Back Pain

Back Pain: Do’s & Don’ts

When struggling with back pain, it’s hard to enjoy your life. You feel as though each movement has become more cautious because you’re worried that one wrong move could make the pain worse — which you don’t want. 

Suddenly, you feel yourself holding back because of your back pain. You start saying “no” when you really want to say “yes.” You can’t keep up with your friends and family like you used to be able to. Walking up and down the stairs has become harder. Bending over to pick something up is uncomfortable, so you ask for help when you can. You change your exercise intensity so you don’t make the back pain worse. 

You feel frustrated and codependent, and you want to get back to living life how you did before the back pain started. You start to wonder what to do about your back pain. How can you help it? What should you avoid? What should you do

It’s normal to feel a little lost when it comes to deciding what to do about your back pain. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of Do’s & Don’ts when it comes to struggling with back pain. Keep reading to find out what to do and what not to do when struggling with back pain. 

DON’T: Push yourself harder during exercise and ignore the back pain. 

➡️When you’re already dealing with back pain, it’s never a good idea to push harder during exercise. This could leave you worse off than before — in severe pain or even injured. Then, the surgery you were trying to avoid is now the only solution to finding relief — and you don’t want that. Instead, stop exercising for the time being and contact a physical therapist to see if they can help you figure out why your back pain started in the first place. A PT is sure to have the answers you’re looking for. 

DO: Make sure you’re properly stretching before exercise, so you don’t keep the pain around or end up making it worse. And if the pain is bad — don’t keep exercising. 

➡️It’s important to stretch properly before exercising — no matter the intensity. This helps loosen your muscles and reduces the possibility of becoming injured or making your back pain worse. Taking the time to research or reach out to a trusted professional about the proper stretches to do before exercising will help you a ton in the long run. 

DON’T: Sacrifice a good night’s sleep over back pain. 

➡️A good night’s sleep is essential to someone with a busy, active lifestyle. Without proper rest, you’ll have to go through the day with low energy, relying on coffee to help wake you up – and that’s no way to live. It’s important that you take the necessary steps to help you and your back pain to make sure you are sleeping well and comfortably. If that means buying a new mattress with support — then it might be worth it for you. You never know how good, comfortable sleep can help your back pain if you don’t try. 

DO: Pay attention to posture whenever possible. 

➡️While you may not think it’s necessary, taking the steps to improve your posture can help make all the difference in preventing future back pain and injuries. Whether it’s stretching before you exercise or using back support whenever seated or lying down — taking cautionary preventive measures in helping your posture is always a good idea for your back pain and your overall well-being. 

DON’T: Wait for the back pain to disappear on its own — because it won’t. 

➡️It’s true. Resting or waiting for the back pain to go away won’t change anything. Why? This is because the root cause of your back pain problem isn’t being addressed properly. When you rest, the pain is temporarily reduced — but the moment you’re active again, it can flare up and you’ll be right back where you started. What you need is a provider that can assess your back pain properly and give you the help you need — like a physical therapist. 

DO: Search for the best physical therapy clinic in your area that’ll help with back pain! 

➡️When you’ve tried everything and NOTHING seems to be working, that’s a good sign that physical therapy might be the answer to your back pain. It’s important that before you book an appointment, you search for the best PT in your area and have a conversation with them. Tell them about your back pain and what your experience has been like. There’s a PT out there that’s sure to have the solution you need waiting for you. 

Hopefully, these Do’s & Don’ts on back pain gave you a little insight on what to do the next time you’re experiencing pain that just won’t go away. It’s important to remember that there’s ALWAYS a non-invasive solution to finding relief. Be sure to reach out to a physical therapy clinic near you, ask the necessary questions, and see if they’re the perfect fit. Don’t waste any more time living in pain when physical therapy can help. 

If you’re interested in learning more about how Union, NJ can help YOU with your back pain, contact us for more information! We’d love to get the conversation started and get to know you and your back pain better. Once we do, we can come up with a plan on how to help you return to your active lifestyle without back pain restrictions and limitations. Contact us today! 

Gardening – Managing Neck/Back/Shoulder Pain

Gardening is a rewarding hobby and a passion, but it has its costs. Don’t let pain prevent you from continuing to enjoy your hobbies. Physical therapy, a consistent exercise routine, and a plan for moderate gardening can help you to garden safely and avoid long-term complications like arthritis.

How Gardening Affects Your Body

Gardening involves many repetitive activities such as bending, kneeling, digging, reaching, and carrying plants and soil. Bending can cause neck pain, shoulder pain, and back pain, and kneeling for long periods can cause knee pain.

As you age, you might lose the ability to perform repetitive activities for long periods of time. While gardening is good exercise, overuse of muscles and stress on joints can lead to pain, stiffness, and long-term injury if gardeners do not keep in good physical shape and make sure to garden in a healthy way.

Pain From Gardening

If you experience pain after gardening, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and other over-the-counter pain relievers could help with gardening pain temporarily. However, these drugs may lose their effectiveness over time and cause side effects such as stomach upset. 

Rather than depending on pain relievers, consider your overall physical fitness plan and the way you garden to help your body heal and protect your joints and muscles from future damage. 

Tips for Managing Pain

Take Breaks When You Garden

In many cases, the pain gets worse when you overwork muscles, ligaments, and tendons. Since many gardening tasks require you to do the same activity repeatedly, stopping for a few minutes during a task can give your body time to recover. 

Muscles can become sore if they do not receive enough oxygen. Slowing down and breathing deeply can help your muscles recharge.

Stay Hydrated

Dehydration can make you susceptible to the effects of heat and can cause muscle pain and cramping. Bring plenty of water with you when you garden, and keep track of how much you drink while you are out there. When possible, work in the shade to minimize water loss through sweating.

Use Ice

If you have sore muscles, rest them and press an ice pack against them to reduce swelling. Icing your muscles for twenty minutes or so will make them feel better and give you a chance to recuperate.

Try a TENS Unit

A Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulator (TENS) unit relieves pain in sore muscles by making them contract. This promotes natural healing processes and reduces pain. Physical therapists often use TENS units for pain relief after therapy, and you can buy a home unit for personal use.

Physical Therapy

For more serious pain that does not respond to at-home therapies, physical therapy restores range of motion and helps muscles heal. Physical therapy exercises can target strains, tension, and repetitive motion injuries that result from gardening.

Tips for Avoiding Pain

Stretch Before You Garden

Following a stretching routine before you garden is one way to make your muscles more resilient and reduce the risk of injury. In physical therapy, your therapist might recommend specific stretches.

Vary Your Garden Routine

If you have many tasks to perform during each gardening session, switch from one to another frequently. Different gardening activities often rely on different muscles and muscle groups, so switching gives your muscles time to recover.


Regular cardiovascular exercise strengthens your muscles and provides support for your joints. Strong core muscles help you maintain good posture while you are gardening and reduce stress on your back, hips, and legs.

Stretch When You Finish Gardening

Take a few minutes to cool down with some light stretches after you finish gardening. Stretching helps make your muscles and joints more flexible and less prone to injury.

Check Your Food Intake

Your muscles need protein and complex carbohydrates to develop. Your bones and nervous system need calcium. Some foods promote pain and inflammation, while others reduce it. Proper nutrition equips your body to handle the challenges of gardening. 

Overcoming Pain With Physical Therapy from Progressive Edge Physical Therapy

It is natural to experience more aches and pains as you get older, but that does not mean that pain is unavoidable. With the right combination of the best physical therapy from Progressive Edge Physical Therapy, food intake, and exercise, you can continue to enjoy an active lifestyle, including gardening and other outdoor hobbies.If you have gardening pain that does not go away or is severe enough to interfere with your daily activities, call Progressive Edge Physical Therapy at 201-563-8418 to schedule your physical therapy session today!

Tips For Traveling With Back Pain

It’s about that time of year when more and more people are beginning to travel again, which means longer lines and crowded airports. In the midst of all travel stress, are you making sure you’re taking care of yourself and staying away from old back pain flare ups? Traveling wears down on your mind and body and we’re here to give you some easy tips you can follow to avoid added-on stress and pain during your travels. Whether you’re traveling for business or pleasure, here are some tips you can follow: 

Plan Your Trip

You should aim to travel with either a foam roller, lumbar support, or kinesiology tape. Any of these items will aid in helping your back pain during a flight. Also, when it comes to planning ahead you should look at avoiding inflammatory foods such as: fried foods, sweetened beverages, processed carbohydrates, etc. 

Take Breaks – Walk Or Stretch

Sitting for long periods of time can cause fatigue and stiffness. If you’re on the plane, try getting up every 20 minutes if possible. If you’re not able to walk in the cabin, you can stand up and stretch in your seat (we will cover stretches you can do in the next section). If you’re in the airport, try standing up and moving around before your flight boards. 

Stretches You Can Do On A Plane

Rolling Joints: You can do this while seating and its effectiveness may surprise you! Spend a few minutes taking turns rotating or rolling your ankles, wrists, shoulders, and neck. 

Knee Pull Ups: This is another one you can do in your seat; sit straight and bring your left knee up towards your left shoulder, hold for  20 seconds and repeat with the other side. This helps take pressure off your lower back. 

Lumbar Rotation: While seating, face forward and turn your upper body to the right and hold for a few seconds, then repeat on the other side. This stretch is also great for your lower back.

Sciatica Nerve Gliding: You’ll need to stand for this one (take a few seconds and head for the aisle if possible) and slowly swing your leg back and forth at a 30 degree angle. Switch legs and repeat. 

Smaller Bags Are Better Than One Giant Bag 

Consider traveling with smaller bags instead of one big bag. This may sound like a hassle to you, but in the long run it’s worth it! Even if you have to spend a bit more on baggage fees, your back will thank you!

See Your PT Before You Go

Make sure you schedule an appointment with us before you go on your trip. We’ll make sure you’re all tuned up and ready to. Give us a call at 201-563-8418 to schedule today!

How Poor Sleep Might be Aggravating your Back Pain

Back pain is an elusive beast… it can strike at any moment and can often leave us feeling debilitated for weeks, months, or even years if nothing is done about it. In fact, back pain is so widespread it’s now considered one of the most common issues around the globe. What’s truly interesting is that, while so many people suffer from back pain in one form or another, no pain is similar – how about that? Yet, while no individual is the same, one thing may very well be a common denominator in all cases: poor quality and quantity of sleep. Yes, that’s right. Poor sleep may in fact directly contribute to back pain in various ways. In this post, then, we look at why sleep is important, how a lack of sleep can cause and/or aggravate back pain, and ways in which you can get back to getting some shut eye so as to alleviate your discomfort. Are you ready? Let’s go!

Why is sleep so important? Well, during the hours of sleep our bodies have a chance to heal and to reenergize – muscles, nerves, and joints all have time to re-set and take some time to regroup. Sleep regulates blood pressure, mood, alertness, brain responses, immune system responses, weight control, and so much more. And for these reasons, it’s clear that a lack of sleep may adversely affect you… not least when it comes to back pain.

But why is a lack of sleep particularly bad when it comes to back pain? Well, as mentioned, sleeping hours give the body a chance to recover from the exertions from the day before: muscles relax, blood flow is regulated, and the immune system is given an opportunity to see to any nagging issues that are present. If sleep quality and quantity is disrupted, therefore, the body is unable to do many – if any – of those things, and your tissues, joints, muscles, and nerves are neglected. Because the back and spinal cord are the veritable epicenter of your nervous system for the majority of your body, it stands to reason that a lack of sleep will eventually culminate in back pain – the body has a unique way of centralizing stress placed on it in the back, and in very few ways is this less obvious as when it comes to being tired.

In addition, being tired means you’re less aware of your posture and movements, thereby constantly placing your back in vulnerable and compromising positions. You may be unaware of the way in which you’re walking, sitting, or carrying heavy objects. You may also not be particularly aware of twisting in the spine or pressure placed on it in the form of carrying a backpack, for example. Mental alertness – gained from a good night’s sleep – will help you make positive decisions for your back. The opposite is true if you’re tired and fatigued.

And let’s face it: back pain is very rarely centralized – over time, your back pain may very well turn into neck, shoulder, or even hip pain… not to mention headaches! It’s an ongoing, often debilitating cycle… all of which is facilitated by poor quality sleep.

So, what can be done? The first thing to do is to take a serious look at precisely why you are getting sub-par sleep quality and quantity. You ought to aim for a good 8 hours of sleep so as to reap the most benefits possible. If you’re falling short of this, try thinking about the following:

Are you stretching enough?

Stretching before bed can make all the difference: from lubricating your joints to easing the pent-up stress in your muscles, a good bedtime stretch routine is essential for a good night’s rest.

Do you have the proper pillow?

Ensure that your pillow supports your neck and spinal cord correctly – if you’re unsure, please reach out to a physical therapist for help and information.

Are you sleeping in the correct position?

Stomach sleepers, beware! Avoid sleeping on your stomach at all costs, as the pressure placed on your back can be immense. Instead, sleep on your side with a pillow between your knees and ankles to support your spine.

What’s your bedtime routine like?

Ensure that the hour or so before bed is dominated by a healthful routine: read a book, drink some herbal tea, listen to some music, or mediate. Avoid screens if possible – all this will mean you have a much better quality of sleep simply because you primed your body to relax.

Are you drinking enough water?

Avoid stiffness and aches by drinking enough water throughout the day: dehydration can cause disturbed sleep, whilst an increase in blood pressure caused by a lack of water may very well add to your back pain in the long run.

Are you dealing with your stress?

Stress can and will affect your sleep quality and quantity if you let it: be sure to meditate, practice yoga, walk, or read so as to relieve some of the stress of the day. Never take your stress to bed.

Back pain can spell the end of a successful training routine, the beginning of bad moods, and the potential ruin of your relationships and activity levels. It’s absolutely vital that you find the root cause of your back pain so as to start getting back to the things you love. One way to do this is to take a good look at your sleep patterns. Physical therapy is a fantastic option if you’re ready to get to the bottom of your sleep problems and back pain. By finding and treating the root cause, assessing your sleeping patterns, giving you exercises and stretches to do at home, and advising you on the best sleep-posture and bedtime routine for you, physical therapy will make all the difference. If you’ve not considered physical therapy, now’s your chance!

Don’t let a bad night’s sleep steal one more day from you. For more information and for advice on how we can help you with your sleep and back pain, why not contact one of our professional, friendly physical therapists right now? We look forward to hearing from you!

Tips for Avoiding Back Pain While Driving This Season

There’s something about driving, isn’t there? The long roads, the beautiful landscapes, great music on the stereo, and back pain. Wait, what? Back pain? Yes, that’s right. While we all love taking long road trips with loved ones, or indulging in the much-needed down-time on our drive to the take out, driving can take an unanticipated physical toll. On that note, the festive season is upon us and it’s my guess that the gas tank is full and you’ve already packed your elf costume for a visit to grandma’s, right? Well, in that case, you best keep reading. I’m here to tell you all about why you get back pain when driving and what you can do to avoid it. Let’s jump straight in!

Maybe you’re wondering why you never really thought about driving as back pain being related. And that’s ok! It may not seem immediately obvious – in fact, it’s often the last place people think to look. Ironically, though, it’s probably the first culprit to turn to. Here’s why:

Poor Posture

Sitting in a car seat can be tough on your back at the best of times, but being stuck in that position for long durations of time, or for many days consecutively, can wreak absolute havoc on your back muscles and spine. Not only is your mobility and general movement restricted, but your neck, shoulders, back, and hips, are forced into a largely unnatural position. The result? Pain… and at times, a lot of it.

Lack of Movement

As mentioned above, car rides restrict movement. I’m sure you’ve experienced the frustration of not being able to stretch your legs or arms as you’d like to, right? Well, it goes even deeper than that. Your muscles stay unnaturally still during long journeys, thereby causing them to spasm or, over long periods of time, become very inflexible. All of this can result in back pain, more spasms, and ultimately, a vicious cycle.

Not Stretching Ahead of the Drive

I don’t think you realized how important this is, did you? If you don’t stretch your muscles before you drive, the consequences can be far reaching: stiffness and pain at the end of the road, but looking further ahead, prolonged back issues if you’re not careful. Many, many people could avoid back pain if they just stretched prior to driving.

To be honest, the list can be exhaustive when it comes to back pain and driving, and really, the key to avoiding injury and discomfort is to prepare ahead of time. Nope, I don’t mean grabbing a Starbucks before hitting the highway, though that would be nice. I’m talking about making sure that the environment and your body are both ready for the journey ahead. Let’s see how you can do that…

Stretching Ahead of Time

You knew I was going to say this, didn’t you? Stretching ahead of your journey remains the single most important thing you can do to stave of back pain during and after your drive. Make sure you run through all the major muscles in your back, legs, shoulders, and neck – don’t skip through the stretches to avoid traffic! Give yourself enough time to really ease into the stretches – lengthen your muscles and prepare yourself for the relatively cramped car seat.

Take the Time to Adjust Your Seat… Even If You’re Switching Drivers Along the Way

Do you remember your driving test? Remember how meticulously you checked your mirrors, your seat, your seatbelt, and your neck rest? Well, why do anything differently when it comes to back pain? You have to make sure that your seat is adjusted properly: don’t lean too far forward or back, and make sure your feet are able to reach the pedals comfortably. If you drive an automatic vehicle, ensure that you aren’t crammed up against the dashboard, but are well within reach of the break. Make sure you are able to stretch your arms out ahead of you without straining, and give yourself enough lee-way to stretch your neck: check all mirrors accordingly. There is nothing more uncomfortable than having to drive scrunched up and being restricted.

And What About the Steering Wheel?

You didn’t think I would forget about the most important part of your posture-alignment did you? The steering wheel takes first prize when it comes to reducing back pain! Always take the time to adjust it in such a way that your back remains supported and you do not strain forward. Some cars may do this automatically, but if not, make sure you understand how to adjust the height and length of the steering wheel.

Work on Your Posture

It’s very easy to slip into a ‘sofa’ pose as your cruise down the road listening to the Beetles, but it is incredibly important to remain aware of your posture at all times. If you feel yourself slumping or leaning too far back into the seat, take a minute to re-adjust your posture. Your back will certainly thank you for it when you reach your destination!

Take Regular Breaks

If you needed an excuse to stop over for a coffee and a snack, then I’m happy to give you one. Taking regular breaks during longer journeys is essential when it comes to avoiding back pain. Once you park, make sure to get out of the car, stretch, rehydrate, and re-center your focus. Ensure that you’re aware of your posture and, if you’re in pain, make the necessary adjustments to your seat and mirrors.

Cruise Control

If your car is equipped with cruise control, then you’re quite lucky! Cruise control enables you to take a break from one single seating position in order to shift into another. Be sure, though, that whichever position you choose is supportive of your back and ensures that your posture remains correct.

Here’s the thing… as much as we crave grandma’s homemade apple pies, long distance or continual driving can end our festive season before it even starts. Back pain related to driving is very much a present you don’t want to open. So, why not contact a professional, hands-on physical therapist to help you prevent it? Yes, that’s right, physical therapists can help you avoid back pain by showing you how to correct your posture, adjust your seats, and stretch properly. And not only that, physical therapy will help you eradicate back pain if you’re already suffering from it! By treating the root cause of the problem, physical therapy will help you maintain a pain free life while simultaneously equipping you with the tools to carry on your healthy journey at home!

So, really, the road to a pain free back is much shorter than you think. Don’t let long distance driving put a damper on your festive season – give us a call to find out we can get you back on the road safely and securely. Merry Christmas!

The Importance of Core Strength

What do you think about when I say the following: “Core Strength”? It’s natural to think of your core as just your abdominal muscles – surfer ‘6 packs’ and ‘washboard abs’. It’s natural to want that, too! But, what if I told you that core strength is something entirely different? What if it isn’t about having the perfect beach body or wearing a bikini like a model? What if core strength is about being strong… not so that you can pick up boulders, but so that you can stay mobile for longer? That’s exactly what this post is all about: we’re giving you the low down on what core strength is, why it’s important, and how you can achieve it. Stay tuned – here we go!

The truth is, core strength involves more than just your abdominals. In actual fact, it’s the ability of all the muscles in your mid-body to remain supple, strong, and flexible under stress and pressure. Yes, your abdominal muscles are involved, here, but so are your pelvic floor muscles, oblique muscles, and pectorals. Overall, your trunk houses a multitude of muscles, each of which plays a major role in feeding into ‘core strength’.

The medical profession mentions core strength fairly often, and if you’ve been struggling with back problems, in particular, my hope is that you’ve at least heard of it by now! Core strength – the strength and endurance of your trunk muscles – plays a vital part in upper back, lower back, and even leg and shoulder health. Without core strength, these major nerve centers lose structure, stability, and ultimately, mobility. More on that later, though.

When it comes to core strength, the important thing to know is that you ought to keep it up – even if you feel in good health and aren’t currently experiencing pain, it’s in your best interest to maintain that pain-free lifestyle by strengthening this group of muscles. It may actually surprise you quite how much having core strength benefits you. Just take a look at some of the activities core strength can either hinder or improve: sitting, standing, sleeping, working out, running, walking, playing golf, cycling, swimming, picking up your grandkids, driving a car… the list is practically endless! The bottom line? Core strength matters!

The other side of the coin in, of course, that a lack of core strength can result in injury and chronic pain. If you’ve read some of our other blogs, you’ll know by now that muscle function is interconnected – they aren’t independent of one another. Each muscle has an affect on the next – if one fails, the other will overcompensate and, in turn, will fail itself. A dramatic, sometimes life-changing knock-on effect can ensue. It’s no different when it comes to core muscles. If you fail to strengthen them, they’ll affect the other muscles in your body. In this instance, you’re likely to suffer from a variety of issues including, though by no means limited to, headaches, spasms, back pain, abdominal pain, pelvic pain, sciatica, and even foot and knee pain! It’s a bit of an eye-opener, isn’t it?

Luckily, core strength is attainable – and no, I don’t mean you need to eat raw eggs and spend a daily six hours in the gym! Simple, consistent routines and exercises can go a long way in helping you gain – and maintain – your core strength… and thereby, health. Here are a couple of examples you can try right after reading this post!


  1. Lie belly down on a yoga mat or floor.
  2. Place your hands by your side – at shoulder level – and lift your torso up.
  3. Make sure your legs remain straight.
  4. Lift your body off of the ground until your arms are just slightly bent.
  5. Remain in this position for 30 seconds at a time.
  6. Do not let your pelvis drop to the floor – try to remain as ‘straight as a plank’ from your shoulders through to your heels.

Side Planks

  1. As with the plank routine, lie down on your belly.
  2. Turn over onto your side, making sure your heels remain together.
  3. Lift one arm straight up, in line with your shoulder.
  4. Push yourself away from the floor with your other arm.
  5. Make sure your supporting arm remains slightly bent.
  6. Create an unbroken line from outstretched fingertip to supporting hand. 
  7. Lengthen your entire body and make sure it’s straight across – from your shoulders to your heels.
  8. Do not let your hip drop down to the mat.
  9. Hold this pose for 30 seconds at a time.

Bridge Pose

  1. Lie down on a mat, with your back touching the floor.
  2. Make sure your legs are stretched out and your arms are at your side, palms facing down.
  3. Place your feet squarely on the ground, now, and bend your knees.
  4. Without lifting your shoulders or elbows from the floor, slowly lift up your pelvis until you form a straight line from your shoulder to your knees.
  5. Your knees should be bent at around 90 degrees.
  6. Hold this pose for 30 seconds at a time.
  7. Do not lift your hands from the floor, and make sure your arms do not leave the ground at any point. 


A good way of strengthening your core strength is by doing regular Yoga and/or Pilates. The routines in each form of exercise lend themselves well to overall strength as they vary in focus, yet they are particularly effective when it comes to core strength. Why not try a local class for some inspiration and motivation?

Those suggestions aren’t that hard, are they? None of that body-builder stuff is needed! Fitness is essential in maintaining health, and keeping up your core strength is a massive part of that. If you’re stuck, though, and you’re not quite sure where to start with building up your core muscles, why not contact one of our professional, hands on physical therapists? Not only will physical therapy help you build up your core strength, but it will give you the tools to maintain that strength on your own! How? Well, you’ll get tailor made exercise and stretches! Whether you’re currently suffering from back pain or any other ailment and just want to regain a pain-free, healthy lifestyle, or even if you just want to get started on building up your core strength in order to avoid injury in the future, physical therapy can help. 

Now is a great time to start building your core strength – no matter how old you are, what injury you may be suffering from, or how fit/unfit you think you are… core strength is for everyone! Contact us today for more tips, support, and advice!