Let’s Stretch Together!

National Stretching Day and most people would say they understand the benefits of stretching, but not everyone is committed to staying loose with a regular routine.  While regular long stretching sessions are beneficial, especially for athletes or active individuals, how can we maintain flexibility if we do not have the time to commit? Here are some tips to help you stay loose even if you are stuck at the office.

The most common stretches are focused on “flexibility” or lengthening the muscles which is important to prevent injury. These should be completed in a dynamic movement fashion to warm up before activity and should be completed as 30-60 seconds static holds after activity. 

However, muscles are not the only part of our body that get “tight”.  We also have to consider our joints or “mobility” as well.  We like to say that Motion is Lotion. These repeated movements assist with lubricating our joints with nutrient-rich fluid which in turn will help maintain range of motion and decrease pain and stiffness.  

Most of the population (around 80%) will complain of back or neck pain in their life.  Our spine is made up of lots of different joints, so it is susceptible to stiffness resulting in common complaints of neck and back pain.  When we stay still for too long, such as sitting at our desk, our joints are not lubricated and we can lose mobility over time. 

For those that are stuck behind a desk, try these easy office stretches to break up your day, improve your posture, improve your mobility, and reduce your chance of developing back or neck pain.  

Try to perform up to 10 reps at a time and do at least one stretch every 1-2 hours. 2-3 minutes of stretching periodically throughout your day can be more beneficial than 1 intensive hour-long session.

If you have any specific questions or concerns and would like a personalized evaluation, please contact one of our six locally-owned clinics. We will provide you with a personalized plan of action based on your goals. We want to get you back to doing the activities you enjoy as quickly as possible. 

 

extending backwards
Stand up and extend backward.
Rotate to the left and right on a chair.
Rotate to the left and right.
Tuck chin straight back.
Tuck chin straight back.
Stetch your arm straight back.
Stretch your arm straight back.

 

 

Extend upper back over your chair.
Extend your upper back over your chair.
Mothers participate in lunge workouts with their newborns.

Female Pelvic Health Through the Lifespan

Women experience continuous changes throughout their lifespan; from puberty to childbearing years, perimenopause, and into postmenopause…the female body is an ever-evolving landscape! Oftentimes the symptoms and their effects on women’s lives is underappreciated. After all, women comprise 49.6% of the world’s population, so nearly half of the world is going through it. Pelvic Floor Therapists have a unique perspective into the struggles of women throughout their lifespan and tend to be diligent in delineating between a condition or experience being “common” versus “normal”.

It is important to not confuse the two terms; just because something is common among a population of people, does not make it normal. It is common for women to have pain during their menstrual cycles and during pregnancy. It is common for women to struggle with returning to prior levels of function, including sexual function, following the birth of a child or with the journey of menopause. It is common for women to experience bladder leakage, and have difficulties with constipation. It is common for them to develop vaginal changes affecting personal relationships during and following menopause. But – is it normal?

Being intentional to support women throughout their lifespan and the journey their body makes along with them is important. Empowering women to pursue care proven to improve quality of life measures, throughout their lifespan, is imperative. Pelvic Floor Physical Therapy can be a tremendous tool allowing women to reclaim their bodies, and often their lives.

What Is Pelvic Rehabilitation?

Pelvic floor rehab, or Pelvic Floor Physical Therapy, is treatment provided by a licensed Physical Therapist who has completed additional and specialized training for pelvic floor conditions. It involves an assessment of the low back, pelvis and hips, along with an external and internal pelvic examination. This examination is different from the one performed by a medical provider because it is assessing the “musculoskeletal” system; bones, joints, ligaments, and muscles.

Treating Women Through The Lifespan…

Experiencing the evolution from childhood to adulthood can be challenging for many children and adolescents. The development of new body parts, changes in appearance, acne and the beginning of menstruation can make this a very confusing time for kids. It’s difficult for parents too when the language has typically been “it’s normal to have pain during your period”. But what if your child is missing school, unable to attend social events, can’t tolerate tampon use, or is having severe acne? Pelvic floor therapy can be beneficial in assisting teens and parents to navigate these challenges and provide additional medical support when necessary.
For adult women, the changes don’t stop there – there’s the journey of pregnancy and postpartum to consider as well. How do women handle the increasing demands of their bodies while making another human? Are they supposed to buy the lie that “pain is normal”? Or should they pursue additional care when their back, hips, and feet start to bother them with their advancing pregnancy? What about changes in bladder or bowel continence – when women start leaking are we really going to tell them that’s normal? Or when women aren’t able to resume previous activity, like running, strength training, or sexual relationships; do we accept that dysfunction as the new normal too? The short answer: Absolutely not.
Then there’s menopause, the final change. Menopause may bring new dysfunction; changes in vaginal and vulvar tissues, their robustness, pliability, and strength which can affect a woman’s ability to tolerate sexual relationships. There are changes that occur with new weight gain and the aches of an aging body. And then the misconception that these issues have been going on for “too long” and there’s “no helping them now”. The body is resilient! And it doesn’t matter if your urinary incontinence has been around since that first baby 30+ years ago, or if it just sprang up with the changes of menopause; pelvic floor rehab can still be beneficial.

Common conditions may include…

  • Urinary Incontinence (Leakage)
  • Urinary Frequency or Urgency
  • Pain with Urination
  • Bowel Incontinence (Smearing, or Gas)
  • Pain with Bowel Movements
  • Constipation
  • Pelvic Organ Prolapse
  • Pain with Vaginal Penetration (Dyspareunia)
  • Painful Periods (Dysmenorrhea)
  • Low Back/Pelvic Pain
  • Menstrual Management

How Are We Treating It?

Pelvic floor rehab utilizes many treatment approaches including:

  • Manual therapy: Soft tissue or muscle mobilization, joint mobilization, myofascial release
  • Therapeutic exercise: Strengthening and flexibility interventions
  • Neuromuscular re-education: Teaching your muscles how to turn on/off appropriately and improving your awareness, coordination and control
  • Therapeutic Activities: Helping you function within your specific life activities like lifting children or grandchildren, exercising and running, or being able to make it to the bathroom without leaking

What Does This Mean For You?

If you are struggling with any urinary (bladder), bowel, or reproductive/sexual health concerns, pelvic floor rehab may be appropriate and helpful for you. You do not have to live with your dysfunction, there is help – and Pelvic Floor Therapists are happy to join you in the journey.

What to Expect During Your Initial Visit

Whether you have been to physical therapy before or not, we want you to know what you can expect when you visit one of our East Tennessee Spine and Sport Physical Therapy clinics around Knoxville!

 

Lots of questions can swirl in our minds about how long it will take, what the visit will consist of, and other thoughts/worries can come up as well. We are here to help provide clarity regarding your first visit to decrease the uncertainty.  

 

Here’s what you can expect at your initial visit with us:

  • To fill out paperwork for our front office, however you can also find these forms on our website and bring with you on your first visit to save time

 

  • Once you finish the paperwork you physical therapist will walk you back to the evaluation room, where they will sit down with you and discuss the nature of what has brought you into the clinic. Whether you are here as a result of new or ongoing pain, a workplace injury, post-surgical rehabilitation, sports injury, etc. we will thoroughly review your history to determine how to best help you. Don’t worry, this is not the only time you’ll have to explain what is going on, but it is the time for you to explain things as best as you can!

 

  • The physical therapist will then begin a thorough movement assessment – we want to see how you move. We want to see how your pain/body responds to certain movements. Your physical therapist will also use their hands as a tool to aid in their examination and assessment. There are many specialized tests and methods used to help us evaluate that include hands-on examination and treatment.

 

  • Once your physical therapist has completed the assessment and examination portion of your initial visit, they will explain what they’ve found and how they want to help you progress – through various treatments – and they will help develop goals for you and your specific needs. Followed by corrective manual therapy and corrective exercises to address the specific needs and limitations the physical therapist found during the evaluation.  

 

  • Your physical therapist will finish your evaluation by creating your plan of care including working with you the number of visits, doses to perform your home corrective exercises, and length of time they think it will take from start to finish.  

 

Most importantly, know that your physical therapist wants to walk with you from your first visit with us, to your final visit! You can expect that we will listen, partner with you, and work towards enabling you and your body to return to an optimal level of functioning!

 

If you have any questions give us a call at any one of our clinics. We look forward to hearing from you and journeying with you! 

Headaches are a pain in the neck!

Most people have experienced some type of headache in their life, whether it has been a mild sensation of tension, pressure, or a full blown migraine that is life altering. Sometimes we are able to muster our way through our daily tasks. Other times, though, the severity can render us unable to do anything but find a dark and quiet room in an attempt to abait the pain. There can be an underlying cervical issue that can be directly related to our symptoms. Cervicogenic headaches (CGH) and migraines are not the same, but CGH can become a trigger for a migraine.

Headaches and migraines can also be worsened by musculoskeletal tightness and stress. Chronic or frequent headaches generally have been associated with poor posture and prolonged loading of the cervical spine outside of a neutral position which creates musculoskeletal imbalance. Typically there are muscle groups that are stretched and weak and muscle groups that are tight and overworked. How many times have we been caught looking down at our phones, squinting and leaning in to see a computer screen from eye fatigue, or bending our head to hold the phone during that hour long conversation all the while probably slouched while sitting in a chair? I can hear the echo of my grandmother… “ Sit up straight, put your shoulders back.” She was right!

Treatment for cervicogenic headache should target the cause of the pain in the neck and varies depending upon what works best for the individual patient. Treatments include physical therapy and exercise, and may require medications or further intervention by a specialist.

Physical therapy is an avenue for those suffering from headache and migraine symptoms to undergo comprehensive assessment and treatment for possible underlying cervical involvement. You will also be prescribed an exercise program that is safe and effective in reducing severity, frequency and duration of symptoms. It includes an ongoing exercise regimen that seeks to restore joint mobility, alignment, and strength. These corrective exercises can be utilized as prevention and even as treatment for headaches. It gives you independence and an added tool in your tool box to manage your symptoms.

So maybe you should take the time to check in with yourself. Do you have frequent headaches? Does your upper back and shoulder muscles feel tight or are they easily fatigued? Do you have neck pain? Do you hear the echo of your grandmother in your ear about your posture? If you answered yes to these questions, then you should consider physical therapy as a way to evaluate and help address your headache issues.

Physical Therapy Can Help With What?

When people ask me what I do for a living, I generally say I’m a physical therapist, but sometimes I will divulge that I am a pelvic health physical therapist. This is usually met with lots of questions. Yes, I can treat neck pain, knee problems, general weakness, and all the usual things that you normally think a physical therapist can treat. However, I also have additional training that allows me to treat specific dysfunctions in the pelvic area like bowel and bladder incontinence, pelvic pain, and tailbone pain. These are often conditions that people think they need to just live with, but that is absolutely not true!!

I hear this statement all the time: “Sometimes I leak urine, but I’ve had kids so that’s normal right?”

No. Urinary incontinence is very common-ranging from 0.3-44% in the literature, but it is not normal even after having children. Urinary incontinence can occur in all ages and fitness levels. It can be the result of a strong urge from the bladder or it can be caused by cough, laugh, sneeze, or other movements that will increase the pressure in the abdominal area. Both types of leakage can be helped by a physical therapist with this additional training.

Everyone has a group of muscles that make up the bottom of their pelvis called the pelvic floor muscles. These muscles are key players in the ability to maintain bowel and bladder continence and just like any other muscle group, they can get weak over time. Most people have heard the term “Kegels” which is just another name for a pelvic floor muscle contraction.

Another statement I hear a lot is that “Well, I’ve tried Kegels in the past and they didn’t help!”

Only about 50% of people verbally cued to do a pelvic floor contraction are doing it correctly. So about half of the people who have tried to strengthen their pelvic floor on their own are not utilizing these muscles correctly. These muscles also have to have the correct dosage of exercise to be effective. If these muscles are overworked, urinary incontinence may get worse. If these muscles are underworked, the muscles never get stronger and these symptoms never improve. Maybe the muscles are strong enough, but the timing of the muscle contraction is not occurring when it is needed to prevent incontinence. Maybe these muscles are working too hard because another muscle in the hip or core is weak and the pelvic floor is trying to make up for that weakness.

Sometimes it is not as easy as doing Kegels at every red light to fix a problem like this. A physical therapist with training to assess this condition can help to figure out what is causing the muscles to work inefficiently. Spine and Sport is excited to be able to offer pelvic health services in our Oak Ridge by myself and West locations by Lauren MacGuire to help patients across the greater Knoxville area find solutions to their pelvic health problems.