Physical therapists are movement experts who help people reduce pain, improve or restore mobility, and stay active throughout life. But there are some common misconceptions that often discourage people from seeking physical therapist treatment.
It's time to debunk 7 common myths about physical therapy:
1. Myth: I need a referral to see a physical therapist.
Fact: A recent survey by the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) revealed 70% of people think a referral or prescription is required for evaluation by a physical therapist. However, a physician’s referral is not required in order to be evaluated by a physical therapist. Some states have restrictions about...
How fast is fast enough? About 100 steps per minute might be a reasonable goal, but your mileage may vary.
Walking can be a wonderful way to get exercise. But do you ever wonder if you're moving briskly enough to benefit your heart? There's a quite a difference between a leisurely neighborhood stroll and a purposeful gait when you're late for the bus. Now, new research suggests that a pace of about 100 steps per minute qualifies as brisk walking for many people (see "Take this in stride: A study of walking speed").
Using that cadence as a benchmark might make sense for some — but not all — people, says Dr. Beth Frates, who directs wellness programming for the Stroke...
Losing weight, strengthening muscles, and increasing flexibility may help you stave off joint replacement.
You may be putting off a doctor visit to address knee or hip osteoarthritis because you believe it will end with joint replacement surgery, but that's not always the case. "Exercise and weight loss are actually the first line of defense," says Dr. Eric Berkson, director of the Sports Performance Center at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital. "It may help prevent the pain and prevent surgery."
The main component of joint surgery avoidance is strengthening the muscles that support your joints. The quadriceps in the...
When I’m dragging and feeling tired during the occasional low-energy day, my go-to elixir is an extra cup (or two or three) of black French press coffee. It gives my body and brain a needed jolt, but it may not help where I need it the most: my cells.
The cellular basis of being tired
What we call “energy” is actually a molecule called adenosine triphosphate (ATP), produced by tiny cellular structures called mitochondria. ATP’s job is to store energy and then deliver that energy to cells in other parts of the body. However, as you grow older, your body has fewer mitochondria. “If you feel you don’t have enough energy, it can be because your body has problems...
If you're bothered by neck pain, you have plenty of company. Doctors estimate that seven out of 10 people will be troubled by such pain at some point in their lives. But if you were to ask each of these people to describe their neck pain, you would probably get seven different stories.
By clearly describing your specific neck symptom, or combination of symptoms, you can help your doctor determine what's wrong and how to help.
Here are the most common types of neck pain.
Muscle pain. Aching or sore neck and shoulder muscles may occur in response to overexertion or prolonged physical or emotional stress. The neck muscles may develop hard knots that are tender to the...
Are you among the millions of Americans who have high aspirations for how you’ll spend the extra time during your post-retirement years? Whether you plan to travel the world, pick up fly fishing, spend more time woodworking or sign up for a golf league, your physical fitness level will be a factor.
A 2010 study* suggests that the fitness declines we typically attribute to advancing age are largely caused by living sedentary lifestyles—which are on the rise due to the prominence of desk jobs in the workplace and activity-limiting personal technologies including smart phones and voice-activated remote controls in the home. Still, this runs contrary to the widely held belief that any...
Did you think that you’re likely to walk more than 100,000 miles over the course of your lifetime?
That’s like circling the earth four times at the equator. But as important as your feet are, it’s all too easy to neglect them -- until they start to hurt.
You can take some steps to avoid getting foot pain, though. Here are seven ways to support your feet, so they will continue to support you.
1. Stay at a Healthy Weight
Your feet bear the weight of your entire body, and the more weight they support, the harder they need to work.
“The best way to prevent foot pain is to keep your weight down,” says Paul Talusan, MD, clinical assistant professor of orthopedic...
Chronic pain and insomnia are an unhealthy combination. According to the National Sleep Foundation, chronic pain disturbs the slumber of one in five Americans at least a few nights a week. But you can start to break the vicious cycle of pain and insomnia by maintaining sleep-friendly behaviors, known as sleep hygiene.
Whether from a bad back, arthritis, or headaches, chronic pain puts you in double jeopardy. “When you lose the restorative sleep, it enhances your subjective perception of pain,” says Dr. Padma Gulur, a pain medicine specialist at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital.
During the day, people can manage their chronic...
If you find yourself dealing with back problems on a regular basis, it’s worth making sure that your everyday habits are “back-friendly.”
When done without proper form, routine activities — vacuuming the house, working at your desk, driving, gardening, or even sleeping — can take a toll on your back. Be kind to your back by following these tips:
Choose good seating. Your office chair should provide good back support — ideally, with an adjustable backrest, lumbar support, armrests, and wheels). Arrange your workspace so you don’t have to do a lot of twisting to reach for frequently used items.
Travel light. Don’t overload briefcases, purses, or backpacks.
At a "big box" store or airport, you've probably seen workers wearing corset-like back belts. Once worn only by weight lifters, these belts are supposed to protect the back when lifting something. With back problems accounting for nearly 20% of all workplace injuries and costing anywhere from $20 billion to $50 billion a year, it's no surprise that some companies require their workers to use these belts.
But do they work? Several studies have cast some doubt on whether back belts (also called back supports or abdominal belts) help protect workers' backs or reduce sick time and workers' compensation claims. One report, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association,...
One in three people ages 65 or older will suffer a fall. It's time to assess your balance and improve it.
Many older adults focus on exercise and diet to stay healthy. But one of the worst offenders to health—poor balance—is often an afterthought. "I see a lot of older adults who are nonchalant about balance," says Liz Moritz, a physical therapist at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women's Hospital.
Unfortunately, imbalance is a common cause of falls, which send millions of people in the United States to emergency departments each year with broken hips and head injuries. But there are many things you can do to improve your balance. The strategies below are some of the most...
Basketball is the most popular youth sport in the US. A study by the National Athletic Trainers Association found that 22% of male basketball players have an injury that causes them to miss playing time each year. 42% of the time, that injury is to the ankle or foot, making this the most injured area.
Some other common injuries to basketball players include:
1. Muscle strains such as a groin pull, quadriceps, hamstring, or calf strain
2. Knee ligament injuries such as ACL, LCL, MCL tears or sprains
3. Ankle sprains, including high ankle sprain
4. Ankle fractures
5. Overuse injuries such as patellar tendonitis, IT band pain, shin splints
Chances are that you probably haven’t given much thought to how your neck and back are faring in the era of the smart phone, but studies show that you most certainly should. It’s practically a reflex these days to pull out our smart phones when we’re standing in line, sitting at the airport or riding the subway. And while it’s great that we rarely need to venture beyond our pockets for entertainment, our bodies are beginning to retaliate—and mourn the pre-texting days.
So, what exactly are these contemporary conveniences doing to our bodies? A surgeon-led study that published in Surgical Technology International assessed what impact surgeons’ head and neck posture during surgery—a...
The body systems responsible for balance can be affected by gradual changes due to aging or side effects of medications. There are also a host of health problems that can lead to unsteadiness on your feet. But many stability problems caused by aging or conditions such as arthritis, stroke, Parkinson's disease, or multiple sclerosis respond well to exercises designed to improve balance.
Most likely, you already engage in some activities that help sharpen balance, especially if you're an active person. Other balance-strengthening activities are routinely taught in classes held at many YMCAs and senior centers. For example:
Walking, biking, and climbing stairs strengthen...