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Giving Thanks for Balance

At the start of this holiday season, we’d like to give thanks for Balance(d). I named my practice Balanced because I believe in a measured approached to things – to the body, to patient care, and to life. It serves as a reminder to me as much as I hope it does for my patients. Last year I wrote about the importance of balance during the holidays, and you can read about it here. This year, I thought I’d share how I keep my balance during the holidays. Keeping your holidays stress free is great advice, but I want to talk a bit about how you actually do it.

Schedules

For me, as an introvert, I’ve learned it is really important not to over schedule myself. If I do, it can really wear me out. So I keep track of my schedule in a calendar, and when I consider any invitation I look at the time slot and see what’s around it. If attending the event doesn’t leave me any recharge time, or there’s too much travel time, or if it means I’ll miss too much of my exercise plans, it’s likely a pass for me. Of course for those with children, schedules can be more complicated. You just have to keep your mind on the balance.

Food

Another consideration around the holidays is food. I love food. You can often hear me talking about cooking, restaurants, and value-driven ingredients. To balance food around this time of year, I try to keep lunch light and very healthy – especially if I have plans for dinner or a party later. Then there are the oh-so-tempting sweets that pop up everywhere during the season. So, I eat a healthy snack before I head out since counting calories doesn’t work for me. When I am trying to relax and enjoy a party the last thing I want to think about is how healthy the food is I am eating. Filling up a little on healthier foods before I go can also help ease the guilt along with the managing how much I eat. I gain weight easily if I’m not careful, so I tend to stick with my plans.

Exercise

I’m a big proponent of exercise, as many of my colleagues in the healthcare field are. If you’re trying to keep from gaining weight, or if you’re trying to lose weight during the holiday season, you’ve got to pay attention to your diet the most. However, exercising during the holidays will also help keep your weight in check as well as help to alleviate stress and keep you in a better mood overall. Of course, if you’re on a set plan for a competition, stick with your plan. If you’re like most people, you exercise more because you should and less because you love it – or perhaps you don’t exercise at all. Time is a big factor for those who don’t, but it doesn’t need to be all or nothing. The key thing is to keep your body moving. If during the holidays, you drop from four days a week to three, that’s a good trade-off. Another way to make the most of your time is to consider high-intensity interval training to make your exercise shorter but more intense. You’ll still build muscle, improve your cardiovascular function, and get all those wonderful stress relieving chemicals – going hard for 10-15 minutes can be as useful as an hour of moderate exercise on the bike or a long walk.

So, take these tips and find your balance this holiday season:

  • Look at your calendar frequently and make sure you aren’t overloading yourself and the family
  • Stick to a healthy breakfast and lunch and have a healthy snack so you don’t have to watch too much at a party
  • Keep up with some amount of exercise, even if it’s less than you normally do

Sam Spillman, DC

Preventing Inflammation Naturally

Inflammation can strike at any time. Anti-inflammatory drugs can be helpful, especially for new injuries and certain inflammatory-based pathologies. However, our bodies experience new episodes of inflammation (both beneficial and detrimental) all the time. So, using natural remedies is a safer way to decrease those frequent bouts of non-beneficial inflammation.

Here are a few natural remedies to try before you reach for a pill. 

  • Exercise: Even just 20 minutes of exercise can have anti-inflammatory effects on the body’s systems.
  • Add powerful anti-inflammatory spices to meals: Give turmeric, cinnamon, and ginger a try. Turmeric can be sprinkled on variety of foods, cinnamon can be a great addition to your oatmeal or tea in the morning, and ginger brings a nice twist to a smoothie.
  • Reduce red meat consumption: Recent studies show red meat can actually bring on inflammatory effects on the body. Chicken, salmon, and other foods high in Omega 3’s can be great options to prevent inflammation and get the protein you need.
  • Eat more foods with anti-inflammatory properties: Fruits, vegetables, nuts, and legumes are your friends. Be sure to include multiple servings of these throughout the day to allow your body to be at its best.

Remember, your body is your greatest asset. Take good care of it, and it will take care of you for years to come!

Bryan Esherick PT, DPT

Treating Pain without a Pill

Treatments come in a variety of options. Opioids (oxycodone, hydrocodone, etc.) are often prescribed as treatment for an episode of pain patients are experiencing. If you haven’t been the recipient of these directly, there’s a good chance you know someone who has. They’ve been widely prescribed as they had always been considered both safe and effective. However, in the wake of an opioid epidemic, we want to remind our patients that there are safe and effective treatments that let you avoid the drugs – and without the side effects, That said, there are instances where these types of drugs are appropriate – post surgery or serious injury – and with proper management may be used safely. However, we want to use this platform to highlight our approach to more conservative treatments that can effectively alleviate pain.  

As physical therapists, chiropractors, and massage therapists, we look to provide that first-line treatment for acute and chronic injuries alike – including: manual therapy; joint mobilizations; massage and soft tissue release; targeted therapeutic exercise; and health education. Let’s take a closer look at these distinct areas. 

Joint Manipulation and Mobilization

Manipulation and mobilization are used throughout musculoskeletal health by chiropractors, physical therapists, and some osteopathic doctors. Despite popular belief, the aim of these treatments is not to put a bone back in place. Treatments like this work with the nervous system to affect pain (through release of endorphins), muscle tension (through reduction in pain and thus reduction in spasm), and proprioception (your brain’s sense of your joint position). In my opinion, 95% of cases require exercise to reinforce the effects of the manipulation. In other words, mobilization and manipulation gives your body a window to exercise with less pain so that you can correct the issue at fault and increase muscle tone. However, it does not correct the underlying cause of the pain independently. These are  powerful pain relieving tools that can be employed to aid in your recovery from pain, especially in the spine.

Massage

Generally massage is thought of as a relaxation and stress reducing technique, but it can also be used as a powerful pain relieving and recovery tool. Therapeutic and sports massage are given in order to improve recovery through reduction in muscle tone and improvement in blood flow. Relaxation in muscle tone allows the muscle to receive the adequate nutrition is desperately needs to heal. Think of a muscle as a sponge; when it is squeezed out (overactive) it is not able to receive the water (blood) it needs to function. We see this happen often in cases of back pain associated with sustained postures, and receiving occasional massages would help alleviate this chronic paid in a more effective and cost-effective treatment. Massage also releases endorphins through a healing touch and targeted techniques, which helps to ease pain and creates a relaxing therapeutic environment for the body to heal. Your chiropractor or physical therapist may also use targeted soft tissue techniques to promote healing and pain reduction. 

Therapeutic Exercise

Therapeutic exercise is used widely by physical therapists and chiropractors as well. Movement encourages the body to release endorphins, reduce tissue tension through increased blood flow, promote healing through cellular processes, and prevent chronic pain from fear of movement. Exercise can be used as a means for tissue to adapt and heal to specific stresses it will encounter through daily activities. We use therapeutic exercise not only as a pain relieving mechanism, but also as a way to introduce stress to healing tissues in a controlled manner. If the tissue is not properly loaded over time, it can be substantially weaker than it was prior to the injury causing recurrent injuries. The best example of this phenomenon is chronic ankle sprains. Without proper rehabilitation, ankle sprains are likely to keep occurring as the body is unable to fully heal the tissue prior to sustaining a second, third, or fourth injury. Another common misconception is with arthritis. Many people stop moving because the arthritis is causing too much pain. On the contrary, our joints need to be loaded in order to provide nourishment to the joint surfaces. Without movement, joints can continue to degrade and become more painful. Remember, movement is your friend and is ultimately what will keep you feeling happy and healthy for years to come.  

Education

Education about a particular condition should not be taken for granted. It is the responsibility of your healthcare provider to educate you on your conditions, the treatment options, and expected recovery prognosis. Please don’t hesitate to ask your provider questions – fully understanding your condition is a key element to complete recovery. Education about pain can also be invaluable for the patient, which is why our office strives to provide pain education to help contextualize thoughts and beliefs about pain. Sometimes education is the stepping stone to preventing a patient from progressing to a chronic state of pain. For this reason, our office doesn’t just treat your condition, we help you understand it.

As you can see, there are many alternative treatment options for pain relief – and with far fewer side effects – than prescription drugs. It is important when seeking care for pain, that you explore all options landing on an course of treatment. Second opinions can often be helpful when you are unsure if a certain treatment is right for you. Trying a more conservative option first may save you time and dangerous side-effects from other riskier alternatives. 

Our office uses all of the above techniques, and when necessary, uses other techniques including modalities and dry needling. Our goal is to provide our patients with the most comprehensive, evidence-based treatments to ensure the fastest and most complete recovery path from injury. We ensure that each patient is treated individually, as every patient has different needs from the healthcare system. Still have questions? Give us a call to learn more. We’d love to help you become the strongest version of  your best self!

Bryan Esherick PT, DPT

 

Five Tips for Easy and Healthy School Lunch

Try these quick lunch tips to help you AND the kids!

  1. Buy fresh produce. Sunday night prep can be 30 minutes: wash, peel and cut all carrots, celery, broccoli, cucumbers, etc. and store in large ziplock bags for the week for a quick grab-and-pack.
  2. Create your own lunchables. Sliced cheese/ham and crackers in a reusable container, grapes and carrots in another, hummus and pretzels for non meat eaters, and you’re set!
  3. Avoid sweet drinks. My kids would finish a juice pouch and eat nothing else. Keep juice and sweet treats at home as an after-school-treat. They’ll look forward to that!
  4. Provide ample food storage. Having sandwich and snack size reusable containers on hand make packing a lunch so much easier for little ones.
  5. Pack a note. Wouldn’t you want a note from Mom/Dad? (I would!) A silly joke or a ‘have a crazy day!’ can help your child (or spouse!) get through the rest of the day.

Enjoy healthy and happy lunching!
~ Angie

Concussions and a Safe Return to Sport

Concussions. They can have lasting effects later in adulthood, so prompt treatment is essential to mitigate long-term effects. While the end of summer draws near, and fall sports get underway at the start of a new school year, it’s important for parents, trainers, and coaches to remain vigilant in watching for signs and symptoms of concussion in young athletes.

Here some tips to help you recognize concussions:

  1. Your child isn’t acting quite like themselves: Look for changes in your child’s usual mood, cognition, ability to pay attention, and energy level. When your child isn’t acting like he/she normally does following a game, it’s a safe bet they may have suffered a concussion.
  2. They sustained a jarring hit: Any hit, whether it is to the head or body, has the possibility of causing a concussion. Hits to the head are obviously related to concussions, but hits to the body can also cause concussions through whiplash-like mechanisms.
  3. Nausea or sensitivity to light or sound: These are some very common signs seen following a concussion.
  4. Dizziness while using their phone or watching TV: This can be caused by a sensory issue within the vestibular system. Also watch out for dizziness or imbalance while driving and walking in busy areas.
  5. IF YOU SUSPECT A CONCUSSION SEEK MEDICAL ADVICE: Waiting to seek medical advice can have an impact on the overall time it takes for your child to recover. Seeking medical advise as soon as you suspect your child may have a concussion is key.

One of the best things that you can do for your athlete as a parent or coach is to be sure that they have baseline testing consisting of physical, cognitive, and equilibrium tests prior to participation in practice and games. Should an injury occur, baseline testing allows the coach and trainer to know when it is safe to allow the athlete to return to sport after an injury has occurred. Also be sure that the testing for your athlete is comprehensive, and not performed only using the IMPACT computer-based test that doesn’t take into account the other functions of the body that may be impacted through concussion.

When seeking medical advice, remember that advice can come from a variety of medical practitioners including medical doctors, physical therapists, athletic trainers, etc. Medical examination usually consists of some tests and measures to determine the severity of the injury. Examination is necessary to rule out other serious pathologies, including a brain hemorrhage. Usual care for a concussion is a brief period of rest (1-3 days), followed by a graded return to sport and school, and then rest. Rest is essential for the brain to heal itself in the early stages, although activity should be resumed as quickly as possible while maintaining little to no symptoms. Physical therapists can help by determining a safe level of activity for the athlete and developing a sport specific training plan. Before your child returns to sport, ensure all testing compares to baseline, that physical activity has been progressed, and that your child is symptom-free with sport specific training.

By following these key steps after sustaining a concussion, your athlete can return to sport as quickly and safely as possible.

Note: This blog is not considered medical advice that should be used if you suspect a concussion in your child. If you believe your child may have suffered a concussion or would like to receive baseline testing, contact our clinic at 434-293-3800.

Sleep and School Performance Go Hand-in-Hand

Want to do better in school? Get more, restful sleep! We all know sleep is important but we might think of it more as an “eat your vegetables” important kind of way. In reality, we should be thinking about it more in a “this could impact my life, hopes and dreams” kind of way. That’s exactly what researchers are finding as we learn more and more about sleep and the value it brings.

Sleep is vital for so many functions and processes in the body: memory, cognitive function, blood pressure, hormone regulation (cortisol, insulin, leptin, grehlin, testosterone), healing, muscle recovery, immune system, etc., etc.,. And, it is especially important for children. Sleep deprivation can significantly impact a child’s performance in school.

So, how do you know if your child is getting enough rest? Here’s a good rule of thumb:

  • Children aged 6-13 should be getting 9-11 hours of sleep each night
  • Teens should be getting 8-10 hours

While these are good gauges to check patters in your household, that’s just a starting place. Behavior can be a great clue.

Signs of sleep deprivation are similar to symptoms of ADHD. They include:

  • easily distracted
  • difficulty focusing
  • yawning
  • moodiness
  • irritability
  • fatigue
  • depression
  • difficulty learning new concepts
  • forgetfulness
  • feeling “fuzzy”
  • unmotivated
  • clumsy
  • increased appetite
  • overweight

Most likely, we could all make a few adjustments to get a better night’s sleep.

The best rules work for both children and adults:

  • keep a consistent, daily bedtime
  • avoid eating within three hours of bedtime
  • discontinue screen time at least an hour before bed
  • can the caffeine after noon
  • maintain a set bedtime routine for children

With these simple tips, you and your little ones will be sleeping sounding and reaping the benefits in no time!

Sam Spillman, DC

Home is Where Charlottesville Is

Charlottesville is where my heart, and home, is… now. But it wasn’t always the case. As a native of Pittsburgh, I enjoyed opportunity to gain my education on the east coast – earning my bachelor of science in biology with a minor in nutrition from the Indiana University of Pennsylvania, before ultimately graduating from Lynchburg College with a clinical doctorate in Physical Therapy.

Lynchburg boasted far greater weather than Indiana, PA, and I found myself taking up more outdoor activities – hiking, biking, exploring Virginia and all that it has to offer. I knew then, Virginia was for me. As I wrapped up my time in Lynchburg, I took an internship at UVA’s hospital for the summer. My fiance, then girlfriend, was living in Charlottesville at the time and as we took in the sights of Charlottesville – hitting up the shops, restaurants, and events around town – I quickly realized this was where I wanted to make my home.

A few years later, and we find ourselves residents of one of the most charming towns I’ve ever been in.

From the events constantly going on; the character of the people around us; the nature trails; outdoor sports; wineries; and breweries – I couldn’t imagine living anywhere else.

– Bryan Esherick PT, DPT

Benefits of Strength Training for Runners

It has almost become cliché to say that runners should strength train. So then I ask are you a runner who is strength training consistently (2-3 times a week)? If the answer is “hmmm, no,” you might not fully understand all of the amazing benefits we get from strength training. Let me break it down for you.

Benefit #1: It Makes You Faster

Proper strength training has been shown to improve running economy, or the ability to run faster while using less energy. Let me put it this way, if you could run a 7-minute mile with the same amount of effort it takes you to run an 8-minute mile right now, you would take that deal right? Of course you would. Faster runners spend less time on the ground and produce more force when they strike the ground. You can improve your force production and ground contact time through various exercises, drills, speedwork and plyometrics that can actually train the neuromuscular system to fire faster. Make sure you are complementing your runs with all of this ancillary work. Take that deal!

Benefit #2: It Reduces Injury Risk

A strong body is crucial to tolerate the repetitive load of running. Many overuse injuries can be avoided with the addition of strength training and a variety of functional, rotational, and multi-directional movements to your regimen.  I like to explain it this way: if you have an overuse injury like plantar fasciitis, you know the plantar is working too hard. Rest is an answer, sure. But come on, you and I both know you aren’t taking more than a day off without losing sanity! If you are able to strengthen the posterior chain (glutes, hamstrings, calves) to carry more of the load that your plantar is currently taking, you will reduce the use of your plantar and improve its function.

Benefit #3: It Enhances Recovery

This is probably my favorite fun fact that many runners don’t realize. When done correctly, lifting heavier loads produces a positive hormonal response that can rev-up the recovery process AND significantly reduce the risk of over-training. Lifting heavy will improve your overall strength, and metabolism; but what’s more I guarantee you will sleep really, really well at night.   

All In All…

When done correctly and consistently, strength training and other ancillary work like drills and faster running can make you more efficient, reduce risk of injury, and enhance recovery.  You will feel stronger on your runs and in races, and you will be able to tolerate higher training loads and have more energy.

Make strength training a priority and your body and mind will thank you!

Ann Dunn, M.S., CPT
BCPT Guest Blogger

 

Cardio: 30 Minutes A Day for a Healthy Life

Cardio. Personally, I am not the biggest fan of cardio workouts. The equipment at the gym is typically crowded, running isn’t comfortable to me, and it’s hard to find the time that fits into my schedule. But, I know it’s important for my health, so I’ve found ways to incorporate it. Enjoying your cardio workouts is half the battle in making the time to stay fit and healthy.

I love hockey. I play two to three times a week, and supplement my cardio workouts with the stationary bike. The bike is great for me – I can write notes, read articles, and it helps me unwind from a long day – all while getting my workout in. I also take the dogs for longer hikes when I have a little extra free time.

Cardio gets a bad rap for being repetitive, boring, and time consuming. But, cardio doesn’t only have to be a run on the treadmill, or spin on the bike, or an hour on the elliptical.

Find a physical activity you enjoy doing, and turn it into a hobby – outdoor activities are excellent for your lungs and your heart. Here are a few ideas for activities convenient for us here in the Central VA area:

  1. Hiking. There are lots of hiking trails here with various levels of difficulty. Get out there, and make your way the top for a great view of the blue ridge mountains.
  2. Kayaking. The Rivanna river offers a great opportunity for a workout with kayak or canoe on a warm summer day.
  3. Walking. The downtown mall right here in Charlottesville is a fantastic location for a brisk walk while you check out all of the sidewalk sales.
  4. Clubs. Find a sport club through the city website or Cville social. There are a variety of sports you can try, so find one you like and stick to it!
  5. Kids. They love to play, so join them outside and get active – you’ll be surprised at the workout you get just by joining your kids for play.
  6. Dog. Grab Fido and head out for a few spins around the block. The next time your dog stands by the door and stares at you to go out, get your running shoes and extend that walk. Don’t have a dog? Did you know, people who have them generally get about 30-minutes more exercise per day than those who don’t. So, maybe head to your local shelter and adopt one today!
The possibilities for a good cardio workout are endless.

All it takes is 30-minutes a day of moderate (50-60% of your max heart rate) activity to reap the benefits (improved immunity, healthier heart, healthier blood vessels, healthier lungs).  So, find something you love and make the change to promote a longer, healthier life!

Bryan Esherick PT, DPT

Four Ways to a Healthier Heart

Did you know heart disease and stroke cause 1 in 3 deaths among women each year – more than all cancers combined. The good news is that 80 percent of those deaths may be prevented. Your heart is the engine that keeps you going – supplying the ‘oil’ for your full body machine – so it’s important to take care of your heart.

February is heart health month, and we’re celebrating by sharing tips to help you keep your ticker ticking!

  1. Exercise daily. You should get 30-minutes of moderate exercise each day – and 1-hour per day for children. Moderate exercise includes things like a brisk walk, biking, weight lifting, or recreational sports. Exercise is important to keep your heart strong, much like you would for other muscles in your body. Check out our other recent blog posts about different types of aerobic exercises and heart rate zones.
  1. Eat Right. This may be the best, but also the hardest, thing to do to keep your heart healthy. Check the labels at your grocery store and choose foods high in fiber as well as vegetables – try to pass on foods high in fat, simple sugars, salt, and cholesterol. This will help ensure arteries stay open and your ticker stays healthy.
  1. Lessen the stress in your life. Stress can create a large burden on your heart by increasing blood pressure and releasing cortisol, and other stress chemicals. This can all have a negative effect on both the heart itself and the arteries it uses to transport blood. When you can’t eliminate the stress, try to manage it with a few breathing techniques; meditation; and even exercise! Find what works for you and try to work it into your daily routine.
  1. Stay positive with friends and family. Want to live a longer life? Positive relationships with those closest to you has been linked to be the #1 factor in living a longer life – ahead of quitting smoking and drinking; exercising; and eating right. As humans, we are meant to be social animals and look for opportunities to build relationships. So when you are done reading this, pick-up the phone and call a friend or family member and set up a time to get together and reconnect.
Some of the best indicators of a healthy cardiovascular system include a normal heart rate, low blood pressure, low cholesterol and A1c levels.

So, remember to take care of yourself, and keep your heart in check!

Bryan Esherick PT, DPT