Posts

Setting Goals for the New Year: Part One – What to address FIRST?

New Year’s may still seem pretty far away, but if you plan on setting any resolutions or goals for 2019, you should start now. The earlier you set your goals, the more likely you are to achieve them. But choosing meaningful and positive goals is a process. That’s why we’re launching this four-part blog series to be your guide as we head into the end of 2018!

The first step is identifying what you want to change – FIRST.

A typical New Year’s resolution might be to lose weight or be more active. But before you can address those goals, it’s important to take a quick inventory of your body and identify obstacles that might get in the way.  The last thing you want is to get all excited about a goal, only to have those aspirations quickly deflated because you neglected to see the whole picture.

Let’s take the weight loss goal for example. Coming from a physical therapist’s point of view, that might mean asking yourself, “what hurts?” or “what has physically been bothering me?”  What are one or two things that could possibly get in your way of completing this goal?  Maybe your body is feeling great, you could still be struggling on other levels. It’s important to be honest with yourself and identify anything and everything that could be an obstacle to your goal. Once you can recognize and become aware of this issue, you have the opportunity to resolve it!

But how do you do that?  First, you have to get specific. For example, if you want to address your back pain in the New Year, so that you can be more active and lose weight in 2019, it’s not enough to simply say “I have a problem with back pain.”  When we get specific, we are able to take what may seem like a big, overwhelming problem – and turn it into bit size actionable chunks….

Start with focusing on the what, when, where, and why of the problem.

“Back pain” in itself is a general term. It’s more likely that instead of your entire back hurting at the same level all the time, you have a specific area (or areas) that hurts during specific activities. For instance, your “what” (the specific problem at hand) could be low back pain. The “when” could be in the evening after a long day on your feet. “Where” could be your living room when you’re trying to get up off the couch, or the golf course after a swing. “Why” could be a combination of factors that are causing you to experience the pain. For example, your body mechanics might be off to the point where it’s causing degradation of your vertebrae. Learning to move properly (for instance, with a physical therapist) would be a logical way to address that “why.”

Next, write down your focused description of the problem.

The simple act of writing something down will clarify and solidify your intentions. In this example, we started with the general statement “I have a problem with back pain.” We broke that down into parts, so that now you might say:

“I am experiencing severe low back pain. It typically occurs in the evenings after I’ve spent a long day on my feet, particularly when I’m moving from sitting to standing. This is likely a result of poor body mechanics, as I have never been instructed in proper movement to relieve back pain. This is the issue I intend to resolve so that I can be more active in 2019 and lose 20 lbs.”

Our next blog post will consider this series and discuss how to set a specific long term goal.

Stay tuned for this post coming out on 11/20! In the meantime, you may want to consider how physical therapy could help you in improving your overall health this upcoming New Year. You may not have a specific physical complaint like the one we described in this post, but working with a physical therapist can actually help you PREVENT these issues from arising later on! As we continue to age, it becomes more likely that we will experience back pain and numerous other issues. The great thing about PT is that it strengthens your body in all the right ways to guard against joint degeneration, stiffness, achiness, muscular weakness, and loss of balance (just to name a few benefits).

If you want to know if one of our specialists can help you, apply for one of our FREE Discovery Visits right here in Portsmouth!

 

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.

Back_Pain_Specialists_Portsmouth_NH

Where is your pain REALLY coming from?

physical_therapy_seacoast_nh_91

Don’t assume that where your pain is… is where the problem is!

This is a very common assumption and one that that we’ve been seeing a lot lately. If you watched our most recent Happy Hour on Facebook Live, then you know the story of the young guy who came to us looking for help with his heel pain. I checked out his heel, foot, and leg, but didn’t find any issues that would be causing the pain that he had been experiencing for four years.

I had planned on addressing the heel specifically before examining his back, but when he mentioned that he also felt a lot of tightness from his back into his leg, I decided to check it out. We did a test on his back and when he stood up, he immediately told me that his heel felt better! I was just as surprised as he was.  He was able to walk with less pain and his movement felt better overall. But when he started stretching his calf to his heel again, the pain came right back.

All that stretching he’d been doing day after day – to the area that he thought was the problem – may have actually been doing him more harm than good!

Now, it’s pretty clear that this young client doesn’t have a foot problem – where is pain actually was.  He has a back problem. And that’s something we can work through and fix! But if he never saw a specialist physical therapist like myself, he probably would’ve continued to believe that there was just something irreversibly wrong with his heel, and maybe even limited certain areas of his life, like football and sports, because of that.

Why should this matter to you?

You might not have heel pain or even noticeable back issues, but maybe you have pesky knee pain, a hip that hitches when you walk, or an achy ankle. Maybe you just feel muscle tension that never seems to go away, or weakness performing certain tasks.  These could all be indicators of a problem in your back!  Or somewhere else that just hasn’t been looked at yet, because it doesn’t match the main area of your pain.

If you’ve tried a lot of things and it’s not going away, it’s an indicator that your haven’t found the real source of your problem yet. Especially if you’ve gone to a doctor for pain in another part of your body and they’ve told you that there’s “nothing wrong.” Or maybe you’ve been stretching, massaging, and foam rolling religiously every day – only for it to keep coming back like a vicious cycle.  You might think that by doing this, you’re helping your problem and keeping it from getting worse – and you might be – but you certainly aren’t doing anything to actually address the problem and you aren’t any closer to a real solution. That’s why physical therapists are so important to have as part of your healthcare team – we’re trained to examine and treat the whole person – not just the foot/knee/hip/heel.

Getting Help

We know not everyone is ready to commit to regular physical therapy appointments, and that’s why we offer free Discovery Sessions out of 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 a great opportunity to talk with a specialist about creating the best plan to get you healthy and feeling your best – without any obligation or commitment.

Feel free to reach out anytime, and be sure to like our Facebook page to stay up to date on Friday Happy Hour videos in the weeks to come!

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!

Movement is Medicine – When Prescribed Properly!

We hear all the time that “movement is medicine,” but it’s important to add the qualifier – when prescribed properly. If you were sick, you wouldn’t just walk into a pharmacy and blindly pick a medicine without thorough knowledge of what your condition is and a recommendation (or better yet a prescription) from your doctor. When you’re in serious physical pain that keeps you from living the lifestyle you want to live, movement can absolutely be your medicine. You just need to make sure you’re using the right kind…

Every person’s body is different, so every individual dealing with pain has a slightly different experience. That’s why working with a physical therapist – who is trained to customize a treatment plan for your specific issue – is so beneficial. We can identify specific movements that actually are worsening your symptoms, while conversely being able to pick out movements that not only relieve pain in the short term but allow your body to recover fully and become stronger. A lifetime of poor movement patterns can lead to pain and injuries down the road, even in the most athletic and active among us! Physical therapy is all about redesigning those movement patterns and reinforcing correct movement so that people can remain active and pain-free.

Many of our more active clients find that exercising independently will relieve their symptoms for a little bit, but when they wake up the next morning the pain is back in full force. Part of a physical therapist’s job is to help you find the specific exercises that create lasting relief and enable you to go back to your normal activities without having to start over from square one every day. There is no “one size fits all” treatment when it comes to pain, which is why we personalize every client’s treatment to their individual needs and circumstances. We “prescribe” the movements that are right for the individual, not just those that are generally helpful for people with back pain or people with knee problems.

In addition to prescribing specific physical therapy movements, we love to add the movement system of Pilates to our clients’ treatment in order to improve strength, balance, and coordination. It’s incredibly beneficial for clients to have the support system of a physical therapist and a pilates instructor working in tandem to find the right movements to rehabilitate each particular individual. Our goal is always to get our clients back to their full range of movement and activities – we NEVER want to avoid any movement permanently in order to avoid pain – but on the road to that full recovery, the structure of Pilates and the opportunity for physical assistance can be an extremely powerful counterpart to physical therapy.

5 Ways to Prevent Injury In Your 50s

Many of our clients are in the 50+ range, and we love seeing how these adults are staying active as they get older! However, as we age, our bodies do need more care and have different needs when it comes to exercise. Here are some tips that we like to pass on to our “more mature” clients, including our Pilates students!

1. Stay Moving

This is true for everyone – if you want to be healthy, you need to keep moving. But it’s especially relevant to older adults who might find that they don’t have the stamina for high impact workouts anymore. There are plenty of ways to exercise that are easy on your joints and still help you maintain the mobility that’s crucial for balance and strength as you age! Walking is often overlooked, but consistent walks will build up your strength and endurance greatly. Also, walking outside is a great way to get some fresh air and enjoy the beginnings of spring! For a more structured exercise regimen, consider trying Pilates! Pilates is a full body workout that is gentle on achy joints and allows you to move at your own pace. It will also improve your balance and coordination!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2. Maintain a Healthy Diet

What you eat directly affects your ability to keep moving – because if you’re not keeping your bones and heart healthy, you’re not going to be able to exercise! Greens like kale, spinach, and arugula are awesome for your bones. Along with citrus fruits, fish, and nuts, these foods help your bones stay strong and durable, and can help you recover faster from a fracture. It’s also crucial that as you get older, you’re intentional about taking care of your heart. According to Health magazine, “The risk of a heart attack climbs for men after age 45 and for women after age 55.” So as you enter middle-age, be sure to increase the presence of foods like unsalted nuts, unprocessed oatmeal, raisins, blueberries, and even dark chocolate (over 70% cacao) in your diet!

3. Choose Your Activities Wisely

We love seeing passionate adult athletes who still enjoy their sports as they get older! However, it’s important to understand that the risk of injury associated with certain sports tends to increase as you age. Contact sports, like basketball, soccer, etc., may lead to more broken bones and fractures when you’re in your 50s than they would’ve in your 20s. As you get older, your bone mass and cartilage both decrease, so be aware that collisions and falls could result in more severe injury. Also, note that non-contact sports like tennis, golf, and softball aren’t without their risks either.  With these activities we tend to see more soft-tissue-type injuries, like labral or ligament tears in the shoulders or knees. Now, this doesn’t mean you have to give up your sport – or be afraid to continue with them- just be aware of the risks, and take steps to prevent injury by giving yourself longer warm-up and cool-down periods and trying to avoid collisions. If you aren’t sure what an age-appropriate warm-up or cool-down looks like, talk to a physical therapist!  We can help.

4. Work on Balance

Balance is one of the first things to go as a person gets older – and it’s one of the most crucial elements in avoiding injury. Slips and falls can lead to broken bones and fractures that only get harder to recover from as you get older! But if you’re diligent about exercising with the intention of improving your balance, you can maintain it far into your later years. As mentioned before, Pilates is an excellent way to work on balance. It starts with your core, which is essential for good balance, but continues to work the whole body, leaving you much stronger and steadier. Yoga is also a great activity to work on your balance.  You can do simple yoga exercises at home too! It’s always a good idea to talk to a physical therapist about what is safe and practical for you, but one of my favorite home balance is activities is to practice standing on one leg when you brush your teeth! It’s super practical and very easy to implement.

5. Educate Yourself

The best way to prevent injury and make sure that you’re exercising safely is to find a regular healthcare provider -like a PT- whose goal is to KEEP you healthy and mobile versus only helping after an injury occurs. It’s possible to develop a good relationship with your PT to where you can access them and speak directly to them whenever you need them, instead of having to go through all the red tape of insurance and PCPs. Our biggest priority in our office is YOU, the client – your health, your happiness, and your ability to get the help you need, when you need it!

If you think it’s time to find a PT who can help you stay active as you age, want to try Pilates, or both, just let us know! Taking care of your body while staying active is essential to preventing injury, and we are here to help.