Generic “One Size Fits All” Home Exercise Programs Can Cause More Harm than Good

Often after a visit to a medical office for pain, patients are provided with a list of exercises, a pamphlet or brochure or worse, they find a “one size fits all” exercise “cure” on the internet. Many feel these are often sufficient replacements for a skilled physical therapy evaluation and subsequent treatment, with the notion that strengthening or exercising the painful area will improve the pain in function.

The leading experts in the therapy, movement and performance field will tell you that this assumption is incorrect.

Physical therapists, with a foundation of anatomical structure, neurological pathways, and motor control are the recognized functional experts the in healthcare industry. With the proper education and approach they can easily explain to you not only what is hurting, but why it is hurting. With the proper approach, they will look at the entire kinetic chain. Many times, the pain is not the problem; it is a symptom of movement dysfunction elsewhere, putting more stress on the area that is experiencing pain. Direct, “one size fits all” programs for a painful area rarely lead to a decrease in pain and often can make symptoms worse and lead to an unsatisfied patient.

The Problem in Theory:

All too often patients receive a home exercise program with the “one size fits all” approach with the painful area being the sole focus. These programs often disregard an injury with individual characteristics resulting in improper recovery, decreasing their ability to return to prior level of function and often result in reoccurrence. The number one cause of re-injury is a result of insufficient or improper rehabilitation. Generic home exercise programs are not sufficient nor are they proper for comprehensive rehabilitation for an individual with pain.

Here are 5 reasons why a stand-alone Home Exercise Program can be ineffective.

1. A home exercise program is not self-care program; it is a component of one. Many incorrectly assume the terms are one in the same. Often important components such as patient education workplace, and home modification to name a few, are not included, to the detriment of the patient. Just as a grade school homework assignment reinforces what is taught in class:

Home Exercise Programs are NOT synonymous with physical therapy, they are an adjunct.

2. The body is designed to compensate and often does without the knowledge of the person performing the exercise. With a “one size fits all” home exercise program these issues often go unaddressed and result in compensation, decreasing the effectiveness of the exercise. Additionally, improperly performing home programs reinforce incorrect motor patterns resulting in additional stress on structures that are not designed to handle the force. The  work of Richard A Schmidt, PhD. tell us that tells us that it takes 300 repetitions to create a bad habit, and 3000 correct repetitions to undo it. That is the human condition.  Exercises given without compensation safeguards can quickly have detrimental results to one’s movement patterns and pain.

3. Generic programs are limited to a specific painful area and ignore other affected areas of the body. The “one size fits all” exercise program usually only addresses the site of pain with the assumption that the pain is the problem. In most cases the pain is the symptom of movement dysfunction elsewhere. The entirety of the kinetic chain, which is the interaction of muscle, nerves and joint to create movement, is often ignored. When this occurs, people with foot pain, for example, develop knee, back or hip pain because their functional requirements of other areas have increased, but have gone unaddressed. In this same light, if a non-painful dysfunction at the thoracic spine creates issues at the shoulder blade and in turn shoulder pain, shoulder exercises are not going to address the problem.

4. There is often no progression, increasing the chances of re- injury. Without progression, the structures are improperly prepared for the functional demands of everyday life and the end result is some level of pain, be it reoccurring or new.

5. It is an incorrect assumption that if an individual has a program that addressed the structures involved in a specific movement that motor patterns will take care of themselves. Generic orthopedic programs that do not address movement patterns may improve isolated strength, but will not improve the dysfunction that caused the injury.

The Problem in Practice:

Just this week we had a patient who had been in chronic pain for a while. She performed exercises that was a “one size fits all” and her pain had gotten worse. The patient had shoulder pain, so she was provided the “shoulder exercise program”.  The patient’s shoulder was painful, but as a result of rounded shoulders and weak shoulder blade stabilizers, not because of decreased shoulder strength. Yet, repeated the very mechanical issue that caused the pain. This program did not address the tight chest muscles and weak scapular stabilizers which were the primary causes of the painful shoulder.

All too often this occurs, resulting in an unsatisfied patient who remains in pain. There are many limitations to performing a general program. To start, the proprioceptive mechanism, which is what tells am individual where their body is in space, is not well tuned, making it nearly impossible for an individual to self-correct. Good pure movement is often altered in the non-painful population, let alone a painful one. Many won’t correct a problem unless they know there is one in the first place, if they don’t know there is a problem, the correction won’t happen.

The “one size fits all” approach is counterintuitive to all other aspects of medicine, and yet it seems to be the “go to” approach for orthopedic pain. Two people with similar health problems are rarely going to be prescribed the same prescription medicine, with regard to frequency and dosage. People are different; so it stands to reason that many factors should be taken into account. Returning to the scenario above, shoulders are not created equally, and yet, the “one size fits all” approach was the “cure.”

If you have received or given an exercise program, you should ask yourself these questions:

Does it include self-treatment education on proper use of modalities, home and workplace modification?
Does it have safeguards against compensation to protect functional movement from becoming dysfunctional?
Does it focus on multiple areas vs .one?
Does it include motor pattern correction?
Is it being performed correctly? How do I know?
Is it too easy? Is it too difficult? How do I know?
If you do not know the answer to one or more of these questions, a physical therapist will be able to answer them for you or your patient.

Fall Prevention for Senior Citizens

Did you know that 1 in 3 senior citizens fall each year? Many of these falls result in hospitalization or assisted living. Did you know that physical therapists can help prevent falls and help choose and correctly size assistive devices like walkers and canes? Chris Stulginsky of Ayrsley Town Rehab discusses ways you can help the senior citizens in your life prevent falls.

Ayrsley Town Rehabilitation (ATR) provides performance-enhancing, preventative and rehabilitative programs and services that maximize functionality and promote well-being in patients of all ages and abilities. Watch the video below to learn more about fall prevention and what you can do to help protect those you love.

Patient’s Report 35% Pain Relief with New Laser Treatment in Charlotte Physical Therapy Clinic

In May of 2009 Ayrsley Town Rehabilitation debuted the ML830 Laser in their clinic, over the last five months, patient have reported, on average of a 35% reduction in pain with the laser and the implementation of preferred provider protocols.

PRLog (Press Release) – Sep. 30, 2009 – In May, Ayrsley Town Rehabilitation (ATR), a physical therapy clinic in southwest Charlotte, introduced the ML 830 Laser in their clinic. According to the results of the company’s internal study, patients treated with the ML830 Laser have reported a 35% reduction of pain after a 10 minute treatment.  “It has gotten to the point, where I am no longer surprised by the results,” said Christopher Stulginsky, PT who is not only the managing partner of ATR but also the regions only certified premier provider according to the distributor’s website.  “We have had success with people of all ages and with multiple body sites and conditions. Most of our success has been with carpal tunnel, arthritis pain, post surgical rehab, with people who have been in car accidents, and those who have back pain.” Stulginsky has also had success with adolescent sports injuries as well. “They always seem to like the idea of being treated with something that Olympic and NFL athletes use.”

For more information about this and other treatment programs at Ayrsley Town Rehabilitation please contact them at 980.939.1580.

Additionally, the 830 Laser can be used over orthopedic hardware, pacemakers and over adolescent growth plates without side effect, which is not necessarily the case with traditional ultrasound and electric stimulation.  “The laser, which is the first on the market approved by the FDA, uses light to assist the local lymphatic response, it does not use heat or electricity, which can be contraindicated in certain scenarios,” said Stulginsky, who continued, “people need to know this information, they need to know what they have available to them. It is the only way to navigate healthcare today, to be armed with knowledge and explore their options.”

Many patients have been successfully treated at ATR since they opened their doors last October. Amelia is one of them and certainly agrees with Stulginsky’s assessment. She is a grandmother of one and recently had surgery for a torn rotator cuff, “I was going to have to wait for a while before I could get my surgery. I thought there was no point in going physical therapy, and that I couldn’t without a referral.  One day I was just in so much pain, a client recommended Chris to me, and I realized he could see me without a referral; he started working with me and helped the healthy muscles stay strong and help manage my pain with the laser.  I had not slept well it quite some time, but after one laser treatment I slept through the night. I am way ahead of schedule after my operation; I attribute that to Chris, seeing him before surgery and the use of the laser,” said Amelia.

Keith is a full time barber and  works at a local restaurant on the weekend, he has gone to ATR for treatment. “All day I am cutting hair, I can feel it in my forearm and wrist. I need for my hands to work. That laser thing is amazing. I feel relief within the first few minutes.”  Keith was also in a car accident many years ago, and after a busy weekend at the restaurant, he feels his old injury.  “Just the other day, after working on the weekend, I could barely stand up to cut hair, Chris was able to get me in and help lower my pain so that I could get through the day”

Annie is a chronic pain patient with severe osteoarthritis, multiple bulging discs, radiculopathy, entrapped nerves at L4 and L5 with trochanteric bursitis and peripheral neuropathy. She has tried many different treatments including medication, acupuncture and steroid injections.  “After my first treatment I cried in the bathroom the next morning because for the first time in many years I was not experiencing that horrible grinding pain.”

For more information about this and other treatment programs at Ayrsley Town Rehabilitation please contact them at 989.939. 1580.

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Ayrsley Town Rehabilitation (ATR) was opened by Christopher Stulginsky and Alex Gomez in October of 2008 in The Town of Ayrsley, a New Forum community in southwest Charlotte.

Christopher Stulginsky, PT is the managing partner and treating physical therapist at ATR. Christopher is a 2003 graduate of the masters in physical therapy program at The Rangos School of Health Sciences at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, PA. After graduation he spent 4 years as a travel physical therapist working throughout the United States. His travel background afforded him the opportunity to learn various techniques and about different technologies that were being used around the country. Additionally, Christopher has worked in multiple settings and multiple institutions including: The Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, MD; Friday Harbor Physical Therapy in Friday Harbor, WA; Mercy Hospital, West Suburban Sports and Rehab Clinic and Westlake Hospital’s Outpatient Back and Spine clinic in Chicago, IL.

Charlotte Clinic Offers Affordable Payment Options for Treatment as Deductibles Reset in New Year

With the new year, comes a reset in insurance deductibles, with high cost deductibles, many avoid treatment, which makes situations worse. This Charlotte clinic offers options to patients for manage the costs of their health care needs.

 PRLog (Press Release) – Jan. 27, 2010 – As the calendar has flipped to 2010, individuals who have medical insurance once again encounter and, are understandably concerned about their high medical insurance deductibles.  Insurance deductibles vary from insurance plan to insurance plan and in most cases they are a number negotiated between insurance company and their employer. The deductible is the amount that the employee is responsible for before the insurance coverage begins.

With some plans the deductable is a total medical deductable, with some there is a total family deductable, and with other plans there is a separate deductable for different medical services.  It is understandable that after a busy and usually expensive holiday season, individuals put off medical treatment because of the deductable of their plan.

Ayrsley Town Rehabilitation feels that high cost deductibles should not interfere with those who want and need pain relief.  “There is no reason that just because the calendar has changed that treatment should stop or be avoided. Pain does not stop after the new year, why should treatment?” says Chris Stulginsky, PT who is the managing partner of Ayrsley Town Rehabilitation in the Steele Creek area of Charlotte, NC.

In order to help patients navigate a climate with high insurance deductibles or a situation where there is no insurance at all , Ayrsley Town Rehabilitation offers discounted private pay rates as well as discounted multiple treatment rates all of which can be applied to the patient’s deductable. “We have plans in place to make things affordable for patients, most people are hesitant to even contact a medical facility to ask about payment possibilities, we encourage everyone to call and ask, we can help find what  option is best for each individual,” said Stulginsky.

“It is something for both patients and providers to consider as we continue to give our patients the best total care that we can.”

For further details on this or many other affordable pain relief programs at Ayrsley Town Rehabilitation please contact Chris Stulginsky, PT at 980.939.1580.
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Christopher Stulginsky, PT is a 2003 graduate of the physical therapy program at the Rangos School of health Sciences at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, PA. He is a certified member of the Prehab Network and a Certified Provider in use of the ML 830 Laser, the first cold laser approved by the FDA for pain. He has worked at The Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, MD and in various Sports Medicine clinics around the country. Currently, he is the managing partner or Ayrsley Town Rehabilitation, a physical therapy clinic in Charlotte, NC.

Local Clinic Introduces New Aquatic Program

Ayrsley Town Rehabilitation offers first aquatic therapy pain relief and therapy program in the Steele Creek section of Charlotte, NC.

PRLog (Press Release) – Jun. 23, 2010 – Charlotte, NC:

(Steele Creek) – On June 1, 2010, Ayrsley Town Rehabilitation started offering aquatic physical therapy to the healthcare consumers of southwest Charlotte.

“Aquatic therapy is a great way to decrease pain,” states Chris Stulginsky, PT of Ayrsley Town Rehabilitation.

“It is the closest thing we can get to being weightless, it unweights the joints and allows people to do more and work on true solutions for their pain relief. Because they are able to move more easily, clients strengthen their muscles to take pressure off of the joints over time.”

Myrtle Williams, a client who participates in the aquatic program agrees.  “I can do more in the pool then I can on the land, it helps me move around better without the pain. I can exercise without soreness the next day.”

Stulginsky continues on, “The aquatic program assists us in providing comprehensive pain solutions. It is an added plus to our already established Back Pain, Fibromyalgia, Orthopaedic Rehab and Prehab for Pregnancy Programs. Though it varies from plan to plan, in most cases the therapy is covered by health insurance, including Medicare.”

Stulginsky adds, “The aquatic program is another component to assist us in addressing the pain and rehabilitation needs of the people of south Charlotte and the Lake Wylie corridor.”

Summer Foot Pain is Preventable

As the weather gets nicer many change their footwear and increase activity. This often results in foot and ankle pain. With simple preventative exercises, individuals can reduce chances of experiencing this pain & get treatment if it does get worse.

PRLog (Press Release) – Apr. 24, 2012 – With the days getting longer and the weather getting warmer, summer is right around the corner. As a result, many will be spending more time outside exercising, doing yard work and enjoying,  “shorts and flip flop weather”.

“Who doesn’t love this time of year?” says Chris Stulginsky, physical therapist and owner of Ayrsley Town Rehabilitation.  “It’s a great time to get outside with your family and friends to enjoy the weather; however foot and ankle pain often follows.”

There are many ways to work to prevent these types of injuries with very little effort. “Alternating footwear, and performing stretches, like a standing gastrocnemius stretch and standing soleus stretch, are very important.”

Many of these problems are preventable, but despite one’s best effort, they still may start developing pain in the foot and ankle.

“When the pain is interfering with your life, it is very important that these types of maneuvers are performed correctly. They may seem easy on the paper your doctor has given you or on the internet; however, I would say, almost everyone we see needs some level of correction,” stated Stulginsky.

The body’s desire to do things efficiently is a positive in many ways, but in a case where pain has set in it often results in compensation and improper technique. “Many times we find our patients are not performing their exercises correctly and are reinforcing the very issues that are cause a great deal of their pain. Additionally, dysfunction in the hip and knee often change the way the foot hits the ground and also contributes to the pain,” says Stulginsky.

Many disorders, such as plantar fasciitis, tarsal tunnel, tendonitis and heel pain, all present very similarly and are typically treated with footwear modification and potentially with injections. One commonly over-looked component is the nerve in that area, which needs to be treated with a specific and targeted treatment plan.

The nerve is one component that can affect all of these areas. It commonly presents symptoms in one area but and is radiating from problems in other areas.  “Just like muscles and tendons, nerves get tight as well,” says Jackson Bellis, DPT who is the newest addition to ATR’s clinical team. “We have found that using nerve mobilizations with our patients is gentle, effective and can have fast results.”

Recently, Roger Goforth presented to the ATR team with a diagnosis of tarsal tunnel. “I was in excruciating pain. Things I took for granted all my life such as showering, walking barefoot and getting dressed were difficult.”

The tarsal tunnel runs along the inside of the ankle and provides sensation to the entire bottom surface of the foot. This area typically gets squeezed between the tissue behind the ankle bone on the inside of the leg.

“With the use of gentle neural mobilizations and a technique we call a tarsal trace we have significantly diminished Mr. Goforth’s pain,” says Bellis.

When performed by a skilled clinician, neural mobilizations are effective because both the nerve and the surrounding tissue get relief from issues causing inflammation.  The neural tissue becomes hypersensitive, and as a result, it is harder for the nervous system to perform and recover.

Goforth is a believer. “After 3 treatments I was able to walk and stand barefoot with very little pain for the first time in a year. The results have been nothing short of amazing.”

Clinic Draws from Experience in Preventing Injuries & Reducing Factors Leading to Concussions

 

Jun. 6, 2012 – Hillary Neal started playing soccer at the age of 8 and played at Olympic High School from 2004 to 2008.  During that time, it was unfortunate injuries to her ankles and knees that introduced her to her career in physical therapy. “I hated being injured on the sidelines, but it showed me how I can help others that were,” says Neal.

Recent media coverage has brought attention to the situation in girls’ soccer; female soccer players are second to football players in the occurrence of concussions. “Hillary brought up the importance of neck stability which has been added to our Prehab for Soccer Program,” says Chris Stulginsky, PT who is managing partner at Ayrsley Town Rehabilitation in Southwest Charlotte. “Our injury prevention programs are grounded in research but they have really taken shape with our clinical team’s athletic and professional experience. Not only are we looking at it from a biomechanical standpoint, but from the athlete’s perspective as well.”

Neal’s experience in high school soccer helped to guide program development. “Many think that doing traditional neck strengthening will help. Though it can, it is often uncomfortable and may not be the best way to address this issue.”

She explains that a specific type of strengthening best simulates the sport specific demands placed on the body in soccer. “Our program focuses on neck stability. Many of the injuries are occurring because the athlete cannot stabilize their neck when the contact occurs.” Neal continued to explain that stability is important for many aspects of the game. “There has been a lot of focus on heading the ball, but if the stability is lacking, issues can occur without any contact to the head.  Even without direct contact, an attempt and a miss could result in whiplash like movement which could also lead to a non-contact concussion.”

Stulginsky states that people are often surprised to hear about the different processes in which concussions can happen. “Many feel that concussions require a direct blow to the head, and always result in loss of consciousness, ninety percent of concussed athletes never lose consciousness.  A great deal are a result of quick rotation or movement that results from contact to areas other than the head. Those numbers go up, the younger the athlete.”

Other aspects of the program focus on injuries in which many have more knowledge. “Thirty percent of the injuries at the collegiate level are due to overuse. Our program addresses many of the structures that commonly fail in ACL injuries and with ankle sprains,” says Stulginsky.

But for now, the focus of many parents and athletes is on concussions. “Between neck stability and offering the same baseline concussion testing utilized by the NFL, we really feel we can help a lot of young people be as safe as possible,” concluded Stulginsky.

Super Bowl XLIV: A Look at the Injury That May Sideline Colts’ Dwight Freeney

This article originally appeared on the bleacher report Feb 1 2010.

As the Indianapolis Colts travel to Miami today to take on the New Orleans Saints in Super Bowl XLIV, reports surfaced last evening that Pro Bowl defensive end Dwight Freeney flew to South Florida on Friday to initiate treatment on a right ankle injury.

Allegedly, Freeney sprained his ankle attempting to avoid Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez late in the AFC Championship Game.

An ankle sprain occurs when a force, which typically occurs while running, jumping, or with a sudden change in direction, results in a stretching or a tear occurs in the ligaments of the foot and ankle complex.

Eighty to eighty-five percent of ankle sprains occur when the foot or ankle “rolls” in, or underneath the body. This causes damage to the complex ligamentous structure on the outside of the ankle.

The main ligament effected is usually the anterior talofibular ligament, which can be found at the four o’clock position of the lateral malleolus, or outside ankle bone. With more severe sprains, the calacaneofibular ligament, which can be found at the seven o’ clock position, is affected as well.

These two major ligaments are a part of a larger group which are designed to protect one of the most complex joints in the human body from excessive movement.

Though the Colts have insisted in multiple reports that Freeney has a low ankle sprain and not a torn ligament, a team spokesman has classified the injury as a third degree low ankle sprain.

Based on the severity, ankle sprains are classified as one of three grades. A Grade I ankle sprain is classified as a stretching of the ligaments without tearing; Grade II is classified by some tearing and abnormal joint movement; Grade III usually describes complete tearing and severe ankle instability.  After injury the area becomes swollen and painful to the touch, normal movement such as walking is very difficult.

The foot and ankle complex is to the body what wheels and tires are to a vehicle. They are the contact with the ground, controlling the body, giving it traction, and create a great deal of fine motor movements decreasing the amount of force translated to the rest of the body.

Just as vehicle performance would be affected by under inflated tires, Freeney’s injury, if he attempted to play, would limit the ability to cut and change direction.

One of the most impressive defensive players in the NFL, who Tom Brady once described as “the most intimidating player” in the league, would find that his bull rush, speed, and spin move would be vastly compromised, if possible at all.

Initial treatment involves elevation, ice, and rest.  Ultrasound, electric stimulation, and treatment with the ML 830 cold laser may be indicated to reduce swelling and pain. A walking boot or crutches may be utilized to relieve the increased symptoms that occur with normal movement.

Moving forward, it is very important that physical therapy treatment focuses on increasing strength of the foot and ankle to improve stability and prevent re-occurrence.

Be wary of treatment programs that only rely on ultrasound or electric stimulation to reduce swelling. Additionally, programs must focus strengthening the muscles contained in the foot and ankle, as well as dynamic ankle strength of the muscles that cross the ankle joint.  Treatment cannot be limited to traditional ankle strength testing.

Many patients receive and are prematurely discharged from physical therapy because of strength testing.  Ankle sprains rarely occur because of a lack of strength; many times, the person presents with maximum strength in testing. Sprains tend to occur many times because, from a neuro-muscular standpoint, the muscle cannot recruit the strength fast enough to prevent injury.

Treatment programs usually focus on a return to traditional strength patters versus dynamic strength, which could be one of the reasons that re-injury rate, which is 20 percent in the everyday population, and is higher in the athletic population, is so prevalent.

As with any injury or illness, prevention is key; participating in a comprehensive Prehab or injury prevention program can actually help to prevent this injury or reduce the severity when injury occurs. If an injury does occur, it is important to be armed with knowledge on how to evaluate proper protocols in order to give yourself the best chance at a full recovery.

Christopher Stulginsky, PT is the managing partner of Ayrsley Town Rehabilitation, in Charlotte, NC. He is a Prehab Network Specialist, an 830 Cold Laser Certified Premier Provider and certified by the prestigious Titleist Performance Institute.  Christopher has provided injury coverage to numerous websites most notably Deadspin, Redskins.com and NFLSportchannel.

Pregnancy and Physical Therapy

ImagePhysical therapy during pregnancy can prove to be useful for remedying common discomforts like back pain or for enhancing your body’s ability to have an easier and smoother pregnancy and birth.

Physical therapy is not just for recovery. Talk to your health care provider about incorporating physical therapy into your prenatal care.

Pregnancy and Physical Therapy: Back Pain

The number of pregnant women who experience back pain is somewhere between 50 to 70 percent. The reasons for back pain vary from person to person, but the majority of back pain concerns can be accounted for by one of the following reasons:

  • an increase in hormones
  • a change of the body’s center of gravity
  • gaining additional weight
  • a decline in posture
  • added stress

Over the last 40 years, the average age of women having their first child has risen from 21.4 to 25 years of age. Due to the fact that many women are juggling both the demands of pursuing higher education and the competitive nature of today’s workforce, more and more women are having their first child after the age of thirty five. As a result, many women becoming pregnant are less physically active in their daily lives. This decreased activity, along with the increasing national prevalence of a sedentary lifestyle, leaves an alarming number of women less prepared for the strenuous journey of carrying and delivering a baby.

Pregnancy and Physical Therapy: Relieving Pain

Women searching for ways to cope with this reality may be surprised to know that four of the above factors can be directly addressed with a proper physical therapy program.

Physical therapy is a medically based profession specializing in pain relief. Physical therapists (PTs) work with individuals to develop a treatment plan to decrease pain by identifying and addressing its causes.

Though it varies from state to state, many don’t require a doctor’s referral or prescription to see a physical therapist. PT’s can begin treating your pain on the first visit, so you walk out the door feeling better than when you walked in.

Additionally, since physical therapy is a medically based profession, the services are covered by most medical insurance plans with limited out of pocket cost. Treatment plans take a comprehensive approach by working on pain’s typical triggers:

  • posture
  • joint alignment
  • muscle strength
  • flexibility
  • nerve involvement.

Additional weight, decreased posture, stress and control of the center of gravity are not independent from one another.

A change in your center of gravity affects your posture which causes the muscles to work harder. Increased exertion creates fatigue which leads to decreased motivation to be active. The absence of an athletic release often results in increased stress. Though it is difficult, the domino effect can be slowed greatly with the help of physical therapy.

Lower back pain is an all too common reality for many expecting mothers. As the uterus and baby grow, the mother’s center of gravity moves forward. This shift increases the amount of force the muscles must generate for everyday support causing women to slump forward. Over time this poor alignment creates muscle tightness in the pectoral muscles, rolling the shoulders forward and creating increased stress on the muscles of the neck, shoulders and mid-back. If these muscular factors are not addressed, these forces will ultimately be translated down to the low back, an area which is already under a great deal of stress because it is supporting the increased center of gravity.

Additionally, exercise increases physical endurance and muscle strength, especially in the hips, back and abdomen. Improving these areas can prepare the body for the physically demanding event of delivering a baby, positioning oneself for a better labor experience. Finally, therapeutic exercise during pregnancy can assist the recovery after the delivery. It tones muscle which will improve metabolism, decrease the severity of fatigue, and assist in reclaiming your pre-pregnant weight.

I thought physical therapy was limited to recovery after surgery?

There is a general impression that physical therapists are similar to personal trainers or only work with people after surgery or catastrophic injury. While that is a component of what physical therapists do, it does not entirely encompass the scope of the profession. As stated previously, physical therapy is a medically based profession specializing in pain relief by identifying and treating the causes of pain in each individual.

A good program will take both an active, exercise based approach, as well as a passive one. The ultimate goal is to educate the client so that they can be independent in their program and continue to treat themselves at their own convenience.

Physical therapy and home exercises during pregnancy

There are no guarantees, but it is fair to expect your pregnancy and labor to go easier and possibly even quicker following any strength and flexibility enhancements. Although a few visits with your physical therapist is a good start, it is essential to incorporate home exercises into your physical therapy program. Your physical therapist is going to provide you with specific exercises that target what you need to make your pregnancy easier and even healthier. You can also rest assured that your physical therapist will guide you through proper usage of these exercises so that you can reap the most benefits.

Tips for choosing the right program

Today’s expectant mothers have a wide variety of options to consider for pre-natal care. The key is finding the appropriate program. Be wary of treatment programs that are passive, place increased stress on the joints and do not address muscle strength and flexibility with exercise. Here is what you should look for in a physical therapy program:

  • Managed by a certified professional
  • Focused on building strength, increasing flexibility and improving posture
  • Encompasses home based elements for you to do yourself
  • Proactively looks for any weakness which may become a problem later

Pregnancy is the ultimate strain on one’s body, and is a condition that physical therapy can intervene to lessen this strain. A proactive strength, flexibility and stabilization program can be very beneficial to preventing or decreasing the intensity of painful symptoms, thus making your pregnancy experience a more positive one.

 

Christopher Stulginsky, PT is the managing partner of Ayrsley Town Rehabilitation, in Charlotte, NC. He is a Prehab Network Specialist, an 830 Cold Laser Certified Premier Provider and certified by the prestigious Titleist Performance Institute.  Christopher has provided injury coverage to numerous websites most notably Deadspin, Redskins.com and NFLSportchannel.