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.

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.

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.

What Does Patient-Therapist Collaboration Really Look Like?

From a patient’s point of view, the right fit for physical therapy can be challenging. Since this will be an ongoing relationship, lasting at least the duration of the physical therapy program, the first thing to look for is an atmosphere of communication, trust, and collaboration.

What, though, does patient-therapist collaboration actually look like? Here are four common attributes of strong patient-therapist relationships that can help both patients and therapists evaluate clinical environments.

Honest Communication Is Encouraged (Even When It’s Uncomfortable)

Patients want to know not only that they will be heard, but that they will be treated with respect and equanimity no matter the information they are communicating. Therapists can engender more effective collaboration by encouraging patients to communicate early and often about whatever they feel is important to share.

This can be as simple as providing an opportunity at the outset of each visit to share updates, concerns, or questions a patient might have. Over time, patients will feel more comfortable communicating valuable information that can help shape the pace and direction of the therapy program.

Trust is Established Early and Honored Throughout

Open patient-therapist communication goes hand in hand with trust. Physical therapists can establish trust by listening to a patient and, where appropriate, taking action on the information provided.

When patients recognize that their therapist is making clinical decisions in the patient’s best interest—based in part on the information the patient is providing—they will be more likely to stay engaged with the program.

Goal Setting is Collaborative and Patient-Focused

When expectations around trust and communication are in place, patients will feel more comfortable communicating about their comfort levels and pain, functional ability, insecurities and worries. With that information, the therapist and patient can work together to set realistic, mutually agreed upon goals, then design and adjust therapy programs based on this mutual understanding.

It Gets Results

When trust, communication, and goal setting are collaborative in nature, both patients and therapists will be more engaged, thus increasing the likelihood of more positive outcomes. It should come as no surprise, then that where strong patient-therapist collaboration is found, so, too, are consistently good results.

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.  

A Closer Look at Gait Assessment with AlterG Stride Smart Technology

To deliver the best patient care, clinicians need to stay up to date with the technology revolutionizing physical therapy. In our previous post, we took a look at Differential Air Pressure (DAP), the patented technology on which the AlterG® Anti-Gravity Treadmill™ is based. Continue reading “A Closer Look at Gait Assessment with AlterG Stride Smart Technology”