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Therapy Tips

Lift with the Legs
The way we lift objects from the floor can go a long way in preventing lower back pain. It is important that we maintain the normal "sway", known as the lumbar lordosis, when lifting an object or even when stooping down to pick up a dime. Large muscles in the legs were designed to perform such a task, compared to the small, thin muscles of the spine. Keep your trunk as vertical as possible, keep the object close to your body, and avoid twisting, instead move your feet when turning. If you have doubt in your mind as to whether you can handle an object, always ask for help.

How to Raise Your Hand
All of us have to reach overhead on occasion, either in our every day activities such as grooming and dressing, or with work and sporting endeavors. A simple tip to remember when raising our arm overhead is to always, if possible, lead with the thumb. When you lift your arm with the thumb up, it helps prevent a pinching or "impingement" of important tissues which lie just above the "ball" (humeral head) of the shoulder joint, especially rotator cuff tendons and bursas. This easy adjustment in the way we move our arms can go a long way in preventing tendonitis and bursitis.

Stretching Principles
Stretching is important in the prevention of musculoskeletal injuries. A five minute warm up of the muscles prior to stretching is recommended, such as a stationary bike ride prior to stretching a leg muscle, including the quadriceps (front of the thigh) and hamstring (back of the thigh). We recommend that muscle stretching should occur for 30 seconds at least three times per day if a lengthening is desired, twice a day to maintain muscle length. Never "bounce" when stretching, Take the muscle to a position where a "pulling" sensation is felt, no pain, and hold that position for the duration of the stretch. Concentrate on steady, rhythmical breathing. Flexibility is lost as we age, so it is important that we all stretch regularly as part of our regular workouts.

When to Apply Heat
The application of heat to an injury and it's benefit is one of controversy. Many times patients will be told 24-48 hours of ice immediately following injury followed by application of heat. We've found however that if heat is applied to an injury where inflammation is present, recovery from the injury can become delayed. A rule of thumb that we use is that if there is visible swelling or significant tenderness to the touch, heat should be avoided and ice applied. "Achiness and stiffness" are symptoms which will most likely benefit from heat. Moist heat is best, either a moist heating pad or submersing in water (bath or hot tub). 20 minutes is a safe treatment time, two to three times per day. One important precaution to remember is to never use a "high" setting on a heating pad, which can sometimes lead to superficial burns.

Applying Ice to Injuries
Apply ice immediately following an injury to prevent tissue inflammation for 15-20 minutes. Continue ice application at least twice daily if swelling remains. Using heat on an acute injury will delay healing and may cause tissues to become more inflamed. Large areas are best treated with a gel cold pack, where a wet towel is a good buffer between the skin and pack. Rubbing an ice cube over a small area is very effective for isolated injuries, and should be continued until the area is numb.


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