime, and wild orange – and sometimes we even mix them together! If you want to know more about doTERRA and try essential oils for yourself, you can check them out here. Pro tip: sign up as a wholesale customer and you can get 25% off every time you order something!

Maintaining proper hydration will help you stay healthy through the winter, and adding fruit or essential oils to your water will help you drink more while providing numerous health benefits. If you are curious about pursuing a healthier lifestyle, get in touch! Like us on Facebook and sign up for our newsletter to receive our biweekly blog posts, see more information about our physical therapy and Pilates programs, and connect with our team of dedicated wellness professionals.

Setting Goals for the New Year that you’ll Actually Achieve

2018 is almost here, which means lots of us will be discussing resolutions or considering ways to make the upcoming year our best yet. The start of the new year is a great opportunity to let go of negative energy and bad habits from 2017, while focusing on forming new habits that will help us be our healthiest, happiest selves. Setting detailed goals is a constructive way to approach 2018 that can help you feel more motivated and hopeful about the year as a whole.

The idea of New Year’s resolutions is great, but we all know that few people actually stick to them after 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. For example, NBC listed the top 5 New Year’s resolutions of 2017 as follows: “get healthy, get organized, live life to the fullest, learn new hobbies, and 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. If your goal is to run the Boston Marathon this April, but you’ve never run more than a mile in your life, you’ll probably just end up feeling discouraged and defeated. A more attainable goal might be to run a local 5k this summer. You can lay out a training plan -i.e., your concrete steps towards the goal- for how far and how frequently you need to run each week, cross training, and any other preparation. That way, when January 2nd rolls around, your goal isn’t to be able to run a 5k- it’s to run half a mile three times this week. Manageable goals are really composed of a bunch of “micro-goals” that are necessary and fulfilling components of the process.

The running example illustrates an individualized and intentional approach to the whole “get healthy” idea. 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, and the final results might differ drastically as well. Furthermore, “health” as a state of being is not something that can be achieved and forgotten about. Leading a healthy lifestyle is an ongoing responsibility that does not just go away once you reach a desired weight or eat enough vegetables. So instead of resolving to “get healthy,” it would be much more productive to set health related goals that reflect your individual experience. 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. If the steps towards your goal can be tracked, scheduled,or measured,you’ll know when you’re making progress.

Need help setting healthy goals for the new year? We can help! Get in touch anytime via our website or Facebook. Be sure to follow us on Instagram as well @cjphysicaltherapy. You can also see our Pilates offerings here! Happy New Year!

Three Reasons to Stay Active and Outdoors this November

November is a tricky month when it comes to staying active and healthy. Between the sudden cold and the onset of the holiday season, it can be hard to stay motivated- especially when it comes to going outside. But don’t let that first cold snap keep you homebound! It’s just as important to spend time outside now, in late autumn, as it was in June. And in fact, there are some definite perks to taking that walk through your neighborhood, hike in the woods, or family bike ride in November.

Perk 1: No Bugs!

Sure, sunny and 75 sounds pretty tempting right about now, but have you forgotten the horrors of being swarmed by mosquitoes every time you stepped outside after 5 pm? Or how about those nasty deerflies that made exploring the woods more painful than pleasant? Not to mention the huge tick problem that we have in New Hampshire! The good thing about cold weather is that you can trade the bug spray for a jacket and be totally comfortable, without the fear of getting bitten and even sick as a result.

Perk 2: Work Off That Thanksgiving Dinner!

First of all, taking a walk after the Thanksgiving meal should be added to everyone’s list of holiday traditions. Walking aids digestion and will help with that sluggish feeling you get after eating half a turkey by yourself. And it’s an easy group activity for everyone in the family! Let’s not restrict our walks just to Thanksgiving day though- getting outside consistently and moving can make a huge difference in your health. As it gets colder, it can be tempting to trade outdoor activity for a walk on the treadmill or stationary bike inside or at a gym. There’s nothing wrong with indoor exercise, but a walk outside is better for you than a walk on the treadmill any day. The changing scenery keeps your mind stimulated and gives you a necessary break from electronics – something you won’t get on a treadmill pointed right at a TV.

Perk 3: Healthy Spine, Healthy Life!

Let’s face it – sometimes November weather seems like it’s begging us to forgo exercise regimens forever and curl up on the couch and watch movies instead. Down time is a crucial part of self-care, but we can’t let it take over! The simple movement of consistent walking -and limited time spent seated with bad posture- is what will keep your spine healthy for years to come. And if your spine suffers, even that easy post-dinner walk on Thanksgiving might become too painful for you. Back pain can severely limit mobility and leave you in that vicious cycle of needing to move to get better, but avoiding movement because it hurts. So why not do your best to eliminate that risk altogether, and stay active while enjoying this November outside? If you want to feel the burn before Thanksgiving, check out our two Wednesday Turkey Burn classes right here in Portsmouth!

If you are already struggling with back pain, and don’t know how to move forward, check out our free guide to fixing your own back. And if you have any questions, feel free to visit our website, Facebook page, or send an email. We’d love to hear from you!

Stress Hurts! It’s Scientifically Proven, and it’s Time For a Solution

We all experience pain on a regular basis. In the last week, you’ve probably either had a headache, felt some uncomfortable muscle tension, pushed through stiffness and fatigue, or had an upset stomach on at least one occasion. Maybe all of those symptoms are a regular part of your life, and you’ve just come to accept that your body simply hurts. But does it have to be that way?

Headaches, chest and muscle pain, fatigue, nausea, and disrupted sleep are all physical symptoms of the psychosocial malady that has taken the world by storm- stress. Our interactions with stress and what triggers it differ based on our personal experiences, but we are all familiar with it. And it is just as taxing on the body as it is on the mind.

According to the Mayo Clinic, stress that is not properly managed can contribute to health problems such as high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity and diabetes. But if that’s not concerning enough, it’s practically guaranteed to cause the daily physical discomforts that you’ve probably been dismissing for years. It could easily be the root cause of your tense, perpetually sore back, stiff neck, chronic headaches, or nausea. If you don’t sleep well at night because you’re under significant stress, you’re probably experiencing fatigue, which in turn leads to headaches, dizziness, and a weakened immune system, leaving you more vulnerable to the innumerable viruses that are tearing through workplaces and schools this time of year. All in all, your body isn’t too happy.

At this point, it’s easy to dismiss movement as a solution. If your body hurts, the last thing you want to do is exercise! But if stress is a mental, emotional, and physical condition, then wouldn’t the ultimate treatment be something that targets all three areas?

Movement, whether it be walking, Pilates, yoga, mountain biking, or anything in between, is scientifically proven to lower stress at the psychological level in addition to building strength and improving overall health at the physical level. Even if your stress-induced pain feels like a barrier to activity, there is an option! Physical therapy isn’t just for injury rehabilitation or athletes. It’s a viable and effective opportunity for anyone to get the one-on-one help they need to start moving, practice intentionality and mindfulness, and feel healthier and stronger in all aspects of life.

Here at CJ Physical Therapy and Wellness, we offer Free Discovery Sessions to help people figure out a plan to get them more active, healthy and mobile – and out of stress.  If you want to learn more check out our website and get it touch!

This article was written by Katya Engalichev, CJ Physical Therapy’s Social Media and Marketing Intern. Katya has a special interest in how stress affects pain in the body.  She enjoys writing about the role that exercise and healthy movement has on stress and looks forward to writing more when she goes off to college in the fall!

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What I Learned After Running Two Half Marathons (From a Novice Runner and Physical Therapist)

On Sat July 11th, I proudly completed my second half marathon!  Not only did I run 13.1 miles on a really hot day in beautiful Portland, ME, but I ran this race with a group of amazing, inspiring, beat-all-odds individuals – my fellow teammates from Team Challenge.  Team Challenge is the endurance training and fundraising program for the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America(CCFA).  Team Challenge teams are formed across the nation by different regions and together, we train to run one of a few select half marathon races, and raise much needed funds and awareness for Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis.  All of the money we raise goes to the CCFA, an organization who’s mission is to cure Crohn’s and Colitis, and they do this by sponsoring valuable research, and providing educational platforms that raise awareness.  It’s a pretty awesome effort to be a part of, and it is always an amazing, heart-filled experience for me.  Did I mention that a majority of the team members running actually have Crohn’s or Colitis?!  They seriously inspire me.  This year, we found out that my fiancé’s grandmother has Colitis – so the cause is especially near and dear to my heart.  It was extra-important for me to cross that finish line this year so that I could support her, the friends I’ve made through Team Challenge, the relatives of close friends, and the millions of other Americans out there who suffer from Crohn’s or Colitis.

So what have I learned after running two half marathons?

1 – Anyone can run!

I used to hear this all the time and think: “yeah right, that’s a total lie…”  Prior to my first race 2 years ago, I had never ran more than a mile.  I’m not exaggerating.  So you can imagine everyone’s surprise when I proudly announced that I was going to run a half marathon.  But I did it!  And I’ve been running ever since!  All you need to run is some self discipline, will-power, a pair of good running shoes, and be in healthy base-line physical condition (you will want to check with your doctor first if you have any type of physical ailment, heart condition, or chronic illness).

If you want to start running and are brand new to the sport like I was, I highly recommend choosing a goal race and training with a schedule.

If you have a set goal in mind, you are less likely to quit when the running gets really hard – and believe me it will.  Having a schedule to follow is also really helpful since it will keep you organized with your training and help you to pace yourself.  Although I’ve never tried it myself (you know, because I decided to be crazy-ambitious and have my first race be a half marathon…!) I’ve heard great things about the couch to 5K program.  A few friends of mine, and clients, have successfully used this program and enjoyed it.  A 5K race is a lot of fun and a great first race to choose (a 5K race = 3.2 miles).  Once you successfully run your first 5K and you decide to you want to run you first half, Hal Higdon has some practical and easy-to-follow training schedules for all levels.  And of course you could always follow in my foot steps and choose a charity to run for!  I love Team Challenge’s programs because they give you a schedule to follow, there are group trainings that you can attend once per week for your long runs, and you have ongoing support from runner’s coaches as well as mentors.  Also, a lot of people running will be training for a half marathon for the first time in their lives just like you!

2. Strength training is a must
As you begin to fall in love with running, you quickly become addicted.  Before you know it you are running 3-5x per week and feeling awesome!  Running gets those endorphins flowing,  it’s a great way to wake yourself up if you are a morning runner, and it helps to release the stress of the day if you are an evening runner.  Plus, running is such a low maintenance way to feel great and stay in shape.  You change your clothes, throw on your running shoes – and you are off!  You can do it anywhere (it’s my method of choice for exploring new cities I visit) and don’t need a gym or fancy machines.

Ok then, if running feels so great, and is already taking up a good amount of your time, why do you need to add strength training on top of that?  Because if you want to run faster, have better form, and lower your risk for injury, you must do strength training.

Even though almost every runner knows this, very few are able to discipline themselves to a dedicated strength routine every week.  The reality is that no matter how great of a runner you are or how strong you might feel, the lack of strength training will eventually catch up to you in some way.  It is how and why most runners end up on my treatment table.  When you lack the adequate muscle strength (read: balanced muscle strength) to keep up with the demands you are putting on your body through running, your brain and body begin to notice this.  You automatically adapt to any imbalances or inefficiencies, however subtle they may be, by creating compensatory patterns.  A common example of this is the tensor fascia Lata (TFL) taking over for weak gluteal muscles, which leads to the common problem known as iliotibial band syndrome (you can read my article on that here).  Our bodies don’t like to do anything over and over again, and that includes running.  You can significantly minimize injuries, and wear-and-tear on your body by arming yourself with a well-balanced and varied strength routine.  The best way to ensure that you will get your strength training in is to hire a personal trainer.  Paying in advance for appointments and having that on your calendar every week ensures accountability.  A personal trainer will also help you to vary your routine better than you probably will on your own.

3. Pilates is an AWESOME form of cross-training for runners
Pilates is an exercise system developed by Joseph Pilates that is easy on the joints and heaven for the body!  It emphasizes all of the small, tiny muscles in your body responsible for quick movement and stability.  These muscles quite often get over-powered and compensated for with running.  Pilates helps to improve your flexibility and coordination.  This is partciularly important for your form.  Since running is an activity of efficiency, when you run with better form your muscles can react to the automation of running rather than having to work every second of the run.  When they aren’t wasting energy trying to compensate for poor form, they can work longer and harder for you when you need them to get up hills and sustain those longer distances.  Pilates also helps to optimize your breathing.  We all know how important breathing is while you are running.  When you do Pilates regularly, you learn how to optimize your breath with your deep core, which is really helpful for all sports and activities, not only running.

Runners, if you aren’t doing Pilates, then you are missing out.

I’m not saying this from personal experience only.  I’m saying this because I’m an expert in helping people re-balance their bodies and teaching people how to connect in with their deep stabilizing muscular systems – and Pilates makes my job that much easier.  The first time I trained for a half marathon, I did Pilates once per week using the machines (reformerchair and cadillac).  My runs felt much more energetic and free-flowing, and my Pilates workouts were such a great release for my body in comparison to the the wear and tear from running.  To be honest, I never gave much thought to how valuable Pilates was to my running until THIS year, when I wasn’t able to get in very many Pilates workouts.  It certainly wasn’t because I stopped loving Pilates!  I simply just couldn’t get my act together this year to schedule in my workout!

One of my favorite Pilates workouts to do with runners is jump board on the reformer.  Most runners don’t consider Pilates when they are thinking about cross-training because it doesn’t seem “aerobic” enough.  Trust me, your heart rate will definitely rise on the jump board and your legs and abs will BURN!  Even though you are jumping, it is still easy on the joints because you are lying down on the machine and only a fraction of the force goes through your joints compared to running.  Jump board workouts also give you the opportunity to really focus on the alignment of your hips, knees and feet as you land on the ground.  This is particularly important for improving foot awareness and articulation, something that all runners could really benefit from.  If what you are reading really intrigues you and you are thinking about bringing Pilates into your life (you totally should), I highly highly recommend finding a certified Pilates instructor to work with privately in the beginning.  There is a little bit of a learning curve to Pilates if you have never done it before, and it will be a much more fulfilling experience for you if you learn how to do it correctly from the very beginning.  Even though there are some great youtube clips and videos out there on Pilates, it just doesn’t compare to what working with a private instructor will be able to accomplish for you.  If you are suffering from any kind of injury, then working with a physical therapist who is certified in Pilates (like me!) is your best bet.  While Pilates instructors are trained very well (they go through about 700 hours of training before then can become certified), they don’t have the problem-solving knowledge that physical therapists have when it comes to navigating your injury.

Well there you have it – a few things I learned from running two half marathons!  I hope this information encourages you to get out there and give running a try if you are new to the sport like I was a few years ago.  I also hope that you learned some valuable information that will keep you from getting injured and help you to run in your best and healthiest way possible!

Until next time, keep moving and move well!
Carrie