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The $67 Billion Problem for Seniors

$67.7 billion.  That, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), will be the total cost for fall injuries experienced by older Americans (65+) in the year 2020. Medicare and Medicaid will cover about three-quarters of these costs.

This is a shocking amount of money, but the burden felt by older Americans goes beyond the pocketbook. Fall-related injury is a quality of life issue that affects people more and more as they age due to factors related to aging – factors like loss of muscle tone and strength, slower reflexes, less coordination, eyesight issues, and even the side effects of medication.

One out of every four Americans 65 and older experience falls each year, says the CDC, leading to more than 2.8 injuries which span a spectrum from bumps, bruises and sprains to broken bones and head trauma.

Just the fear of falling as you age, in fact, can result in limited activity, which only perpetuates that problem. The lack of activity leads to a loss of muscle tone, good balance, and bone density, which can actually increase the risk of falls.

But people of all ages can vastly reduce the risk of falling through exercise that focuses on both strength and balance. In fact, multiple studies show that training which focuses on both strength and balance can most effective lead to a reduction in falls among older adults. Taking physical therapist-led group exercise classes has specifically been shown to reduce the risk of falls while increasing balance and improving quality of life.

This is great news but it is important to keep in mind that all effective fall-prevention efforts should include the following components:

Fall Screening: If fall prevention is the goal, an assessment of an individual’s personal risk of falling is an ideal place to start. A thorough fall screening with take look into a person’s strength, balance and coordination, as well as other factors such as vision, medication, medical history, footwear, and even home safety.

Balance Training: A key to preventing falls is to maintain and improve balance. Doing so means continually challenging your body’s balance through personalized (and safe) exercises — single-leg stands, for instance.

Strength Exercises: Maintaining good lower-body strength has been specifically cited as another key factor in fall prevention. A physical therapist can assess a person’s individual strengths and weaknesses and create a program that specifically addresses muscle groups that can improve balance and gait.

Environment Assessment: A fall prevention strategy must always include specific suggestions on how to improve one’s environment for the sake of safety. Decluttering walk spaces, securing loose rugs, creating non-slip surfaces in the shower or tub, and even improving footwear can all go far in preventing falls.

So let’s save a little money and invest time in fall prevention because the year 2020 is just around the corner.

Why Kids Shouldn’t Specialize in One Sport

Most medical experts in agreeing that young athletes generally remain mentally and physically healthier, achieve greater success, and learn to enjoy a lifetime of physical fitness when they opt to play multiple sports.

Specializing in a sport is fine, but we should be aware that allowing youth to specialize in a sport year-round can lead to burnout, a greater risk of experiencing overuse injuries, and less long-term success.

While this path has worked out for some, these stories are very rare and overlook the fact that the risks of specialization far outweigh the rewards, especially when it comes to youth athletics.

It’s been estimated that up to 60 million U.S. youths ages 6 to 18 years participate in some form of athletics. More than 5 million of these athletes experience an injury each year. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, at least 50 percent of athletic injuries are related to overuse, the types of injuries for which one-sport athletes are particularly prone.

An overuse injury happens when a bone, muscle or tendon has been put through repetitive stress without being given a sufficient amount of time to heal or repair, leading to microtraumatic damage.  Think sore pitching arms or pain in a swimmer’s shoulder that doesn’t go away, possibly keeping the athlete from competing.

The same repetitive motions year-round can, in other words, lead to such overuse injuries as strains, sprains, stress fractures, and even tears in muscles, tendons and ligaments. Playing multiple sports, in contrast, allows young athletes to challenge their bodies in different ways, developing new sets of physical traits and skills and that offer more universal performance benefits.

To help young athletes reduce the risk of developing overuse injuries and overall burnout here are a few things for parents and coaches to consider:

Encourage Diversity: Especially at an early age, encourage kids to try out and play different sports throughout the year. Some of the most successful athletes (up to 97 percent of the pros) believe being a multisport athlete was beneficial to their long-term success.

Seek Rest: Young athletes should take at least one to two days off from practice and/or structured sports participation each week. Some experts suggest limiting weekly practice to the age (in hours) of the athlete. Long-term, athletes should take 2 to 3 months off a particular sport each year to help refresh the body and the mind.

Specialize Later: Wait until at least high school age – better yet, around the ages of 16 or 17 – before considering specializing in any individual sport. At this point, the body is more prepared for such rigors.

Watch for Signs: If a young athlete complains of nonspecific problems with muscles and/or joints, physical fatigue, or grows concerned about poor performance, visit a physical therapist, who can fully evaluate the issue and offer treatment (if needed) for any potential injuries or deficiencies.

Two Fitness tips we learn from the Winter Olympics

While we watch Alpine skiers speed through difficult downhill courses and figure skaters bound balletically across the ice during these Winter Olympics, I can see the importance of two oft-overlooked elements of good fitness and training routines: of balance and flexibility.

When we work to prepare our bodies for a certain activity, or simply for the rigors of living an active lifestyle, we shouldn’t only be focusing on strength and cardio. It’s a good start, but if your balance and flexibility are below par, performance will be limited and the body will be more susceptible to injury.

Few things highlight this more than winter sports and activities, such as those featured during the Winter Olympics because they provide the ultimate challenge to balance and flexibility.  Both balance and flexibility work together to keep these athletes upright while they adapt to new terrain, changes in position, etc. The importance of this is obvious on snow and ice, of course, but the same concept applies in everyday life.

Whether your personal goals include competing better athletically, getting outdoors more for hiking, cycling or (yes) skiing, or simply feeling safer and more confident playing in the backyard with the kids, good balance and flexibility are key.

To help improve balance and flexibility in your life check out these three tips.

Take an Exercise Class: Yoga, Pilates, step classes … they all strive to strengthen your core muscle groups, which are essential in achieving good balance. Plus, these classes often complement indoor cardio and resistance training – training that may do little to help with your balance.

Stretch Every Day: Take 10 to 15 minutes each day to stretch, either in the morning or just before bed. A stretch right before an activity will do little to help you out unless you’ve worked to establish a higher level of flexibility over the long term.

Perform Single-Leg Balance Exercises: Get your body accustomed to relying on one side at a time. Practice standing on one leg while tilting your body forward, back and sideways. Place your hand on a wall, countertop or piece of furniture if you need help balancing. Other single leg balance ideas include ball bounces, standing on a foam pad, and practicing with eyes closed … all in a safe setting, of course.

For a more individualized approach of our course, a physical therapist can help but in the meantime, give one of the tips a try.

6 Dos and Don’ts for Fitness Apps in The New Year

Did you know that more than 325,000 health apps were available to consumers in 2017 (Research2Guidance). Wow! These include popular apps like Strava, Lose It!, Couch to 5K, FitStar Personal Trainer, etc. – apps available to help people achieve goals related to weight loss, healthy eating, and improved fitness. As more people continue to turn to health apps on their smartphones to help achieve goals related to exercise and weight loss, it’s important to use such tools with an element of wisdom.

The emergence of health and fitness apps is definitely a positive development in the health care world because they can be successful in engaging people and empowering them to take on a greater personal role in their health care journeys.  That said, even the best fitness apps can’t address everything that’s important when it comes to safely and effectively achieving personal goals.

The missing ingredient…

Fitness apps don’t know you – your medical history, your current strengths and weaknesses … how to get you to your goals in a way that’s safe and which takes into consideration the limits and abilities of your body and current fitness levels.  Many of these apps are great for helping people track their fitness goals, holding them accountable through reminders and tips, and often providing an online support system as well. But the app’s user is the key to the entire equation.”

With this in mind, here are a few things to keep in mind for effectively using health apps:

DO use apps to track your goals. Whether it’s tracking distance, calories consumed/burned, workout times, etc., this is one of the most effective uses of health apps. And tracking progress only helps in the achievement of goals.

DON’T use apps to set your goals. Running a 5K, for instance, may seem like a great goal. But based on current fitness levels, injury history, movement limitations, etc., perhaps it’d be better and safer to start more slowly (perhaps first running a mile) or trying a different exercise (i.e., cycling, hiking or swimming).

DO use apps for motivation. Being we’re attached to our smartphones throughout the day, apps serve as great motivational tools when trying to stick to a workout regimen. Apps can even connect the user with others for added encouragement.

DON’T let apps push you too far. Listen to your body over your app. If something’s not feeling right, it’s OK to skip today’s Couch to 5K workout. Through pain or discomfort, your body may be telling you to rest, or perhaps get checked out by a physical therapist or physician.

DO use apps to help you explore new activities. Apps can certainly make you feel empowered, serving as motivation to try new things – new yoga poses, new core exercises, new activities like running or cycling, etc. But…

DON’T forget to seek professional medical advice before starting something really new. As with any new physical activity, it’s important to get assessed by a medical professional, such as a physical therapist, to ensure your body’s equipped to handle the rigors of said activity.  Be safe and injury-free when pursuing your goals.

How to Give New Year’s Resolutions Another Try

A typical New Year’s resolution is doomed to fail – that is, if you believe in statistics alone.

Did you know that around 80 percent of people who make resolutions on the first of the year have already fallen off the wagon by Valentine’s Day. That includes two of the most popular resolutions made throughout the U.S. each year: to work out more and to lose weight.

Fortunately, statistics don’t control the success or failure of any life change. Medical professionals across the spectrum agree that success comes through methodical goal setting that helps you ‘see the change.

One way to achieve “revolutionary success” is to mirror the process of goal setting and achievement long held by the disciplines of physical therapy and rehabilitation. Why?

Physical therapy is a health profession that’s results-driven based on processes that depend on setting individual goals that are specific, clear and personal to each patient.Even the most earnest and motivated person can fall into the trap of setting goals that are too vague. So in physical therapy, we opt for and practice a method of goalsetting that focuses on being incredibly specific.

The method (maybe you’ve heard it before) is the SMART method of setting goals.

A simple acronym, SMART advocates for the setting of goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic/relevant, and timed. Here’s how each step breaks down:

Specific: Don’t just throw out a general goal; be sure to include all the important W’s in your goal: who, what, where, why and why. Rather than saying, “I’d like to lose weight” be more specific by stating, “I want to lose 30 pounds by summer so I can go backpacking without experiencing joint pain.”

Measurable: Always set concrete marks that allow you to measure your goal. Include a long-term mark (e.g., lose 30 pounds by summer) as well as benchmarks along the way (e.g., lose 8 pounds by the end of January, 13 pounds by the end of February, etc).

Attainable: Your goal shouldn’t be easy to achieve, but you must have the attitude, ability, skill and financial capacity to achieve it. Starting with a solid foundation, attainability is something that can develop over time.

Realistic/Relevant: Anyone can set a goal, but are you willing and able to work toward this goal? In other words, are there any irrefutable road blocks that can and will hinder your progress? Typically, if you believe it, then it’s more than likely realistic.

Timed: Don’t just set your goal for “whenever.” Set a challenging yet realistic timeline, be it to lose a specific amount of weight by your sibling’s wedding or to be in shape by the spring’s first 5K race. Make your goal tangible.

Along with utilizing the SMART method, share your goals, benchmarks, successes and failures with others. Surrounding yourself with a circle of support can help you stay the course and battle through difficult stretches.

I believe this will be the year that you meet your goals.  Remember to Live Well, Move More, and Hurt Less!

The Annual Checkup That You Are Missing

We all know that visiting your physician for an annual physical is critical in maintaining long-term health, just as dental exams twice each year helps ensure oral health throughout a lifetime. But what about annual checkups with a physical therapist?

Annual physical therapy checkups provide the third critical (and often overlooked) piece in long-term health and preventative care.

The primary focus of a physical therapist is the musculoskeletal system – the bones, joints, muscles and connective tissues that make it possible for you to not just move, but experience life independently and on your terms. As a physical therapist, our job is to ensure this system is in optimal shape so few limitations stand in the way of a person’s quality of life.

This includes identifying weaknesses, limitations, defects and other factors affecting one’s musculoskeletal system – issues that could lead to discomfort, pain or injury. Based on the results of a physical therapy “check-up” examination, a physical therapist is able to provide clients with individualized treatments and/or programs meant to help prevent future, movement-limiting issues.

This indeed helps keep people moving and helps ensure a high quality of life for those who wish to stay active. However, staying ahead of possible musculoskeletal issues is related to much broader issues related to overall health. Movement is medicine, and being able to stay physically active – staying away from pain, injury and other barriers that can keep people from moving – plays a huge role in disease prevention, the management of chronic conditions and, overall, taking greater control of your health.

During a preventative check-up, a physical therapist will evaluate such things as:

  • Movement/injury history
  • Balance
  • Aerobic capacity
  • Functional strength
  • Flexibility
  • Quality of movement (for any activities you do regularly)
  • Pain

In addition, a physical therapist will work with each person to address any personal limitations, weaknesses, pain or other impairments that may be holding them back from reaching their lifestyle and movement goals.

We recommend that, just as with their personal physicians, people should see a physical therapist for a check-up once each year.

Other times to consider a physical therapy checkup are:

  • Whenever you experience pain, discomfort or strain when doing an activity you enjoy
  • Whenever you are considering a new fitness or training program, or starting a new sport
  • After you’ve completed post-surgery rehab, and you are trying to resume normal or a new activity
  • After any surgery or condition that has led to bed rest.

Although physical therapists can help you recover from an injury, to get the best benefit, consider a checkup before one occurs.

A Better Way to Reduce Your Pain

October is National Physical Therapy Month, and as medical professionals across the U.S. work together to expound the benefits of physical therapy, the team at Kinetic Physical Therapy & Wellness in Greenville are joining the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) in highlighting a topic that affects the lives of millions: opioid awareness.

More specifically, the goal is to create awareness around the fact that physical therapy is a safe and effective alternative to opioids (i.e., Vicodin and OxyContin) for long-term pain management.

This is according to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which in March of 2016 released guidelines urging non-opioid solutions (such as physical therapy) for the management of chronic pain.

There’s definitely a time and a place for the use of prescription pain medication, but the misuse of opioids in our country is very real. The CDC reports more than 1,000 people are treated in emergency rooms every day for misusing prescription opioids.

Other scary facts about opioids, according to the CDC:

  • Opioid misuse, overuse and addiction contributed to the death of nearly 20,000 Americans in 2014.
  • Health care providers wrote 259 million prescriptions for opioid pain medication in 2012, enough for every adult in the U.S.
  • As many as one in four people who receive prescription opioids long-term for non-cancer pain in primary care settings end up struggling with addiction.

It’s truly an epidemic in our country, but as a physical therapist I’m in a hopeful position to help people manage their chronic pain in ways that are safer and oftentimes more effective than using prescription drugs.

A number of studies over the years have pointed to movement, exercise and individualized physical therapy as effective options for treating chronic pain. A report about chronic pain released by the National Institutes of Health in January of 2015 specifically mentions physical therapy as a key, non-pharmaceutical option for treating, managing and event ending chronic pain.

“Despite what is commonly done in current clinical practice, there appear to be few data to support the long-term use of opioids for chronic pain management,” states the report titled “The Role of Opioids in the Treatment of Chronic Pain.”

“‘Movement is medicine,” is not a phrase we use lightly in the physical therapy profession, but the solution isn’t as easy as just suggesting movement and exercise. All who suffer from chronic pain are different, and through one-on-one care, we’re able to identify and address the physical as well as some of the mental and emotional factors that stand in the way of safe and effective pain care management.

From education, strength and flexibility exercises and manual therapy, to posture awareness, body mechanics instruction, and many other methods, physical therapists are licensed and trained to identify the causes of chronic pain, then establish individualized treatment plans for managing and possibly eliminating the pain.

4 Tips to Combat The Effects of Sitting All Day

It’s been said that too much of anything can be bad for you. This theory holds true with sitting – or, pretty much any prolonged sedentary behavior, for that matter.

In an age when more people find themselves sitting for hours at a time at home, in transit and at work, researchers are finding sobering parallels between inactivity and an increased risk of health complications and chronic diseases. Yet studies have shown that the average American spends more than half of his or her waking hours in a sitting position, mostly while at work.

“We’re at an incredible time in our country when a growing number of people are beginning to accept the fact the movement is medicine, and yet they still find themselves sitting throughout most of the day.  Without making concerted efforts to overcome all this sitting, this can unfortunately lead to issues like obesity, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

One Mayo Clinic cardiologist, Martha Grogan, M.D., has even compared the effects of excessive sitting with that of smoking. So how does one combat such inactivity, especially if work or career requires a lot of time in a chair?

It’s all about moving, engaging your muscles and waking up your body, even if it’s just a little at a time. This helps to keep your body alert, burning calories and increasing your energy levels.

To accomplish this within a work environment try some of these strategies

  1. Sweat Your Commute: Instead of driving or taking the bus/train to work, get up early and walk. Or, ride your bike. If you have to drive, park at the far end of the lot, then take the stairs whenever possible.

 

  1. Take a Stand: Take advantage of any opportunity you have to stand. If you can’t get your boss to buy you an adjustable-height desk, then stand when you’re on the phone or eating your lunch. And, trade internal instant messaging for a quick walk to a coworker’s desk.

 

  1. Break for Fitness: When you take breaks, don’t just sit in the lounge with a coffee, snack and your smartphone. Take a quick walk around the building or block, or do some stretching.

 

  1. Have a (Fitness) Ball: Trade your chair for a fitness/stability ball. Sitting on one of these all day will improve your balance and remind you to activate your core muscles while you accomplish your daily tasks.

Sitting throughout the day can cause weaknesses in your muscles and joints which can lead to poor posture and unhealthy imbalances in your body. Over time, this can cause discomfort, pain, injury or other complications. If this is a concern a Physical Therapist can assess a person’s individual situation, identify weaknesses and imbalances in the body, and put her or him on track toward preventing future complications.

How to Recover Quicker from Concussions

With high school sports starting up soon, and NFL training camp in full swing, concussions are certain to ramp up within the mainstream consciousness. And while talk will often point to conventional wisdom which states that “time and rest” are the best and only options for recovery from concussion, studies now suggest managed exercise and movement can hasten recovery.
It wasn’t that long ago when concussion sufferers were told not to move – to rest, with no exercise, until symptoms improved. Today, while rest remains important, it’s become increasingly important to get moving with a careful, managed exercise program as this can benefit recovery.
In 2010, researchers at the University of Buffalo were the first to show that that specialized exercise regimens can relieve prolonged concussion symptoms.
The study focused on both athletes and non-athletes and was published in the Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine. Researchers based their findings on the hypothesis that the regulatory system responsible for maintaining cerebral blood flow, which may be dysfunctional in people with a concussion, can be restored to normal by controlled, graded, symptom-free exercise.
Nearly 3.8 million people suffer from concussions each year in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), many the result of athletic injuries and motor vehicle accidents. From 5 to 10 percent of these people may experience concussion symptoms that last beyond six weeks.
As health care professionals, physical therapists are in an ideal position to provide one-on-one care for concussion sufferers, from evaluation through treatment. Concussions are serious medical conditions that can hold you back for days … even weeks. A physical therapist can guide a patient through the healing process, making recovery more proactive and possibly even quicker.
Individualized care is key. In fact, according to the American Association of Physical Therapy (APTA), a physical therapist will first provide concussed patients with thorough neurological, orthopedic and cardiovascular evaluations prior to developing an individualized treatment plan that addresses an individual’s needs and goals.
Then, following some rest and recovery, a physical therapist can determine when it’s best to begin treating the problems related to the concussion (e.g., dizziness, balance and headaches) while also starting a light, guided exercise program for the restoration of strength and endurance, putting the patient on track toward full recovery.
A physical therapist will be with you every step of the way as you gradually return to normal life and activities, whether they include work, hobbies or competitive sports. This is a guided process that’s different for each person who has suffered a concussion, one that requires a medical professional such as a PT to manage and monitor increases in activity levels for the long-term safety of the patient.

Tennis Elbow Without Playing Tennis?

While tennis elbow and its sister ailment, golfer’s elbow, sound like the unfortunate results of overly active country club memberships, these repetitive use conditions affect more than just those who regularly hit the links or swing a racquet. In fact, tennis plays a factor in fewer than 5 percent of all tennis elbow diagnoses.

But despite the causes of these common soft-tissue injuries to the forearm and elbow, both conditions and the debilitating pain that come with them can be effectively treated and prevented.

The name ‘tennis elbow’ can definitely be a misleading one as it can affect anyone who frequently grips and twists their arms while swinging, carrying, or using a tool. This includes carpenters swinging hammers and turning screwdrivers, and landscapers or gardeners picking up rock, brick or pavers. It can even affect people who spend their days using a computer.

Tennis elbow, or lateral epicondylitis, is an overuse condition in the forearm muscles that leads to pain in the outside of the elbow. A condition that affects 1 to 3 percent of the population, tennis elbow is similar to golfer’s elbow (called medial epicondylitis by clinicians), which in contrast results in pain on the inside of the elbow.

The pain can happen at once or develop over time, and it can get worse when you grip, turn or twist things with your hand – say turning a door knob or opening a jar. While they’re not considered serious conditions, both tennis and golfer’s elbow can lead to long-term pain and possible tissue degeneration without proper rest and treatment.

The first key in treating the pain and inflammation that comes with tennis and golfer’s elbow starts with rest, ice and compression. Once the inflammation begins to subside, treatments can include exercises designed to restore flexibility and mobility while strengthening areas around the joint – all with an eye toward future injury prevention.

Such exercises – all performed in a seated position with the forearm parallel to the floor – may include:

Supination with a Dumbbell: Keeping your forearm steady and your palm up, grip the end of a light dumbbell (or heavy tool, like a hammer). Using only your wrist, steadily turn the dumbbell downward toward the floor, then rotate it to point back up toward the ceiling. Repeat, holding your elbow steadily in place. This strengthens the supinator muscle, the large muscle in your forearm which attaches to your elbow.

Wrist Extension: Using the same dumbbell, grab its center with your palm pointed down. Keeping your elbow steady, bend your wrist toward the floor, then lift back up so the back of your hand is even with your forearm. Repeat. This works the wrist extensors, the small muscles connected to the elbow that allow you to bend your wrist.

Write Flexion: Following your wrist extensions – again, holding the same light dumbbell – turn your forearm so it’s pointed up. Holding your elbow and forearm steady, curl your wrist upward, then slowly drop back to your starting position. Repeat. This exercise works your wrist flexors, the muscles opposite of your wrist extensors.

Such exercises and others can help you prevent elbow pain common with tennis elbow. However, if you experience any pain in or around your elbow that may limit your ability to work, play or perform common daily functions, contact your physical therapist first for a thorough evaluation and to discuss treatment options.

What Every Person With Cancer Needs

As National Cancer Survivors Day approaches on Sunday, June 4 this is the ideal opportunity to point out the ways research has shown that MOVEMENT and EXERCISE can improve the health and quality of life of those who suffer from and have survived cancer.

According to American Cancer Society, multiple studies have shown that regular physical therapy and exercise can have profound effects on those battling cancer, both physically and mentally – even to the extent of improving survival rates and lowering the risk of cancer recurrence.

Physical therapy and exercise can no doubt play critical roles in improving a person’s quality of life both during and after cancer diagnosis and treatment. Along with helping patients with cancer maintain strength, reduce fatigue, minimize pain, and maximize function and mobility, physical therapists play a critical role in identifying possible complications during and after cancer treatments.

Working closely with a patient’s primary physician and/or oncologist, a physical therapist works to establish an exercise regimen that takes into account the type of cancer, it’s treatment (i.e., chemotherapy, radiation, surgery, etc.), and limitations that go along with such factors. The goal of such therapy is to maintain strength and stamina throughout treatments, reduce nausea, and maintain a level of safety and independence in patients’ everyday lives.

Exercise also improves self-esteem and reduces anxiety and depression in cancer patients.

Beyond the physical benefits, physical therapy is a great way for people to feel in control of restoring their bodies during and after cancer treatment through exercise and good health practices.

Following successful cancer treatments, the importance of physical therapy and exercise doesn’t diminish. In fact, J, it remains an important aspect of life after cancer.

According to the American Cancer Society, at least 20 studies have suggested that physically active cancer survivors – specifically, survivors of breast, colorectal, prostate and ovarian cancers – have a lower risk of cancer recurrence and improved survival rates. This is when compared to those cancer survivors who remain inactive.

Beating cancer doesn’t end when you go into remission. Making physical activity a regular part of your life, including both cardiovascular and strength exercise, remains an essential part of both recovery and prevention. No matter who you are, regular physical activity is always a solid option for overall health and happiness.

Both during and following cancer treatments, our physical therapists can work with cancer survivors (and their physicians) to establish exercise programs that maintain long-term strength, cardio fitness, and overall functionality.

3 Simple Steps to Prevent Golf Injuries

It’s estimated that about 29 million Americans each year hit the links for at least one round of golf. That’s 1 in 10 people in the U.S., according to the National Golf Foundation. But while golf is often considered a safe, low-impact, leisurely activity for people of all ages and abilities, that impression vastly underestimates the impact golf has on the body.

From sudden, acute injuries due to poor form or the lack of flexibility, to the development of long-term, overuse injuries caused by excessive play or poor swing mechanics, a round of golf can turn from leisurely to debilitating without proper training and conditioning.

People love to play golf because it’s challenging and competitive while, for the most part, remaining nondiscriminatory based on age or fitness level, but there’s no denying that golf as a sport is associated with a significant number of injuries each year – conditions that can keep you off the links while affecting other aspects of your life.

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, more than 131,000 people were treated in hospital emergency rooms, doctors’ offices and other clinics for golf-related injuries in 2015 alone. The most common injuries affected golfers’ backs, shoulders and elbows.

The most common golf injuries tend to happen either when a golfer jumps into a season or round too quickly, before the body’s prepared for the rigors of 18 holes or they come from playing and practicing too much – without proper rest – which can lead to overuse injuries like back pain or golfer’s elbow.

Studies by the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine (AOSSM) have shown that both are real issues within the golf community. For instance, AOSSM says that more than 80 percent of golfers spend less than 10 minutes warming up before a round. At the same time, about 44 percent of all reported golf injuries in youths are from overuse.

These injuries are preventable, and the first step is realizing that golf is truly a sport, not just a leisure activity. With any sport, you can’t just pick up the driver and start swinging. You have to get your body in shape for golf – both before the season and before a particular round – and you have to know when to rest.”

Preventing golf injuries requires the following:

Proper Mechanics: Your swing isn’t just important for accuracy and length. Proper mechanics keep you from placing too much strain on your back, elbows, shoulders … really your entire kinetic chain, from your feet to your head.

A Warmup Routine: If you’re one of the 80 percent of golfers who spend less than 10 minutes warming up, you’re just asking for injury. Instead, develop a regular and reliable stretching and warmup routine for use prior to each round that promotes flexibility, increases your heart rate, and gradually works your body up to swinging the driver.

Professional Advice: A golf pro can help you with mechanics, but a physical therapist can ensure your body is up for the rigors of performing these mechanics through nine or 18 holes. A full assessment from a physical therapist can help a golfer identify imbalances in strength and flexibility, from which a PT can provide him or her with a path toward addressing these deficiencies with an eye toward injury prevention and improving the golf game.

Another Way to Decrease Pain

Pain affects more Americans than diabetes, heart disease and cancer combined (American Academy of Pain Medicine).  If you are like most people, you probably want to get rid of it as quickly as possible.  Fortunately, there are many options out there for pain management that can be help without long term use of pain medications.

One of those options include Trigger Point Dry Needling.  Now I know you’re thinking, “a needle!  Oh my!”  No worries. It’s not quite what you think.  Dry needling is a treatment that has been safely provided by physical therapists since the 1920’s that has recently had a resurgence in use.  It involves a very thin monofilament type of needle that the physical therapist pushes through the skin to stimulate trigger points (really tight areas within the tissue) and muscles to help them to relax, to restore motion, and decrease pain.

Many athletes, runners, dancers, use dry needling as a part of their normal rehab routine.  Most people report that they don’t really feel anything with the initial stick until the needle gets into the muscle.  Then there is often a very quick muscle contraction that is more surprising than it is painful.  Afterwards, the client usually demonstrates improved range of motion and reports decreased pain.

After treatment, there might be a muscle soreness similar to what one would feel after exercise but once this is gone, oh the joy of decreased pain!

Now, remember, this is not magic (although it would be really cool if it were).  Dry needling is one of the many tools that physical therapists can use to help restore motion and decrease pain.  Your therapists can perform a thorough evaluation to help determine if you are a good candidate for this as a part of your treatment program to reduce your pain and improve your function.

What You Must Know About Pain and Soreness

There’s soreness, and then there’s pain. It’s important to not confuse the two.

To active people in general and athletes at all levels, the inability to recognize the differences between muscle soreness and pain can mean pushing your body – your muscles and joints – to the point of injury. It’s the difference, Jones says, between healthy progress and unnecessary, long-term risk.

Whether you’re a true athlete, are training for your first 5K fun run, enjoy riding your bike to work, or simply like working the soil in your garden, adopting the theory of ‘no pain, no gain’ isn’t always the wisest choice. It’s one thing if you get a little sore — this happens — but if you’re dealing with pain, you need to find out what’s causing the discomfort. Pushing through the pain could only cause long-term damage to your body.”

So how can you tell soreness from pain? The answer’s simple: listen to your body.

Here are some of the signs that you’re experiencing pain – not simply soreness — and should shut it down and seek the advice of a physician or physical therapist, according to both Jones and the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA):

Pain is Sharp: Sharp, intense pain that you experience when exercising and at rest can be classified as pain. In contrast, sore muscles tend to feel tight and achy when at rest. During exercise, sore muscles will feel “burning” and fatigued.

The burning feeling should be felt in the muscles, but, if the part of the body where you feel discomfort is swollen or warmer to the touch, that’s a sign of inflammation, which is beyond simple soreness.”

Pain in the Joints: Soreness is a muscular thing. Though muscle discomfort can also cross the line into pain, discomfort in the joints is less ambiguous.

If you feel in a particular joint or you’re struggling with activities that were previously easy, like getting up from a chair or walking up stairs, it’s time to seek professional advice.

Warm-Up Discomfort: If the discomfort you feel doesn’t go away after you’ve warmed up for your workout or event, you’ve potentially crossed the line into pain.

When you’re running, let’s say, and the second mile hurts the same as when you walked out the door that morning, you’re dealing with pain, not soreness.  General soreness – even a stiff joint – should improve through use.

R.I.C.E. Fails: If soreness persists and seems to linger, apply R.I.C.E., a popular acronym that takes you through the steps of Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation. Then re-evaluate the way you feel. If the hurt doesn’t improve or subside, you may be dealing with pain. Time to seek the advice of an expert, such as a physical therapist.

The sooner you see a medical expert, such as a physical therapist, the less chance the potential injury will worsen,If you’re truly in pain, getting evaluated and treated immediately can improve and possibly hasten your recover, depending on the injury.

5 Running Mistakes to Avoid this 5K Season

It’s the season for weekend fun runs, charity 5Ks and multi-stage team relays. But as recreation and competitive runners hit the roads and trails to prepare for upcoming events remember that avoiding common early season training mistakes can keep runners healthy and competitive throughout the season.

This is an especially important message considering about 60 to 65 percent of all runners experience an injury during the average year.

Running injuries are common, especially early in the season when people are training and prepping for races by getting their bodies back into shape. Plantar fasciitis, Achilles problems, knee pain, IT band friction syndrome … these are all common running injuries, often caused this time of year by doing too much too soon, and doing so lacking proper strength, muscle timing, flexibility or form.

To help remain on schedule throughout the spring and summer outdoor season remember to avoid the following five running mistakes:

  1. Skipping Warmup and Cooldown: While workout windows can be tight and difficult to secure during a given week, don’t use time constraints as an excuse to avoid properly warming up and cooling down before and after a run. Some walking, light jogging, skipping, high knees and butt kicks prior to running increases heart rate and circulation, loosens up the joints and increases blood flow to the muscles. For your cooldown, do some light walking and stretching to help reduce the buildup of lactic acid, which can lead to stiffness and muscle cramps.
  2. Wearing the Wrong Shoes: How your feet strike the ground will affect muscles and joints throughout your body’s entire kinetic chain, from the feet and ankles, through the knees and hips, and up into your spine and torso. If your shoes don’t fit properly, support your feet correctly or sufficiently absorb the impact of each stride, you’re going to feel it. It’s important to not only wear a good, high-quality shoe, but also one that matches your foot type.
  3. Not Listening to the Body: Don’t subscribe to a “no pain, no gain” model when running. Sure, you’ll want to push your body hard, but if you feel pain or an unnatural level of discomfort or fatigue, stop, assess and seek treatment from a physical therapist or other medical professional, if necessary.
  4. Focusing Only on Cardio Fitness: With running, cardio fitness is certainly important. But when it comes to both injury prevention and performance enhancement, flexibility and strength are equally as vital. Stretch daily and during cooldown periods and build strength in your calves, knees, hips and core through heel drops and body weight squats.
  5. Forgetting to Rest: It’s good to push yourself, but rest and recovery are essential in avoiding injury, burnout and plateauing before you’ve reached your fullest potential. So always work rest into your long-term training regimen. This doesn’t mean just kicking up your feet and relaxing for a day. Sometimes, ‘rest’ can simply mean mixing up your training so you’re not challenging your body the same way every day.

To learn more about proper training, including personalized assessments and the development of training regimens that can enhance your running performance and ensure optimal injury prevention, feel free to contact the physical therapy team at Kinetic Physical Therapy & Wellness.