The Physical Therapy Advisor | Empowering You to Reach Your Optimal Health!
The purpose of The Physical Therapy Advisor is to be a respected resource for individuals who are searching for advice on physical therapy related topics; physical fitness and performance; health and nutrition; and injury prevention and rehabilitation.
Neck pain and upper back pain may be two of the most common ailments people experience. From struggling to move your neck, to worrying about the position you sit in on your favorite sofa, pain in the upper torso is debilitating. Yet, many of those who experience these kinds of issues haven’t suffered a fall, twisted their necks unnaturally, or been on rollercoasters since their pain started. For most people, the cause of neck pain or upper back discomfort can’t be pinpointed: there is no single unique moment in which their backs or necks could have been injured. What then? How did they come to be in so much pain? And if you’re reading this, you’re probably thinking the same thing about yourself. Fear not, however, because we’re here to help. In this post, we’ll be investigating the hidden causes that have led to your neck and upper back pain. We’ll also be looking at what to do about it and which steps to take next.
The really frustrating thing about constant neck and upper back pain is that, no matter what you seem to do, it just doesn’t want to disappear. You’ve tried everything: hot water bottles, massages, and even long periods of rest, yet nothing has changed, right? Well, the truth is, it isn’t going to get any better unless you find out exactly why you’re experiencing the pain. See, the thing is, neck and upper back pain often have pretty mundane sources: your everyday habits might be the culprits here. Thus, no matter what you do, if you don’t start there, nothing will change. In lieu of this, take a look at some of the fairly common mistakes people make.
We all come from different backgrounds and have different health histories. The key to living the life you want is accepting where your body is at right now. Some of us have worked hard and exercised (maybe to an extreme) most of our lives. Others have been too sedentary for too long and desire to get back to a pain-free and in shape lifestyle.
For many, arthritis and excess weight make exercise seem daunting. Others are afraid of injury because they’re caretakers for others. For many, it’s a lack of understanding where to start as well as a failure to understand that we all can make changes toward a quality life and healthy aging.
Where we are now in our physical lives is the sum total of choices we have made and a few random events all sprinkled with the genetics we inherited. We need to accept ourselves for where we are presently, and acknowledge that our fitness and our health is not a destination but a journey. Each person’s journey is different. We need to be realistic with our goals and give ourselves time to undo what we have done to ourselves for years. Let’s get started! Continue Reading
If you generally step more gently as you go down the stairs, hold the hand-railing a little bit tighter, and take careful note of where your feet land next… you’re not alone. The vast majority of us either consciously or subconsciously fear the sudden jolt and feeling of vertigo related to feeling taking a tumble – not to mention the pain that comes afterwards! Our worst fears are realized when we start to think about the horrendous consequences of a fall: hip-fractures, muscle tears, back pain, even broken legs all come to mind. Yikes! Is it any wonder that a common nightmarish theme is falling out of bed? In fact, a fear of falling is so common that most people don’t even know they’re afraid! That’s right – the fear isn’t consciously spoken about or acknowledged, rather it translates into minute, prolonged posture and gait abnormalities which, if left unnoticed, can wreak havoc on one’s mobility and self-confidence. That’s why this post looks at why most people are secretly afraid of falling, why most don’t even know they’re afraid, and – thankfully – what we can do about tackling this problem.
Being afraid of falling is more than a cautious tip-toeing around objects: it’s an overarching alteration of the way we assess, approach, and interact with the world around us. Unbeknownst to many of us, the fear of falling actually restricts our movement, thus it can, in fact, cause pain and immobility over time. And not only that, it can actually reduce self-esteem, restricting us from otherwise social interactions along the way. So few of us ever really acknowledge the overarching effects of our fear that, consequently, we forget how our daily lives are being impacted – we become accustomed to limitations and we accept our worry as part of life. And yet, it doesn’t have to be that way!
Knee pain affects almost every single person at some point in their lives. From sprains, to cartilage issues, all the way through to posture-related injuries and muscle tears, knee pain seems to play a role in the sometimes debilitating struggle for a pain-free life. We understand how the nagging, irritating, and oftentimes overwhelming pain in your knee affects your day-to-day activities, not to mention your social life, and that’s why this post is all about knee pain: what it is, why it is, and what can be done about it.
When it comes to knee pain, few people really understand its origins. This is not least because of the complex structure of the knee joint and its position in the body. In fact, the knee is one of the most important body parts. Why? Well, it not only grants the lower leg an immense amount of flexibility, but it also support and maintains the mobility of the upper leg and, finally, the torso and entire upper body. In other words, the knee is an invaluable part of the body’s mobility and stability.
It is no wonder, then, that the knee joint is also the site where most of the body’s pressures and strains accumulate. From walking, to running, and even to standing, the knee is subject to an incomprehensible amount of daily pounding and weight. In truth, your knees withstand more strain than you know, and without their resilience you would probably be far less mobile. Which is why, of course, knee pain is so debilitating.
We’ve all been there… our hands clutching at our thighs in the hope of relieving hip-stress as we get up or sit down; a grimace on our faces as we try to grapple with what we think are signs of aging while easing into the bath; a frown as we get out of the car, straining to carry the weight in our legs, not our hips. Hip pain: most of us have experienced it, and if you’re reading this, you’re probably still suffering from its tell-tail discomfort. And yet, for most of you reading this, your pain isn’t related to any sort of injury you can think of – it just arrived and has decided to stay. The good news is, though its origins are unknown, hip-pain can be treated and alleviated. In this post, we’re looking at some of the reasons you might be suffering from hip discomfort – and better still – some of the ways in which you can become pain free, right now.
I know what you’re thinking – you haven’t fallen, tumbled, or tripped recently. In fact, you tend to take fairly good care of your hips in so far as you know how. And that’s great! The truth is, though, for the majority of us, joint health is something we don’t really consider in our daily activities. In other words, when it comes to our hips, we often don’t realize that small irregularities in our postures, habits, and routines, can affect the health of our hip joints in the long run. That having been said, take a look at some of the most common reasons you’re experiencing inexplicable pain in your hip area.
“Core Strength”… You’ve seen these words on billboards advertising gym memberships, on the latest health-trend manifestos, and on the front page of your fitness magazine. You’ve even heard your close friends and family members chatting about the value of core strength. And yet, you’re not really sure what it is, why it’s important, or why it should even matter to you. The good news is, this post is about to enlighten you. We’re going to give you the ins-and-outs of core strength, its necessity, and what it really means for your health.
For most of us, the idea of core strength is firmly rooted in an image of a young Arnold Schwarzenegger –6-packs and plenty of muscle. Sure, this is some of what it means to have good core strength, but thankfully, having a strong core doesn’t mean we have to become body builders. Core strength is about a lot more than washboard abs – it’s about strong muscles in your torso, back, and upper legs, that is, muscles that are robust enough to support and maintain a healthy spine and bone structure. So, while it’s an added bonus to develop a great midriff, having strong core muscles contributes to your overall health – not just appearance – in a myriad of ways.
Neck and shoulder pain are one the most common ailments faced by people these days. That having been said, it can be mysterious, too. Pinpointing the exact cause for shoulder or neck problems can be particularly tricky as the underlying cause of the pain may be due to many differing factors. Discover the most common causes of neck and shoulder pain and tips on how to prevent and eliminate the pain.
The 21st century goes hand-in-hand with the parabolic rise of technology. Nowadays, tablets, cellphones, TV’s, computers, and even smart-watches dominate our daily lives. We are accompanied by our cellphone wherever we go, our emails are sure to follow, and we – more often than not – end the day lounging in front of the TV.
Here’s the problem though: all of this tech is actually having a damaging effect on your shoulder and neck health. Why? Well, looking down at our phones, arching our necks at the TV screen, trying desperately to avoid the glare on our tablet screens – these all add up. Our muscles are stretched and moved in peculiar ways, all of which take their toll on our muscles, ligaments, and joints. We ache and experience pain a lot more frequently as we increasingly handle our technological devices incorrectly.
In addition to the rise of technology, we have also lost valuable time connecting with our bodies. Most people don’t really stretch, nor do they do much activity. We have become a sedentary nation, for the most part, and our necks and shoulders tell that story. As a people, we just aren’t moving our muscles and joints enough, and the aches and pains you may be experiencing in your neck and shoulders may well be the result of a lack of activity.
It is also important to mention diet: what are you eating on a daily basis? Diets filled with fatty foods or an overload of simple carbohydrates (or even diets that just aren’t balanced and don’t provide the nutrients your body needs) will directly affect your health. Your neck and shoulders will ache if you aren’t feeding yourself the right anti-inflammatory foods.
It is clear, then, that while we’re living in a time defined by a technological rat-race, we need to take a step back and make some serious changes. Your neck and shoulder health may well be directly related to the everyday habits you’ve forged together with technology, diet, and lifestyle. Luckily, it’s possible to start making changes right now.
5 Tips to Ease Neck and Shoulder Pain:Watch your PC and Phone Posture
What is your posture like when you use your computer? Do you have a desktop or laptop? These are very serious considerations when it comes to neck and/or shoulder pain. If you’re using a desktop, make sure your screen is in alignment with your eyes, thereby avoiding forward head movements and incorrect posture which could lead to pain. If, on the other hand, you’re using a laptop, avoid lying down when you’re typing or watching TV. This particular posture forces your head forward, thereby placing immense pressure on your neck muscles as they are pushed into an unnatural position. Rather, use a desk if you can.
Try to limit the time you sit in front of your PC to chunks of around 20 minutes. In addition, make sure that your phone posture is monitored. Never stoop, and always try to keep your phone at eye level with your neck and spine aligned. Always stretch after using technologies like these for long durations of time. Please refer to Got Text Neck?
The way you sleep often directly affects the muscles in your shoulders and neck. Incorrect sleeping habits are one of the biggest culprits in shoulder and neck pain. Sleeping with too many pillows places stress on your neck muscles and actually puts your back and neck out of alignment which can cause pain.
Try sleeping with a pillow that evenly aligns your spine with your neck. It may take some getting used to, but it’s worth it. Also, sleeping on your side with a pillow between your knees is incredibly effective for relieving neck and shoulder pain. Why? Because stress is no longer placed on those two areas, and the weight of the body is evenly distributed along the spine and legs. Please refer to How to Choose the Right Pillow.
Even Distribution of Weight
Without knowing it, many carry their handbags on one side of the body. What about shopping bags? Maybe even our trusty laptop bag. When we carry weight on one side of our bodies the other overcompensates, thereby leading to pain in our shoulders and necks.
It’s very important that weight is distributed evenly. Try carrying shopping bags equally on both sides of the body or switching the side you carry your bags on. This is an absolutely vital step in your journey towards a pain-free life. Please refer to Backpacks = Back Pain?
Be aware of the types of food you’re eating whether it is fast food, fatty foods, sugary foods, or even salty foods. Cutting down on the types of low-nutrient meals you consume will greatly benefit in relieving pain. Try introducing more seeds, berries, and other anti-inflammatory foods into your diet. Dark, leafy greens, broccoli, eggplant, and sweet potatoes are fantastic additions to your meals. Please refer to How to Leverage your Nutrition to Train Harder and Recover Faster.
Moving your body is one of the best ways of getting rid of your neck and shoulder pain. Stretch, move, exercise, and incorporate as much activity as you can – the key to health is to move!
If you want to learn how to stretch and self-mobilize the thoracic spine, be sure to check out My Top 8 Stretches to Eliminate Neck, Upper Back, and Shoulder Pain. By subscribing to my e-mail list, you will automatically gain access to this FREE resource. Download the .pdf file, which is full of photos and exercise instructions, to get started!
Chronic neck and shoulder pain can be debilitating. If you continue to experience pain, seek additional help. Don’t let the pain linger. The longer a condition is left untreated, the more potential for harm and damage which potentially could lead to a longer recovery. The American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) is an excellent resource for learning more about physical therapy as well as locating a physical therapist in your area.
What are some of your best tips on how to ease neck and shoulder pain? Please share below!
Aches and pains…Could it be that you’re just getting older or that you’re less active, perhaps? Maybe it’s just a temporary phase in your life. You’ll grow out of it, right? The truth is, aches and pains are often associated with daily, ongoing, habitual mistakes. Take note of the word habitual – habits are key to understanding precisely why we experience certain discomforts during the day. If you’re one of the millions of people that have a desk job, and you’re also one of the millions who experience daily discomfort, it’s time to retrace your steps and reprogram your habits.
Desk jobs are often some of the most stressful positions in society, not only because of the immense responsibility afforded them, but also because of the physical pressure that type of daily routine places on the body.
Often, a desk job is underscored by a vigorous 9-5 schedule, and as you may know, that schedule leaves very little time for you to take note of your body and your habits. More often than not, you’re probably stuck in traffic on your way to work, you’re slightly late, you’ve possibly missed breakfast, you work right into lunch, and then you rush home for dinner with the family. Granted, not all your days look like this, but on average this might be what you deal with on a daily basis. Basically, it leaves no time for you to really take of yourself.
It comes as no surprise that you’re suffering from daily aches and pains. Sitting in the car, at the desk, at home, and during meals, impacts your health greatly. And furthermore, an unhealthy diet might be spurring on the discomfort. Even worse, you may not be drinking as much fluids as you should be, or maybe you’re substituting water with coffee. All these things add up. Our bodies are not made to withstand bad habits for too long.
The good news is, however, things can change. It may seem impossible right now, but take a look at just some of the ways in which you can change your daily routine for the better.
How to Relieve Aches and Pains:Make Time in the Morning
We know that getting up may be tough, but the early hours of the morning really do give you the best chance to lay a powerful foundation for the day. Take just 20 minutes after you get up to be silent, stretch, drink a cup of herbal tea, meditate, or even read. Make that time yours, and the habits you create thereafter with be healthier and fruitful.
Take a Look at your Transportation
How far from work do you live? Do you have to drive? Could you challenge yourself to ride your bike? Any form of exercise you can incorporate into your day is a massive step towards relieving pain. The more you move, the better you feel. If you can avoid the traffic and the hours of sitting in the car, you’ll notice an amazing difference right away.
Throughout your day, it’s vital that you note how much water you’re drinking. If your joints and muscles aren’t lubricated, you’ll experience pain. Why not set yourself little reminders? Drink 8 oz. of water on the hour, ever hour, for example. Ultimately, you need to drink about 10 cups a day – challenge yourself to meet that goal.
And while we’re on the subject of water, why not meld two habits into one? Every time you drink some water, get up, walk around, and stretch a bit. In this way, you’re killing two birds with one stone. Walk to the water cooler, for example. Or if you’re adventurous, why not head to the kitchen and create a water-based drink with lemon or strawberries? Again, movement is vital, and the more you move, the faster you’ll heal. Please refer to Why Walking is Critical for Your Health.
When you’re seated at your desk, it’s very important that you take note of your posture. Slouching or sitting with an unsupported lower back will eventually lead to pain. Make sure your desk isn’t too low and that your computer screen is at eye level. In this way you will prevent slouching and forward head movements, both of which could lead to problems down the line. Also, why not stretch every 20 minutes? In this way, you’ll prevent stiffness and future discomfort. Please refer to How to Improve Posture and Eliminate Pain.
All too often we assume that what we do is most important. While this might hold some truth, what we eat is equally as vital. The food you consume fuels your brain and body, so the better you eat the more productive and healthy you will be. And not only that, food heals. Eating more anti-inflammatory foods, healthy snacks, dark greens, nuts, and seeds, will help you relieve those aches and pain much sooner. Be sure to start with a healthy breakfast and to continue with your snacking, lunch and dinner in the same way. Be sure to include adequate amounts of protein while avoiding sugary foods. Also, cut out some of the caffeine if you can – it can lead to anxiety and stress, both of which contribute to pain.
Get some Sunshine
Unfortunately, unless you work at Google, desk jobs don’t really come with too much time spent outside. That having been said, you can make the change. Why not get outside and eat your lunch in a park? Or, better still, take a little stroll and explore the area around you? Getting some vital Vitamin D, naturally, is imperative for a healthy body and mind. You’ll also find that the sunshine vitamin helps improve your mood, thereby making the decision to create better habits that much easier! Please refer to 7 Tips to Prevent Illness & Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
Desk jobs don’t need to be a ticket to old-age, in fact, they offer a unique opportunity to change your habits for the better. By using the tools you have around you, by utilizing your time, and by noting the needs of your body, you’ll make serious headway into getting ridding of those aches and pains. Make your habits count!
What are some of your best tips on how to relieve aches and pains? Please share below!
Thankfully, winter is on its way out! Spring is on the way, but the day light hours are still short. It’s still cold and darker in most places right now. The cold and darkness can leave you feeling a bit low energy and blue, stressed out, and worn down. The colder weather for some can cause health concerns including colds, flus, achy joints or even depression. Even though it may be gloomy outside, your outlook doesn’t have to be!
It’s not uncommon during this time of year to feel a case of the “winter blues” – sometimes known as SAD (seasonal affective disorder) which is a more serious side to the winter blues.
At one end of the extreme, people with SAD tend to struggle during the short dark days of winter, sometimes to the degree where they don’t want to get out of the house. To learn more, please refer to 7 Tips to Avoid Seasonal Affective Disorder.
On the other hand, there are those who wake up cheerfully, rain or shine. In-between these two groups are those with the winter blues. They manage with difficulty during the dark days and are less joyful, productive, and creative than usual, but they still get out of the house.
So, what’s the real difference between SAD and the winter blues? The degree of dysfunction is key.
People with SAD suffer setbacks as they withdraw from friends and loved ones, and they are significantly unhappier. People with the winter blues tend to manage with life’s basic demands, but with a bit of difficulty and not much motivation.
But these two groups are by no means completely divided.
Pile stress on to someone with the winter blues (such as longer work hours, tighter deadlines or a poor performance rating) and – hey, presto! The winter blues can turn into SAD.
On the other hand, if a person with SAD retires (who can therefore sleep in and take it easy), may feel better with just a mild case of the winter blues.
In other words, seasonal vulnerability varies from person to person and from one situation to another.
The good news is that whether you have SAD or the winter blues, it’s possible to live an active and full life all year round – winter, spring, summer or fall! Here are 5 ways you can catch feeling a bit low early and still enjoy a healthy, happy life!
5 Ways to Feel Healthier and Happier:1. Recognize the Problem
Early signs can be small. Low energy, feeling tired, wanting to sleep more, craving sugar, and a lack of motivation are all symptoms.
Spot these signs early on, and you have a good chance of preventing the symptoms from worsening. You will be feeling back to good, quick!
2. Get More Light
Your body produces Vitamin D3 which helps regulate your mood. So whenever you see some sun rays outside, go for a walk on a bright morning! Bring more light into your home. Open your curtains and have bright lighting by your bedside table. Better yet, get one of those bedside lamps that gradually gets brighter so you wake up naturally and refreshed.
You may even consider supplementing. Vitamin D3 is critical to the absorption of calcium through the intestinal wall which is important for bone health. It’s also a critical nutrient in maintaining a healthy immune system. However, there are potential cardiac risks to over supplementation. A healthy varied diet will typically supply adequate calcium levels (assuming that adequate Vitamin D3 levels are present for absorption and that you are avoiding drinking soda). Many physicians and dietary experts now recommend between 2,000 – 3,000 IU’s per day. Speak with your health care provider to see what your needs may be.
3. Move Daily
I know exercise is easier said than done sometimes (especially when you don’t want to leave your toasty bed). There are plenty of things you can do without putting your gym clothes on.
Regular exercise releases your feel-good hormones and leaves you feeling energized for the day.
Take a walk in the park, go for a morning bike ride, walk to the shops instead of drive…those are just a few of the things you can do to get more active.
If you need more motivation to stay moving, try signing up for a local spring 5k walk/run or half marathon. Then get on a training plan so you can have some accountability and motivation to get moving and stay moving!
The transition in seasons can be a stressful time of year. Be kind to your body. Take a warm bath. It’ll allow your body to relax deeply and feel warm.
To add an extra healthy boost to your bath, try adding Magnesium Bath Flakes or Epson Salts to your bathwater. Magnesium is a critical component of bone health and health in general. Magnesium helps the body to regulate calcium levels. This has a positive effect on bone health and also has been proven to reduce the risk of kidney stones. Magnesium is an important mineral to many body processes and has been shown to reduce muscle fatigue and spasms as well as promote improved sleep. Epson Salts can be found in most drug stores and department stores. Dissolve a cup or two into your warm bath water and enjoy!
Sometimes a bit of ‘me time’ is all we need!
5. Listen to Upbeat Music
I have always thought of music as food for the soul. An upbeat tune can change an atmosphere instantly and create a positive vibe. Put your favorite upbeat tunes on, and your mood will be lifted! Better yet, listen to your favorite music while working out or doing household chores!
Don’t let the blues get you down! (And don’t worry; spring is just around the corner!)
What are some additional ways you might enjoy a healthier and happier transition of the seasons? Please share your tips below!
The United States spends more money by a wide margin than any other country on health care. Our health care system is set up to keep us from dying, not thriving. Our average life span barely makes it in the top 30 when compared to other nations. As it stands now, the American health care system is poorly equipped to help us maximize our health span. Health span is defined as a period of time in which a person is generally healthy and free from serious disease.
Health care costs in America continue to increase without actual positive change in our health status as consumers. It is imperative that we take a leadership role in our own health care by continuing to be proactive. Part of being proactive is learning how to care for and manage common non-life threatening injuries and illnesses. The medical system is not designed to help you to maximize your health and well-being. It is designed to prevent you from dying and to maximize profits for the corporatocracy that controls our health care system. It is imperative that we manage our health by learning how to self-treat non-life threatening and non-emergent injuries and illnesses. Continue reading to discover the 6 reasonsWhy You Should Take Time to Focus on Your Health.