APM Blog

HikingOutdoorsCases of cabin fever are widespread throughout the Midwest as temperatures finally start rising and people begin emerging from their homes in pursuit of fun, warmer-weather activities. If you are someone who suffers from a back or neck condition, it’s likely that you are familiar with the effect weather (or rather the change in weather) may have on your pain. While the change in weather may cause increased pain for some, it brings relief for others. The one common factor presented with warmer months is the increased opportunity to take part in low-impact, physical activities outdoors.

Not only does exercise stimulate endorphins which have been known to help reduce pain, it also provides greater pain-fighting benefits through strengthening bones, increasing flexibility, building muscle and diminishing stiffness and weakness. Spring is the perfect time to begin or continue a low-impact exercise routine including at least 30 minutes of physical activity each day. 
Looking for a new activity? Try a few of these back and neck friendly outdoor activities. Find your favorites and enjoy in the warm months ahead!

Walking:
Did you know that according to the American Heart Association, walking has the lowest dropout rate in comparison to any other physical activity? This is because it can be done anywhere, anytime and with minimal gear needed. With a comfortable pair of sneakers and a safe path – you are well on your way to improved cardiovascular health and reduced pain. Additional health benefits from a regular routine of walking include:

  • Strengthened muscles in the feet, legs, hips, and torso - walking increases the stability of the spine and strengthens the muscles that keep the body in the upright position.

  • Nourished spinal structures - walking for exercise facilitates strong circulation, pumping nutrients into soft tissues and draining toxins.

  • Improved flexibility and posture – walking, along with regular stretching, allows for improved range of motion, can help prevent awkward movements and susceptibility to future injury.

If you are someone who is motivated by exercising with a friend, find a walking buddy, join a walking club and plan walks with co-workers over your lunch hour or facilitate “walking” meetings. 

Cycling:
When done on a well-paved, smooth surface, cycling can offer a number of benefits to for the back and neck as a non-weight bearing exercise. Riding a bicycle is less jarring to the spine than many other forms of aerobic exercise (specifically jogging or aerobics). Stationary bicycling is an additional option that is especially gentle on the spine, and with the many spin classes now available, can offer a vigorous aerobic workout.
Here are a few other cycling benefits and tips to consider:

Benefits

  • Riding a bike improves lower body muscular strength and overall endurance.

  • Biking is a non weight-bearing exercise, so it places less stress on the spine, hips and knees.

  • Cycling is a great cardiovascular and conditioning exercise.

  • Stationary bikes offer benefits when weather conditions prevent access to outdoor roads and trails.

Tips

  • Be sure to use the right kind of bike for the terrain on which you're riding—taking a street bike to off-road trails will be rough. In fact, if you suffer from back pain – avoid rough, off-road trails all together.

  • Have an experienced professional fit you for the proper type and size of bike in order to prevent accidents and injuries.

  • Ride with your back straight—this will prevent lower-back stress.

Looking for the perfect route? Check out these scenic bicycle paths in Wisconsin and Minnesota.

Swimming:
For those who love water activities, swimming may be the best forms of low impact aerobic exercise for anyone who suffers from neck or back pain. Unlike other activities, swimming places virtually no impact or stress on the spinal structures. Water supports the body, relieving stress on joints, muscles and bones.
 
Here are a few other reasons why swimming may be the best form of exercise for you:

  • Buoyancy reduces the force of gravity on the body, making it easier to perform various movements. Buoyancy can improve range of motion for any part of the body because it allows for movement without having to battle with gravity.

  • With degrees in the upper 90s, heated pools allow tissues and muscles to relax and become more flexible.

  • While it may sound painful, hydrostatic pressure is actually a good thing. Hydrostatic pressure is the force that water applies to the body and can improve circulation and decrease blood pressure.

Yoga:

Yoga appeals to many back and neck pain sufferers because it is an excellent combination of physical movements, breathing and meditation. The many movements, poses and stretches incorporated into yoga practice has many practical applications for treating chronic back and neck pain conditions.

Classes are easy to find in both Wisconsin and Minnesota and if you are new to yoga, pick a style1 that most appeals to you:

  • Iyengar yoga - Iyengar yoga stresses proper alignment and precise movements, yet it incorporates modifications that often benefit back and neck pain patients whose mobility may be limited as a result of their symptoms.

  • Ashtanga yoga - Emphasizing powerful flowing movements like push-ups and lunges, Ashtanga yoga is appropriately described as "power yoga," and it often appeals to patients who have previously rehabilitated from a back injury.

  • Bikram yoga - Also known as "hot yoga," Bikram yoga is especially popular in cold areas because it takes place in a hot room. The benefit of this type of yoga is that the heat helps increase stretching and flexibility, but you should be careful to stay hydrated and avoid over-stretching muscles that have become looser than normal in the warm environment. Bikram yoga should not be performed by patients with cardiovascular disease. 


  • Viniyoga - Breathing is the focus of viniyoga, with each movement coordinated with an inhale or exhale. Viniyoga is easily adaptable for each person, making it a good option for many types of back pain and neck pain patients, especially those who are just beginning to practice yoga.

Paddle Boarding:

During warm months, have you noticed more and more people standing up on surfboards, paddling to and fro? Paddle boarding is a water activity that has become very popular in recent years. It’s a low-impact exercise that can help improve strength, core stability and balance. It also boasts an added benefit of relieving stress because of the relaxing nature of the activity.

Other benefits include:

  • Variable level of intensity depending on where you are paddling. If you are in the ocean and experiencing waves and current, your workout will be intense. If you are simply drifting on a relatively placid lake, the intensity level will be lower.

  • Paddle boarding engages almost every muscle in the body including leg muscles, arms, back and shoulders to propel the paddleboard in the water. The core and abdominal muscles are constantly at work to maintain your balance.

  • As a low impact physical activity, paddle boarding is relatively easy on the tendons, ligaments and joints.

Ready to jump on a board and get paddling? Check out these great places in Wisconsin and Minnesota to rent boards and start paddling away!

Hiking:

For many of the same reasons walking is such a fantastic physical activity for people who suffer from neck and back pain, hiking can provide many of the same health benefits. One important consideration for those who love hiking is to have good familiarity with your intended route and the terrain’s expected level of difficulty. Pick a distance and surface that are the best fit for you. Remember that if you are embarking on longer hikes, carrying a pack and necessary supplies is a must. The added weight of supplies will increase the level of difficulty for most hikers. Other considerations include:

  • Pick the best type of hiking boots to reduce jarring on your knees, hips and back.

  • Choose a backpack that will fit snug to the body and high on the back to minimize stress on the spine.

  • When calculating intended mileage, account for regular stops.

  • Consider using walking poles or sticks to aid along uneven terrain.

Popular Wisconsin and Minnesota Hiking Trails:

-Travel Wisconsin

-Wisconsin Park System

-Explore Minnesota

-Minnesota Park System

 Warm weather in the Midwest brings opportunities for increased physical activity and fun in the great outdoors. However, if you are someone who is currently experiencing a neck or back condition that causes a moderate to severe level of pain, it is best to consult with your healthcare provider or pain management expert before beginning any new activity. In addition to consulting with your physician, considering easing in to any activity by taking it slow, taking breaks and taking proper precautions such as warming up, stretching, staying hydrated and wearing appropriate clothes or equipment.

Coming soon: Part two of our warm weather guide featuring activities pain sufferers should avoid.

Sources:

 http://www.spine-health.com/blog/yoga-back-pain

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Published in Acute and Chronic Pain
Sunday, 15 October 2017 11:02

Proper Lifting to Avoid Back Pain

Spring is officially here! For many of us, there are spring projects that need to complete. Whether you are planting your flower garden or cleaning and organizing your garage, it is important to make sure you are lifting and moving objects correctly, so you don’t injury your back.Lifting APM Pic

Before you do any heavy lifting, we recommend you think through the task at hand. Decide where you are carrying the object to, if and whether or not you will need help to moving the object. Look for a pathway that is clear from debris and clutter.  We also recommend you do some stretches before lifting.

Stand in front of the object you are going to be moving. Your feet should be shoulder-width apart, with one foot slightly ahead of the other foot.  Remember to keep a wide base for support.

Slowly squat down and remember to bend at the hips and knees only. Your knees should not move forward beyond the line of your toes.

Don’t forget about your posture! Make sure to look straight ahead while keeping your back straight and your shoulders back.

Lift gradually by stretching your hips and knees. Try to keep the natural curve in your lower back and remember to breathe while lifting.  Remember NOT to twist as you lift.

Hold the object you are carrying as close to your body as possible; this decreases the strain on your lower back.

Take small steps and lead with your hips when changing direction. Keep your shoulders aligned with your hips as you move. When setting the object down, remember to squat with the knees and hips only.

Do you have any tips for lifting? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Sources:

Proper Lifting Technique. (n.d.). Retrieved April 27, 2015.

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Published in Acute and Chronic Pain
Sunday, 15 October 2017 10:51

How To Start A Spring Walking Program

**If you are at all unsure of whether a walking program is safe for you, please get medical clearance from your doctor before getting started with the tips below.

Be prepared! It is important to dress for the weather; this could mean dressing in layers. It is also important to wear comfortable shoes that offer support, as well as moisture-wicking socks. Don’t forget to use sunscreen and wear a hat and sunglasses if needed.describe the image

Want to take it a step further? Utilizing a fitness app can help keep you on track. There are several apps you can find on your smartphone for free, or you can purchase a pedometer or Fitbit.

It is always a good idea to bring a bottle of water. We recommend purchasing a reusable water bottle.

Ready? Set yourself up for success by setting goals and choosing a realistic route to start. Have you been sedentary all winter? If so, start slowly with a goal of five minutes, or choose a distance like” to the neighbor’s driveway and back”.  If you know you able to tolerate more, set a higher but still very achievable goal to start… you have all summer to progress!

Here we go. Walking mechanics - Aim for upright posture, gaze straight ahead, shoulders down and core stabilized. You should have a reciprocal arm swing – opposite arm and leg move together. Don’t’ forget to breathe! Your gait may be altered by injuries, use of walker or cane, obstacles, or Fido pulling you. That’s okay; just do the best you can.  If your walks are less than ten minutes, you may stay at a relatively steady pace, but as you walk longer, think about doing a slower warm up, a more intense middle phase, and then a slower cool down. It is important to stretch after your walk – ask your physical therapist for ideas.

Other ideas- Find a walking partner. This will help keep you accountable and may make your walk more pleasurable! If you prefer some time to yourself, you may want to find a (safe) nature area with trails to do your walking. As you get stronger and more conditioned, you can walk in areas with hills or add weights.

Everyone has different goals, but a walking program can help you feel better emotionally and physically. Walking can help improving balance, lose weight, and fend off chronic diseases. So start today!

What tips do you think will be most helpful to you as you start a spring walking program? Did we miss any important tips? Let us know in the comments! 

**If you are at all unsure of whether a walking program is safe for you, please get medical clearance from your doctor before getting started with the tips below.

Be prepared! It is important to dress for the weather; this could mean dressing in layers. It is also important to wear comfortable shoes that offer support, as well as moisture-wicking socks. Don’t forget to use sunscreen and wear a hat and sunglasses if needed.describe the image

Want to take it a step further? Utilizing a fitness app can help keep you on track. There are several apps you can find on your smartphone for free, or you can purchase a pedometer or Fitbit.

It is always a good idea to bring a bottle of water. We recommend purchasing a reusable water bottle.

Ready? Set yourself up for success by setting goals and choosing a realistic route to start. Have you been sedentary all winter? If so, start slowly with a goal of five minutes, or choose a distance like” to the neighbor’s driveway and back”.  If you know you able to tolerate more, set a higher but still very achievable goal to start… you have all summer to progress!

Here we go. Walking mechanics - Aim for upright posture, gaze straight ahead, shoulders down and core stabilized. You should have a reciprocal arm swing – opposite arm and leg move together. Don’t’ forget to breathe! Your gait may be altered by injuries, use of walker or cane, obstacles, or Fido pulling you. That’s okay; just do the best you can.  If your walks are less than ten minutes, you may stay at a relatively steady pace, but as you walk longer, think about doing a slower warm up, a more intense middle phase, and then a slower cool down. It is important to stretch after your walk – ask your physical therapist for ideas.

Other ideas- Find a walking partner. This will help keep you accountable and may make your walk more pleasurable! If you prefer some time to yourself, you may want to find a (safe) nature area with trails to do your walking. As you get stronger and more conditioned, you can walk in areas with hills or add weights.

Everyone has different goals, but a walking program can help you feel better emotionally and physically. Walking can help improving balance, lose weight, and fend off chronic diseases. So start today!

What tips do you think will be most helpful to you as you start a spring walking program? Did we miss any important tips? Let us know in the comments! 

Published in Acute and Chronic Pain

In part one of our post on recommended warm-weather activities, we touched on the pain-fighting benefits of strengthening bones, increasing flexibility, building muscle and diminishing stiffness. We provided some back and neck friendly outdoor activity recommendations to enjoy in the month ahead. In this piece, APM experts share insight regarding activities to avoid if you are experiencing back or neck pain. Be sure to use caution when: Golfing with back pain can be easy with these tips.

Golfing:

The Midwest is home to some of the most beautiful golf courses in the country. Whether you are waiting for the perfect spring day or if you’ve already played your favorite course - consider these important tips before you tee off.

  • Warming up is critical – especially for those first couple of rounds early in the season. Do adequate stretching and warm up to limber back and neck muscles that have likely not been used in a while.
  • Take a lesson — whether you're a golf newbie or an old pro who's been experiencing some back pain, you might want to take a lesson on swing mechanics. These classes emphasize proper form that is imperative to back and neck pain and injury prevention.
  • Bend from the hip — when bending during your game, be sure that you're bending from your hips and knees and not your back.
  • Focus — concentrating on the biomechanics of your swing will help ensure that you don't suffer a back or neck injury. Think about the motion of your body and don't lean forward.

Waterskiing / Motorized Water Activities:

Waterskiing and other motorized water sports are activities that someone with a back or neck condition should approach with extreme caution. Consider these important factors before hitting the waves:

  • Due to the high speeds involved with these types of activities, potential falls can involve significant momentum, leading to direct pressure on the neck and spine.
  • It is always best to slowly build up confidence and expertise before trying more advanced moves.
  • Stay in close communication with the person in control of the boat or other motorized water equipment.  

Amusement Parks:

Popcorn, corn dogs, tilt-a-whirl and games… what’s not to love about an amusement park during the warm spring and summer months? In addition to all the fun activities involved with taking kids to an amusement park, you may want to keep the following thoughts in mind for back and neck care:

  • Relax — if your pain management physician has given you the approval to get on a ride, be sure you do so with caution. Relax your muscles and do a few stretches to loosen up. Tensing up and holding your neck and back in place may cause additional pain.
  • Follow instructions — if you encounter a ride that advises guests who suffer from back and neck pain to abstain from riding, then you should definitely pay attention to the warning.

Camping:

 Camping is a popular warm-weather activity throughout the Midwest as a way to experience nature, relieve stress and bond between family and friends. However, if you suffer from back pain, sleeping on the hard ground may be a less than desirable scenario. Follow these tips to prevent pain from getting in the way of your enjoyable outdoor adventure.

  • Use an air or foam mattress — your sleeping bag on the hard ground may not be the best situation if you have back or neck pain. Investing in an air or foam mattress will make sleeping easier.
  • Wear good shoes — if you plan on hiking or walking from campsite to campsite, make sure to wear shoes that prevent jarring. Shock absorbers can wear out in shoes, so if yours are well worn, consider getting cushion inserts.
  • Drink water — being outdoors in the elements can take a larger toll on your body than you may think. Lack of hydration can cause sensitivity in the neck back muscles - so be sure to drink up.

There are many great opportunities for increased physical activity and fun in the great outdoors. However, it is best for most individuals – especially those experiencing a neck or back condition – to consult with your healthcare provider or pain management expert before beginning any new activity. In addition to consulting with your physician, start new activities slowly, take breaks and always warm up, stretching, stay hydrated and wear / use appropriate clothes and equipment.

What warm weather activities do you enjoy? Please share in the comment section below.

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Published in Activities
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