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The Do’s and Don’ts of Dry Needling

At CJ Physical Therapy and Pilates, our goal is to help you live a pain-free life without pain pills or invasive procedures.

Trigger Point Dry Needling is one of several strategies we use to treat muscles that are extremely tense and in spasm. The spasm causes the muscle to be in constant tension which reduces blood flow, decreases oxygen, and can produce fibrotic unhealthy tissue over time (scarring). When a physical therapist inserts the very thin acupuncture needle (dry needle) into a knotted up muscle, it creates a local twitch reflex. Research shows that this not only relaxes the muscle, it breaks up the pain cycle by improving blood flow and oxygen to the muscle. This whole process helps to reduce and normalize inflammation in the area to promote healing. However, dry needling is not necessary for everyone, so it’s important that you know what it is and when it can be used to improve your health! Here are some basic do’s and don’ts when it comes to pursuing dry needling treatment.

Do work with a physical therapist to use dry needling in conjunction with movement based rehabilitation.

Dry needling can work wonders to relax your muscles, but they’re just going to get tense and damaged again if you don’t learn how to use them properly and address any movement dysfunction that may be occurring.

Do not think of dry needling as a quick fix.

Dry needling is just the first step for some individuals who aren’t able to begin a physical therapy or movement regimen without first breaking up the pain cycles in the muscles that are prohibiting healthy movement. Dry needling serves as a “helper” to relax those muscles – and should be integrated with physical therapy treatment and strengthening activities such as Pilates.

Do educate yourself.

You can request a free Discovery Visit at our conveniently located Portsmouth practice and we can work together to decide if dry needling is right for you!

Do not be afraid of trying dry needling!

It can be uncomfortable for some people, but others say they feel no pain at all. It’s not dangerous and has lasting positive effects when used in conjunction with hands-on physical therapy under the direction of a specialist. Furthermore, our clients love it:

“After two back surgeries in my 20s and a new hip at 58, I figured I was lucky just to be walking. Dry needling has transformed the way I move. I’m more flexible. My walking stride has more length and I can stand longer.” – John

Feel free to reach out if you have any questions about dry needling. You can also follow us on Facebook and Instagram to learn more about our practice and the importance of healthy, pain-free movement!

Is Running Bad for Your Knees when you’re Over 50?

This is a question we get asked a lot — especially by clients who are getting older and worried that they won’t be able to keep running into their 50s and 60’s.

The short answer? No!

If you experience knee pain when you run, it’s not that you’ve “aged out” of the sport! It’s probably just a biomechanical issue that can be fixed with proper education and strengthening (best offered by a specialist physical therapist).

In fact, research supports that running may actually be GOOD for your knees!

Here are some factors that could be responsible for knee pain when you run:

1) Poor ankle mobility

Ankle mobility affects the way force hits your foot, which can in turn impact your knee. According to Trail Runner Magazine, “if your ankle can’t move adequately, then excess forces are shifted up to the knee. The knee may be forced to flex, and/or rotate, and/or tilt more than it should. This may result in loads that the tissues of the knee can’t handle.”
A physical therapist can help you improve ankle mobility in order to prevent long term damage to the joints, tendons, and ligaments of your knees. This might be especially important for you if you’ve ever sprained or twisted an ankle in the past!

2) Weakness

There’s a widely perpetuated myth out there that runners don’t need to strength train. That’s simply not true! Adding strength training to your running regimen makes it way less likely that you’ll suffer an injury. When it comes to protecting your knees, developing strong lower limb muscles is critical. The hamstring and quadriceps groups play a crucial role in stabilizing the patella, otherwise known as the kneecap. Running is an extremely repetitive action and consequently requires durability and endurance from your joints — something that is lost quickly when you neglect strength training.

3) Unstable core

It may seem like running is all in the legs, but in reality, every physical action begins at the core. You derive all your power, speed, and stamina from your core muscles, and if they are weak, all your joints suffer — especially your knees. A stable core is key for maintaining balance and rhythm. It also keeps your weight distributed between your legs and prevents undue stress from resting on your knees.
Our favorite way to improve core strength is Pilates! If you are a runner but think you could benefit from a stronger core (let’s be honest, we all could), consider giving it a try — for FREE.

4) Running form

It doesn’t matter if you’re a marathon runner or an occasional jogger — running form is important. It determines where and how the impact of every step is distributed throughout your body. If your body mechanics are compromised — for instance, you’re dragging your feet or running with your shoulders tense and shrugged — you’re more likely to suffer from chronic knee pain, or even experience a serious injury. Work with a movement specialist – like the PT’s in our office – to analyze your form and help you be more efficient when you run.

Running is good for you at any age, if you do it right!

Research shows running can actually slow knee arthritis. According to an article published by Outside Online, “animal models show that exercise promotes cartilage thickening and protects its stretchy properties… instead of wearing down your bearings, running may grease them. That’s key, because cartilage thinning and the loss of elasticity are both prominent causes of osteoarthritis.”

Want to make sure you’re running right? Get in touch!

You can even schedule a FREE Discovery Session if you have chronic knee pain (or any type of pain) to talk about what you’re dealing with and figure out the course of action that works best for you.

The Snow is Coming… 5 Tips to Prevent Hurting your Back

When you live in New England, there is no doubt that at some point you will HAVE to shovel snow.

There are some pros — like it being a good workout and getting out into the fresh air. But for the most part, this activity is known for its cons — that it’s cold, wet, and quite literally, “back-breaking.”

While I can’t help you with the cold and wet part, I CAN help you learn how to protect your back. Here are some tips that I give to my own patients with regard to shoveling.

  1. Shovel early, and frequently. It might feel nice to sit by your fireplace with a hot cup of cocoa, watching the snowflakes fall, but you’ll regret it later. As you wait, that snow is likely to turn into a heavy, wet mess. It’s best to get out there early, while the snow is still lighter and fluffy, and just shovel in smaller, more frequent chunks. Doing any activity more frequently but for a smaller amount of time — say 20 min — will lessen the amount of stress put on your spine.

 

  1. Use your legs. The last thing we think about when it comes to shoveling is proper form. However, form is critical if you want to protect your back! Our spines were designed to have enough endurance to hold us upright and maintain good posture — NOT to lift heavy things. That’s what our glutes and legs are for! Save your spine by using the power of your legs to lift the snow. Bend your knees, stick your bottom out, and lift that snow with your whole body instead of curving over from your spine. Your legs might be sore from all that squatting, but your spine will thank you.

 

  1. Don’t twist, pivot. Once you lift the snow, you’ve got to throw it away. You want to use your whole body to pivot, not twist. When discarding the snow, many just twist their upper body and rotate from their spine, letting their arms and trunk do all the work. Instead, you want to pivot with your whole body by keeping your pelvis (the front of your hips) facing and in line with the shovel throughout the whole movement. If your shovel and arms have gone one way, and your hips are still pointing forward, you’re twisting instead of pivoting (and that is asking for trouble)!

 

  1. Breathe and use your core. No matter what, make sure you’re breathing! When you hold your breath, your deep abdominals can’t function fully.  Additionally, the extra pressure that builds from holding air inside your abdomen has to go somewhere — like into your spine. Prolonged, extra pressure can push out on your discs and make them more vulnerable, especially in a forward-bent position like shoveling. In a proper breath, your diaphragm pushes the air down, your abdominals stretch out a little, and then naturally recoil back. This automatic recoil allows your abdominals to contract and support your spine. Rule of thumb —make sure you’re always breathing, and exhale for better abdominal support when lifting the snow.

 

  1. Make it easy on yourself. If you absolutely must shovel snow and can’t get someone else to do it for you (my favorite tip!), make it as easy on yourself as possible. You can decrease the repetitive strain on your body by using an ergonomic shovel or snow blower. But remember, even with a snow blower, you still need to use your legs, breathe, and engage your core while maneuvering the machine. Just because you aren’t doing all of the heavy lifting doesn’t mean your back won’t still end up in a vulnerable position.

If you’ve ever hurt your back shoveling snow, and want more information and tips like these, click here for a free copy of the back health guide we give to patients! 

Setting Goals for the New Year: Part Four — Small Goals That Get You to Big Goals

You’ve reached the final installment of our goal-setting series, which means you’re in great shape to start the New Year off right! So far, we’ve talked about addressing the obstacles between you now and where you want to be in a year, choosing a long term goal, and breaking that long term goal into a series of short term goals. The final step is making sure you can achieve each of those smaller goals!

The key to success is specificity.

Specificity is a key theme across this whole series. If your goals aren’t precise and clearly defined, you have little chance of actually achieving them. So assign a specific time frame to each of your short term goals. If you want to start Pilates, then give yourself a deadline to check the website for class offerings, a deadline to sign up, and mark your calendar with the dates of each class. Clearly define the location where your goal takes place (for example, our Pilates studio at the office in Portsmouth) and the specific hours that you need to devote to it each week.

You can apply the same process to any goal. Maybe you want to cut down on your TV watching hours or learn how to cook. Once you’ve set your short term goals (such as watching less than 10 hours of TV per week for an entire month, or enrolling in a cooking class), define the specific time, location, duration, and steps that go into each short term goal.

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A Pilates class at our office in Portsmouth!

Support your success with an accountability team!

Along with specificity, accountability is another important theme in goal setting. Identifying and communicating with people who are willing and able to keep you focused can make a huge difference in motivation. Your accountability team can be anyone who will hold you accountable for the things you really need to be doing, redirect your focus if you’re pouring all your energy into less crucial tasks, see things you’re not seeing, and sometimes to simply give you the thumbs up (or down).

If you have any health-related goals, a physical therapist can be a great addition to your accountability team.

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.

Share your progress with people who care!

As you embark on the journey of a new year, don’t forget to share your progress in reaching your goals! At CJPT & Pilates, we’d LOVE to hear what you’re doing to better your health in 2019. Keep us updated on Facebook and Instagram so that we can be your personal cheering section all year long!

Setting Goals for the New Year: Part Two — Choosing a Long Term Goal

In the first part of this series, we focused on the precursor to goal setting — identifying a specific obstacle that’s getting in your way. The next step is determining a specific, measurable, long term goal.

One way to come up with a long term goal is by asking yourself, “where do I want to be a year from now?”

What do you want to be different about your life this time next year? If you identified an issue that is negatively affecting your life right now — such as chronic low back pain or being overweight — you can turn your desire to resolve that issue into a long term goal. For example, your goal could be to weigh 25 pounds less by December of 2019. Or maybe your knee has been bothering you for a few years, and your goal is to be able to go skiing again without pain. You could decide to run a 5k next Thanksgiving or simply want to be able to pick up your grandkids. The examples are endless, but the point is that it’s your goal. It’s specific to your desires and involves overcoming a specific obstacle in your life.

Setting a long term goal will provide a purposeful context for your day-to-day choices.

Once you’ve set a specific goal and shared it with your accountability team, you’ll be able to use it to guide your everyday actions. For example, eating healthy would have the purpose of helping you achieve your weight loss goal, as would participating in a Pilates class. Going to physical therapy would be helping you fix your body mechanics and relieve your back pain. In each example, the action in question (proper nutrition, Pilates, physical therapy) is undeniably good for you — but we rarely do things just because it’s objectively good for our bodies. We want to feel good, look good, and avoid pain. Having a specific long term goal will help you apply those healthy choices to a larger purpose and context — which will hopefully serve to motivate you as well.

Now, how do you stay focused?

The first step is writing your goal down on paper. Not in the notes on your phone, not just keeping a vague memory in your head — write it down. Then, post that paper somewhere you’ll see it every day. It could be your bathroom mirror, your bedroom door, your car dashboard — anywhere that forces the goal to become a part of your day. If you haven’t yet established an accountability team, read our post about gathering a group of trusted individuals (including your PT!) who can help you stay focused and motivated. Then, share your goal with them, and ask that they check up on you periodically to see how your progress is going. Finally, stay tuned for our next post in this series, where we’ll talk about breaking your long term goal into a set of smaller, more manageable short term goals.

In the meantime, check out our website and see how you can get a head start on a healthier New Year. We’re launching our signature Pilates 101 program next week and spots will fill fast, so sign up here to get on our early bird/pre-enrollment list! If you’re age 40+ and improving your core strength is part of your goal setting – then this program is perfect for you – especially if you’re also dealing with back pain.

If you have any questions about physical therapy, pilates, accountability, and/or goal setting, don’t hesitate to reach out or leave us a note on our Facebook page!

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.

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!

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!