Aquatic therapy is a great alternative for those who have difficulty with traditional physical therapy

For some patients, conventional land-based physical therapy might prove to be too difficult due to excessive pain or an inability to properly perform the exercises prescribed in treatment.  Fortunately for those who fall into this category, there is an alternative treatment approach that even has some added benefits: aquatic therapy.

Aquatic therapy, sometimes referred to as hydrotherapy, is administered by a physical therapist in a heated, shallow pool, where patients move freely in the water and utilize the resistance of the water instead of weights while performing exercises.  The primary goal of aquatic therapy is to help patients regain normal movement patterns using the buoyant and resistant effects of water, and eventually transition to a land-based rehabilitation program after sufficient improvements are made.

Aquatic therapy is most ideal for patients experiencing chronic pain, but can be used to treat a wide range of injuries and illnesses, as well as improve performance.  These include: arthritis/joint pain, stroke and other brain injuries, low back pain, fibromyalgia, athletic and cardiovascular training, balance disorders, and foot, knee and ankle pain.

Cleveland Physical Therapy Associates is proud to offer aquatic therapy for any patients that may benefit from this alternative approach.  In addition to catering to those unable to perform land-based exercises, here are some additional benefits:

  • —Aquatic therapy can make exercise easier and less painful since the forces on weight-bearing joints are significantly reduced
  • —The warmth of the water helps reduce pain by relaxing tight muscles and increasing blood flow, which also decreases muscle spasms
  • —Water resistance and special jets help patients strengthen muscles and improve cardiovascular stamina and circulation
  • —Increases healing and strengthening of injured tissue, and flexibility
  • —Increases resistance for stretching and therapeutic exercises
  • —Also improves balance, gait, locomotion, aerobic capacity, power and endurance

If you struggle with traditional physical therapy or have any of the conditions mentioned here, aquatic therapy could be a successful alternative approach to therapy for you.  For more information about aquatic therapy or to schedule an appointment with Cleveland Physical Therapy Associates at either of our two locations in Shelby or Kings Mountain, NC, call 704-471-0001.  We look forward to hearing from you.

Cleveland Physical Therapy Associates advises you to improve your workstation ergonomics and lower your chances of suffering common office injuries

Chances are you’ve at least heard the term “ergonomics” in one context or another, possibly at the workplace, but whether or not most people actually know exactly what it entails or practice it regularly is difficult to say.

Ergonomics is the design of equipment and devices that fit the human body’s abilities, and proper ergonomic design is essential in order to prevent repetitive strain injuries and other musculoskeletal disorders.  Disorders like carpal tunnel syndrome and low back pain can develop over time as a result of ergonomic hazards and possibly lead to long-term disability.  Fortunately, most of these hazards—especially those pertaining to posture—can be avoided and improved upon, which will significantly reduce your risk of workplace injury if modified properly.

Improve each of these components of your workstation for optimal performance and the lowest risk for suffering a common office injury:

Chair

  • The height of the chair is critical: adjust it so that when your feet are flat on the floor, your knees are equal to or slightly below the chair’s height
  • Adjust the back of the chair to slightly greater than 90° reclined angle, push your hips back as far as they can go in the chair, and change your posture regularly
  • Wrist posture should be kept neutral to reduce straining: adjust armrests so that your shoulders are relaxed and lower arms are supported

Monitor/keyboard

  • The monitor should be centered directly in front of you, above the keyboard, about 2-3 feet from your face, right at or slightly below eye level
  • Position the keyboard directly in front of you and pull up close to it
  • Adjust keyboard height so shoulders are relaxed, elbows are in a slightly bent position, and wrists and hands are straight; to reach the keyboard, forearms should be near parallel to work surface
  • Place mouse as close to keyboard as possible to avoid overreaching

Other

  • Arrange other items like phone and documents within arms reach
  • Use a handset or speakerphone when on the phone to avoid neck or shoulder injury
  • Keep your head and neck balanced and in line with the torso
  • Move as frequently as possible to avoid staying in one place: it’s highly recommended to take 1-2 minute stretch breaks every 20-30 minutes and to change tasks or take longer (5-10 minute) breaks every hour

Most of these changes or simple but can have major implications in preventing a workplace overuse injury.  Don’t wait until you start noticing problems and make these changes right away.  To learn more about workplace ergonomics or for any other musculoskeletal issues, Cleveland Physical Therapy Associates at either of our convenient locations in Shelby or Kings Mountain, NC or call 704-471-0001.

During American Heart Month, Cleveland Physical Therapy Associates reminds you to care for your heart and reduce chances of heart disease

This February marks the 50th Anniversary of American Hearth Month.  Over the past half century, we’ve been fortunate to witness significant progress in the diagnosis and treatment of heart disease, and millions of Americans now live healthier and longer lives as a result.

Despite these advances, heart disease remains a major issue and is still the leading cause of death for men and women in the U.S.  Every year 715,000 people have a heart attack while another 600,000 die from heart disease, which equates to 25% of all deaths in the country.

These figures may sound daunting, but are presented only to bring attention to this serious nationwide concern.  Another number, and the good news for every individual, regardless of their family history, is that 80% of heart attacks and strokes are actually preventable.  In order to take charge of your own heart health, you’ll need to become more conscious of your decisions and make some important lifestyle changes, but these benefits will more than pay off in the long term.

Here are some of the top changes you can make to improve your heart health and reduce your chance of heart disease:

  • —  Eat a healthy diet: this should come as no surprise; more specifically:
  • Eat five servings of fruits and vegetables daily
  • Consume fiber and whole grains on a regular basis
  • Eat fish, especially those high in omega-3 fatty acids (e.g. salmon, tuna, sardine) twice a week
  • Dark chocolate is actually heart-healthy, so indulge occasionally
  • Significantly limit your intake of trans fats and saturated fats; only 30% of your total calories should come from fats
  • Eat at home regularly so you can control what you put in your body
  • —  Exercise regularly: it’s recommended that you moderately exercise at least 30 minutes most days, or average 150 minutes weekly; in addition:
  • Park your car further, take the stairs and find excuses to walk more
  • Try interval training or other at-home alternatives when you don’t have the time to get to the gym or go for a run
  • —Monitor your blood pressure, cholesterol and triglycerides: learn the optimal levels for each and get them all checked on a regular basis
  • —Try to quit or significantly limit smoking and reduce your alcohol intake: two drinks a day for men and one for women are recommended amounts
  • —Find something that puts your mind at ease (meditation, yoga, a hobby) or makes you laugh, and do it on a regular basis; this will benefit the heart

If you’d like assistance with an exercise program or if you have any other questions about heart health, visit Cleveland Physical Therapy Associates at either of our convenient locations in Shelby or Kings Mountain, NC or call 704-471-0001.

Be sure you’re shoveling snow safely and avoid an injury this winter

With the extreme weather conditions hitting most of the nation and the likelihood of more snow falling in the North Carolina area before winter is over, Cleveland Physical Therapy Associates would like to remind you of the importance of shoveling snow properly to avoid injuries, especially low back pain.

Many dread the act of shoveling snow and may rush through the process to get it done as quickly as possible, but using incorrect body mechanics when shoveling can put undue stress on the lower back and lead to painful muscle strains.  Low back pain is usually considered the most common injury experienced due to shoveling, and in extreme cases, may even lead to a herniated disc.  Fortunately, most of these cases can be prevented if appropriate precautions are taken.

This winter, take steps to ensure you’re shoveling safely and properly, so you can actually enjoy the snow instead of worrying about nagging back pain or other problems.  Follow these pointers for a pain-free shoveling experience:

  • Use an ergonomically-designed shovel with a curved or adjustable handle and small, lightweight blade, which will make shoveling much easier
  • Stretch your back and warm up the body with a brisk walk before shoveling, and be sure to take frequent breaks to stretch and hydrate
  • Start shoveling slowly, and gradually increase the workload as your muscles warm up; don’t rush into it or move too quickly while shoveling
  • Practice good posture: use the same techniques used while lifting heavy objects (bend from the knees instead of the waist, lift with legs), keep your back straight and always face towards the object you intend to lift (keep shoulders and hips square)
  • Avoid twisting the torso or tossing heavy loads of snow; take smaller scoops and push the heavier ones to the side
  • Try to shovel newer, fresher snow while avoiding older snow and ice
  • If you do have to lift a large load of snow, grip the shovel with one hand as close to the blade as possible and the other firmly on the handle
  • Wear shoes or boots with good tread to avoid slipping

If you do experience any pain while shoveling, in the back or elsewhere in the body, stop immediately and don’t push through it, which can make the pain worse.  If the pain persists, please visit us at Cleveland Physical Therapy Associates, where we’ll be happy to evaluate your problem and create a treatment plan that’s right for you.

Stay safe and remember to take your time in the snow this winter.

The keys to actually keeping your New Year’s resolutions this year

With the holidays behind us and a New Year ahead, many people do their best to try to start things off on the right foot with a new batch of New Year’s resolutions.  While usually good intentioned, the unfortunate truth is that most resolutions don’t hold up, and only about 8-12% of people actually keep true to their pledges over the year.

Among the many problems that lead to these failures, most commonly, people set their goals too high or make them overly general.  Without a specific plan or a means to accomplish these goals, they can’t be attained and resolutions slowly fall by the wayside for yet another year.

If you’re serious about making changes in 2014 that are both attainable and lasting, don’t be part of the 90% who fails at their resolutions.  Follow these tips and make this the year you actually keep true to your word:

  • Spend some time thinking about the things that are most important to change or improve in your life before making decisions on actual resolutions
  • When you choose resolutions, be sure they are reasonable and attainable;  Some prefer a few large goals, others many small ones, but most importantly, make sure they’re feasible for you
  • Make specific goals, not general ones; instead of saying you want to “lose weight” or “eat healthier,” shoot for something like losing 10 pounds over the next four months or eating leafy green vegetables 5 times a week
  • Create a detailed list with your resolutions and a timeframe of when you’d like to accomplish them by; keep track of your progress and take notes on where you’re excelling and where you’re falling behind
  • If it seems like a goal you initially set is becoming difficult, don’t abandon it but adjust it to make it easier to accomplish
  • Tell your friends and family about your resolutions, and possibly team up with your friend or partner on some joint resolutions
  • Consider starting your resolutions at a later date; New Year’s falls smack in the middle of winter, when it’s toughest to get outside and do the things you want, so try pushing it back a few months and starting your resolutions when you’re ready to commit to them

Perhaps most important of all, don’t get discouraged if you don’t succeed at first.  Making lasting changes takes time and effort, and giving up when things don’t work out right away will never lead to improvement.  Hang in there and be patient with yourself as you adapt to new changes in your life.

CPTA has a personal trainer on staff if you’d like assistance with an exercise regimen to help get you on track, or if you’re experiencing any lingering aches or pains, visit us at Cleveland Physical Therapy Associates, and we can help get you moving towards a more mobile future.

Conquer the cold weather and keep exercising effectively as temperatures drop

As winter approaches and temperatures continue to drop, many people start developing a yearly tendency that’s difficult to resist: making excuses for not exercising.  With shorter and colder days, increasingly busy schedules and a possible lack of motivation to brave the outdoors, it’s a common affliction to let so much of the hard work you put in during warmer months slide as we slack on physical activity.

This year, don’t fall into the seasonal trap and keep yourself active even it might be less comfortable.  Maintaining proper fitness during colder months has a load of benefits, including higher energy levels (which can drop in the cold), a boost to your immune system and an ability to actually burn more calories.  In addition, working out in the cold has been shown to release more of the “feel-good” hormones known as endorphins, which can help in curing the “winter blues” many experience.

With enough motivation and preparation, you can get active outdoors and take extra pride in knowing that you’re conquering the cold.  Here are some tips to help guide you:

  • Start gradually to ensure you’re in proper shape before exercising, and don’t do as much as you normally would until you’re comfortable
  • Warm up and stretch before, cool down after, and be sure to stay properly hydrated at all stages of your workout to avoid dehydration
  • Dress in layers: dressing warmly helps to prevent strains and pulls, but don’t overdress and make sure you can shed layers as your workout progresses to prevent too much sweat from accumulating
  • Wear a hat or headband, since up to 50% of your body heat is lost through the head and neck
  • Protect your hands with gloves and feet with thermal socks in extreme cold
  • Look out for black ice when running on the street to avoid slipping
  • Pay attention to the weather forecast and wind chill, and consider taking a day off or head indoors when it drops below 0˚F

For those days when it’s too cold to go outdoors or if you’d prefer to mix it up indoors too, a number of cross-training alternatives also exist.  These include: swimming, indoor cycling, pool running, indoor rowing, fitness boot camp, elliptical machines and plyometrics (high-intensity, explosive exercises).

If you’d like more guidance on how to best tackle the colder months and stay in shape, or for any other aches or pains you might have, visit us at Cleveland Physical Therapy Associates.  We’ll be glad to assist you and get you moving, regardless of the temperature.

Don’t let raking leaves bring you down: how to rake safely and avoid injury this fall

The arrival of fall in full swing brings with it a number of pleasant changes, one of the most enjoyable of which is the turning of the leaves to a bright array of reds, oranges and yellows.  While the aesthetic value of watching these changes occur is undeniable to most, many dread their falling to the ground and the sometimes-daunting task of raking them that comes with it.

For those with a yard who are familiar with this yearly process, raking leaves can be a great way to help you stay active and even burn some calories while doing so.  Unfortunately, when not performed properly, the dynamics and repetitive motion of raking can also lead to low back pain and other injuries to the neck, shoulders or wrist.  As a result, some might draw a negative association with raking and fear they could be putting themselves at risk for an injury.  For those of you who fall into this category or for anyone raking leaves this fall, take solace in the fact that most of these injuries can easily be prevented.

Follow these basic tips and better help ensure safe raking this autumn:

  • Use a properly-sized rake that fits you (not too heavy or light), wear gloves to prevent blisters and comfortable shoes with skid-resistant soles
  • Engage in a brief, 10-minute warm-up with some brisk walking and stretching of the shoulders, neck and back before raking
  • Avoid twisting the body, planting your feet or using your back while raking; instead, focus on using your arms and legs, stand upright, and shift your weight between each raking stroke
  • Vary your movements so as not to overuse certain muscle groups
  • Divide the job into segments and take breaks every 15-20 minutes
  • Stay properly hydrated before and during raking
  • When bagging leaves, bend your knees, lift with your legs and don’t overload bags
  • Cool down and stretch after your finished, including back bending stretches: stand with feet at hip width and lean back with hands over back pockets 10 times

If you’re in any pain 20 minutes after raking, ice the affected area and monitor your symptoms until the next day.  If you’re still experiencing pain 24 hours after raking, we highly recommend that you visit us at Cleveland Physical Therapy Associates, where we can identify the problem and help relieve your pain.

We hope you enjoy the season and stay safe while raking this fall.