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Make Your 2021 Resolutions Stick with the Following Goalsetting Tips

A typical New Year’s resolution is doomed to fail – that is, if you believe in statistics alone. 

Research shows that around 80 percent of people who make resolutions on the first of the year have already fallen off the wagon by Valentine’s Day. That includes two of the most popular resolutions made throughout the U.S. each year: to work out more and to lose weight. 

“Setting small, attainable goals throughout the year, instead of a singular, overwhelming goal in January 1, can help you reach whatever it is you strive for,” said Lynn Bufka, PhD, a psychologist with the American Psychological Association (APA). “Remember, it is not the extent of the change that matters, but rather the act of recognizing that lifestyle change is important and working toward it, one step at a time.” 

One way to achieve “resolutionary success” is to mirror the process of goal setting and achievement long held by the disciplines of physical therapy and rehabilitation. Why? 

Because physical therapy is a health profession that’s results-driven based on processes that depend on setting individual goals that are specific, clear and personal to each patient. 

Even the most earnest and motivated person can fall into the trap of setting goals that are too vague. So in physical therapy, clinicians opt for and practice a method of goalsetting that focuses on being incredibly specific. 

The method often advocated by physical therapists is the SMART method of setting goals. 

“When setting goals, think about process and outcome,” states the Mayo Clinic, which advocates setting SMART goals for health-related issues such as exercise, weight loss and healthy eating. “Process goals are most important because changing your habits (processes) is key to success.” 

The Mayo Clinic offers the following guidance for setting your own SMART goals: 

Specific

Don’t just throw out a general goal; be sure to include all the important W’s in your goal: who, what, where, when and why. Rather than saying, “I’d like to lose weight” be more specific by stating, “I want to lose 30 pounds by summer so I can go backpacking without experiencing joint pain.” 

Measurable

Always set concrete marks that allow you to measure your goal. Include a long-term mark (e.g., lose 30 pounds by summer) as well as benchmarks along the way (e.g., lose 8 pounds by the end of January, 13 pounds by the end of February, etc). 

Attainable

Your goal shouldn’t be easy to achieve, but you must have the attitude, ability, skill and financial capacity to achieve it. Starting with a solid foundation, attainability is something that can develop over time.  

Realistic/Relevant

Anyone can set a goal, but are you willing and able to work toward this goal? In other words, are there any irrefutable road blocks that can and will hinder your progress? Typically, if you believe it, then it’s more than likely realistic. 

Timed

Don’t just set your goal for “whenever.” Set a challenging yet realistic timeline, be it to lose a specific amount of weight by your sibling’s wedding or to be in shape by the spring’s first 5K race. Make your goal tangible. 

And of course, before beginning any new exercise regimen or weight-loss program, consult your physician or a physical therapist.  

“Lasting lifestyle and behavior changes don’t happen overnight,” said Katherine C. Nordal, PhD, executive director for the professional practices of the APA. “Willpower is a learned skill, not an inherent trait. We all have the capacity to develop skills to make changes last.” 

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Holiday Season an Ideal Time for a Refresher on Proper Lifting

From digging out boxes of holiday decor and hauling packages to and from the home, to hiding gifts away on higher shelves at the back of your closet, the Holiday Season requires its fair share of bending, lifting and reaching. 

This, coupled with the cooler weather, makes December an ideal time for a refresher on proper lifting methods, says Valparaiso physical therapist Sean Lee. 

“Back pain and injury can put a real damper on the Holiday Season, yet it’s one of the most common conditions we treat as medical professionals,” said Lee, president of Apex Physical Therapy LLC in Merrillville, Valparaiso and Michigan City. 

“Fortunately, it’s also a condition that’s preventable. One of the ways to keep the spine healthy is learning, and practicing, proper lifting techniques.” 

Needless to say, preventing back pain is a key concern when someone does a lot of bending and lifting. After all, approximately 80% of all Americans will experience back pain at some point in their lives, making it one of the top causes of disability in the U.S. 

The back, however, should not be one’s only area of concern when lifting. 

“When we talk about proper lifting techniques, we’re talking about protecting the back, yes. But, we’re also looking to minimize strain on the entire body,” Lee said. “The goal is to put yourself in a position that allows the body’s musculoskeletal system to work as one cohesive unit, without putting too much strain on one area, such as the lower back, hips or shoulders.” 

Taking this all into consideration, Lee offers the following tips for proper lifting: 

Warm Up

Don’t ever assume your body is ready to lift heavy objects without first being thoroughly warmed up. Take the time to stretch your lower back, legs and hips. Also, do a few jumping jacks, high knees or lunges to get your blood flowing. 

Get Close

Avoid reaching for heavy or moderately sized objects. Get nice and close to the box or object to minimize the force (in the arms, shoulders and back) necessary to lift the item.   

Bend and Lift with the Knees

We’ve all heard this before, and that’s because it’s true. Keep your back straight and body upright as you lower yourself to the object in question. Then, use your legs to rise into a standing position. 

Get a Grip

If you can’t get a strong, comfortable grip on an object – even if you know you can carry the weight – don’t push your luck. Find someone to help or an alternative way of moving the object from point A to B, such as a handcart or dolly. 

Reverse the Steps

When you get to where you’re going, set the item down just as you picked it up, but in reverse. Keep it close to your body, and lower with your legs. Move slowly and deliberately. You can just as easily injure yourself while setting objects down as by picking them up. 

“As you’re lifting something, also try to keep from twisting or reaching while carrying the weight,” Lee added. “Don’t rush through the process of lifting, and if you’re tired, save the task for later.” 

Finally, if you feel pain during or after lifting, or you have an injury or condition you believe is keeping you from moving properly, visit a physical therapist for a full assessment. 

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Keys to Avoiding an Exercise Hibernation This Winter

As the days shorten and the weather cools, heralding the approach of another winter, our physical therapy team offers a word of warning: 

While hibernation may seem appealing this time of year, especially as we trudge through the current health crisis, it’s paramount we all continue to stay active with regular aerobic and strength training. 

Regular exercise is good for us on countless levels. We all know this. 

However, as people tend to feel more sluggish and unmotivated this time of year, we remind everyone to strive to remain “summer active” as we wind down 2020. 

Not only will this help keep us both physically elevated and mentally sharp during colder, darker months. It can also help us stay out of the doctor’s office. 

That’s right. 

Exercise itself, combined with some of the benefits experienced by those who exercise regularly (i.e., lower weight, greater energy, better, sleep, a more positive attitude), give our bodies a good immunity boost. 

And, as we all know, these benefits come along with many others including lower blood pressure; the prevention or management of several health issues like heart disease, stroke, diabetes, arthritis, osteoporosis, depression, etc. 

Considering all this, the fact that exercise is critical no matter the time of year cannot be overstated. 

How Much Exercise Do We Need? 

According to the Department of Health and Human Services, exercise guidelines suggest we all need two types of activity: aerobic and strength (resistance) training. 

Aerobic Activity 

The average person should get a weekly total of 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity (e.g., brisk walking, swimming, etc.) or 75 minutes of vigorous activity (e.g., running, cycling, aerobics, etc.). 

Strength Training 

Strength training for all major muscle groups should be done twice each week. This involves at least a single set of exercise per muscle group, at a weight that tires your muscles after 12 to 15 reps. 

Depending on the shape you’re in or your medical history, these guidelines can be adjusted slightly one way or the other to accommodate your limitations and your exercise goals. It’s important to consult your physician and your physical therapist before getting started on any new program. 

Establish a Routine 

Once your specific exercise requirements are set, the next challenge is establishing a consistent routine. For this, we offer the following advice: 

Set a Goal 

Write it down, and be as specific as possible. “I want to lose weight” won’t work. A better goal would be, “I want to lose 15 pounds over the next 90 days.”  

Be Consistent 

Create a weekly routine for yourself that’s repeated day after day, week after week. Follow these routines until they become habit, like showering in the morning, brushing your teeth, or making dinner. 

Work Out with a Friend 

Whether walking, running, going to the gym, or taking an exercise class, do it with a friend (or friends). This is a great way to be accountable and to support one another with motivation. 

Put It on the Calendar 

Take your exercise times as seriously as work meetings and social gatherings. Block these times out on your calendar … but not “as time permits.” Be selfish with these times. 

Be Competitive 

According to a 2016 study published in the journal Preventative Medicine Reports, competition was an overwhelmingly greater motivator than social support. This doesn’t mean you need to run out and sign up for a race. Simply find ways (either interpersonal or online) to make your workouts competitive. 

How Physical Therapy Can Help 

Of course, if motivation and planning isn’t a problem but pain or movement limitations are, it may be time to consult with a physical therapist. 

The first step is to simply schedule a pain, movement or injury assessment with one of our PTs. Once your issues and their causes are determined, we can provide you with a personalized plan for treating and correcting all that’s holding you back! 

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5 Ways to Feel Gratitude in the Face of Challenges

November is a month when gratitude takes its place in the spotlight of American culture. Yet, with the challenges our country has faced this year, a popular notion as we approach the final weeks of 2020 is “let’s just get this year over with.” 

While he understands the sentiment, Valparaiso physical therapist Sean Lee would like to remind people that it’s possible to be thankful for, and even embrace, the challenges we experience in life. 

“When we consider what we have to be grateful for this Thanksgiving season, let’s not overlook the ways challenges can have a positive effect on our lives,” said Lee, president of Apex Physical Therapy LLC in Merrillville, Valparaiso and Michigan City. 

“Yes, it’s been a tough year in so many ways, but being able to express gratitude in the face of all these challenges isn’t just good for the soul. Research shows it’s also good for overall health.” 

One study from 2012, for example, reported that grateful people generally experience fewer aches and pains and report feeling “healthier” than other groups. This is no surprise when you consider that, based on various research, grateful people exercise more, get better sleep, and follow up on regular health check-ups. 

From a psychological perspective, higher levels of gratitude increase happiness, reduce depression and aggression, and cultivate resilience in life. 

“We could all use a little more positivity, whether we’re talking about 2020 or any other year,” Lee said. “The key, even in the face of big challenges, is to actively identify and express gratitude in our day-to-day lives.” 

How? Lee offers the following advice: 

Embrace Your Challenges

This is oftentimes easier said than done, especially during the fallout of a long-term global pandemic. Keep in mind, though, that when approached constructively, challenges often bring out our best selves. They make us stronger and more focused, confident and capable. 

Celebrate Minor Victories

You’ve heard the phrase, “Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good.” This simply means that victories regularly come in increments, and that small improvements are often worth celebrating. Keep this in mind as you work to achieve your goals (regardless of size) and as we continually strive for post-COVID normalcy. 

Acknowledge & Express Gratitude

Knowing you have a lot to be thankful for isn’t the same as regularly considering, jotting down and expressing your positive thoughts. Being grateful should be an active process. 

By forcing yourself to consider specific things you’re grateful for every day, you’ll train your mind to more naturally think in these terms. Expressing gratitude in overt (i.e., writing a thank-you letter) and creative ways can give this positivity an even bigger boost. 

Surround Yourself with Positivity

The levels of positivity in the company you keep can directly affect your ability to be feel gratitude. Being around positive people and those you love and respect can feel energizing and lead to greater levels of optimism in your life. 

Volunteer

As a way of giving back to others in your community, volunteering – especially during this era of the coronavirus and economic downturn – can make you feel more grateful about your own life. Studies have shown that helping others through volunteering can also increase our personal level of well-being. 

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At-Home Learning: Don’t Overlook Physical Activity!

As the school year gains momentum during the COVID crisis and more kids and families adjust to various levels of at-home learning, parents and instructors should not overlook what should be a standard facet of all children’s curriculum: physical activity. 

Kids need to be given time to move around, exercise and play, even as they adjust to a new structure and a new way of learning. This is critical not just for a student’s physical health, but to also ensure he or she is better able reach their academic potential. 

How does one affect the other? 

Studies show regular exercise can have a positive effect on young people’s concentration, development, self-esteem, and academic scores. It also helps them get a better night’s sleep and lowers their stress throughout the day. 

And, just like adults, kids need the chance to step away and unwind, especially during a time when they’re trying to adjust to something new and potentially stressful. Getting this time to burn off some energy will help improve their focus when it’s time to get back to lessons and learning. 

Of course, we’d be remiss if we didn’t also point out that encouraging regular activity also helps establish lifelong habits that can enrich a child or adolescent’s long-term health and physical development. 

School-aged kids and teens need at least 60 minutes of physical activity each day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

To help ensure kids can reach this activity goal while also reaping the mental and academic benefits of exercise as they learn at home, we recommend the following to parents and guardians: 

Schedule It

If your school doesn’t include physical activity as part of its daily remote-learning schedule, add it in yourself. Pick at least a couple of times each day when your student will get a chance to step away and be active. Just call it recess! 

Be consistent with times to make this a daily habit. And, if you have an indecisive child, be sure to include play or exercise suggestions that can guide them toward an activity. 

Take the Lead, Make It Fun:

If you’re home with your child or children (as a stay-at-home parent or as a remote worker), join them during their recess time. Make it a fun family time by playing outside, going for walks or bike rides, doing exercises in your living room, having a quick dance party, etc. This will do you some good, too. 

Encourage Micro-Breaks: 

Along with regular “recess” activities, encourage your kids to stand up, stretch and move around for a minute or two every 30 to 60 minutes. Young bodies are resilient, but even kids can start to feel tightness, discomfort and pain when bending over laptops or tablets for long periods of time. 

Urge them to stand up, walk around, and do some shoulder rolls, neck rolls and back bends/twists. Don’t let them sit slouched over a desk without taking time to balance out the body. This is also a great time for them to hydrate and grab a healthy snack. 

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Debunking Common Fall Prevention Myths

The physical therapists at Apex Physical Therapy, LLC, are often quick to remind people that falls are not just common among older Americans. They’re often debilitating, costly and even deadly. 

They’re also largely preventable, says Valparaiso physical therapist Sean Lee. 

“Falls present a real public health problem among older adults, but so often they’re caused by things that are easy to identify and fix,” said Lee, president of Apex Physical Therapy, LLC in Merrillville, Valparaiso and Michigan City. 

“Balance and strength issues, trip hazards in the home, poor vision, and even certain prescription medications can increase someone’s chance of falling,” Lee added. “These are all things that can and should be addressed as people enter their golden years, before they experience a fall.” 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that one in four Americans 65 and older experience a fall each year. Less than half actually report the incident to a doctor or loved one. 

Of those falls, about one in every five result in a serious injury (i.e., a broken bone or head injury), leading to more than 3 million emergency room visits and 800,000 hospitalizations each year. In 2015, these treatments and hospitalizations cost a total of about $50 billion, three-fourths of which was paid for through Medicare and Medicaid. 

“We like to shine a spotlight on this critical issue because it’s one that we can improve with a more preventative mindset,” Lee said. “One of the ways we can do this is by setting the record straight about some common myths older people have about falling.” 

According to Lee, the following beliefs or either incorrect, misleading, or both: 

Falling is just a part of getting older

Wrong. Falling does not have to be a part of aging. As already discussed, the most common causes of falls are easy to identify and fix before a fall happens. 

I won’t fall if I just stay home and limit my activities

First off, more than half of all falls take place in the home. It’s true, and it’s likely because our guards are most often down when we’re home. Home is also where we spend the most of our time, including moments when we’re not always at our most alert (i.e., mornings, middle of the night, etc.). 

As for reducing activity, this can actually increase your chances of falling. When you become more sedentary is when you begin to lose muscle mass, flexibility, and range of motion, which can drastically affect your balance. 

Declining strength and flexibility are inevitable

Yes, it’s true the body tends to become weaker and less flexible as we age, but most older adults can recoup and maintain a lot of this through regularly exercise and activity. It’s never too late to improve your strength, flexibility and balance. 

Using walking aids make me less independent

Some older adults can benefit from the use of a cane or walker, and there’s no shame in this. When used properly, these devices can improve your mobility and make it possible for you to live a more active life. 

There’s no point in talking about falls unless they happen

If you’re concerned about falling either in the short term or the long, don’t keep it to yourself. By garnering support from loved ones and teaming up with a physical therapist, your fall risk can be properly evaluated and improved. 

Following an initial evaluation, a physical therapist can create you a personalized fall prevention program that may include exercise, a home safety assessment, and perhaps the use of a walking aid. To learn more, contact the team at Apex Physical Therapy, LLC today. 

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Our Knees: ‘Canaries in the Coal Mine’ of Movement & Exercise Issues

Despite being the largest and perhaps most complicated joints in our bodies, our knees are naturally docile. 

They’re easily influenced by what’s going on above and below them, in other words, not making many decisions on their own. 

That’s why when one experiences knee pain, the true causes of the joint’s wear and tear can almost always be traced up or down the leg – oftentimes in both directions. 

The Kinetic Chain 

Tight muscles, improper footwear, bad balance, the lack of strength in the hips … all of these issues that exist far from the knees can lead to an irregular compression in the knee joint, leading to pain and possible injury. 

The knees may get all the blame, but more often we should consider them as a canary in the coal mine when it comes to movement, strength and/or balance issues. Yes, wear and tear in the knees can also become its own issue over time, but it’s possible to slow this by identifying and addressing the real issues affecting the knees. 

Case in point, a study performed by the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis found that hip strength exercises performed by female runners vastly reduced the incidence of knee pain, or “runner’s knee.” Improved mechanics through increased hip strength was credited for the reduction in pain. 

Another study, this one published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, linked the growing incidence of knee pain in the U.S. (65 percent from 1971 to 2004) to the same steady rise in obesity. 

A Holistic Approach 

Studies like these simply support the general approach physical therapists take when treating knee pain as well as most other pain and injury issues: always take into consideration patients’ entire kinetic chain, from the feet up through their bodies. 

That’s why when someone walks through our doors of our clinic and says they’re experiencing knee pain, our physical therapy team doesn’t just look at their knees. We approach the issue globally. 

At our clinic, we evaluate everything from the feet up through the hips, otherwise we’ll likely miss the real cause of the patient’s issues. Such an evaluation should always include an analysis of movement, balance, flexibility and strength. 

Treatments for knee pain may include a mix of remedies that includes the use of proper footwear/orthotics, the establishment of a flexibility program, strength and balance exercise regimens, and perhaps even a plan to shed some excess body weight. 

Get Physical Therapy 

If you regularly experience knee pain while you’re going about life and doing the things you most enjoy, it’s always a good rule of thumb to get yourself evaluated by a physical therapist. Call us today to schedule an appointment. 

If your knee’s chirping, so to speak, that’s usually a good indication that something elsewhere in your body needs some attention. 

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Valparaiso Physical Therapists Offering Virtual ‘Telehealth’ Visits

It’s said that necessity is the mother of invention. The team at Apex Physical Therapy, LLC is proving this by offering a new way to see and help patients during the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic. 

During this time of uncertainty, while social distancing remains important, the Apex Physical Therapy team in Merrillville, Valparaiso and Michigan City is now offering patients a “virtual” option that ensures both personal safety and continuity of treatment. 

Known as telehealth visits, these online appointments allow patients to access physical therapy remotely, from the safety of their own homes. 

According to Sean Lee, president of Apex Physical Therapy, LLC, this option ensures those experiencing pain, injuries, or delayed orthopedic surgeries, or who haven’t yet completed their full course of care, can directly access a physical therapist. 

“Physical therapy remains an essential service, and telehealth allows us to meet with patients virtually to track progress, review home exercises, and answer concerns and questions that our patients may have,” Lee said. “We can use telehealth for screenings, for follow-up appointments, wellness check-ins, exercise progressions, and initial evaluations and treatments.” 

A telehealth appointment is essentially a video conference between the patient and their physical therapist, using a home computer with webcam, a laptop, or a smartphone. 

During the visit, patients can discuss treatments and progress, assess function, review rehab exercises, and modify home exercise programs. 

To prepare for one’s telehealth visit, Lee makes the following suggestions for patients: 

Find Ample, Quiet Space

Don’t just connect from the comfort of your armchair. Even while you’re at home, privacy is still important for your PT visit. Plus, you’ll need space to move. Depending on the nature of your visit, your physical therapist may ask for you to demonstrate or repeat movements and exercises. 

Dress for a Physical Therapy Visit:

Wear comfortable clothes you can move in and which allow the physical therapist to see and evaluable your movements. Workout clothes will likely work best. 

Be Prepared to Share:

As movement and exercise is the essence of physical therapy, be prepared to answer questions about your access to space and equipment in the home. Also, let the PT know if you have access to workout and rehab tools like mats, exercise bands, foam rollers, and so on. 

Open Your Mind: 

If telehealth is new to you, be welcoming to the experience. While it won’t feel the same as a one-on-one visit, know that much thought and study has gone into ensuring the experience is effective. After an evaluation, the PT will tell you if he/she feels an in-person session is needed. 

“With all the unknowns surrounding COVID-19 and the various ways it’s likely to continue affecting our lives, telehealth is a way we can ensure all patients are empowered to take better control of their health care journeys,” Lee said. 

“Not only does it allow them to continue physical therapy treatments,” he added, “but it also allows them the flexibility to determine what appointment method best meets their personal conditions.” 

Telehealth apps are typically free and require no additional appointment or access fees. Currently, many private health insurance plans cover telehealth services … at least during this pandemic. 

“Rules and regulations vary from state to state, and insurer to insurer,” states the American Physical Therapy Association. “They are also being rapidly updated and changed to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, so the best way to find out what is available to you is to contact your physical therapist and ask.” 

For more information about telehealth and to learn how Apex Physical Therapy, LLC is responding to the pandemic, Lee recommends contacting the clinic directly.  

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See Your PT Annually for Injury Prevention, Early Intervention

We all know that visiting your physician for an annual physical is important for maintaining long-term health. Similarly, dental exams twice each year help ensure oral health throughout a lifetime. 

But, did you know that annual physical therapy check-ups provide the third critical (and often overlooked) component of long-term health and preventative care for people of all ages? 

As we observe National Physical Therapy Month each October, Valparaiso physical therapist Sean Lee notes that physical therapy exams focus on one’s ability to move freely and independently while living a safe and active life. 

“The primary focus of a physical therapist is the musculoskeletal system – the bones, joints, muscles and connective tissues that make it possible for you to not just move, but experience life on your own terms,” said Lee, president of Apex Physical Therapy LLC in Merrillville, Valparaiso and Michigan City. 

“As a physical therapist, my job is to ensure this system is working optimally so limitations like strength, balance, flexibility, pain, and so on don’t stand in the way of a person’s quality of life.” 

Based on the results of a physical therapy “check-up,” a physical therapist is able to provide clients with individualized treatment plans and/or programs meant to help prevent future, movement-limiting problems. 

The goal of these assessments and related interventions is to ensure a high quality of life for those who wish to stay active and independent. As part of this, physical therapists are often able to identify issues that may lead to long-term health problems, such as pain, injury and disease. 

“Movement is medicine, and being able to stay physically active plays a huge role in disease prevention, managing chronic conditions and, in general, taking greater control of your health,” Lee said. “We as physical therapists help people avoid pain, injury and other issues that could lead them toward becoming more sedentary and at greater risk of these types of issues.” 

According to the American Association of Physical Therapy (APTA), physical therapists are highly-skilled, licensed health care professionals who help patients reduce pain and improve or restore mobility. 

During a preventative check-up, a physical therapist will evaluate such things as movement and injury history, balance, aerobic capacity, functional strength, flexibility, and quality of movement (i.e., gait, reach, bending, etc.). 

In addition, a physical therapist will work with each person to address any personal limitations, weaknesses, pain or other impairments that may be holding them back from reaching lifestyle and movement goals. 

“We recommend that, just as with their personal physicians, people should see a physical therapist for a check-up once each year,” Lee said. Physical therapy check-ups should also be considered: 

  • Whenever one experiences pain, discomfort or strain when doing an activity they enjoy. 
  • Whenever one is considering a new fitness or training program, or starting a new sport. 
  • Following the completion of post-surgery rehab, when trying to resume normal activities. 
  • Or, after any surgery or condition that has led to bed rest. 

For more information about annual physical therapy check-ups, contact the physical therapy team at Apex Physical Therapy LLC with questions or to schedule an evaluation. 

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Create a Safe, Productive At-Home Workspace

As millions transition into working from home to help thwart the spread of the coronavirus, maintaining both comfort and productivity has no doubt been an issue for many. 

While in-office workstations are often designed around ergonomic considerations and long-term trial and error, ensuring optimal comfort and health, home workspaces can often fall short in this regard. 

Home workspace safety and comfort, however, should remain top of mind. 

Self-Care & Injury Prevention 

While it sometimes feels we’re all sacrificing right now to survive the COVID-19 outbreak, that doesn’t mean we ignore self-care. 

This includes focusing on the hours you spend every day working from home, ensuring your workspace – whether at your kitchen table or at a desk in the corner of a spare bedroom – isn’t putting you at risk of pain or injury. 

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), injuries resulting from work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WMSD) due to poor workplace ergonomics account for 34 percent of all workday injuries and illnesses. 

Neck strains, pain in the shoulders or lower back, tendinitis, bursitis, carpal tunnel syndrome, and so on – injuries and ailments often associated with poor workplace ergonomics – can and should be prevented in the workplace, even when that workplace is in your home. 

Boost Productivity 

Sitting in fixed or constrained positions most of the day, often repeating movements with the arms, hands and wrists, can take a toll on your body, leaving you more vulnerable to injury to the muscles, tendons and nerves. 

In contrast, a comfortable workspace is great for productivity and morale. 

OSHA estimates that the implementation of proper office ergonomics can increase productivity by an average of 11 percent. 

So, whether your work-from-home stint ends in weeks or months, it’s important to consider workspace improvements with an eye toward longevity. This includes abiding by the following guidelines for creating a safe and comfortable workstation: 

• Set your desk, chair, keyboard and mouse in position so your hands, wrists and forearms rest in straight lines and run parallel to the floor. Use a wrist rest for your keyboard and mouse, if needed. Allow your upper-arms to hang normally from the side of your body, elbows bent at around 90 degrees. 

• Place your monitor at a height that keeps your head level (or bent forward slightly) and in line with the rest of your body. The top of your monitor should sit slightly below eye level and about an arm’s length away. 

• Ensure your chair offers proper lumbar support, allowing for a slight inner curve of the lower spine. 

• Keep your knees at about the same (or slightly lower) height as your hips, and make sure your feet can sit flatly on the floor. If they don’t fully reach the floor, bring in a footrest to support your feet. 

• Take frequent breaks from sitting. Take time to stand up and stretch for a minute or two every half-hour or so. And, if you can, take a walk over breaks or during lunch. 

If stiffness, soreness, numbness, and pain persist, or you have a question about setting up a proper workspace in your home, contact your physical therapist to discuss options for an initial assessment.