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You Have to Move to Improve

You have to move to improve. For some people, especially those having chronic or persistent pain, this is easier said than done. Sometimes a person has so much pain they are unable to participate in everyday activities. There are, however, some techniques out there to help these people. Immersion in warm water as well as breathing, relaxation, meditation, laughter and music may help to calm the central nervous system allowing people with persistent pain to improve their quality of life.

Pain is a warning system designed to protect us and to make us react to danger or potential danger.  When nerves are stimulated, chemicals are released and transmitted to the spinal cord and brain. Pain only exists when the brain concludes the body is in danger and action is required. All pain is generated by the brain. All pain is real. In people who have persistent pain, it is the potential for tissue damage that the brain is concerned with.  The result is an over sensitive central nervous system. Pain then becomes restrictive, not protective.

The good news is that a hyper sensitive, over-responsive pain alarm system can be retrained with relaxation, breathing techniques and exercise. Laughter can also be a great tool in breaking through some of the restrictions that pain can create. A lesser known fact is that laughter promotes healthier blood vessels. Artery diameter increases by 22% during laughter and is decreased by 35% during mental stress. Also, by performing exercise in warm water a person with persistent pain may be able to help calm this overactive central nervous system. Here are some of the benefits of warm water exercise.

  • Gravity is reduced /eliminated depending on the depth of the water
  • When movement stops, the workload immediately stops
  • Pain, stiffness and muscle guarding are reduced
  • The touch, temperature and pressure of the water will compete with the pain signals going to the brain
  • Repetitive and comfortable movement helps to normalize input to the brain
  • Balance, core strength, stability and gait can be comfortably retrained using the water as an external support

According to the American Chronic Pain Association, chronic pain is the #1 cause of adult disability and affects 50 million people in the United States. If you are one of these people you may want to try some of the techniques listed above to help you deal with your pain and improve your quality of life.

Aquatic Therapy Rehab Institute Chronic Pain Specialty Course

Published in Blog
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Did That Sound Come From Me?

Was that your hip that just popped? It sounded painful, did it hurt?  Welcome to the world of our body making noises.  The body is a wonderfully created and sometimes annoying thing.  It has the power to lift enormous weight, run at incredible speed, and move with grace.  As stress is placed on our joints, we adapt or compensate to continue doing what we must.  As we place force on our joints or use our body incorrectly, we can hear noises come from, near or around our joints.  The most commonly noticed joints are
the knuckles, hips, knees, ankles, and spine. 

Everyone pays attention more to a body part after it has been injured or is not feeling right.  Once you twist your ankle, every time you step and feel a pop or hear a noise, you notice it. One wonders, is this normal or is something wrong that I should get checked out?  I am asked this common question as I talk to patients on their first day of physical therapy: “My (blank) pops/cracks/makes noise, is this okay?  I follow up with a few questions of my own: “does it hurt when you perform a specific motion? Did you notice the noise before you were injured? After this happens is your function affected?”  Part of the physical therapy evaluation is figuring out the problems presented by the patient, laying out a treatment plan, answering patient concerns, and most importantly, educating the patient on the condition and physical therapy expectations. 

Published in Blog

Recently, I was given the opportunity to speak to members of the Arthritis Foundation about managing their activities when dealing with osteo- or rheumatoid arthritis.  Many people either have osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis or know someone who does.  However, not all people understand the fundamental differences between these two types of arthritis.  In osteoarthritis, the articular cartilage (the cartilage that lines the ends of your bones) starts to degenerate.  The joint space becomes narrowed and bone spurs can form at the edges of the joint.  Eventually, if enough degeneration occurs, there is injury to the bone lying underneath the cartilage and a person is told her joint is "bone on bone." In contrast, rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder where the synovial tissue produces diseased and excessive synovial fluid.  Normally, a person's synovial fluid gives proper nutrition to your cartilage and lubricates your joints but rheumatoid arthritis interrupts this process. This results in swollen, red and painful joints that can lead to deformities in the involved joint(s) if untreated. Osteoarthritis is more common in the weight-bearing joints, like your knees, hips and spine where rheumatoid arthritis typically involves the hands, feet or neck (but is not exclusive to these).

Published in Blog