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

Relaxation. It’s a simple concept, but something that can be incredibly difficult to achieve – especially for those with chronic pain. But being able to take your mind off your pain, if even just for a few minutes, can significantly improve your pain levels and benefit your physical and mental health.

How Relaxation Helps

Relaxation techniques can be different for everyone – from meditating or doing breathing exercises to crafting or gardening. But the results are the same: Relaxation aids in the reduction of stress, which can benefit your whole body. Stress causes muscle tension throughout your body, which in turn can cause your pain to worsen. Relaxation exercises help you ease that built-up tension in your body, reducing pain. The stress relief that relaxation brings can also improve sleep patterns, one of the main problems that people with chronic pain experience.

On top of that, certain relaxation activities like meditation can actually help release endorphins, your body’s natural “feel-good” chemicals. Endorphins lead to a natural boost in your mood and can help you relax even further.

Even for those utilizing medication for their pain, relaxation is beneficial. In fact, medications work best when they are used in conjunction with stress-relieving activities, along with exercise and lifestyle modifications.

Choose Your Activity

The activity itself can be a variety of things, but what really matters is that it absorbs your attention, taking your thoughts off your pain levels and refocusing them on something you enjoy doing. According to an article published on CNN.com, our bodies are only able to process a certain amount of information at a time. Therefore if you’re doing something that truly engrosses you, you won’t have enough attention left over to constantly monitor your pain levels.

Many people find meditation to be that key activity that allows them to refocus their minds. It can also fight inflammation. When people think of meditation, they often envision mindfulness meditation, in which you focus on your breathing and clear your mind, but that’s only one of a variety of meditation techniques. If you’re looking for other options, consider using guided imagery or breathing techniques to help your body relax.

According to the CNN article, crafting carries many of the same benefits as meditation. Activities like quilting, painting or making things with your hands can spur the release of dopamine, a pleasurable chemical found in the reward center of the brain. Plus, seeing the finished product around your home can actually cause your body to release dopamine again and again. In addition, many hand-based crafts may help reduce arthritis and joint pain by helping to lubricate the joints, thus improving function.

Gardening – even if it’s just small indoor herb garden – may also be the key. For gardening expert Melinda Myers, “The rhythm of some garden tasks . . . redirects your thoughts to the action and away from your stresses and worries.”

Incorporate your Senses

If simply performing your chosen relaxation activity isn’t enough to completely take your mind off your pain, and you still can’t let go of those nagging thoughts in the back of your mind, consider a multisensory approach. Creating the ideal environment for all of your senses might just be the key.

For instance, many essential oils are useful for fighting pain, while others boost relaxation. For a meditation session, consider Roman chamomile, which relieves stress and decreases inflammation. And for crafting, choose basil, which energizes, uplifts and relaxes your muscles. There are a plethora of oils available to help you obtain your desired mood. Put them in a diffuser or oil warmer to get the scent circulating around your home.

And did you know that music can also help reduce the perception of pain and spur the release of dopamine – and singing along is a great way to release tension. Even just humming has been shown to calm the mind and reduce stress. Music with a faster beat will encourage more concentrated thinking, while a slower one is good for meditative states.

So next time you can’t get your pain off your mind, grab some yarn or a paint brush, plug in some pain-reducing oils and crank up your favorite music – and don’t be afraid to belt out the lyrics along with it.

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

Published in Relaxation
Thursday, 02 November 2017 12:37

Re-Tool your Garden Arsenal to Ease Aches

Gardeners are no strangers to aches and pains. The constant bending, kneeling and twisting can take its toll on even the toughest among us. But there’s an easy way to guard against garden injury, and it starts in the toolshed.

Focus on the Padding

Kneeling

Padding isn’t just for contact sports; it’s an important element of any gardener’s toolbox. To reduce knee pain and injury, turn to a padded kneeler or knee pad when weeding and planting. And tools need padding, too. Gardening expert Melinda Myers says she uses pruners, saws and trowels with a cushioned, ergonomic grip to lessen hand pain, cramping and fatigue.

Brace Yourself

There are a variety of braces available, including back, wrist and knee, which can help support your body when you bend and twist. Braces, which are especially effective for dealing with chronic pain, carpal tunnel and osteoarthritis, among other conditions, can reduce pain and help prevent further injury, while assisting in recovery and improving mobility. Myers, who suffered from knee pain, used a knee brace to stabilize and reduce pain, and currently uses a foot /ankle brace to reduce pain while standing for long periods or walking on uneven ground.

Lighten the Load

Heavy lifting in the garden — from rocks and fertilizer to water and hoses — is a common cause of injury. Consider using a wheelbarrow, wagon or garden cart to haul the heavy stuff, saving your back and knees from the strain. When loading in your gardening gear, though, remember to start from a kneeling or squatting position, with your back straight, and lift with your legs while holding the object close to your body.

Published in Melinda Myers
Thursday, 02 November 2017 12:16

Step up Your Health with a Raised Garden

The frequent bending, kneeling, stooping and reaching that are required  to create and maintain a beautiful garden can often leave your body with aches and pains, pulls andstrains. Raising your garden off the ground can be an easy – and visually appealing – solution, saving your body from unnecessary strain while adding a pop to your plants.

Bale Out

A straw bale garden is an interesting alternative to the traditional raised garden bed. Although it takes a bit more preparation work than a normal garden (12 days of conditioning and daily watering), there are many perks, says Melinda Myers, an expert horticulturalist who works with Advanced Pain Management to provide tips on seasonal gardening and safety. Not only does it raise the garden to a better working height, but it doesn’t require large amounts of soil and the straw bales serve as the container and planting mix. To get the best results, says Myers, “Plant annual vegetables, condition the bales in early spring and plant them in spring for a summer or fall harvest.” So save those fall decorative straw bales and convert them into a productive garden next spring.

Step by StepLadder_Garden-1

Placing plants on the rungs of a ladder is a creative way to add visual appeal and raise plants off the ground. If you plan to place your ladder outside, use pots of fall favorites like pansies or mums.

But don’t forget to secure the pots to the ladder and the ladder to the ground so they don’t blow over, reminds Myers. You can also bring your ladder indoors and use flowering plants like anthuriums and peace lilies, which look beautiful staggered on a ladder and can be maintained without excessive stooping or kneeling.

“This would also be a fun way to change things seasonally,” says Myers, who suggests switching to festive plants like poinsettias around the holidays.

Take a Seat

“Any chair, stool, support or repurposed item would make a great decorative addition to the garden,” says Myers. Such items add both vertical interest and accessibility. Add a pop of coordinating color with mums, bright light Swiss chard, snapdragons or dianthus. Or try planting a leaky birdbath. “Greens like lettuce and spinach would look nice, fit the space and thrive in cooler fall temps,” suggests Myers.

Garden, Garden on the Wall

Shoe_Caddy-1

Green walls are another option for upright gardeners. “These are basically containers gone vertical,” says Myers. Not only are they a very trendy option right now, she says, but they are also something you can build yourself.

For those who aren’t handy, a cloth over-the-door shoe caddy can work just as well – and provide an individual spot for a variety of indoor plants and herbs. Just be sure to protect the floor or any furnishing located below the caddy from dripping water.

Grab Some Padding

For the sections of your garden that are still at ground-level, don’t fret; there are still ways to reduce pain during prolonged periods of planting, weeding or harvesting. To reduce knee pain and injury, for instance, look into purchasing a padded kneeler or knee pads. And when dealing with back pain, consider using a back brace, which can provide 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. Knee and wrist braces are also an option.

Learn More

For more expert gardening advice from Myers – along with tips on how to stay safe and avoid pain in the garden – download your free Gardening Toolkit

Published in Melinda Myers

Toward the end of September and beginning of October, a plethora of crops are ready to harvest. Tomatoes, peppers, melons and squash, including pumpkins, continue to ripen and will fill our harvest baskets until the first killing frost, says gardening expert Melinda Myers. “And, even with cooler temperatures,” she says, “mid-summer plantings of cool crops like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower and kale will mature. Their flavor actually improves after a light frost.” Even late plantings of things like greens, radishes, turnips and beets continue to grow and can be harvested as they mature throughout the fall season.

But before you head out to the garden to start gathering your harvest haul, make sure you know the best way to pick your plants in order to avoid doing damage – to both the plants themselves and to your body.

Grab the Right Tools

“Too often we head to the garden for a few minutes,” says Myers, “and an hour and a half later we are still out there, often without the equipment that protects our bodies.” Don’t fall into that trap. Without the right tools, you run the risk of hurting yourself and damaging your plants to the point where they will no longer keep producing

Consider investing in a sharp knife or garden scissors, which can make harvesting easier and do less damage than picking. For fruit trees, physical therapist Courtney Wack suggests using an apple picker to minimize repetitive hand motions.

When shopping for tools, “buy tools with wider handles, or bulk them up yourself with foam or a washcloth and some tape,” Wack suggests. This, along with stretching out your hands and wrists, can reduce the risk of hand pain later, especially for those suffering from arthritis.

And to reduce the risk of knee pain during prolonged periods of kneeling, a padded knee pad combined with a proper stance can go a long way. With the kneeler in position, drop down onto one knee and keep one foot one the ground to give your back more stability.

Carry Carefully

When it comes to transporting your haul to the house, make sure to do so carefully; fruits and vegetables can easily sustain damage en route, and so can you. “Stack veggies in a shallow basket or crate to minimize bruising,” says Myers. And empty the basket often, both to prevent bruising and because carrying too much weight in front of you can increase the strain on your back.

For greens like lettuce (on which you harvest the outer leaves when they reach 4 to 6 inches) and chard (8 to 10 inches), take a bucket of water into the garden and place the greens into it to keep them fresh.

To haul your harvest back indoors, squat to grab your basket of produce, tightening your core muscles, then lift with your legs. Don’t forget to keep the basket or crate close to you as you walk and avoid twisting at the waist. Or consider looking for a basket or bag you can wear on your back and use both straps to disperse the weight more evenly.

Protecting Perennials

Perennial plants like raspberries, strawberries and fruit trees, along with spring-harvested perennials like asparagus and rhubarb, require their own kind of care to protect them throughout the winter. “Do not fertilize them now,” warns Myers, since “fertilization stimulates late-season growth that can be killed in winter.” After a frost, she advises, remove any diseased or insect-infected leaves, but do not compost. Instead, contact your city for ideas on how to dispose of this type of material.

For protection from animals, consider erecting a fence around your fruit trees and bushes or use a repellent labeled for use on edibles. Scaring the animal away through the use of visual or auditory scare devices is also an option, although it’s not as effective in urban areas. In suburban and rural areas, noise-makers and motion-activated water sprayers may be useful. Or try visual items like reflective tape or predator statues to keep critters at bay. For the best results, use a combination of tactics, monitor them throughout the year and make adjustments as needed.

Pace Yourself

Although it’s tempting, don’t try to harvest all of your plants in one day. Spread it out over multiple days to reduce the risk of overworking yourself and your muscles. If you do pull a long harvesting shift, though, make sure to take frequent breaks, walking around and stretching every 20-30 minutes.

You can also try to enlist the help of a friend – both to share in the work and take home some of the produce. Having a partner means being able to switch between strenuous tasks, like carrying or picking produce, and easier ones, or even allow you time to rest. Besides, says Myers, “most gardeners plant more than they can use.” You’ll be grateful for both the extra help in the garden and the fact that they take some of your bountiful harvest off your hands.

Weed Out The Pain Toolkit Download

Published in Melinda Myers

“Don’t let winter stop you from gardening and enjoying your landscape,” says expert horticulturalist Melinda Myers. And don’t let pain stop you, either! Download APM’s new Weed out the Pain: Winter Home and Garden Edition for tips and ideas on maintaining your plants and your health during these cold winter months, as well as ideas on exciting pain-fighting recipes and crafts.

Brave the Outdoors

Winter is a difficult time in the Midwest, since the cold weather often keeps us indoors – and away from our gardens. It’s also a hard time for people with pain, since the frigid temperatures and difficult winter chores can often increase pain. But winter doesn’t have to mean the end of your hobbies – even gardening – and, if done right, your outdoor chores don’t have to be a source of pain. Melinda’s advice on winterizing your landscape, paired with expert injury prevention advice from pain management providers, can help you enjoy winter and reduce your pain in the process.

For instance, Melinda recommends that after it snows, people should shovel first, then use a plant-friendly deicing salt. This way, you use less salt, making it better for your budget and your landscape. And while shoveling, switch sides often in order to avoid muscle fatigue or strain. It’s better for your back and means less chance of injury.

Staying Inside

But you don’t even have to go outside to experience the benefits of gardening. “Whether it’s the plants you brought in for winter, a new houseplant or greens on a windowsill, gardening helps reduce stress and elevate our mood,” says Melinda.

Melinda suggests growing an array of microgreens as an easy and nutritious gardening project this winter. Radish, mustard and spicy microgreens can give a spicy zip to your meals, and sunflower and popcorn microgreens have a delectable nutty flavor. 

Speaking of delectable meals, winter’s the perfect time to stock up your pantry with foods that fight pain – like cherries, ginger and peppers – and add them to a warm slow-cooked meal. The winter toolkit provides nine unique, tasty dishes to curb your hunger and decrease your pain, like this slow cooker creamy chicken and mint curry from Food 52. The refreshing addition of mint can actually help reduce inflammation and decrease headaches and general aches and pains.

After you’ve eaten, try your hand at some of the exciting winter- and nature-themed crafts in the toolkit, which not only help you brighten your home during the dull winter months, but can also help you fight pain.

Learn More

To get these expert tips from Melinda and APM’s pain management professionals, in addition to an array of pain-fighting recipes and winter crafts – download the Weed out the Pain: Winter Home and Garden Edition now!

Published in Gardening
Wednesday, 01 November 2017 02:55

Crafting with Chronic Pain

Did you know that making crafts can actually help decrease your arthritis and joint pain? It’s true. “Just like with any body part, hands with arthritis need to be moved,” says physical therapist Inna Kuznetsov. Physical therapist Courtney Wack agrees, explaining that joints can stiffen when they’re not moved for long periods. “Movement and exercise can increase synovial fluid productions, which can improve joint function and decrease pain” she says.

Any crafts that include kneading, crocheting or painting with larger-size brushes can be particularly helpful, says Kuznetsov, as can activities like making puzzles, playing cards or gardening.

Hand and Wrist Stretches

To reduce pain during other crafting activities, consider incorporating some simple hand and wrist stretches and exercises to loosen up your joints.

  • Wrist Flexor Stretch: Raise your left arm in front of you, keeping it parallel to the floor with your elbow straight. Grasp you left hand with your right, and slowly bend your fingers back until you feel a stretch. Hold for 20-30 seconds. Repeat on the right side.
  • Wrist Extensor Stretch: With your left arm in front of you and your elbow straight, grasp your left hand with your right and slowly bend your hand down until you feel a stretch. Hold 20-30 seconds. Repeat on the right side.
  • Finger Opposition: Actively touch your right thumb to each fingertip. Start with your index finger and end with your little finger. Move slowly at first, then more rapidly as motion and coordination improve. Perform for 30-60 seconds with each hand.
  • Towel Roll Squeeze: Roll up a small towel and place it in your right hand. With your right forearm resting on a table or other surface, gently squeeze the towel 10 times. Repeat on the left side.
  • Paper Crumpling Exercise: Begin with your right palm down on a piece of paper. While maintaining contact between the surface and the heel of your hand, crumple the paper into a ball.

While these stretches are a good place to start, says physical therapist Heather Schroeder, “further assessment is always needed by a physical therapist to determine more specific exercises for your condition.”

Preventing Neck and Back Pain

In addition to arthritis and joint pain, crafting can affect neck pain and back pain. To decrease your chances of experiencing these types of pain, make sure you’re sitting in a comfortable chair or couch that is high enough from the floor so that your hips are higher than your knees. This position will allow your body to maintain a better posture. Sitting for long periods in a chair that’s too low makes your back curve, which puts more pressure on your spine and can cause increased back or neck pain.

When completing a project that may take long periods of time, remember to get up and walk around every 30 minutes or so. The joints in your hands aren’t the only ones that need lubrication. Take some time to stretch your back and legs.

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

Published in Weed-Out-the-Pain
Wednesday, 01 November 2017 01:19

A Healthy Harvest – For You and Your Plants

Harvest is a wonderful time, but for gardeners it can often be a (literal) pain in the neck – and back and knees. But, with a few easy changes, you can protect yourself – and your plants.

Get Into Position

Harvesting vegetables requires a lot of physical exertion. Carrots and most root crops, for instance, are first dug with a fork and then picked up by hand, either when bending or kneeling.

To reduce the risk of injury, avoid kneeling on both knees and keep one foot on the ground to give your back more stability, while making sure to change positions frequently. If possible, bending should be avoided. When it’s absolutely necessary, bend at the knees and hips and tighten your abs. Or bend at the hips and extend one leg back, keeping your back straight. And take frequent breaks, walking around every 20-30 minutes.

Gardening expert Melinda Myers suggests that next year instead of planting bush beans, which require a lot of bending and searching to find all the ripe beans, consider the taller and easier to pick pole beans. And to do less damage to your plants and ensure that they continue to grow and develop, use a sharp knife and scissors during harvesting.

Perfect Pumpkins

Pumpkin picking requires precision. “Pumpkins are harvested when the rind is firm and glossy, the fruit is full-size and the portion touching the ground turns from cream to orange,” says Myers. Don’t lift it by the stem, since it may break. Instead, squat with your feet shoulder-width apart, bend at the hips and knees and pick up from the base, lifting gradually.  

Pick Your Posture

When it comes to fruit trees, use a ladder or secure step stool to avoid looking up for long periods. Work at waist level whenever possible, looking and reaching in front of you rather than above you. When picking fruit, gently twist it instead of pulling it off. And don’t forget to harvest your plants regularly, says Myers, so there’s less to harvest at one time – and so your plants keep producing.

Weed Out The Pain Toolkit Download

Published in Healthy Living
Tuesday, 31 October 2017 18:25

5 Ways to Extend the Growing Season

Don’t let cooler temperatures and the impending winter season stop you from gardening. Take advantage of every nice day and use these five strategies to keep gardening and enjoying your landscape.

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  1. Add a splash of color to your fall garden with the help of cool-season annuals. Plant pansies, sweet alyssum, ornamental cabbage and kale in the garden or containers for a colorful finale to the season. Planting in containers – especially when they’re placed on stools or ladders at waist level – is an easy way to avoid excessive bending and kneeling, which can aggravate back and knee pain.

    You can also double your gardening pleasure by growing cool wave and other winter hardy pansies. These will brighten your fall garden, survive winter and add color to your spring garden as the bulbs begin peeking through the soil. Be sure to use a padded kneeler or knee pad when planting, and avoid kneeling on both knees whenever possible. Your knees will thank you at the end of the day.

  2. Take advantage of fall plant sales and add a few trees, shrubs and perennials to your landscape. The soil is warm and the air is cool, making it less stressful for you and the plants. Once your plants are in the ground, make sure to water them thoroughly and whenever the top few inches of soil are slightly moist but still crumble in your hand.

    And hydrate yourself, as well. Even though it’s cooler out, have a water bottle nearby; being dehydrated can lead to fatigue, muscle weakness and even dizziness. To further help your body, reduce the strain on your muscles by using the proper tools when digging and planting. To avoid hand pain, for instance, look for tools with padded handles or take a DIY approach, bulking up the handles on your existing tools with a washcloth and tape.

  3. Tarp.smallProtect flowers and vegetables from frosty nights. The first few fall frosts are often followed by warm, sunny weather during which you can enjoy the beautiful flowers and produce from your garden. Floating row covers sold as ReeMay, Harvest Guard and Garden Fabric allow air, light and water through while protecting plants down to 24 degrees. This means you can leave your plants covered, day and night, as long as needed.
     
  4. Bring a few annuals indoors. You can move potted plants into a sunny window or start new plants from cuttings. I prefer the latter, since you can wash off any unwanted pests and the resulting smaller plants take up less window space. First, start by taking 4- to 6-inch cuttings from your favorite annuals such as coleus, geranium or annual vinca. Then root the cuttings in moist vermiculite or a well-drained potting mix. Once rooted, move them to a small container filled with potting mix. Just like outside, you can easily reduce pain by placing indoor potted plants on a waist-height table, stool or ladder, or by employing a homemade or store-bought wall garden.

    You can grow your new plant in either a sunny window or under artificial lights. Be sure to water it thoroughly and often enough to keep the soil slightly moist. With proper care and enough light, you will be enjoying a few flowers over the winter.
     
  5. Harvest and preserve some herbs for added flavor in your winter meals. Use garden scissors or pruners when harvesting them. Rinse the herbs, remove any damaged or dried leaves, bundle, and hang upside down to dry. A warm, dry, airy place out of direct sunlight works best. Store dried herbs in airtight containers in a cool, dark location. For pain-fighting properties, consider drying some mint. It’s a great ingredient to add to your tea in fall and winter, and can reduce inflammation and relieve general aches and pains.

    As you garden your way through fall, you’ll not only improve the beauty of your landscape, but also your emotional and physical wellbeing. Enjoy!

    Weed Out The Pain Toolkit Download

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