APM Blog

Friday, 17 November 2017 10:21

Tackle Pain and Up your Garden Game

Gardening is a great form of exercise, working multiple muscle groups as well as burning calories. It makes sense, then, that just like any other exercise or sport, there should be some rules to keep you – and your garden – in fighting form.

Before and After

Warmups and cool downs aren’t just for runners. Take the time to loosen up your body with some quick stretches and a brisk walk before digging in. And make sure to take frequent time-outs, with plenty of water, says Melinda Myers, an expert horticulturalist who works with Advanced Pain Management to provide tips on seasonal gardening and safety. Afterward, cool down with a few more stretches, and ice any sore areas.

Switch it Up

Whether it’s practicing tennis or watering hydrangeas, doing the same thing for extended periods of time can result in injury. Switch up your activities, and your position, to avoid stiffness and work a range of muscle groups. “I may go from weeding down on my knees to digging with a shovel or raking,” says Myers. “I often take a break from these more strenuous activities to water, so I’m moving and stretching my legs.”

There’s No ‘I’ in Garden

Share the load with a gardening round-robin, suggests Myers. Not only will it decrease your own load, but it’s a great way to catch up with friends – and boost your gardening know-how. “With busy schedules,” she says, “I find it’s a great way to take on overwhelming tasks, like spring cleanup and winter pruning, and enlist help, but make it fun.”

Learn More

For more tips on getting a leg up on gardening pain, visit Melinda Myers at the We Energies Energy Park stage during the Wisconsin State Fair Aug. 6-16, where she will be presenting “The Livable Landscape” at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. daily. And don't forget to download your free Gardening Toolkit.

Weed Out The Pain Toolkit Download

Published in Gardening

The human body is a magnificent machine — but sometimes it needs a little support. That’s where braces come in. In times of pain, injury or surgical recovery, supportive braces can often provide the needed stability, compression and/or protection to take your body from faulty to functional and help you embrace life.

Back Braces

Back braces help support muscles while reducing pain.

Lifting is painful. Long car rides? Atrocious. And cleaning? Don’t even think about it. Back pain, simply put, can disrupt your life, changing everyday activities into dreaded events.
For many conditions that cause back pain, like lumbar instability, a herniated lumbar disc, chronic lumbar instability, degenerative disc disease — or even just chronic back pain — back braces can be an ideal and simple form of treatment.

They work by providing back and abdominal support when your muscles are overactive and you experience muscle spasms, or when your muscles are weak and don’t provided the needed support. Braces aren’t meant to replace your muscles; the goal is to protect your back while you work on strengthening the muscles, whether that’s through light exercise or physical therapy.

Ideally, braces should be worn for 2-3 hours a day during activities that may increase pain, such as gardening, prolonged standing or walking, and sporting activities.

Cervical Braces

Your neck goes through a lot in the course of a day, from rapidly turning to look at cars and coworkers to simply holding up your heavy head. But sometimes, as in cases of whiplash, severe sprain and traumatic injury, it is pushed beyond its normal boundaries, causing intense pain. In this case, a cervical brace allows your neck time to heal as your muscles regain their strength.

Cervical braces may be used alongside physical therapy, and can also help with pain resulting from kyphoplasty, cervical disc herniation and radiculopathy, in addition to post-surgery recovery. They may be worn for prolonged periods of time, if kept clean, but should never be worn while driving or sleeping unless advised by your doctor.

Wrist Braces

Repetitive motions can take many forms — typing, driving, writing, even swinging a tennis racket — and all of them take their toll. A wrist brace can combat that, providing comfort and support while reducing swelling and pain, whether it’s due to everyday activities, carpal tunnel syndrome, a fracture, tendonitis or arthritis.

Because of their design, wrist braces may be worn for extended periods of time during activities that cause pain, like working, gardening, cleaning or even sleeping. Plus, they are unobtrusive, since they’re made to be worn under clothing.

Knee Braces

Having a fully functional knee is a crucial part of any active lifestyle. But it’s also one of the parts of the body that causes the most trouble. Conditions like osteoarthritis, tendonitis, chondromalacia, patellofemoral pain syndrome and post-surgical pain can make it extremely difficult to walk and stand, let alone exercise or enjoy sporting activities.

Knee braces come in a variety of forms, and the support, compression and pressure relief they provide can help with many types of knee and leg pain and minimize the need for pain medications. They are often beneficial when used in conjunction with physical therapy, which your doctor may prescribe.

The use of these braces must be increased gradually. For the first week, wear it for one hour in the morning, and one in the evening. For the second, increase it to two hours, and so forth, until you can wear it comfortably all day as needed. Although it’s not designed for contact sports like football, knee braces can be particularly helpful during activities like walking, basketball, softball, hiking, skiing and other exercises.

Learn More

For more information on the benefits of braces, and to help choose one that’s right for you, talk with an APM provider by calling (888) 901-7246.

Published in Exercise
Wednesday, 01 November 2017 03:03

Can Yoga Really Help Relieve Pain?

The search for nonpharmacological treatments for pain is on. Seemingly every day there are new promoters popping up, touting the benefits of one exercise or one herbal supplement that can cure all your ills – a modern-day snake oil, if you will. One such thing that’s often put forth as a be-all and end-all for pain is yoga. But what’s the truth behind these claims – and can it really be a useful avenue for the chronic pain population? Let’s find out.

Elements of Yoga

One of the main draws of yoga is that it is comprised of more than one component, since it incorporates physical postures, breathing techniques and relaxation/meditation elements.[1] There are many different kinds of yoga, each incorporating different poses, breathing and relaxation styles, but all rely on the interplay between these core elements.

The physical aspects of yoga are meant to increase strength, coordination and flexibility, while the breathing and meditation aim to help practitioners develop greater awareness and lessen anxiety. These mind and body aspects, when combined are meant to confer a greater quality of life.[2]

National Usage

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), “Pain is one of the leading reasons Americans turn to complementary health approaches, such as yoga, massage, and meditation — which may help manage pain and other symptoms that are not consistently addressed by prescription drugs and other conventional treatments.”[3]

The use of yoga for pain relief (along with tai chi and qi gong) is the third most common complementary modality used by American adults to treat pain (behind nonvitamin dietary supplements and deep-breathing exercises), but its use is growing. In 2002, only 5.1% of people practiced yoga. By 2012, that number had almost doubled, with 9.5% of people utilizing it.[4] This increase held especially true for the younger generation (age 18-44).

Proven Benefits

It’s been found that yoga can, in fact, be beneficial for certain types of pain. An analysis of eight randomized controlled trials on the benefits of yoga for lower back pain, for instance, found that yoga helped improve pain and functional disability by a medium to large degree.[1] Furthermore, the type of yoga practiced within the study had no effect on the outcome; they all seemed to produce benefits in terms of pain and function, suggesting (although more research is needed) that the poses themselves don’t matter as much as the interplay between the postures, breathing and relaxation.

Another such analysis of yoga for pain took into consideration a myriad of pain conditions, from low back pain and rheumatoid arthritis to headaches/migraines and renal disease.[2] All studies that were evaluated indicated a positive effect in favor of the yoga interventions; however, this effect was greater for back pain when compared with other conditions.

Reasons for the Success

There are several theories as to how and why yoga confers such benefits. It could be that yoga’s physical poses result in increased core strength and stabilization, which are good for the back. It could also help by slowly getting pain patients to move again, overcoming their fears of making the pain worse through physical exertion.[1] Moving, in turn, helps reduce stiffness by lubricating the joints and can also promote weight loss.

Catherine Bushnell, the scientific director of the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) at the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) believes it goes further than that, though. Chronic pain affects the brain, causing emotional problems and impaired cognitive abilities, most likely through a reduction in gray matter. Yoga, Bushnell has found, has the opposite effect, bulking up gray matter and strengthening white matter connectivity, thus counteracting the effects of chronic pain on the brain.[5] This, in turn, leads to an increase in pain tolerance, says Bushnell.

Drawbacks

Nonetheless, yoga has its drawbacks. Its positive effects on pain and functional disability have been shown to fade over time, conferring only a small benefit a few months after cessation – meaning a sustained commitment to the exercise is necessary.[1] But another study found that enthusiasm for yoga often fades over time, meaning it’s unlikely that participants will sustain an effective level of participation.[2]

Additionally, more research is needed into which conditions may actually be improved by yoga. Some studies, for instance, have found support for its use for rheumatoid arthritis,[2] while others have found little to no effect on pain and disability for RA.[6] Furthermore, for some people – like those with high blood pressure, glaucoma, sciatica or women who are pregnant – the NIH recommends modifying or avoiding various yoga poses – meaning they may not receive the same level of pain-relieving benefits as others. [7]

Going Further

“Chronic pain is not exclusively a physical condition, but a complex syndrome including physical, psychological and social processes,” concludes a review in The Journal of Pain.[2]  “With respect to the multifaceted causes, there is need for interdisciplinary procedures in diagnosis and pain management.” While yoga can be utilized as one facet of the treatment for pain, more are usually required.

That’s where pain management comes in. With the help of a pain management provider, who can effectively coordinate interventional procedures and complementary alternative treatments, like yoga, the various causes and effects of pain can be addressed in an efficient and methodical manner, meaning more effective pain relief and a quicker return to doing the things you love.

Want to learn more? Call (888) 901-PAIN (7246) to schedule a consultation.

Get moving. Call (888) 901-PAIN (7246) or click to schedule a consultation now.

[1] Beggs, R. Thomas, and Susan Holtzman. "Yoga for Chronic Low-Back Pain: A Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials." Pain Research and Management 18, no. 5 (September/October 2013): 267-72.

[2] Büssing, Arndt, Thomas Ostermann, Rainer Lüdtke, and Andreas Michalsen. "Effects of Yoga Interventions on Pain and Pain-Associated Disability: A Meta-Analysis." The Journal of Pain 13, no. 1 (January 2012): 1-9.

[3] "NIH Analysis Shows Americans Are in Pain.” National Institutes of Health (NIH). August 11, 2015. Accessed May 19, 2016. https://www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/nih-analysis-shows-americans-are-pain.

[4] Clarke, Tainya C., Lindsey I. Black, Barbara J. Stussman, Patricia M. Barnes, and Richard L. Nahin. "Trends in the Use of Complementary Health Approaches Among Adults: United States, 2002-2012." National Health Statistics Reports 79 (February 10, 2015).

[5] Bergland, Christopher. "How Does Yoga Relieve Chronic Pain?" Psychology Today. May 27, 2015. Accessed May 23, 2016. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-athletes-way/201505/how-does-yoga-relieve-chronic-pain.

[6] Cramer, H., R. Lauche, J. Langhorst, and G. Dobos. "Yoga for Rheumatic Diseases: A Systematic Review." Rheumatology 52, no. 11 (November 2013): 2025-030.

[7] "Yoga: In Depth." NCCIH. June 2013. Accessed May 24, 2016. https://nccih.nih.gov/health/yoga/introduction.htm.

Published in Yoga

As the temperatures begin to drop, so do many people’s activity levels. Walks in the park and days spent gardening or biking are replaced with cozy days indoors, often in front of the TV. But there are actually a multitude of options for cool-weather fitness, no matter your activity level. Here are our top 5 favorites.

Swimming_is_a_good_fall_workout.

  1. Indoor swimming. Swimming is a great alternative to higher-impact exercises, like running, because it puts less pressure on the joints, according to physical therapist Courtney Wack. “It is great for knee pain, especially due to arthritis, and many back conditions,” she says, “because it decreases the pressure on the vertebral discs or facet joints. It is also very beneficial for chronic pain conditions such as fibromyalgia or CRPS.”

    Not only is swimming a low-impact exercise, but it’s also versatile. Typical lap swimming works a variety of muscles and can help you develop core body strength, but it’s not the only aquatic fitness option. Many gyms and YMCAs with indoor pools offer a variety of aqua classes, from simple shallow-water exercises and classes designed to improve muscle strength and joint function to more intense classes like aqua Zumba, water jogging and intense cardio pool workouts. And, if you’re still on the fence, consider the fact that taking a dip in a heated pool can even help relax painful muscles and loosen joints. 

  2. Walking. While it might seem obvious, walking is a great way to incorporate exercise into your daily routine. But walking on streets and sidewalks, even with the colorful fall foliage, can get dull. Consider spicing up your walking routine by taking a jaunt through a hay bale or corn maze, or take advantage of state parks, forests, recreation areas, trails and wildlife areas, which contain thousands of miles of hiking trails.

    If the weather isn’t cooperating, consider a stroll through your local mall. Mall perimeters typically range from .4 miles to .8 miles around, and most shopping centers have extended early hours specifically for walkers. Some even provide guests with complimentary walking logs and pedometers to help track your progress.

    Before starting your walk, warm up with a few stretches to prevent injury. “You can do some basic trunk rotation (looking over your shoulder), hamstring stretches (reaching toward your toes) and quadriceps stretches (holding your foot behind you),” says Courtney.

  3. Workout classes. Nowadays, gyms offer much more than simple aerobics and step classes. You can get your groove on in classes dedicated to belly dancing, hip hop, funk or Zumba, get your heart rate up with group treadmill, boxing or interval classes, or stretch it out and clear your mind with Pilates, yoga or Tai chi. For beginners, says Courtney, “Yoga and Pilates are great for developing your core and maintaining flexibility.”

    Every gym offers its own unique list of classes geared toward any fitness level. Even those just beginning a workout routine – or those who want to take it slow – can enroll in a beginner-friendly running or strength and movement class, which may also include tips on nutrition.

  4. Fitness videos. With YouTube and Amazon at your fingertips, any fitness video or DVD you can imagine is just a click away. And don’t think fitness DVDs are just for the super-intense P90X crowd; there’s an option for every expert level. For those who are less mobile, Courtney suggests the Sit and Be Fit series, which gives easy sitting stretches and exercises. There are various DVDs in the series, including ones geared toward those with arthritis, diabetes and osteoporosis, as well as general balance, stretching and aerobics.

    Barre workouts are also becoming more popular, and instructional videos can be found on Youtube or purchased on Amazon. The concept is simple: Use a ballet barre to balance while doing small strengthening exercises focused on a specific set of muscles. The workout was actually designed by a ballerina after a back injury as a kind of rehab combined with dance conditioning. (Don’t worry, there’s no dance experience required!) When done right, it’s said to improve core strength and enhance mobility. And it can be done barefoot.
  1. Indoor sports league. Sports leagues aren’t just for kids. Consider picking up a new sport – or getting back to one you haven’t played in a while. There are men’s, women’s and coed leagues for a wide variety of skill levels. If the traditional basketball and volleyball leagues aren’t your style, consider joining a dodgeball, inner tube water polo, bowling or even ping pong team. Indoor soccer and flag football leagues are also available.

    But don’t forget to properly prepare for game time. “I would recommend a couple nights of practice before starting out with your first league game,” says Courtney. “Do some jogging to warm up and practice whatever motions are needed for the sport.” If it’s bowling you choose, she suggests doing some trunk rotation (looking over your shoulder) and playing a few games to warm up.  If it’s volleyball, make sure to warm up your shoulder with some serves, ball throws and lateral (side-to-side) movements before game time.

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Published in Weather

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 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
Tuesday, 26 September 2017 18:37

The Health Perks of Being a Gardener

Some of the benefits of gardening are readily observable, like the pride of growing something beautiful or the refreshing feeling of spending time outdoors. But gardening actually offers a multitude of benefits that can improve your health and peace of mind, and even reduce your pain.

Endorphin Rush

All that raking, digging and weeding not only helps you burn calories, it can also release a flood of endorphins. The endorphins, in turn, trigger a positive feeling in the body — a “gardener’s high” — and have been shown to help reduce pain sensations.

Time to Relax

Meditation doesn’t have to mean sitting on the floor cross-legged. It could also be in the garden, with your hands in the soil, surrounded by sunlight. For gardening expert Melinda Myers, “The rhythm of some garden tasks like weeding and planting … redirects your thoughts to the action and away from your stresses and worries.” Meditation has been shown to effectively reduce feelings of stress, release tension in the muscles and, like exercise, help release endorphins to combat pain.

Grow a Balanced Diet

The USDA recommends eating roughly 2 cups of both fruit and vegetables daily. Your garden can help you get there. Lettuce, arugula and microgreens can be grown indoors during fall and winter in a sunny window, says Myers. And short-season plants like radishes, greens and beets can be grown in containers outdoors in fall and moved inside on frosty nights.  

Stop and Smell the Basil

Gardens are also a wonderful place for aromatherapy. Basil, for instance, can energize and uplift, and, as an essential oil, help reduce inflammation. Other good plants include lavender, which relaxes and balances the body, chamomile, which relieves stress and anxiety, and thyme, which helps fight fatigue. 

Learn More

For more healthy tips, along with Myers’ tricks on how to grow beautiful gardens, download your free Gardening Toolkit .

Weed Out The Pain Toolkit Download

Published in Aromatherapy

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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