Posture-Improving Exercises for Physical Therapy Patients

Patients of all ages looking to improve their posture may benefit from exercise. In extreme cases, where the spine is severely curved, there traditionally were few options for effective treatment. If a patient has a condition that is adversely impacting their posture, they may begin to feel frustration or embarrassment. Continue reading “Posture-Improving Exercises for Physical Therapy Patients”

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 Long Does It Take To Recover From Meniscus Surgery?

For such a small part of the body, the c-shaped piece of cartilage between the tibia and femur bones play a large role. This piece of cartilage, known as the meniscus, serves as both a stabilizer and shock absorber for the knee. And when you injure your meniscus, you know. The question is, what happens when a meniscus injury requires surgery, and how long does it take to recover?

READ: Meniscus Repair Rehabilitation Protocol by AlterG

Common Causes of Meniscus Injuries
Before we get into care, let’s talk about cause. A sudden stop and turn, an awkward twist or landing—all of these can cause a meniscal tear. Meniscus injuries crop up most often during contact sports, such as football, soccer, and hockey.

However, meniscus tears can also result from heavy lifting, pivots and turns (think: basketball, volleyball, and the like), as well as osteoporosis, osteoarthritis, and other conditions that come with age. Causes vary. Here’s what recovery might look like.

What to Expect After Meniscus Surgery
After a meniscus injury, physicians use MRI to determine the severity of injury and whether or not surgery is required. Typically, anything Grade III and above will require surgery (though not always). It all depends on the extent to which the injury is likely to heal on its own. For those injuries that do require surgery, here’s what to expect afterward:

  • Rest, healing, and recovery time: Immediately after the injury, patients will be put into RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation) protocol alongside pain and inflammation medication as needed. Though the surgery to repair a meniscus tear alone is not terribly long, the recovery time can last anywhere from three weeks to six months for a full return to activity.

    As with any injury, recovery time for meniscus surgery will depend on the severity of the surgery (full removal or repair, for example), location of the injury, as well as any other damage that was done to the knee. Rehabilitation time will also vary accordingly.

  • Crutches, a brace, and a slow return to weight-bearing: After surgery, most patients will be on crutches, wear a brace, or some combination of both for at least a couple of weeks. This helps eliminate impact on the knee to allow the repaired tissue to begin healing and reduce the risk of re-injury.
  • The physical therapy program: After an initial recovery period, most patients will begin a physical therapy program to start a gradual and progressive return to regular activity. This includes a gradual return to weight-bearing activities. The integrity and regularity of this program will directly impact the patient’s recovery time, and may include the following focus areas:
    • Stabilization
    • Flexibility
    • Strength
    • Endurance

Shortening Recovery Times with Precision Unweighting
Once a patient is cleared to return to weight-bearing activities, their physical therapist will tailor the duration and intensity of their protocols depending on the severity of the meniscus injury.

Aside from traditional protocols, many physical therapists are now adding unweighting activities, such as pool therapy or tools like the AlterG Anti-Gravity Treadmill™, to re-introduce walking and running motions while limiting injury risk. How? By adding weight-bearing in smaller, tolerable increments and controlling those increments precisely.

To learn more, read the medial meniscus tear case study by AlterG.

5 Workouts for People With Fall Risk

Fall risk is inherent to certain activities no matter who you are. Yet, some conditions increase fall risk during certain types of movement and exercise. One in four Americans aged sixty five or older, for example, falls each year. Other conditions, such as obesity, diabetes, and neurological disorders, can contribute to increased fall risk as well.

This doesn’t exclude people with higher fall risks from exercise! Here are five workouts that reduce or eliminate balance and coordination issues, perfect for people with higher fall risk.

1. Seated Leg Lifts

From a sitting position on the floor, back to a wall and legs straight out, lift and hold your leg a couple inches from the ground. After ten to fifteen seconds, release and repeat with the other leg. You can also sit in a chair, instead, back straight, and lift leg until it is parallel to the floor. Alternate after ten to fifteen seconds. Keep the core engaged.

2. Sitting Shoulder Press

Sitting upright in a chair, or on a bench, keeping good posture, point elbows out and slowly push arms upward to the sky until fully extended. Slowly release back down to beginning position. Focus on slow, deliberate movements, always keeping the core engaged. Use three, five, or ten-pound hand weights to increase resistance.

3. Elliptical

In situations where a traditional treadmill is too risky, the elliptical machine can be a safer, more stable alternative. Start light and slow, keeping body-weight impact minimal. Always hold on to the handles for safety, and increase workout time incrementally as you progress.

4. Pool Work

Another way to decrease body-weight impact during exercise is to hop into the pool. Swimming and water aerobics are one of the best total-body workouts that carry little fall risk. Most gyms offer group pool workout classes that can be dynamic and engaging. Good for the heart, too.

5. AlterG Anti-Gravity Treadmill™

Perhaps the safest way to control fall risk is training with the Anti-Gravity Treadmill. Under the supervision of a trained physical therapist, patients and athletes can reduce body-weight impact in 1% increments. Thanks to a sturdy harness, participants can walk or run unrestricted by fear of falling or pain and make adjustments to their gait on the fly.

This is just a small sampling of the many exercises suitable for people with higher fall risk. Have fun and mix it up to keep things interesting. Explore different muscle groups and systems to target, both upper and lower body. The main thing is to keep moving in safe and rewarding ways.

Why Your Body Needs Rest Days

There is a hero in us all that loves to “just push through.” Push through the pain. Push through the fatigue, soreness, and hunger. While there is nothing wrong with a strong work ethic, it can be a mistake to push on at the expense of much needed rest and recovery.  Among the many reasons why your body needs rest days, here are five that might give you pause the next time you want to skip a day off.

1. Avoid Overuse Injuries (and Overtraining Syndrome)

Working out too much can push your muscles, bones,  and ligaments, leading go overuse injuries. Think tennis elbow, tendonitis, sprains, and tears. It can also lead to overtraining syndrome, a common condition that can include dragging fatigue, sleep disruption, and mood swings (among other symptoms).

2. Restore Muscle Tissue

Have you ever gotten the feeling after a day or two off that you return that much stronger and more energized? During nearly any kind of training, inflammation and even small tears occur in muscle tissues. During rest, the healing and regeneration of these muscles is what allows us to build strength, endurance, and muscle mass.

3. Replenish, Refuel, Hydrate

Rest days are also an opportunity to replenish the things your body needs to recover. A diet rich in lean protein, fruits, and vegetables will provide some of the calories, vitamins, and nutrients lost during exercise. Of course, you should continue drinking ample water throughout the day to stay hydrated. Not only will diet and water intake help you recover, it will prepare you for tomorrow’s workout, too.

4. Get Your Mind Right

Time away from the physical challenge and psychological strain that accompanies exercise, workout regimens, and sporting activities can do wonders for the mind. A bit of mental rest can recenter your memory, focus, and motivation that might suffer if you burn yourself out. Take a full day off and feed the mind with positive stimulation.

Taking a day off when your body needs rest isn’t a sign of weakness, or quitting—it’s smart. The world’s top athletes and trainers swear by it (alongside proper nutrition and hydration). Just getting a bit more sleep every night can make a world of difference in you mood, energy level, and motivation.

How long? Allow one to two days between working out the same group of muscles. These rules vary depending on type of exercise and body type, so it’s always a good idea to check with your physician or physical therapist to confirm.

Either way, rest is essential to better performance. Put it all together and you’ll come back stronger than ever.

5 Tips for Reducing Joint Pain During Exercise

For most people living an active lifestyle, there comes a time when the joints start talking. It could be the knees, hips, and ankles; or it might be your elbows, shoulders, and wrists. No matter our sport or exercise of choice, we rely on our joints tremendously. And like any other body part, joints are prone to wear and tear, damage, and decline.

While joint pain is often associated with conditions like rheumatoid and psoriatic arthritis, overtraining, fatigue, and other factors can also cause joint pain. Even one’s diet can have a significant impact on joint strength and dexterity.

5 Ways to Reduce Joint Pain During Exercise

Let’s start here: if you have joint pain during exercise, it’s unwise to just take extra-strength painkillers and power through. Try, rather, to get to the root of the issue. If your joint pain cannot be resolved completely, managing the symptoms is the next best option. And this requires listening to your body and, in many cases, changing your approach to exercise entirely.

  1. Reassess What’s Best For You – There’s a fine line between “just living with” joint pain and doing lasting and irreparable damage. Give your body a rest and go talk to your physician or physical therapist to determine what’s best for your specific symptoms. Your current regimen might be doing more harm than good.

  2. Don’t Skip Warmup Or Cooldown – Besides avoiding injury, a good warmup and cooldown routine can help increase blood flow to your joints and prevent swelling, stiffness, or soreness later on.

  3. Avoid Too Much Repetition – Pounding the pavement on long runs, day after day, can worsen a problem like joint pain. Though activities like running and cycling are beneficial in many ways, it might be time to mix it up a little. Try incorporating a lower impact routine, such as yoga, tai chi, or swimming.

  4. Avoid Overtraining – Mixing up your routine is also a good way to avoid overtraining. Apart from other negative consequences on the body, overtraining can worsen joint pain during exercise. Make sure to get adequate rest between workouts!

  5. Reduce Body-Weight Impact – Excessive body weight and gravitational impact can also intensify joint pain. During resistance exercise, try reducing the weight you are lifting. Another alternative is to take to the water, as buoyancy helps reduce body-weight impact as well.

Related Article: Exercises and Movements for Managing Juvenile Arthritis

A Smarter Way to Reduce Body Weight Impact

While water-based exercises can help reduce joint pain during exercise, the AlterG® Anti-Gravity Treadmill can be particularly effective. Using Differential Air Pressure technology, AlterG treadmills allow you to incrementally reduce body weight impact during walking and running exercises up to 80%. Learn more about Anti-Gravity Treadmills from AlterG.

5 Strategies for Better Patient Advocacy

None of us make it through our lifetime without requiring medical care. Even if you were the unicorn that lived a full life without an injury, illness, or sore tooth, someone you know will require care. And whether it is you, a family member, or a friend, it’s important to understand how to be an advocate throughout the process. Because the importance of patient advocacy lies in its ability to enhance outcomes during medical care.

What is Patient Advocacy?

In the traditional sense of the word, patient advocates are people or organizations that interface with medical facilities, medical professionals, and even insurance companies on the behalf of patients. Patient advocates can assists with complicated decisions, such as insurance claims, tests, and procedures. Though there are professional patient advocacy providers, a family member, friend, or spouse can also fill this role.

How to Be a Patient Advocate for Yourself or a Family Member

When going through an injury or illness, it is easy to take all the information you receive from doctors and nurses as gospel. The experience can be overwhelming, after all. Yet inefficiencies, mistakes, and oversights do happen, especially when you consider the volume of patients that a given medical practitioner sees in a given day. And there are plenty of opportunities for patients or their advocates to provide context, additional information, and timely decision making to help facilitate better outcomes.

Here are five strategies to be a better patient advocate:

  • Ask questions – A lot of them. Resist the tendency to just go through the motions. Instead, ask nurses, doctors, therapists, and other medical staff about timelines, medications, procedures and test results.

  • Take notes – There is nothing wrong with taking notes while meeting with medical professionals. The volume of information around medication, treatment outlooks, and therapy recommendations can be overwhelming. Take notes and be sure to add timestamps so you can reference your notes later.

  • Do your research – Find credible information from reputable sources about conditions, illnesses, and injuries. This can help you ask informed questions and be realistic about treatment.

  • Lean on your support system – For some odd reason, people tend to shoulder burdens alone in times of need. It’s important to include family and friends during treatment, recovery, or rehabilitation. It introduces new perspectives on the matter and helps avoid burnout.

  • Be honest – The more that your physician, physical therapist, or nurse knows, the better equipped they are to provide accurate and effective care. Give them complete and accurate information whenever you can.

Good patient advocates ask not just what the physician’s objectives are for treatment—or what they recommend—but ask themselves what their own objectives and goals are. If you are advocating for yourself, say your objectives out loud. Write them down. Have a working understanding of these goals so that you can communicate them to your physician or physical therapist when the time comes.

Remember: physicians, physical therapists, and other medical professionals—though highly trained and talented—are not mind readers. They too benefit from an informed and engaged patient advocate.  

New Study Shows Exercise Improves Heart Health in Cancer Patients

Despite the immense challenges that cancer represents to both patients and medical professionals, it’s comforting to know that cancer research continues to make great strides. Naturally, our ears perked up when a new study from the the Journal of Clinical Oncology hit our inboxes. The study links exercise to improved cardiorespiratory fitness in adult patients suffering from cancer.

Though this might seem like a self-evident revelation (we already know, for instance, that sedentary lifestyles can increase the risk of diseases like cancer), there is more here than meets the eye. As Medpage points out in their analysis of the study, “up to 80% [of patients with adult onset cancer] have significant impairment in peak oxygen consumption.”

Indeed, diminished cardiovascular function is common among cancer patients. And according to the American Cancer Society, cancer-related fatigue is also quite common, often due in part to the decline in heart health that typically accompanies many types of cancer.

It’s a problem that tends to compound upon itself. More challenging still is that fact that, even though cancer patients find it difficult to exercise due to cancer-related fatigue, this new research suggests that exercise is key to improving heart health in cancer patients.

So where does that leave us?

To begin with, it is important for cancer patients to find the right environment to enable safe and productive exercise. This includes finding the right tools to support healthy cardiovascular exercise, of which there are a number of encouraging examples.

In a pilot study documented in the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, for example, low-impact cardiovascular exercise on the AlterG® Anti-Gravity Treadmill™ was shown to improve cardiovascular conditioning and health for breast cancer survivors. In its recommendations for exercise as part of cancer treatment, Harvard Health recommends “referral to an accredited exercise physiologist and/or physical therapist.”

Though specific exercise recommendations will vary from patient to patient, this new study from Journal of Oncology is significant for a number of reasons. For medical professionals, the study supports the role of exercise in improving cardiovascular health for cancer patients. For those cancer patients suffering from cardiovascular decline, the study offers a potential path to regaining some function, quality of life, and overall health.

And for the rest of the world, this new study indicates that finding links between cardiovascular fitness in cancer patients and exercise remains a priority for cancer researchers across the country.

That is welcome news.

The Evolution of AlterG Technology and What it Means to You

Since our humble beginnings in 2005, AlterG® has come a long way. So too has the evolution of physical therapy, often progressing at a dizzying pace. In keeping with our commitment to being a pioneer in advanced rehabilitation technology, we’ve continued to add to and improve upon our suite of tools. Continue reading “The Evolution of AlterG Technology and What it Means to You”