Back Pain

Living with Scoliosis – It Doesn’t Have to Hold You Back

Scoliosis. The diagnosis might sound daunting, but it doesn’t have to define your life. Millions of people around the world live fulfilling lives with scoliosis. Here at Progressive Edge Physical Therapy, we want to empower you to take control of your scoliosis and live an active, healthy life.

Understanding Scoliosis

The spine is made up of 24 individual bones called vertebrae. These vertebrae connect to form a natural curve from front to back, providing support and flexibility. In scoliosis, the spine curves abnormally to the side, disrupting this natural alignment. This abnormal curvature can also cause the spine to twist, leading to unevenness in the body.

Types of Scoliosis Curves

There are two main ways to describe the curvature of scoliosis:

The location of the curve in the spine is identified based on the region affected. For example, a curve in the upper back is called a thoracic curve, while a curve in the lower back is called a lumbar curve. Sometimes, there can be curves in both regions, referred to as thoracolumbar curves.

The shape of the curve itself is described as either a “C” shape or an “S” shape. A “C” curve has one distinct bend in the spine, while an “S” shape has two curves bending in opposite directions.

Causes of Scoliosis

The exact cause of scoliosis remains unknown in most cases (idiopathic scoliosis). However, some factors are believed to play a role:

  • Scoliosis can run in families, suggesting a genetic predisposition.
  • Congenital scoliosis occurs due to problems in the development of the spine before birth.
  • Certain neuromuscular conditions that affect muscle control can lead to scoliosis.

Scoliosis is most likely to progress during growth spurts, typically between the ages of 10 and 15. Early detection is crucial for monitoring progression and implementing treatment if necessary.

Diagnosis of scoliosis usually involves a physical examination by a doctor looking for any signs of unevenness in the shoulders, hips, or ribs.  X-rays are then used to confirm the diagnosis and measure the degree of the curvature (Cobb angle).

Living an Active Life with Scoliosis

Staying Active is Key

While scoliosis affects the spine, it shouldn’t stop you from living an active life. Regular exercise is crucial for overall health and well-being, and it holds particular benefits for those with scoliosis:

  • Exercise helps improve flexibility in the muscles and joints surrounding the spine, allowing for better movement and reducing stiffness. This improved flexibility can also contribute to better posture, which takes strain off the spine.
  • A strong core is essential for supporting the spine and maintaining proper alignment. Specific exercises can target core muscle groups, promoting better stability and reducing the impact of the curvature.
  • Some people with scoliosis experience pain. Exercise can actually help manage pain by improving circulation, reducing muscle tension, and promoting the release of endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers.
  • Regular physical activity has well-documented benefits for mental health. Exercise can help reduce stress, boost mood, and improve overall well-being, all of which contribute to a better quality of life.

Choosing the Right Activities

The key to staying active with scoliosis is choosing exercises that are safe and effective. 

Activities that put minimal stress on the spine are ideal. Swimming is a fantastic choice as it provides a full-body workout without impact. Walking, biking, and yoga are also great options.

Exercises that incorporate stretches and gentle movements can improve flexibility and range of motion in the spine. Yoga and Pilates are particularly good choices as they focus on mindful movement and core strengthening.

Targeted exercises that strengthen core muscles and the muscles surrounding the spine are crucial. A physical therapist can design a safe and effective program tailored to your specific needs.

It’s important to pay attention to your body’s signals. Stop any activity that causes pain and consult your doctor or physical therapist if you experience any discomfort.

Additional Tips for an Active Life with Scoliosis:

Excess weight can put additional strain on your spine. Eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly can help you maintain a healthy weight and reduce stress on your spine.

Being mindful of your posture throughout the day can significantly benefit your scoliosis management. A physical therapist can teach you proper posture techniques and exercises to strengthen the muscles that support good posture.

Always warm up your muscles before any exercise routine and cool down properly afterward. This helps prepare your body for activity and prevents injuries.

A physical therapist can be a valuable resource for creating a personalized exercise plan that addresses your specific needs and limitations. They can also teach you proper exercise techniques to ensure safety and effectiveness.

Treatment Options for Scoliosis

Treatment Tailored to You

The specific treatment approach for scoliosis depends on several factors, including:

  • The degree of curvature (measured by the Cobb angle) is a major factor in determining treatment. Mild curves often require different management strategies than severe curves.
  • The location of the curve in the spine (thoracic, lumbar, or thoracolumbar) can influence treatment choices.
  • Treatment for growing children often focuses on managing curve progression, while treatment for adults may prioritize pain management and preventing further complications.
  • Your doctor will consider your overall health, activity level, and personal preferences when recommending a treatment plan.

Here’s a breakdown of the most common treatment options for scoliosis:

For mild curves (less than 25 degrees), regular monitoring by a doctor may be sufficient. This involves periodic checkups and X-rays to track any curve progression.

For moderate curves (between 25 and 40 degrees), especially in growing children, wearing a back brace as prescribed by your doctor can help prevent further curvature. Braces are typically custom-made and worn for a specific number of hours each day.

Physical therapy plays a crucial role in scoliosis management for all curve severities. A physical therapist can design a personalized program to:

  • Improve flexibility and posture through targeted stretches and exercises.
  • Strengthen core muscles for better spinal support and stability.
  • Manage pain through manual therapy and therapeutic exercises (if present).

In severe cases (curves exceeding 40 degrees), surgery may be recommended to correct the curvature and prevent future complications. Spinal fusion is a common surgical procedure for scoliosis, where vertebrae are permanently joined together to create a more stable spine.

Additional Considerations

Early detection and intervention are crucial for preventing curve progression in growing children.

Physical therapy is a vital component of treatment for all types of scoliosis, regardless of the chosen treatment path. It helps manage the condition, improve overall well-being, and prevent future complications.

The best approach to scoliosis management often involves a team of healthcare professionals, including doctors, physical therapists, and sometimes orthotists (specialists in creating braces).

Ready to Take Control of Your Scoliosis?

Scoliosis doesn’t have to define your life. At Progressive Edge Physical Therapy, we believe in empowering you to manage your scoliosis and achieve your full potential. Whether you’re looking to improve flexibility, strengthen your core, manage pain, or simply learn more about living with scoliosis, we’re here to support you on your journey.

Take charge of your health and well-being. Call us today at 201-563-8418 to schedule a consultation at Progressive Edge Physical Therapy located in Union, NJ. Together, we can help you live an active and fulfilling life!

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Taming the Twin Terrors: Best Treatments for Neck and Shoulder Pain

Neck and shoulder pain. A potent one-two punch that can disrupt your sleep, zap your energy, and turn simple tasks into struggles. But fear not, warriors of wellness! Relief is within reach.

This post dives deep into the best treatments for neck and shoulder pain, empowering you to conquer discomfort and reclaim your active life.

What’s Causing the Chaos?

Before we explore solutions, let’s understand the culprits:

  • Muscle Strain: Overuse, poor posture, or repetitive motions can lead to overworked and inflamed muscles.
  • Arthritis: Wear and tear in your joints can cause pain and stiffness.
  • Sprains: Ligament tears from sudden movements can trigger significant discomfort.
  • Nerve Compression: Pinched nerves in your neck can radiate pain to your shoulders and arms.

The Treatment Tag Team:

There’s no single “best” treatment, as the ideal approach depends on the cause and severity of your pain. However, here are some effective options:

  • Rest and Relaxation: Give your overworked muscles a break. Avoid strenuous activities that aggravate the pain.
  • Heat and Ice Therapy: Apply heat to loosen tight muscles and ice to reduce inflammation. Alternate between the two for optimal results.
  • Over-the-counter pain relievers: Medications like ibuprofen or acetaminophen can help manage pain and inflammation.
  • Physical Therapy: A physical therapist can create a personalized exercise program to improve flexibility, strengthen muscles, and improve posture – all crucial for long-term pain relief.
  • Manual therapy: Techniques like massage therapy and myofascial release can help ease muscle tension and improve range of motion.

Doctor Intervention:

If your pain is severe, persistent, or accompanied by numbness, tingling, or weakness, consult a doctor. They may recommend:

  • Corticosteroid injections: To reduce inflammation around a pinched nerve.
  • Prescription pain medication: For stronger pain relief.
  • Imaging tests: X-rays or MRIs to diagnose the cause of your pain.

Unleashing Your Inner Wellness Warrior:

Here are some lifestyle changes to support your recovery and prevent future pain:

  • Maintain good posture: Stand tall, with your shoulders back and relaxed.
  • Ergonomics are your friend: Invest in a supportive chair and ensure your workspace promotes proper posture.
  • Stretch it out: Regularly perform gentle neck and shoulder stretches to improve flexibility.
  • Manage stress: Stress can manifest as physical tension. Relaxation techniques like yoga or meditation can be beneficial.

Ready to Find Relief?

Don’t let neck and shoulder pain control your life. Contact Progressive Edge Physical Therapy today!

Our experienced therapists will assess your individual needs and create a personalized treatment plan to get you back on the road to recovery. Plus, we offer a free insurance verification service to help you understand your coverage options.

Take charge of your well-being. Call us today and reclaim a pain-free life!

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Why Back Pain Isn’t “NORMAL” Even if You’re Getting Older

Back pain: very few people go through life without feeling its debilitating effects. From dull aches to sharp, stabbing sensations, back pain can afflict many of us in various ways. For a some people, back pain is a prolonged struggle that can strike at any moment, the intensity and heartache of which seems to increase over time if left untreated. For others, however, back pain seems to appear later on in life, and the predominant assumption is that it is therefore age related. Here’s the thing, though: it isn’t necessarily true. Yes, that’s right. Back pain – especially when you’re older – actually has very little to do with your age and a lot more to do with your lifestyle. In this post we look at why we often mistake middle-age back pain for something “normal” or “natural”, and we discuss some of the ways in which you can overcome the pain and get back to the active, mobile lifestyle you deserve. 

The biggest issue with back pain in later years is that, well, it’s accompanied by general acceptance. Most people who experience back pain when they’re older just accept it and try to work around it, so to speak. And while we’re not denying that back pain may come with age, we are saying that the pain is NOT a product of age, rather that it is a result of an aging mindset or imbalanced lifestyle.

Let’s think about this for a moment: it is true that, as we age, our bodies require a little more maintenance. We no longer have the metabolisms of 18 year olds, and we can’t really keep up on the soccer field. Yet, that doesn’t mean we have to give up on trying to be active or healthy. The problem with middle-age back pain is not that it is a natural response to aging, but that we allow it to be defined by age. If we maintained healthy lifestyles, kept active, and enjoyed a healthful diet, our age would not determine the health of our backs – our lifestyles would. In other words, age is just a number, but you really, truly are what you do. Here are some of the reasons you might incorrectly assume that your back is sore simply because of your age:

Breaking Good Exercise Habits

When you were younger you had the motivation and will to run the extra proverbial mile. Getting up at 6am to go to the gym wasn’t a chore, and the pay-off at the end of the day was worth the endurance it took to stay slim and healthy. However, as you aged, you had to work a little harder, struggled a little more to wake up early, and found that juggling a job, kids, pets, and a social life left little in the way of time for exercise. And the result? You aged. Yes, that’s right. As controversial as that may seem, the minute you let yourself break all the good habits you had when you were young, you started to age. And, sadly, the consequences of that meant – yeah, you guessed it – back pain. Here’s the thing: the habits you forge define who you are and how you feel. If you incorporated movement, exercise, cardio, and stretching into your life, right now, you’d jumpstart your journey to health by strengthening the muscles in your back. You’ll feel and look younger! Do some yoga, Pilates, or Tai Chi – whatever you choose, stretch and move those muscles! If you want something a little less adventurous, why not start by taking a daily walk, getting up a couple of minutes earlier to hit the yoga mat, or joining a spinning class in your local gym? It’s amazing what a mind-shift can do you for your body. 

Posture Problems

Let’s face it, when we’re young we really don’t worry too much about the position in which we sit, how we stand, or how evenly we distribute our body weight. The only problem with this is that our mistakes eventually catch up to us. Poor posture is one of the leading causes for back pain experienced in middle age – not only does a lack of mindful joint and muscle positioning mean that you place stress on the spine, but it also means that you constantly repeat the same detrimental stances and gait. You end up entrenching the pain by destabilizing your body’s balance. Thus it comes as no surprise that the battle against back pain is the battle against poor posture. And, of course, poor posture makes you feel older: you’re bent downward and you feel less inclined to move. So, in a bid to rid yourself of discomfort, start by correcting your posture and practicing more mindful ways of positioning the spine during sleep and the hours spent at your desk. Your back will thank you.

Weight Gain Woes

Here’s the rub, right? Weight gain is perhaps the most quintessential middle-age battle; we gain weight as we age and, unfortunately, the weight carries a lot more than a few extra pounds. Gaining weight often means excess stress not only on your organs, but on your joints and muscles, too. Your back actually incurs a dramatic increase in pressure as you gain weight, the result of which can often lead to disc damage or spinal injuries. Controlling your weight is absolutely vital is maintain a healthy back. So, why not opt for a cooking course to learn a few new recipe’s, or take your partner up on that new dish he or she has been dying to make. Increasing the amount of vegetables, berries, fruit, healthy oils and fats, as well as beans and legumes in your diet will help you maintain a healthy weight.

Let’s be frank: back pain can rob you of your happiness and joy. We also realize that living with back pain is something that can feel too big to tackle on your own. And that is why we know that the tips above, no matter how badly you want to start doing them, may seem daunting to begin with. What can be done, then? Feeling younger is as much about the changes you choose to make as the mind-shift you need to implement. Make a change, right now – get the help you need. 

For the safest, easiest, most effective way of tackling your back pain, contact a professional, hands-on physical therapist. Physical therapy offers you the opportunity to regain your joy and for you to feel younger and happy again. With a physical therapist, you’ll receive hands-on, caring treatment aimed at treating the root cause of the problem, thereby giving you a permanent solution to the daily pain you’re suffering. And not only that, physical therapy gives you tailor-made, targeted exercises and stretches for you to do at home, thereby equipping you with the tools you need to maintain a pain-free life. No painkillers, no surgery, and no temporary fixes: physical therapy is the best way to overcome your back pain, right now.  

Age is just a number, and back pain does not have to be a product of your age. You can overcome your back pain and get back to the life you deserve. For more information about how we can help you do just that, contact one of our professional physical therapists, right now. We’re here to help: don’t let back-pain steal even one more moment of your life.

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6 Exercises for Lower Back Pain Relief

Dealing with lower back pain can be debilitating, affecting your daily activities and overall quality of life. Fortunately, there are targeted exercises that can help alleviate discomfort and promote healing. In this blog post, we’ll guide you through a series of exercises designed to provide relief and strengthen the muscles supporting your lower back.

1. Pelvic Tilts:

Lie on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Gently tilt your pelvis upward, flattening your lower back against the floor. Hold for a few seconds, then release. Repeat for 10-15 reps.

2. Cat-Cow Stretch:

Position yourself on your hands and knees. Inhale, arch your back, and lift your head (cow pose). Exhale, round your back, and tuck your chin to your chest (cat pose). Flow between these poses for 5-10 rounds.

3. Child’s Pose:

Start on your hands and knees, then sit back on your heels with your arms extended. Hold this stretch for 20-30 seconds, feeling a gentle stretch in your lower back.

4. Bridge Pose:

Lie on your back with knees bent and feet flat. Lift your hips toward the ceiling, creating a straight line from your knees to your shoulders. Hold for a few breaths, then lower your hips. Repeat for 10 reps.

5. Knee-to-Chest Stretch:

Lie on your back and bring one knee toward your chest, holding it with both hands. Hold for 20-30 seconds, then switch legs.

6. Hamstring Stretch:

Lie on your back and raise one leg, keeping it straight. Loop a towel or band around your foot and gently pull your leg toward you. Hold for 20-30 seconds, then switch legs.

Remember, every step you take towards better mobility and reduced pain brings you closer to a more fulfilling life.

If you find yourself needing personalized guidance, expert advice, and a dedicated team to support your journey towards a pain-free life, look no further than Progressive Edge Physical Therapy. Our experienced and caring physical therapists are ready to work with you, tailoring a plan that suits your individual needs.

Take the next step towards a healthier, happier you by contacting us today. Reach out at 201-563-8418 to schedule a consultation or visit us in person at Union, NJ. You deserve a life without the constraints of lower back pain, and we’re here to help you achieve that.

Let Progressive Edge Physical Therapy be your partner in reclaiming your vitality and mobility. Don’t wait – take action now and embark on a path to a more active, pain-free lifestyle.

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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! 

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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.

Exercise 

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!

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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!

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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!

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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!

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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!

Planks

  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. 

Yoga/Pilates

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!

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