Archive for the ‘Arthritis’ Category

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On Your Feet or On Your Seat? Health Dangers of Sitting Too Much

May 12, 2011

We’ve talked about the effects on your back health of being on your feet all day at work. What about the effects of sitting all day?

Usually when we think of sedentary life and its dangers, we’re thinking about not getting enough exercise. But people who sit all day at work may be facing some other risks — even if they get the recommended 30 minutes a day of cardio.

Stanford researchers think that the problem lies in the postural muscles — the muscles that hold you up rather than the ones that allow you to move. These are the inner muscles of the back, legs, neck, and hips, the muscles nearest the spine. These are the deepest of the core muscles, and you don’t usually feel them working.

It’s easy to ignore them. When we sit for six or more hours a day, we’re ignoring those muscles, and it seems to have an effect on our health.

The normal function of these muscles when we move seems to affect a number of other body functions:

  • blood circulation in general
  • glucose and fat regulation
  • cholesterol processing
  • heart rate and blood flow rate
  • blood flow to the legs in particular

“Your body shuts down on a metabolic level,” says one medical professional who studies this issue.

It is possible that sitting for more than four hours increases the risk of a wide range of problems ranging from diabetes to arthritis, stroke and heart disease. Some researchers have found that the risk of death from all causes is greatly increased by jobs requiring prolonged sitting.

These results hold true even for people who hit the gym before they go to spend eight hours in an office chair. What about those who sit and watch TV for another six or eight hours outside of the six or eight hours they spend sitting at work? Their risks are even greater.

If your work environment allows it, use a stability ball as your chair or a standing desk. For some tasks, a treadmill makes just as good a work station as a desk.

If your office doesn’t make this kind of change practical, get in the habit of walking while you talk on the phone, chat with coworkers, or think about problems. Run up and down the stairs to talk with colleagues instead of emailing. Ideally, you’ll be up and moving for ten minutes out of every hour.

Get in the habit of standing up and moving around throughout the day.

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Winter Weather and Back Pain

December 16, 2010

As the weather gets colder and we face the threat of hail and perhaps even a little snow, back pain sufferers get more twinges.

“I’m better than a meteorologist,” boasts one woman. She says that she has learned to avoid stairs when there’s a cold snap in the weather report — but she also says that she knows it’s coming before she hears the weather report.

Anecdotal evidence has held for years that sore joints and aching bones get worse when damp or cold weather is on the way, but scientists have had trouble confirming this widespread belief, or even in figuring out how weather could affect pain.

One suggestions is that our pain thresholds are lower in cold weather, since we’re less happy and more likely to focus on our pain. Another is that we tense up because of the cold, and in this way create our own pain. It has even been suggested that cold, wet weather keeps us indoors and inactive, leading to increased pain from lack of exercise.

Perhaps the most promising claim is that pain is a response to barometric pressure.

Barometers show changes in atmospheric pressure with columns of water, air, or mercury. As the pressure falls, the fluid rises. Low pressure is associated with chilly, damp weather. The fluids in a patient’s body, so the theory goes, behave like barometers, rising and falling in response to atmospheric pressure. Expansion of these fluids irritates the nerves.

The uncertainty about how exactly the process might work reflects general uncertainty. While there is a widespread feeling that pain is affected by weather, studies requiring people to record weather and pain levels doesn’t show strong evidence of connections between the two. A slight correlation between barometric pressure and pain in the hands of women showed up in a study of elderly people in Florida; another study in Venezuela found that osteoarthritis sufferers felt slightly worse in humid weather. Thus far, all that can be said with certainty is that people feel worse about their pain in cold weather: they’re more likely to go to emergency rooms.

Remember, there are many different causes of back pain. Identifying and working with the underlying cause of your particular back pain is the key to effective pain management. Stay active in the winter with indoor exercise, keep up with friends and family, and give yourself time to handle seasonal stress. With these steps, you may escape weather-related pain this year.

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10 Things You Might Not Know About Arthritis

October 7, 2010

In honor of National Physical Therapy Month and World Arthritis Day (October 12), we’d like to share with you some things you might not know about arthritis:

  1. 22% of Americans have been diagnosed with arthritis. Look around at your coworkers, poker pals, or golf buddies, because the chances are one of you has or will have arthritis.
  2. More than 300,000 American children have been diagnosed with arthritis.
  3. Arthritis can be the long-term result of a trauma. That football injury, car accident, or fall while working around the house can haunt you seven to ten years later in the form of arthritis.
  4. Even without a significant injury, long-term stress and strain on joints can make them susceptible to arthritis in the future. Bad posture, high heels, and jobs with a lot of repetitive motion can all contribute.
  5. Studies show that regular intake of vitamin C may help prevent arthritis. Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli are another source of arthritis-fighting compounds.
  6. Regular exercise can prevent arthritis and help arthritis sufferers feel better, too.
  7. Smoking, however, increases the chance of arthritis.
  8. Overweight is another contributing factor.
  9. The American College of Rheumatologyhas some good news, though, for people with arthritis: regular physical therapy can help. Physical therapists can provide pain management strategies, exercises to strengthen muscles, and modifications that can make daily life easier.
  10. The House of Representatives recently passed the Arthritis Prevention, Control and Cure Act designed to increase research on arthritis and initiatives to help with arthritis.

If you’re suffering from arthritis, you should call Innovative Spine Rehab at 501-221-6009, or your local physical therapist. There’s no need to keep suffering.

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What’s Age Got to Do With It?

August 13, 2010

90% of American adults will experience acute back pain during their lives. Most of these people will be able to overcome the pain and return to normal functioning within a few months, with the right kind of treatment. Some will be able to get back to work and hobbies without treatment, but experience recurrences of the problem.

But people at different ages are likely to have different kinds of problems. So the middle aged man who suffers a backache and figures it’s just that high school football injury acting up can be wrong. The older woman who often had back pain from standing all day at work in high heels shoudln’t dismiss new episodes of back pain with, “Oh, I’ve always had trouble with my back.”

Acute back pain in your 20s and 30s is likely to be a result of back strain from unaccustomed movement or putting a strain on the back — football injuries and standing for hours in four inch heels can both lead to this kind of pain.

In your 30s and 40s, shooting pains can be the result of herniated discs. Your spine has jelly-like discs between the vertebrae that keep the bones from rubbing against each other. If these discs get damaged, they can bulge out or even break and stop doing their jobs. This is called a “herniated disc.”

Back pain in people over 50 may be a sign of osteoarthritis. Arthritis can affect the spine, leading to pain and difficulty in movement.

Some back pain results from infections, injuries, or conditions that can show up at any age, but changes over time are very common. Pain from different causes calls for different treatments. Be sure to seek help for back pain, even if you’ve had it before. Relying on over the counter medication or hoping it goes away on its own can leave you in worse pain in the long run.

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A Pain in the Neck

June 12, 2010

What causes neck pain and how can it be treated?

  • Poor posture is a major source of neck pain. This may be ongoing bad habits of posture, or it may be from a long period of sitting or standing in an uncomfortable position — maybe hunched over a computer or workbench.
  • Muscle strain can cause neck pain when you spend a long time driving or carry something heavy over one arm or make a sudden extreme movement in a tennis game.
  • Age and arthritis can can damage to the joints and discs in the neck.
  • An injury to the neck can result from whiplash in an auto accident or similar traumatic situation.
  • There are also diseases that cause neck pain. If neck pain is accompanied by fewer, swelling, inability to use the arms, or other symptoms that interfere with daily functions, medical attention is needed.

At Innovative Spine Rehab, we work with you to develop a routine of exercises that will help you strengthen the muscles that support the neck, improve your posture, and restore muscle function. Decompression and laser therapy are other options that we may recommend.

We’ll prepare a regimen that you can work on at home to get lasting relief from neck pain.

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Physical Therapy: An Essential Part of Arthritis Treatment

April 5, 2010

Physical therapy is an essential part of arthritis treatment, helping patients cope with the pain and disability arthritis can cause. There is no cure for arthritis, but by setting goals and working hard at physical therapy, most patients can improve physical function.

At Innovative Spine every patient’s plan is customized. We work with your doctor and with you to define goals for your specific physical therapy. We establish your priorities — in other words, what do you feel you should be able to do? Together, we work towards what is realistically achievable.

Exercise is Beneficial for Arthritis Patients

An appropriate exercise plan can reduce joint pain and stiffness, while improving muscle strength, joint flexibility, balance, coordination, and endurance. What is appropriate exercise? An exercise program that takes into consideration physical limitations and plans for gradual improvement. A physical therapist is able to assess each patient individually and teach the patient how to perform range-of-motion exercises, strengthening exercises, and aerobic exercises.

When we develop your treatment plan, we consider the condition of your joints (including strength, flexibility, and deformity) as well as muscle strength and physical endurance. You may be surprised at the degree of progress you’re able to make.

Joint Protection Techniques Ease Arthritis Symptoms

Joint protection is important for improving joint mobility and decreasing the risk of joint deformity. It’s important to avoid unnecessary stress and strain on the joints. To reduce stress on the joints, take these steps:

  • Try to maintain or improve muscle strength.
  • Be aware of body position when moving.
  • Don’t overdo activities.
  • Move around before becoming too stiff.
  • Use assistive devices and adaptive equipment when you need them.

Proper Body Mechanics Are Important

“Body mechanics” refers to how a person moves. Correct body position helps to reduce joint and muscle pain, stress and strain on the joints, and the risk of injury. Everyone should be conscious of their movements as they walk, sit, stand, lift, reach, and even sleep! Good posture and proper alignment are essential. A physical therapist can help improve awareness of proper body mechanics.

“Proprioception” refers to your awareness of the relative positions of parts of your body.  Proprioceptive training can assist with body awareness, protection, and balance.  At Innovative Spine Rehab, we make sure to include proprioceptive training in our rehab programs.

Heat or Ice Can Decrease Pain and Inflammation

Heat or ice can be soothing and relieve the discomfort associated with joint pain or muscular aches. Patients often ask which is better — heat or ice. For the most part, it depends on the type of arthritis as well as what joints or muscles are symptomatic (painful, swollen, or inflamed). Some patients prefer heat to ice or vice versa. We can help individual patients discover which is more effective.

Assistive Devices Make Everyday Tasks Less Challenging

Arthritis causes joint pain, muscle weakness, limited range of motion, and joint deformity in some cases. With restricted movement and pain upon movement, simple tasks become more difficult. There are many assistive devices that have been specially designed to compensate for lost range of motion and to enhance joint protection. Physical therapists and occupational therapists help patients identify activities that are most difficult and help find solutions. Assistive devices are available to help with nearly every activity of daily living.

Conserving Energy is Key to Pain Management

Overdoing activities can make a patient feel “spent.” Pain, stiffness, fatigue — all increase when activity is not balanced with rest. You must be aware of what is “too much” and learn to stop before reaching that point. Pain is a signal that something is wrong. I want to help each patient define their limitations and consciously pace their activities.

Innovative Spine Rehab can help you with pain management of your arthritis. It takes a bit of dedication but the outcomes are a better quality of life with less pain and joint stiffness. Call us today for a free consultation to learn how we can help you at 501.221.6009.