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 Should I Prepare for My Session with AlterG?

We get this question a lot: how do I prepare for my session on the AlterG Anti-Gravity™ Treadmill? What should I wear? What do I need to bring along?

While there are some special considerations, working out on an Anti-Gravity Treadmill isn’t terribly different from any other physical therapy session. Still, we decided to poll our team members and resident AlterG experts to bring you our top five tips to make the most of your experience on the Anti-Gravity Treadmill.

1. Wear fitted shorts, nothing baggy or loose

To make the magic of precision unweighting happen, you’ll have to wear a special pair of shorts. Our special neoprene shorts are a lot like common compression shorts, except they have a go-around zipper that zips you in the machine and creates an airtight environment around the lower body.

To make sure you’re as comfortable as possible, we recommend that you wear fitted clothing under the AlterG shorts. We recommend spandex shorts—stay away from pants, baggy basketball shorts, and workout skirts. This way, you can take the neoprene shorts on and off easily and remain comfortable throughout the session.

2. Footwear is totally up to you

While you might have to wear special shorts on the Anti-Gravity Treadmill, your choice of shoes is totally up to you. What would you wear running on any other treadmill? Or outside? We recommend a good pair of running or cross-training shoes, but you have options. You can even go barefoot if that’s your preference (though it’s not something we typically recommend.)

3. Remember that you’ll be zipped in

Once you’re all suited up and zipped into the treadmill, you won’t want to have to get in and out. So, here are a few tips:

  • Hydrate and eat lightly before your session
  • Go to the bathroom before your session
  • Bring headphones, your phone, a water bottle, and a sweat towel and keep them within arm’s reach during your session

4. You’re going to break a sweat

Workout temperature is one of the ways the Anti-Gravity Treadmill is different from other treadmills. Because you’re lower body is zipped into an airtight chamber, things tend to get a little sweaty during the session. As such, we recommend staying hydrated before and during your session. And wear two top layers (a tank top and a long sleeve workout shirt, for example) so that you can peel one off should you need to.

5. Be sure to bring your favorite tech

Far be it from us to disrupt your usual workout routine! Feel free to bring along your own fitness or heart rate monitor, which you can wear during your session. Headphones and music are a must. The good news is that the Anti-Gravity Treadmill now includes handy holsters for things like phones and water bottles.

Easy peasy, right? Follow these five expert tips and your session on the AlterG Anti-Gravity Treadmill will be a breeze. Oh, and if you’re looking to book a session on the Anti-Gravity Treadmill for your own physical therapy needs, click here to find an AlterG near you.

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.

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!

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.

How to Adapt Your Fitness Routine For the Later Years

We’ve said it before, and we’ll keep on saying it: regular exercise unlocks immense benefits for all age groups. For seniors, exercise is the ticket to a happier, healthier retirement. Benefits include:

  • Better sleep
  • Improved mental health
  • Weight maintenance or loss
  • Looking and feel younger

Yet with the passing years comes the need to adapt exercise routines. With each decade, the body changes, and what used to be easy-breezy is now more challenging. This doesn’t mean people can’t continue exercising as they age. It just means they need to refine their approach.

Go See the Physician
Regular readers of the AlterG blog will recognize this common refrain: when introducing exercise into one’s life, or drastically changing one’s routine, it’s important to talk to the doctor first. That goes for people of all ages.

This doesn’t have to be complicated, though: an annual physical evaluation with a primary care physician is the right time to evaluate one’s suitability for regular exercise and any additional precautions they need to take.

RELATED: 5 Workouts for People With Fall Risk

Start Simple and Progress Incrementally
Our age and physical condition are no match for the inner picture we have of ourselves (I’ll be 25 forever!). While relatable, attempting the same activities, with the same intensity, that we could earlier in life lead to injury.

Instead, set an objective to do one simple exercise, such as walking, toe touches, or stretching every day, or every other day, for two weeks. After two weeks, you’ll have developed the habit of exercise on which you can build toward a more advanced senior exercise routine.

RELATED: Train Seniors Using Unweighting

Establish Baseline Flexibility and Balance
For the first couple of weeks, make balance, core strength, and flexibility the areas of focus. This will help establish a baseline that will enable comfortable, safe, and effective exercise later on.

Modify Your Existing Routine
Don’t rule out a return to glory just yet! Many of the exercises and routines you used to do can be modified. Lifting weights, stretching, aerobics, yoga, Tai Chi—all of these can be done while sitting in a chair. Many seniors take to the pool for aerobic routines that are just as challenging, but not as hard on the body.

Work With a Physical Therapist
The question is, do seniors need a physical therapist? In some cases, physical disability, injury, fall risk, and other factors common among seniors necessitate work with a physical therapist. For seniors, working with a physical therapist can offer a number of advantages:

  • Guided exercises that limit fall risk
  • Identify and work on weaknesses or deficiencies
  • Rehabilitate and recover from injury
  • Go slow under the supervision of a professional

The supervision of a professional can be very beneficial. Physical therapists have tools and techniques at their disposal that are designed to help people get the most out of their workouts—regardless of age, condition, injury status—in sensible, safe increments.

LEARN MORE: Anti-Gravity Treadmill for Seniors

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.