Posts

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! 

New Year — New You — New Pain?

New year, new you, right?

We’re officially in 2019 and it’s a brand new start… You’re excited, you’re motivated, and you’re on your way to achieving your goals for the year. But what happens when back pain hits you? Or your knee starts to hurt? Or your hip starts bothering you? The last thing you want is for your new routine to be disrupted and your progress halted…

So how do you know if the pain you’re experiencing is something to really worry about, or if it’s just a result of your body adjusting to a more active routine? (related: Where is your pain really coming from?)

These FOUR questions will help you clarify the type of pain you’re dealing with, help you figure out what to do about it, and most importantly – prevent “new pains” from getting in the way of your goals in the new year!

1. Does your pain come and go?

If the pain comes and goes, and starts to decrease the more you improve your fitness level, it’s probably just a sign that your body is getting used to your new activities. For example, if you’ve started doing squats for the first time and notice some knee pain when you first begin, you shouldn’t worry unless the pain gets progressively worse as you exercise.

Best practice: Keep an eye on this kind of pain – or download one of our FREE GUIDES – but there’s no urgent need to run to the doctor.

2. Does the pain last after the activity but go away the next day?

If your pain follows a pattern — e.g., your knee pain stays with you for the rest of the day after doing your squat sets but is gone when you wake up the next morning — means your body is trying to tell you something. This type of recurrent pattern is a warning sign that your body isn’t responding correctly to the exercise and could start to incur damage. If you’re experiencing a similar phenomenon, now is the time to make an appointment with a specialist physical therapist. Going to the doctor or orthopedic surgeon would be a less productive path to take, as they will likely send you down a rabbit hole of unnecessary tests and procedures (Do you really need an MRI?). But meeting with a physical therapist before the problem becomes too serious can help you adjust your movement and strengthen the right muscles so that you’re able to continue exercising as planned.

Best practice: Talk to a physical therapy specialist who can analyze your movement and the source of your pain.

3. Is the pain causing you to move differently?

People who ignore pain without seeing a physical therapist often end up here, which leads to a more difficult recovery. They often end up limping, walking “crooked,” modifying movements such as bending over, and moving stiffly. This is a result of your body compensating for the pain initially triggered by the exercise. Such compensations start to cause wear and tear on other areas, which only create more problems down the road.  If you’ve hit this phase – it’s still not too late to get some help.  Working directly with a physical therapy specialist will help you to quickly get rid of your pain and correct the compensations you’ve started to develop – so they don’t get worse.

Best practice: Make an appointment with a physical therapy specialist (at our office your first one is FREE)

4. Is your pain causing you to avoid or stop doing something?

When your pain is stopping you from doing something — whether that be doing squats, running, or picking things up off the floor— it’s a sign that your body is in distress and needs help from a physical therapy specialist, orthopedic specialist, or your doctor. However, I encourage people to seek out a physical therapist first. Traditional doctors typically don’t perform movement tests, relying solely on imaging and procedures to make diagnoses. They’re also more likely to prescribe rest, surgery, or painkillers  — despite the fact that 80-90% of ALL aches and pains can be resolved through corrective exercise and movement strategies administered by a movement expert (such as a specialist physical therapist). If the problem does require further intervention, then a physical therapist can refer you to the appropriate medical specialist.  Most states (including NH) don’t require a prescription to see a physical therapist. You can give us a call and come straight in!

Best practice: See if physical therapy can help FIRST by talking to a specialist and getting an evaluation

The moral of the story is, don’t wait to ask for help! You’re better off being extra-careful and addressing your pain early than waiting for it to become a full blown injury. If you are experiencing pain and/or need any help staying on track with your new movement program, don’t hesitate to reach out! You can also find us on Facebook and Instagram and learn more about our services here.

Happy New Year!

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.

physcial_therapists_best_in_portsmouth_11

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!

physcial_therapists_best_in_portsmouth_11

5 Reasons to Take Pilates When You’re 40+

Pilates is good for anyone and everyone… but especially for middle aged and older adults. Here are just some of the reasons to take Pilates classes if you’re in your 40s, 50s, 60s and beyond!

1. Relieve -and prevent- back pain

Many people who come to us with back pain think that their pain would prevent them from participating in an exercise program like Pilates – but the truth is, it’s the opposite! Guided, individualized Pilates combined with a physical therapy regimen is actually one of the best things you could do for your back. We even have specific Pilates classes geared towards people with back pain! Pilates strengthens your entire body, starting from your core, which naturally prevents future back issues stemming from muscular weakness or imbalance. Furthermore, Pilates (combined with PT) teaches correct movement – which is the number one way to relieve any current pain!

2. Increase balance

Since Pilates is all about core strength, it makes sense that continued practice can improve your balance by leaps and bounds! This is an especially important benefit for the older adults who do Pilates with us. As we age, our balance unfortunately deteriorates. However, those changes are not irreversible! Pilates retrains the balance and strength that makes falls less likely.

pilates_classes_seacoast_NH

One of our group classes!

 

3. Improve flexibility

You don’t have to be flexible to start Pilates, but you will see your range of motion improve drastically after consistent practice! Improving flexibility is especially important as we age. The founder of the Pilates system himself, Joseph Pilates, once said,

 “if your spine is inflexibly stiff at 30, you are old; if it is completely flexible at 60, you are young.”

The years you’ve spent on earth is just a number… but it’s the condition of your body that dictates your age – not the other way around! And flexibility is the cornerstone to musculoskeletal health and resilience.

4. Reduce stress

We know that exercise in general is a great stress reliever, but Pilates is especially beneficial because it focuses on literally releasing that stress from your body through guided, intentional movement. Plus, having a regular Pilates class to attend can be a consistent fixture in your life that can serve as an outlet for all your day to day stresses!

5. Improve physique

“In 10 sessions you’ll feel the difference, in 20 sessions you’ll see a difference, and in 30 sessions you’ll have a whole new body.”

That’s another great quote from Joseph Pilates! Pilates is one of the best full body workouts out there, and it’s super effective for improving muscle tone overall and shedding excess body fat. If you practice Pilates regularly, you’ll continue to gain strength overall, which will improve your ability and performance in any other physical activity you enjoy!

Are you over the age of 40 and wondering if Pilates is a good fit for you? Check out our website to learn more!

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!

The Do’s and Don’ts of Dry Needling

 

Trigger Point Dry Needling is one of several strategies we use at CJ Physical Therapy and Wellness 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 treatment regimen without first breaking up the pain cycles in the muscles that are prohibiting healthy movement. Once those muscles are more relaxed, the dry needling can be integrated with regular physical therapy 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. 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!