What You Need to Know About Preventing Children’s Sports Injuries

We at iAMPT are passionate about preventing and healing injuries in young athletes. Young people are participating and specializing in sports at earlier ages and U.S. sports-related injuries have increased as a result. 

A physical therapist can help to reduce and prevent sports injuries from occurring through education and proper training.  As young athletes are at high risk for overuse and traumatic injuries, regular appointments with a  physical therapist will allow for early detection of injuries and preventative care in order to keep them performing well and having fun. 

In a recent study conducted by ATI Physical Therapy, a well-monitored preseason baseball training program showed improvement in arm flexibility and strength for high school pitchers which contributed to a diminished risk of arm injury. In addition, pitchers who had previous injuries and participated in the preseason training program were four times less likely to suffer an injury than those in the general arm care program. 

Emergency room statistics show young athletes visit hospital ERs for a sports-related injury more than a million times each year. Additional research demonstrates that nearly four in ten emergency room visits for children aged 4-15 years old are sports related. 

Some statistics to consider:

  • Nearly 75 percent of sports-related injuries in youth or teen athletics were linked to four sports: football, soccer, baseball and basketball.
  • Concussion rates doubled among U.S. high school athletes between 2005 and 2012; only a fraction of which can be tied to increased awareness for concussion prevention and identification.
  • In 2015, research found that there were more Tommy John surgeries for teens aged 15-19 than any other group based on an analysis of 790 patients who underwent the surgery between 2007-2011. The rate of the surgery in the same age group has been increasing more than 9 percent each year.  
  • A report this year by the sports medicine department at Loyola University of Chicago found that “kids are twice as likely to get hurt if they play just one sport as those who play multiple sports.”
  • There has been a five-fold increase since 2000 in the number of serious elbow and shoulder injuries among youth baseball and softball players, according to the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine.
  • This stems from his experience with young athletes who not only sustain injuries but also endure what Jensen called emotional burnout. Such kids dedicate themselves to one sport starting at age 9 or 10, reach their junior or senior year of high school – and then don’t want to play anymore.

A few more stats from www.stopsportsinjuries.org and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: 

  • 30 million children and adolescents participate in youth sports in the United States
  • 5 million Children under age 14 who receive medical treatment for sports injuries each year
  • 2 million Injuries sustained annually by U.S. high school athletes
  • 500,000 Annual doctor visits by U.S. high school athletes
  • 30,000S. high school athletes hospitalized each year
  • 50 Percentage of all sports injuries to middle school and high school students attributed to overuse
  • 45 Percentage of players ages 13 and 14 who will have arm pain during a single youth baseball season
  • 40 Percentage of all sports-related injuries (treated in hospitals) sustained by children ages 5 to 14

Discussing the high-rate of sports injuries in young athletes and prevention methods is important for parents, kids, and coaches to make good decisions about improving at a sport, enjoying the sport, and keeping healthy boundaries.

A Physical Therapist is a great resource for your family if you have further questions! We can help you to understand the risks/benefits of certain sports, assess for injury risk, and provide a program to help your child develop to their full potential. 

Click here to schedule a free sample session for your son or daughter with Dr. Jessica Wiley.

The Beginners Guide to Preventing Running Injuries and Enhancing Performance

Spring is almost here! If the beautiful weather is inspiring you to get out there and start running either after a long hiatus or for the first time, read on.

In this article we’re focusing on supporting your body as it gets adjusted to the demands of running, so you can reduce the risk of injuries and channel all that newfound energy towards running that extra mile.

Alternate Forms of Exercise are Key

We know you’re probably excited and want to give running all you’ve got, but as a beginner runner it is very important to slowly increase how much pressure you put on your joints so you can prevent injuries. Even though we strongly encourage you not to run 5-7 times per week at the beginning, this doesn’t mean you have to slow down- keep the momentum going by integrating swimming, biking, or the elliptical into your regimen. Alternating between these different forms of exercise will allow you to go easy on your joints while building the cardiovascular endurance and strength that will get you ready to start running more often.

Strength Training: We Strongly Recommend it

As a beginner runner, it’s also important to Integrate strength training into your regimen in the form of runner-specific exercises. This will help your bones, tendons, ligaments, and muscles become better able to sustain the impacts of your new hobby. Keep in mind that strength training not only decreases your risk of injury and pain, it can actually improve performance, particularly if you’re integrating heavy resistance exercises into the mix.

There are a few areas that any un-injured runner can target to improve their running. Doing low impact exercises like single-leg squats or single-leg balances strengthens the muscles we most use while running while also building coordination and balance. Muscles that need to be strengthened will also vary depending on your body and the type of running you’re doing. Strengthening underdeveloped hamstrings, for example, can improve the performance of most un-injured endurance runners. Having a PT observe your running technique will let them pin point exactly what muscles need to be strengthened and the most efficient and low-impact ways to do so.

Watch Out for These Pains

In addition to this list of warnings signs (link to How to Properly Train for Long Distance Running) you should also keep an eye out for these specific but common running pains. These often arise as you get deeper into your running regimen, which often exposes misalignments and inadequacies.

HIPS. Common for many women, misalignment and poor control of the hip can lead to pain in this area. Imbalances in the hip are also to blame for iliotibial band syndrome, which shows up as pain in the outside of the knee. A PT can help you work on aligning and gaining more control of your hip while you run to decrease pain.

KNEES.  Knees are the single most at risk site for injuries in your body- in fact, anterior knee injuries account for 20% of all running injuries. Watch out for any over-striding and instead try to shorten your stride to reduce the stress in your heels, since this pressure can cause patallefemoral syndrome, more commonly known as runner’s knee.

FEET.  Experiencing pain in your feet? Achilles tendinitis, plantar fascilitis, or overpronation are common culprits. Consult with a PT to switch to better footwear or begin a safe exercise regimen, both of which have been found helpful for foot injuries.

OVER 40?  Watch out for any pain in your tendons or calfs, as these could mean an Achilles injury. Also pay attention to any pain in soft tissues, which increasingly become sites of injuries as you age.

UNDER 30?  Watch out for any pain in the longest bone of your foot, which connects to your second toe. These are common spots for stress fractures in runners under 30. Getting instruction from your PT on how to reduce the impact of running on your legs and feet significantly reduce the risk of stress fractures.

Don’t ignore these aches and let them turn into injuries that stand in your way. Don’t let inefficiencies stand in the way of the runner you could become either. Incorporate these tips into your running regimen and reach out to us with any questions or to let us know how your first few runs are working out!  

To get more guidance Click here to sign up for a 60 minute full body comprehensive running assessment by a Doctor of Physical Therapy who is a running biomechanics expert. 

Assessment includes flexibility and strength screening, video gait analysis, footwear evaluation, and on the spot advice to improve your running performance.

Avoiding Pain While Sitting at Your Desk

Like many of us these days, you are probably spending long stretches of time sitting at a desk in front of a computer. Given this almost inevitable reality, you’re also probably no stranger to the aches and pains that so commonly accompany it. Carpal tunnel, neck strain, leg pain, and lower back pain are all common, and even non-accident related back injuries are a high risk for the seemingly harmless desk job.

However, many of these injuries and pains can be prevented and alleviated through movement, exercise, and good posture. Here are some tips to keep those distracting aches at bay so you can focus all of your energy on what it is you sat at your desk to do.

JUST KEEP MOVING

One of the biggest culprits responsible for all the discomfort desk jobs bring is the one that probably comes to mind first- lack of movement. The reality is, a healthy body can only comfortably stay in one position for about 20 minutes.

When we hold one position for longer than that the elasticity of muscles, ligaments, and tendons slowly decreases, which leads to a build up of stress and pain.

Minimizing pain and preventing injuries therefore means countering the sedentary nature of a desk job with movement, and lots of it. But don’t get us wrong, we’re not talking about 10 minute walks or complex yoga poses in front of all your coworkers. Short and frequent movements is what you should aim for, and simple movements will do just fine.

We recommend combining frequent stretching plus walks every half an hour. Think bathroom breaks, quick two minute walks, or a quick snack break here and there to get your feet moving. To find great and simple stretching exercise ideas that target your neck, hands shoulders, forearms, hips, and more check out our past blog post.

There’s not one method to help you incorporate movement into your day. Maybe taking a break in the middle of a task to get some perspective is as helpful to your work as it is to your body. Maybe once you get into the flow of things it’s best to see an assignment through, and movement breaks will fall between tasks.

Perhaps you’re good at casually remembering to get up and move when it feels right, or you will use a timer to remind you. If you’re thinking the latter might be the way to go, as with most things, there is an app for that.

Whatever method you end up settling on, peppering your day with frequent movement breaks will help your body feel more balanced and your mind more centered, so you can return to your work with a renewed sense of energy and focus.


WATCH YOUR POSTURE

What you do while sitting at your chair is of course just as important as what you do when you’re taking breaks away from it. Next time you’re at your desk, avoid pain by using these simple tips to promote better posture:

-       Point your eyes at the top third of your computer screen

-       Rest your forearms as parallel to the floor as possible while you type

-       Keep your elbows at your side

-       Lay your feet flat on the floor

Bad posture often comes in the form of hunching over a computer screen. This adds stress to your shoulders, wrists, fingers, spine, and organ system. Counter this common hunched over posture by practicing the quick and simple reverse arch stretch, which helps reset posture, increase mobility of the joints, and reinvigorate blood circulation. As with all stretches, go slow, listen to your body, and stop at any sign of pain or discomfort.

Also, don’t forget that you don’t have to work on good posture all by yourself- make sure to let your back relax and settle back into a good office chair for some lower back support. Check out specific tips on how to find a good one here.

EXERCISE

Make sure to exercise when you’re out of the office to avoid pain when you’re ready to get back to work. Exercise increases strength and flexibility, decreasing the overall chances of pain and injuries.

Engage muscles that are not being used or are being used in limited ways during work time to help prevent overuse and help foster greater balance. Strengthening your core, for example, will help you stabilize your trunk while you are performing functional desk movements throughout the day. Working on your thoracic spine and hip mobility is also key, as is working on your glutes, grooving your hinge pattern, and strengthening your rotator cuff.

Designing a tailored exercise program with your PT that is specific to your body and work situation will help you most effectively prevent and alleviate the negative effects of working at a desk.

As is always true, a pain-free body means a more renewed and focused mind. Get to work with these tips and let us know how they feel!

For a more in-depth analysis of the causes and solutions of your acute or chronic pain, click here to set up a free sample session with Dr. Jessica Wiley of iAM Physical Therapy, La Jolla. 

 

5 Best Places in La Jolla to Improve Overall Wellness and Enhance Your Physical Therapy Treatment

Life can be pretty distracting these days. If we're not glued to our computers at work, chances are we’re looking at our phones following the latest news or checking out a friend’s pictures from the weekend. We can spend so much of our time out of touch with what’s happening around us, right here, right now.

It’s important to sometimes disconnect from distractions that won’t matter in a few weeks time and instead, invest our energy into things that nourish our body, heart, and mind.

Luckily, La Jolla offers plenty of beautiful places and fun spots to be mindful and healthy. The following are iAM Physical Therapy’s top 5 picks of places and businesses that inspire us to disconnect and reconnect to ourselves. Each one of these offers something new and unique to try out. 

1. The Beach 

We are so lucky to live in a city surrounded by so much natural beauty. Even thought there were quite a few places competing to be on our list, we couldn’t help but admit that there’s nothing like the beach to bring some calm and tranquility into our lives.

With blue waters, slow waves, and palm trees to our backs, La Jolla Beach was one our first picks. Chances are good you might run into marine life on its shores, which seem to go on forever in both directions.

Take a tip from the seals laying out in the sun and let go of your stress-lay out your mat wherever you’d like, take a deep breath and smell the ocean breeze, and feel your muscles stretch and bend as you practice your physical therapy exercises. Check out a few examples of exercises we’ve suggested in our past blog posts to try out.

2. BirdRock

If you’re more in the mood to get your body moving, we recommend long walks along the palm tree-lined streets and beautifully manicured houses in the seaside neighborhood of Bird Rock. This beautiful area, which lies at the southernmost end of La Jolla, also offers breathtaking lookouts to discover and explore.

Make sure to take some moments at the end of your workout to slow down, stretch, and take in the breathtaking sunset over Bird Rock’s rocky coastline before you head back home. Read over our past blog post on the importance of stretching, if you’re not quite convinced it’s worth those extra few minutes.

However, we don’t think this will be too much to ask once you're staring out at the horizon at Bird Rock. There’s nothing like the sound of slow waves crashing onto the rocks to bring us back to the present moment, and how happy and strong our body feels after a good workout. 

3. PB Yoga and Healing Arts  

If you’re looking to get your body bending in more ways than one, it’s time for yoga. The practice of yoga has been shown to have a list full of positive effects on our body, such as improving flexibility, building muscle mass or maintaining muscle strength, improving cardiovascular and respiratory function, increasing proprioception and balance, and decreasing aches and pains.  Its benefits to the mind are just as powerful, with research showing it’s ability to reduce stress, depression, anxiety, and improve sleeping habits and quality of life (article).

With a mission to “inspire and encourage those who are in search of a deeper, more fulfilling purposeful life,” PB Yoga and Healing Arts studio offers a variety of yoga classes to help you kick start your practice. While actually just outside of La Jolla in North Pacific Beach, the bright, open space and calm feel of this studio is worth the trip.

Renew your mind and body with Healing Flow Yoga or Power Up - Power Down class, or ditch the drinks and find a healthier way to de-stress by coming to Happy Hour Yoga.

PB Yoga and Healing Arts also offers Gyrotonic Pilates class, which increase your range of motion by working your joints, while also moving fluid through your body through unique therapeutic exercises. We love this studio for its quiet and serene oasis it offers us in the city, as well as for the sense of community its owner, Kate, has created.

4. F45 Training 

If you’re looking to get your heart really pumping, though, check out F45 Training. We often don’t realize how hard it is to stay motivated, while trying to develop the perfect balance of strength training and cardio. Cue a fitness studio with a team of trainers specialized in holding us to our highest workout standards.

If you are looking for a complete overhaul of your wellness routine, try their 8 week challenge. Complete with meal planning, seminars and a 45 point plan that guarantees results. 

5. Beaming 

Whatever workout you end up doing, we recommend you replenish your body’s energy with nourishing and wholesome food at one of our favorite spots, Beaming. Grab some healthy snacks and organic cold-pressed juice or a superfood smoothie if you’re on the go, rich in protein and antioxidants.

Their cafe is also perfect to get some take out next time you're having a relaxing night in or during one of your lunch breaks on a busy day, proving that grabbing a quick bite to eat doesn't have to compromise the quality of your food. Their café selections are all plant based, organic, gluten and dairy free, and GMO and preservative-free superfoods.

Make sure to also check out their wide variety of great products at their store. From a range of cleansing diets, to superfood powders (dreaming about all the things we could make with that cacao powder!), to amazing butters, like cashew cardamom butter, your whole body, not just your taste buds, will leave happy. 

We are lucky to live in such a beautiful city that inspires us to become our healthiest, strongest selves. We know we suggested disconnecting from screens at the beginning, but we take it back… send us a selfie or two from one of our top 5 picks or from a place that inspires you! Tag @iamphysicaltherapy on Instagram.  

Why Every Dancer Can Benefit From Physical Therapy

If you are a dancer chances are you have considered physical therapy to manage persistent aches and pains, or treat an injury that is keeping you from doing what you love.

But physical therapists are not only effective in treating all sorts of aches and injuries, they can also help in preventing them in the first place, and in enhancing your skills to help you reach peak performance.

TREATING ACHES, PAINS, AND INJURIES

Dancing sets itself apart from other sports in that it requires an unusually broad range of motion, making dancers more susceptible to a variety of injuries all throughout the body.

Injuries and aches can be caused by a variety of factors such as poor nutrition, lack of rest, insufficient hydration, falls, lack of strength, overuse, and improper technique.

Injuries in the neck, shoulders, low back, hips, knees, shins, feet, and ankles are not uncommon amongst dancers.  

According to a recent study in the Journal of Dance Medicine & Science, physical therapists’ ability to evaluate, intervene, and educate their clients makes them successful in treating these injuries.

Physical therapists’ effectiveness in treatment also comes from creating individualized therapeutic plans that are tailored to the unique needs and strengths of their client’s body, making recovery that much more effective.

While treating injuries, physical therapists also understand a dancer’s physical demands and urgency to get back on their feet. A physical therapist can create flexible recovery plans that modify dance techniques and allow for ‘relative rest’, minimizing recovery time and time away from studio work or the stage.

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PREVENTION

Physical therapists have a variety of ways of helping dancers avoid pain and injuries in the first place.

A frequent cause of injuries comes from lack of flexibility in certain joints which can lead to overcompensation, as well as improper technique.

A therapist’s first step in prevention is a thorough assessment and evaluation of a dancer’s body and dance technique to help pinpoint necessary corrections. 

Another important preventative tool PT’s use is education. By explaining how the latest science and dance medicine applies to their client’s unique body and situation, dancers can make better decisions about how to work with their bodies moving forward.

ENHANCE SKILLS AND STRENGTH

Physical therapy is, unfortunately, frequently underused by dancers, and it's potential to enhance strength and skill is often overlooked. Physical therapists can teach techniques specific to the field of physical therapy that can enhance a dancer’s skills. Also, a trained physical therapist is able to select appropriate exercise programs that not only strengthen dancers’ bodies, but help them sculpt it the way they want, whether they want to show off more muscles or are aiming for a more lean look.

Physical therapists have training at their disposal which make their services worthwhile for every dancer, such the ability to design targeted training to enhance dancers’ skills, or nutritional planning to ensure appropriate caloric intake and thus peak performance.

Whether you are a beginner dancer or a seasoned performer, let your physical therapist help you keep your body strong and healthy so you can keep making those graceful lines for a long time to come.

iAM Physical Therapy specializes in rehabilitating and strengthening both hobbyist and professional dancers. Contact Dr. Jessica Wiley today to learn more about how iAM Physical Therapy can help you achieve peak performance in the studio and on the stage.

How to Properly Train for Long Distance Running

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The following is an excerpt from the American Physical Therapy Association’s Guide to Healthy Running

Why do you run? For some, it’s about setting goals or staying fit. Others love being part of the running community and the freedom running can provide. No matter the reason, the rewards are undeniable.

Developing muscle strength and aerobic capacity have benefits in the long term. Most runners live longer than non-runners.1 According to a 21-year study, runners have longer lifespans and are less likely to develop a disability. 

What’s more, the downsides aren’t as bad as previously thought. Many runners think they’ll pay for abusing their knees, but studies show runners are no more likely to develop osteoarthritis of the knee than non-runners.2 If you understand and maintain proper form, your risk diminishes even further.

Physical therapists are experts in restoring and improving motion in people’s lives and can help runners improve performance, prevent injury, and get back to running. And, if an injury does occur then a physical therapist can treat it. Many physical therapists are runners themselves and subscribe to a runner’s philosophy: It’s about hard work and constant improvement. Just because you have an injury does not mean your running days are over.

 

THE STARTING LINE

Whether you’re returning to running or just beginning, it’s important to ease into a routine to allow your body to adapt. Gradually increase distance to establish a base of fitness. After you have developed a base of fitness you can gradually increase your speed and pace over time. Don’t set out to win your age group in your first race. This approach will likely lead you to an injury.

As you prepare for a race, listen to your body. Because your muscles are adjusting to the stresses of running, you may need to take a day or two off. It’s important to try to hit training program targets, but don’t stick so firmly to a program that you ignore warning signs and injure yourself. Increasing your weekly running distance by more than 10 percent from week to week can be unsafe.

Runners in their mid-30s and older should take age into consideration when returning to running or starting a regimen for the first time. Their bodies have changed and they must make adjustments to their training routines to accommodate these changes. Take time to adjust, and build your base mileage before training for a race. Ambitious goals can sometimes make you ignore pain, which can lead to injury.

 

PROPER TRAINING AND COMMON MISTAKES

Train well, race well. Physical therapist Robert Gillanders, PT, DPT, OCS, subscribes to this philosophy for himself and for the runners he trains.

Making purpose and intensity part of training requires knowledge of proper training and form. Consider the following training myths:

 Myth 1: Recovery is a break from training

Recovery time isn’t a break from training, it is part of it. Runners, particularly those at the Master’s (40+) level, can consider taking recovery time every third week instead of every fourth week during a marathon training program.

 Consider using cross training, such as the elliptical or bike, to substitute for recovery runs to give your legs a break. This allows you to rest your legs while remaining on track for a successful race.

Myth 2: Push through the pain

Runners know how to handle pain. But how do you determine what pain is normal and what is cause for alarm? Muscle soreness that eases as you run can be normal. However, pain you should be concerned about may have one or more of the following characteristics:

   Pain that does not subside within several hours after running

   On a pain scale of 1-10 (10 being worse pain), pain that exceeds 3 while running

   Pain that wakes you up at night

   Persistent pain that worsens when you run

   Pain that persists in the same area, every time you run

A physical therapist can help determine the cause of the problem and recommend effective cross training exercises, identify when poor form may be contributing to your pain, and prescribe necessary changes in training to allow the body to repair itself.

Myth 3: You can zone out on a run

Running can clear your mind and provide stress relief. However, thinking about your form while running can help you make subtle improvements.

“Listen to how you run,” Gillanders advises. “Notice how you strike the ground. Does it sound the same on both sides, or is one foot strike louder?

Notice where your foot lands relative to your body. Is it in front of you, or relatively underneath you, which is often less stressful? Recognize that as you fatigue, your form is more likely to be compromised.” Usually when a runner’s form is compromised mechanical stress increases and injury can soon follow.  

Click here to sign up for a 60 minute full body comprehensive running assessment by a Doctor of Physical Therapy who is a running biomechanics expert.

Assessment includes flexibility and strength screening, video gait analysis, footwear evaluation, and on the spot advice to improve your running performance. 

Do You Run? Avoid These Common Stretching Mistakes

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This is my first, but certainly not my last post about the importance of a dynamic, pre-run warm-up. Just changing how you warm-up and make all the difference in a successful rehabilitation; and the first step when breaking out of a chronic cumulative injury cycle.

As a runner myself, I totally understand the natural aversion runners have to warming up.  All we want to do is run. We know the sooner we put foot to pavement, road or trail, the sooner we get that long awaited fix of mind-body connection, escapism, and oneness with nature. 

In one's hectic daily life, finding time for your run is no easy feat.  Being a runner takes dedication, organization and more often than not, a high degree of time management.

Most runners also want to get faster and avoid injury. This is where we really have to weigh up how best to spend the time we find for running. For example, faced with a choice of either (A): Run for 10 minutes longer or (B): Do a 10 minute warm-up, which would you choose?  But let’s see how you feel by the end of this article.

Common misconceptions

In order to help you understand the benefits and content of an 8-10 minute warm up before every run, let us first take a look at some of the common misconceptions that in my experience are typically used to fuel our inherent desire to just get running as soon as we step outside of our front door.

I’ve heard stretching before a run can reduce performance?

When I talk about a warm-up, I am not referring to the traditional static stretching we were encouraged to do 10 years ago. It is true that research (Florida State University, 2010) has shown that static stretching (holding a stretch for over 60 seconds) can inhibit performance.

In the research, trained distance runners became about 5% less efficient and covered 3% less distance in a time trial after doing static stretching before the run. However, we are not talking about static stretching here. We are talking about dynamic stretching – controlled, repetitive sports-specific movements that mimic the way your muscles and connective tissues will need to move during your chosen activity. And in case you are still worried, a follow up to the aforementioned research stated that there is no evidence that dynamic stretching before a run inhibits performance.

A light jog is a sufficient warm-up, no?

For most runners, a slow paced first mile is regarded as enough to prepare the body for the exertion it is about to undergo. And indeed, some runners seem to get by on just this, although whether they are forsaking some of their true potential is another matter. Given that 30- 70% of runners (depending on the source) get injured every year, I suggest you do not put too much faith in what the masses do.

Running is an extended series of hopping from one leg to the other whilst trying to minimize ground contact time (with some help from gravity, depending on your running form), dealing with forces of around 2.5 times your body weight each time your foot hits the ground. 

An easy mile at a 12-minute pace involves approximately 1,951 steps (hops), compared to 1,064 for a 6-minute-mile (Boise State University). Are you still happy to leave your house and go straight into an easy mile warm up?

If I waste time on warm-ups I won’t be able to get enough miles done every week.

For distance runners, there is no doubt that improving your aerobic capacity is crucial. The secret to improving aerobic capacity is maintaining a high weekly mileage volume. The more oxygen your muscles are able to utilise as you run, the more energy you will have and the faster you will be able to run over that distance.

However, the aerobic system is only one of two factors involved in developing running performance. The other is neuromuscular fitness, the ability of your brain to communicate and activate muscles whilst you are running.

Though traditionally training focuses on developing the efficiency of the heart, lungs, muscles, etc, it is your brain that controls all of these, controls everything in fact. Your running form, efficiency, economy, power, stride length, stride frequency and ultimately fatigue resistance – all of these are neuromuscular in nature. None of them will be developed just by focusing on aerobic fitness.

Also, and maybe most importantly, although the precise reason for many running related injuries is still the subject of research, it is very likely that poor form, efficiency, economy and fatigue are major factors.

Dynamic stretching 

In this way, the warm-up is no longer just preparation of your muscles and connective tissues for the dynamic range of movement you will require during your run.  It is an opportunity to “switch your brain on”, to “wake up” that vital communication between brain and muscles in preparation for efficient, safe running; a chance to practice movement patterns that may promote a more efficient running form which in turn may delay the fatigue and pain that has been holding back your performance and opening you up to repeated injury.

If you go straight into an easy paced mile as a warm-up, you run the risk of launching into 1,951 poorly performed slow hops, perfect preparation for 1,200 to 1,500 poorly performed fast hops every mile once you turn up the pace.

A key part of a successful neuromuscular development is concentrating on what you are doing.

Neuromuscular training is about stimulating the brain’s communication with the muscles. It therefore follows that any exercise or drill we perform to improve such communication needs to involve an element of concentration and skill requirement. We need to stimulate the brain, encourage it to communicate and activate more muscle fibres, improve timing so that the movements involved in stride mechanics become more coordinated and efficient. Simply going through the motions is not enough.

An 8-10 minute warm-up before every run can be a great time to fit this in. With a focus on using your time wisely, no equipment is required.

Consistency is key. By performing a conscious, skill based warm up before every run, based on the exercises shown below, you will be giving yourself a true chance to discover how powerful a tool regular neuromuscular training can be in improving your running performance and reducing injury occurrence. Once you start seeing ancillary work as a vital, productive part of your training as opposed to an extra bit forced upon you by your coach or physical therapist, I have confidence that you will see your running move to a new level.

Click here to sign up for a 60 minute full body comprehensive running assessment by a Doctor of Physical Therapy who is a running biomechanics expert. Assessment includes flexibility and strength screening, video gait analysis, footwear evaluation, and on the spot advice to improve your running performance. 

New Year’s Resolutions - Better Posture

Have you started working on your 2017 resolutions yet? Don’t forget to push a resolution to “improve posture” to the top of the list.

Why? Well, besides being a key to overall good health, better posture can also help you achieve goals for 2017 in other parts of your life. Studies show that good posture will make you more confident, increase your energy levels and help you manage stress—all traits you need to tackle your resolutions this year.

Good posture is an especially important goal for those who spend most of their day sitting at a desk. A healthy back has three natural curves, which good posture helps maintain:

  • An inward curve at the neck
  • An outward curve at the upper back
  • An inward curve at the lower back

Good posture takes strain off your joints and muscles, preventing aches and pains.  Long term, poor posture can give you shoulder pain, neck aches, back pain, headaches and even decreased lung function.

 If you've put better posture on your list of New Year’s resolutions, follow these tips to keep your spine healthy and your appearance confident throughout the year.

1. Improve core strength.

A strong core is a key component in having good posture, because your core supports your upper body, giving you more strength to hold yourself up. Core exercises can help build these muscles.

Yoga is a more relaxing way to build your core strength. Not only so, but yoga also can improve your balance, flexibility and range of motion, all which can contribute to better posture.

Take a few minutes out of your day to stretch, as well.

2. Use available tools.

Posture Aware is an app that gives you strength exercises as well as stretches for neck, back, shoulder and spine flexibility. It also gives you the option to view different posture techniques and set reminders to correct yours.

Lumo Body Tech Back. This app uses a band you put on your lower back which gently vibrates every time you slouch to remind you to sit up straight. The app then tracks your progress on your posture, including how long you sit and how many steps you take throughout the day.

You are more at risk for worse posture and health complications if you sit for long periods of time each day. Raised Square is an app that reminds you to take breaks throughout the work day and stand up, stretch or walk around.

The neck muscles can also be strained from your poor posture when you’re looking down at your cell phone. Practicing this simple exercise can be helpful to cure “smartphone neck.”

3. Stick with it.

Put a post-it note on the top of your computer screen at work and your mirrors at home. Ask your friends to remind you whenever you see them. Tape some photos on your refrigerator of how unattractive slouching looks to give you motivation to keep it up. Wherever you spend your time throughout the day, make sure you are reminded!

Every time you practice better posture, you are teaching your body how to stand up straight. Repetition will help your body get away from slouching. Remember better posture this year for your New Year’s resolutions and its health benefits!

This year, dedicate your New Year’s resolution to improving your posture and overall muscular/skeletal health. A great way to keep yourself to these goals is working with a trained Physical Therapist. 

Sign up for a free consultation with Dr. Jessica Wiley to learn how physical therapy can help you achieve your 2017 fitness goals. 

How much exercise do you need to stay healthy?

For general good health, the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommends that adults get a minimum of 2-1/2 hours per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity. Yet many people may need more than 2-1/2 hours of moderate intensity activity a week to stay at a stable weight.

The Women’s Health Study, for example, followed 34,000 middle-aged women for 13 years to see just how much physical activity they needed to stay within 5 pounds of their weight at the start of the study. Researchers found that women who were in the normal weight range at the start of the study needed the equivalent of an hour a day of physical activity to stay at a steady weight.

If you are exercising mainly to lose weight, 30 minutes or so a day may be effective in conjunction with a healthy diet. 

If you currently don’t exercise and aren’t very active during the day, any increase in exercise or physical activity is good for you.

Some studies show that walking briskly for even one to two hours a week (15 to 20 minutes a day) starts to decrease the chances of having a heart attack or stroke, developing diabetes, or dying prematurely.

You can combine moderate and vigorous exercise over the course of the week, and it’s fine to break up your activity into smaller bursts as long as you sustain the activity for at least 10 minutes.

Here is a summary of the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. More information is available on the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans website.

Children and adolescents should get at least 1 hour or more a day of physical activity in age-appropriate activities, spending most of that engaged in moderate- or vigorous–intensity aerobic activities. They should partake in vigorous-intensity aerobic activity on at least three days of the week, and include muscle-strengthening and bone strengthening activities on at least three days of the week.

Healthy adults should get a minimum of 2-1/2 hours per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, or a minimum of 1-1/4 hours per week of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity, or a combination of the two. That could mean a brisk walk for 30 minutes a day, five days a week; a high-intensity spinning class one day for 45 minutes, plus a half hour jog another day; or some other combination of moderate and vigorous activity. Doubling the amount of activity (5 hours moderate- or 2-1/2 hours vigorous-intensity aerobic activity) provides even more health benefits. Adults should also aim to do muscle-strengthening activities at least two days a week.

Healthy older Adults should follow the guidelines for healthy adults. Older adults who cannot meet the guidelines for healthy adults because of chronic conditions should be as physically active as their abilities and conditions allow. People who have chronic conditions such as arthritis and type 2 diabetes should talk to a healthcare provider about the amount and type of activity that is best. Physical activity can help people manage chronic conditions, as long as the activities that individuals choose match their fitness level and abilities. Even just an hour a week of activity has health benefits. Older adults who are at risk of falling should include activities that promote balance.

Strength Training

Studies have shown strength training to increase lean body mass, decrease fat mass, and increase resting metabolic rate (a measurement of the amount of calories burned per day) in adults. While strength training on its own typically does not lead to weight loss, its beneficial effects on body composition may make it easier to manage one’s weight and ultimately reduce the risk of disease, by slowing the gain of fat—especially abdominal fat.

Muscle is metabolically active tissue; it utilizes calories to work, repair, and refuel itself. Fat, on the other hand, doesn’t use as much energy. We slowly lose muscle as part of the natural aging process, which means that the amount of calories we need each day starts to decrease, and it becomes easier to gain weight.

Weight training has also been shown to help fight osteoporosis. For example, a study of postmenopausal women examined whether regular strength training and high-impact aerobics sessions would help prevent osteoporosis. Researchers found that the women who participated in at least two sessions a week for three years were able to preserve bone mineral density at the spine and hip; over the same time period, a sedentary control group showed bone mineral density losses of 2 to 8 percent.

In older populations, resistance training can help maintain the ability to perform functional tasks such as walking, rising from a chair, climbing stairs, and even carrying one’s own groceries. An emerging area of research suggests that muscular strength and fitness may also be important to reducing the risk of chronic disease and mortality, but more research is needed. 

he Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommends that muscle strengthening activities be done at least two days a week. Different types of strength training activities are best for different age groups.

Flexibility training

Flexibility training or stretching exercise is another important part of overall fitness. It may help older adults preserve the range of motion they need to perform daily tasks and other physical activities.

The American Heart Association recommends that healthy adults engage in flexibility training two to three days per week, stretching major muscle and tendon groups.

For older adults, the American Heart Association and American College of Sports Medicine recommend two days a week of flexibility training, in sessions at least 10 minutes long. Older adults who are at risk of falling should also do exercises to improve their balance.

Dr. Jessica Wiley can determine exactly what exercise routine is best for you, as well as perform body work to stretch muscles and prevent injury.

Click here to get a free one-on-one consultation. 

How Can a Physical Therapist Help to Heal and Prevent Low Back Pain?

A trained physical therapist can realign the pelvis manually, which can relieve low back pain immediately and without discomfort. 

A trained physical therapist can realign the pelvis manually, which can relieve low back pain immediately and without discomfort. 

If you have low back pain, you are not alone. At any given time, about 25% of people in the United States report having low back pain within the past 3 months.

In many cases, the pain is temporary and it disappears on its own. For some people, however, back pain can return or hang on, leading to a decrease in quality of life or even to disability.

How can a Physical Therapist help?

Your physical therapist can help you improve or restore mobility and reduce low back pain—in many cases, without expensive surgery, painful shots, or pain medications with side effects.

Not all low back pain is the same, so your treatment should be tailored to fit your specific symptoms and condition. Once the examination is complete, your physical therapist will evaluate the results, identify the factors that have contributed to your specific back problem, and design an individualized treatment plan for your specific back problem. Treatments may include:

  • Manual therapy, including spinal mobilizations, to improve the mobility of joints and soft tissues
  • Specific strengthening and flexibility exercises
  • Education about how you can take better care of your back
  • Training for proper lifting, bending, and sitting; for doing chores both at work and in the home; and for proper sleeping positions
  • Assistance in creating a safe and effective physical activity program to improve your overall health
  • Use of ice or heat treatments, electrical stimulation, and kinesio- tape to help relieve pain

How can I prevent low back pain?

As experts in restoring and improving mobility and movement in people’s lives, physical therapists play an important role not only in treating persistent or recurrent low back pain, but also in preventing it and reducing your risk of having it come back.

Physical therapists can teach you how to use the following strategies to prevent back pain:

  • Use good body positioning at work, home, or during leisure activities.
  • Keep the load close to your body during lifting.
  • Ask for help before lifting heavy objects.
  • Maintain a regular physical fitness regimen—staying active can help to prevent injuries.

If you or a loved one are suffering from acute or chronic low back pain, consider signing up for a FREE SAMPLE SESION with Dr. Jessica Wiley so you can get back to doing your favorite activities without the burden of pain.