The 5 Natural Ways to Relieve Sciatica

Have you ever experienced aching pain in the back / buttock area that radiates down your leg? You may have sciatica. Sciatica is a common condition that affects up to 1 out of 10 people, typically between ages 25-45.

Symptoms

Sciatica is typically felt as a dull aching pain to the low back / buttock area, that can at times be sharp, depending upon movement. It is generally on one side, but at times can be on both sides. Other symptoms can include numbness and / or tingling, radiating down to certain areas of the leg.

Causes

Sciatica is an entrapment and irritation to the sciatica nerve, which passes from the lower spine, down through the buttock and supplies the back of the leg down to the foot. Typically, sciatica is caused by poor mechanical movement of the hips, pelvis or lower back. This causes abnormal strain and stress to the gluteus and hip rotator muscles. Certain people are more predisposed to sciatica, because their sciatica nerve pierces through the piriformis muscle in the buttock, which makes it more susceptible to irritation.

Pain Relief

The good news is that over 90% of those suffering with sciatica will get better with conservative treatment, especially physical therapy. Physical therapy focuses on improving the mechanical movement of the hip joints, pelvis and spinal joints to relieve pressure on the sciatica nerve. Furthermore, since many muscles are impacted and often weakened, physical therapy helps to restore normal muscle function. This balances the spinal, gluteal and leg muscles.

Try these 5 natural ways to relieve your sciatica:

  • Improve your posture – One of the long-term causes of sciatica is poor posture. Make sure that you have a lumbar support in your work chair and in your car that you can take with you to different places. Look at the way your computer and desk area is setup. Avoid soft couches and recliners. Physical therapists are experts in ergonomics and can teach you the proper posture setup for workstations and home activities.
  • Change your position frequently – Sitting puts direct pressure on the sciatic nerve. Therefore, it is important to change positions frequently. Consider getting an adjustable standing desk if you have to spend most of your day sitting at a computer. If you are suffering from sciatica, try lying down for 10 minutes, standing for 10 minutes and sitting for 10 minutes. Rotate this throughout the day as much as you can.
  • Try magnesium – magnesium is thought to sooth irritated nerves and many of us have magnesium deficiencies. Try a good magnesium and calcium supplement to soothe pain. However, if you are on medications, consult your physician first.
  • Improve your hip strength and flexibility – The gluteal muscles support the normal walking motions we perform everyday. They become weak and tight with prolonged sitting, especially at a desk job. This causes severe strain on the smaller hip muscles around the sciatic nerve, when walking or standing.
  • Get your body mechanics checked – Most of us do not realize that we have made an adaptation in our normal movements, because of limited joint motion or muscle weakness. Our body is amazing at adapting to problems, however, it can only do this for so long, until abnormal strain and stress occurs. Having a thorough biomechanical movement analysis by one of our trained physical therapists, will pinpoint the exact problem that is causing your sciatica. This allows us to formulate a treatment plan that will help you naturally restore your movement, function and quickly relieve your pain.

5 Reasons Why You Need to Start Stretching

If there’s one thing that you can count on an HESS PT physical therapist introducing into every session, it’s stretching. Yes, building strength and endurance is important. But whether you’re an athlete, or someone coping with the aches and pains of aging, increasing your flexibility through stretching is crucial. Read on to learn more about some of the top benefits of stretching.

Range of Motion Improvement

How far your joints can move in all directions influences virtually every moment of the day. Arthritis or injury can hamper how far, and where, you can flex and extend your limbs and torso. From twisting your neck to see behind you when driving, to being able to move your knee freely, range of motion is crucial for both daily life and for fitness pursuits. Even if you’re fairly stiff now, doing more stretches each day will gradually reduce stiffness and increase flexibility.

Relief in Unexpected Places

When your calves start feeling a bit tight after a run, it’s obvious that more stretching is needed. But we sometimes forget the sheer interconnectedness of our bodies. If you’re experiencing lower back pain, for example, stretching your legs during physical therapy can be as important as stretching your back. In fact, your hips, upper thighs and your hamstrings can all play a big part in creating lower back pain relief. Likewise, improving your posture through stretching your torso can provide the kind of support you need to keep your spine from compressing, which helps you avoid shoulder and neck pain.

Enhanced Performance

If you’re an athlete, you know that the more conditioning your joints, ligaments and muscles get, the greater your advantage in your sport. Bodybuilders can recover from their reps more quickly by stretching tightened muscles as a cool-down. Golfers can get a longer reach by increasing range of motion through the hips and shoulders. Swimmers can keep their strokes even by perfecting their balance through physical therapy stretching moves. In fact, there are few competitive sports for which stretching doesn’t offer an advantage.

Injury Prevention

There’s a certain amount of debate in the sports world about the degree to which pre- or post-workout stretching protects you from injury. But few people deny those stretches can contribute to injury prevention. A tense, shortened muscle is often an injury waiting to happen because it doesn’t work at peak performance. When you stretch, you’re also increasing your range of motion, while improving your balance. All of these factors can prevent you from making the types of moves that lead to injury, whether it’s coming down too hard on one foot, or twisting your back further than you should to compensate for lack of shoulder range.
Improved Circulation
Stretching can reduce stress, but that isn’t the only reason it’s good for your heart and your musculoskeletal system. Tight muscles constrict available oxygen supply, essentially robbing themselves of the nutrients they need. Stretches help reverse the process. You’ll also get the benefit of increased blood flow to your joints and throughout the body. Your physical therapist knows that good circulation is key to every aspect of health, from sharp thinking to clear skin.
Of course, there are plenty of other ways that stretching can improve your life. Many people enter a Zen-like state as they stretch. Others get a sense of pride from being more limber. When you’re ready to add stretches to your daily routine, consider getting started through physical therapy. Our team can walk you through the best ways to tackle your situation. Static or dynamic stretching? Pre- or post-activity stretching? A physical therapist can help you learn the basics.
Contact Hess Physical Therapy in McKees Rocks, Crafton, or Allison Park, to learn more.

Tips to Treat Your Arthritis Pain

If you are like the one in four American adults who suffer from arthritis symptoms, you are looking for options for managing the day to day aches and pains and often debilitating loss of mobility. Fortunately, there are many things you can do that, when combined with physical therapy, can improve your strength, increase your flexibility and help you manage your arthritis symptoms. While these tips are helpful, they work best when paired with professional treatment, call Hess Physical Therapy today to learn how we can help you live pain-free!

Weight Loss

Since many arthritis symptoms are exacerbated by obesity, weight loss is one of the most effective ways to manage those symptoms without medication. Fortunately, physical therapists are adept at creating weight loss or weight maintenance programs that take pressure off of your joints and increase blood flow for nutrient delivery throughout your entire body.

Time for New Shoes

Many people overlook the effects of footwear on arthritis of the knee. Whether it is special purchasing special footwear or adding insoles or orthotics into your existing shoes, this simple fix can help immediately relieve the pressure on the weight-bearing joints of your lower body. As an added bonus, the correct footwear makes it easier to walk or exercise without pain.

Hot & Cold, Hot & Cold

When it comes to arthritis, temperature matters. Many people discover that a warm bath or heat pack helps ease arthritis aches and pains. Others find that cold packs applied on a regular basis reduce swelling in the joints and relieve discomfort. Alternating between the two has been shown to provide the soothing comfort of heat with the anti-inflammatory properties of cold. However, it is important to consult with a medical professional about the proper procedures for applying both heat and cold in order to avoid skin irritation.
Exercise
As tempting as it is to “rest” when you are uncomfortable, there is nothing better for managing arthritis than exercising on a regular basis. However, many people are reluctant to begin an exercise program with arthritis for fear of injuring themselves. Physical therapy can not only help you discover the exercise program that is right for your condition, it can provide you with a long-term solution to your arthritis symptoms. Your physical therapist will show you proper technique, a variety of exercises and how to wear appropriate accessories like braces or wraps if necessary.
Arthritis should not stop you from living the life you deserve. The combination of physical therapy, a weight loss program, heat and cold, and footwear can help you manage your day-to-day discomfort for the rest of your life. Contact Hess Physical Therapy today to get started on your personalized physical therapy program and start enjoying a symptom-free life!

Top 5 Natural Ways to Relieve Arthritis Pain

Do you find your knees or hips hurting after sitting for too long? Has bending or squatting become difficult or even painful? This is a common complaint of people with knee or hip osteoarthritis. Did you know that the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says that 1 out of every 2 people will have symptoms of knee osteoarthritis sometime before age 85?

The incidence of osteoarthritis generally starts to increase after age 35 and decreases one’s ability to perform walking, bending and everyday tasks. Osteoarthritis can occur for a variety of reasons:

  • Normal or abnormal wear and tear on joint cartilage
  • Injuries that damage cartilage and joints
  • Diseases that damage cartilage
  • Lack of joint support from poor muscle strength and tissue flexibility

What is Osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis describes the condition of abnormal wear and tear of cartilage from a joint surface causing bone on bone rubbing. This can be quite painful and occurs more in the knees, hips and ankles. This is due to the fact that these joints bear the weight of your body and have to endure an average of 3,000-6,000 steps a day. That is over one million steps / bending and movements a year!

Knee osteoarthritis pain is generally felt under the kneecap, but can travel up the thigh or down your lower leg. The pads below your knee generally become thicker and more swollen. At times, your knee may even become slightly swollen or even slightly red. Hip osteoarthritis pain is generally felt in the groin on one side or deep in the buttock. Pain may actually feel better with walking, but become worse after sitting for a few minutes, then trying to move again.

What can be done?

Most pain is caused by poor joint movement and strength of the muscles around the joint. This causes instability to the joint and greater pressure on the cartilage causing more inflammation and pain. Physical therapy is the preferred method of treatment, because it discovers the abnormal movement in the joint and naturally corrects it. With hands-on therapy, special strengthening and balance exercises, knee or hip pain can typically be completely relieved. For more information on natural ways to relieve arthritis pain, call us today!

5 Ways to Naturally Relieve Arthritis Pain

  1. Exercise – This is essential for people suffering from arthritis. It is vital to strengthen muscles, increase flexibility and improve blood flow. Cartilage actually receives its nutrition from joint fluid, so the more you can exercise the better. It is also important to mix between weight bearing and non-weight bearing exercises, such as aquatic exercises or bicycling. A balance between aerobic and strengthening exercises is highly recommended. It is also highly recommended that you see a physical therapist first before starting an arthritis exercise regime. Our physical therapists are medical specialists in prescribing the right exercises for individuals with arthritis and can teach you how to protect your joints.
  2. Vitamins – According to the Arthritis Foundation, there are a mix of studies showing some benefits to using glucosamine and chondroitin. Glucosamine is naturally made in the body and helps support the cartilage by retaining water and preventing wear. Additional supplements may help. Some studies show that glucosamine may slow down joint damage.
  3. Avoid inflammatory foods – There are foods that increase the body’s natural inflammation response. Arthritis is a condition of joints that become inflamed. Therefore, by avoiding foods with high fat, fried foods, sodas, high sugar content and processed foods, you help to naturally relieve the inflammation in your body. This helps a number of other systems in your body too.
  4. Calcium and Magnesium – Many people are deficient in calcium and magnesium. These are vital minerals needed for hundreds of processes in your body. Having enough calcium and magnesium, builds strong bones and reduces irritated nerve endings, decreasing pain. If possible, find supplements that are in powder form that can be easily digested and help your body’s intake of these essential minerals.
  5. Sleep – Sleep is a time for our body and brain to repair itself. It is important to make sure you are getting enough sleep, 7-8 hours at least, to allow your body to repair and decrease pain. When you are tired, your body does not function as well, increasing the inflammatory response and reducing your pain threshold.
  6. Physical therapy is one of the best ways to improve your arthritis pain. We help your joints reduce pain and inflammation, and then increase your strength and flexibility so your joints are healthier. Contact Hess Physical Therapy today for more information on our Arthritis Program and discover how you can live life pain free!

Total Knee Replacement Recovery Process

When you have the knee replacement, the surgery is done and now the recovery begins. This is a crucial time to restore the mobility and strength in order to get to enjoying life. We have laid out the process after the surgery and some expectations (and milestones) to help guide you through the process.

The Beginning:

The process starts after a few hours after the surgery. Yes… a few hours. It’s super important to get the knee moving after surgery to help with circulation and function. A physical therapist will help in getting you moving from the bed and make sure you can get in and out of bed safely and start putting weight on the new knee. They will give you all the assistance you need to be safe as this will be the first-time putting weight on the leg. You will be given a set of exercises to help with not only getting the knee moving but start engaging the knee muscles but also exercises to help with preventing blood clots (which is very important to know, and you will be educated on this before the surgery and after). The nurses will assist in changing out any bandages when needed.

Your physical therapist will be able to answer any questions you may have. And we encourage you to ask any questions you may have to help better understand the initial recovery symptoms and for reassurance.

Your stay will be dependent on a few different factors. It can be a very short stint such as less than 1 day and can be upwards to a few days. The most important factors are the healing of the knee and the ability to walk safely. Therefore, it will be crucial to get moving even if it seems very difficult and you don’t feel like it. Use it as motivation to get back to your home.

Discharge:

Here are milestones to reach prior to leaving the hospital:

  • Bend your knee to a minimum of 90 degrees
  • Dress and bathe on your own
  • Maneuver safely with your assistive device
  • Get in and out of bed by yourself
  • Be able to do steps safely by yourself (even if it’s 1 step at a time)
  • Have the next phase of physical therapy lined up for coming to your house or go to a clinic
  • Lastly have your home exercises that you should absolutely do until you see another physical therapist.

Week 4 to 8…

Now you are getting into the real rehab of the program. This is an important time to restore full ROM and strength. By now you will be in a clinic (out-patient physical therapy) a few times a week to promote more bending of the knee and strength. Even though you will be seen a few times a week, you will need to continue doing your exercises daily (sometimes 2 times/day) to get the most out of the recovery.

By the sixth week after surgery, you should be able to:

  • Continue your exercise and rehab getting more mobility and strength
  • Notice a decrease in inflammation and swelling (there will still be some)
  • Move around with an assistive device for safety but you might not even need …but it depends on you.
  • Walk with only minimal issues and improve stairs where you can start doing them normally 1 after the other instead of 1 step at a time.

Week 9 to 12…

Here you will notice being able to do a lot of the normal things around the house such as cooking, cleaning, doing stairs easily, squatting down, and feeling minimal pain. You will be getting close to normal with mobility and strength helping you get back to your normal lifestyle. But this is important to maximize your potential. It may seem like you are in the clear and you will be able to stop your exercises and treatments.

But let me ask you… “After all this hard work, pain, and determination, are you ready to settle for it’s good enough? Are you happy to be 50-80% of normal? Or do you want to be better than that?

Your healthcare team will tell you it will take 6 months to a year for recover. Therefore, you have 3-9 more months to reach your maximal potential. You’ve come this far… keep up the hard work.

Here are a few exercises that are functional and will help to maximize your potential:

  • Toe and heel raises (alternating standing on your tip-toes, and then back onto your heels)
  • Squats
  • Step-ups/stairs
  • Straight leg raises on your back and side
  • Walking outside
  • Bicycling with a stationary bike

You are so close to reaching your maximum potential. Keep up the great work. Resume your normal activities and if you have any issues please let your physical therapist know so they can be specific on your exercises and help you overcome and difficulties standing in the way of you being 100% normal.

After about a year, you should be back to 100 percent. It’s important to keep in touch with your therapist and have periodical check-ups to make sure everything is still running smoothly. If you find that you’re having unexpected trouble with your knee at any point, don’t hesitate to contact your doctor. If you have any other questions regarding the recovery process of a knee replacement, feel free to check out to reach out to us.

What You Should Know About Plantar Fasciitis

Have you ever woken up and stepped out of bed only to wish you hadn’t because of heel pain? It’s not just the impending dread of a Monday morning at work for some of us. Every day, millions of people begin the day in pain and the culprit is plantar fasciitis.

The cause of this physical impairment is varied in nature. Any number of individual causes or a combination of these can contribute to the condition. Over time, the tissue, or fascia, that helps connect the tissue of muscle and ligaments to the underside of the foot begin to become inflamed or break down altogether. Typically beginning in the heel and following the band of tissue along the sole of the foot to the toes, the symptoms can begin gradually, and through time, overuse, and other contributing factors can become worse over time and even become a chronic disability.

Some of the causes of Plantar Fasciitis include:

  • Long hours standing on your feet
  • Ill-fitting or non-supportive footwear
  • Types of activity, such as running, standing, walking on hard surfaces
  • Women are more susceptible than men
  • Obesity
  • Genetic factors such as flat feet or degenerative disorders affecting the fascia

What is happening?

Symptoms are typically noted after periods in inactivity, such as first waking up in the morning, or even just being off your feet for a long time. The pain is sharp and stabbing, and until the tissues are warmed up and limber, are very noticeable and even debilitating. Because most of us live lifestyles which demand us to be on our feet, pain such as this is often treated in such a way that mask the symptoms, thus enabling us to function, yet in the process continuing to allow the tissue to become damaged further.

Small tears in the fascia become harder for the body to repair, and continued activity on the feet, exacerbate the damage. In the beginning, the pain might be ignored, treated with painkillers, or left up to speculation as to whether this is just something that “happens when you get older,” but the truth is that plantar fasciitis can happen to anyone, at nearly any age. It is an injury that can be prevented, treated, and controlled. Unfortunately, once the damage has begun, without adequate treatment and some adjustments to your lifestyle, it will continue to get worse.

What can I do?

Visit your doctor or physical therapist and get a diagnosis. Chronic pain in the feet may be symptoms of a variety of serious conditions (including diabetes–which can be very serious if left untreated). In order to get the best treatment for you, a diagnosis is the best place to start.

Take a look at what you do in your daily life:

  • Have you undergone any lifestyle changes?
  • Have you been increasing your activity or changing the kinds of exercise you normally do?
  • Have you changed the kinds of shoes you usually wear?
  • Have you gained weight?
  • Are you pregnant?
  • Have you experienced an injury that has caused changes in the way you walk?
  • What kinds of surfaces are you walking on and for how many hours per day?
  • Are you stretching properly before and after exercise?
  • Is there any history of plantar fasciitis in your family?
  • When do you feel the pain the most acutely? Does it come and go?
  • Be sure to discuss all of these things with a professional, as any information in relation to pain is important.

What can they do to help?

Physical therapy, an anti-inflammatory medication such as Ibuprofen or Naproxen can be administered, or even footwear which provides better support. Inserts can control the damage done from overuse and give the foot the support that it needs to heal on its own. Types of stretching which directly affect this area in a therapeutic way can also be used, as can splints, changes in the kinds of activity you do on your feet, and even weight loss can be used to maintain and control the condition.

Medication such as steroid injections can be used for pain relief, however this may create future problems as they could further weaken the area in the long run. Surgery can also be considered in extreme cases.

At home, following your recovery regimen in conjunction with icing the area, proper stretching techniques, better footwear, and simply allowing your body to heal on its own are also what needs to happen to prevent the condition from getting worse. Monitoring your weight will also minimize the impact on your feet, since the full force of your body falls on such a small surface area with every step you take.

No one should dread their first steps they take in the morning, at least not from simply getting up and out of bed. Pain is your body’s way of telling you that something is wrong, and ignoring that pain is like ignoring the advice of your dearest and closest friend. In the short-term, you face pain and discomfort, but in the long-term you might be facing a life-changing disability that will become extremely expensive to treat, if it isn’t too late to be treated at all.

Contact us to learn more about plantar fasciitis and what you can do to live a pain-free, happy, and healthy life. With just a few tweaks to your lifestyle and some proactive treatment early on, this is something you can beat early on. Don’t ignore what your body is telling you until it’s too late.

Walk back into your life with confidence. All you need to do is take the first step.

Top 10 Exercises Before and After TKR

Having a total knee replacement can be overwhelming. Not only are you dealing with the constant pain from the knee, but the preparation can be challenging and stressful. That’s not even including the worry about the recovery. But what if there’s something you can do before the surgery to feel better before the surgery and make the recovery afterwards better? When you are physically fit going in for the surgery, it helps speed up the recovery… makes you feel better, move better, and get the most out of the surgery to get back to a normal lifestyle.

Here are the Top 10 exercises to do before a knee replacement surgery to maximize your recovery…

  1. Heel Slides
    Knee bending and straightening is essential after the surgery for all activities. Start by lying on your back with both legs straight out. Then bend your bad knee and slide heel on the surface back to your butt as far as it can go. Hold for a couple seconds then slide your heel away. Try 10 times.
  2. Back leg raises
    Strong front leg muscles are very important for walking after the surgery. Start by lying on your back with your good knee bent and your bad leg straight out. Then lift your bad leg up keeping your leg as straight as possible. Hold for a couple seconds then lower back down. Try 10 times.
  3. Side leg raises
    Strong side hip muscles help with balancing and walking for safety after the surgery. Start by lying on the opposite side of the bad knee. Then lift your bad leg up keeping your leg as straight as possible. Hold for a couple seconds then lower back down. Try 10 times.
  4. Clam Shells
    Hip mobility is important for moving around in bed and cars after the surgery. Start by lying down on your back with both legs bent. Pull your knees away from each other and hold for 5 seconds. Then pull your knees inward towards each other. Try 10 times.
  5. Pillow Squeezes
    Strong inner thigh muscles help stabilize the leg with walking and standing for safety. Start lying on your back with both knees bent. Place a pillow in between the knees. Then press your knees into the pillow and hold for 5 seconds. Try 10 times.
  6. Seated Kicks
    Strong thigh muscles are the most important muscles to get back to normal after the surgery. Start by sitting in a chair. Then kick your bad leg out as straight as possible. Hold for 5 seconds then lower back down. Try 10 times.
  7. Seated Hamstring Stretch
    Muscle flexibility helps with decreasing knee pain after the surgery. Start sitting in a chair. Place the bad leg out straight then bend forward and try to touch the foot. Hold for 5 seconds. Try 10 times.
  8. Standing Marches
    Hip bending and knee bending will help decrease the tightness in the knee after the surgery. Start by standing near a counter surface. For balance, place 1 hand on the counter, then lift you bad knee up like you are in the marching band. Hold for 5 seconds. Try 10 times.
  9. Standing Abduction
    Strong outside hip muscles are important for balancing and walking after the surgery. Start by standing near a counter surface. For balance, place 1 hand on the counter, then kick your bad leg out to the side keeping it straight. Hold for 5 seconds. Try 10 times.
  10. Standing Butt Kicks
    Knee flexibility while standing helps with doing stairs after the surgery. Start by standing near a counter surface. For balance, place 1 hand on the counter, then bend your bad knee and try to kick your butt. Hold for 5 seconds. Try 10 times.

Tips For Relieving Knee Pain

Are you one of the millions of Americans suffering from aching or painful knees? You are not alone. According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) 1 in 2 people may develop painful knee osteoarthritis by age 85. In addition, if you struggle with weight, research shows that 2 in 3 people may develop painful knee arthritis in their lifetime.

The knee is an incredible joint, having to sustain 6 times your body weight in force, while moving through a large range of motion. The knee joint is inherently unstable, held together by a mass of ligaments, tendons and muscles. The knee also takes a beating during your lifetime. It is estimated that you will walk an estimated 200 million steps, therefore it is easy to see why your knees sustain a lot of wear and tear over the years.  

How to Keep Your Knees Healthy

There are a variety of factors that can cause knee pain, but it is important to focus on preventing knee pain from occurring and what can be done to keep your knees healthy.

Here are useful tips to keep your knees working in tiptop condition:

  • Move – Getting up from a sitting position and put weight on your legs. It may be as simple as walking around the room, walk around your house, or go for a long walk around the neighborhood. Either way, the more you sit the less the knee has to work and the good ‘ole phrase… “If you don’t use it, you lose it” will affect your knees.
  • Stretch daily –Daily stretching maintains good flexibility in your muscles, tendons and ligaments around the knee. This allows the knee to continue with its normal mobility specifically bending and straightening.
  • Strengthen your legs – Since the knee is a very functional joint, it requires good muscle support and strength. This provides the stability needed to squat, walk and do stairs. Studies show that strengthening the quadriceps muscle is very important in preventing knee pain and knee osteoarthritis.*
  • Get a tune up from your physical therapist – Your knee needs to move forward and backwards with some twisting motion. Our physical therapists are medical experts in evaluating these special types of motions called accessory movements. By evaluating and treating your knee on a regular basis, our physical therapists can keep your knees moving as they should.
  • Use ice or heat – Typically, ice is used after a flare-up of inflammation, injury or pain. If the pain is new, try ice. Heat is used more for chronic swelling in the knee with the purpose of increasing circulation. If you have had it for a few weeks, months, years… try heat.
  • Watch your weight – The more weight you carry, the more pressure goes on the knee. When squatting down you can increase the pressure on your knee by 3 times. Over time, and it doesn’t take that long (a few months) the knees start to wear down just like anything else with more weight than normal. Therefore, the closer to your ideal weight, the happier your knees can be.

The most important part in preventing knee pain is keeping your legs flexible and strong. If you are concerned about how your knees feel when you try to walk, bend and run, then give Hess Physical Therapy a call today. Our experts have years of experience evaluating the proper mechanics of the knee and restoring them, for a pain-free future.

*Quadriceps weakness and osteoarthritis of the knee.

Achilles Tendonitis: Top 5 Facts to Know from Symptoms to Prevention

If you’ve ever had Achilles Tendonitis, then you know how painful it is in the heel of your foot. An inflammatory injury, it’s due to overuse and abnormal stress on your tendon. As maybe a dancer or runner, you know how common Achilles Tendonitis is, because many in this field (particularly ballet dancers or long distance runners) suffer from it often.

Achilles tendon stress can occur from more than just ballet dancers and long distance runners stressing their feet. Those in sports also suffer from this over time. Any activity that involves landing hard on the heel every day is going to cause this condition eventually.

Others suffer from it due to natural abnormalities. Problems like bowlegs or abnormal heel bones can cause the problem.

Here’s five facts going into more detail about Achilles Tendonitis if you’re suffering from it now.

1. Symptoms Begin as a Mild Ache

Some might assume this condition causes severe heel pain from the beginning. As with other tendon injuries, it’s going to start mild and gradually become worse.

It’s no different with Achilles Tendonitis since it usually starts as a mild ache above your heel, or in the back of your leg. This typically occurs after you run or play aggressive sports.

Gradually, the pain becomes worse if you run every day. Even stair-climbing can worsen the pain. Tenderness and stiffness may occur as well, and you may initially write this off as just a muscle issue after warming up your muscles.

2. Your Achilles Tendon Weakens With Age

It’s natural for your Achilles tendon to start wearing out as you age. You’re more susceptible to injury if you start dancing after age 50, or start doing running and other sports late in life.

You’ll need to take breaks because you could cause serious injury. If the pain becomes severe, see a physical therapist immediately.

3. Physical Therapists Can Find Physical Signs of Achilles Tendonitis

When you see your physical therapist, they’ll inspect your foot for physical signs of this condition. Plenty of physical symptoms exist, with the most common being swelling around the back of your heel.

Other signs include bony spurs at the lower part of your tendon, or the inability to flex your foot normally.

4. Many Non-Surgical Treatments Exist

Having surgery for Achilles Tendonitis is usually a last resort in extremely serious situations. Fortunately, numerous non-surgical treatments are available that usually help the problem.

The most common for mild cases is purely rest, as well as ice placed on your heel. Those who push themselves to the limit are the ones who end up injuring their heel tendon. In this case, merely resting for a while (or doing low-impact workouts) helps considerably.

5. Prevention Should Focus on Footwear and Proper Training

In order to prevent Achilles Tendonitis, focus on the footwear you’re wearing and whether it provides firm arch support. Even cushioning in the heel aids in preventing serious injury.

Beyond footwear, eliminate hill running for a while if you still run daily. Stretching your Achilles tendon and calf muscles before exercise also prevents any relapses. Merely strengthening your calf muscles goes a long way in reinforcing the stress you place on your tendon during dancing or any physical training.

To your healthy foot, Ian Helsel PT, DPT

5 Simple Stretches for the Treatment and Prevention of Plantar Fasciitis

If you feel a sharp/stabbing pain at the bottom of your foot towards your heel when you walk from your bed to the bathroom in the morning, you might have plantar fasciitis. Mayo Clinic defines it as inflammation of the plantar fascia, which is “a thick band of tissue that runs across the bottom of your foot and connects your heel bone to your toes.”

There is not one particular issue or activity that causes this condition, but your risk of plantar fasciitis increases if you are overweight, between the ages of 40 and 60, participate in long-distance running or ballet dancing, or spend the majority of your time standing on hard surfaces. Although the pain is often the worst in the morning or after exercise, allowing you to spend most of your day with no pain, if the condition gets worse it could end up affecting the way you walk. Since the entire body is connected, changes in gait and posture can lead to chronic pain or injury in other parts of your body including your knees, hips, and low back.

These facts are why it’s important to treat plantar fasciitis before it gets worse. Keep in mind that most people recover completely with proper rest, ice, and stretching, though it could take a few weeks or possibly months depending on the severity. While you can include over-the-counter pain relievers to help reduce inflammation and discomfort, take care that you’re not relying on them and powering through your day or your workouts like normal. Your feet still need time to heal, even if the medication is covering the pain.

There are several simple exercises you can do to stretch and strengthen the foot to treat and prevent plantar fasciitis. Hold each stretch for 15-30 seconds, and repeat it on each side two or three times.

Shin Stretch

While standing (perhaps using a wall for balance) or sitting, curl your toes so you can place the top of one foot on the ground and press gently to feel the stretch on the front of your leg.

Calf Stretch

From a standing position, stagger your feet so one foot is a big step behind the other. Check that your back toes are pointed forward, and press your back heel toward the floor. Bend your front knee or take a bigger step if you need to increase the stretch.

Toe Stretch

Kneel on the floor and curl your toes into the floor. Gently sit back on your heels so your weight is over your feet.

This stretch can be quite intense, so a gentler version is to sit on a chair with one leg crossed over the other so you can reach your foot. From there, flex your foot and use your hands to gently pull your toes toward your shin.

Towel Stretch

Sit in a chair, and wrap a towel around the arch of your foot. Gently pull the towel toward you.

While you’ve got the towel, place it flat on the floor under your foot. Curl your toes to pull the towel toward you, then use your toes to press it away from you again.

Tennis Ball Rolls

Place your foot on a tennis ball or foam roller and roll it back and forth from heel to toe. You can do this from a seated position, and when you’re ready to add more pressure, you can do it while standing with a wall for balance, if necessary.

If you’re not sure whether or not your foot pain is indicative of plantar fasciitis, come visit us! Our physical therapists will perform a thorough evaluation to rule out any other potential causes for the pain. We’d love to meet you and help you develop a conservative stretching and strengthening routine to recover from plantar fasciitis.

To your healthy foot,
Ian Helsel PT, DPT