Ergonomics 101: Working from home during Coronavirus.

Telecommuting has become the norm in our society today, and with the pandemic we have endured and currently face, we may be at home for much longer into the future. While this may be attainable and even ideal for most of the population, our bodies may be affected in negative ways we have never dreamed of. Many people are unaware of the stress bad ergonomics places on our bodies. People can develop wrist, elbow, neck, or back pain, never concluding the cause to be that of their own doing. Sitting in a chair for long periods places compression and stress on our joints that can cause stiffness, strain, and pain in our bodies. Setting up your workspace correctly can help prevent back issues and problems in the future.

Steps for a properly seated workspace.

– Your eyes should be level with the top of your computer monitor.

– Your shoulders should be relaxed and low, not high or hunched up.

– Your lower arms should be parallel to the floor. They should be resting on a support.

– Your feet should be resting on the floor.

– Your upper back should be straight, and your chair should support your lower back.

– You should avoid slouching in your chair and keep your hips as close to the back of the chair as possible.

– Your upper legs should be at a 90-degree angle from your body.

– You should be sitting up straight, and your screen should be a full arm’s length away from you.

– You should avoid leaning to any one side.

 

There is also the option of working at a standing desk that may increase blood flow, good posture, and decreased stress overall placed on the body.

Steps for maintaining proper posture at a standing desk.

– Your eyes should be level with the top of your computer monitor.

– Your shoulders should be relaxed and low, not high or hunched up.

– Your elbows should be bent to 90 degrees, and the desk should be set to the height of your forearms.

– You should be standing on an even surface with your feet shoulder-width apart.

– You should avoid leaning to any one side.

Sitting for long periods can be detrimental to your body.

Being sedentary has been linked to obesity, diabetes, and heart diseases.  Along with correcting your positioning at the desk, it is also essential to take standing breaks away from the computer every 30 minutes. Going to the bathroom, stretching, getting a drink of water, or grabbing a snack are good excuses to step away from the desk. Taking a lunch break away from the desk is also a good option.  Going for a walk on your lunch break is an excellent way to get your body moving and may even grant you some much-needed energy and concentration to take on the remainder of your day.

If you have experienced wrist, elbow, shoulder, neck, or back pain and cannot find relief from correcting your workspace, physical therapy can help decrease your pain and give you the tools to help it from happening again. You will be taught proper stretching, strengthening, and body mechanics based on your body and individualized goals. You will be able to get back to work feeling good again before you know it!

If you are suffering from pain and poor range of mobility we welcome you as a patient, we have over 20 clinics throughout the valley, request an appointment or come in for a free Rapid Recovery® Injury Assessment.

By Michael Basten, PT, DPT
President/CEO of Foothills Sports Medicine Physical Therapy

“Good Enough” Means You Won’t Spend Enough Time to Fully Rehabilitate Your Injury

When it comes to physical mobility, are you prepared to settle for a good enough solution? That may work when you are making small decisions, like picking which size band-aid, but when it is your mobility that is on the line you need to have a full recovery focus. This is an extreme example, but the fact remains: if you settle for good enough, you will never do everything you want to do.

When it comes to your physical health and pain-free mobility, full injury recovery should be the target. It is easy to be drawn to the first solution that provides more comfort and functionality than you have today—even if it only offers a marginal improvement. We call this solution good enough. True, this solution will provide basic functionality, but it can also cause doubt and certainly will not help you achieve the best result. When having a full recovery focus you shouldn’t feel:

  • Worried about your recovery
  • Overwhelmed
  • Frustrated
  • Skeptical
  • Stressed (physical, financial, emotional, or mental)

Seeking full recovery is a journey with no shortcuts and no finish line. A journey that will lead to amazing and fulfilling results. At Foothills Sports Medicine Physical Therapy our therapists embrace the journey. We understand that good enough is a dangerous stopping point… to aim for good enough is to end up incredibly mediocre… also keep in mind that good enough is only good enough for so long.

What is a Full Recovery Focus™?

A Foothills therapist will take you, your pain, and your full recovery seriously. We don’t believe a good enough recovery is good enough. In fact, no one deserves just a good enough recovery, no matter what their situation may be, our goal is to do everything we can to help you get your full, healthy life back. Our Full Recovery Focus™ difference is evident from your very first visit. Your enthusiastic and committed therapist takes you, your pain, and your situation seriously as you discuss what full recovery looks like. Together you will map out a hands-on customized plan to get you there. Your therapist will work to prevent unnecessary diagnostics in your recovery that can increase out of pocket costs and impact your long-term well-being. Our therapists can work with your doctor to explore pre-surgery, post-surgery, and no-surgery options for your full recovery.

Pre-Surgery, Post-surgery & No surgery

We know a full recovery starts before your surgery even happens. That’s why we’re with you from the beginning to the end. You can book an appointment without needing a referral from your doctor, and we can work with your doctors to develop a pre-surgery and a post-surgery plan. If it is possible, we will help you avoid surgery altogether. Our goal is always your full recovery.

Locally Trusted & Convenient

No one likes being in pain longer than they have to. With dozens of locations in Phoenix, you can get in to see your therapist quickly. You will never wait longer than 48 hours after booking your appointment. That’s why we’re the physical therapy organization local Arizonans have trusted for over 20 years. We have helped more than 500,000 patients get out of pain and back to doing the things they love. Your recovery sessions will be planned out so that you move through your recovery as soon as possible and get back to feeling like yourself and enjoying your life again.  And you won’t need to worry about insurance. We accept most major insurance carriers, including competitive cash pay options.

Get rid of crippling pain and enjoy full rehabilitation from your injury. 

We don’t give up on our patients once their recovery reaches “acceptable,” whatever that might mean. We make every effort to steer our patients away from a good enough recovery and guide them on their journey to full recovery.

Schedule an appointment today.

Dementia can be a scary, overwhelming, and isolating diagnosis. While there is no known cure for dementia, there are plenty of things patients and loved ones can do to prevent cognitive decline. Dr. Michelle Bogert, clinic director of the Paradise Valley clinic, and Dr. Mayy Deadrick, a family practitioner at Manzanita Medical Center share how doctors and physical therapists can work together to prevent and treat the symptoms of dementia.

What is Dementia?

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, “Dementia is not a single disease; it’s an overall term — like heart disease — that covers a wide range of specific medical conditions, including Alzheimer’s disease.  Disorders grouped under the general term “dementia” are caused by abnormal brain changes. These changes trigger a decline in thinking skills, also known as cognitive abilities, severe enough to impair daily life and independent function. They also affect behavior, feelings, and relationships.

  • Memory loss
  • Difficulty communicating
  • Difficulty with visual and spatial abilities
  • Confusion and disorientation
  • Difficulty reasoning or problem-solving
  • Difficulty handling complex tasks
  • Personality changes
  • Difficulty with planning and organizing
  • Difficulty with coordination and motor functions
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Inappropriate behavior
  • Paranoia
  • Agitation
  • Hallucinations

Physical Side Effects of Dementia

As dementia progresses, physical complications become more severe. The physical side effects that physical therapy can address are:

  • Stiff muscles
  • Loss of balance or coordination leading to falls
  • Weak muscles
  • Fatigue

How Physical Therapy Can Help

While physical therapy can’t cure or eliminate the symptoms of dementia, there’s a lot we can do to help slow symptoms and improve the quality of life for our patients. When creating treatment plans for dementia patients, we typically focus on:

  • Fall risk. By improving balance, stability, strength, and coordination through physical therapy, we’re able to reduce falls for our patients, keeping them healthy and active, longer.
  • Stiff muscles. Keeping patients active and mobile through age- and ability-appropriate exercises help relieve stiff muscles. This helps them to move more comfortably and enjoy their daily activities.
  • Muscle weakness. It’s vital for dementia patients to keep working on strengthening and utilizing their muscles so they don’t become sedentary and lose the ability to participate in their normal activities.
  • Heart and cardio health. The higher our cardiovascular function, the more capable our body is to fight off disease. Dementia is no different. We’re not marathon training, but giving patients the ability to elevate their heart rate just enough to see improvements in cardiovascular health. This is important for giving them the strength to fight the bigger battle.
  • Cognitive abilities. We’re not playing brain games or anything, but endorphins and neuron development play a large part in keeping our patients sharp. The increase in activities can improve (or slow the decline of) memory, elevate patients’ mood, and improve their overall quality of life.

Physical Activity & Dementia Prevention

Years ago, doctors thought that you couldn’t grow neurons. However, now we know there are many lifestyle factors we can control to generate neurons and combat any possible effects of dementia before it begins. Regular physical activity, through a combination of cardiovascular exercise, balance, and mobility, is one of the best ways to promote healthy brain activity and generate your cognitive reserve.

Final Thoughts

Dementia can be an isolating and terrifying diagnosis for patients and loved ones. What I hope to educate patients and families on is that, if you have a collaborative team, it doesn’t have to be a lonely diagnosis. There are so many preventative things we can do to help improve their overall quality of life. For the patient, I want them to know that even if you have the genetics for dementia, you can make a huge reduction in your chance of getting it. For the family, I want them to know there are things you can do for your loved ones to keep them happy longer.

Are you or a loved one struggling with a dementia diagnosis? Or, are you looking for ways to stay healthy and active to prevent dementia? 

Schedule a free assessment today to see how physical therapy can help you live a healthier, happier life.

A strong and well-conditioned back is much better prepared to bear occasional stress than a weak back is.  Nonetheless, athletes are at a high risk for back pain and injury due to the frequency of strain on their bodies.

According to health reports, up to 20% of all sports injuries involve the lower back or neck. Runners, for instance, are prone to injury of the lumbar spine (lower back) due to repetitive impact with each stride. Contact sports, on the other hand, tend to put the cervical spine (neck) in risk of injury.

After injury has been sustained, back pain therapy in AZ is a proven solution to improve your health and reclaim your ability to function and exercise as comfortably as possible. Physical therapy for back pain can also prevent injury from worsening.

When suffering from back pain, try these exercises to relieve your discomfort. It’s best to consult a physician or physical therapist to discuss your condition and whether these exercises are right for you.

  • Ankle lifts
    • Lay on your back. Alternate lifting your ankles up and down off the floor. Repeat x 10.
  • Cat/Cow stretch
    • Lower yourself to your hands and knees. Slowly round your back upwards into an arch. Then, slowly drop your abdomen toward the floor, pushing your shoulders up and stomach down. Repeat, slowly and smoothly moving between the positions. Repeat x 15.
  • Heel raises
    • Stand up straight with your weight evenly distributed. Slowly raise your heels off the ground until you’re standing on your toes. Slowly return them to the ground. Repeat x 20.
  • Knee-to-chest stretch
    • Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet on the floor. Using both hands, pull your right knee into your chest and hold it there for 15 to 30 seconds. Lower your right foot back to the floor. Repeat on the left side. Repeat x 10.
  • Shoulder squeeze
    • Sit on a backless surface. Tuck in your chin and square your chest, then stretch your shoulders backwards to squeeze your shoulder blades together. Hold for five seconds, release. Repeat x 5.

For more tips on achieving optimal fitness and well being, turn to Foothills Sports Medicine’s physical therapy centers for compassion and expertise. With 15 locations throughout Arizona, we provide communities with the most convenient, restorative and personalized experience possible. Call us today to schedule an appointment!

about the author

As parents we all want our children to be physically active, to pick a sport they enjoy and that also helps them build good skill and fitness. We also want to protect them. We make sure they are careful crossing the street, climbing on the play set, wearing a helmet when riding the bike. We want to protect those precious little noggins.

When we hear of someone suffering from a concussion, we automatically think of Football. Although, this sport does have the highest incidence of concussion rates in sports, it does not have the monopoly on athletic related brain injuries.  Concussions can occur in any sport and need to be recognized and cared for properly.  Surprisingly to most, soccer (especially girls’ soccer) has one of the highest occurrences of concussions other than football and female players have twice the rate to boys’ soccer.

Some claim that heading of the ball is dangerous and this is what is causing the head injuries in soccer. When we look at how these occur however, we find the majority of the concussions are due to contact with other players, head to head causes the most.  Only 24% of concussions occur when making contact with the ball and almost none when intentionally heading the ball.  Improper technique and unexpected contact are what causes the ball contact concussions.  Some have advocated eliminating heading the ball for younger players while others advocate better coaching to make sure the players are heading properly. Wearing headgear while playing soccer is another controversial subject and the results are still too new and too few to say if they will make an impact in decreasing the concussion incidence.

What we do know is that concussion will occur on the soccer field. We need to be able to recognize when this does happen, know how to handle the situation and when it is safe to return to play. This is difficult in a sport that has few stoppages. The coaches, officials and medical personnel on site need to be aware when a collision incident involving the head occurs and watch for signs of a concussion.  The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has designed a program “Heads Up: Concussions in Youth Sports” to help coaches, parents and athletes recognize and deal with the symptoms of concussions.  This can be obtained at no charge via their website.

Do you know the signs and symptoms?

One of the mysteries for most people dealing with concussions is being able to recognize when a concussion, however mild, has occurred and when to seek medical attention. Concussions are “graded” on a scale of 1-3. An important thing to remember is, no matter what the grade or whether the injury happens during a game or outside on your backyard play-set, the child should be examined by a physician.   Here is a simple way to assess the severity of a possible concussion and what to look for:

Grade 1:  This is characterized by some confusion, temporary memory loss, slight nausea, NO loss of consciousness.  The symptoms resolve in 15 minutes or less.  On the field the player may be out of position or slower to react than they normally would. They may not remember assignments or plays. They may complain of a headache.

Grade 2:  This is very similar symptoms to Grade 1 but more severe and lasting longer than 15 minutes yet still NO loss of consciousness.  They may be more irritable than normal.  Play will look similar to Grade 1 but they may get very frustrated and irritated with their play or any other aspects of their environment.

Grade 3:  Loss of consciousness for any length of time is a grade 3 concussion.  It may be difficult to recognize if it is brief and before a coach or medical personnel can get there.  However, if loss of consciousness is even suspected, the child needs to receive medical attention immediately.

When is it safe to play?

The other difficult aspect in dealing with head injuries is when to return to play.  The rules of return are: The athlete needs to be symptom free for 24 hours, at each activity below, before they can move to the next level of activity.  Once the athlete is symptom free for 24 hours at rest they can perform:

  1. Light Aerobic exercises: jogging, stationary bike etc.
  2. Sport Specific Drills/Exercises
  3. Non-contact training – then on to…
  4. Full-contact training
  5. Return to Games

Concussions and head trauma can be the longest lasting injuries in sports causing problems well past the playing days. With proper recognition and intervention we can minimize the impact of these injures and allow our youth to enjoy all sports safely.

One good thing about Exercise Science is; we’ve come a long way baby. Gone are the days of practice with everyone commencing by lining up for toe touches and quad stretches: holding your ankle up and behind you in an unnaturally, uncomfortable position!

Understanding the proper type of stretching before and after activity is essential to enhancing performance and avoiding injury.  When young athletes engage in physical activity, they are often encouraged by coaches and parents to stretch prior to activity.  The goal is to prepare muscles for sports, to enhance performance and decrease risk of injury, including sprains and strains.  In the past, advice regarding stretching has referred to static (or passive) stretching prior to activity. That is, stretching held for 15-60 seconds in a stationary position to improve the flexibility of one muscle group at a time.  However, recent research confirms the benefits of dynamic stretching prior to physical activity in both children and adults.  Dynamic stretching uses functional, activity-specific motions with constant movement to warm-up.  Static stretching then becomes important in the cool down after activity.

A thorough warm-up period is designed to prepare the body for physical activity by:

  • Increasing core body temperature
  • Stimulating blood flow to the arms and legs
  • Enhancing coordinated movement
  • Improving range of motion
  • Developing body awareness of joint position sense and movement
  • Using movement to expand muscle and tendon flexibility

These benefits of a good warm-up, which were once associated with static stretching prior to activity, are now attributed to dynamic stretching activities.  In fact, evidence now suggests that static stretching prior to physical activity and sports may be detrimental to performance involving vertical jumps, shorts sprints, muscle endurance, maximum muscle contraction, balance and reaction time (McMillian 2006).  Studies have also shown that static stretching can result in less force and power production not only in adults, but also in children, especially in jumping and sprinting performance (Faigenbaum 2006).  Because the goal of the warm up period is to prepare the body for specific functional movements related to a sport, dynamic stretching appears to provide that service without being harmful.

While holding a “runners lunge” prior to practice or a game may be a thing of the past, static stretching is still very important for the cool-down phase and should not be skipped. During the cool-down, athletes are led through a program to allow the body temperature to return to normal levels and prepare the body for the healing process.  During vigorous activity, muscle fibers tear at microscopic levels and need to undergo a reparation process that is essential for building new fibers, and as a result, increasing strength.  As muscles cool down, they tend to heal in the position in which they are left.  This highlights the importance of passive stretching after physical activity: low-load long duration static stretching allows the muscles to stay in a lengthened position as the muscle cools down.  This provides a greater length through which the muscle can contract to generate force during the next time activity is initiated.  Thus, static stretching serves a greater benefit to young athletes post-exercise.

When designing dynamic and passive stretching programs, here are some common considerations:

Dynamic stretching programs (Mann 1999):

  • Move continuously, typically in laps for 10-15 minutes overall
  • Vary the program according to the level of the athlete
  • Start slow and progress to quicker and more advanced movements
  • Avoid movements too intense that fatigue the muscles
  • Incorporate the whole body and imitate movements used in specific sports

Passive stretching programs:

  • Stay in one position per muscle group
  • Hold the stretch for 20-30 seconds
  • Repeat the stretch 2-3 times per muscle group
  • Address all muscle groups used in the specific sport

Sources:

Avery D Faigenbaum, James E McFarland, Jeff A Schwerdtman, Nicholas A Ratamess, Jie Kang, and Jay R Hoffman.  Dynamic Warm-Up Protocols, With and Without a Weighted Vest, and Fitness Performance in High School Female Athletes. J Athl Train. 2006 Oct-Dec; 41(4): 357–363.

Danny J. McMillian, Josef H. Moore, Brian S. Hatler and Dean C. Tayler. Dynamic vs. Static-Stretching Warm Up: The Effect On Power and Agility Performance. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 2006, 20(3), 492–499.

Douglas P. Mann and Margaret T. Jones, CSCS. Guidelines to the Implementation of a Dynamic Stretching Program. Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research. 1999. Volume 21, Number 6, pages 53–55.

In almost all aspects in today’s society, it seems like kids are acting and performing much older than their age. From communication on the internet, to sociologic decisions to participating in sports.

The level of sophistication is advanced compared to many years ago.

Unfortunately, the development of the body has not and will never catch up to the demands of today’s world. We are seeing more and more injuries in those who participate in sports as kids and those injuries are more similar to those we see in adults. If we cannot force Mother Nature to adjust as quickly as we would like then we must make adjustments ourselves so that we can prevent some of these injuries.48 million young people participate in sports between the ages of 5 and 18. There are 2 million High School Athletes who are responsible for 500,000 doctor visits and 30,000 hospitalizations each year. Injuries are going to occur, but The Center for Disease Control estimates ½ of the injuries in youth sports are preventable. Here are some ways to decrease the risk we all take when participating in sport.

1. Equipment: Each sport has its own equipment.One of the easiest and best ways to prevent some injuries is to make sure that the equipment used is in good shape and is fitted well. This is critical in sports, such as football, baseball and hockey, where there is a large amount of equipment worn. Helmets, shoulder pads, hip and thigh pads as well as others need to be sized well so that they can serve the functions that they were designed. This includes one of the more hated to wear pieces of equipment, the mouth guard. Each association has equipment fitting specification of their websites and should be reviewed prior to purchasing.

2. Build a Strong Foundation: Once the sport is picked and the equipment fit properly, it is important to learn the fundamentals and basic techniques. Many injuries are caused by the athlete attempting to perform tasks they are not ready for or doing something incorrectly. Unfortunately some youth sport coaches are well intentioned but not well trained. Seek out leagues that have their coaches go through training and certification processes that ensure they know how to coach the fundamentals of the sport. This makes the sport more fun for the athlete as well as safer for all. As the skill of the athlete improves, it is also important to learn the proper performance training techniques. The demands of the sport on the body demand proper preparation. Organizations such as the National Strength and Conditioning Association have strict criteria and maintain certification, CSCS, for those who specialize in how to properly train athletes of all ages. 

3. Warm-up & Cool down: Do not be in a rush to either play the game or, once the game is over, get on to the next task. Proper warm up and cool down is critical for injury prevention. At one time pre game or practice routines were long static stretches. We now know that stretches held for long periods of time will cause weakness for the short term. This is why we do more dynamic type stretching and warming up prior to participation. It is important to get the muscles warm and to achieve the proper length in a dynamic way so that they are prepared to do the functions we are about to ask of them. The PEP program was developed by Southern California University specifically for female soccer and was shown to significantly decrease the incidence of ACL injuries in that population. Other similar programs have been developed and can be accessed through a strength and conditioning specialist. Once the game or practice is complete than a proper cool down is needed. This is when the longer held stretching is done so that as the muscle cools it is maintained in a lengthened position. 

4. Hydration: Another critical aspect in both injury prevention and performance is hydration levels. Especially in Arizona it is very important to maintain proper hydration levels. This needs to be maintained at all times not just prior to or during the athletic event. Monitor urine colors. The color of the athletes urine should be equivalent to lemon aide not apple juice. Make sure that the athlete is drinking water throughout the day, every day. For every 2% decrease in hydration levels, there is a 10% decrease in muscle performance. There have also been correlations made between dehydration and slower reaction times as well as poor decision making. Both of these can lead to potential injuries. It is recommended on game or practice day to drink 10 – 15 oz 2 – 3 hours prior, 8 – 10 oz 15 minutes prior and 8 -10 oz every 15 to 20 minutes of participation.

5. Diversify: One troubling aspect of youth sports in today’s society is the trend to specialize in one sport earlier and earlier. This specialization has lead to overuse injuries where we used to not see. Playing multiple sports will reduce the overuse stress placed on tissues as well as to help develop overall athletic skills instead of just those used in one sport. As the athlete develops, and the body matures, then the risk of the overuse and repetitive trauma decreases.Sports for young people can be fun, rewarding and safe with just some proper preparations. Do not shy away from having your child participate in sport to avoid the risk of injury. Take the precautions and preparations listed above so that your child can take full advantage of what sports can offer.

 To recap: 

  • Use the proper equipment and make sure that it is in good working order and fitted correctly.
  • Learn the fundamentals of the sport and get the correct training.
  • Perform a good dynamic warm up and proper cool down.
  • Maintain an adequate hydration level.
  • Do not be in a rush to specialize in one sport. Participate in a number of sports to acquire more all around athletic skills and reduce overuse and repetitive trauma.

 

 

Does your neck hurt reading this? Spending alot of time on the computer can cause shoulder, neck and mid-back tightness and pain. That can lead to other problems like pinched nerves, compensations and muscle degeneration. Other times you might experience muscle tightness and spasms from a sports injury or ‘over-doing it’ either in the gym, on the playing field or just in the garden!  Trigger Point Dry Needling (TDN) can alleviate chronic and acute pain.

TDN is a treatment for muscular tightness and spasm which commonly follows injuries and often accompanies the degenerative processes. This muscular tightness and spasm will cause compression and irritation of the nerves exiting the spine. When the nerves are irritated, they cause a protective spasm of all the muscles to which they are connected. This may lead to carpel tunnel, tendonitis, osteoarthritis, decreased mobility and chronic pain.

How does TDN work? Small, thin needles are inserted in the muscles at the trigger points causing the pain referral. The muscles then contract and release, improving flexibility of the muscle and decreasing symptoms.

This is definitely a helpful therapy technique that relieves pain for many people. If you think it might help you, contact Foothills Sports Medicine–North Central Phoenix or Old Town Scottsdale for a Rapid Recovery® assessment.  https://foothillsrehab.com/contact-us.html

Medicine balls are weighted balls usually from 4 to 20 pounds that can be lifted, thrown, or slammed to improve strength, speed, power and overall body explosiveness. Medicine ball training has been used for decades by strength and conditioning professionals because of their low load and because they can be used almost anywhere including on the sports field or in a rehabilitation setting.  However, traditional strength and conditioning programs – those programs which include lifting large amounts of weight to make athletes bigger and stronger – have largely eschewed medicine ball training because of one main factor; the inability to sufficiently overload the athlete, the cornerstone of any strength and conditioning program.

However, as research continues and the strength and conditioning field has gathered more knowledge, a new age of strength and conditioning is upon us. While loading the athlete is still important, today is the day of functional training. Often an overused phrase, functional training can be defined as training the body in the movement pattern and velocity with which it is used in the sport the athlete plays. More simply, to improve the athlete you must train them to perform the skills that their sport requires and most sports do not require lifting a great magnitude of weight. Medicine ball training fulfills this need; medicine balls can be used in a variety of ways to approximate the body movements that athletes use in actual sport activities. Medicine ball tosses with a twist can be used to simulate baseball and golf swings, chest passes can be used to replicate basketball chest passes and overhead tosses can be used to mimic soccer throw-ins.

Additionally, medicine ball exercises can be performed at a velocity at or near that of the actual activity with which they are simulating. This is in keeping with the strength and conditioning tenet of specificity which states that to improve a fitness variable you must train that fitness variable.

In conclusion, while traditional weight training still has a place in strength and conditioning programs, medicine ball training provides a lot of benefits and should play an important role in a functional strength and conditioning program. If you would like more information on how to incorporate medicine balls into your training program, contact a FAST facility near you at www.fast-training.com.

*Black and white athlete pictures from ptonthenet

Our backs are involved in everything we do and are the foundation for every movement we make.  We cannot sit, stand, walk, or reach without involving our back. And, since approximately 80% of us will experience back pain at some point in our lives, it is crucial that we understand our backs better.

So, how do you know when your back pain really needs professional attention or when it’s okay to just stick-it-out with an ice pack? Here are some guidelines that may help:

How much does it hurt?

If you are experiencing back pain for the first time, congratulations, you are old.  Not really.  It is common for 1st episodes of back pain to occur in the mid-twenties to early thirties.  They often resolve quickly but may be associated with more trauma since most of us tend to be more active in that age range.  If you have one or two occasions a year when your back hurts, don’t wait for the next one.  This could mean that your spine has some significant mobility issues that need to be addressed.  You don’t want to put off getting your back examined because those one or two episodes could turn into three or four occurrences or one big incidence of back pain that can really leave you immobilized.

Where is the pain located?

If your pain is localized to a small area of your low back it is likely that your injury is not as severe.  If, on the other hand, your pain travels down into your buttocks and into the back of your thigh or leg, then you should consult a healthcare professional.

Is your back irritable?

You can often tell something about the severity of a back pain by how irritable it is.  If you find that every movement bothers your low back then it is definitely more severe than someone who only has pain when they bend to one direction.  Try to pay attention to which movements trigger your pain because it can help your doctor and physical therapist determine the problem.

Snap, crackle, pop!

Some back pain episodes are precipitated by a pop or significant pain.  Next, the pain goes away only to come back intensely the next morning.  This often suggests that chemical irritation (which takes time to develop) has occurred and a significant inflammatory process is occurring.  This is a good instance where you should see a healthcare professional.  They need to determine the extent of the damage and possibly control the inflammation.

Is it getting better?

If you notice steady improvements day by day then your body is naturally healing.  Try to be careful though, you don’t want to justify mild improvements.  If you haven’t seen a total recovery in one week then you should consult a professional just to be sure.  If you are noticing a regression then, obviously, your back does need some help

We need to be vigilant about taking care of our backs now. Let’s face it; we only have one spine and a long life to live with it. If you aren’t sure – be proactive. Foothills Sports Medicine offers free Rapid Recovery® injury assessments. Call or email us at www.foothillsrehab.com/contact/ to schedule a visit with a physical therapist.

Visit our blog next week and learn the ‘Core Essentials’ – 3 great exercises to keep your back and abdominals strong.