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8 Sneaky Reasons Your Back Hurts

Did you know that about 80% of people will suffer from back pain? Sometimes, it’s obvious when you injure your back – whether you’re involved in an accident or simply feel something go wrong when lifting heavy objects. Back pain can sneak up on you through seemingly harmless motions. We’re diving into 8 sneaky reasons your back is hurting:

More Money, More Problems

Especially prevalent with men, storing a wallet in your back pocket is second nature. However, when seated, it causes your hips to be slightly angled and can throw your back’s position off—leading to pain.

Working (Too) Hard

Think of where your phone, printer, stapler, etc. sit on your desk at work. Is there something you grab for often that is ever so slightly out of reach? The repetitious leaning movement can misalign your back and move muscles improperly. Make sure your desk essentials are conveniently placed.

Country Roads

Often long drives are met with an inevitable groan. You spend most of the drive twisting and turning trying to get comfortable. The answer is in your seat position! Make sure your driver’s seat is angled so that it keeps your back upright and your hips at a 90-degree angle. Also, make sure to get out of your car every two or so hours to stretch and get your blood flowing.

Keeping You On Your Toes

While you may stretch your back in the morning or your hamstrings before a run, how often do you think about the flexibility in your big toe? Understandably, not very often. Experiencing decreased flexibility in your big toe and/or ankles can throw off your normal walking pattern. If your feet and ankles are stiff, then there may be too much movement or unbalanced movement in the lumbar spine.

Hips Don’t Lie

We know about Leg Day and Back Day at the gym, but what about Hip Day? A weakness of your hips can lead to straining low back muscles to compensate. Strengthen those hips by throwing a few sets of clam shells or leg lifts into your next leg day regimen.

Sleeping Soundly

While you’re tossing and turning at night, certain positions put the hips and/or low back in a bad position for hours at a time. The best positions for sleeping are on your back or side, making sure your pillows are properly set up to keep your neck neutral all night.

Fresh Kicks

Shoes with proper arch support, rigidity, and the proper size help keep a normal walking pattern that can take the pressure off of your low back. Next time you’re shopping, make sure to check out this post by The Fitness Tribe ranking some of the best shoes for avoiding back pain or go to your local running store to get properly sized!

Labor Pains

Mothers who deliver by C-section see increased side effects post-birth, as they are also recovering from major surgery. C-sections are performed by cutting through muscle groups that important in spinal stabilization. If that muscle is never retrained, the spine is often unstable which can move vertebrae and muscles out of place.

Back pain can be debilitating and make you feel that you’re on the sidelines of your own life. Hopefully, these tips and tricks help get you back on your feet. If you’d like more insight or help with your back pain, give one of our skilled physical therapists a call and get scheduled today!

Wallet in back pocket can lead to misalignment your back!

Ergonomics 101

Everyday Ergonomics

You might be asking yourself what exactly IS ergonomics? Luckily, the word is much less intimidating than it looks. Ergonomics is the science of safely and efficiently doing activities at work or at home. Although Occupational Therapists most often deal with work environments, the tasks and activities that you perform outside of the office are just as important. For instance, do you have problems doing gardening or yard work? What about shoulder, back, or neck pain after working on the computer or your iPad? Do you feel exhausted after trying to cook a meal? Our Occupational Therapists are trained in making ergonomic assessments and adjustments to reduce pain, maximize effectiveness, and help you get back to your daily activities.

Tackling Your Tasks  

Occupational Therapists combine their ergonomic-specific training with a foundation of the body’s anatomy and a passion for improving your performance. For example, many people lean too far forward while working on the computer or a craft, like sewing. Maintaining a straight, upright sitting posture is important for comfort, stamina, and your long-term health. We might suggest equipment like an ergonomic keyboard or a magnifying lamp to help make these tasks easier. Developing the small muscles in your hand, also known as intrinsic muscle strength, will help with your skills and comfort while performing small and detailed tasks.

From the Cubicle to the Kitchen

Our OTs will evaluate your individual case including complaints of pain or injury, difficulty performing certain tasks, and how you function in your environment. The evaluation will include every area that can affect task performance. For instance, many problems with hand pain and weakness can be traced to the shoulder or neck. Like a building with an unstable foundation, poor shoulder function can lead to problems further down the arm. The therapist will ask you to perform the activity that troubles you. If you can bring in tools you use frequently or any kind of examples, it will make our suggestions even better!

Examples of areas we can help with include:

  •         Gardening
  •         Woodshops
  •         Arts and crafts spaces
  •         Home
  •         Kitchen
  •         Garage
  •         Office space
  •         Assembly lines
  •         Retail counters

Basically, our Occupational Therapists can help with any task that you are having trouble completing. We can analyze and develop a custom treatment plan, including ergonomic suggestions that you can start using right away! Also, we will send you home with exercises tailored to your specific situation and needs. These home exercise programs, or HEPs, are key to your progress.

Our Occupational Therapists are skilled in recommending a variety of adjustments to how you work and play to reduce pain, maximize efficiency, and give you more time and energy to do what is important. If you’re interested in learning more or are ready to start your treatments, give us a call today to get set up with one of our skilled Occupational Therapists!

Knees Over Toes… Myth or Truth?

knees over toes

The age old expression: Knees Over Toes

Have you ever been told not to let your your knees go over your toes? Whether it was in the gym or during other daily activities, most of us have heard the age old expression. We would like to take a more in-depth look into this saying and what it means on a functional level. Is it a myth… or does “knees over toes” have some truth to it?

Functionality: Can Your Knees Go Over Your Toes?

We have all heard the trainer in the gym or the sports coach tell someone not to let their knees go over their toes. While that may have once been a good cue, the phrase has been repeated so many times over the years it may now mean more than it was originally intended. The statement originated from a 1978 study at Duke University. The study provided us with some very important information at the time, but it only looked at one piece of the puzzle. A more recent, 2003 Memphis University study, took their research a little deeper and provided us with more up-to-date information on the topic.

So, can your knees go over your toes? As much as we would like definitive yes or no answer, the truth is: it depends. It depends on both your structure and the movement itself. Your structure plays the most important role in answering this question.

Structure

Everyone’s body is different. Something that may work for one person, may not be appropriate for another. Femur length, foot length, and torso length all determine the appropriate amount of forward translation demanded of the knee. Someone with longer femurs and shorter feet may naturally track over the toes. A shorter tibia/fibula length relative to femur length may naturally facilitate an anterior knee translation (see video from Stone Athletic Medicine). Torso length also plays a role in how the lower extremities flex through movement. Check out this picture shared by Zach Long, DPT SCS Cert.CMFA, for a visual representation. As the referenced study above by Fry, Smith, and Schilling reported in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, when blocking the knees, we reduce torque by 22% at the knee joint but increase torque at the hips by 1,070%, regardless of structure.

Movement

In a gym setting, different types of activities and movements may or may not result in your knees travelling over the toes. Different bar placement, or load placement, will facilitate different hip and knee joint angles. For instance, a low barbell back squat places the barbell lower on the back and pushes the hips back further. This will make the movement more hip dominant. However, if we place the load in front of the body, like in a barbell front squat, we create a more quadricep dominant movement. The knees will move more forward, out over the toes, and the chest will be more upright. Read this article from Squat University to delve deeper into the bio-mechanics of different squats.

Knees Over Toes: In Real Life

Let’s look at a few movements we do on a regular basis. These may not be considered ‘daily activities,’ but our bodies typically do these movements with no issue.

Ascending and Descending

Our bodies are designed to navigate various different types of terrain. One typical type of terrain we regularly navigate are hills. The world around us varies in height and distance. While walking up, and most certainly down hills, our knees naturally translate over our toes to support our body weight. Another great example of this are stairs. Depending upon stair height and stride distance, we may or may not track over our toes while ascending stairs; however, have you ever tried to go down stairs without your knee going over our toes? It’s nearly impossible unless you set your hips back drastically or pistol squat every step of the way. Go ahead; give it a try!

Bicycle

Another fun activity we often do is bicycle. This may not be a daily activity, but it is most certainly one many of us participate in on a regular basis. We do this at the gym, with our children, and sometimes as our primary means of transportation. It is important to make sure our seat height is set properly, but no matter the positioning, knees typically go over the toes while in the pushing phase of cycling. There is nothing inherently wrong with any of this because our bodies are made to move this way!

Resiliency

Resiliency is the name of the game. Our bodies are resilient and are not as fragile as we may sometimes be told. We are made to move about our space functionally, in multiple planes, with no issues. Sometimes our knees need to go over our toes, and sometimes they don’t. Take charge, and keep moving! Motion is lotion and makes for great longevity in life!

 

If you want to prevent injury, come visit one of our Wellness Coordinators for a professional opinion on your squat form. We would love to chat with you! Or, are you experiencing pain when squatting? Schedule an appointment with one of our Physical Therapists to resolve any issues before they become worse!

Living Life Up to Par: Physical Therapy to Prevent Pain and Injury

Feel ‘up to par’: Physical Therapy prevents pain and injury!

While physical therapy is commonly thought to address existing pain or the onset of an injury, it just may be the best kept secret to preventing pain or injury. We’re here to let this secret out, just in time for you to enjoy much-anticipated summertime activities!

Injury Prevention

 

Whether you’re an avid athlete or a weekend warrior, knowing the right way to go through the motions of your preferred activity can play a big role in injury prevention. Same concept as knowing proper lifting mechanics so as not to injury your back, a physical therapist who understands your activity of choice can assess injury risk factors and make corrections as necessary. For example…

  • Do you experience soreness in your back or shoulders after a round of golf?
  • Are your muscles tight after pulling weeds in your garden?
  • Does it take some time to recover following a run around the neighborhood?

Perhaps this is your body’s way of sending you a message. While you may experience muscle pain or soreness following activity after you’ve been dormant for a time period, you should not be experiencing it following activities that you perform on a regular basis. Reviewing your activity with a physical therapist will help them determine potential movement-related risk factors, which in turn can curb potential injury. Moreover, a physical therapist will make corrections to your movements which will help lessen risk factors later on down the road. This can include, but does not limit to…

 

Performance Improvement

 

Not only is physical therapy beneficial for injury prevention, but it’s also helpful for “healthy” individuals as well! Particularly targeted toward the athletic community looking to improve performance in a sport or activity, physical therapy can target strength, agility, flexibility, and coordination.

 

At Elite, you not only have access to excellent clinical care from our therapy staff, but our Fitness and Wellness program is also available for individual and group personal training.

 

Interested in how physical therapy can help you with your goals? Call any of our 9 locations to speak with a physical therapist—no strings attached! Should you be in need of physical therapy, we can accommodate you within 24-48 hours, no referral needed.

Wheelchair and Seating Evaluations: Who Would Benefit and What to Expect

Man in WheelchairWe’re halfway through National Occupational Therapy Month! We wanted to take today to highlight a lesser-known service provided here at Elite Integrated Therapy Centers – Wheelchair and Seating Evaluations. Our Occupational Therapists are able to help determine if a wheelchair or scooter is right for you!

So… Who Would Benefit From a Wheelchair and Seating Evaluation?

Anyone who already has or is in need of a scooter, power, or manual wheelchair is eligible for a Wheelchair and Seating Evaluation. If you would like to be more independent, our Occupational Therapists would love to help determine the best fit for you and your lifestyle. We work closely with your primary care physician throughout this process, although you do not need a referral to come see us! When you first schedule your appointment, we verify your insurance and let you know your benefits ahead of time – no surprises!

Insurance Requirements to Obtain a Wheelchair

Each insurance is different, but most power and manual chairs are covered by insurance after following copay and deductible policies. Currently, insurance companies only require that the therapist documents how the wheelchair is going to be used inside the home. First, insurance requires the patient to have a face-to-face appointment with their physician to document that a wheelchair or scooter is medically-necessary. Then, you can schedule your appointment with us so one of our Occupational Therapists can perform the evaluation. Next, we fax the results to your physician. Finally, your physician will have a face-to-face visit with you in the office and he or she will submit the necessary paperwork to order your chair and/or parts!

WHAT does the Wheelchair and Seating Evaluation Include?

Our Occupational Therapists complete an in-depth, one-hour evaluation to determine what type of mobility device, either a manual wheelchair, power wheelchair, or scooter, is most appropriate. We assess balance, posture, strength, and range of motion of upper and lower extremities. A local Assistive Technology Provider will also be present for the evaluation to assist with taking measurements and choosing the optimal chair, seat cushion, and backrest. The Assistive Technology Provider works for the company that provides the chair or various parts.

Scooter vs. Power Wheelchair vs. Manual Wheelchair

A scooter is a power device that you would normally see or use in a grocery store. They have 3 or 4 wheels, giving them a larger turning radius, and also making it harder to get in and out of rooms. Scooters are difficult to use inside the home. Scooters allow you to use both of your upper extremities rather than just one hand.

Similarly, a power wheelchair provides more seating options and is controlled by a joystick. The power wheelchair has a smaller turning radius which makes it able to turn tight corners, which makes it easier to use in the home.  For those with poor trunk control and difficulty with transfers and walking, a power chair would be a better option.

Lastly, a manual wheelchair allows you to propel yourself and can be fitted specifically to you. These lightweight chairs are great for individuals who have good upper body function and the necessary strength to propel themselves around the home.

Back and Seat Cushions on a Wheelchair

Once you determine which device is best for you, the final step is to address backrests and seat cushions. Backrests on chairs can provide you with better stability if you have poor trunk control.  Depending on the condition of your spine, you may require a specialty backrest.  There are also specialty seat cushions that provide pressure-relief for individuals who are at high risk for pressure sores. If you have poor trunk control, then seat cushions that provide support and stability are also an option. These cushions can be used in both manual and power wheelchairs.

Maybe you’re considering a wheelchair or scooter to help you be more independent and have more mobility. Maybe you already have a chair and need it to be adjusted/repaired. Either way, contact us today! We would love to talk with you and get you set up with an appointment. We are passionate about helping you live your life to the fullest!