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When the Weather Gets Cold, Don’t Forget to Warm Up!



Colder weather means some changes to how we exercise. Of course it’s harder to motivate yourself to get outside for a run or bike ride when the temperature drops, and the shorter days compress our schedules, but there are changes in your body that affect your ability to exercise too. For many people with arthritis or other joint problems, cold weather brings more complaints of pain. To stay warm, our bodies narrow blood vessels to reduce blood flow to the skin, and more superficial muscles. That means that there is an increased risk of muscle strains in the cold. There is also an increased strain on the heart because of the narrowed blood vessels. This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t be active outdoors in the cold, it just means you may have to make a few changes to your routine. Here are a few to consider:

Warm up right

A good warm up is always important, but because of the tendency for joints to be stiffer, and blood flow to muscles to be reduced in the cold, it’s even more important that you do it right this time of year. To start, do something to get your heart rate up a bit, maybe a brisk walk or light jog. Follow that up with a dynamic warm up rather than static stretches. This could include walking or jogging while pulling your knees up high to your chest. Maybe some high kicks in front of you with straight knees to get your hamstrings loosened. A walking lunge with an upper body twist can get your whole body moving. Cater your warm up to what you have planned in your workout. If you’re not sure how it should look, ask your physical therapist!

Dress right

Dressing in layers allows you to adjust your insulation to your activity level. After you warm up, you might want to take off a layer to avoid getting too hot during your main activity. You’ll have it there later to put back on when your activity level drops and you start getting too cold.

Don’t forget about the sun either – just because it’s cold doesn’t mean the UV rays are gone. Sunscreen and sunglasses aren’t just for the summer. A lip balm with SPF can protect you not only from the sun but from the wind too.

Stay hydrated

Drink water before, during, and after your workout. The temperature may be down, but you’ll still sweat and you’ll still lose water vapor in your breath. The drier air in winter lets your sweat evaporate more quickly, so it’s easy to underestimate how much fluid you’ve lost.

Cool down

When you’re done, don’t rush to get inside and crawl under a blanket. Cool down properly. Keep moving with a walk or another form of active recovery to let your heart rate come down. After exercise is the right place for static stretching. You can also head inside for some foam rolling or self-massage.

The days being shorter and the temperatures being lower don’t mean you’re stuck inside for all of your exercise. If you follow these tips, you can safely keep moving outside. If you’d like a customized warm up or cool down, or have questions about your exercise routine, your physical therapist is a great person to ask!


Published on January 4, 2021 11:12 am

Lazy Summer or Deconditioning?



The weather is hot, the gym is closed, and you’ve been relaxing – enjoying the lazy, hazy days of summer. Taking a day off here and there is no problem, but if you’ve been consistently missing your regular run, bike ride, or gym session and notice some aches and pains showing up, you might have the beginnings of deconditioning.

Deconditioning explained

Exercise creates many changes in your body – your heart begins to pump blood more efficiently, your muscles use oxygen more efficiently, they contract in a more coordinated manner, and your body gets more efficient turning food into fuel to name just a few. Deconditioning is the reversing of these changes. Exercise is a “use it or lose it” kind of thing, and deconditioning is the process by which we “lose it.”

How long does it take to decondition?

As with most things related to a system as complex as the human body, it depends. According to the ACSM, two weeks without exercise can lead to significant loss of cardiovascular fitness. Two to eight months of detraining can erase virtually all of your gains. As you detrain, cardiovascular fitness tends to decline first, with muscle strength declining later.

Other factors are your age, and your exercise history. If you’re younger, you’ll probably lose fitness at a slower rate than someone older. If you’ve been consistently exercising for a long time, or at a high intensity, your losses will probably be slower than for someone who just started.

Reversing the losses

If you’re just undergoing a period of increased time commitments at work or with family, using a shortened exercise routine can help minimize your losses. Even one session a week will help you keep most of what you’ve gained. Other options are to use shorter but more intense interval training sessions, or breaking up your activity into multiple short chunks during the day. If your layoff was longer, it may take just as long to retrain as it did to make the gains initially. If you’re having those aches and pains due to inactivity or need help designing a safe program to either maintain your fitness or gain it back after a layoff, your physical therapist can help. Injury and illness are other common reasons for detraining. Your PT can not only help you recover faster, but they can also find activities to maintain your fitness while safely working around an injury or illness.


Published on August 17, 2020 7:09 am

Why You Need a Physical Therapist on Your Healthcare Team



With health in sharp focus as a result of the pandemic, now may be a good time to look at the team of experts you have in place and see if there are any improvements you could make. You probably have a family doctor, dentist, and optometrist. Maybe you have some specialist physicians, a trainer, or a massage therapist. If a physical therapist isn’t a part of your healthcare team, you’re missing out on taking care of a big part of your health. To understand why you need a physical therapist, you need to understand what they do.

Physical Therapists Help You Do Things

The American Physical Therapy Association defines PTs as “health care professionals who diagnose and treat individuals who have medical problems or other health-related conditions that limit their abilities to move and perform functional activities in their daily lives.” So physical therapists help you do things that you have trouble with. That could be going for a hike, playing with your kids, or getting through a day of work without pain.

Physical Therapists Reduce Pain

Chronic pain is a huge problem worldwide. A big part of that is low back pain. Statistically, around 80% of people will have low back pain in their lifetimes. Physical therapists are trained to treat pain without surgery or medications. If you have back pain, an arthritic knee, neck pain, or an old injury that won’t go away, a PT may be able to help.

Physical Therapists Keep You Healthy

The APTA goes on to say that “PTs work with individuals to prevent the loss of mobility before it occurs by developing fitness- and wellness-oriented programs for healthier and more active lifestyles.” That means that a physical therapist can help you determine your risk for injury, choose the right fitness program, and improve the quality of your life by improving your health and ability to move.

Physical Therapists Can Help You Live Longer

It’s well known that the risk of many of the leading causes of death can be reduced by exercise. Some of these conditions would include heart disease, cancer, lung disease, diabetes, and stroke. By helping you move better with less pain, finding the right exercise program, and helping you to make healthy lifestyle choices, a PT could help you live longer.

Physical therapists have a unique set of skills and expertise that can do a lot to improve your health and quality of life. If you don’t have one, consider adding one to your healthcare team.


Published on July 15, 2020 8:51 am

Get PT First During the COVID-19 Pandemic



Because of the closures of physician’s offices, stoppages of elective surgeries, and social distancing guidelines resulting from COVID-19, many people with pain or joint issues have had appointments or surgeries delayed. If you’re one of them and you haven’t seen your PT yet, you should. Here are some reasons why:

Early PT leads to better outcomes

Studies have shown that people who receive PT sooner have better outcomes, lower costs, are less likely to have surgery, use opioids or have unnecessary testing. Because back pain is so common, there is a lot of outcome data from people with back pain. A study of 150,000 insurance claims published in Health Services Research, found that those who saw a physical therapist at the first point of care had an 89 percent lower probability of receiving an opioid prescription, a 28 percent lower probability of having advanced imaging services, and a 15 percent lower probability of an emergency department visit. Unfortunately, only 2% of people with back pain start with PT, and only 7% get to PT within 90 days.

Early PT saves money

The rising cost of healthcare is well known and early PT is something that has been shown to reduce costs without reducing the effectiveness of treatment. A study published in the Journal of Orthopaedic and Sports Physical Therapy showed that patients who obtained physical therapy via direct access had significantly lower medical costs—an average of $1,543 less per patient than those who chose referral from a physician. They also had significantly fewer visits and spent significantly fewer days in care.

Surgery may not be as effective as you think

Many patients look to surgery as the fix for their pain, but surgeries aren’t always as effective as patients believe. A large study looking at worker’s comp patients with back pain found that people who have surgery have a 1 in 4 chance of having a repeat surgery, a 1 in 3 chance of a major complication, and a 1 in 3 chance of never returning to work again. Recent large studies of arthroscopic surgeries for meniscal tears have shown no difference in outcomes between people who have surgery and those who don’t. Other procedures with questionable effectiveness include kyphoplasty, vertebroplasty, and injections for nonspecific back pain.
So, if you were planning on seeing your PCP or a specialist for an orthopedic condition or pain and you haven’t seen a PT yet, you should consider making PT your first stop. You could end up getting better faster for less money and you might avoid riskier treatments like opioids or surgery.


Published on June 1, 2020 11:51 am