A lot of the aches and pains that we experience in daily life can be solved with Chiropractic care. If you haven’t visited a Chiropractor yet, here are some signals that it may be time to pay a visit.
1. Daily Troubles
You are having trouble with your daily activities: getting dressed, preparing meals, taking care of children, shopping, getting through your workday without pain, exercise and sports are limited.
2. Medication Avoidance
You want to avoid opioid medication. Patients who see a chiropractor are 50% less likely to fill an opioid prescription than patients who don’t.
3. Prolonged Pain
You might need to visit a chiropractic professional if you’ve had pain for longer than 3 weeks without seeing improvement in symptoms.
4. Usual Remedies No Longer Work
Your pain is not responding to more conservative treatments like over-the-counter medications, hot packs, or topical pain relievers.
5. Unusual Bodily Changes
You have increased pain at night, unexplained weight loss, changes in bowel/bladder function related to your back pain, visual disturbances, trouble speaking/swallowing, neck stiffness with a fever, progressive weakness, saddle paresthesias. If you have any of the above symptoms you should see your healthcare provider immediately. These are red flags and suggest a serious condition.
Looking for a Chiropractor in Charlottesville, VA? Contact us to book an appointment.
You may have some preconceived ideas about Chiropractic Care that have been built up over the years. We’re here to bring you 4 truths that can help to separate facts from fiction.
1.Chiropractic adjustments or spinal/joint manipulations align the spine.
It’s just not true. This is a very old explanation used by chiropractors, physical therapists, and osteopaths because it is simple to explain to the patient. But spines and joints are not so fragile and manipulation doesn’t put you back into alignment. And I’ve got good news — you’re not out of alignment. So what does joint manipulation do? Joint manipulation provides short-term improvements in pain, range of motion, and proprioception. A course of manipulation can be an effective tool as part of a care plan for musculoskeletal conditions.
2.You have to go forever.
This is not true. While healing is a process and seeing a chiropractor or a physical therapist often involves several visits over several weeks (more or less depending upon your condition/injury) it should not be forever. Now, some patients like manipulation because it feels good and like to go on a regular basis, in much the same way that some people like to get regular massages. And that’s totally fine. But it isn’t a requirement and it isn’t medically necessary. It is fine to go regularly if you enjoy it. But it is also fine to see your clinician until your injury is resolved and then not see them again.
3.Chiropractic care is dangerous.
While no treatment is without risk, chiropractic care is very safe. The most common adverse side effects are soreness. There is no evidence that chiropractic manipulation is correlated with strokes (this has been looked at repeatedly) and no evidence that chiropractic manipulation is correlated with a vertebral disc injury.
4.X-rays are necessary to diagnose and treat your condition.
This is also not true and we believe this may be more harmful than helpful due to the effects of radiation on the body. Most people hurt when they move, not when they are sitting still. That being said, how much can a static picture tell us about your condition? Not much. There is also a very poor correlation between imaging and the amount of pain a patient experiences, further debunking the need for imaging. Of course imaging is required when red flags are present: when fracture or serious illness is suspected but in absence of that, we don’t recommend it.
Are you working from home lately? You are not alone. Workstation ergonomics has become a hot topic over the past 2 years due to many people shifting from working at the office to working from home. This shift has lead to a lot of people seeking care due to a new ache or pain in the neck or lower back. Most of these people know that it may be due to the new work environment, but there are a lot of people who continue to wonder what might be the cause of this new symptom. If this scenario sounds like you, read on!
What are workstation ergonomics?
Workstation ergonomics is the set-up of your work environment and how you interact with this setup. At the bare minimum things involved in the workstation include a desk, chair, computer monitors, a keyboard, and a phone. The more often forgotten things that are included in this setup are a water bottle or coffee, notebooks, pens and pencils, a cell phone, etc. All of these things can be set up in a specific way to ensure the best possible work environment for the worker.
How does an improper setup lead to pain?
Our bodies thrive with motion and different positions. Desk jobs do not allow for an adequate amount of either of these. This can lead to overloading of structures throughout the entire spine leading to undue stress and eventually causing pain and discomfort. This positioning can lead to:
- Decreased blood flow to muscles, tendons, and ligaments leading to a buildup of tissue metabolites
- Increased strain on muscles, tendons, and ligaments leading to overuse injuries
When proper ergonomics are accounted for, natural curves throughout the spine and musculature in the area are able to sustain these positions for longer without fatigue. This leads to less pain and discomfort and a better workday.
Deadlifts have long been a staple in strength training. It is a very complex movement that requires movement throughout multiple joints and using multiple muscles. If you’re looking for an exercise that gives you the most bang for your buck to shorten your leg days, look no further.
Deadlifts can simulate multiple movements and everyday activities like lifting a heavy box from the ground, picking up your kids or grandkids, or even leaning over the sink to do the dishes to a lesser extent. You can see how training with this movement can help to give you functional strength for many things you do in a day. Because the movement is so complex and involves multiple joints, it can help to improve movement control throughout the entire body. Improved motor control will help muscles to turn on and off appropriately during motion or in anticipation for motion.
We use deadlifts in the clinic for many of our patients due to the high value if the movement. We often use this with our patients who have lower back, hip or knee issues. The muscles that this movement works span across these joints, so strengthening often helps to reduce overloading of painful structures and adds active stability back to the system. Below is an overview of some of the muscles this movements trains, benefits, as well as cues for proper form.
- Prime movers
- Glutes: Extends the hip which is important for waking, standing, stairs, and pretty much everything else you do with your legs
- Hamstrings: Helps to extend the hip and flex the knee. Important in movements like running and walking uphill
- Erector spinae: helps to extend and support your back when sitting, bending, and maintaining an upright position
- Secondary muscles
- Upper traps: Helps to support the shoulder girdle and extend and rotate the neck
- Rhomboids: postural muscles to help support your shoulder blades and bring your shoulder back
- Biceps and brachialis: to a lesser extent. Biceps turns palms up and assist with elbow and shoulder flexion. Brachialis flexes the elbow.
- Various forearm muscles: Important for grip
Benefits of the Deadlift
- Improve strength of all the muscles listed above
- Improve hamstring flexibility and length.
- That’s right! Get rid of your static stretching routine for your hamstrings and add these to your workout to stretch out those stubborn hamstrings.
- Improve postural strength which may help to reduce pain with standing and sitting for long periods
Variations and Form for Deadlifting
- Start with your feet flat and placed hip/shoulder width apart- whatever feels comfortable.
- Squat down to with your hips lower than your shoulders and grasp the bar (you can use either a pronated or double overhand grip, or a mixed grip with one hand supinated and the other hand pronated).
- The bar should be about 1 inch in front of your shins.
- The back should be neutral or slightly arched, your shoulder blades down and back, chest up and high, heels on the floor, shoulders slightly in front of the bar and eyes straight ahead.
- To lift the bar extend your hips and knees keeping your torso upright, keep the elbows extended and the shoulders over the bar. Keep the bar as close to your body as possible. Extend until you are standing straight up.
- To lower the bar, keep the torso upright and the bar close to your body. Flex your hips and knees to lower the bar to the floor, keeping an upright posture the entire time.
- Start with your feet flat and placed hip/shoulder width apart- whatever feels comfortable.
- Place your hands a shoulder width apart with either a double overhand (pronated) or a mixed grip (one hand pronated, the other supinated).
- With you knees slightly bent, hinge forward to grasp the bar. Your torso will be parallel with the floor (or close to it, everyone is different).
- To lift the bar extend the hips, raising the torso up, until you are standing erect, keep the bar close to the body the entire time. Safety tip: don’t hyperextend the elbows or the back.
- To lower the bar flex the hips and push them backward, hinging at the hips to move the torso forward, keeping the bar in contact with the thighs.
- Keep your torso rigid and your spine neutral and keep the shoulders down and back until the barbell is level with your knees.
Single leg RDL
You see this less often with a barbell and much more commonly performed with a kettle bell or a dumbbell. This can be performed conventional style, stiff legged, or Romanian. We will review the conventional style and Romanian style. This can be performed with a kettle bell in one hand, or in each hand. If you perform this with a single kettlebell or dumbbell, then the leg that moves backward should be the SAME side holding the weight.
Exercise Series: Squats
The first in our exercise series covers one of the most fundamental lifts: The squat. This is an exercise that simulates and helps to build strength for multiple functional movements like running, jumping, walking, stairs, picking up your children, and even getting on and off the toilet. Staying strong with a squatting movement helps you keep up with life while you’re young and helps you stay independent as you age.
The squat is a great multi-joint exercise that you can use to increase range of motion and build full body strength. This is why it is a mainstay of almost any strength program. There is a lot of misinformation around the squat and we are here to talk about squatting safely and get more people interested in this exercise.
We’ve got great news! There is no need to pay super close attention to squat form for most of us. There is no one perfect squat. Form becomes important when we are getting near our max lift as proper form will give you a mechanical advantage and reduce your risk for injury, but outside of that it isn’t very important.
Everyone has variations in the anatomy of their hips as well as knee and ankle flexibility. These variations can affect form when completing a complex lift like the squat: So how can we say there is only one way to properly perform a squat?
There is little evidence to support that idea that improper form can directly lead to an injury.
- If you aren’t sure on your form, that’s ok
- The more you do it, the better you will get
- If you need to turn your ankles out for comfort or can’t get as low as you’d like, it’s fine
- The dreaded “buttwink” is when your pelvis tucks under you at the bottom of your squat, which is also totally normal for most people
Tips and tricks
- Start with a comfortable weight for YOU, not the person next to you lifting an absurd amount of weight in the gym. We all have our own starting points.
- We recommend going to at least 90 degrees of knee flexion with your squat if you can comfortably get there with your heels flat on the floor.
- If it’s between more weight or more depth, we recommend more depth. Your muscles will only adapt to the ranges you work them in. That means if you squat to 45 degrees of knee flexion with a lot of weight, you will get very strong in this range. Outside of this range though, you will likely be significantly weaker.
- Once your ideal depth is achieved, you can begin progressing the weight
- Select the type of squat and depth that will help you reach your goal for training.
- Box squats may be best to help work on getting in an out of a chair
- Split squats are beneficial for sports requiring single leg explosive movements like sprinting and ice hockey
- BREATHING: Breathe in while you are descending in the squat and breathe out when ascending out of the squat
- You should not hold your breath during the squat unless you are trained in doing this to prevent fainting and extreme increases in internal pressure
Common form issues
- Knees collapse in when squatting
- Cause: Poor glute activation
- Fix 1: by thinking about rotating your feet outward against the ground. Your feet shouldn’t move, but this will help activate the glutes to prevent valgus
- Fix 2: Put an exercise band around the tops of your knees and actively resist
- Too much forward trunk lean
- Cause: Usually due to performing the squats with more weight than your quads can tolerate. The hip hinge will recruit more glutes and hamstrings during the movement
- Fix: Use less weight and progressively overload to quads tolerance
- Weight shift to one side
- Cause: Painful hip or knee; poor ankle flexibility on one side; reduced strength on one side
- Fix 1: Use mirrors: They’re not for admiring yourself, they’re for assisting with proper form
- Fix 2: Place a small riser under the foot of the side you are shifting towards
- Fix 3: Do split squats to increase single leg strength on deficient side.
- Squatting is a great way to improve your range of motion over time. You’ll see in our video Bryan is doing a deep squat and loading through his full range of motion. But If you can only manage a half squat to start, that’s ok.
- Squats will increase lower body and core strength with a progressive training program
- Squatting is a movement pattern that is used in most things we do throughout the day, so these things will likely become easier with increased training.
- They will make you feel great by releasing feel good endorphins, helping you both physically and mentally.
There are as many variations of squats as your imagination can come up with. Front squats, back squats, box squats, sumo squats, belt squats, goblet squats, split squats, starter squats… Below are some common variations that we use with our patients and athletes.
- Grasp the bar with a closed pronated grip
- Step under the bar with your feet at a comfortable width
- You can use either the high bar or low bar position
- The high bar positions the bar above your posterior deltoids and at the base of the neck
- The low bar positions the bar across the posterior deltoids and in the middle of the trapezius
- Lift your elbows and hold your chest up and out to create a shelf for the bar using the upper back and shoulder muscles
- Extend your knees and hips to lift the bar and take one or two steps backward
- Position your feet roughly shoulder width apart
- As you squat, keep your back neutral and your chest up. Keep your heels flat on the floor. Maintain this position on your way back up as well.
- Slowly lower yourself as low as you can control and then return to the starting position in a slow controlled motion and repeat with the desired amount of reps
Benefits and Uses
- Is there anything the squat doesn’t do for your body?!?
- Helps to build whole body strength, especially in the quads, glutes and hamstrings
- Builds core strength and stability
- Form for this movement is similar to the regular squat, except you are sitting and then getting back up from a surface (usually a bench)
- They key to performing this movement is the subtle hip hinge when sitting and standing
Benefits and Uses
- Simulates getting out of chair, off toilet, or out of a car
- Will help improve core strength and stability
- Moves bias more to glutes and hamstrings
- Load the bar on your shoulders as you would with the back squat
- Place feet roughly shoulder width with toes turned out about 30 degrees
- Squat as low as you can then return to the starting position
Benefits and Uses
- A great movement for beginners
- More comfortable on painful hips that have impingement type symptoms
- Aids in making the movement more stable for those at risk for falls
- Grasp the bar in the same position as with the back squat
- Place one foot flat on a bench, not on live toes
- Ensure that your front foot is forward enough that your tibia doesn’t move too far forward when dropping into the squat
- Squat by dropping your back knee straight towards the ground slowly
- Push up from the down position by extending the knee and hip on the front leg
Benefits and Uses
- Good for correcting strength discrepancies between sides
- Useful for sports requiring single leg strength and power (sprinting, long jump, ice hockey)
The Balanced Patient Difference
We often ask ourselves what makes us different from the other clinics in the area and what we can do to help our patients get the most out of their time with our practice. These are the questions that have continued to help us grow both as individuals as well as a clinic. Below are a few of the things that set us apart from some of the other clinics in town.
- First and foremost, we believe in treating people, not just conditions or injuries. Care needs to evolve to look at patients as a complex being, not just a sprained ligament or chronic pain patient. Our practice will spend longer with you at your initial evaluation to ensure that we learn as much as possible about you as a person, as well as your condition. Some of the things we may dive into on the first day besides asking about your injury include your diet, sleeping patterns, stressors, and YOUR goals for care.
- We want to help you reach your goals. Sure, we have objective measures that need to improve like strength, range of motion, and pain to justify a need for care to your insurance company. That being said, these improvements will be targeted on the way to meeting your goals for care. We believe in having patients guide their care within reason. Having our patients set goals allows us to design exercise programs and other treatments around the thing you want to get back to. We put our patients in the driver’s seat of their care.
- While we have a research informed bias. Our goal is never to arbitrarily give a patient a series of treatments, we ensure that treatment plans are individualized. Treatment is often based around the best available evidence for treating a condition in a population similar to that of our patients. While we are biased toward evidence, we also take into account our personal experience with working with certain conditions and our patients expectations for treatment and care.
- No unnecessary imaging. Choosing Wisely is a campaign to bring healthcare inline with the research. In most cases imaging is unnecessary. The main reasons to perform imaging are to check for red flags (fracture, space occupying lesion) or if a patient hasn’t responded to 6 weeks of chiropractic or physical therapy. We will not order imaging, as it can be costly, expose you to radiation, and is often unnecessary to treat our patients. We believe that unnecessary imaging is irresponsible and causes more harm than good. Going back to bullet point number 1, our patients are people, not pictures. Treatment will not correct an x-ray, it will help to correct the biological processes taking place in your body.
- No gimmicks. We provide treatments supported by a sound body of scientific evidence that are widely agreed upon as being effective. You won’t find lasers, magic vitamins, or ultrasound in our office. Lasers sound cool (pew pew), but the evidence is weak, and before we recommend an expensive treatment like that, we want to be sure that it will work for most of our patients. If there was a great body of research supporting lasers, then we’d have two! But until there is, we won’t be recommending any fancy expensive treatments that lighten your wallet.
- As chiropractors and physical therapists our goals are to help you meet your goals, as quickly and efficiently as possible, and in as pleasant a way as possible. It is also our job to educate! You have questions? Ask away! If you want to know why we are selecting a specific treatment or exercise, just ask and we will be happy to explain. Every patient is treated as an individual, and every individual has their own needs for care.
- We also offer free consultations and never make you pay for care up front. We don’t think it should cost someone money to know where they should begin with their care: If we think we can help, we will let you know. But if we think that you don’t need treatment, or would be better served by seeing another provider type we will let you know that too. We want patients to see the value in the care at our clinic, and having someone pay upfront is not the way to do this. If a patient feels they are not getting better under our care, they should be free to seek care somewhere else without an added financial burden.
We are always working to improve as a clinic and individuals and we never stray away from these 7 points. We also keep our mission close to heart to serve the greater Charlottesville community by delivering the best in evidence-based care with integrated chiropractic, physical therapy and massage therapy to help each patient reach optimal health and well-being.
When an injury begins to develop, the amount of options to enter the healthcare system can be daunting. It’s almost as bad as choosing where to get takeout from for dinner, which can sometimes lead to cooking at home due to the overwhelming amount of choices in Charlottesville. When talking about healthcare, these options may lead to the wait and see what happens method. Wait and see is something almost all of us have done with our healthcare, but it often results in negative consequences. When it comes to our healthcare, it’s best to tackle our problems before they cascade out of our control.
When asked WHERE to begin in the healthcare spectrum following an injury, the answer should be up to you and where you feel comfortable starting. All healthcare professionals have been through extensive schooling to help patients and clients. Obviously, we’re a little biased towards chiropractic and physical therapy for all musculoskeletal issues. Here are a few of the reasons why:
- We have been trained to rule-out red flag conditions like fractures and other significant issues, so this is a safe starting point for most injuries
- You should never receive imaging unless it is necessary
- We do not order imaging, unless fracture or other serious pathology is expected, saving you time, money, and exposure to radiation
- We have been trained to diagnose and treat most musculoskeletal injuries and conditions to help our patients get better
- Our entire curriculum focused on conservative care for musculoskeletal injury, making us experts in diagnosing and caring for these injuries
- We have been trained to treat your condition without medications or surgery
In general, you do not need a prescription from your doctor to see a chiropractor or physical therapist in Virginia. This can help to save you time and money, as well as help you get to the route cause of your symptoms without having to cut through all of the red tape.
Now that you have a general understanding about where to start following an injury, now we’ll address WHEN to start. The sooner you seek care, the better for almost every single condition out there. Although money can always be an issue, I can almost guarantee you you will save money if you come in sooner in the injury process. Coming in early allows us to:
- Educate you on what is causing the condition and help you understand why it likely happened in the first place
- Address your injury early on before it gets worse. If you are not aware of what is causing your pain, we can help identify it
- If you have a sprain or a strain, we can address it and counsel you on how to promote healing
- We generally don’t recommend stopping activity, but teach you how to work around it and load it properly to stimulate recovery
- Sprain and strains will generally get worse if frequency, intensity, time, or type of training is not adjusted: We can help you find the right balance
- Prevent injuries from manifesting in different areas. When something hurts, it usually leads to suboptimal movement or guarding of the injured area. If this is prolonged, an ankle injury can progress to involve the knee, hip, and lower back.
- Reduce your costs of treatment. If we see you early on in the injury process, we can usually treat it in 2-3 sessions with education and a home program instead of a full course of treatment (10+ visits requiring more supervision). This will help to save you money so you can spend it on new fitness gear!
We are here to treat you and not recommend unnecessary care. We want you to get better as quickly and fully as possible. By accessing our care early in the injury process, you can help us achieve our goals and your goals for care. There is always the option of consulting with one of our providers to see if we are the right place to start for your care. This is just another way we are working to break down the barriers to care. SO, next time you face an injury, please don’t “wait and see” and see your provider early to get back to 100% quickly.
Top 10 Tips for Migraines!
- Manual Therapy
Spinal manipulation is a useful tool in migraine prophylaxis. One study demonstrated a “significant reduction” of migraine intensity in almost half of those patients receiving spinal manipulation. Nearly ¼ of migraine patients reported greater than 90% fewer attacks. (11) Spinal manipulation has demonstrated similar effectiveness but longer-lasting benefit with fewer side effects when compared to a well-known and efficacious medical treatment (amitriptyline). (11,12,13,14)
A Harvard study found that SMT significantly reduced migraine days as well as pain intensity. (52) And SMT is safe; a study to define adverse events following chiropractic spinal manipulation for migraines found that “adverse events were mild and transient, and severe or serious adverse events were not observed.” (53)
Several recent studies have shown that acupuncture is another viable tool for managing migraines. (49-51,59,60)
- Eat Smart & Maintain an Ideal Weight
Dietary fats trigger the synthesis of prostaglandins which are known migraine triggers (19). Low-fat diets have been shown to play a role in migraine prophylaxis. (20,21) Weight loss may decrease the frequency of migraine and other primary headaches (tension, cluster). (16-18) Patients on a low sodium (DASH) diet report a decrease in headache frequency vs those on a high sodium diet. (23) One new study showed that “adherence to the Harvard Healthy Eating Plate advice, particularly the reduction in carb, red and processed meat consumption, is useful in migraine management, reducing migraine frequency and disability.” (47)
- Drink Water
Increased hydration may produce subjective improvement in headache disability and intensity. (22) A study published earlier this month, showed “The results showed that the severity of migraine disability pain severity headaches frequency and duration of headaches were significantly lower in those who consumed more total water.” (48)
- Vitamin D
Vitamin D deficiency is associated with migraine attacks. (54,55) Vitamin D supplementation in a dose of 1000-4000 IU/d has been shown to reduce the frequency of migraine attacks. (55-57)
- B Vitamins
Riboflavin (Vit B2) may help prevent migraines. (26, 29-38) Dosage recommendations vary, however, the average dose used in the studies was 400mg/day. Vitamin B6 supplementation (with or without concurrent B9 and B12) has also demonstrated prophylactic benefit. (58)
- Feverfew (125mg)
Feverfew may be a useful tool for preventing migraines. (24,25,26) Dosage recommendations vary, however, the average dose used in the studies was 125mg/day.
Adding ginger to feverfew may provide relief for acute migraine. (27,28) The proprietary ginger preparation used was (LipiGesicM™ )
- Magnesium (400-600mg)
Magnesium may provide migraine prophylaxis. (26, 39-42) An umbrella review found strong evidence that “Magnesium supplementation can reduce the intensity/frequency of migraine.” (61) Dosage recommendations vary, however, the average dose used in the studies is 400-600mg/ day for the prevention of migraine in non-pregnant patients.
- Coenzyme Q10 (100mg TID)
Coenzyme Q10 may be effective in migraine prophylaxis. (26, 43-46) Dosage recommendations vary, however, the average dose used in the studies was 100mg TID.
- Melatonin (2-3mg)
One systematic review and meta-analysis concluded: “Melatonin may be of potential benefit in the treatment‐prevention of migraine in adults.” (62) Study doses varied widely (0.05-50mg), however, the typical dose used in the studies was 2-3mg, taken before bedtime.
Tim Bertelsman, DC
Do you struggle with migraines? Give us a call to see how we can help! 434-293-3800
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- Moskowitz MA. The visceral organ brain: implications for the pathophysiology of vascular head pain. Neurology. 1991;41(2(Pt 1)):182–186.
- Chawla J. Migraine Headache. Medscape. http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1142556-overview Accessed 2/1/14
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- Kelman L. Women’s issues of migraine in tertiary care. Headache. Jan 2004;44(1):2-7.
- Nelson CF, Bronfort G, Evans R, Boline P, Goldsmith C, Anderson AV: The efficacy of spinal manipulation, amitriptyline and the combination of both therapies for the prophylaxis of migraine headaches. J Manipulative Physiol Ther 1998, 21 :511-519
- Biondi DM. Physical treatments for headache: a structured review. Headache. 2005;45(6):738–746.
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- Bic Z, Blix G, Hopp H, et al. The influence of a low-fat diet on incidence and severity of migraine headaches. J Womens Health Gend Based Med 1999; 8: 623–630. 3
- Bunner AE, Agarwal U, Gonzales JF, et al. Nutrition intervention for migraine: A randomized crossover trial. J Headache Pain 2014; 15: 1–9.
- Spigt M, Weerkamp N, Troost J, et al. A randomized trial on the effects of regular water intake in patients with recurrent headaches. Fam Pract 2012; 29: 370–375.
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- Pittler M and Ernst E. Feverfew for preventing migraine. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2004; CD002286.
- Diener HC, Pfaffenrath V, Schnitker J, et al. Efficacy and safety of 6.25 mg t.i.d. feverfew CO2-extract (MIG-99) in migraine prevention—a randomized, double-blind, multicentre, placebo-controlled study. Cephalalgia 2005; 25: 1031–1041.
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How to Safely Build your Running Volume and Intensity
While things are slowly opening back up around here after a two-month quarantine, it looks as though gyms and fitness centers will be among the last things to return. And for many of us, it will take a long time before we’re comfortable exercising in an enclosed space with a bunch of heavy-breathing strangers. With that in mind, many of us have taken up running – one of the best full body and cardiovascular workouts out there, and one that can be done literally anywhere and requires nothing but a solid pair of shoes.
Running is incredible. I am of the opinion that human beings WERE indeed “born to run” – we are built for it. It strengthens almost every muscle in the body, it contributes to a robust and durable skeleton, it will quickly develop your cardiovascular fitness; and it’s fun. Joyful. Freeing.
However, it is also a lot of impact. With each step, running imparts forces up your foot and leg that are FIVE TIMES YOUR BODYWEIGHT. That’s a LOT of force. And for this reason, most individuals need to progress into running slowly in order to avoid injury. All you need is a plan (and some self-honesty), and it IS possible to build your running volume over time without sustaining an injury.
Step 1: Get Assessed.
For those of you without pain and without a history of lower-body injury, you can *probably* skip this step, and add some jogging into your routine in a systematic fashion (more on that in a bit). But, if you are coming off an injury and/or having some pain, it’s best to get checked out by a professional. Whether you decide to see a physical therapist, a chiropractor, a PA or a physician is up to you – but make sure they have experience in working with runners. Please note that having some pain doesn’t mean that you can’t start running (especially if your pain is unrelated to, or even relieved by, physical activity) – but it’s safest for you to get a professional opinion first.
A sports physical therapist will be able to perform a running readiness screen, which includes testing your range of motion, strength, stability, and power output to make sure your muscles, tendons, and bones are up for the task. Additionally, if you’re having pain, we can help determine which tissues might be contributing, and determine whether it’s safe for you to begin running. If it’s not – no worries! We can work with you to get you to the point where it is.
Step 2: Walk
You have to crawl before you can walk…and you have to walk before you can run. If you already walk regularly, great; it’s likely you can skip this step. If not, I’d recommend starting by walking 30 minutes, 4 days per week. Gradually add time and days until you can walk 60 minutes without pain and without stopping, on at least two days per week. When you’ve reached this milestone, you can be certain that your body is ready to up the ante a bit
Step 3: Start with intervals
Where you start when you start running all depends on your fitness level and your experience in the sport. If this is your first time committing to a fitness routine (which, by the way – major props and congratulations!), then running a 5k per day is not a smart way for you to begin (it will likely lead to an overuse injury). If you’re a division I soccer player who’s just graduated and looking for a new way to stay fit, however – you can probably tolerate a three-mile run.
For those who are new to running, or if you’re coming off an injury, I suggest starting with intervals. These can be as short as 30 seconds of running, or as long as one minute to start with – depending on your fitness and the severity of your injury (for example, if a stress fracture has kept you out of running for 4+ months – start small. If you pulled a muscle and were out for 4 weeks, you can start with a little more). Give yourself a minute to rest in between sets, and repeat 8-10 times. That’s your run for the day.
I recommend repeating each “level” of progression three times before increasing the time spent running and decreasing your rest intervals. Almost every major sports medicine center has a “return to running” progression; Feel free to search the googles, but i feel strongly that progressions should be highly individualized based on the nature and severity of the injury and the athlete’s fitness levels.
Follow the 10% rule. When increasing your mileage, don’t add more than 10% of your total volume from week to week. For example, if you ran a total of 10 miles this week, then next week, you can add one mile to your weekly total.
Step 4: Add Volume before you add Speed. Never add both at the same time
Speaks for itself. Build yourself a comfortable base – I’d say of at least 15-20 miles per week – before you start increasing the intensity of your runs. This allows both your cardiovascular and your musculoskeletal system to adapt to running. Both volume and intensity contribute to the overall load of running; so adding both at once will likely just overload your system and create injury. CONSISTENCY is key; don’t be afraid to build slowly, because that is your ticket to a lifelong relationship with running.
Step 5: Don’t Ignore Pain
If you should feel pain while progressing your running, a good first step is to simply take 1-2 days of complete rest, and then resume your running intervals at the level below where you were when you felt the pain. This is going to look different on every program, but for example: if you were running for two minutes, walking one minute and felt pain, then you would, after rest, initiate running at run 1: walk 1, a level below. If you’re still having pain after a few days of rest and dropping it down a level, now’s the time to call your PT or physician.
Remember that any time you push your body’s limits, it’s going to respond by pushing back a little. Some aches and pains here and there are a normal part of life for a runner. I don’t want you to think that every little niggle requires medical attention. However, pain that is persistent and prevents you from finishing your runs or forces you to change your gait, definitely warrants a workup.
If you have questions, or want a personalized plan for building your running volume after an injury or time off (or for the first time!), don’t hesitate to reach out to [email protected]
This started as a blog on “how to keep training during quarantine”. Which is an important topic, especially because it seems as though this is how life is going to be for the time being. But as I was writing, this is what came out instead. There are questions I need to answer, thought patterns I need to shed light on, and reassurance that needs to be given….so here it is.
“Training looks different for me now and I’m scared I’m going to gain the “COVID-19 Pounds that everyone keeps joking about”
I have several responses to that. For one, it goes without saying that if the worst thing that happens to you during this pandemic is that you pack on a few extra pounds, consider yourself very lucky. I would much rather gain weight than get sick and die, or see my loved ones get sick and die. I don’t think there’s anyone who doesn’t truly feel that way deep down. In the grand scheme of things, this is an incredibly scary and unprecedented time, and if you need an extra snack or two to cope with it? There’s nothing wrong with that. No one is judging.
That being said, being worried about your weight and fitness when your entire routine has been upended by the universe does not make you a bad person. If you are a female of any age, any background, any shape, size, activity level – you’ve had diet culture forced down your throat since the day you were born. You’ve most likely been made to feel, your whole life, that your body is inadequate and that it must be small to be “worthy”. We all have. I don’t know a single woman who’s somehow escaped that message. Men too, for that matter. If you find yourself freaking out a little extra about your weight, it doesn’t make you selfish and uncaring about the rest of the world – you literally can’t help it because this is what you’ve been taught by society to value. Regardless of whether you got that message from a magazine, a movie, your mom, or your coach – it’s ingrained.
For individuals with eating disorder history, this is also an especially difficult time because many eating disorders are a form of control. There’s a LOT of things we don’t have control over right now, and it is terrifying. When the rest of your life is scary, uncomfortable, and inconsistent, focusing in on your body and food intake is a way to cope and feel like you have control over SOMETHING. Is it a healthy coping mechanism? NO, of course not – but it is effective. If you’ve fallen into this kind of pattern when stressed over midterms, deciding on a university to attend, going through a divorce or a death or a marriage…then a global pandemic is most certainly going to trigger you too, and that’s not your fault.
If this is you, I suggest forgiving yourself, showing yourself some extra love, and meeting virtually with a therapist who can help you get through this time.
On the opposite side of the coin:
It is also totally okay to continue caring about your health and fitness during this pandemic! And in that regard, I am pleased to report that the laws of physics remain the same regardless of whether you are still at work or you’re on house arrest. Physics doesn’t care about Corona. The calories in/calories out rule still applies for weight loss or weight maintenance! So, all the “covid-19 pounds” memes are truly kinda dumb. Staying at home doesn’t cause weight gain – eating more calories than you burn does (regardless of your location).
If your activity level has changed drastically and you don’t want to gain weight, eat less calories. If your activity level has increased, then rest assured that extra coronasnack isn’t doing you any harm.
Some general rules of thumb that still very much apply in this pandemic:
-Eat only when you are hungry, most of the time. Stop when you are satisfied, not stuffed
-Choose mostly whole, unprocessed foods (bonus: they’re better for your immune system than pop tarts!)
And it’s highly unlikely that your weight or fitness will be impacted by staying at home. If you are still concerned and want something more specific, I highly recommend connecting with a sports dietician – most of them do remote consults and they can put you on a plan that will take a lot of the stress out of eating. Who needs one more thing to stress about right now anyway?
As for your activity level? Keep in mind that we are all, collectively, under a great deal of psychological stress right now. Your body does not know the difference between physical stress and psychological stress so…it all adds up in the same way. Think of your stress capacity like a bucket. Both physical and psychological stress fill up the bucket, so the more emotional stress you have – like living through a global pandemic– the less room in the bucket there is for adding physical stress (workouts) – before the bucket spills over (aka you get injured or get sick).
That being said, most of us actually need to slow down with our training, rather than ramping it up. Have you noticed your legs feel heavy? Or that you wake up stiff as a board? Or that you’re sleeping way more than usual, or having more trouble sleeping than usual? That’s the stress – and those are the same symptoms as overtraining syndrome. Slow down, and your body will thank you.
If you are struggling with this quarantine in any way – with body image, with food intake, with exercise, with training for a sport, with an injury – please reach out to me: [email protected] Let’s talk, I’m happy to help you with all of the above.