American Heart Month: How to Be Heart Healthy

We learn at a young age in health class that being physically active, following a healthy diet, and not smoking are some of the most important ways to keep your heart and lungs healthy. It is unfortunate that many Americans are not active enough and do not follow these guidelines to a healthy life, but fortunately, physical therapy can help to get you and keep you on the right track. Lifestyle changes can make a difference and physical therapist can help with these changes.

Physical therapy can help carve a heart-healthy exercise program that is suitable for you. A physical therapist will take the time to learn who you are and what you aren’t capable of and will set boundaries as well as expectations. All plans are safe and progressive, even if you have never worked out a day in your life. Working closely with a physical therapist can greatly improve the way your heart functions as well as the rest of your body in a safe environment.

Depending on if you suffer from any heart-related issues, your physical therapist will work with you on specific areas, whether it be mobility, lifestyle changes, or any physical activity specific to your abilities and goals. The heart is an amazing organ and the most crucial part of our body as it powers the blood circulation through our entire body. Research shows your heart would have beaten almost 3 billion times if you live to be 80 years old. There are four considerations to keep your most important organ going strong.

  1. Eating healthy. Everyone knows that eating food processed foods, such as McDonald’s, is not good for you. At the moment it may seem fine but your body will be hating you after. Eating healthy consists of daily servings of fruits and vegetables. Minimizing the consumption of sodium-filled foods and fats can help keep your heart healthier, longer.
  2. Keep moving. Being active is the best thing you can do for your body. It doesn’t mean you have to go out and join and gym and go every day for the rest of your life, but something as easy as taking a daily walk around the neighborhood, taking the stairs to work instead of the elevator, or parking further to your destination (requiring walking) can all make a difference in the long run.
  3. Blood pressure. Know your blood pressure numbers and try and keep track. If it becomes high on a consistent basis you should consult a doctor as you may be at risk of heart disease.
  4. Cholesterol. The ratio numbers between your body’s “good” and “bad” cholesterol can be detrimental to your health.

Physical therapists are committed to helping you live a healthy and more productive lifestyle. They are there to bring up your energy and help set and succeed in life goals. You owe it to your heart to seek the help of a physical therapist’s if you are in need.

How to Prevent Muscle Cramps

Muscle cramps happen when a muscle involuntarily contracts, tightens, and does not relax as it normally should. Anyone who has been unexpectedly stopped in their tracks with a cramp or even awakened in the night from a charley horse knows the extreme pain muscle cramps can cause. Here are some tips on how to prevent and how to deal with muscle cramps.

Many experts can agree that dehydration can be the leading cause of muscle cramps. It is important to stay hydrated, especially while exercising. Not having enough water and sodium surrounding your muscles can cause them to be hypersensitive and puts you at a higher risk for cramping. Drinking electrolyte-rich drinks may prevent those painful side cramps that many people experience while exercising while also keeping you hydrated.

Your diet may also be an important factor in preventing muscle cramps. Certain vitamins and minerals, such as potassium, calcium, and magnesium can all impact your muscle function. Certain fruits and vegetables can be 90% water, so eating plenty of these will help you stay hydrated and healthy. Eating bananas can be helpful in preventing cramps because the added potassium in your diet can help to balance your electrolytes as well as create a strong defense against muscle spasm.

Another factor contributing to muscle cramps is from overuse of your muscles, or muscle fatigue, which is caused by vigorous exercise or long periods of physical labor. Cramps can occur during physical activity or can sneak up on you up to 6 hours afterward. Be sure you get in a good warm-up to prepare your body for physical activity in order to prevent muscle cramps and muscle fatigue. Stretching should be done before and after exercise to gently warm up your muscles and increase your flexibility. Continuous strenuous exercise can bet the cause of cramping, so it is important to take occasional breaks to reduce the strain on your body.

Unfortunately, cramps are extremely common, and almost everyone experiences them sometime in their life. The good news is cramping will almost always be treated with self-care and will resolve in a short amount of time. If the pain is severe, long-lasting or occurring frequently, you may have suffered a muscle injury and you will need medical attention.

What Is Direct Access Physical Therapy?

What is direct access to physical therapy? We believe it should be the norm for healthcare systems as it can save money as well as make things faster and easier for the patient. Direct access lets people seek out treatment from licensed physical therapists without a referral or a prescription from a physician. Anyone who has been to a doctor before can probably relate to the frustration of needing a referral if you need to see a specialist or need further help in recovering from injury. It takes time to schedule different appointments and also costs money jumping from doctor to doctor. What if, though, you didn’t need permission and you could go out on your own to seek the treatment you want to get and not the doctor’s opinion of treatment. What if you were denied a referral to a physical therapist you think you need in order to get better? Direct access can amend these issues as well as cut costs for the patient and the time to get the treatment you want.

As of last January, all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Virgin Islands allow patients to seek some type of treatment from a licensed physical therapist without a referral or prescription. In many states, though, it is individual state laws that put restrictions on treatment. Restrictions include limiting the number of visits or services related to treatment without a referral. There are some who are concerned with direct access and the effects it could have on the patient in the long term. What if the physical therapist who is treating your were to miss an underlying condition and you were to take a turn for the worse? Of course, it makes sense that some people would want the approval of their physician before seeing a specialist, but sometimes it can take a long time waiting around for a referral and checking with insurance companies. Rates of malpractice insurance among physical therapists has been no higher in states where direct access is working compared to the states who make patients get referrals for seeing a physical therapist.

Direct access has many benefits for both patients and therapists. You should be able to seek the services they are interested in without restrictions. With direct access, there is less jumping through hoops and waiting time as the patient can do it on their own time when they really need it. This could really save not only time and money, but hopefully, it could save lives in the long run, and make people happier with the healthcare they are receiving.  

Need Physical Therapy now? Call us and make use of direct access here at Island Sports Physical Therapy.

Physical Therapy and Controlling Blood Pressure

Physical therapists work their hardest to ensure you live life to the best of your ability when faced with pain or injury. Your vitals will help your physical therapist determine a correct evaluation of your condition or injury as well as determining the type and amount of care you need.

Fear not if you are one of the 75 million Americans dealing with high blood pressure as it can be controlled and prevented. It is advised to seek help from your primary care doctor as well as a physical therapist if you have high blood pressure. Your risk for high blood pressure increases as you get older. Exercise can make a big difference as it can help get your blood pressure under control if it is already high, but this does not necessarily mean you have to join a gym or run until your heart and lungs feel as if they are about to burst. As long as your routine involves keeping your muscles active, you do not need to go all out, especially if you are older.

Physical therapists create exercise routines that help target the problem you face. Each activity provided by a physical therapist is designed specifically for you. Regular physical activity makes your heart stronger (with less effort needed to pump your blood) and blood vessels more flexible. A stronger heart and more relaxed arteries require less work to pump blood throughout your body and lowers your blood pressure.

You can reduce your high blood pressure by becoming more physically active. Regular exercise is enough for many people to reduce the need for blood pressure medications completely. Exercising also helps in maintaining a healthy weight. It may not be ideal to drop 30 pounds in two weeks (although many of us would like to), but considering weight management will also help to reduce high blood pressure. We all want to stay as healthy as possible in order to live a happy and healthy life, so consider contacting a physical therapist so you do not have to take on the stress alone!

Chronic Pain as a Possible Cause of Falling

Chronic pain may be the reason adults older than 70 years of age have an increased chance of falling according to a study published in the November 25th issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association. Dr. Suzanne G. Leveine is the lead author of the study who conducted the research and stated that the findings showed adults reported chronic musculoskeletal pain in two or more locations, mainly the joints of the arms and legs.

Doctors are able to use these findings to prevent injuries by informing elder patients about what may happen if they do not target the problem that has caused them pain or discomfort. The study was conducted using 749 adults over the age of 70. Those who were enrolled in Maintenance of Balance, Independent Living, Intellect and Zest in the Elderly participated in the study.

Each participant was interviewed regarding their health and asked questions about their overall pain. In addition to the interview, patients underwent a physical examination by a nurse.  Within an 18 month span, the participants documented any falls that they had on a monthly calendar postcard which was returned to the institute. Researchers concluded: “During the 18-month study period, the 749 participants reported a total of 1,029 falls, with more than half the participants falling at least once during this period.” In addition, Leveille states that a comparison of participants who reported no pain with those who had chronic pain in at least two joints showed that the chronic pain group had a 50% greater risk of falling.

According to another study published in the American Academy of Family Physicians, the treatment of chronic pain involves an approach using medication and functional rehabilitation.  Seeking a physical therapist to eliminate pain can benefit you because they are trained, educated, and specialized in the treatment you may need.

At Island Sports Physical Therapy we know how difficult it is dealing with chronic pain and when it leads to falls in the elder generation it is important to seek help. Call us and let us help limit the pain and prevent future falls from happening.

Proper Shoveling Techniques

CAUTION: WET FLOOR. Don’t you wish someone would put these signs outside as a heads up during these icy months? Although we have been lucky with some strangely warm weather, the cold is rolling in and we can surely expect snow in the upcoming weeks. Not all of us have a young teenage boy in the neighborhood who goes around offering to shovel for a small fee so therefore the task is left to you.

Shoveling sounds simple but can be dangerous if you aren’t wary of your footing on the layer of ice that may have frozen over under the snow or if you do not use the proper muscles to dig up and clear the snowy path from your driveway to your front/back door. Back injuries are the most common injury caused by improper shoveling techniques. At Island Sports Physical Therapy, our mission is not only to help patients regain mobility and recover from surgery or injuries but to prevent any possible injuries from reoccurring by strengthening the body for future mobility.

It is important to choose the right shovel to carry out the task. When making your selection, make sure the shovel is small and lightweight with a plastic blade as it will require less energy and muscle to lift with each scoop. The snow will already have weight to it so there is no need to add to this by using a heavy tool. While at the store purchasing your shovel of choice it will also be helpful to buy some salt that you could pour on the area you are shoveling. Salt acts as a natural agent to melt icy surfaces making your job easier. It can also be helpful to get a shovel with a curved or adjustable handle as this will lessen the bending of your knees when scooping up piles of snow.

Prior to shoveling, you should always stretch your limbs as you would before any exercise. Just as the proper stretches are necessary before exercising, so are proper forms and muscle mobility so that you do not harm yourself during the process. When shoveling up each pile, do not toss the snow over your shoulder. Always throw it forward to avoid pulling or twisting any limbs and/or muscles.

Try to get out there early with the snowfall instead of letting it pile up. Lower levels of snow will be easier to clear out and lift as opposed to letting a foot or two compile. We receive on average 10 inches of snow with each snowfall in New York and it can add up quickly! At Island Sports Physical Therapy, we love seeing our patients, but it’s even better seeing them healthy and living a mobile pain-free life more. Please use these tips to stay healthy and out of harm’s way during the winter season!

Keeping Your Healthy New Year’s Resolutions

2016 is here! For many of us, we are embarking towards achieving our personal New Year’s resolutions. Creating goals is a great way to self-motivate, however, for many of us, things don’t always work out. Defy the odds by taking these few tips to heart.

One of the biggest mistakes people make is by creating unrealistic expectations. Promising to run a marathon by the end of the year when you can’t run a 30-second sprint is setting yourself up for failure. Recognizing your current fitness level might make you alter your resolution from running a marathon to running a 5K which will be challenging yet achievable.

Another mistake people make is by making too many resolutions. If you are trying to volunteer on the weekends, workout for an hour each day, and read a book a week, you will overextend yourself and likely fail to reach all three of your goals. Pick the primary goal you want to focus on and make any other goals small.

Once you’ve decided the goals that are most important to you, setting smaller goals is crucial. If you have a weight loss goal of 50 pounds by the end of the year, failing to set mini-goals might have you this October scrambling to lose 45 of those pounds.

If your goal is to do 20 minutes of meditation and deep breath each morning, perhaps working your way up to 20 minutes will help you keep your goal. Start with 5 minutes and add on a minute each week till you get to your goal. Same goes for the organization! You can’t reorganize your entire living space overnight. Go room by room or furniture by furniture each month until your goal is complete.

When it comes to physical fitness, enlisting the help of a personal trainer or physical therapist can be beneficial to avoiding injuries and helping you set realistic goals. A physical therapist has an educational background that can assess your body condition in order to determine what is indeed achievable and can provide recommendations on how to set mini-goals.

Physical Therapy for Knee Pain

Knee pain is a common body ailment for those who lead highly active lives as well as those who are carrying extra weight. The knee joint, when improperly used, can not only succumb to sudden injury but can also overtime begin deteriorating.

Depending on the location of your knee pain, there may be different root causes that require different action plans. For instance, pain above your knee can mean the quadriceps tendon is injured, pain on the sides of the knee could mean a ligament tear, and pain directly in front of your knee could be a sign of bursitis. These are just a few examples of what can be the root cause of your knee pain. For every location of potential pain, there is a myriad of possible causes. This is the danger of self-diagnosis, and because of this, it is extremely important that you seek the advice of a medical professional before embarking on a fitness routine when it comes to your knees.

A physical therapist is often the best professional to seek out as the physical therapist can give your knee a proper evaluation and will create a personalized routine specific to your injury. The physical therapist will also coach you through proper motioning so that the knee doesn’t continue to deteriorate.

A physical therapist will have you do exercises that will strengthen your supporting leg muscles as well as provide manual therapy to the region during a typical session. These two processes in tandem will not only make you feel better but will stimulate circulation to the region that will quicken the healing process.

The physical therapist will also give you exercises to do at home so that you can keep your progress going as well as manage pain as necessary. It is important that if you begin to notice knee pain that you don’t put off seeking medical attention. Catching an issue is not only the perfect situation for your long-term health but will also cost you much less in the long run.

Proper Lifting Techniques

Maintaining a healthy back is essential in preventing injuries and can assist in overall healthier life. You face a higher risk of damaging your back if you are required to lift things regularly and inexperienced lifters can face injury if they are not aware of the proper ways to lift things safely.

Sliding a heavy object would be ideal when it comes time to move it. but if this is not an option, there are some necessary rules to follow when lifting in order to prevent injury. Always start with your feet shoulder-width apart and make sure there is a firm base of support with one foot slightly in front of the other. Bending only at your hips, squat down to retrieve the object while keeping your back straight and facing straight ahead. Straighten your hips and knees while slowly lifting the object and keeping your back straight as well. Instead of twisting your body to change directions, use your feet and lead with your hips to change direction while taking small steps. Remember, if you need to put the object down, squat with your knees and your hip.

You should never bend forward when lifting or placing an object down as it can cause strain to your back. Before lifting, it is advised to know your own body’s limitations. Do not lift more than you think your body can handle and make sure to stretch first before putting any hard work on your back. If there is a repetitive amount of heavy lifting, there should be enough recovery time between each lift to ensure safety and recovery.

Being able to lift objects properly is essential in staying safe and maintaining a healthy back. It is easy to learn the correct way to lift and even easier to implement it into everyday life in order to prevent back injuries.

How Physical Therapy Can Help With Arthritis

All arthritis, although known by many different forms, causes debilitating effects on the joints of your body. Nearly 1 in 7 Americans suffer from arthritis to various degrees. It is extremely important that if you suffer from arthritis, even only slightly, that you take action. Although there is no cure, there are things you can do to help manage your pain and stiffness as well as help reverse or prevent further joint degeneration.

A combination of rest and physical activity is critical. While it may be tempting to fully rest when an arthritis episode occurs, exercising the safe way is the only way to assuage your pain.  The correct motioning for exercise will vary depending on the location of your arthritic pain as well as the nature of the joint deterioration.

It is critical that you seek the help of a professional before embarking on a fitness routine if you have arthritic symptoms. A physical therapist will be able to diagnose your pain, understand the nature of your joint inflammation, and work with you through personalized exercises. A physical therapist will also provide you with an at-home regimen that will keep your arthritic pain at bay.

These exercises will help you with both your joint pain and help to reduce the inflammation in your joints. A physical therapist will monitor your lifestyle factors, both personally and professionally, in order to provide you with the best-personalized routine.

The way we carry out tasks in our daily lives can sometimes be detrimental to our physical health. Incorrect posturing, bending, or even walking can all make our arthritic symptoms worse. By visiting a professional, such as a physical therapist, you will be taught the safest ways to complete tasks that will prevent your arthritic condition from worsening.

When it comes to arthritis, pain management and prevention should be your ultimate goal. By seeking the help of a physical therapist, you will be setting yourself up for a lifetime of health and happiness.