Can You Walk With a Torn ACL?

In short, the answer is yes‚you can walk with a torn ACL.

But there are caveats.

First, a story. I remember straining my medial collateral ligament (MCL) during college football practice. The unnatural way the knee bent and the initial pain—I was convinced my season was over. “Can you walk?” asked the coach. And to my surprise the answer was yes.

I finished practice and it wasn’t until the next day that everything stiffened up.

I share this story because the situation is similar to an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tear. Is the injury immediately apparent and a little bit shocking? Yes, absolutely. Is it completely debilitating? Not always. And under the right circumstances, you can walk with a torn ACL.

This can be both a blessing and a curse.

RELATED: 4 Simple Ways to Prevent an ACL Tear

Assuming that walking is approved by your physician, you should avoid any twisting, turning, and sudden movements. Your ACL is essential to these movements—after a tear, sudden twists can lead to buckling, re-injury, and permanent damage to your knee cartilage.

Although a person with a fully torn ACL can usually resume walking soon after the injury, athletes playing sports that require lateral movement and quick turns often face a different path to recovery. It’s likely they will miss significant time.

RELATED: Is ACL Surgery the Right Option?

Walking at an easy pace is one thing. For people who’ve torn an ACL but don’t expect to return to high-intensity activity, a non-surgical path can be followed that usually includes a rather quick reintroduction of regular walking activities.

Repairing a torn ACL and returning to 100% normal athletic function is wholly another. An ACL rehabilitation protocol of one kind or another is usually recommended for athletes who expect to return to their sports to avoid further damage to both the ACL and the rest of the knee structure.

One option is to reduce the body-weight and gravity impact on the knee, which can be done with tools like the AlterG Anti-Gravity Treadmill™. By unweighting up to eighty percent of the person’s body weight, physical therapists can introduce walking exercises that help retrain and restrengthen the knee while correcting any gait asymmetries.

To learn more, watch our ACL repair protocol video.

3 Tips for Better Sleep After Meniscus Surgery

Leaving the comfort and attention you get in the hospital after arthroscopic surgery can create a bit of separation anxiety. What now? you ask as you stand up on your crutches for the first time.

Come nighttime, you’ll be wondering how you’re expected to get any shuteye.

Among the other causes of discomfort that accompany the post-op experience, getting some good rest after meniscus surgery can be a challenge. The pain itself is usually a factor, ranging from dull and tolerable to pulsing and intense. Finding the right position is difficult, too.

Yet solid rest is one of the most important parts of healing after a meniscus tear. Here are a few tips to make sure you continue getting your eight hours after surgery.

1. Keep your bandages clean and dry

Before you go to bed, check the dressing around the surgery site to make sure everything is copacetic. Keeping your dressing in tip-top shape—clean and free of moisture—is essential to avoiding infection, and before bed is a good time to make bandage check and re-dress (if necessary) part of the routine.

2. Sleep on your back with the leg slightly elevated

This is especially important during the first few days after meniscus surgery. Keeping the leg elevated (but not bent!) encourages healthy circulation, which helps keep pain and swelling in check. This position also helps you avoid bumping the incision site, which can lead to bleeding and infection.

3. Roll over to the “good leg” side

Sleeping on your back can be an adjustment in and of itself. If you do choose to sleep on your side, roll to the non-surgery side and put a pillow between your knees. Use this position only if you’re having no luck getting to sleep on your back, and remember not to bend the knee.

3. Try breathing exercises to help relax

When you’re having trouble sleeping after meniscus surgery, try taking deep breaths to the very bottom of your lungs. Inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth. Repeat ten times at your own pace. Aside from helping you relax, deep breathing exercises encourage circulation and, in turn, reduce pain and inflammation.

Finally, remember that sleep is essential to your recovery. If you are sleeping a bit extra after surgery, good! That means your body needs it. After meniscus surgery, just having energy enough to care for yourself throughout the day will be challenging at first.

But your body also needs adequate rest to heal the surgery site and rebuild damaged tissues. And once your meniscus rehabilitation program begins, rest will become even more important. Be sure to make sleep quality very a priority.

The tips above are a good place to start.

How to Keep from Losing Muscle Mass As You Age

Like many of the more unwelcome, age-related changes in our lives, muscle loss usually begins in our thirties. According to Harvard Health Publishing, we lose three to five percent of our muscle mass per decade after we turn thirty. And as we begin losing muscle mass, our muscle strength, shape, and function goes with it.

RELATED: Movement Is Medicine for Patients Suffering From Osteoarthritis

6 Tips to Keep from Losing Muscle Mass
Though the loss of muscle mass is in many ways inevitable, there are a few things you can do to retain and gain muscle mass as you age. It takes work, of course, and discipline, but these strategies do work when sustained over time.

  • Get active – So simple, so true. As we age, the frequency and intensity if our activity tends to wane. And returning to regular activity after a period of inactivity can be even more challenging. Still, inactivity and sedentary lifestyles are top contributors to the loss of muscle mass as we age. Step one: get out and get active!
  • Get your protein – It can be difficult enough to consume enough protein. The challenge increases as we age, especially for men who suffer from anabolic resistance. Though meat, eggs, and milk are the best sources of protein, there are plenty of plant-based alternatives. A good rule of thumb is one gram of protein per pound of body weight daily.
  • Round out your diet – Protein intake is certainly not enough. Getting the the right nutrition is essential to all aspects of health, including the prevention of muscle loss. Keep your diet colorful, diverse, and free of excess sugar and fats if you want to stave off muscle loss (oh, and drink lots of water, of course).
  • Embrace strength training – It’s time to dust off those dumbbells! Strength training is a staple of muscle building for a reason. The good news is that there are plenty of ways to modify strength training exercises to accommodate all levels of skill and conditioning. Even simple bodyweight exercises like pushups, pullups, and free squats can do wonders. Aim to work in strength training at least two times a week.
  • Be powerful – Strength training is one thing, but power is wholly another. Be explosive! From time to time, we recommend shortening up repetitions on your sets and increasing the speed and explosiveness of your strength exercises. Why? Because you’ll recruit more muscle fibers and increase lean muscle mass. Read: 3 Tips for Building Fast Twitch Muscles
  • Get enough sleep – We harp on the importance of adequate sleep a lot on the AlterG blog for a good reason: getting a solid seven to eight hours can help maintain balance in blood sugar, blood pressure, and hormone regulation, all of which can help you retain and build muscle mass.

RELATED: 6 Tips for Running in Your Fifties

Why It’s Important to Retain Muscle Mass
As noted, the research is clear that we will gradually lose muscle mass as we age. It’s important to combat this loss by committing to some of the principles listed above.

Retaining muscle mass is essential to maintaining healthy metabolic function as we age. It also can also provide the strength and mobility needed to remain independent and prevent chronic diseases. Your muscles are important—it’s time to start taking care of them!

Global Running Day 2019 – All You Need To Know

One of our favorite things about running is that almost anyone can do it. All you need is a little motivation, a pair of shoes (optional!), and some earth beneath your feet. This kind of simplicity is what gives running its global appeal. Moreover, affirming this passion for running is the idea behind Global Running Day 2019. Continue reading “Global Running Day 2019 – All You Need To Know”

Can You Run With Achilles Tendonitis?

Let’s get straight to the point: Can you run with Achilles tendonitis? The answer, in short, is yes. The real question is, should you run with Achilles tendonitis? That answer depends on the severity of your case, how you workout, and your objectives for managing (and eventually) overcoming this nagging condition.

What is Achilles Tendonitis?
Achilles tendonitis is a chronic inflammation of the tendon connecting the heel to the calf muscles. Because Achilles tendonitis is typically caused by repetition and overuse, running with Achilles tendonitis tends to make the problem worse, and can increase the chance of tears or tendon ruptures.

Common Symptoms of Achilles Tendonitis
Achilles tendonitis is characterized by mild to medium pain in the heel, the Achilles, and the back of the leg. Sufferers might notice these symptoms after running or walking. Soreness and stiffness the morning after running, walking, and other athletic activities are also quite common to Achilles tendonitis sufferers.

Tips for Healing Achilles Tendonitis
The reason that healing your Achilles tendonitis is so challenging is because the Achilles is engaged in nearly all walking and running motions. To begin the healing process and banish this nagging injury once and for all, here are a few tips:

  • Take a break: A hard pill to swallow, especially for regular runners. But taking an extended rest (at least from running) can give your damaged Achilles time to heal and helps prevent more serious injuries that could take you away from running far longer.
  • Strengthen the surrounding muscles: Weaknesses in surrounding muscles, namely the calves, as well as limited range of motion, can contribute to Achilles damage.
  • Stretch: It is so easy to forget to stretch before and after running. But maintaining flexibility and range of motion can help you prevent and recover from tendon injuries.
  • Check your footwear: What you wear on your feet can contribute or prevent injury. Stiffness in your shoe, poor fit, and shoes not designed to accommodate your particular running gait can lead to tendonitis when used over time.
  • Audit your gait: On that note, it’s important to understand your gait in order to correct gait imbalances. Hip misalignments, for example, or problems with pronation are common contributors to Achilles tendonitis and other injuries.

Unfortunately, there is no cure all for Achilles tendonitis. The condition is caused by damage to the tendon, and healing damaged tendons requires sustained healing time and acute attention. Understanding the injury and incorporating the tips above into the healing plan is a good place to start. If symptoms don’t improve, seek out a physical therapist to help you with your recovery.

3 Ways to Improve Running Ergonomics and the Kinetic Chain

Going for a jog is far more complex than might meet the eye. Every motion—every single stride—is the product of a small orchestra conducted by your body. The bones, muscles, ligaments, and tendons work in unison to make the running movement happen fluidly and efficiently.

This is known as a kinetic chain, of which there are many throughout the body. Within the running kinetic chain, we find the ergonomics of running. Much like office ergonomics, where improper seating, seat height, and other factors can cause painful and damaging imbalances, imperfections in your running ergonomics can present up and down the kinetic chain in a variety of (not so pleasant) ways.

What Comprises the Running Kinetic Chain?

Generally speaking, the kinetic chain as it relates to running is comprised of a few key parts:

  • Feet
  • Legs
  • Core
  • Lower back
  • Upper back
  • Arms and shoulders

Of course, within each part of the kinetic chain lives a vast array of muscles, ligaments, tendons, and bones. Deploying this chain to run with good form is challenging. Acute pain and chronic conditions, such as runner’s knee, tendonitis, and even strains could be the result of a weak link in the kinetic chain.

Use These Tips to Keep the Kinetic Chain Humming

Imbalances can be slow in developing. Poor core strength, for example, or gait imperfections, might cause pain or injury further up or down the line. The lower back, knees, and ankles—it’s all connected. Here are a few ways to ensure better running ergonomics and a strong and healthy kinetic chain.

1. Create a Strong Base

Central to maintaining proper running form starts with … well … your center. Working on core and leg strength will translate to a better ability to keep the core engaged during each running movement. This helps maintain control and avoid the imbalances that can create weakness in the chain.

Exercises that help create a strong base:

  • Squats
  • Lunges
  • Abdominal planks

2. Stay Flexible

To run with good form means striding properly and engaging the hips and core. This makes flexibility incredibly important to maintaining proper running ergonomics. Indeed, strong flexibility makes for a strong kinetic chain.

Activities that contribute to better flexibility for running:

  • Yoga
  • “Opening up” the hips
  • Consistent warm-up and cool-down routines

3. Move Intentionally

When you run, it is important to do so with information—to understand the mechanics involved. When you understand the mechanics, you can recognize bad habits and correct gait imbalances on the fly.

What to focus on for better movement:

  • Head position
  • Arm position and movement
  • Foot strike point

Finally, Examine Your Form

Sometimes, monitoring and correcting gait imbalances requires more than the naked eye. Runners of all skill levels use the AlterG Anti-Gravity Treadmill™ with Stride Smart Gait Analytics to take a more precise look at all the elements of running ergonomics.

Using Stride Smart, therapists can use video monitoring to analyze and address gait imbalances on the fly. While the patient exercises, therapists can show them asymmetries and imbalances right then and there, allowing runners to self-correct. It is a highly effective and accessible way to address gait imbalances, ensure strong running ergonomics, and develop a rock-solid running kinetic chain.

Can You Walk On A Sprained Ankle?

Ah, our old friend the sprained ankle. It always seems to happen when we least expect, doesn’t it? Walking too close to the edge of the sidewalk. Coming down the mountain from a hike.

Stepping across the road in heels.

Even the slightest misstep can cause a painful sprain that can linger for weeks, even months. No one wants to be off their feet for too long, especially athletes and fans of regular exercise. The question is, can you walk on a sprained ankle?

Walk on a Sprained Ankle By Taking the Weight Off

The answer is: it depends on the severity of the sprain. There are three grades used to evaluate ankle sprains:

  • Grade I
  • Grade II
  • Grade III (most severe)

Although the first temptation might be to “walk it off,” this can cause more damage to stretched or torn ligaments and prolong recovery time. It’s important not to overdo it or get ahead of yourself: walking too soon on a sprained ankle can lead to reinjury, pain, and more chronic conditions like arthritis.

There are a few important activities that help people work through a sprained ankle:

  • RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation)
  • Re-strengthening exercises
  • Rebuilding stability, balance, and flexibility
  • Gradually introducing weight-bearing activities

How to Gradually Introduce Weight Bearing on a Sprained Ankle

Traditionally, crutches, boots, and braces are used to eliminate or significantly reduce the body-weight impact on a sprained ankle. This reduces injury risk and allows time to begin rebalancing and restrengthening the injured ankle.

Our very own AlterG AntiGravity Treadmill™ is often deployed to help patients recovering from ankle sprains. The Anti-Gravity Treadmill allows therapists to add body weight in small increments, monitor pain and use gait analysis to fine-tune walking or running mechanics. The result is a drastic reduction of re-injury risk and shorter recovery times altogether.

Recommended reading: Read our Grade III lateral ankle sprain protocol on our clinical resources page. In this case study, the Anti-Gravity Treadmill was used to gradually re-introduce weight bearing and build the strength and flexibility of the injured ankle. The results are remarkable.

6 Tips for Running in Your Fifties

Though it might feel like a steeper hill to climb, running in your fifties is definitely possible. Maintaining a regular running program doesn’t have to be a casualty of age! In fact, running can be quite a boon to your well-being as you age.

Yet, running in your fifties brings with it different considerations than, say, running in your twenties. Certain aspects of the program that you used to take for granted can now be the difference between a healthy routine and injury, chronic pain, and slow progress. Here are six tips to do it right:

1. Listen to Your Doctor
Start at the doctor’s office. The doctor will make recommendations about whether you are fit and healthy enough to run at all (and at what intensity). This information will help you design the right program for your age and fitness level.

2. Prioritize Recovery
Turning fifty doesn’t mean you can’t run anymore, but it might mean that recovery times might increase. At the age of fifty, perhaps more than ever in your past, recovery time will become terribly important. Make sure to leave enough time for sleep and take adequate rest days between runs. Work on proper diet and sleep to maximize recovery.

3. Tap into Flexibility, Stabilizers, and Balance
Running in and of itself asks a lot of our core strength, flexibility, and balance. Running in your fifties asks a bit more. Still, focusing on these areas can create a base that allows you to run longer and safer while limiting pain and injury.

4. Play the Long Game
As we age, it takes longer to make improvements and reach new heights in our running programs. It’s important to resist the temptation to overdo it, as injuries from overuse or overexertion also take longer to recover from in our fifties and beyond. The more in tune we are with our adjusted timelines, the longer we’ll be able to sustain a healthy program over time.

5. Consider Group Training
Running with other peers in your age group is a great way to calibrate your routine and stay within yourself. There are plenty of fifty-plus running groups in most cities. Take the leap and see how nice it is to run each week with people who share in and understand what it means to run in your fifties.

6. Say Goodbye to Younger You, Embrace the New You
Our final tip is all about outlook. Yes, it is true that we might lose some ability, conditioning, and capacity as we age. And it can be difficult to come to terms with what we feel like we’re capable of in our minds and what our bodies can actually do. Still, the sooner you embrace the “new you,” the quicker you’ll be able to adapt the right habits and approaches that make running in your fifties better than ever.

How to Increase Your Running Distance Safely

Establishing and maintaining a running program is always a challenge. Staying consistent, keeping things interesting, and pushing past the wall requires commitment. Adding more miles can be a whole other can of worms.

In the spirit of taking your program to the next level, here’s how to safely increase running distance while limiting your risk of injury and exhaustion.

Track Your Progress

Just as keeping a daily journal can help you keep a diet, so to can it help you improve your running program. We recommend setting a weekly mileage goal, then charting the miles you run every week. After you’ve hit your mark a few weeks in a row, review your logs to inform how many miles to add to your weekly total (and when).

Mix Up Distance and Running Routes

Whoever you talk to, boredom is the number one excuse for not running. Don’t let the tedium stunt your program! If you love running the same route every day, try reversing it every once in a while. Work in hills, mix up distances throughout the week. Assign one of your days for a “longer” run.

Load Up Before Your Rest Day

To that end, try planning your long run the day before a rest day. Knowing that you’ll have the next day to rest will give you the confidence to push it, both in terms of distance and pace.

Unlock the Power of Recovery Time

Speaking of rest days, your off days can be as important to adding distance than your “on” days. Rest days give your body time to recover and adapt. This means not only working rest days into your routine but making the most of that rest time by eating well and staying hydrated.

Finally, Listen to Your Body

Of all the ways to safely add distance to your running program, listening to your body is one of the most important. This doesn’t mean skipping run days because you don’t feel like it, no. Listening to your body means reading any indicators of overuse, exhaustion, and injury.

Because putting your body out of commission won’t do you any good when trying to add miles to your running program.

Learn how the Anti-Gravity Treadmill™ can help improve your running.

 

4 Simple Ways to Prevent an ACL Tear

It’s the pop that no one ever wants to hear. The knee buckles, the athlete goes down, and the season is over. An anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tear can be an abrupt and painful end to a season or even a career. It is a serious setback that usually requires surgery and leads to long term conditions such as osteoarthritis.

What is an ACL Tear?
Your ACL is located in the knee joint and controls the movement of your shinbone in relation to the thigh bone. Direct impact, sudden stops and changes of direction, or turns and awkward landings are what most often lead to ACL injuries.

The injury itself is usually indicated by an audible pop, a buckling knee, immediate swelling, pain, and an inability to put weight on the affected limb. Given the movements that most commonly lead to ACL tears, you’ll frequently find this injury in soccer, football, and basketball (among other similar sports).

How to Prevent ACL Tears
An ACL tear can happen to anyone and a lot of factors contribute to the injury. Here are four sound ways to help prevent this injury:

1. Know, Prepare, and Listen to Your Body
Preparation and body awareness go a long way in preventing ACL tears. This includes properly warming up and stretching before all workouts, understanding proper body positioning (stance, how you push off and land, etc.), and avoiding “playing through” knee pain which can lead to overuse injuries and weakness.

2. Fortify Your Ligaments
As with most injuries and conditions, good nutrition and proper hydration are important parts of keeping ligaments healthy and strong. Eating lots of colorful fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, nuts and legumes will help ensure that your ligaments get the protein, calcium, and other nutrients they need to stay strong and protected from injury. Diet and nutrition are one of the most overlooked aspects of injury prevention.

3. Strengthen the Supporting Cast
The ability of your ACL to withstand athletic activities without injury depends in part on the strength, flexibility, and health of the surrounding muscle groups. It is important to strengthen the hamstrings. It is also useful to think of the entire chain of muscles involved in a given movement. Working to improve balance, agility, flexibility, and core strength will help you control the body and eliminate the need for compensatory movements that sometimes lead to injury.

4. Lower the Impact
For people at risk of ACL tears, such as those with previous knee injuries or older adults, there are ways to exercise while lowering the body-weight impact on the knees.

Pool training, for example, is a highly effective (and taxing!) way to continue training while reducing the risk of knee injury. For the purposes of training, therapy, and injury recovery, precision unweighting tools like the AlterG Anti-Gravity Treadmill™ are a highly effective way to reduce the body-weight impact on the knee.

One patient, a Division I soccer player, suffered a severe ACL tear and completed a walking program on the Anti-Gravity Treadmill. The progressive loading and gait monitoring allowed her to recover, maintain cardiovascular fitness, and return to her sport sooner than expected. Read the ACL tear case study.