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The Simple Back Pain Reliever

The Simple Back Pain Reliever When you lift, carry, walk, or run, your shoulders and hips move while the lumbar spine stays stable.  Prolonged sitting, age, and deconditioning can create tight hips/shoulders and a lumbar spine that is unable to hold a stable position.   Much of the mechanical back pain we treat in physical therapy is related to this stability/mobility issue.  A simple exercise that can retrain the neural control necessary to restore this essential movement skill is the bird dog. The bird dog is commonly used in physical therapy and usually poorly performed in the fitness arena.  Three things to keep in mind.  You are moving your arms and legs, but the focus of the drill is keeping the…

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Pain Never Precedes Dysfunction

"Pain never precedes dysfunction."--Dr. Stanley Paris I recently found a manual from a physical therapy course I attended in 1985.  Dr. Stanley Paris was the instructor and I was lucky to have been in his class at the beginning of my career.  At 26 years of age, I wrote this quote on the front of the manual and it still stands as the best bit of wisdom I can pass along to fitness clients and physical therapy patients. Pain happens as the result of some underlying performance problem: postural flaws and sustained joint positions, respiratory restrictions,  muscle strength/endurance is depleted, joint mobility is insufficient,  joint mobility is excessive, movement coordination is poor,  deceleration skills are below acceleration capacity. Resolving pain…

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Feets of Strength

Feets of Strength The feet are the interface between the ground and the brain.  A graceful gait and not falling are enormous evolutionary benefits so an inordinate amount of brain tissue is devoted to the evaluation of input from the feet.  As we age, develop medical problems, or become deconditioned, our feet can lose the capacity to send balance and coordination data up to the brain.  Training activities that enhance foot function will improve balance and keep us independent for a lifetime.  Read the remainder of this article and watch the video for a demonstration of a foot to brain retraining routine. Devote some fitness training time to restoring foot function.  Anatomically, we are talking about the joints, nerves, and…

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Focus Factor

Focus Factor Putting More F In Your Training Program I use a simple formula to assess a physical therapy patient or fitness client’s potential for success. The formula has two components. The first component is a percentage. For a physical therapy patient, it is percent compliance to home exercises/activity modification. For fitness clients, it is percent compliance with the prescribed training schedule. The second component is the focus intensity level created by the patient or client. The F factor is by far the most significant influencer of a rehab/training outcome. The Focus Factor is a whole number score from zero to fifteen. Observation of performance allows the therapist / trainer to make an educated assessment of mental effort. I often…

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Balance Building Blocks

Balance Building Blocks Over the last six months, Nancy had taken two tumbles.  Fortunately, she had not suffered anything worse than a bruise on her hip and an injured ego.  She brought in an advertisement for a balance training device and asked me if it would improve her balance.  Nancy attended the gym three days a week and lived a fairly active life.  After an evaluation of her balance, she was instructed on a series of drills that addressed her needs.  No special equipment was necessary and she could perform the routine at home and at the gym.  Four weeks later, Nancy returned for a re-evaluation and was happy to have improved on all of the balance tests.  Nancy felt…

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Better and Not Broken

Better and Not Broken 2020 Resolution January has arrived, and with the new year comes a sudden surge in fitness participation.  January’s well-intentioned training efforts produce many of the physical therapy patients we treat in February and March.  Fitness folks that morph into physical therapy patients travel remarkably similar paths.   For those returning to exercise, I have some suggestions that will keep you in the gym and out of the clinic. Choose Joint Friendly Exercises Many of the training tools in the typical fitness facility limit movement to one joint.  Seated knee extension, prone leg curls, seated shoulder abduction, and seated hip abduction wedge the body into artificial alignments in an effort to place load on one muscle.  Older, overloaded,…

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