Are You a New Year’s Resolution Newbie, Master or Flunkee?

By: Private Practice Section, APTA

Turning the page on the new year is a chance to wipe the slate clean—and to be better versions of ourselves. And when it comes to what we want to improve, goals that fall in the health and wellness arena top all other New Year’s resolutions. In fact, three of the top four resolutions in a 2018 YouGov poll were health-related: eat healthier (1), get more exercise (2) and focus on self-care, e.g., get more sleep (4).

There are three types of people who choose a goal from the health and wellness category as a New Year’s resolution: the resolution newbie, the resolution master and the resolution flunkee. Let’s see which category you most identify with—and how focusing on the right strategy can help you get healthier in the new year.

Resolution Newbie.
Maybe this is your first time making a commitment to your health and wellness. Good for you! Did a recent event like a health scare or loss of a loved one make you see the light? Or perhaps you want to be more active to enjoy activities with your grandchildren or to carry your own bag on the golf course. Whatever your goals are, taking that first step is a big one so you’ll want to be sure that you’re prepared for the challenge. Particularly when exercising for the first time or returning to an active lifestyle after a long hiatus, it’s important to have the proper information and tools to be successful. And that means tapping the healthcare resources available to you: Clinicians like nutritionists and physical therapists can make sure that your body is prepared to take on new challenges and work with you to a design a program that will help you achieve your goals.

Resolution Master.
Perhaps you fall into a different camp: You vowed to get healthy in 2018 and you achieved it! For 2019, your resolution is to continue the work you’ve begun. After all, living a healthy lifestyle is a lifelong commitment; it’s not something you do for a while and then revert back to your former habits. As you prepare to embrace the new year, are there any small tweaks you can make to advance your goals? Maybe you’re thinking about training for and running a half marathon, but don’t know where to begin. A physical therapy evaluation is a great place to start—PTs are trained to assess your movement patterns and identify any limitations or weaknesses. Based on that information, the PT can design a personalized exercise program to help you safely and effectively prepare for the grueling half marathon course.

Resolution Flunkee.
Let’s say your plan for 2019 is to get in better shape and improve your overall health (we support that resolution!), but this isn’t your first rodeo. Your 2018 resolution was pretty similar but it’s one year later, and you’re in the same place you were on New Year’s Eve 2017. What stood in your way—was it time? Affordable options? Access to healthy choices and activities? If any of these barriers sound familiar, then along with your resolution, you need an action plan. Without planning ahead, you’ll find yourself staring down the year 2020 with the same goal in mind. But let’s not focus only on the negative—what went right last year? Maybe you made sleep a priority, which in turn helped you to make better food choices at breakfast but by afternoon, you found yourself choosing to energize with a soda and candy bar when all you probably needed was an apple and a 15-minute walk. Take some time to think about the previous year—good and bad—and take with you what you need, and leave the rest behind. Afterall, you can’t plan where you’re going without understanding where you’ve been.

Which resolution type are you?

Do You Know Why You Have Back Pain? Here’s How You Can Find Out:

By: Private Practice Section, APTA

Is the source of your low back pain a mystery? You’re not alone: Nine out of 10 patients don’t know the primary cause of their back pain. The problem is that most people seek treatment after they’ve begun exhibiting symptoms of back pain. While this may seem logical on the surface, we’re here to tell you that there’s a better way.

The key is to go to a physical therapist before you begin to see the signs and symptoms of back pain. I’m sure that right about now you’re asking, “Why would I do that?” One, because physical therapists are trained to recognize the physical dysfunctions that may one day lead to back pain. And two, because eight out of 10 Americans suffer from low back pain at some point in their lives, so the chances are good that you could become a statistic one day.

Seeing a physical therapist on an annual basis is one of the most effective ways to prevent back pain from occurring in the first place. Doesn’t that sound like the better alternative? Great, now that you’re on board, let’s talk about what you can expect during that annual physical therapy appointment. The first time you go, your physical therapist will collect a complete picture of your medical history. During subsequent visits, it’ll be important to update your physical therapist about any changes to your health during the previous 12 months, but it won’t be necessary to review your entire medical history again.

Next, your physical therapist will perform an examination using a variety of tests and measures including a movement screen. A movement screen is a screening tool that’s designed to identify imbalances in your mobility and stability that may contribute to limited function or other impairments. This gives your PT the ability to see how your back, hips, core, shoulders, knees and ankles perform during a series of carefully selected exercises.

The information gathered during an examination helps your physical therapist to identify changes from one year to the next, a critical step in assessing your risk for back pain and a host of other debilitating conditions. If a problem is identified early enough, then your physical therapist is better equipped to discuss preventive measures instead of designing a treatment plan. And that’s how you identify the root cause of back pain and derail issues before they even begin. Mystery solved.

Torticollis Education

Yearly Physical Therapy Visits are Just as Important as Annual Cholesterol Tests

By: Private Practice Section, APTA

You know the drill: During your annual visit, your primary care physician will order a cholesterol test. Combined with an assessment of health measures such as diet and exercise, the results of the cholesterol test will provide your physician with the information she needs to make a recommendation. If the results are positive, you might hear: “You’re doing great, keep doing what you’ve been doing!” If the results are unfavorable, then you’re more likely to be told: “I’d like you to walk for 20 additional minutes each day and eat cholesterol-lowering foods like oatmeal.”

Over time, high cholesterol can cause fatty deposits to form in your arteries, putting you in a high-risk category for heart disease and stroke. Similarly, the cumulative effects of poor posture or a muscular imbalance, for example, can take a toll on your body and inhibit your ability to move properly. That’s where a physical therapist comes in: Annual PT “checkups” can catch the musculoskeletal problems that put you at risk for injury or limit your ability to function down the line.

Of course, it’s best to schedule your checkup before you’re experiencing a problem. That way,your physical therapist can establish a baseline based on your functional level at that time and use it to identify changes during subsequent annual visits. The effects of poor posture or a muscular imbalance may not be immediately apparent to you, but they will be to your PT.

An annual “checkup” gives your PT an inside look at your musculoskeletal system, which is comprised of your muscles, bones, cartilage, tendons, ligaments, joints and other connective tissues. It’s important that these essential internal structures are working together to support, stabilize and move your body.

Just as taking an annual trek to the primary care physician helps to monitor your cholesterol levels—and prevent heart disease—yearly physical therapy appointments allow your PT to identify and address any changes in the way you move before they become something more.

Early Sport Specialization: What Parents Need To Know

It is becoming more popular for young athletes to specialize in a single sport. The advantages seem obvious. Putting in more time early and “outworking” the competition should lead to a better chance of success later right? Even though that seems to make intuitive sense, early specialization may not be giving kids the advantages parents think and comes with some risks.

THE ADVANTAGES

The obvious advantage is skill acquisition. Baseball players use the off-season to work on hitting or pitching mechanics, basketball players work on their shooting, and tennis players might work to develop their serve. Specific skills like these do take time and repetition to develop. Athletes who spend more time developing them will likely have more skill. But what are the costs?

THE DISADVANTAGES

Focusing on specific skill acquisition comes at the cost of overall athletic development. Athletes who participate in many sports gain more athleticism and tend to have more strength, balance, speed, and agility.

Athletes who participate in a variety of sports give their bones, muscles, and tendons exposure to a wide variety of forces. Athletes who specialize early have more repetitive stress that puts them at a higher risk of injury.

Specializing early in a sport puts athletes at risk of burnout and psychological fatigue. When athletes participate in club sports, travel teams, or extra off-season practice for the wrong reasons or when they’re not fully invested mentally and emotionally, it can be detrimental. Athletes who suffer psychological burnout are much more likely to lose interest in their sport, or even worse – physical activity in general.

Lastly, research has not supported the idea that early specialization leads to long term success. In fact, it shows the opposite. A study of international athletes looked at the time that they began specialization. It found that the elite athletes played multiple sports during their developmental years (defined in the article as 11 and younger). Near-elite athletes specialized at a younger age. The study concluded that waiting to specialize until the athlete reaches physical maturity could be more likely to result in elite status. A study of Olympians came to the same conclusion. A 2014 survey by the USOC found that Olympians averaged 3 sports per year from ages 10 – 14, and 2 sports per year from 15 – 18.

CONCLUSION

Early specialization may lead to earlier acquisition of sport specific skills, but comes with multiple disadvantages:

  1. Focusing on specific skills comes at the cost of developing general athleticism
  2. Athletes who specialize early have a higher risk for injury
  3.  Early specialization is associated with burnout
  4. Elite athletes and Olympians tend to have been multi-sport athletes who specialized late, indicating that early specialization does not lead to long-term success

For athletes who aspire to play at collegiate or higher levels, specialization becomes necessary at some point. While the right time to specialize will vary from athlete to athlete, there are some guidelines.

  1. An athlete’s age can be used to gauge how many hours a week they should be practicing a specific sport (A 12 year old should spend no more than 12 hours a week on a certain sport)
  2. For most sports, waiting until an athlete has reached skeletal maturity is generally recommended
  3. Specialization should happen when the athlete chooses to do so, without external pressures