Living With Multiple Sclerosis
March is National MS Education and Awareness Month. Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a clinical condition characterized by a loss of the myelin tissue that surrounds the nerves and aids in normal conduction of electrical impulses.
Common symptoms include weakness in the arms or legs, loss of balance and problems with mobility and bladder function. While the condition itself cannot be cured, treatment is aimed at slowing down the progression of the disease and helping patients recover to a point where they are independent at home. Physical therapy plays an important role in the rehabilitation process and improves quality of life for patients with MS.
The purpose of physical therapy is to ensure that the patient maintains a degree of functionality and is able to perform daily activities without too much difficulty.
The Various Stages of Multiple Sclerosis
Physical therapy is an important part of the treatment process during the different stages of MS. During the initial evaluation, the therapist will determine if there are any limitations with skin sensation, muscle strength and overall function.
As the disease progresses, acute attacks are likely to occur and the patient may need to be hospitalized. In such cases, a physical therapist will work closely with physicians and other specialists in the healthcare team to complement their efforts and to ensure quick recovery for the patient.
MS can also present as a slow, progressive condition that relapses a number of times and seems to 'go away'. Don't be fooled, because it can cause severe limitations over time.
In some situations, the side-effects are minimal and daily life is not impaired. Each person's progression is different. Your physical therapist will always assess the most important functional problems affecting you and will address those needs in a comprehensive, customized treatment program.
This is How We Help...
Supervised, controlled exercise is the foundation of physical therapy treatment. As patients tend to fatigue quickly, exercise plans are designed to be simple and gradual. Exercise programs are also designed to be intermittent to prevent sudden 'attacks' of pain and discomfort. Here are some of the benefits of physical therapy in MS.
- Correction of posture and improved trunk control – Patients with MS are at risk of falling, so physical therapy is aimed at controlling posture and balance to minimize the risk of falls.
- Increasing functional independence with walking aids – To improve independence and movement, a physical therapist may prescribe aids including walkers, canes, and custom made foot orthoses (supports). Conditions such as foot drop and loss of sensation in the lower extremities may warrant the use of additional orthoses.
- Enhancing mobility – Mobility is an important prerequisite to patient independence. Joint and muscle stiffness (especially in the legs) can be corrected with stretching exercises. Stiffness in the neck muscles can affect neck and head posture and control, which can also be corrected with supports and exercise.
- Restoration of muscle tone - Increased tone (hypertonia) or decreased muscle tone (hypotonia) is a result of the impact of MS on the nerves. A physical therapist may use manual techniques to improve joint sensation and restore normal muscle tone.
Physical therapists play an important role in the management of patients with MS and several other conditions affecting the nerves, muscles, bones, and joints. There is a lot that physical therapists can do to help you (and everyone you know) live an independent, pain-free lifestyle.
Can Physical Therapy Help Brain Injury?
March is brain injury awareness month. A traumatic brain injury (also known as TBI) occurs as a result of trauma to the head, leading to damage to the brain itself. Traumatic brain injuries can result from numerous types of injuries including automobile accidents, contact sports, or falls. Symptoms can vary from mild to severe; ranging from headaches and general confusion to partial paralysis and loss of sensation. In fact, any injury to the brain is a serious condition that requires hospitalization and immediate medical attention.
A mild TBI may be associated with a change in the mental state of the individual or a short-term loss of consciousness. A severe TBI may result in a coma, memory loss and loss of muscle control. Over a period of time, this can cause loss of muscle strength and a deterioration of balance, which can lead to falls.
Although the severity of a brain injury can vary immensely, the importance of physical therapy cannot be overstated. Some brain injuries may require a few weeks of rehabilitation; while severe injuries can require several months of neurological re-education under the supervision of an experienced physical therapist.
Five Benefits of Physical Therapy in Traumatic Brain Injury
Every instance of TBI is unique and different and a physical therapist can conduct a detailed evaluation to determine the extent of impairment. This initial evaluation will help determine extent of sensation, consciousness, body awareness, memory, muscle tone, movement, balance and gait.
Based on the evaluation, the physical therapist may design a program consisting of neuro-developmental training, joint mobilization, functional training and self-stretching exercises. The five most common benefits of physical therapy include:
- Memory assessment and improvement.
- Motor function and muscle strength increase.
- Improved responsiveness to sensation and awareness of the surrounding.
- Lifestyle counseling to enhance independence with daily activities
- Improved balance to facilitate standing and walking.
With brain injury, time is of the essence. Don't delay – seek medical attention and start working with a physical therapist as soon as possible.
It's All In Your Brain
A brain injury has the potential to affect the quality of life and limit the individual’s ability to do simple things. Expect your physical therapist to work closely with other members of the healthcare team to improve your 'brain health' and speed up the recovery process.
The goal is to help the individual resume full function in a gradual, controlled manner under the supervision of the physical therapist. Your therapist can recondition your brain and nervous system, bridging the gap between medical intervention and full recovery.
The bottom line - physical therapy treatment will help regain function and improve quality of life. As your physical therapists, there is a lot that we can do a lot for you; including boosting your 'brain health'.
Children, Sports and Exercise
Getting your child involved in sports is an excellent way to encourage exercise and prevent childhood obesity. This is a proud feeling for every parent, and the expectation is that the child will have fun, gain confidence and interact with other children in the process.
To determine what your child will enjoy participating in, help him / her decide by accompanying the child to different games and a variety of sports. The more sports and environments the child is made aware of, the higher the probability that the child will be able to pick a sport and enjoy it.
It is important to make sure that the child's sporting activity is age appropriate. In general, toddlers (aged 2-5) are too young to comprehend most organized activities and the importance of 'rules'. They need unstructured play to develop movement skills, attention span and social maturity. From the age of 8 and above, children can participate in team sports and group exercise.
If your child does not like athletic activities, take the opportunity to spend more time with your child and encourage physical activity with regular walks, swimming, tossing a ball around, or simply kicking a ball back and forth. Be creative and mix it up so your child does not get bored.
Importance of Safety First
Unfortunately, children can get injured while playing sports. When this happens, consult a physician immediately. In most cases, the physician may recommend the services of a physical therapist with extensive training in anatomy and physiology. The therapist will work closely with the physician to help your child recover as quickly as possible.
Specially trained in anatomy and physiology, a physical therapist will design a delicate, yet effective exercise program to help restore muscle balance and improve mobility in your child. The therapist will be aware of the child's limitations and will do everything possible to facilitate recovery as quickly as possible. Children tend to get restless during recovery, and a physical therapist will patiently work with the child to achieve compliance during the recovery process.
Physical therapy helps to heal, strengthen, and improve motion by treating your child's injured area with a variety of exercise techniques that incorporate fun and playful activities. With physical therapy, you can expect your child to recover quickly and resume athletic activity.
The Right Physical Therapist For Your Child
Although physical therapy can help children in the recovery process following an injury, there is a lot more that the therapist can do. As a parent, you can expect the physical therapist to use a variety of techniques to strengthen muscles and improve joint mobility. The therapist will make the exercises fun and interesting, and your child won't realize that he or she is 'being treated.' As a parent, you should encourage your child to participate and 'play along' with the treatment. The physical therapist may use play techniques including crawling, playing follow the leader, facilitating balance and coordination activities using beams, balls and other objects.
After an injury, a physical therapist will help your child regain full potential, allowing your little bundle of joy to experience the pleasure of sport and grow physically and emotionally in the process. Your child will look forward to the 'play sessions' and be an active participant in the recovery process. If your child (or another child that you know) is recovering from an injury, physical therapists can help the child return to normal as quickly as possible.
Can Physical Therapy Train Your Brain?
We exercise to keep our bodies fit, but did you know that exercise can also train your brain? You have likely heard of the effect of endorphins on your mood, and you probably know that you feel better after exercising. Exercise can improve clarity, increase brain function, and possibly stimulate the formation of new brain pathways by restoring and stimulating nerve cells, called 'neurons'.
Mental exercises can keep you alert, and must be accompanied with physical exercises for best results. Exercise helps improve circulation in your cardiovascular (heart), pulmonary (lungs) and nervous (brain and spinal cord) system.
The Mind-Body Connection
As one grows older, the human brain starts to lose nerve cells and this can result in varying degrees of mental decline. Exercise is one of the most effective ways to challenge your nerves. Your brain function is improved through mental stimulation as well as through physical exercise. The inevitable mental declines often associated with the aging process can be minimized with a well-designed exercise routine.
Exercise triggers communication between (and blood circulation to) brain cells, which interact with other parts of the nervous system. The processing system of the brain is challenged during workouts, as certain chemicals such as adrenaline are triggered.
Regular exercise can help keep brain cells healthy and functioning properly. An active lifestyle can improve mental focus, accelerate the healing process for patients with brain or nerve injuries and can reduce the risk of dementia as we grow older.
There is a strong correlation between physical exercise and good mental health as people age. Individuals who stimulate their nervous system through exercise tend to function at a higher level physically and mentally.
Physical Activity and Brain Training
Exercise at low to moderate levels is best for training the brain. Very intense workouts can leave you exhausted physically and mentally. Ideally, you need at least half an hour of moderate exercise 3 times a week. Longer sessions may provide added benefit. You can also consider shorter, more frequent exercise during the day.
Moderate activities like brisk walking, hiking, biking, and swimming are beneficial, as are calming activities like yoga and deep breathing exercises. Your physical therapist will help you determine what's best for you.
If you want to maintain mental acuity well into advanced age, contact your physical therapist. Physical activity can help ready the brain for new information, leading to increased interest, improved attitude, and better learning outcomes.
The Healthy Living Formula
Healthy living involves discipline and a strategic approach towards exercise and nutrition. It requires small, consistent changes every day to increase your metabolism and fuel your body with the right types of nutrients.
Here are some simple ideas to help you live a healthier life:
- Take frequent breaks when sitting for long periods of time. Avoid staying in one position in front of your computer or television. Change positions at frequent intervals so you're not sedentary all day.
- Get on your feet and move an hour or two a day to decrease cholesterol levels and reduce blood pressure. Moving around gets your blood flowing and your body working.
- When you're on the phone, try to walk around while you're talking.
- Park further away from your destination so that you will be required to walk a little bit more than usual.
- Get a good night's sleep (at least 7 hours). Your body relies on rest to rejuvenate and heal itself.
- Eat only when you truly feel hungry or consume small portions every 2-3 hours instead of 3 large meals.
- Drink plenty of water.
- Cut down on smoking and drinking.
- Relax with a regular routine of yoga and meditation.
Nutrition For Healthy Skin
Nutrition plays an important role in helping maintain and improve skin tone. Smooth and healthy skin is a sign of good health. The phrase "you are
what you eat” holds true as far as the health of your skin is concerned.
The following foods will facilitate healthy skin:
- Antioxidant-rich foods. Antioxidants play a key part in the prevention of diseases like heart disease and cancer. Some of the foods in this group include blueberries, cranberries, strawberries, plums and apples.
- Foods rich in Vitamin-E. Vitamin-E protects against cardiovascular diseases by defending against plaque formation in the arteries. Some of the foods that are rich in Vitamin-E include various members of the nut family, including peanuts, almonds and hazelnuts. Other types of food included are spinach, broccoli, kiwi, mango and tomatoes.
- Selenium-rich foods such as fish, brazil nuts, liver, and sunflower seeds help to keep the skin fresh and looking youthful.
- Foods rich in Beta Carotene. Some of the foods that are rich in beta carotene include hot peppers, kale, carrots, sweet potatoes and spinach.
Most of these foods can easily be found in your local grocery store. There are many ways to introduce them in your diet. Please remember that all foods should be eaten in moderation, and it's best to combine healthy foods with an exercise program for best results. A physical therapist will be able to help you with an exercise program that compliments a healthy nutrition program.
Stress Management With Exercise
Stress is a part of day-to-day life, but the manner in which you handle your stress is a key factor. Stress management is the best way to minimize strain on your cells and live a healthy life.
Stress is a normal psychological and physical reaction to the increasing
demands of life. At some point, everyone experiences stress. If you areuncertain about how to handle stress, begin with a positive mindset. Surround yourself with family and qualified health professionals. A physical therapists, for example will provide support, expertise and design exercise programs (muscle relaxation techniques, for example) to help you deal with stress.
Learn to relax physically and mentally. A massage can help you release muscle tension, and it's best to ask your physical therapist if a massage is right for you. In many cases, this can help reduce stress, leaving you relaxed and rejuvenated. A massage is just one component of stress release, and it can be used in addition to full body strengthening and relaxation program.
Physical Therapists can quickly get you on the road to a healthy and stress-free lifestyle.
Make Time To Stretch at Work
An eight-hour work day, especially when associated with sitting in one position, can cause muscle tightness. The simple solution is to stretch your body at regular intervals whether you’re at the office, at home, or outdoors. Here are some tips to remember when stretching.
• Don’t rush. Start stretching slowly. Do not overstretch.
• Breathe normally. Never hold your breath.
• When stretching, hold the stretch for about 15 to 20 seconds and feel the tension in your muscles subside as they stretch.
• Repeat the same stretch 2 to 3 times to improve your muscle flexibility.
• Avoid sudden movements when stretching.
• Enjoy stretching. Use the time to relax.
• Maintain good posture while stretching.
• If you feel any discomfort, pain, tingling, numbness, or loss of strength, stop stretching and contact your physician or physical therapist immediately.
Stretching helps improve blood circulation, release tension, and boost energy. Don't forget to take a few minutes to stretch every day.
Benefits of Stretching
It's simple and easy to stretch your muscles. Regular stretching has several benefits including:
• Improved circulation. Stretching increases blood flow which brings nourishment to your muscles and gets rid of waste products. This helps reduce recovery time for muscle injuries.
• Decreased muscle tension, anxiety, stress, and fatigue.
• Increased flexibility and joint range of motion. You feel refreshed and relaxed after you stretch.
• Improved exercise performance. Stretching before exercise is a good way to increase the effectiveness of exercise.
A Simple Office Chair Stretch
Working in an office usually means sitting in one area for several hours. This ultimately leads to bad posture and low back pain due to tight hip flexors and shortened hamstrings. You can help prevent these aches and pains by performing the following simple stretches:
• Finger and Hand Stretches. Place your hands on your desk, and stretch your hands while spreading your fingers until you feel a stretch. Hold for 10 seconds. Repeat 5 to 10 times.
• Wrist Stretches. Sit upright in your office chair. Lift one arm and stretch it out in front of you with your palm facing upward. Gently grab your fingers with your other hand. Slowly pull the hand of your extended arm down. Hold 10 seconds. Repeat 5 to 10 times.
• Shoulder Stretches. Lift your right arm and reach behind your head. Place your hand on your upper back making certain your arm is as close to your ear as possible. Use your left hand to gently hold your right elbow while pulling it towards the back of your head. Hold for 15 seconds.
• Spine Twist. While sitting upright in your chair, place your left arm behind your left hip. Hold onto your chair as you twist your upper body to the left. Place your right hand onto your chair to increase your stretch. Hold for 10 seconds. Repeat this exercise five times with each side.
Maintaining flexibility is a key component to maintaining health.
A majority of people who suffer from diabetes are affected by type 2 diabetes. Diabetes occurs when your body either ignores insulin or your pancreas won’t create enough insulin. This can trigger multiple health problems.
The onset of type 2 diabetes can be delayed, possibly even prevented, with a healthy lifestyle. If left unchecked, diabetes can lead to serious health problems which include kidney failure, heart disease, circulatory problems and nerve damage, just to name a few.
Once diabetes starts affecting the nerves (also known as neuropathy), individuals may experience one or more of these symptoms:
• Loss of muscle control and sensation
• Numbness, tingling, burning or pain in toes, feet, legs, hands and fingers
• Sharp cramps
• Extreme sensitivity to touch
• Loss of balance or coordination
Losing sensation can be a dangerous situation for some diabetics because small cuts and bruises go undetected, which can trigger infections that can spread to the bone due to a weakened immune system.
In these situations, a physical therapist can help reduce the risk of injury, regain muscle control and improve the quality of life.
Can It Be Treated?
Unfortunately, there is no 'cure' for diabetic neuropathy. Most treatments focus on slowing the progression of the neuropathy by controlling blood sugar using lifetyle modification techniques. Physical therapy is crucial since regular exercise plays a big role in the management of diabetic neuropathy.
The management of diabetes requires self-discipline and regular monitoring of one's glucose levels. In addition to maintaining a healthy weight and controlling blood sugar, it's important to exercise regularly, control blood pressure (take all your prescribed medication at the right time), quit smoking and minimize alcohol.
If you suspect that you, or a loved one, might have diabetic neuropathy, call our office and we will guide you towards your next step.
Physical Therapy & Diabetic Neuropathy
Physical therapists play an important role in controlling your diabetes and the damage it can cause with a structured exercise and injury prevention program.
The process starts with an evaluation to determine the extent of damage to your nervous system. The treatment objective is to retrain your muscles to function the way they are supposed to. This may involve a combination of exercises to challenge your muscles, electrical therapy, positioning techniques and support from your family members.
This makes the physical therapist a critical component of your healthcare team and your biggest ally in the battle against diabetic neuropathy.
Our New Year Resolution: A New You
As we begin 2012, people start making new year resolutions. In our case, our new year resolution is all about you and what we can do to make 2012 a healthy and pain-free year for you.
As the premier providers of physical therapy in our community, we value your trust in us. Our goal is not only to maintain but also to improve the high standard of care you've experienced with us.
As part of our resolution, we are going to teach you how to live a healthy, pain-free life. Please pay close attention to this newsletter because it will help you set the stage for optimum health and wellness in the next 12 months. Your success is ours, and we are committed to your health and well-being.
Here are a few tips to help you stay injury-free in the new year:
Consult a physical therapist to evaluate and, if necessary, improve your strength and flexibility.
Learn the right techniques to lift heavy objects, including heavy backpacks and handbags.
A physical fitness and injury assessment evaluation is the best thing you can do to keep yourself healthy and pain-free in 2012.
New Year Resolution Tips
Here are some ideas for new year resolutions. Please keep in mind that some of these suggestions may need to be modified depending on your individual needs.
When lifting objects, I will use the correct technique (as instructed by my physical therapist) so that I can protect my back.
As I perform my exercises, I will monitor my technique, breathing pattern, and range of motion during each repetition.
I will maintain an upright posture and practice postural awareness exercises at regular intervals throughout the day.
I will make it a habit to stretch at regular intervals while at work.
I will follow the home exercise program provided to me by my physical therapist.
Physical Therapy & The New You
This is the time of the year when most individuals get gym memberships and plan to start regular workouts. It's also the time of the year when the body is least prepared for unsupervised, sudden exercise which can cause injuries.
Your physical therapist will teach you how to perform an exercise with the correct technique, breathing pattern, and range of motion. We will always answer your questions and help you exercise in a safe, progressive manner.
Don’t hesitate to contact us to ask for help with finding a routine that will work for you.
Now it’s your turn to make some new year resolutions for a healthy and pain-free year ahead!
From all of us to you and your family: We wish you a happy new year and hope you have a safe, pain-free, and injury-free year ahead in 2012.
The holidays are a great time to celebrate with family and friends but they are also associated with an abundance of food and a decrease in physical activity. This can cause weight gain, which can cause aches and pains.
With these 10 simple tips, you'll be able to stay healthy (and possibly shed unwanted pounds) this holiday season:
1. Always try to plan your meals, including snaking or dining out, at least two to three days ahead
2. Be conscious about what you eat at all times
3. Always exercise at least two to three times a week
4. Limit your alcohol intake
5. Drink more water
6. Find healthy alternatives to traditional holiday foods
7. Find ways to make physical activity a part of your family holiday experience
8. Change your workouts to keep yourself motivated
9. Savor the flavor of holiday foods - opt for quality, not quantity
10. Learn to say "no" to certain foods and don't give in to the social pressures of eating
With a little bit of discipline and planning, this can be one of the healthiest holiday seasons you've ever had.
Holiday Food Consumption Guide 101
If you are trying to lose weight, the holidays can be a challenging time.
Here are some tips that will help you stay on track with your healthy eating lifestyle:
• Make sure your diet and exercise program is something you can stick with.
• Don't restrict foods. This is a time to indulge a little, but remember to do so in moderation.
• Remind yourself of your goals by placing a sticky note or picture of "where you want to be" on your refrigerator or mirror.
• When visiting family or friends, make sure to eat something healthy before you visit, so you don't overeat.
• Try to share your health and wellness goals with as many people as you can. You will be less likely to overeat.
• Sip water at regular intervals throughout the day. Carry a glass of water around with you at parties. This keeps your hands busy and stomach feeling full.
• Try to reach for the healthiest foods when you are hungry.
• Chew food slowly. It takes time for your brain to perceive 'fullness' in your stomach. Besides, chewing food slowly allows you to savor the taste of the food.
• Eating too quickly is a common cause of weight gain during the holidays since you consume more calories than the body needs.
How Physical Therapy Can Help This Holiday Season
Physical activity is extremely important at this time of the year, given the inevitable increase in calorie intake during the holidays.
Diet is just one part of the equation, which is why physical therapy is so important.
Physical therapy can play a valuable role in helping you stay healthy and pain free this holiday season.
It's a good idea to schedule an appointment with your physical therapist to learn a safe, effective exercise program to maintain optimum muscle strength and flexibility.
When you combine discipline in your diet with a personalized exercise program, the holidays can become a time of great rejuvenation.
Physical therapy can help relieve aches and pains with a combination of exercise and (possibly) massage. Massage can help relieve tight muscles and boost blood circulation.
Highly skilled, licensed physical therapists have been specially trained to help you enjoy the holiday season with a structured exercise and massage therapy program.
What would you say if you found out there were legitimate reasons why your exercise program was failing to give you the results you desired? There are five nervous system related issues that could be hindering your muscle strengthening and injury prevention efforts.
The brain communicates with every part of your body via nerves. This includes muscles, joints and various aspects of your skin. These nerves run to/from the brain, go down the spinal cord, and then branch off to each and every part of the body. If anything along this path is disrupted, the nervous system communication with the muscles, joints and skin is compromised. This means your muscles will not contract as efficiently as possible!
Here are 5 nervous system related issues that could be preventing YOU from activating the optimum number of muscle fibers each time you exercise:
1. Reduced sensitivity of joint receptors. This can impair feedback from the "end-point"(muscles) to the brain.
2. Muscles imbalances. This can result in POOR movement patterns.
3. Insufficient rest periods. Not resting enough (or resting too much) between sets can adversely affect recovery.
4. Poor coordination due to a lack of balance. This results in further muscle imbalances.
5. Impaired circulation. Nerves have their own circulation too. If this circulation becomes limited, the communication between muscles and nerves is negatively impacted.
Mind Over Muscle - Get Your Control Back!
The nervous system controls all the muscles of the body. Unfortunately, the mind-muscle link tends to weaken over a period of time unless you challenge your muscles on a consistent basis.
Here are 5 solutions to regain control of your muscles:
• Nurture the right mindset for exercise. Don't set yourself up for failure. The right amount of concentration helps optimize the results from your exercise routine.
• Move in functional directions. This means multi-dimensional, or 3-D movements. Remember to mix it up!
• Improve coordination by challenging yourself with new exercises. Every new exercise or movement pattern demands new pathways of "communication" between nerves and muscles. The greater the variety, the better it is for your muscles.
• Challenge your balance with core stabilization techniques. Ask your physical therapist to teach you the best exercises to improve your core stability.
• Optimize your rest period between exercises. The right amount of rest between exercises can help optimize muscle recovery. To determine the correct amount of rest in your therapeutic exercise regimen, give us a call.
Interval Training Can Boost Muscle Activation
What is interval training?
Interval training is a type of exercise training in which you alternate between various intensities of exercise in a single session; switching back and forth between a high intensity phase and a low intensity phase.
An example of this is an exercise session in which an intense phase of exercise like weight training is alternated with a period of walking on the treadmill.
The idea is to challenge muscles in an unpredictable manner and keep the body "guessing" about what's coming next.
Mixing up different components of your exercise routine (intensity, duration, frequency and type of muscles recruited) boosts the mind-muscle connection.
To find out more about how physical therapy can help you reach your goals, increase strength and reduce pain, get in touch with one of our highly qualified physical therapists.