Archives for category: Injuries

Daily activities can sometimes, literally, be a pain in the back or neck. According to the NIH, Americans spend at least $50 billion each year on low back pain. And while overloading the back can certainly cause pain, how the spine is used is more often the culprit.

We’ve listed a few common activities below and some tips to help you avoid hurting yourself and needing someone like us.

Sweeping, Vacuuming, Mopping

Move your feet. Too often people plant their feet and push & pull with their arms. This can
not only create redance stepspeated twists and torques on the spine, but lends itself to bending forward and twisting too far, especially while reaching. Combining a forward bend and twist can injure a disc or strain a muscle, sometimes resulting in nerve pain and sciatica. So, dance. Put on some music and move your feet. If you keep your shoulders and hips pointing roughly the same direction while staying upright and keeping your feet moving, you are much less likely to end up painful, sore or injured.

Cooking and Washing Up

Hinge at your hips. We all know that cooking and cleaning up is not a static job. There is walking, turning, reaching and bending, even if you’re just going from the fridge to the microwave. So, as above, keep those feet moving. If you have to stand still for more than a few minutes, place one foot on a low stool, or on the bottom shelf of an open cabinet.

And when you need to reach under the counter, bend at your hips and knees, keeping your back straight. And don’t confuse vertical with straight. A proper squat should keep the knees at or behind the toes and have you hinge at your hips, not hunching forward in your back and neck. And proper squatting technique has an awesome side effect; it uses your glutes and will help keep your bottom firm.

squat

 Working on a Laptop or Tablet

Sit up and straighten your neck. People are working from home more often and spending a great deal of time looking at screens these days. Raise them up. If you spend more than 30 minutes a day working on a laptop, consider raising it up and getting a wireless keyboard and mouse to separate the screen from your hands and to allow you to keep your neck upright. If you’re reading this on a tablet (or a ‘gasp’ phone), lift that puppy up! Get your head upright, look down with your eyes and give your neck a break. It has to hold the equivalent of a bowling ball up for over 16 hours a day. At least give it a fighting chance!

Other Stuff, like Straightening Up, Doing Laundry and Making Beds

There’s a theme. We could go down a list of other activities and break them down, but you’re probably already noticing a theme. Keeping your spine straight (not necessarily vertical), avoiding twisting & reaching, moving your feet and changing positions are all going to come up again and again. So whether you are picking up for guests, washing clothes, making beds, adjusting your car seat or writing thank you notes, maintaining good posture and changing your position frequently are good ideas.

You’re planning to use that spine of yours for quite a few more years, so take care of it now. It’s never too late to start. And your older self will thank you for it.

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“Each year, one in every three adults age 65 and older falls. Falls can cause moderate to severe injuries, such as hip fractures and head traumas, and can increase the risk of early death. Fortunately, falls are a public health problem that is largely preventable.” – CDC
http://www.cdc.gov/homeandrecreationalsafety/falls/adultfalls.html

This is a frightening statistic, but one that we can impact positively. Even if your balance is good, maintaining your strength and balance is something everyone should work on.

Many people become less active as they age and challenge themselves less physically. But a few simple exercises can help with balance, strength and falls prevention. Here is a suggestion of 2 simple exercises you may try.

  1. Sit down in a dining room chair and stand up (without plopping into the chair) 5-10 times. Use good form by keeping your back straight (not vertical) and getting your weight over your feet. Your goal should be to do this without using your hands, but feel free to use them for balance if you need.
  2. March in place. The slower you go, the more emphasis you will be putting on balance. Make sure to place a hand on a wall or counter until you are steady enough to do this slowly without holding on. If you are really good, you can pause for 5-10 seconds on each leg and remain balanced.

Remember that these suggestions are only that, suggestions, and not a replacement for skilled physical therapy and exercise instruction. If you are apprehensive about doing these, or find yourself too unsteady to do them safely, please contact a physical therapist familiar with balance issues in older adults to be evaluated and have an exercise program designed specifically for your needs.

Squat over chair:
squat over chair

Marching in place:Marching

LindsayKnitting“Just one more row.”  I’ve thought it myself countless times- only to realize another 20 minutes has gone by without making any move to stop.  Regardless of your level of skill, anyone who knits has probably dealt with the aches and pains associated with working on a project for too long.  How can you avoid it?  One of the best things you can do is work on developing good habits so you can stop issues before they start.  As a knitter and a physical therapist, I see many patients with overuse injuries.  Here are some basic tips on how to stay comfortable while working:

Good Posture – I know we’ve all heard it time and time again but that doesn’t make it any easier to sit properly.  First, it is important to have good light when you are knitting so you do not need to ‘squint’ down at your project.  A good chair is key- not too hard, not too soft, but just right.  When sitting, your knees should be slightly lower than your hips, and your feet should be flat on the floor.  You should try to have your bottom at the back of the chair and have your weight shifted slightly forward.  Sometimes a towel or roll behind your low back can help provide proper lumbar support.  Your shoulders should be down away from your ears and your shoulder blades slightly squeezed together on your back.  Your elbows should be in at your sides and your chin slightly tucked.

Take Breaks – No one said it would be easy to maintain good posture, especially when you are just getting used to it.  Set a timer for 30-45 minutes and when it goes off, put your knitting down and get up to move around.  You should plan to take a 5-10 minute break.  Walk around, which helps with circulation, or do a few of the exercises below.  Changing your activity will keep you from developing repetitive strain injuries, and gives your body time to recover.

Stretch – Now that you are taking breaks- use the time to move around.  Gently stretch your neck side to side, and slowly look over each shoulder.  Roll your shoulders forwards and backwards.  Try to touch your elbows behind your back.  Make circles with your wrists clockwise and counter clockwise.  Use one hand to gently stretch the other wrist down and up.  Repeat on the other side.   If it feels okay gently twist your torso to the right and the left.  Reach both arms up as if you were to touch the ceiling.  None of these movements should cause you any pain or discomfort, just gentle stretch.  If one bothers you, try to modify it or lessen the intensity, or just don’t do it.

Breathe – When your posture isn’t optimal you aren’t breathing as efficiently.  Many people become ‘chest breathers’ using the neck muscles and shoulders to elevate the ribs.  Ideally you should use the diaphragm (the muscle at the bottom of your ribs, right above the belly button) to fill your lungs.  To do so focus on pushing your belly button out as you breathe in.  No one should see your shoulders moving up and down.

Listen to your body – If you do find yourself getting symptoms, it is important to rest and give your body time to recover.  Otherwise you can be at risk to develop repetitive or chronic injury.  Icing the area may help calm any irritation and decrease soreness (but make sure to put something between the ice and your skin!)  If your symptoms to not resolve with a week of rest, or if they get worse, you should go see a health professional.  You should DEFINITELY go if you are experiencing any numbness or tingling, loss of strength, or radiating pain.

Making small modifications and developing good habits will help you avoid knitting related injuries and ensure healthy knitting.  And remember to stop knitting and rest if you begin to notice any symptoms.

Lindsay Haas is an amateur knitter and a professional physical therapist at san francisco sport and spine physical therapy.  She enjoys helping knitters and other crafters ensure they can continue their projects pain free, as well as comparing notes on projects and learning new techniques from her patients.

An east coast transplant to California, I’ve fallen in love with the mountains.  In the winter, for me that means strapping on a snowboard to play in the snow in Tahoe.  As those of you who ski and snowboard know, this requires a certain level of fitness.  Aside from the endurance and general strength it takes to have fun out there, there comes risk.  Having the perspective of being on orthopedic physical therapist, I see first hand the injuries that can happen out there, to all different degrees.  I’ve also been injured myself, and was reminded how important it is to take care of my body properly so I can keep snowboarding…until I’m 80 or older!

Having started snowboarding later in life, having more awareness of the risks associated because of what I do, and just some of my personality, I definitely ride more conservatively out there; my main goal being having fun.  I know the consequences of taking more risks with my riding, especially when the conditions are firm or icy.  Now that being said, I still like to get out there, make smart decisions, like calling it a day when I feel that fatigue set in.  Most importantly, I train my body for the hill.  Sure it’s important to work on endurance and cardio, and cross train, but more importantly is balance and core stabilization training.  I make it happen, every day during the week…I pick 4 or 5 quick exercises to keep challenging my stability to increase my response out there, so my body knows how to respond to the variable conditions that present themselves.

Everyone out there should have a program to prepare themselves for the season, and upkeep during the season.  That should include a flexibility program (my foam roller lives up at my ski house during the season), a strength and core stability program (including things that challenge your balance on uneven surfaces), and a dynamic warm up program to start off before the first turns of the day.  With doing those things, you will significantly decrease your risk of injury, your body will be more stable on the hill absorbing those bumps, and you will even perform better.   And when you do have an injury, even a minor one, it’s important to consult with a PT (the movement experts) to minimize your time off the slope and get your body back to functioning quicker.  I didn’t do this when I should have last year, and ended up limited in my summer activities because of it…lesson learned!

Jessica Monaloy, PT CIMT
San Francisco Sport and Spine Physical Therapy
Jessica@sfsspt.com

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