I started reading the book “Anticancer: A New Way of Life” and I was truly fascinated by what I was reading about an anti-inflammatory diet. I soon began exploring the internet for further information on the healing properties of food and how diet could be incorporated into physical therapy treatments.

Inflammation… is it good or bad for us? Well, the answer is both.

Our immune system is alerted when the body recognizes a foreign body, like a chemical, allergen, or an invading microbe, and the inflammatory process is triggered to fight these invaders off. These bouts of inflammation, which are directed at these truly threatening invaders, are necessary to protect our overall health.

However, persistent inflammation that continues to occur day in and day out without any real threat can become problematic and have serious consequences.

Chronic inflammation can lead to the development of major diseases including diabetes, cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and arthritis — however, their development and effects may not be felt until years later. This chronic inflammation may be coming from the inflammatory foods we are eating as well as stress and inactivity.

Inflammatory foods, as you are probably not surprised to hear, include the following:

  • Soda or other sugar-sweetened beverages
  • Fried foods
  • Processed meats like hot dogs or sausage
  • Refined carbohydrates like white bread, pastries, and items with white flour
  • Red meat from industrialized animals who are fed corn and/or soy as well as margarine/lard

One of the most powerful and easiest tools to fight inflammation are certain foods. These anti-inflammatory foods are high in natural anti-oxidants and polyphenols, which are protective compounds found in plants.

Anti-inflammatory foods include:

  • Fatty fish like salmon (wild caught or farmed)
  • Oils like extra virgin olive oil, flaxseed oil, and canola oil
  • Leafy green vegetables like broccoli, kale, and spinach
  • Fruits including blueberries, strawberries, and cherries
  • Nuts like almond and walnuts

The foods mentioned above are found in a Mediterranean diet. A Mediterranean diet is an eating plan that closely follows the tenets of anti-inflammatory eating. This diet is high in fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, fish, and healthy oils. As you can see, this list does not include processed or refined foods and is more natural.

Moving towards an anti-inflammatory diet is key to long-term health.

According to Dr. Fung at Endocrine Web, “probably the most important point to remember is that while a Mediterranean diet reflects a healthy approach to eating, the more important goal is for you to find a precise food plan that works best for you; one you can stick with (more or less) day in and day out.”

To make some easy changes, consider switching out some of these foods:

  • Switch white flour for multi-grain flour for baking
  • Switch red meat from industrialized raised animals to organic meat from grass-fed animals
  • Switch soda for water naturally flavored with lemon or cucumber or try green tea
  • Switch jams, jellies, or fruit in syrup for fruit in its natural state.
  • Switch French fries or potatoes for vegetables like broccoli, mushrooms, kale, spinach, or sweet potato
  • Switch white bread for multi-grain bread or sourdough
  • Use olive oil or flaxseed oil for cooking instead of lard, margarine, or sunflower oil

By making small changes, you can reap the benefits of reducing inflammation and therefore, reduce your risk for the development of major diseases. Eating an anti-inflammatory diet that focuses on eating foods in their natural state (not processed) can have huge health benefits.

If you are interested in the role the anti-inflammatory diet can play in your physical therapy treatment plan, contact one of our conveniently located clinics.

Stop and think about your typical day. How much sitting do you do? How much movement or activity do you get in a typical workday? You have probably already seen the headlines, “Is sitting killing you?” or “Is sitting the new smoking?” If you’re sitting a good portion of your day, it’s especially important to add activities like movement therapy into your daily routine.

Many of you have desk jobs that require you to sit for greater than 8 hours per day. Now think about your commute to work. You probably sit for 45 minutes to an hour in traffic to get to and from your job. In the evening you might plop yourself onto the couch to binge watch your favorite Netflix series or log into your computer to search the web, look up a recipe, or peruse Facebook. In total, that is a whole lot of sitting. However, the other side is that you woke up early to go for a run, hit the gym to lift some weights, or do a barre class for an hour.

According to The British Journal of General Practice, “recent research suggests that sedentary lifestyles are themselves a risk factor for cardiometabolic morbidity and all-cause mortality, even when controlling for overall levels of moderate or vigorous physical activity.” This article later went on to conclude that “the bottom line is the need to find sustainable ways of integrating physical activity throughout the working day rather than viewing exercise purely as an extracurricular activity.”

The greatest take-home message in most of the articles that I have read was that we, as people, need to incorporate more frequent movement throughout our sedentary workday. According to one study [need source], it implied that by increasing your activity level during the day with walking and standing and therefore, reducing your inactivity, can be more effective in helping to reduce certain health risks more than one hour of physical exercise.

So, what are some simple ways to increase your activity level at work?

  • If you are making a phone call, wear a headset and stand or walk during the call.
  • Instead of emailing or calling another co-worker in the office, get up and walk over to their cubicle.
  • Set a timer to get up every hour and take a 5-minute walk around the office or outside the building.
  • Take the stairs rather than the elevator.
  • You don’t need the closest parking spot. Park as far away as you can and walk.
  • Ride your bike or walk to work, if possible.
  • Motivate yourself and co-workers to wear a Fitbit to track your steps and have a monthly or quarterly contest; you can all pitch in $10 and the winner takes all!

In conclusion, most studies have shown a strong correlation between physical inactivity and increased risk of diseases like type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, certain types of cancers, and shorter life expectancies. Knowing this information, it makes a strong argument to get up out of our chairs more often during the day.

The take-home message is to keep moving. Park a little bit further out at the mall or grocery store to get a few more steps in, get out of your seat and incorporate movement therapy more often each day, and continue your normal exercise routine, whether it is running, cycling, yoga, or a weightlifting session. Motion is Lotion!!! It lubricates our joints, improves our cardiovascular capacity, wards off illness and disease, and keeps us moving in a happy, healthy direction!

If you are looking for guidance on lifestyle changes or if pain is keeping you from being active, visit with a physical therapist at one of our locations.

Concussions in sports, particularly football and soccer, have received more attention over the last several years. Studies have reported that the prevalence of concussions each year in children is 1.1 to 1.9 million. At Foothills, our sports medicine specialists often work with young athletes that have undergone concussions. It’s extremely important to work with personnel in the medical field post-concussion to make sure the condition doesn’t get worse.

More studies are showing that undetected or untreated concussions can lead to long-term neurological and detrimental effects, such as memory loss, Dementia, and Alzheimer’s; therefore, there is growing concern to protect and keep our athletes safe. Coaches, parents, and athletes need to be informed and know how to recognize a concussion and its symptoms as well as understand the proper course of assessment, treatment, and return to sport.

Here are some important facts you should know about concussions.

1) To sustain a concussion, one does not have to actually hit their head. Instead, their body can make contact with the ground or another player and the head/neck can quickly move forward and back, known as a whiplash injury.

2) Often times, an athlete will not have symptoms for 48 to 72 hours afterward.

3) Symptoms can be physical, cognitive, emotional, and behavioral.

4) Common signs and symptoms include dizziness, blurred vision, easily irritable, feeling nervous, forgetfulness/memory loss, headaches, difficulty concentrating, easily confused, fatigue, and nausea.

5) MRI/CT Scans will not diagnose a concussion because the changes occur at the cellular level.

6) Sports that require helmets do not prevent concussions but they can protect the head and hopefully reduce the risk of concussion. However, helmets need to be fitted appropriately to be most effective.

What should you do if you think you or your child/athlete has suffered a concussion?

The first step is to seek medical attention. A healthcare professional experienced in concussion management will be able to determine the severity of the concussion, if additional medical attention is needed, and when your child can return to school and sport-related activities. A school athletic trainer or medical physician would be the first choices to evaluate your young athlete.

Be alert for worsening symptoms in the first 1-2 days post-concussion and seek immediate medical attention if the following symptoms are present: loss of consciousness, repeated vomiting, severe headache that intensifies and lasts for a longer duration, becoming very confused, slurred speech, seizure, difficulty waking up, or any sudden or unusual change in behavior or cognitive function.

To help your child following a concussion, it will be important to make sure your child knows what to expect. They will recover but it is going to be a slow, gradual progression that can take 2-3 weeks or longer. When children understand what to expect and are educated on the recovery, they will improve more quickly.

Also, let siblings, coaches, and teachers know that your child has had a concussion so they can aid in the recovery. Your child may not be able to return to school immediately, their schoolwork can take them longer than usual, and they may require more frequent rest breaks. It is important to take it slow with physical and school activities because the brain needs time to heal. If your child returns to school too quickly, it may exacerbate their symptoms or cause new symptoms.

Following a concussion, most studies show that an athlete should stay out of practice and exercise for at least one week to allow the brain to rest and heal and this timeline can be longer if symptoms persist. Once symptoms subside after at least one week off, then the athlete can gradually re-introduce non-contact exercise as long as symptoms do not re-occur. Athletes that have sustained a previous concussion may take longer for symptoms to resolve and therefore, will be out of play for a longer period of time.

A comprehensive treatment approach, involving physicians, parents, coaches, athletic trainers, and physical therapists, is essential to get the athlete back safely to playing sports again. In Arizona, it is now required that a youth athlete has written clearance to return to play by a healthcare provider if the group or private organization uses a school athletic facility.

Concussion diagnosis and treatment has received growing attention over the years due to the potential long-term neurological effects. Since symptoms of a concussion can be physical, emotional, cognitive, or behavioral, it is important to recognize the signs and seek medical attention immediately.

If you or your child athlete think he or she has sustained a concussion, it is best to seek medical attention. The brain needs time to recover, so make sure you gradually return your athlete to school, work, and sport-related activities. When it’s safe to return to conditioning, one of our sports medicine specialists can help your athlete return to their sport, safely. Contact us to schedule an appointment.

At Foothills Sports Medicine Physical Therapy, we’re all about creating, building and nurturing the community around us. One of my favorite ways of bringing together the community is through our running group! This August marks our 11th year of the Foothills Running Group. It’s been wonderful to see how the running group has developed over the years, and I’ve had the opportunity to meet and build friendships along the journey.

Do you think running isn’t for you? Or running with a group would be intimidating? Overcome the intimidation and fear and join us at our kick off run and informational meeting on Saturday, August 27th at 6am at our Ahwatukee location. Myself, along with FAST program director, Jeff Bloom, will be available to answer any questions and help you sign up for our 20 week program. And don’t fret, if you prefer walking over running, that’s always an option too! Several of our group members walk the trails, roads and races together.

Foothills Running Group Details:

  • 20 week training program
  • Saturday morning running groups
  • Tuesday evening speed workouts
  • 1 FREE group fitness class per week
  • Team dri-fit running shirt
  • Social outings and happy hours

There are many benefits of speed-walking and running with a group. Weight loss, improved mood and lower stress levels are just a few of the reasons people choose running as their form of daily exercise. I personally enjoy it because it’s flexible and requires minimum effort. All you need is a good pair of running shoes, a support system (you’ll get that with the Foothills Running Group), and a running trail.

So, what are you waiting for? Lace up those sneakers, and join us on Saturday, August 27th for our kick-off fun run.

Along with many locations throughout the Valley, Foothills Sports Medicine Physical Therapy has an Ahwatukee physical therapy clinic that provides hands-on, individualized services to patients of all ages with a huge variety of injuries and complaints. We offer a free assessment of your PT needs, which can be scheduled online here. For more information and advice about physical therapy, follow our blog.

Lori Francoeur has over 15 years of experience treating orthopedic and sport-related injuries, and she is the owner of our Ahwatukee physical therapy location. She discusses common misconceptions surrounding lower back pain, and the facts about recovery.

According to numerous studies, 3 out of 4 Americans will experience low back pain (LBP) at some point in their lives. The good news is, almost 90% of acute LBP (pain lasting less than 3 months) can be resolved within 8 to 12 weeks WITHOUT surgery. However, many myths people believe about back pain prevent patients from receiving proper treatment and recovery. These are some of the myths, and the facts, surrounding LBP.

Myth #1: Diagnostic tests, like X-rays, MRIs, and CT Scans, can identify the cause of low back pain.
In reality, the cause of LBP is not always evident in scans and tests. According to the New England Journal of Medicine, “up to 85% of low back conditions cannot be diagnosed on basis of history, physical exam, or imaging studies alone.”

Obviously the structure of the body has to be evaluated, but diagnostic testing often shows that the body appears normal and uninjured despite complaints of severe low back pain. On the other hand, there is also a high rate of false positives – patients do not complain of pain, yet diagnostic tests show issues such as disc bulges, herniation, and degeneration. This is why diagnostic testing is often inconclusive, or even counterproductive.

Since degenerative changes in the spine are a normal part of aging, they are often not predictive of the development or duration of LBP. Diagnostic testing is not typically needed during LBP’s early stages, and conservative treatment will resolve most issues.

Myth #2: If your back hurts, you should take it easy and rest until the pain goes away.
Most studies actually show that it is important not to exceed more than 48 hour of rest following acute back pain. Inactivity contributes to your low back becoming weak, stiff, and de-conditioned, so it can make your back problems worse. One study found that people who waited longer than 48 hours to resume activity missed twice as much work in the long run than those who resumed normal daily activities and stayed relatively active. Bed rest might work for short term relief, but the sooner you resume an active lifestyle, the sooner your pain will decrease.

Inactivity can have detrimental physical effect, but it is also linked to emotional and psychological issues such as depression and fear-pain avoidance. Depression and fear of movement can adversely impact your pain level, and even increase the length of your pain episode.

Myth #3: Back pain is a normal part of aging.
Low back pain does not need to be a part of your everyday life at any age. While your back may become more susceptible to injury as we age, there are many non-surgical interventions that can prevent injury, relieve pain, and help you return to daily activities symptom-free. LBP does not have to be part of the aging process. Staying active and participating in regular exercise is one way to remain pain free regardless of your age. Physical therapy is also a great resource to resolve and prevent low back pain.

Myth #4: If I have back pain, then I will most likely need surgery.
90% of LBP can be resolved with conservative treatment, including medication, exercise, and physical therapy. Spine surgery is necessary in less than 1% of LBP cases and very specific symptoms and diagnoses must be present. Surgery should only be considered if other less extreme interventions have failed.

It is true that the longer a patient waits to seek treatment for low back pain, the less success they have in resolving it. However, this does not mean you will have to end up having surgery. Once LBP occurs, the key is to manage the condition through regular exercise with an emphasis on core strength, moving properly, using correct lifting techniques, and doing cardiovascular exercise like walking, to prevent future flare-ups.

Foothills physical therapists will work with you to come up with a comprehensive plan to get you back to your desired activity level and pain free living. Contact us today to start on your journey to better health.

Foothills Rehab is a group of locally owned AZ physical therapy clinics. Our mission is to provide you with quality, customized care, and to give you the tools you need to meet your physical therapy goals. To schedule a free assessment with one of our highly trained employees, simply go online here today. For more information about AZ physical therapy, follow our blog.

Lori Francoeur received her Masters of Science in Physical Therapy from Boston University and is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist. She has been a dedicated PT for over 15 years and is also an avid runner. She is here today to tell you about the Foothills Running Club, and explain the life long benefits that come with running.

Running season is here: August marks the start of the Foothills Running Club! This will be a particularly special year, because it marks the club’s 10-year anniversary. In the past decade, our club has grown in numbers, and I have had the opportunity to meet hundreds of incredible people and build lots of lasting friendships.

The people in this running club are, of course, what has made it so amazing. Our runners (and walkers) come in all shapes, sizes, ages, and abilities, yet we all come together to run. The reasons for running are different— some are hoping to just cross the finish line, some have a specific race goal time in mind, and others are trying to get in shape or lose weight. Whatever the reason, all are welcome.

Our running club starts on August 29th at 6 a.m. at Foothills Sports Medicine in Ahwatukee. We will start off with a brief informational meeting, followed by a short run/walk and a light breakfast. The coaches, Jeff Bloom and Lori Francoeur, will be available to answer any questions and help individuals get signed up. The registration fee of $175.00 includes the following:

  • A 23-week training program
  • Saturday morning runs
  • Tuesday evening speed workouts
  • A Dri-fit t-shirt
  • 1 FREE FAST class each week at any location
  • Social events, including happy hours
  • FREE injury screens from our physical therapists

If you haven’t signed up, you might be thinking, “why run?” Well, people all over the US are clearly starting to realize the benefits of running. According to the 2014 State of the Sport – Part II, there has been 70% overall growth of the general US running participation over the last ten years. Running improves cardiovascular health and lowers risk of disease. It can help lower blood pressure by maintaining arterial elasticity, which allows improved blood flow throughout the body, reducing risk of heart attack and stroke. Running has also been linked to a lower risk of breast cancer, increased HDL levels (also known as “good” cholesterol), and can boost your immune system.

Weight loss is a common positive effect of running. It is an excellent form of exercise and requires a great amount of energy expenditure, meaning you burn a lot of calories. To lose weight, it is important to burn more calories than you take in.

Running can also improve bone health by helping bones become stronger. Due to the physical demands of the activity, it stimulates muscles and bones to stay strong while reducing muscle and bone loss associated with aging. Many doctors will prescribe running or walking to patients with Osteopenia, the precursor to significant bone loss associated with Osteoporosis.

Running can even improve your mood and lower stress levels, which greatly reduces your chance of depression. It releases endorphins that help alter your mood, and runners often report being happier and less sedentary than other people. Running allows you to focus, think, and become less stressed about family or work issues. Many runners feel a sense of accomplishment after completing a challenging race or run, boosting self-esteem and confidence.

What I love about running is that it is flexible, and requires minimal equipment. All you need is a good pair of running shoes and you can run anytime of the day, anywhere you like—trails, roads, hills, city streets, or rural areas. When visiting a new city, put on your shoes and hit the streets to explore the area and take in the sights. Running can be a solo or a social activity. I love running with my friends in the morning— it is my social time where we can chat, tell stories, and catch up before work. It also keeps me accountable; I know if I don’t show up, I will hear about it later!

So, what are you waiting for? Before you start running, it is recommended that you come visit one of our skilled physical therapists for an injury screening. We can address any strength or flexibility issues you may have and give you the necessary tools and information to start your training program and keep you injury-free. Please feel free to call any of our AZ physical therapy locations and set up a free 15-minute rapid recovery evaluation.

If there is one thing you should be doing for injury and disease prevention – it’s strength training! Whether it’s with your own body weight, bands, machines or good ol’ fashion pumping iron, strength training has many long term health and fitness benefits. The good thing is it doesn’t matter how old you are or how out of shape you feel. You can start any where, any time and reap the benefits!

As we get older, strength training can provide numerous benefits. Regular weight training can help reduce the signs and symptoms of chronic conditions and diseases, including diabetes, osteoporosis, arthritis, back pain and obesity. Studies have also shown that regular strength training can improve balance and flexibility, which can reduce the likelihood of falls and fractures. Post-menopausal women can lose 1-2% of their bone mass each year, which puts them at high risk for osteoporosis; however, studies have shown that regular strength training can increase bone density and reduce women’s risk of fractures. In addition, lifting weights builds lean muscle mass and in turn, can raise your metabolism and help maintain your weight; it can also improve your sleep, reduce your risk of heart disease, and improve self-esteem and self-image. The benefits are endless!

Strength training should be performed 2 to 3 times per week hitting most major muscle groups, including back, abdomen, hips, legs, shoulders and arms. Always give yourself 24 hours between workouts to allow your muscles to rest and recover. Before you start strength training, you should consult your physician, especially if you have any medical conditions. Most likely, you will be able to start strength training but you will need to start slowly and conservatively. It may be in your best interest to work with a qualified fitness instructor, physical therapist or personal trainer for a couple of sessions to get instruction on proper form and an appropriate strength training program for you. More importantly, you should never have pain with strength training, only muscle soreness.

Feeling good and good about yourself is an indication that you are exercising properly. No more excuses….now is the time to start strength training today!

For more information on a strength training program that is right for you, contact a Foothills Sports Medicine clinic near you at www.foothillsrehab.com.

The ASTYM System

We are pleased to announce that Foothills Sports Medicine has several ASTYM certified physical therapists throughout the Phoenix Metropolitan area.  The ASTYM system has been used in clinical settings by certified health professionals since 1996. But many of you may not know what ASTYM is really all about and how it can help you with chronic and acute injuries.

What is ASTYM?

ASTYM is a soft tissue mobilization technique that is designed to effectively treat scarring, fibrosis, and degeneration that can occur in soft tissues. This technique uses ergonomically designed instruments and can be very effective on both new injuries as well as chronic, nagging conditions. The ASTYM instruments are used along the surface of the skin to identify abnormal soft tissue areas and begin the body’s healing process. This healing response or inflammatory process results in the resorption and remodeling of scar tissue and/or abnormal tissue and helps to regenerate degenerative tendons.

ASTYM has been proven to be effective with a number of common orthopedic injuries including IT band syndrome, hip bursitis, shin splints, patellofemoral syndrome, medial and lateral epicondylitis (golfer’s and tennis elbow).

ASTYM has many advantages over conservative PT treatments. ASTYM often allows patients to remain active or continue to work while undergoing treatment. It also has an 88% success rate with patients, achieving improved function and decreased pain, even if the condition is chronic or previous treatment was not successful. It can reduce the need for surgical intervention and achieve maximum results with minimal treatments. Finally this technique has been supported by an extensive outcomes database, clinical experience, and most importantly, by scientific research.

The ASTYM technique may be mildly uncomfortable with some patients. ASTYM is applied to not only the affected or painful areas but to the areas above and below the injury that may be contributing to your condition. During the treatment, you may feel areas of “roughness”, which are the problem areas that will be addressed. As these areas become less rough or smooth over, the pain begins to decrease and improved function also occurs. It is not unusual to have some mild bruising or tenderness over the abnormal or “rough” areas; this is the first indication that the new healing response has started. A comprehensive stretching and strengthening program will also be introduced to help guide the healing process, rebuild healthy tissue, and ultimately, get you back to your desired activities without any pain or limitation.

In my first year of using ASTYM, I have had great personal success with my patients having chronic tendon injuries, plantar fasciitis, and other painful conditions. This technique is used to complement our manual and hands-on techniques, not replace them.

We have several clinics offering ASTYM treatment: Ahwatukee, South Chandler, South Gilbert, Old Town Scottsdale, Surprise, Arrowhead, Litchfield Park. Please click on a location near you to schedule a Rapid Recovery FREE assesment to see if ASTYM is right for you.