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Getting Turnt Up

I am very fortunate to work in the athletic physical therapy setting in Bethesda, Maryland. The Washington, DC region is full of incredible, intellectual people that often have very impressive jobs and lifestyles. As such they are often “type A” personalities (probably why we get along) that take a vested interest in their bodies and the condition that brings them to me as patients. Being educated and knowledgeable about the source and cause of their pathology, as well as understanding what they can do about it is important to this population
This makes my job that much more fun, as I love to “talk shop” about pretty much anything in the clinical world. Furthermore, a well-informed patient is typically very compliant with his/her plan of care that consists of an appropriate home exercise program, and suggestions for positive changes in their day to day lifestyles, such as workplace setup, standing position, sitting position, sleeping position, etc.

Despite these positive attributes, people with these personality traits do come with their own set of challenges. As alluded to previously, “type A” individuals, often seen in Bethesda, MD and the greater Washington, DC area have achieved a great deal of professional success, thus are typically very hard workers. As such, they often struggle to manage the stress associated with their jobs which is even further compounded by any of the usual stressors dealt with in daily life.

The human body perceives stress collectively. This can be physical, mental, emotional, etc. which can result in an overly sympathetic, or “wound up” physical state. A highly sympathetic state of activity is fine unless it becomes a fixed state. Unfortunately this is often what happens with a chronologically stressed individual. These folks can seem very hyperactive or “on edge,” often have accelerated heart rates, hormonal imbalances and a long list of bad stuff. The body is essentially in overdrive and it is unable to turn things up further to adapt to a current injury.

In athletic physical therapy, learning to “turn off” the body is often the first step towards getting pain free and functioning at a high level. This results in an improved state of systemic (total body) balance, thus enabling the body to properly recover from the current pathology.

So how do you turn things off?

At Cohen HP the first thing I often teach my patients is how to breathe properly. This will stimulate the parasympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system (the chill out and relax part of it) thus allowing the sympathetic branch (fight or flight) to calm down.

Once this is achieved it is often necessary to teach the entire body how to flex. Increased stress and sympathetic nervous system activity commonly results in extension of the body which makes us very rigid and incapable of moving properly. A great example of an activity to assist with this is the 90-90 hip lift, popularized by the Postural Restoration Institute (look them up for great videos on this exercise). In this activity you lie on your back with your hips and knees flexed at 90 degrees, a towel roll or ball placed between your knees and your feet flat on a wall. When in this position you simply breath in through your nose and exhale through your mouth as you perform a pelvic tilt so that your tailbone is raised slightly off the floor. Be sure to dig down with your heels rather then press your feet into the wall so that the back of your thighs are engaged, not your hip flexors. Hold this position while you take 4-5 deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth.

After a simple activity such as this is learned things are stepped up further to more closely replicate normal functioning of the human body.

Implementing activities to achieve more balance can also be implemented into your day to day life. These activities must be something that you enjoy and help you relax. Some examples include meditation, relaxing walks/hikes or simply spending time enjoying friends/family. Anything that allows you to decrease the stress of the “weekly grind” will help create balance within the body and enable everything to function with greater ease.

In other words, go get out there and enjoy life!

For more information regarding this topic or any others please feel free to reach out to me via the contact information provided on the website!

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