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. 

About Kinetix Advanced Physical Therapy

Create an At-Home Workspace to Stay Pain-Free

As millions transition into working from home to help thwart the spread of the coronavirus, maintaining both comfort and productivity has no doubt been an issue for many. 

While in-office workstations are often designed around ergonomic considerations and long-term trial and error, ensuring optimal comfort and health, home workspaces can often fall short in this regard, says Valencia physical therapist Tim Eckard. 

Self Care & Injury Prevention

“While it sometimes feels we’re all sacrificing right now to survive the COVID-19 outbreak, that doesn’t mean we ignore self-care,” said Eckardco-owner and clinic director of Kinetix Advanced Physical Therapy in Valencia, Lancaster and Santa Clarita. “That includes focusing on the hours you spend every day working from home, ensuring your workspace – whether at your kitchen table or at a desk in the corner of a spare bedroom – isn’t putting you at risk of pain or injury.” 

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), injuries resulting from work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WMSD) due to poor workplace ergonomics account for 34 percent of all workday injuries and illnesses. 

Neck strains, pain in the shoulders or lower back, tendinitis, bursitis, carpal tunnel syndrome … Eckard says these and other common ailments and injuries can and should be prevented in the workplace, even when that workplace is in your home. 

Boost Productivity

“These are the types of injuries we associate with poor workplace ergonomics,” Eckard said. “Sitting in fixed or constrained positions most of the day, often repeating movements with the arms, hands and wrists, can take a toll on your body, leaving you more vulnerable to injury to the muscles, tendons and nerves.” 

In contrast, OSHA estimates that the implementation of proper office ergonomics can increase productivity by an average of 11 percent. 

“As a rule, a comfortable workspace is great for productivity and morale,” Eckard said. “Whether your work-from-home stint ends in weeks or months, it’s important to consider workspace improvements with an eye toward longevity.”  

Eckard offers the following basic guidelines for creating a safe and comfortable workstation: 

  • Set your desk, chair, keyboard and mouse in position so your hands, wrists and forearms rest in straight lines and run parallel to the floor. Use a wrist rest for your keyboard and mouse, if needed. Allow yourupper-armsto hang normally from the side of your body, elbows bent at around 90 degrees. 
  • Place your monitor at a height that keeps your head level (or bent forward slightly) and in line with the rest of your body. The top of your monitor should sit slightly below eye level and about an arm’s length away.
  • Ensure your chair offers proper lumbar support, allowing for a slight inner curve of the lower spine.
  • Keep your knees at about the same (or slightly lower) height as your hips, and make sure your feet can sit flatly on the floor. If they don’t fully reach the floor, bring in a footrest to support your feet.
  • Take frequent breaks from sitting. Take time to stand up and stretch for a minute or two every half-hour or so. And, if you can, take a walk over breaks or during lunch.

If stiffness, soreness, numbness and pain persist, or you have a question about setting up a proper workspace in your home, contact the physical therapy team at Kinetix Advanced Physical Therapy to discuss options for an initial assessment. 

Your Surgery Delayed by COVID-19? PT Can Help.

In an attempt to salvage supplies and resources during the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic, many U.S. hospitals and medical institutions have opted to postpone elective surgeries. 

This includes non-emergency surgeries scheduled to relieve pain and repair injuries related to the musculoskeletal system – arthroscopy, ligament and tendon repairs, joint replacement surgeries, and so on. 

Despite these delays, Valencia physical therapist Tim Eckard says those whose surgeries were delayed need not sit back and suffer. 

“Physical therapy can be a proactive way to reduce pain while increasing mobility and function until surgeries can be rescheduled,” said Eckardco-owner and clinic director of Kinetix Advanced Physical Therapy in Valencia, Lancaster and Santa Clarita 

The goal of physical therapy, Eckard said, is to help people improve their quality of lives by optimizing movement and reducing pain naturally. 

“In a lot of cases, we can help people avoid the need for surgery,” Eckard added. “But, even if surgery is in your future, we can help you live a more comfortable and active life as you’re waiting to reschedule your procedure.” 

Prehabilitation 

Physical therapists can also help patients prepare themselves for surgery, strengthening their bodies so that they recover faster and without complication. Known as prehabilitation, or “prehab,” the goal is to prepare the body for both the surgery itself and the rehabilitation effort that follows. 

Prehabilitation is based on the simple philosophy that the stronger and more balanced your body and muscles are before orthopedic surgery, the stronger and better off you’ll be after,” Eckard said. “Multiple studies have shown this to be an effective strategy.” 

For example, a study published in the Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery found that taking part in a physical therapy program before joint replacement surgery – a prehabilitation program – can reduce the need for post-operative care by nearly 30 percent. 

“When a person has reached the point where they need orthopedic surgery, their bodies have oftentimes become accustomed to compensating for pain and certain impairments,” Eckard said. “By seeing a physical therapist before surgery, we can address any bad movement habits, weaknesses or flexibility issues that can impede the rehab process post-surgery.” 

Pre-Surgery Anxiety 

As surgeries are delayed, this can also lead to great patient anxiety. Working with a physical therapist during this period, however, can help reduce this anxiety while PTs better prepare patients for the mental strain of surgery and rehabilitation. 

“We pride ourselves on being educators, and we don’t take this role lightly when helping prepare someone for surgery,” Eckard said. “We’ll educate them about what to expect immediately after surgery and coach them on exercises they’ll need to know during the rehab process – all of which can ease anxiety.” 

If your orthopedic surgery has been delayed due to COVID-19, and you wish to stay active and pain-free leading up to surgery, contact the team at Kinetix Advanced Physical Therapy to schedule an initial assessment. 

Telehealth Visits Now Offered at Kinetix Advanced Physical Therapy!

During this time of uncertainty as our country navigates through the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic, the team at Kinetix Advanced Physical Therapy is now offering patients a “virtual” option that ensures both personal safety and continuity of treatment.

Known as Telehealth, or Virtual Physical Therapy (PT) Visits, these online appointments allow patients to directly communicate and follow up with our physical therapists remotely, from the safety of their own homes.

Why Telehealth?

While Kinetix Advanced Physical Therapy is still seeing patients in their Valencia, Lancaster and Santa Clarita clinics, physical therapist and president Tim Eckard says this option ensures those who can’t get out are able to get the PT treatments they need.

“During a time when social distancing isn’t just encouraged, but in some cases mandated, Telehealth is a way those receiving treatment for pain or injury can still meet with a physical therapist,” Eckard said. “Physical therapy remains an essential service, and Telehealth allows us to meet with patients to track progress, review home exercises, and simply ask questions directly to their providers.”

A Telehealth appointment is essentially a video conference between the patient and their Kinetix physical therapist, using a home computer/webcam or a smartphone.

During the visit, patients can discuss treatments and progress, assess function, review rehab exercises, and modify home exercise programs.

Empowering Patients

Telehealth appointments are scheduled just like regular visits, Eckard says. Though with no travel time and expenses, and without the COVID-19 contamination risks involved with leaving one’s home, such appointments can better meet the needs of a certain population of clients.

“With all the unknowns surrounding COVID-19 and the various ways it’s likely to continue affecting our lives moving forward, Telehealth is a way we can ensure all patients – not just those who can make it into the clinic – are empowered to take better control of their health,” Eckard said.

“Not only does it allow them to continue physical therapy treatments,” he added, “but it also allows them the flexibility to determine what appointment best meets personal conditions.”

Eckard added that many private health insurance plans cover Virtual PT Visits.

Schedule Your Virtual PT Visit Today

Kinetix Virtual PT Visits will be hosted through the Doxy.me, a telehealth service. When a Telehealth appointment is made, Kinetix will email patients a HIPAA-compliant link for accessing their virtual session.

For more information about Telehealth and to schedule a Telehealth appointment with the Kinetix Advanced Physical Therapy team, visit kinetixapt.com or call us at 661-288-0300 (Valencia) or 661-974-7033 (Lancaster).

Why Flexibility Matters as You Grow Older

Though it often takes a back seat to strength and cardiovascular fitness, flexibility plays a critical role in ensuring one’s able to maintain a high level of independence and mobility during their Golden Years. 

While our muscles and tendons tend to naturally shrink and tighten as we age, that doesn’t put seniors at the mercy of such changes. According to Valencia physical therapist Tim Eckard, muscle elasticity can be maintained and improved at any age. 

“Staying flexible certainly takes effort, but the payoff is you’ll be able to stay more active and independent while you grow older, which should be all our goals,” said Eckardco-owner and clinic director of Kinetix Advanced Physical Therapy in Valencia, Lancaster and Santa Clarita. 

Flexibility is defined as one’s ability to move muscles and joints through their full ranges of motion. It’s a critical component of mobility, which also involves strength, balance and coordination. 

Poor flexibility, says Eckard, can lead to poor balance, poor posture, and a greater overall feeling of tension in the body. It also affects daily living and the ability to avoid common ailments and injuries often related to aging. 

“Not only do you need to maintain flexibility to accomplish daily tasks like bending to tie your shoes or reaching to grab something from a high cupboard,” Eckard said. “Flexibility is also critical in allowing your body to safely absorb impact and falls, helping you prevent injury later in life.” 

As staying limber is an essential part of maintaining health and happiness while one ages, Eckard offers the following advice for maintaining flexibility: 

Stay Active

The best and easiest first step in staying flexible is to simply stay active every day. Going for walks, playing with the grandkids, dancing, working in the garden, taking yoga or Pilates classes … they all help keep the body warm, loose and strong. Focus on daily activities you enjoy! 

Warm Up Dynamically

Even when you aren’t necessarily exercising, it’s important to keep your muscles and joints loose by doing dynamic movements throughout the day. Movements like neck rolls, arm windmills, walking lunges, etc., take your muscles and joints through their full ranges of motion, keeping them loose and limber. 

Stretch & Hold

Called static stretching, these bend-and-hold-type stretches (think touching your toes) help increase flexibility by putting light tension on your muscles and joints for 30 to 60 seconds at a time. These stretches work best after a brief warmup or following a workout or activity, though it can also be beneficial (and relaxing) to do them early in the morning or just before going to bed. 

Use a Foam Roller

These affordable tools for self-massage will, when used properly, help release tension that develops over time in the muscles and connective tissues. This, according to the Mayo Clinic, helps increase flexibility and improve mobility. 

Visit a Physical Therapist

Not sure where to start? Whether you’re already active and limber or wish to start down a path toward increased flexibility, visit your local physical therapist. After reviewing your medical history and assessing your current flexibility levels, a physical therapist will establish a personalized strategy for helping you reach your mobility and lifestyle goals. 

Create Heart-Healthy Habits During Heart Month

February is American Heart Month, a time when health professionals like Valencia physical therapist Tim Eckard strive to raise awareness about maintaining and improving cardiovascular health. 

The month also serves as a sobering reminder that, as a society, we must do a better job of preventing heart disease, which continues to be the leading cause of death in the U.S. 

“I believe the stats show about one in every four American deaths is due to heart disease,” said Eckardco-owner and clinic director of Kinetix Advanced Physical Therapy in Valencia, Lancaster and Santa Clarita – a statistic confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC). 

On the flip side, the CDC also reports that about 200,000 cardiovascular-related deaths each year could have been prevented. If achieved, that would be a nearly 30 percent reduction. 

“In a lot of cases, heart disease can be traced back to factors that are preventable – things like the lack of physical activity, obesity, high blood pressure and/or cholesterol, an unhealthy diet, smoking and so on,” Eckard added. “These are factors related to lifestyle, and they’re all things that can be improved by changing habits.” 

For example, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), fewer than 5 percent of adults participate in 30 minutes of physical activity every day. Yet, daily exercise remains one of the best tools we have in the prevention and control of heart disease. 

“Getting your recommended 150-plus minutes of exercise each week is key to controlling your weight, lowing your blood pressure and strengthening your heart, all important aspects in the prevention of heart disease,” Eckard said. “It also helps improve the way your body reacts to stress, which is another key element.” 

While regular exercise is critical, the American Heart Association notes that its combination with other preventative measures can pack a mighty punch when it comes to preventing cardiovascular disease. These include: 

Heart-Healthy Eating

Nutrition also plays a crucial role in preventing heart disease. One’s risk can be lowered by eating fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean meats, while cutting back on sodium, saturated fats, processed sugars and alcohol. 

Keeping a Healthy Weight

The more body fat you have and the more you weigh, the more likely your chances of developing a number of issues including heart disease. According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, a body mass index between 18.5 and 24.9 represents a healthy weight. 

Managing Stress

Chronic stress can contribute to high blood pressure and other cardiovascular risks. Exercise is a great way to help manage stress, but see your physician for other treatment options. 

Quitting Smoking

This is a no-brainer. If you smoke, you simply must quit. 

“Along with healthy eating, movement and exercise are central to keeping a healthy weight, managing stress and warding off potential disease,” Eckard said. “If there’s something keeping you from regular activity – something like pain, disability or other movement limitations – consider visiting a physical therapist for a solution to living a healthy, active life.” 

Exercise to Ease Chronic Anxiety This Year 

A new year offers the potential for new opportunities and experiences. For those who struggle with general and consistent anxiety, however, the prospect of the new year and the expectations that come with it can be tricky to maneuver. 

It’s with this in mind that Valencia physical therapist Tim Eckard reminds us that one of the most natural and effective ways to ease anxiety symptoms any time of year is through regular exercise. 

“Going for a walk, taking a bike ride, hitting the gym or signing up for an exercise class … they all can be powerfully effective tools for easing anxiety and its effects on your life and health,” said Eckardco-owner and clinic director of Kinetix Advanced Physical Therapy in Valencia, Lancaster and Santa Clarita. 

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), an estimated one in five adults and one in three teens experience chronic anxiety disorder each year. This disorder is defined as anxiety that’s persistent, excessive and routinely triggered by situations that aren’t actually threats. 

Though it’s a psychological condition, Eckard says anxiety can take a toll on one’s physical health. 

“High stress and anxiety have been linked to higher blood pressure and a greater risk of heart disease and stroke,” said Eckard. “Also, those who have high levels of anxiety tend to be more sedentary and avoid challenging situations, which can also have long-term health consequences.” 

So, how does exercise help ease anxiety? Eckard points out four ways this happens: 

Your brain chemistry changes. When you exercise, your body releases chemicals, like dopamine and endorphins in the brain, which contribute toward making you feel calmer and happier. 

General tension diminishes. Whether working out, competing, playing or dancing, moving your body reduces general muscle tension in the body, decreasing your general feeling of anxiety. 

You get distracted. Exercising can have a distracting effect, diverting your mind from the things about which you are or have been anxious. It’s also been shown that exercising outdoors, in nature, can calm your mind. 

You give your brain a boost. Several studies have shown that regular exercise can maintain, and even improve, cognitive function in the brain. That means exercise can actually help you strengthen your ability to weather high-stress situations. 

“On its own, exercise may not completely solve your anxiety issues,” Eckard said, pointing out that those suffering from chronic anxiety should discuss options with their personal physician. “When possible, though, studies show that regular exercise should be part of any natural, long-term treatment for anxiety.” 

And, if you struggle to stick with a consistent exercise regimen, Eckard offers a few tips. 

“Don’t just join a gym. Find an activity or activities you enjoy,” LAST said. “Recruit a friend or friends for some social support, and set a SMART goal. This acronym describes a goal that’s specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-based.” 

Also, visit a physical therapist if pain, discomfort, weaknesses or chronic conditions are keeping you from exercising safely and consistently. Following an initial assessment, a PT can develop a personalized exercise program that best aligns with your individual circumstances and goals. 

Find Relief from Holiday Tension Headaches with Physical Therapy

The fact that the season of giving, joy and celebration can also be our most stressful time of year is one of the worst kept secrets of the Holidays.

And yet, year after year, we charge forward, often fighting through tension-type headaches to complete our shopping, plan for get-togethers with friends, and fulfill all our family obligations.

But why fight through the headaches, asks Valencia physical therapist Tim Eckard, when a physical therapist can often provide relief from tension-type headaches by correcting the problems that cause the pain?

What is a Tension Headache?

“A tension headache often starts with pain or dysfunction at the back of the head or neck – discomfort that can spread around your head, and even to your eyes,” said Eckard, co-owner and clinic director at Kinetix Advanced Physical Therapy in Valencia, Lancaster and Santa Clarita.

“What we as physical therapists can do, after a thorough examination and a series of questions, is determine the likely causes of your headache. Then, we can treat these causes.”

According to the World Health Organization, a tension-type headache (TTH) is the most common primary headache disorder in the world, typically related to stress or associated with musculoskeletal problems in the neck.

One study published in the U.S. Library of Medicine called tension-type headaches the second-most common illness worldwide, affecting 80 to 90 percent of people at least once in their lives.

Tension headaches, as they’re often called, are frequently described as a feeling of pressure or tightness, often like a band around the head that spreads into or from the neck.

According to the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA), these headaches may be caused by stress, fatigue, poor posture, or problems with the neck or jaw – like an injury.

How Physical Therapy Can Help

“Once we determine the cause of your tightness and pain, a PT can work with you to correct the underlying problem that’s leading you to experience these headaches,” Eckard said.

“This can be fatigued muscles from bad posture, or a lack of strength or mobility in your neck and shoulders.”

Often, treatments will focus on three areas: improved posture, improved strength in the upper back, neck and shoulders, and improved mobility in the neck and spine through stretching and pain-reducing movements.

This is also known as manual therapy.

“We’ll not only provide relief through treatments in the clinic, but physical therapists also work with people to correct the issues which caused the headache in the first place, be it improving posture or simple changes in lifestyle,” said Eckard. “PTs always treat with an eye toward future prevention.”

If the Holiday Season has already become a headache for you this year, schedule an assessment with the Kinetix Advanced Physical Therapy team to learn more about what’s causing your tension headache and how it can be successfully and affordably treated through physical therapy.