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~Exercise for Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is a disease that leads to fragile bones and increased likelihood of fractures.  According to a report by the National Osteoporosis Foundation, we currently have 9 million people with osteoporosis and 48 million with low bone mass (osteopenia).  They further predict that by 2020 there will be 10.7 million with osteoporosis and 58.2 million with low bone mass.  These are numbers that we should take steps now to change.  May is National Osteoporosis Awareness Month and this article will cover some ways you can help yourself get stronger bones through exercise.  

Bone loss is more common in women after age 50, but it can happen at younger ages and to men as well.  It is important to consult with your medical provider to see when it is appropriate to get bone mineral density testing and determine what exercise program is best for you. 

You are more at risk of osteoporosis or bone thinning (osteopenia) if any of the following apply to you:

  • Female
  • Caucasian or Asian
  • Low body weight
  • Small frame
  • Smoker
  • Take steroid medication
  • Family history of osteoporosis
  • Limited exercise
  • Limited intake of calcium
  • Loss of Height

While some of these factors cannot be changed (heredity, sex, race, body size), others you can (stop smoking, get enough calcium and vitamin D, exercise).  While any exercise is better than none, certain types of exercise are important for bone health.  These include weight bearing exercise, strength training, balance, and posture exercises. 

 Weight Bearing Exercises:   These include any exercise in which you bear weight on your legs or arms.  This stimulates your body to add bone and prevent bone loss.  Some of the best and easiest impact activities include walking, dancing, and stair climbing.  These are also good because they are easy to do and are less likely to cause issues with falling.  Activities such as jogging, running, or high impact aerobics are also weight bearing but may not be your best choice if you already have weak bones or are at risk of falling.  Tai Chi, a form of exercise that involves slow movements while standing, has also been shown to improve bone strength and, as a bonus, improves balance. While swimming and pool aerobics are great forms of overall exercise for joints and cardiovascular health, they don’t help improve bone strength.  The buoyancy of the water takes away some of the body’s weight and therefore the bones do not get enough impact to stimulate the bones.

Strength Training:  Lifting some form of weights as little as two times a week can help you decrease your risk of fracture.  Similar to weight bearing exercise, lifting some form of weight helps stimulate bone strength.   The areas that are most at risk include hips, spine, and wrists.  While most people do some form of exercise to help their lower body, they often neglect their upper body.  Make sure to lift heavy things with your arms.  This can be formal weight lifting/ exercise machines at the gym or lifting milk jugs or other items you already have around the house.

Balance Training: Fall prevention is very important for anyone, but especially if you have weak bones.  A fracture after a fall causes a lot of pain and disability. Many people have difficulty with balance without realizing it.  If you have had recent falls, then balance should be a priority for you. 

Posture Exercises: Poor posture puts more stress on your spine.  It also affects your balance.  Commonly, osteoporosis causes a more stooped posture and may lead to a “hump” at the base of your neck.  Exercises can be done to strengthen the muscles that help you stand straighter. 

Things to Avoid:  While exercise is good, there are some activities that should be avoided if you are at risk for osteoporosis.  Anyone wishing to do an  activity where falling is a risk (roller skating, skiing, horseback riding, etc….) or activities that have forward bending movements (yoga, rowing) should take precautions or find an alternative form of exercise. 

Physical Therapists are movement and exercise specialists that can help you determine the best exercises to help you prevent falls and strengthen your bones.  They will evaluate your posture, balance, and risk factors to help determine the best form of exercise for your needs. For further information about physical therapy and osteoporosis, check out this article




~Fast Facts on Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia Awareness Day is this Sunday, May 12, 2013.  Here are a few details on this condition.


What is fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia is a condition that causes pain throughout the muscles of the body.  Patients often compare it to a flu-like ache and fatigue that never goes away. 

What are some symptoms of fibromyalgia?

  • Overall body and muscle aches in arms, legs and trunk
  • Multiple tender points in specific areas (see picture)
  • Myofascial trigger points (tight, knotted muscles)
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Difficulty getting restful sleep even after sleeping for a long time
  • Difficulty recovering from activities such as exercise and housework
  • Commonly associated with IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), TMJ (temporomandibular joint pain), headaches, multiple chemical sensitivity
  • “Fibro Fog” or difficulty thinking and remembering things

What causes fibromyalgia?

Unfortunately, the cause is not known.  There is current research looking for answers but as of yet we don’t understand why people get fibromyalgia.

What tests are there to diagnose fibromyalgia?

Again, because it is not known what causes fibromyalgia, there are no specific tests .  A physician usually rules out other conditions for which there are tests (rheumatoid arthritis, infection) and looks for complaints of the common symptoms above.  Typically a diagnoses is made in people with widespread pain in arms, legs, and trunk that has lasted for at least 3 months and includes muscle tender points in 11 out of 18 spots.

What treatment is there for fibromyalgia?

  • Medications to help improve sleep, pain, relax muscles, calm nerves
  • Physical Therapy for trigger points, gentle exercise, relaxation techniques, stretching, education in activity level management
  • Trigger point injections

Is there a cure?

At this point, there is not. Fibromyalgia tends to be chronic. Symptoms may vary and get better and worse throughout a person’s life.

Does exercise really help?

The quick answer is definitely yes.  However, the best exercise for fibromyalgia is not necessarily the typical exercise program for a normal person.  People with fibromyalgia have special needs and considerations related to their fatigue and difficulty with recovering from activities. When fibromyalgia sufferers follow the well-meaning advice of friends and family to “just exercise” to feel better, they tend to overdo it and pay the price and experience a lot of pain afterwards.   It helps to work with a physical therapist that works with this population to help ease into a program that will help improve symptoms without too much tiredness or pain. 

What is the best course of action for someone with fibromyalgia?

I see a lot of people with fibromyalgia in my practice.  The people who do the best follow a combination of treatments.  They take medication to help with sleep and pain. In physical therapy they learn relaxation techniques, manage their daily activities in relation to their fatigue levels, and develop a workable gentle exercise program.  Fibromyalgia is a chronic problem and there is no “cure” but the symptoms can be managed to allow for improvement in daily activities and function.


4 SIMPLE STEPS To Cut Your Risk of Heart Attacks, Diabetes, Cancer

What if there was a medication that would cut your risk of getting chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes by 80% without side-effects?  People would line up around the block to get such a thing, even if it was expensive.  Now imagine that there were life changes that could get you the same results for FREE- all without drugs.  Well a study in the Archives of Internal Medicine found four health habits that, when combined, cut people’s risk of serious diseases by up to nearly three-fourths. 

The study followed the health and lifestyles of 23,513 adults ages 35 to 65.  They focused on a handful of key health factors:

  • Never smoked
  • Exercised at least 3.5 hours per week
  • Maintained a Body Mass Index (BMI) under 30
  • Followed a diet high in fruits and vegetables

The study found that people who combined all four of these habits had a78% lower risk of developing chronic diseases such as heart disease, stroke, cancer and heart attack. 

Now, go back and look at that 4 factor list.  These are all things that you can take steps to change or improve! Even if you aren’t perfect, you will improve your health considerably by focusing primarily on these things:

  1.  SMOKING: If you have never smoked- keep it up!  If you are a smoker, take steps to quit.  Check out some resources for quitting here, here, and here.
  2. EXERCISING: If you have never exercised, find something you enjoy and work your way up gradually to at least 3.5 hours per week.  Make sure to check with your health professional before beginning and progress in a manner that is safe for you. You can break this up by doing 30 minutes a day. Walking is one of the easiest ways to get started.  Here is a link to the American Heart Association’s for some tips and ways to keep motivated.
  3. DIET: add fruits and veggies to each meal.  Search the web for interesting recipes, try new things, aim to add at least some green and multicolored veggies each time you eat. Ask your doctor for recommendations.  Here are some ideas for quick and healthy veggie recipes.  Search the web for more- there are oodles of options out there.
  4. BMI:  by exercising and making dietary changes, this may improve by itself.  BMI is calculated by using your height and weight.  There is an online calculator here.

Start making changes now and they will help add up to a long, healthy life.







~Exercise and Other SIMPLE STEPS to Ease IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome)


 "I always get so bloated and gassy after eating." 

"I am afraid to go out to eat anywhere because I never know how my tummy is going to react" 


"I avoid eating out because I may have to make an embarrassing run to the bathroom" 


" I like cheese and bread but it sure doesn't like me!" 


These are common complaints of people who suffer from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). This is a condition that causes tummy discomfort, bloating, and a combination of constipation alternating with diarrhea. April is IBS awareness month and this article will go over some basic information about this condition and some simple steps you can take to combat it.  

Most people with IBS complain of abdominal pain and significant bloating, especially after eating certain foods.  Foods that commonly cause issues are wheat/gluten found in breads and pastas, and the lactose found in milk products. Stress can also be a significant factor in having symptoms.  

Diagnosis can be made by your physician based on your symptoms.  Tests may be done to see if you react to gluten or lactose. They may also need to rule out other conditions by doing a colonoscopy. Once diagnosed, there are medications that can help to slow down or speed up bowel movements as needed.  

There are also a lot of lifestyle changes that can help.  The gut and bowel are greatly affected by stress.   Common causes may be major (divorce, job loss, death in the family) or more minor (late for work, finances, daily hassles).  The gut-brain connection causes changes in the hormones that impact IBS symptoms. Relaxation techniques such as diaphragmatic breathing can do a lot to help calm the nervous system and gut.  There are also special manual therapy and massage techniques that can help calm the belly. 


Reactions to food can be helped by medication and by avoiding those foods that cause issues.  See this article for ways to help determine if certain foods are a part of your problem. There are also some herbal helpers such as peppermint tea that can help soothe an upset belly. 


Physical therapy and exercise can also help IBS symptoms as researchers from Sweden have found in a study published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology. In the study, participants with IBS increased their activity to three to five times a weeks for sessions of 20 to 30 minutes each of moderate to vigorous activity. This included simple activities such as walking or bike riding.  In three months they reported an average 51 point decrease in symptom relief including abdominal pain and overall quality of life.  They had improvement in constipation, cramping, bloating and diarrhea.  Another benefit was that only 8 % of the exercise group had any worsening of symptoms compared to nearly 25% of the group that did not exercise during this time period.  


Physical Therapy can help ease IBS by working with the patient to teach relaxation and breathing techniques, stress management techniques, appropriate exercise, work with pelvic floor issues, and abdominal massage to calm the gut and nervous system. 


~SIMPLE STEP: Stress Relieving App: Relax Melodies

By Abby Newman SPT

As a graduate student I spend much...ok most...ok,ok ALL of my time studying and stressing. I'm certain I'm not the only overstressed, under-rested person alive. Between working, running errands, cooking dinner, packing lunches and playing chauffeur; taking time for yourself to eat right and exercise is limited. Stress can do some nasty things to your body. Stress can cause headaches, muscle tension, chest pain, increase blood pressure, fatigue, upset stomach, sleep problems, anxiety, sadness and eating disorders just to name a few. After 7 years of college studies my body and mind are toast! So in this last year I, along with my mother’s encouragement, set out to find something to help me stay focused, lower stress and feel mentally relaxed.

A lot of my classmates have always listened to music on their iPod or computer while studying. Not for me...I tried it, failed miserably. I found myself singing out loud in the library while getting nasty stares from the students next to me. That was the opposite of focused, maybe relaxed but definitely not focused. I remember being a young child and sitting on the counter while my mom cooked. I would fall asleep to the sound of boiling water. That’s when it hit me. I instantly "Youtubed" runnning water. I found a 10 minute track of "sounds of the amazon". I put my headphones in and boom! I got more work done and felt focused like never before. I was hooked on relaxing tunes!

I began to wonder, what good juju was in such tunes that made me relaxed and able study? Combining some of my studies about deep breathing with the relaxing tunes really seemed to lower my stress level. So I searched for a better source, something that would play relaxing sounds longer than 10 minutes and wouldn’t freeze while my browser was loading.

I downloaded the Relaxing Melodies App for my iPod. First and most important (at least for a college student), it's 100% FREE! It has 46 different sounds including: river water, flutes, birds, ocean and thunderstorm just to name a few. It has a lot of really great features. You can click on as many sounds as you want and it mixes them all together to personalize your own relaxing melody. It has an alarm function so you can set it as your morning alarm or to wake you up if you’re going down for a quick power nap. You can also set up a playlist, choose from one of their pre-made combinations or set it to random shuffle. Also, there is an option to watch a peaceful scene while listening. Overall this App is very easy to use, allows for personalization and endless combinations of melodies which can be used along with deep breathing techniques, Yoga or Tai Chi to relax your body and mind!  Check it out in the itunes app store for the Ipod/Ipad.  or the android version here.