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Fact or Fiction: Do our bodies actually fall out of alignment?

We are excited to begin a series of posts discussing common myths in the realm of athletic physical therapy. Today’s myth commonly applies to back pain physical therapy as well.

Many of our patients have been told that their body may be “out of alignment”, or that their joints need to be “re-aligned.” Unfortunately, this is not the greatest advice.

Human beings are never in a static position. Even at rest, the simple act of breathing creates movement. By definition, being in alignment means that our bodies are in a straight line, or that all parts of our body are consistently in the appropriate relative positions to one another.

We cannot consistently be in alignment because we are always moving. If our body was constantly aligned, we would be unable to move anywhere.

Your body can feel as if it is out of alignment when you overuse or rely upon specific movement strategies or body positions. This can happen for a myriad of reasons and results in feelings of stiffness and discomfort that often temporarily feel better with an adjustment.

An adjustment can be helpful if the causes of stiffness or discomfort are also addressed. The root causes of stiffness or discomfort are typically addressed by focusing on movement limitations that are present.

Any relief provided by an adjustment will be temporary when the root cause of the discomfort or stiffness is left unaddressed. Check out the article below for some activities that may help!

3 Home Exercises to Help Your Back Pain

We hope that this provided some insight into a common rehab myth. Stay tuned for more to come!

Could this be the missing piece of your marathon training?

In a previous blog post, we introduced mat Pilates and how it helps people that are struggling with back pain.  However, many athletes use Pilates to improve other aspects of their performance and CHP’s own, Dr. Ciara Petry, uses it as part of her physical therapy treatment sessions.

As you know, Bethesda and Chevy Chase are packed with athletic people and runners of all levels. Many of these runners are preparing for a variety of races. Running volume increases as a runner prepares for a race, which increases the need for cross training. Cross training allows runners to enhance qualities that improve running performance.  However, it is important to avoid adding more pounding to the body in the process.

At Cohen Health and Performance, we have found Pilates to be incredibly helpful in this regard. Weekly supplementation of Pilates training helps to improve performance and/or reduce the risk of running related injuries.

Pilates includes low impact and multi-planar movements that enhance core stability, mobility, and other foundational components necessary for healthy running.

In an article published in 2018, Finatto et al performed a study measuring the effect of a 12-week Pilates mat program on running performance. The participants in this study were separated into 2 groups. Both groups participated in a run training program, however one of the groups also participated in classic mat Pilates training 2x/week for 1-hour per session. The study found that the Pilates group had been more resilient to fatigue when running. It was also found that runners in the Pilates training group significantly improved their 5-km times, thus suggesting that distance runners can transfer the gains made in Pilates to running!

Integrating Pilates into a runner’s performance training just 1-2x/week can improve running efficiency and performance. How cool is that?!

Here at CHP, we help our athletes conquer injury and optimize performance. Reach out today to schedule a running analysis with one of our performance physical therapists and to Dr. Ciara Petry, a certified Mat Pilates instructor, for personalized Pilates sessions!

Article for Reference: https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0194057

Why Some Warmups Aren’t Useful

As performance physical therapists in Bethesda and Chevy Chase, we work within a very knowledgeable and active community.  Our clients and patients understand the importance of warming up.

Warming up is commonly touted as essential for anyone wishing to avoid injury during exercise, performance training, or running.

We agree with this statement; however, warmup routines are often implemented in a non-productive way.

There is a time and place for everything, however this does not mean that you need to stretch, roll around on the ground, and perform “activation” drills prior to being ready for exercise.

In addition to increasing total body temperature, a warmup routine should prepare the body for the specific workout that is going to take place. For this reason, we call warming up “movement preparation.” The body is being prepared to move!

Movement preparation should include drills that train the skills necessary for the day’s workout. Many times, these drills will look similar to the exercises within that day’s work out.

If you are getting ready to run, perform activities that practice things necessary to run effectively. If you are going to lift weights, practice movements similar to the lifts you are going to perform (ie. If you are going to squat, then squat in your warmup!).

This advise applies regardless of whether you are healthy, injured, in performance physical therapy, or training for performance.

Below are 2 drills that we often use during movement preparation prior to running. Each drill practices single leg balance, the ability to shock absorb on one leg, and trunk rotation. These are all attributes necessary for running.

Single leg knee to chest
Forward lunge with cross connect

Furthermore, if you have been sitting at a desk for the majority of the day, you may need a more comprehensive warmup. On the other hand, if you have an active job requiring you to move in a variety of different ways then your warmup may not need to be as comprehensive.

Movement preparation is necessary, however it is essential to be purposeful, rather than mindlessly performing the same thing before every workout.

2 Simple Drills to Improve your Running Times

As a dedicated runner you likely have suffered an injury at some point. Perhaps it forced you to seek performance physical therapy. Whether you realized it or not, this injury limited your ability to train effectively.

At CHP, we consistently help runners in Chevy Chase and Bethesda overcome injuries that otherwise would limit their ability to train, ultimately causing disappointing results.

There is not a one size fits all solution to helping all runners; however, we often discover that runners are limited by their hamstrings.

Are you concerned that hamstring stiffness or weakness could be limiting your performance?

Your hamstring is responsible for keeping your heel close to your bottom during the heel recovery phase of the running cycle. This portion of the cycle occurs as you bring your leg back underneath your body to prepare it to strike the ground again. The closer you can keep your heel relative to your bottom, the better! This allows you to efficiently move your leg faster through space, resulting in faster times. Below is a drill we prescribe to many runners to improve this attribute.

 

 

When running the hamstrings also need the ability to lengthen as the thigh is in front of the body. This should be achieved without drastically changing the position of the pelvis. Many runners struggle to maintain control of their pelvis as the hamstring lengthens. This increases the stress placed onto a variety of soft tissues through the lower body and alters foot strike position. Below is a drill to improve these capabilities.

 

 

A thoughtful and more scientific approach to training, specifically designed for runners is likely all that you need to drastically improve your running performance. It may not even require you to train any harder, just smarter!

Do your running shoes pass the test?

You don’t need performance physical therapists like us to tell you that footwear makes a large impact on running performance. The correct running shoe can reduce your race times and lower your injury risk.

When walking into any running store in Bethesda or Chevy Chase, you will find many different shoe brands and several different models of shoes within each brand. Among this wide array of shoes, how do we determine which is best for you?

The answer is different for each person and is dependent on a multitude of different factors. However, any running shoe must meet a few requirements to be considered and these are the first things we look for when assessing any running shoe in physical therapy for runners.

The first is that it must have a firm and snug heel cup. Your heel sits at the base of the shoe, in a place called the heel cup. The heels cup should fit snugly around your heel and should not be much wider than your heel itself. This prevents your heel from sliding around within the shoe, which would negatively impact foot mechanics.

Next, the shoe must have a toe break that folds where your toes bend.  Place your shoe on the ground and hold it there. Pull the front of your shoe upwards from underneath. The folding point of the shoe should be located where your toes bend. If your shoe prefers to fold at another location, your foot is being encouraged to bend somewhere else. This alters foot mechanics and can lead to breakdown within the structure of the foot itself.

Finally, you should be able to feel the entirety of both feet on the ground as you are standing still in your shoes. People are often unable to feel their arches, which results in more stress on the areas that are receiving better ground contact.

There are 26 bones and 30 joints within the human foot. This results in a large number of ways that our foot can compensate, and therefore, a large number of factors that we need to be mindful of when choosing the correct running shoe.

The 3 factors outlined above are a good place to start when choosing the right shoe, however there are many other factors that may also need to be considered.

Please contact us for help assessing your foot and determining the best running shoe for you!

 

3 Home Exercises to Help with Your Back Pain

Did you know that according to research, over 70% of Americans will experience back pain during their lives?

Surprisingly, this statistic remains high among active people. Sometimes their training even contributes to it!

One of the things you can do to help reverse this trend is to implement Pilates into your training. Dr. Ciara is a physical therapist and certified Pilates instructor. She has taught us how to incorporate Pilates into the treatment of physical therapy patients right here in Bethesda and Chevy Chase. These principles can also be used in performance training.

The good news is that Pilates doesn’t require you to go to a Pilates studio. Many Pilates exercises can be done from home and performed within your training regimen.

Begin with the 3 exercises below.

  1. Roll like a ball into Zen Teaser (C-Curve)
  2. Single Leg Stretch
  3. Curtsy Reach

The goal of these activities are to teach you how to control your body using your deep abdominals and glutes. Therefore, it is essential to focus on quality of movement, rather than the quantity performed. There are no heros with these exercises!

To learn more about Pilates, check out last weeks article below!

What Actually is Pilates?