Patient Spotlight: Up and Running Again

As told by Kevin Underwood, a patient at Therapydia Tampa

For the last 22 years, I have fluctuated between running, injuries and rehab, with a lot more time spent on the latter. Over that time, I have had piriformis pain, hamstring tears, plantar fasciitis, a stress fracture of my ankle and shin, and 2 knee scopes. I have tried to rehab on my own (yoga, stretching, weights); I have tried acupuncture and chiropractors; and finally I have had physical therapy in more locations that I can probably remember (including locations in Rhode Island, Hawaii, Virginia, Atlanta and Florida). Each time, I fell into the same pattern…run, knee pain, compensate, injury. After enough times of this cycle, I had essentially given up hope of ever returning to running.

However, after feeling knee pain on a simple 30 minute walk, I decided to try one last time to break this loop (after all, I may not run, but I definitely want to walk pain free!). After extensive research of numerous clinics (I even considered flying to Drexel University in Pennsylvania for a gait analysis), I put my faith in Therapydia here in Tampa, FL. I have not regretted it for a single moment.

One-On-One, Undivided Attention

From my very first visit, I could tell Therapydia was different. My initial evaluation with Mary was focused on the weaknesses that have prevented me from running injury free. One example for me was the dorsal flexion of one ankle was an inch less than the other. I have never had that level of analysis. I immediately began to have hope that not only might I walk pain free, I might be able to run again at some point.

My next visit (and every subsequent visit) has reinforced my initial impression. Therapydia’s website states “they believe that there are many paths to wellness and utilize a combination of manual therapy, therapeutic Pilates, and functional strengthening to normalize movement patterns and restore function.”

How many times have we gone to physical therapy, only to be one of three or four patients the therapist is seeing that hour? And how many times have we gone to physical therapy, only to spend good money to do stretches we can easily do at home? Therapydia is the exact opposite.

In my case, Mary, using many of the techniques in Anatomy for Runners, which she recommended I read so I could understand the course of therapy, provided a personal level of attention I have never received before. Every session involved manual therapy, the deep kneading of muscles to restore the movement patterns damaged from years of running, something I had only seen in movies, and did not believe physical therapists actually did!

Each session also involves exercises to strengthen weakened quads, hips and core. After all, as Mary has explained, each step while running is really a single leg squat. Mary demonstrates each exercise/stretch; while this is consistent with other places I have been, what is different is that Mary actively monitors my form and provides immediate correction.

From Rehabilitation To Injury Prevention To a 5K

The net result is that last week, I started running again. And for the first time since I can’t remember when, I did not feel pain while running or the next day. Even better, Mary identified several flaws in my form that would predispose me to getting injured again and is working with me on correcting those flaws. The summary is that for the first time in ages, I have confidence that I will be able to run again, and maybe even compete in a 5K. I would be remiss if I did not highlight two other aspects of the clinic that I have observed.

At least at the Tampa location, they seem to treat a fair number of High School athletes and Ballet Dancers, and I sense that these young adults feel at ease being there because they are treated with respect, kindness and can sense that the therapists have a true interest in them as a person. It is not uncommon to see a patient showing pictures from their competition, recital, or even their prom to their physical therapist. I believe this is the essence of what makes Therapydia different.

The second item is that Therapydia is just down the street from MacDill; as a result, they of course treat a fair amount of military folks. What is more impressive is that Sherrice, Mary and Kelsey give up their own time to go to MacDill and be part of expos and training to try and keep those who serve from having to come visit them. Finally, while I have focused this review on the therapists, they are supported by a Chelsey and Jen who are outstanding at explaining insurance benefits and rearranging schedules so patients can focus on getting healthy.

Therapydia Tampa is the best Physical Therapy Clinic anywhere, and I would (and have) recommended them to anyone.

Increasing Cycling Comfort and Confidence: The Benefits of a Bike Fit

Summer is upon us! It’s time to ditch the morning traffic jams and seemingly non-existent parking spaces in exchange for fresh air and the thrill of a bicycle commute. If you’re a regular cyclist, you know that biking is not only great exercise but also an excellent way to promote increased brainpower, confidence, lower blood pressure, and injury recovery (biking is easy on the joints and therefore a great aerobic activity for those with knee issues), among many other benefits.

When it comes to injury prevention and increased performance, the importance of a correct bike fit cannot be understated. Whether you’re a seasoned cyclist or just a casual rider, if you’ve never gone through the process, it’s likely that your current setup could use a few tweaks to ensure that you’re riding at the optimal level. What you may not have considered about your bike is that when it was manufactured, it was done so with an average body type in mind. Depending on who you are, it’s very possible that your body doesn’t conform to this idea of “one size fits all”. Without the correct modifications, the contact points between your bike and your body have the potential to negatively impact your ideal posture and fit, leading to pain in the lower back, knees, or hands. Thankfully, with a few minor adjustments, you can ride easy knowing that you and your bike are operating harmoniously at your peak performance.

What Exactly is a Bike Fit?

Very simply, the point of a bike fit is to ride comfortably, ride longer, and ride with the peace of mind that this beneficial activity is not doing your body any harm. Feeling motivated yet?

When you go in for a bike fit, a specialist will take you through a number of tests to determine where any problems may exist. A fitness assessment will gauge your strength, flexibility, and joint mobility, taking into consideration your individual body type and the effect of your current bike setup. This will guide the specialist’s decision as to which modifications will fit your specific body type. You’ll also go through a functional assessment of your balance and neuromuscular control. If any strength or mobility issues arise, the bike fit specialist can offer a home exercise program to address the problems.

Next, they’ll address your current bike fit by optimizing your position as it is related to the three points of contact: handlebar, saddle, and foot/pedal interface. One common complaint from bikers, hand numbness, may often be written off as “just something riders have to deal with” but this is not the case! Frequently, hand pain and numbness are a result of improper positioning of the saddle and/or handlebars. Knee pain is also common among riders and can be addressed by adjusting the saddle height or cleat placement, which can reduce excessive strain on the anterior or lateral surface of your knee. If you’ve ever experienced lower back pain while riding, your bike specialist will correct the problem by adjusting saddle tilt or fore/aft position to facilitate a better neutral spine posture and to decrease excessive load on your lumbar discs and facet joints.

A bike fit evaluation can have a lasting impact on your body’s performance while cycling and can go a long way in terms of preventing serious injuries. Going in for a bike fit supports one of cycling’s greatest benefits: feeling great while you exercise.

We’ll see you in the bike lane!

Treating Parkinson’s Symptoms with Physical Therapy

physical therapy parkinsons

In addition to medication used to treat the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, many incorporate physical therapy and other exercise programs into their treatment plan. The goal of physical therapy is to assist the patient in reducing the severity of the symptoms and live a more independent life. Your physical therapist will develop an individualized treatment plan including exercises that can help reduce muscle stiffness as well as improve mobility, posture, balance and gait.

Addressing Parkinson’s Symptoms At Every Stage

The most common visible symptom of Parkinson’s are the tremors, but people with Parkinson’s also have difficulty with changing direction and speed and impacts their overall gait.

Below are some of the common ways physical therapists help patients with Parkinson’s:
• Manual Therapy and Massage: To decrease pain and muscle stiffness that may be contributing to limited motion.
• Stretching: To improve joint and muscle range of motion to improve quality and control of motion.
• Strengthening and cardiovascular exercises: Improve muscular strength and endurance. This will improve tolerance to daily activities.
• Gait Training: To improve gait technique and reduce the common shuffling pattern. Big movements using visual input help patients develop improved motor control and promote safety while walking.
• Balance Training: Challenging balance and proprioception helps improve safety during activities such as walking outside or navigating through a crowded store.

During the early stage of Parkinson’s, physical therapists can help patients learn to walk without an assistive device, if safe for the patient to do so. With strengthening, cardiovascular exercise, gait training and balance education, physical therapists can promote safety and independence during walking. This may help the patient get around without the need of an assistive device. When and if it becomes necessary for the patient to use a cane or a walker, physical therapists can teach the patient how to safely navigate with the device in their home and in the community. This is done by setting up obstacles and guiding the patient around and over the obstacles under their direct supervision. Little by little, guidance and supervision by the physical therapist is removed until the patient can navigate obstacles safely and independently.

During the later stages of Parkinson’s when independent ambulation may be too difficult, physical therapists focus on safety with transfers in and out of a chair, bed or wheelchair. Learning how to do these tasks can be difficult and therapists are experts on training patients how to transfer safely and efficiently. Physical therapists can also educate caregivers on how to safely assist the patient in transfers and mobility tasks. Contact your local physical therapy clinic to see how they can help.

Understanding Parkinson’s Disease

parkinsons physical therapy

You may know or have seen some of the visible symptoms, but do you really understand what Parkinson’s disease (PD) is? PD, defined by the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation, is a “chronic and progressive movement disorder,” meaning that symptoms will not go away and may worsen over time. The most common and noticeable symptoms are resting tremors, or shaking of the hands.

Other symptoms include:
• Slowed movement (bradykinesia)
• Muscle stiffness
• Hunched posture and balance problems
• Loss of automatic movements, such as swinging your arms when you walk, or even blinking.
• Speech changes

The severity of these symptoms vary depending on the stages of PD. There is currently no cure, however, medication, along with physical therapy, has shown to improve the symptoms and potentially slow the progression.

Research has shown that PD affects the substantia nigra, the area of the brain which controls movement; located in the brain stem just above the spinal cord. The nerve cells within the substantia nigra produce and release a chemical called dopamine, a neurotransmitter that controls movement and balance and is essential to the proper functioning of the central nervous system. Individuals with PD have a shortage of dopamine, which comes from the loss of these vital nerve cells in the brain.

About one million individuals in the US are living with Parkinson’s, and yet, the cause of PD is still unknown. However, several factors appear to play a role including: genetic mutations (which is uncommon) and environmental triggers, such as exposure to toxins. Although there is no cure for PD, incorporating physical therapy into the patient’s treatment plan may reduce the severity and progression of symptoms and allow the patient to function more independently and safely.

moving day therapydia tampa physical therapy

The Therapydia Tampa team will be participating in this year’s Moving Day Tampa Bay, a National Parkinson Foundation’s annual fundraising walk/run event. Stay tuned for our next blog as we cover the benefits of physical therapy for individuals with PD.

A Knot Off Your Shoulders

shoulder foam roller exercise

Your shoulder is a vital joint in your body that allows you to complete everyday tasks and almost all upper body exercises. The shoulder is a “ball and socket” joint that is optimized for mobility at the expense of stability. The joint’s mobility gives you a wide range-of-motion (ROM) during flexion, abduction and external rotation. However, due this ROM, the joint has less structural stability making it more susceptible to poor movement inefficiencies and dislocation.

The muscles and ligaments that surround the shoulder do pitch in to give it more stability. However, the problem is your body is great at compensating. If some of the muscles don’t activate, other muscles will provide extra help to complete the movement you desire, leading to undue muscle tightness and decreased length. The fascia, a connective tissue that wraps muscles, can become damaged due to inefficient movements and become “knot-like”. To these release knots, try the following foam roller for shoulder exercises.

Thoracic Extension w/ Foam Roller

Most of us sit hunched over a desk all day in forward flexion, which can lead to tightness in the pec/chest area. This is a great exercise to undue some of the strain caused by sitting at a desk by mobilizing the thoracic spine.

Start by placing the foam roller perpendicular to the body making a ‘T’ shape with the body, with knees bent. Begin with foam roller in the middle of the back, below the ribs and use hands to support the back of the neck and keep hips on the floor. Exhale as you curl forward drawing elbows together and round the upper back. Inhale as you separate the elbows to open up the chest as you extend back over the foam roller towards the ground and hold. Straighten out back again and shift your seat forward until foam roller rests higher up on the back and perform another extension over the foam roll. Continue to repeat as you inch up each spinal segment until foam roller reaches tops of shoulder blades.

Chest / Pectoralis Major & Minor w/ Foam Roller

Place foam roller parallel to the body. Move feet wider than hips apart and keep knees bent. Palms are facing towards the ceiling and begin to bring arms to the side and overhead, similar to making snow angels. Focus on keeping fingertips as close to the ground as possible without flaring out your ribcage as this is a common compensatory mechanism. Stretch across the front of your chest is ok.

Taping Up Your Injuries

kinesio taping south tampa

You’ve probably seen athletes on the field with bright colored tape covering various parts of their body. Kinesio taping is used to stabilize muscles and to provide extra support. Taping can be used by anyone with an injury and is especially useful to help patients in between their PT visits. The benefit of taping is although you are still allowed to move, it helps you move in a controlled fashion and prevents you from overusing your muscles and ligaments that are trying to heal.

Stabilizing Your Injury To Prevent Re-Injury

Kinesio tape can either allow you to move better or restrict movement so you’re comfortable as you’re healing. Applying Kinesio tape to an injured, sprained, or strained area works to stabilize and take pressure off of the injury. The most common uses for kinesio raping include around the ankles, knees, shoulders, and even the neck. It’s used as a low level stabilization technique to help get the injured muscle or joint in a more supported position in the body. For example, if you’re getting over an ankle injury and no longer need a brace or boot, Kinesio tape could be applied to the outside of your ankle for additional support. Besides just giving your injury extra support, taping also works by giving your injury a chance to heal. If you’ve hurt your knee, taping around it could take pressure off of the knee joint by helping with support. That way, inflammation in that area is reduced and it gives a chance for the injured area to restore and heal. See video below around how apply tape for midfoot stability.

Alignment & Support For Your Limbs

Kinesio taping can also be used to align certain joints and muscles to prevent further injury. For example, if you’ve hurt your ankle, you’re putting your knees at risk for getting injured as well since your body is off balance. If you’re working through an injured ankle and feel weakness or wobbliness around the joint, taping the outside of the ankle a specific way will allow it to align better with the rest of your leg. Having correct alignment can also work to decrease pain and help the joints and tightened muscles recover from activities. Taping also has neuromuscular benefits and helps our patients become more aware of their movements and posture.

Find A Taping Expert

Although taping may look simple, but there are several different taping techniques, combinations, and tension strengths that have to be applied above specific muscles or joints. Applying tape on yourself can be difficult, especially if your injury is in a hard to reach area such as your back or neck. Kinesio taping is just one tool in a PT’s toolbox to help you recover from your injury. Contact your local PT office to learn more about other treatment methods such as manual therapy and how they can help you get back to what you love doing, pain-free.

Manual Therapy Heals Injuries & Relieves Pain

Manual Therapy Injury Treatment

A physical therapist can manually assess your area of injury to find and heal the source of your pain by using hands-on techniques. There are specific manual therapy techniques that can be applied to your soft tissues as well as your joints. The goal of manual therapy is to physically assess while manipulating your muscles and joints to improve extensibility and mobility while also relieving any pain. Your physical therapist then moves beyond manual therapy with interventions and exercises designed to normalize how your muscles and joints move by increasing range of motion and getting rid of inflammation.

Massage Vs. Manual Therapy

Most people wonder what differentiates manual therapy from massage therapy. They have the same goals in that they want to promote healing and relieve pain. On the surface, it seems like both techniques have the same process. A massage rhythmically applies pressure to the skin and soft tissues of the body. Overall, it’s used to reduce tension and anxiety while promoting overall circulation. For massage, the focus is primarily on the skin and soft tissues to promote relaxation. Manual therapy is performed by a physical therapist with the intent to therapeutically assess and treat a musculoskeletal and/or neuromuscular injury. They’ll use specific techniques such as those to remove restrictions in soft tissues and joints to increase range of motion, heal irritated areas, and reduce neural tension and/or improve muscular function.

Techniques To Help You Heal

Once you’ve been injured, your muscles form restrictions such as scar tissue and fibrosis which cause tightness, stiffness, and pain. Evidence-based techniques are used to evaluate these restrictions in the soft tissues and joints. There are many different types of hands-on methods including myofascial release for soft tissues and high velocity/low amplitude thrusting for joints. Each technique is specific to a certain type of injury and specific part of your musculoskeletal system. The goal of using manual therapy is to move your muscles and joints through their full ranges of motion. Your physical therapist will work to restore your muscles to their optimal length tensions and bring your joints back into proper alignment. Manual therapy works by physically breaking down the restrictions around your injured muscles and joints that are causing your pain. For example, if you’ve injured your ankle, your physical therapist will use these techniques on the ankle joint and surrounding muscles to normalize your ankle’s motion. Using manual therapy also has the added benefit of increasing blood flow to the injured areas and reducing inflammation. In the end, your injured muscles and joints will begin to heal effectively after being manually mobilized.

Find A Manual Solution To Your Pain

Anyone with chronic pain or who’s suffered a sudden injury is eligible to receive manual therapy. There are no limitations to which muscles or joints can be manually mobilized by a physical therapist. Common areas to be mobilized are usually the spine, shoulders, elbows, wrists, hands, hips, knees, and the ankle/foot complex. A physical therapist’s expert knowledge of anatomy, the neuromuscular system, and musculoskeletal mechanics makes them highly qualified to perform manual therapy techniques. They’ll consider your entire body when considering which muscles and joints to manually treat. They will also understand how much pressure to apply, how quickly to move, and how long to apply manual therapy. Moving better after an injury means getting rid of those restrictions that are holding the healing process back. If you have any questions on whether or not manual therapy is an option for you, don’t hesitate to call Therapydia Tampa!

Improve Your Post-Run Recovery With Yoga

Yoga Poses Running Endurance

Cross-training with yoga offers an opportunity for runners to improve their performance and prevent injury. Participating in yoga as a runner will help lengthen your stride and help you develop a more fluid running form. Although running and yoga seem like polar opposites, they actually work as effective complements to one another. Yoga allows you to lengthen the muscle, which must occur in order to efficiently stress the muscle to promote optimal strength and endurance for sports like running. Running alone will not equate to success in your future races. The key to improving your run is combining running with yoga and strength training. Running alone will only strengthen certain muscle groups, while other muscles end up becoming overly tight and weak. Practicing some yoga poses after a run will give you better range of motion the next time you go out for a run, which goes a long way in preventing injury.

Release Tension In Your Mover Muscles

What most runners need support with is preventing common running injuries. While running, you only really move the lower body in 2 constant directions, backwards and forwards. Most runners end up putting a lot of strain on those muscles that help them move when they run, like the quads, hamstrings, IT band, hip flexors, and calves. Common overuse injuries can then develop with pain around your lower back, your kneecap (Runner’s Knee), the muscles around your shin (Shin Splints), the tendon that attaches at your heel (Achilles Tendinitis), and the fascial layer overlying the muscles of your foot (Plantar Fasciitis). Certain yoga poses work to stretch these areas that you constantly use so you can have better range of motion. That way, you’ll have a longer and more fluid stride that makes you less likely to strain a muscle.

One yoga exercise that helps relieve tension in these overused areas is the Reclining Pigeon, which is a modified version of Pigeon Pose:

Yoga Poses Running Endurance

• Lie on your back with your knees bent
• Cross your left ankle over your right knee to create a figure-4 pattern
• Continue to keep both legs bent
• Reach behind the thigh of your left leg and gently pull it towards your chest
• Switch legs and repeat

This type of pose relieves tension in your piriformis, which works to externally rotate the thigh and it’s a common culprit in low back pain and sciatica. It’s also beneficial for the IT (iliotibial) band that runs along your outer thigh from your hip to the outside of your knee. Runners are prone to having tight and inflamed IT bands because they tend to overutilize these particular muscles. Stretching them out post-run works to prevent the IT band from getting progressively tighter, which could also cause pain around the knee.

Balancing Your Body While You Run

Other key components of running mechanics that yoga addresses are balance and core engagement. If you think about it, you’re never really on both feet when you run. Therefore, you’re putting a lot of force on each individual leg. In order to be fit to run, you must have a strong core as well as good single limb balance. Yoga places a strong focus on core activation and control with each pose.

Increasing mobility in your hips is essential for runners, in order to decrease their risk for injury. A pose that works to do this is the Cobbler’s Pose:

Yoga Poses Running Endurance

• Start seated on a flat surface
• Fold up a blanket or towel and sit on top of it
• Bend your knees and bring your feet together
• Take the bottoms of your feet and gently press them together
• Hold onto your lower leg or foot and begin to let your knees drop down
• Position your heels as close to your body as you can without straining yourself
• Hold here and focus on keeping to good posture

Another pose that focuses more on core strength is called Boat Pose:

Yoga Poses Running Endurance
• Sit on the floor with your legs bent in front of you
• Press your hands on the floor a little behind your hips, fingers pointed towards feet
• Lean back slightly
• Lift your bent legs with your shins parallel to the floor
• Draw in your lower belly and lift your chest while lengthening your torso
• Slowly straighten out your legs going as far as you can
• Extend your arms forward in line with your shoulders with your palms facing up
• Balance on your bottom and keep your spine straight

These poses focus on strengthening all of the muscle groups that promote stability. The key components of these poses aim to keep your back long and straight while also strengthening the core.

Why Yoga Is Worth It

Taking the time to develop better flexibility and strength with yoga will not only prevent injury, but make you a better runner. Focusing on training the areas of your body that you don’t use while running, while also relieving tension in areas that you overuse, will teach you how to run more efficiently. You’ll notice less stiffness and exhaustion after each run as you recover with yoga. Reach out to Therapydia Tampa if you have any questions on how to complement your running routine with a customized yoga program.

What To Expect If You’re Starting Yoga

Beginner Class Yoga Poses

Thinking of beginning yoga may seem overwhelming, especially if you’re not familiar with what to expect. Starting a yoga program as an exercise routine is beneficial for people of all activity levels. Yoga is defined by its options, there are different types of yoga programs as well as many different variations of poses. If you want to start getting into an exercise routine, beginning poses can guide you into the practice. For athletes, you can use yoga as a hugely effective strength and cross-training program. Even if you’re nursing an injury, you can modify poses to work with how you need to move. If you’re just getting into yoga, you should expect to develop strength across your body, flexibility, and better breathing techniques.

What Types Of Yoga Are There?

There are many different types of yoga, from more traditional programs to unconventional class styles. If you’re looking for more of a power workout, a bikram or baptiste yoga class may be more your style. There’s also the option of yin yoga for someone who wants more of a focus on pose structure and deep stretching. If you want to solely focus on the meditative and calming aspects of yoga, restorative yoga might be for you. A beginner’s class will walk you through the basics of how to hold each pose while practicing proper breathing techniques.

What To Wear & What Gear To Bring?

It depends on the class, but in general stick to clothes you would wear when you expect to sweat. Stick to more fitted clothing so your instructor can more easily check how your body is aligning during each pose. Most of the time, you’ll also be barefoot. Most beginner’s classes have their own mats that you can borrow or rent for the day. If you’re injured and are working to modify or change poses, you might need some blocks or rolled up blankets to help support your movements. After the first few classes, you can work on buying your own mat with a specific thickness that is the most comfortable for you.

What Are The Basic Poses?

You don’t need to be extremely flexible to begin with, yoga works at a steady pace. Beginner’s classes generally focus on a set of introductory poses that’ll help you get used to the movements and types of stretches you’ll encounter. One prime example of a beginner pose is Downward-Facing Dog, where you bring your body into an inverted “v” shape with your hips raised towards the ceiling. Upward-facing Dog is also a basic pose to master, where you lie down on your stomach and lift your chest off of the mat. Another set of common poses are Warrior 1 and Warrior 2 which both involve moving into a version of a lunge with your arms straight up or out to your sides. You’ll also encounter Tree Pose for balance, where you standing and bend your leg to press your foot against the inside of your thigh.

What Do I Need To Know About Breathing?

Yoga teaches deep breathing, which allows you to breathe more effectively through each movement. Instead of breathing into your chest, you’ll learn how to breathe using your abdomen as well. The goal is to have a meditative quality to how you breathe by keeping your inhalations and exhalations smooth and steady. Starting with yoga will teach you how to breathe in a way that boosts respiration and relaxation.

Anyone Can Transition Into Yoga

Starting with yoga doesn’t mean that you have to be at a certain level of strength or flexibility. Feel free to contact us if you’re interested in beginning a yoga practice and need some guidance as to what would work best for you. If you’re working through an injury and want to transition into yoga, it’s especially important to know which parts of the body to focus on. Beyond that, you’ll learn how to use yoga to have a chance to relax and get into your own body.

Pilates & Posture: Relieve Strain On Your Back

Therapydia Pilates Back Pain

Persistent tightness and/or aching in your back may be directly related to your posture. One way of combatting poor posture is simply extending while lifting the spine which feel like you’re sitting or standing taller. However, that’s not all optimal postural alignment amounts to. It includes strengthening and supporting the muscles that support your spine. Not only should you focus on the muscles in your back, but the muscles in your core as well. Where does Pilates fit into having better posture? It helps in a multitude of ways and one is by designing exercises that work on aligning your spine with the rest of your body. Studies have shown that including a Pilates regimen is more effective than minimal physical exercise interventions in reducing chronic lower back pain.

Pilates Moves Have Built-In Postural Support

Back pain is a common symptom complaint amongst individuals. What’s tricky about back pain is finding the source of what’s causing it. Lower back pain is usually caused by abnormal strain and tightness of muscles in the area. It’s important to focus on the muscles that surround your spine to strengthen them and assist in moving your spine into proper alignment. By making those muscles move more efficiently, you’ll correct the imbalances that may be contributing to your achy back. One move called The Swan focuses on extending and strengthening the muscles that hold you upright including but not limited to your back extensors and your core muscles. You start off by lying on your mat face down:

Therapydia Back Pain Treatment

• Keep your arms close to your body as you bend your elbows
• Bring your hands under your shoulders (keep shoulders away from the ears)
• Engage your abdominals and lift your belly away from the mat
• While inhaling, lengthen the spine and press your forearms into the mat
• At the same time, gently move your tailbone down towards the mat
• Focus on maintaining the long upward arc of the upper body
• While exhaling, keep your abdominals lifted as you lower back down
• Lower down low-belly first, then mid-belly, and then ribs

Another aspect of maintaining correct posture is by practicing neutral spine positioning. Pilates incorporates neutral spine positioning into most exercises and stretches. Having a neutral spine means that when you move around you maintain the spine’s natural curves. Maintaining this natural curvature places the least amount of stress on the muscles, tendons, and ligaments that stabilize the spine. The Spine Twist is a Pilates exercise that incorporates neutral spine into the move while also strengthening and stretching the back muscles. You start off seated on the mat:

Therapydia Back Pain Treatment

• Extend your legs in front of you and sit up as tall as possible
• Press your weight evenly across your bottom as you sit
• Press your legs firmly together and reach through your heels
• Flex your feet and spread your toes
• Pull your bellybutton in towards your spine while engaging your core
• Raise your arms out to the sides at shoulder-height, keep palms facing down
• Pull your shoulder blades together and keep your chin level
• While inhaling, pull your bellybutton in towards your spine and lift it up
• Starting from the torso, twist as far to the right as possible
• Don’t let your left hip lift off of the floor
• While inhaling, twist back to the middle, keeping your arms extended
• Repeat the movement twisting to the left

Engage Your Core For Better Stability

Having better spinal alignment doesn’t only include utilization of the the muscles in your back. Your other core muscles also play a large part in spinal stability. Besides your abdominals, your other core muscles extend all the way down to your pelvis and hips to support the weight of your back all the way to your neck. Without optimal strength in all supportive core musculature, the muscles in your back will compensate for that lack of stability. You end up with lower back pain because those muscles are taking on extra load. Increasing core strength allows those muscles to better align your limbs and support the length of your body. An example of a Pilates exercise that builds core stability is The Kneeling Arm and Leg Reach. You begin by getting on your hands and knees:

Therapydia Back Pain Treatment

• Your hands are directly under your shoulders and your knees are under your hips
• Keep your back in a neutral spine position (allow the natural curves)
• Don’t let your back sag or arch upwards
• Keep your face parallel to the floor, gaze down
• Slide your shoulders away from your ears and adjust your shoulder blades so they don’t poke up
• While inhaling, extend your right arm straight in front of you and your left leg straight behind you at the same time
• Your arm and leg will be parallel to the floor
• Hold 1 to 3 breaths while balancing
• While exhaling, slowly return back to your hands and knees
• Repeat the same movement on your opposite arm and leg

Align Your Entire Body

If you have pain in your back, it may be caused by muscular imbalances in other parts of your body. Pilates exercises incorporate movements that activate all of the muscles in your core, not just specific muscles in your back. The goal of Pilates is to make sure that those weaker muscles are taken care of to avoid associated strain along the spine. Make sure that you consult with your physical therapist to get moving in the right direction when practicing pilates. They’ll be able to give you feedback on which specific Pilates movements would be the most beneficial for your rehabilitation.