Category Archives: Recovery & Rehabilitation

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Feeling Hot, Feeling Cold, Feeling Better?

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If you’ve been in physical therapy before, you may remember your physical therapist using hot or cold on the affected area. But why? And how do heat and cold help with injury repair and recovery?

 

Hot Stuff

The practice of using warmer temperatures to aid healing is called vasodilation. Heat draws blood to an area, increasing oxygen and nutrient availability while more swiftly carrying away waste.21291155_l Heat also relaxes tense muscles, reduces muscle spasms, and prepares those muscles, tendons, ligaments, and joints for exercise and stretching.

 

There are many ways heat therapy can be applied. Dry or moist heat sources include: heating pads, compresses, paraffin, hydrotherapy/whirlpool (where the affected area is immersed in water), and chemical/gel packs. It’s important not to leave any heat therapy in place too long (no more than 20 minutes) or to use too hot a heat source, as burns or other damage could occur. Heat therapy should feel warm and may dull aches and pains, but never apply anything hot to the point of discomfort.

 

Cold as Ice

Actually, applying ice directly to the skin is a terrible idea. But cold therapy, or cryotherapy, can be incredibly helpful by producing vasoconstriction, which slows circulation. By slowing circulation, the body is encouraged to decrease swelling in a muscle or joint, or prevent swelling after an exercise.

 

Cold therapy is usually applied with commercial cold packs, ice cubes (though never directly against the skin), iced towels/compresses, and forms of hydrotherapy/whirlpool. Like heat therapy, cold therapies should be applied for a limited amount of time, no longer than 15 minutes, to prevent pain or damage. As cold is applied, you may feel cold, then a hot sensation, then an ache, and finally numbness.

 

For Professional Use Only

When used properly, heat therapy and cryotherapy can be an invaluable part of managing your discomfort during physical therapy and speeding your recovery. It is important to have your hot and cold therapies administered by a physical therapist in order to make sure you get the correct treatment and duration, as well as to maintain your safety. Request an appointment today to start using hot and cold therapies!


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Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD): More Than Just the Winter Blues–How PT Can Help

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While it is common to experience the “winter blues” as the days get shorter and temperatures get colder, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a form of clinical depression that interferes with an individual’s ability to regulate mood and function during the winter months. SAD is due, at least in part, to changes in levels of serotonin, a mood-regulating neurotransmitter. As we spend less time in the sun during the winter months, levels of serotonin in the body can decrease. Decreased sunlight and longer periods of darkness can also affect sleep by throwing off your body’s internal clock and decreasing levels of melatonin, a sleep-regulating neurotransmitter.

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SAD is diagnosed more commonly in women and individuals who live far from the equator. It is also more common in individuals with a personal or family history of depression or bipolar

disorder. A qualified psychiatric specialist must diagnose SAD. Symptoms of SAD include the following:

  • Marked decrease in energy
  • Loss of interest in activities that previously brought you pleasure
  • Excessive sleep
  • Weight gain and craving for high-carbohydrate foods
  • Depressed mood
  • Heightened feelings of emotional sensitivity, interpersonal difficulties, and irritability

 

If you experience several of these symptoms simultaneously in the wintertime, consult a psychiatrist or other mental health professional to determine whether you are suffering from SAD.

 

In addition to proper psychiatric care, physical therapy can have a beneficial impact for individuals with SAD. Exercise has been shown to have tremendous positive effects for individuals with SAD and other mood disorders. Exercise increases mood- and sleep- promoting neurotransmitters and can help to regulate chemical imbalances that result from changes in circadian rhythms and light exposure.

 

A physical therapist can assist in developing an exercise program that will improve an individual’s neurotransmitter production, thus alleviating symptoms of SAD. Physical therapy should always be used in conjunction with psychiatric care for individuals with SAD or any other mental health condition.

 

If you have been diagnosed with SAD and would like to learn more about how exercise and physical therapy can improve your condition, request an appointment with Freehold Physical Therapy today.


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Improve Treatment Outcomes with Massage Therapy

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Massage is often viewed as a luxury treatment, an opportunity to relax and unwind after a long day or while at the spa on vacation. However, massage therapy is an effective intervention in the prevention and treatment of a variety of conditions, including arthritis, fibromyalgia, chronic pain, depression, and anxiety. More and more, massage is being incorporated as a part of standard treatment protocols as an adjunct to physical therapy and other interventions.

 

Some of the health benefits of massage therapy include:

  • Stress reduction
  • Relief from pain and muscle tension
  • Positive feelings of comfort and connection
  • Improved energy

 

Typically, your massage therapist will take your medical history and get an understanding of your current health and what you are hoping to get from the massage. Based on this information, he or she will determine which massage technique is most appropriate for you. The following are common massage therapy treatments.15482404_l

 

  • Swedish Massage. This gentle form of massage involves long strokes and kneading and commonly employs oils and lotions as a part of the treatment. Swedish Massage is recommended for relieving muscle tension, improving range of motion, alleviating stress, and stimulating energy.
  • Deep Tissue Massage. Recommended in the treatment of muscle damage from injuries, deep tissue massage uses deeper, more forceful strokes, which have a greater impact on the muscles and connective tissues.
  • Trigger Point Massage. When cramps develop in localized sections of muscle fibers due to strain on the muscle, injury, or prolonged muscle contractions, trigger point massage therapy can be used to target and relieve these sources of discomfort.

 

Massage therapy is also commonly used before or after physical therapy in order to loosen the muscles and prepare the body for treatment. To learn more about the role of massage therapy in your treatment program, request an appointment with Freehold Physical Therapy today.


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Three Mobile Apps To Make Physical Therapy Easier

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Physical therapists can pack a lot into a session–enough that remembering just how, or what, or how many reps of an exercise to do can be tricky (especially if you’re on certain medications as part of your treatment plan). If, like so many of us, the app store is a go-to source for solutions, you may be disappointed. The FDA and legal teams alike must carefully scrutinize apps designed for patients dealing with medical treatment before launching in the American market. On one hand, this means apps are more secure and well researched; on the other, there just aren’t many options–and the legalese employed to make sure patients don’t “go rogue” and use these apps without any professional guidance can make it hard to understand what an app even offers.

That said, there are definitely some gems out there, which can, when used appropriately, potentially help you get more from your physical therapy program. Here are our picks.

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Rehab Minder

Free (but lots of in-app purchases)

http://www.rehabminder.com/

Rehab Minder is a collaborative tool you can use with your PT. The app comes programed with a variety of injury types, and a long list of potentially helpful exercises commonly prescribed to people recovering from these injuries. Your PT can guide you through which exercises you should do at home. When you do each exercise, you simply go to it on the list, set a time, and write notes before and after each set. Then, your PT can review the notes for more accurate insight into how your at-home program is working for you.

pzizz

Free

http://pzizz.com/

PT exercises won’t work well if you are running on too little sleep. Your body needs time to recover and rebuild. There are a variety of decent sleep apps out there, many of which focus on sleep tracking or “smart alarm” systems–which are fantastic, but can sometimes fail to address issues with falling asleep at all. We like pzizz because it focuses on helping users actually get the kind of deep, restful sleep they need. The app provides customized soothing sounds, and voice instructions to help guide users to sleep. The audio element is backed by solid research making it a very effective tool for anyone who knows how much sleep they need but struggles to conk out early enough.

Happier

https://www.happier.com/

Free

Recovering from an injury or surgery can be as difficult emotionally and psychologically as it is physically. Happier is basically a social media site where users can only share positivity. It’s cheesy, sure, but scrolling through it offers a great reminder of how much there is to be excited about. You can add in your contacts, or just scroll through featured posts for a big dose of cheer.

In need of some PT? Request an appointment here!


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woman recovered from sciatica

Recovering From Sciatica

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Sciatica describes a pain that shoots down the lower back through one or both legs, following the path of the sciatic nerve. Anyone who has had the misfortune of suffering sciatica can tell you: it’s not something one wants to experience twice. Unfortunately, without making some lifestyle changes, sciatica may very well return.

Relaxed business man stretching his arms

Why It Happens–And Can Happen Again

There are a number of lifestyle and physiological risk factors that contribute to sciatica. Some of these, like age or being diabetic, aren’t things a patient can control. Quite a few, however, are things a patient may be able to change. These include weight (obesity is a big risk factor), prolonged sitting, and occupational behaviors (i.e. if your job involves a lot of heavy lifting). Addressing these factors will help reduce the risk of experiencing sciatica again.

Initial Treatment Options

Patients experiencing the first signs of sciatica should seek medical attention ASAP. Sciatica is the result of something pinching the sciatic nerve. A physician or specialist will attempt to first diagnose the source of this pressure. Usually, it’s a herniated disk or bone spur (a growth on the vertebrae), but it can be the result of diabetes or other disease related complications, or even a tumor on the spine.

Regardless of the cause, the first step in treatment is to address the symptoms, specifically the debilitating pain–usually through medication. Narcotics can be a short-term solution to provide the patient with some relief and allow them to perform basic daily functions. Anti-inflammatories are often used to relieve swelling, muscle relaxants and even anti-seizure medications to reduce painful contractions, and even certain antidepressants may be helpful.

In the majority of cases of sciatica, this symptom-treatment strategy coupled with bed rest can be enough to get patients through the few weeks the pain is usually most intense; after, the condition, in many cases, resolves itself.

Physical Therapy To Prevent Recurrence

A physical therapist can help patients make the lifestyle and fitness changes that will reduce the risk of a recurrence. Generally, physical therapy works best after the initial episode is over–the combination of the need for adequate rest, pain, and medications make it difficult to have a quality session before.

One of the most direct ways a PT can help is by leading the patient in exercises to build a better support for their spine. It’s important to work with a medically trained professional on these exercises to avoid poor posture, which can exacerbate pain in an already stressed spine. They can also help develop a home exercise program that will make it easier to incorporate fitness into a patient’s day-to-day routine. This includes ways to aid in weight loss, if extra pounds may be a contributing factor. Finally, a PT can discuss occupation duties and how to perform them more safely.

If you’ve recently dealt with sciatica, we encourage you to contact us. Our team of NJ physical therapy experts would be happy to help you reduce your risk while also improving your overall health.


Sprains, strains, fractures, oh my! Pain and impaired mobility are serious business, but there is hope. At Advanced Physical Therapy of Freehold, our professional therapists collaborate with physicians to provide care that alleviates pain, restores function, and gets you back in the game faster. We encourage you to learn more about our team — and what we do best.