How Physical Therapy Can Help With Chronic Headaches

Headaches can have many causes directly tied to other physical ailments which are often ignored and can bring relief when treated. According to Valencia physical therapist Tim Eckard, a common mistake many people make is relying on temporary solutions, such as pain killers, to treat chronic headaches without addressing the underlying issues.  

According to Eckard and the National Headache Foundation, individuals suffering from certain types of headaches, such as cervicogenic headaches, often also suffer from ailments such as a stiff neck and muscle tenderness. Because of this connection, pain from these symptoms and chronic headaches can often be relieved through the proper physical therapy treatment. 

Working with a physical therapist can help patients who suffer from pain and headaches: 

  • Identify and create a plan of action to treat their pain triggers 
  • Decrease the frequency of headaches and intensity of their symptoms 
  • Improve their mobility and range of motion 
  • Modify and break bad habits to prevent pain and headaches in the future 
  • Improve muscle strength in their back and shoulders 

A licensed physical therapist can work with a patient to determine their specific triggers and develop a treatment plan to relieve their pain. If you suffer from chronic headaches and would like to learn if physical therapy treatment is right for you, contact Kinetix Advanced Physical Therapy to learn more.  

Holiday Season an Ideal Time for a Refresher on Proper Lifting

From digging out boxes of holiday decor and hauling packages to and from the home, to hiding gifts away on higher shelves at the back of your closet, the Holiday Season requires its fair share of bending, lifting and reaching. 

This, coupled with the cooler weather, makes December an ideal time for a refresher on proper lifting methods, says Valencia physical therapist Tim Eckard. 

“Back pain and injury can put a real damper on the Holiday Season, yet it’s one of the most common conditions we treat as medical professionals,” said Eckardco-owner and clinic director of Kinetix Advanced Physical Therapy in Valencia, Lancaster and Santa Clarita. 

“Fortunately, it’s also a condition that’s preventable. One of the ways to keep the spine healthy is learning, and practicing, proper lifting techniques.” 

Needless to say, preventing back pain is a key concern when someone does a lot of bending and lifting. After all, approximately 80% of all Americans will experience back pain at some point in their lives, making it one of the top causes of disability in the U.S. 

The back, however, should not be one’s only area of concern when lifting. 

“When we talk about proper lifting techniques, we’re talking about protecting the back, yes. But, we’re also looking to minimize strain on the entire body,” Eckard said. “The goal is to put yourself in a position that allows the body’s musculoskeletal system to work as one cohesive unit, without putting too much strain on one area, such as the lower back, hips or shoulders.” 

Taking this all into consideration, Eckard offers the following tips for proper lifting: 

Warm Up

Don’t ever assume your body is ready to lift heavy objects without first being thoroughly warmed up. Take the time to stretch your lower back, legs and hips. Also, do a few jumping jacks, high knees or lunges to get your blood flowing. 

Get Close

Avoid reaching for heavy or moderately sized objects. Get nice and close to the box or object to minimize the force (in the arms, shoulders and back) necessary to lift the item.   

Bend and Lift with the Knees

We’ve all heard this before, and that’s because it’s true. Keep your back straight and body upright as you lower yourself to the object in question. Then, use your legs to rise into a standing position. 

Get a Grit

 If you can’t get a strong, comfortable grip on an object – even if you know you can carry the weight – don’t push your luck. Find someone to help or an alternative way of moving the object from point A to B, such as a handcart or dolly. 

Reverse the Steps

When you get to where you’re going, set the item down just as you picked it up, but in reverse. Keep it close to your body, and lower with your legs. Move slowly and deliberately. You can just as easily injure yourself while setting objects down as by picking them up. 

“As you’re lifting something, also try to keep from twisting or reaching while carrying the weight,” Eckard added. “Don’t rush through the process of lifting, and if you’re tired, save the task for later.” 

Finally, if you feel pain during or after lifting, or you have an injury or condition you believe is keeping you from moving properly, visit a physical therapist for a full assessment. 

5 Ways to Feel Gratitude in the Face of Challenges

November is a month when gratitude takes its place in the spotlight of American culture. Yet, with the challenges our country has faced this year, a popular notion as we approach the final weeks of 2020 is “let’s just get this year over with.” 

While he understands the sentiment, Valencia physical therapist Tim Eckard would like to remind people that it’s possible to be thankful for, and even embrace, the challenges we experience in life. 

“When we consider what we have to be grateful for this Thanksgiving season, let’s not overlook the ways challenges can have a positive effect on our lives,” said Eckardco-owner and clinic director of Kinetix Advanced Physical Therapy in Valencia, Lancaster and Santa Clarita. 

“Yes, it’s been a tough year in so many ways, but being able to express gratitude in the face of all these challenges isn’t just good for the soul. Research shows it’s also good for overall health.” 

One study from 2012, for example, reported that grateful people generally experience fewer aches and pains and report feeling “healthier” than other groups. This is no surprise when you consider that, based on various research, grateful people exercise more, get better sleep, and follow up on regular health check-ups. 

From a psychological perspective, higher levels of gratitude increase happiness, reduce depression and aggression, and cultivate resilience in life. 

“We could all use a little more positivity, whether we’re talking about 2020 or any other year,” Eckard said. “The key, even in the face of big challenges, is to actively identify and express gratitude in our day-to-day lives.” 

How? Eckard offers the following advice: 

Embrace Your Challenges

This is oftentimes easier said than done, especially during the fallout of a long-term global pandemic. Keep in mind, though, that when approached constructively, challenges often bring out our best selves. They make us stronger and more focused, confident and capable. 

Celebrate Minor Victories

You’ve heard the phrase, “Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good.” This simply means that victories regularly come in increments, and that small improvements are often worth celebrating. Keep this in mind as you work to achieve your goals (regardless of size) and as we continually strive for post-COVID normalcy. 

Acknowledge & Express Gratitude

Knowing you have a lot to be thankful for isn’t the same as regularly considering, jotting down and expressing your positive thoughts. Being grateful should be an active process. 

By forcing yourself to consider specific things you’re grateful for every day, you’ll train your mind to more naturally think in these terms. Expressing gratitude in overt (i.e., writing a thank-you letter) and creative ways can give this positivity an even bigger boost. 

Surround Yourself with Positivity

The levels of positivity in the company you keep can directly affect your ability to be feel gratitude. Being around positive people and those you love and respect can feel energizing and lead to greater levels of optimism in your life. 

Volunteer

As a way of giving back to others in your community, volunteering – especially during this era of the coronavirus and economic downturn – can make you feel more grateful about your own life. Studies have shown that helping others through volunteering can also increase our personal level of well-being. 

See Your PT Annually for Injury Prevention, Early Intervention

We all know that visiting your physician for an annual physical is important for maintaining long-term health. Similarly, dental exams twice each year help ensure oral health throughout a lifetime. 

But, did you know that annual physical therapy check-ups provide the third critical (and often overlooked) component of long-term health and preventative care for people of all ages? 

As we observe National Physical Therapy Month each October, Valencia physical therapist Tim Eckard notes that physical therapy exams focus on one’s ability to move freely and independently while living a safe and active life. 

“The primary focus of a physical therapist is the musculoskeletal system – the bones, joints, muscles and connective tissues that make it possible for you to not just move, but experience life on your own terms,” said Eckardco-owner and clinic director of Kinetix Advanced Physical Therapy in Valencia, Lancaster and Santa Clarita. 

“As a physical therapist, my job is to ensure this system is working optimally so limitations like strength, balance, flexibility, pain, and so on don’t stand in the way of a person’s quality of life.” 

Based on the results of a physical therapy “check-up,” a physical therapist is able to provide clients with individualized treatment plans and/or programs meant to help prevent future, movement-limiting problems. 

The goal of these assessments and related interventions is to ensure a high quality of life for those who wish to stay active and independent. As part of this, physical therapists are often able to identify issues that may lead to long-term health problems, such as pain, injury and disease. 

“Movement is medicine, and being able to stay physically active plays a huge role in disease prevention, managing chronic conditions and, in general, taking greater control of your health,” Eckard said. “We as physical therapists help people avoid pain, injury and other issues that could lead them toward becoming more sedentary and at greater risk of these types of issues.” 

According to the American Association of Physical Therapy (APTA), physical therapists are highly-skilled, licensed health care professionals who help patients reduce pain and improve or restore mobility. 

During a preventative check-up, a physical therapist will evaluate such things as movement and injury history, balance, aerobic capacity, functional strength, flexibility, and quality of movement (i.e., gait, reach, bending, etc.). 

In addition, a physical therapist will work with each person to address any personal limitations, weaknesses, pain or other impairments that may be holding them back from reaching lifestyle and movement goals. 

“We recommend that, just as with their personal physicians, people should see a physical therapist for a check-up once each year,” Eckard said. Physical therapy check-ups should also be considered: 

  • Whenever one experiences pain, discomfort or strain when doing an activity they enjoy. 
  • Whenever one is considering a new fitness or training program, or starting a new sport. 
  • Following the completion of post-surgery rehab, when trying to resume normal activities. 
  • Or, after any surgery or condition that has led to bed rest. 

For more information about annual physical therapy check-ups, contact the physical therapy team at Kinetix Advanced Physical Therapy with questions or to schedule an evaluation. 

Debunking Common Fall Prevention Myths

Every September during National Falls Prevention Week (Sept. 21-25, 2020), physical therapists join other medical professions across the country in reminding Americans that falls are not just common among older Americans. They’re often debilitating, costly and even deadly. 

They’re also largely preventable, says Valencia physical therapist Tim Eckard. 

“Falls present a real public health problem among older adults, but so often they’re caused by things that are easy to identify and fix,” said Eckardco-owner and clinic director of Kinetix Advanced Physical Therapy in Valencia, Lancaster and Santa Clarita. 

“Balance and strength issues, trip hazards in the home, poor vision, and even certain prescription medications can increase someone’s chance of falling,” Eckard added. “These are all things that can and should be addressed as people enter their golden years, before they experience a fall.” 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that one in four Americans 65 and older experience a fall each year. Less than half actually report the incident to a doctor or loved one. 

Of those falls, about one in every five result in a serious injury (i.e., a broken bone or head injury), leading to more than 3 million emergency room visits and 800,000 hospitalizations each year. In 2015, these treatments and hospitalizations cost a total of about $50 billion, three-fourths of which was paid for through Medicare and Medicaid. 

“We like to shine a spotlight on this critical issue because it’s one that we can improve with a more preventative mindset,” Eckard said. “One of the ways we can do this is by setting the record straight about some common myths older people have about falling.” 

According to Eckard, the following beliefs or either incorrect, misleading, or both: 

Falling is just a part of getting older

Wrong. Falling does not have to be a part of aging. As already discussed, the most common causes of falls are easy to identify and fix before a fall happens. 

I won’t fall if I just stay home and limit my activities

First off, more than half of all falls take place in the home. It’s true, and it’s likely because our guards are most often down when we’re home. Home is also where we spend most of our time, including moments when we’re not always at our most alert (i.e., mornings, middle of the night, etc.). 

As for reducing activity, this can actually increase your chances of falling. When you become more sedentary is when you begin to lose muscle mass, flexibility, and range of motion, which can drastically affect your balance. 

Declining strength and flexibility are inevitable

Yes, it’s true the body tends to become weaker and less flexible as we age, but most older adults can recoup and maintain a lot of this through regular exercise and activity. It’s never too late to improve your strength, flexibility and balance. 

Using walking aids make me less independent

Some older adults can benefit from the use of a cane or walker, and there’s no shame in this. When used properly, these devices can improve your mobility and make it possible for you to live a more active life. 

There’s no point in talking about falls unless they happen

If you’re concerned about falling either in the short term or the long, don’t keep it to yourself. By garnering support from loved ones and teaming up with a physical therapist, your fall risk can be properly evaluated and improved. 

Following an initial evaluation, a physical therapist can create you a personalized fall prevention program that may include exercise, a home safety assessment, and perhaps the use of a walking aid. To learn more, contact the team at Kinetix Advanced Physical Therapy today. 

Kinetix PT Offers Work-From-Home Advice on National Blog

The folks at Redfin, a national real estate website that dishes out home and lifestyle advice to its followers, recently turned to our Kinetix Physical Therapy team for tips to help people working from home during (and perhaps even after) the current national health crisis.

Titled “How to Work From Home Comfortably: Tips From the Experts,” Redfin content editors sought advice from a number of physical therapists, including our own Kevin Bell, DPT. The resulting article provides a mix of advice and strategies for ensuring that you’re not just comfortable while working from your home workstation, but that you’re also productive, active and safe from the development of pain and injury.

Here’s the advice Kevin contributed to this article:

Try a series of neck rolls every hour

Sustained positions while working at home are bad for the body, and the neck/shoulders area is often the first to sound the alarm through tension and discomfort. Do your neck and head a favor by, every 30 minutes, step away from your screen and do a series of slow neck rolls – both clockwise and counter-clockwise.

— Kevin Bell, DPT, Kinetix Physical Therapy

We strongly recommend you check out the entire article here, on the Redfin blog. We know you’ll learn something new that’ll help you conquer your work-from-home challenges!

And, if you’re already experiencing pain or discomfort from your work-at-home situation, or feel your situation requires a more individualized approach, we’re here to help. Simply contact us, and we’ll be happy to set up an initial consultation to assess you, your situation and your goals.

Prevent Injury When Returning to Activity

After nearly six months of home quarantines, social distancing, gym closures, and cancelled/postponed athletic seasons, it’s been difficult for many to maintain consistent workout routines. 

But, as more people begin settling into “new normals” related to work, parenting, masking and so on, personal health is once again taking a greater role in people’s lives. While this should be applauded, Valencia physical therapist Tim Eckard says people should be prudent as they strive to rebuild their fitness regimens. 

“If you’ve taken some downtime from regular exercise, you’re not going to be able to pick right back up from where you left off,” said Eckardco-owner and clinic director of Kinetix Advanced Physical Therapy in Valencia, Lancaster and Santa Clarita. “Your strength, endurance and flexibility won’t be the same, and you should accept it before you even start a new routine.” 

While various studies conclude different levels of strength or cardio loss when people skip workouts, most general conclusions show that deconditioning (as it’s known) can be significant after just a few days to a couple of weeks of inactivity. 

“It’s a use-it-or-lose-it proposition,” Eckard said. “So, if it’s been a while, and you want to avoid injury, take it back down to square one until your body becomes reacclimated and you have a good sense of your new fitness levels.” 

In addition to this sage advice, Eckard offers the following tips for easing back into a personal workout regimen: 

Start Slow, Build Gradually

Again – and for the sake of both your body and your willpower –don’ttry to do too much at once. This can leave you vulnerable to injury while making you feel defeated before your new routine has even begun to take hold.

Instead, start with briefer workouts with lower levels of intensity. Focus on doing and not your performance, paying particular attention to maintaining good technique and form as your conditioning ramps back up. 

Focus on the Big Three

Include resistance training, cardioenduranceand flexibility into all of your workouts. Each of these three components are critical in keeping your body strong, balanced and free of injury. 

Don’tSkip Rest & Recovery

While you may be incredibly motivated to get back into shape, don’t lose sight of the role rest and recovery play in getting you there safely and successfully. Don’t over train, in other words. 

“We need to give our bodies the chance to rest and repair itself following workouts,” Eckard said. “It’s a critical process for long-term health and fitness while helping you avoid injury.”  

Be Consistent

As you build endurance,strengthand flexibility, also work to build consistency in your workout frequency. This is essential for rebuilding good fitness habits, but it also leads to more considerable results than periodic workouts – despite the intensity of such workouts. 

CheckInwith a Physical Therapist

As experts in optimal movement, function and exercise, physical therapists can play a key role in establishing an individualized, baseline routine to safely get you going on a new exercise regimen. In doing so, a physical therapist can also identify, then address, strength and movement deficiencies that may make it more difficult to begin a new fitness routine. 

“And, when extreme soreness, pain or possible injury threatens to throw you off track, physical therapists are there to quickly identify its cause, then provide solutions for maintaining fitness levels while addressing the discomfort,” Eckard said. 

Will Running Damage Your Knees? Studies Say No.

Is running bad for your knees? 

According to Valencia physical therapist Tim Eckard, this is a common question among both avid runners and those who may start running for exercise or to participate in that first 5K. 

For most people, though, the answer is a resounding no. 

“This question really highlights a common misconception about running – that it’s an activity that’s good for the heart but bad for the knees,” said Eckardco-owner and clinic director of Kinetix Advanced Physical Therapy in Valencia, Lancaster and Santa Clarita. “But, the truth is there’s really little evidence that running, when done properly, actually does damage or increases a person’s risk of developing arthritis in their knees.” 

In fact, research has shown the very opposite, Eckard says. 

According to an analysis of multiple studies, for example – findings that were published in the Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy in 2017 – 10.2 percent of non-runners develop osteoarthritis in knees or hips, while these ailments develop in just 3.5 percent of recreational runners. 

Further research has revealed that when it comes to the risk of developing osteoarthritis, running takes a back seat to other, more worrisome factors like knee injury history, genetics, occupational exposure to risky movements, age and obesity. 

This and other research, says Eckard, simply support the much broader viewpoint that living a more sedentary lifestyle puts one at a much higher risk of chronic pain and conditions, like osteoarthritis, than living a more active life. 

“In physical therapy, we often use the phrase, ‘movement is medicine,’” Eckard said. “Well, in this case, it’s mostly true. Unless someone has other underlying conditions that make running difficult or which cause more wear and tear on the muscles and joints – such as bad form or overtraining – you can rest assured that recreational running is safe on the knees and joints.” 

That’s certainly not to say, Eckard says, that runners are immune to pain and injury. Issues like runner’s knee, shin splints, Achilles and foot pain, and so on are experienced by thousands of runners every year. 

These conditions, however, are often due to issues such like bad running mechanics, muscle imbalances, improper footwear, overexertion, or not enough rest and recovery between workouts. 

As a physical therapist, Eckard regularly works with runners of all ages and levels to identify these underlying causes of pain and injury. Through professional running and movement assessments, as well as a physical examination of affected areas, Eckard and his team can pinpoint, then address, the true sources of the pain. 

The Kinetix Advanced Physical Therapy team can then ensure the safety and longevity of runners through one or a combination of strategies, like strength and flexibility exercises, the establishment of better running mechanics, new running shoes/insoles, or the development of a more individualized exercise regimen. 

Walk Away from Back Pain & Toward a Healthier You

The man who wrote the words, “We hold these truths to be self-evident,” was later quick to document what he discovered to be another unquestioning truth. 

“The sovereign invigorator of the body is exercise, and of all the exercises, walking is best,” Thomas Jefferson wrote during the mid-1780s. “There is no habit you will value so much as that of walking far without fatigue.” 

More than two centuries later, during a time when social distancing has interrupted so much within our lives, Valencia physical therapist Tim Eckard continues to promote walking as not just great exercise, but also great medicine. 

“There’s no one drug that can so positively affect your body as exercise, and that’s why many consider walking a wonder drug,” said Eckardco-owner and clinic director of Kinetix Advanced Physical Therapy in Valencia, Lancaster and Santa Clarita. “It not only makes you healthier, but also happier – each of which is so important during this COVID-19 era.” 

Multiple studies have shown walking is effective in everything from losing weight, strengthening the immune system, reducing blood pressure and warding off depression, to preventing diseases such as diabetes and cancer. 

It’s also proven effective for easing and preventing back pain, which affects 8 of 10 people in the U.S. 

“Walking isn’t just about exercise, it’s also about self-care,” Eckard said. “If for instance you’re dealing with some back pain, but you don’t feel comfortable leaving your home for an assessment or treatment during the pandemic, walking can be a way to cope with, and even overcome, the discomfort.” 

One study conducted by Tel Aviv University’s Stanley Steyer School of Health Professions (2013) concluded that home aerobic walking programs may, in some cases, be as effective as clinical treatments for easing lower back pain. 

According to the study, when people walk, their abdominal and back muscles work in much the same way as they do when one performs exercises specifically meant to target these areas. 

“What makes walking all the more effective than these other exercise,” Eckard said, “is that walking requires no special equipment and can easily fit into a person’s daily routine.” 

The inherent health benefits of a regular walking program include: 

  • Stronger Muscles in the Feet, Legs, Hips & Torso: This increases stability of the spine, conditioning these muscles to keep the body upright and balanced. 
  • A Nourished Spine: Walking encourages improved circulation, which allows the body to pump nutrients into the spine’s soft tissues while washing away toxins. 
  • Improved Flexibility & Posture: Along with regular stretching, walking does what other, more targeted exercise are designed to do: helps increase range of motion while preventing injury through better movement. 

Walking also works to stimulate the brain into releasing serotonin and endorphins, neurotransmitter chemicals that can make you feel better both physically and mentally. 

Coupled with the simple distraction inherent in a vigorous stroll, this can lead to a 10 to 50 percent reduction in lower back pain after just a single session of walking, according to a study published in The Spine Journal. 

“Walking is one of the easiest, most accessible way to get exercise,” Eckard said. “It doesn’t cost anything, and it’s something virtually anyone can do, even during COVID-19. Just continue to abide by all social distancing guidelines when on the sidewalks and trails.” 

When beginning a walking program, start off slow and easy, then gradually build up your speed and distance. If you struggle to begin due to back pain, impairments in movement or other ailments, consult the physical therapy team at Kinetix Advanced Physical Therapy for guidance. 

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