Innovative treatment that restricts blood flow can rapidly build muscle and accelerate recovery from injury in New York City

The best physical therapists have a variety of methods and techniques in their arsenal so they can respond to each unique patient with the most appropriate treatment plan that gives them the strongest chance of recovering. In addition to traditional interventions like manual (hands-on) therapy and stretching and strengthening exercises that often serve as the backbone of most programs, developments in technology and research have opened the door for new ways of delivering treatment to patients. One technique that’s been gaining popularity in recent years is called blood flow restriction training (BFRT), which can produce rapid gains in strength and boost recovery from injury in New York City when integrated into a physical therapy plan.

After suffering an injury or while recovering from a recent surgery, one of the most pressing issues patients face is loss of strength from inactivity. This is often inevitable when pain and disability prevent one from exercising a certain body part, and it’s one of the major obstacles to overcome while working back to full functionality. Building back muscle through targeted strengthening exercises is helpful and typically a necessity of the rehabilitation process, but it can take time, especially after severe injuries.

This is where BFRT comes in. For athletes and patients looking to accelerate their recovery, BFRT alters the flow of blood to specific muscles and takes advantage of the body’s natural response to produce strength gains at lighter weights that are comparable to gains that would normally be obtained with heavier weights. Here’s how it works:

  • After performing careful measurements, the physical therapist will place a specialized elastic belt (or cuff) around the upper portion of either the arm or leg that will be exercised
  • The cuff is inflated to a specific pressure that is individualized for each patient
    • This pressure partially restricts the flow of blood through the veins while allowing blood to flow through arteries normally
  • The patient will then perform a series of strengthening exercises with a resistance band or light weights while the therapist provides guidance

Partially restricting venous blood flow disturbs the homeostasis of the muscles near the location of the cuff because they don’t receive enough blood to contract. This leads to the production of hormones that move throughout the body, and this response will add to the local response in muscles and increase the number of proteins being made. The end result is that doing lots of repetitions with BFRT will strengthen muscles to a similar degree that heavy lifting would produce. The main difference is that the lighter loads don’t stress the muscle and tissue as much as heavy loads, which leads to even more rapid improvements.

Anyone recovering from surgery or injury in New York City can benefit from BFRT

Since BFRT only minimally damages muscles and tissues, it’s ideal for patients of all ages recovering from surgery or injury in New York City. While working with heavy loads can actually slow down rehabilitation, BFRT allows patients to experience similar benefits, but at a rapid rate and without the same risks. BFRT is most commonly used on patients recovering from surgeries of the upper and lower extremities like ACL reconstructions, meniscectomies, hip or knee replacements, and rotator cuff repair, but they are certainly not the only patients that can stand to benefit. BFRT can also be effective for individuals recovering from musculoskeletal injuries like sprains, strains, and fractures, and may be appropriate for some patients with osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and osteoporosis, as well as those recovering from a stroke or spinal cord injury.

If you’re currently recovering from surgery or an injury in New York City, a physical therapy program that includes BFRT at Dynamic Sports Physical Therapy could be right for you. Call us at 212-317-8303 to schedule an appointment today, or click here to learn more about BFRT.

Success stories from Dynamic Sports Physical Therapy in New York City: James can exercise once again, without pain or headaches

James visited Dynamic Sports Physical Therapy in New York City complaining of headaches, neck pain, fatigue, and difficulty concentrating and sleeping. He told his therapist that he started noticing this pain after first discovering that he was going to be a father. Increased stress levels seemed to make James’ symptoms worse, and he reported that the pain and lack of sleep—in particular—had become gradually worse over the past four months.

James’ therapist, Ashli, performed a thorough evaluation and asked him a series of questions to investigate the source of his painful issues. The evaluation revealed that he had reduced range of motion in the cervical (neck) portion of his spine, decreased strength in the neck muscles responsible for flexion, decreased stability of the shoulder blade (scapular) muscles, and increased tension in another set of neck muscles. A biofeedback assessment also showed that James had an increased heart rate and breathing rate. Based on these findings, Ashli determined that James was dealing with migraines and chronic neck pain.

Treatment targets neck strength and range of motion

Before beginning treatment, James stated that his primary goals were to decrease his pain levels, experience fewer headaches, and get back into regular exercise. His treatment program consisted of two sessions per week for six weeks, and its central focus was to improve his cervical range of motion and cervical stability, while also boosting his ability to control physiological responses like heart rate and skin conductance with biofeedback. This was accomplished with pain science education, aerobic exercises, exercises to improve cervical and scapular stabilization, use of a manual (hands-on) therapy technique called cervical distraction with suboccipital release, biofeedback with breathing and relaxation exercises, and positive reinforcement.

James also received two sessions of acupuncture, in which a combination of needles were inserted in various areas of the neck and shoulders. This included stimulating the Shen Men point and vagal nerve in the ears, which was intended to activate the parasympathetic nervous system in order to treat James’ insomnia.

After 12 sessions of physical therapy, James told his therapist that he no longer had any headaches or neck pain, and was able to start sleeping for 6-8 hours. He also reported feeling more control over his physiological responses and has continued practicing progressive muscle relaxation and paced breathing exercises at home. On top of that, James has been able to resume exercising regularly, and takes more time to pursue activities to reduce his stress levels.

James had this to say about his outcome after completing treatment: “My experience at Dynamic Sports was amazing! Ashli was always attentive to my situation, listened, and helped me become more optimistic. She gave me control back in my life. I was hooked when she said, ‘I will help you, help yourself get better.’ It worked.”

See for yourself what’s possible with Dynamic Sports Physical Therapy in New York City

Ashli and the rest of the team here couldn’t be happier to hear the kind words from James and see such a marked improvement after only six weeks of treatment. His story shows what’s possible when a treatment program is based on a detailed examination and carried out with commitment by the patient. If you happen to be dealing with any pain or other restrictive symptoms, we invite you to find out for yourself what can be accomplished with a personally customized exercise plan from us. Contact Dynamic Sports Physical Therapy in New York City at 212-317-8303 to schedule an appointment today, and get started on your path to recovery.

Our New York City physical therapists speak on the benefits of a treatment approach that addresses psychological as well as physical health

Many people tend to think about pain simply as damage to a joint, muscle, or bone that seems isolated from the rest of the body. The only way to treat it, then, is to target the damaged area with exercises and other interventions that are intended to heal it and alleviate the pain. But research has been showing that pain is far more complex than this, and that there are many other factors at play. In particular, it’s been found that our psychological state and perception of pain or injury often have a significant impact on how pain is experienced. This understanding has led to the development of psychologically-informed physical therapy (PIPT), which puts a slightly different spin on the traditional model of care. Below, our New York City physical therapists explain how PIPT works and why it may lead to even better outcomes for you.

The bedrock of physical therapy has always been the use of movement-based strategies that are individualized to each patient and designed to reduce their pain levels and improve functional abilities. PIPT completely retains these core values, but it takes a much broader approach than the traditional methods used to manage pain. In addition to concentrating on the physical issue responsible for a patient’s pain, a major focus of PIPT is to also address the behavioral aspects of pain—which is essentially how each person responds to their pain. This is primarily accomplished by identifying each patient’s individual expectations, beliefs, and feelings, and using them as factors that will help predict their chances of having a successful outcome.

The overall goal of PIPT is to prevent disability in each patient by helping them to better understand the complex nature of their pain, making treatment plans extremely personalized, and stressing adherence to treatment plans in order to improve outcomes and reduce associated costs. It involves a range of specific techniques, some of which are slight variations on traditional physical therapy methods, while others are completely unique to PIPT. Below are five of the fundamental principles of PIPT:

5 fundamental principles of PIPT from our New York City physical therapists

  • Biopsychosocial approach: this means that the physical therapist will be looking at your pain as the result of biological, psychological, and social factors, and they will educate you regarding this concept so you can better understand how things like your mood, perception, and history with pain all contribute to your overall experience
  • Behavioral aspects of pain: this relates to the above principle and focuses exclusively on how your behaviors directly influence your perception of pain; by better understanding this connection and working to change your behaviors, you’ll be able to take more control over pain’s impact on your daily life
  • Strong emphasis on interviewing: the initial interview has always been one of the most important steps of physical therapy, and there’s an even stronger emphasis on it in PIPT; the main difference with traditional physical therapy is that you’ll be asked detailed questions about your mental state and daily interactions—for example—in addition to your physical condition
  • Therapist reinforcement: this is another standard component of all physical therapy programs that receives even more attention in PIPT; your physical therapist will provide you with ongoing support as you follow your treatment plan and as you display signs of improvement, which has been found to yield better outcomes for patients
  • Individual techniques or protocols: in addition to the pain-relieving treatments (like ice, heat, and ultrasound) and movement-based interventions (like various exercises and manual [hands-on] therapy) typically used in physical therapy, other individual techniques like relaxation training, guided imagery, problem solving, and cognitive and behavioral training strategies
    • Another commonly used intervention is biofeedback, which teaches patients how to control certain functions of their involuntary nervous system (like heart rate, temperature, muscle tension, and blood pressure); this is done through a device that measures one of these bodily functions as the patient modifies their response accordingly

PIPT has technically been around for about 30-40 years, but a strong interest in it has been developing over the past decade or so. A growing number of physical therapists are now using PIPT as a part of their approach to care in order to screen and better target treatments for many patients, especially those who are at a high risk for pain-related disability. Research has also shown that it’s effective for a number of common painful conditions, as several studies have found PIPT to be more effective than traditional physical therapy for neck pain, low back pain, knee osteoarthritis, chronic knee pain, and degenerative disc disease.  If you’re interested in learning more about PIPT or are currently dealing with pain of any sort, our New York City physical therapists are happy to assist you. Contact Dynamic Sports Physical Therapy in New York City at 212-317-8303 to schedule an appointment today.

Success stories from Dynamic Sports Physical Therapy in New York City: Charlton bounces back after just eight weeks of treatment to complete an Ironman

Charlton first came in to visit Dynamic Sports Physical Therapy in New York City after experiencing pain in the middle of his knee. He first noticed the pain while on a training run about eight weeks before his first Ironman Triathlon in Cambridge, MD, and said that he had never dealt with any knee issues up to that point.

To determine what was causing these symptoms, Charlton’s therapist put him through an SFMA screen, a diagnostic system that assesses movement to pinpoint the problem. Results showed that Charlton had dysfunctional movement patterns in his ability to touch his toes (multisegmental flexion) and rotate to the right and left (multisegmental rotation). He also demonstrated a reduced ability to stretch his hamstring and calf muscles, decreased stability of his core, and reduced hip strength. Based on this assessment, the most likely source of his knee pain was found to be patellofemoral irritation due to valgus collapse in his running form. This essentially means that the lack of hip strength and core stability resulted in poor alignment of his hip and ankle, which led to irritation of the knee.

Overcoming a tight timeline for treatment

The main challenge in prescribing Charlton’s physical therapy was the proximity of his race and the need to balance strength training with training volume. His treatment plan consisted of a manual (hands-on) therapy technique called soft-tissue mobilization combined with the Active Release Technique, which was applied to his calves, iliotibial band in the knee, hamstrings, and other thigh muscles called the adductors and tensor fascia lata. The strength program focused on achieving optimal alignment of his lower extremity while squatting and running. A variety of exercises were also utilized to increase the strength of various muscles that supported his hip and core muscles.

Even with the short timeline, Charlton was able to complete his treatment and finished the Ironman Maryland in a time of 10:40:17, which put him in 108th place overall, 99th in his gender, and 16th in his age group. He had this to say about his experience at Dynamic Sports Physical Therapy: “I felt supported and confident going into the race making sure the sharp pains were not a season-ending injury. My experience with everyone at Dynamic Sports was hassle-free and the team made me feel welcome and ultimately excited going into the race!”

Experience similar results at Dynamic Sports Physical Therapy in New York City

His case highlights the importance not only of a proper evaluation—as his knee pain was due to hip weakness and core stability issues—but also how strength training can create an environment that can tolerate load. As noted earlier, the challenging part of Charlton’s rehab was that his race was only a few weeks away when he first came in to see us. Proper strength gained during the offseason would have helped to create normal alignment, which helps the body disperse force optimally as the miles of training needed for an Ironman gradually add up. If your training regimen has been thrown off by injury or you’re dealing with any other new pain, we can create a treatment program that works, regardless of your schedule. Contact Dynamic Sports Physical Therapy in New York City at 212-317-8303 to schedule an appointment today.

The Importance of Strength Training for Triathletes

We are nearing the end of the offseason…Have you been hitting the gym?

Strength training is an essential part of a successful triathlon training program.  It helps to improve muscular endurance and power output, it prepares the body for the demands of training and racing, and it helps to prevent injury.

An athlete with well-balanced strength will have the ability to efficiently transfer power from his or her body into each swim stroke, pedal stroke, and run stride.  Conversely, an athlete with insufficient strength can experience power leaks from poor postural control that reduce the amount of force he or she is able to produce.

Postural strength is also very important for injury prevention.  As your workouts get harder, you need the proper support from your muscles to maintain good biking, running and swimming form.  When form fails, we are susceptible to injury.  We all know (should know!) we need good core strength to create a stable base for all the activities we do.

It is especially important to work on the lateral and rotational musculature of the hips and core. These muscles are what help you to move side to side and make cutting motions, and most importantly for running and biking, they also help prevent any unwanted side-to-side or twisting motions of the pelvis, trunk, or legs.  When these muscles are strong, you will be less prone to injury and also more efficient.  Running and biking is a straight-forward motion, so in these sports you are predominantly working the muscles in the front and back of the hips and legs.  Therefore, a strength program that includes strengthening the lateral muscles to improve your stability is very important.

Break your training into phases

Just like running and triathlon training, strength training should be periodized throughout the year.  It starts with the general strengthening/preparation phase, which lines up with the offseason and build phase of triathlon training. This is when you work on increasing your overall base strength.  The offseason, in particular, is also when you get to take a break from focusing extensively on swimming, biking, and running.  So hitting the weights is a nice change of pace!  You can go a little harder with the resistance in this phase because you don’t have to worry about fatigue or soreness for your next run, bike, or swim workout.  Heavy-resistance training in particular has been shown to enhance both short and long duration endurance capacity in high-level endurance athletes as well as well-trained recreational athletes.  Therefore, it can be helpful for races ranging from sprints and 5Ks to marathons and full-distance triathlons.  In addition, the stronger you are, the better you will be able to handle increases in workout intensity and duration as the season progresses.

After the offseason and build phases, you enter the pre-racing phase.  Here your strength training becomes more sport-specific and more focused on explosive movements in order to build power.  You are using the strength gained in the previous phase to build power and speed.  Plyometrics are also added at this point.

Once in the competitive phase, the idea is to maintain strength through the rest of the season.  Resistance and overall volume of strength exercises is reduced, as you focus more on training for your races.

When the season is over, take some time off to rest and recover.  This is important!  During this time, strength training at low loads can be kept up a couple times a week so that you don’t lose too much fitness before the next cycle starts.

If you are new to strength training and unsure of proper technique, sign up for a session with a coach or physical therapist to help guide you.  Even if you are experienced with strength training, it is beneficial to have a functional assessment, so you can focus your strength sessions specifically on your needs.  In most states you can see a physical therapist without a doctor’s prescription, so it’s easy to get evaluated and learn what you need to work on to ensure an injury-free and successful season!

Our New York City physical therapists speak on the unmistakable importance of properly recovering after each workout

For some fitness enthusiasts, a workout is not complete until they “feel the burn.”  This usually means pushing oneself past the point of comfort and into a realm where the “good sort of pain” dominates. Taking this approach to exercise—when done safely, of course—can and will lead to significant benefits, as the body does need to be brought to a certain level to see gains. But after every workout, especially intense ones, it’s also essential to adequately recover so the improvements last and injury is avoided. Our New York City physical therapists know a thing or two about exercise recovery, and would like to teach you how to recoup better so you can train better.

All workouts stress the body to a certain extent, and the harder you work it, the greater the level of stress. The soreness that develops during or immediately after working out is the result of microscopic damage to muscle fibers that is completely normal and actually quite necessary for building muscle and initiating other physical improvements. Your body’s immune system responds to this damage by repairing it, and after repaired, your muscles and other tissues—like bones—become fit than they were originally.

This process of stress and recovery is what eventually leads to improvements in your overall health and fitness, but you need to give your body enough time to complete the necessary steps first. If you overstrain yourself before taking enough time to recoup, it can lead to several potential issues. The most common of these is developing an overuse injury—like runner’s knee, Achilles tendinitis, shin splints, and tennis elbow—which occur over time from not adequately recovering. Insufficient recovery has also been found to contribute to poor immune function, brain- and hormone-related changes, and depression.

The three keys to proper recovery from our New York City physical therapists

If you’re looking to train more effectively while avoiding any possible pitfalls from overdoing it, you need to focus on your recovery after each workout.  There are many important aspects of a proper recovery, but our New York City physical therapist believe that there are three core components that all should focus on:

  • 1) Rest: one of the best ways to recover after working out is to simply allow your body to work its magic and heal any damage sustained from exercise; the main ingredient needed for this is time
    • How much rest your body requires depends on several factors, including your fitness level, the intensity of the exercise, and how your body responds
    • In general, try to give yourself a minimum of 24-48 hours rest before training the same muscle group again, but listen to your body and don’t push through any lingering soreness
  • 2) Nutrition: eating right after working out is another fundamental aspect of recovery, as proper nutrition will give your body the building blocks needed to repair muscles and promote recovery
    • Try to eat something within 60 minutes of your workout
    • Focus on eating primarily whole foods that are rich in antioxidants, as well as whole carbohydrates and lean proteins
  • 3) Sleep: the recovery process continues into the nighttime as your body produces growth hormones that are largely responsible for tissue growth and repair; this is why you should never short on sleep after working out
    • Always aim to get the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep on days that you work out
    • If you struggle to get enough sleep, going to bed and waking up at the same time is one of the many tips that can improve your sleep schedule

Another tool that can facilitate the recovery process is a device called the NormaTec. These recovery systems all use the same technology and are considered a clinically proven method for increasing circulation, reducing soreness, and maximizing performance. The NormaTec is worn like a sleeve on the body parts that have been pushed the hardest during exercise, and employ three key techniques to speed up recovery:

  • Pulsing: the device mimics the muscle pumps in the body by providing dynamic compression—or pulsing—that is constantly moving; this is meant to enhance the movement of fluids out of limbs after workouts
  • Gradients: this is another feature that mimics the body, as it prevents fluids in veins and lymphatic vessels from moving in the wrong direction (just as these structures do with one-way valves) in order to promote healing
  • Distal release: after pressure is applied to a particular “zone” of the body part, it is released and then applied to the next region to prevent backflow of fluids; this allows each portion of the body part to gain the maximum amount of rest time without too much of a pause between cycles

Dynamic Sports Physical Therapy is proud to announce that we will be adding a NormaTec Pulse Pro 2.0 + Leg Attachment to our clinic in mid-March. We are excited to give our patients access to this incredible device and assist with their recovery so that they can bounce back faster and continue performing at an optimal level. If you’re interested in learning more about how to recover properly or are dealing with any pain that won’t dissipate, our New York City physical therapists are happy to help. Contact us at 212-317-8303 to schedule an appointment today, or click here for more information on exercise recovery.

Brrrr…the benefits of ice bathing

January 1st is unofficially recognized as Polar Bear Plunge Day.  It’s the day when thousands of brave souls worldwide strip down to their bathing suits despite winter temperatures and throw themselves (or tiptoe) into icy cold water.  These people seem nutty, but perhaps they are onto something?

Applying ice is one of the most widely accepted methods for reducing pain and swelling in an injured area.  But what about cold therapy for post-race or workout recovery?  Professional athletes have long used ice baths, and most training rooms are equipped with tubs for cold water immersion, but the trend has more recently spread to recreational sports as well.  With this growth in popularity, it’s important to explore how ice therapy works for both specific injuries and the entire body, and whether it’s right for you.

Why dunk yourself in cold water after an intense workout?

Also known as cold water immersion, ice baths are a form of cryotherapy in which an athlete sits in chilled water after significant physical exertion for a specific period.  Ice bath immersion is believed to accomplish the following:

  • Facilitate recovery
  • Decrease soreness
  • Reduce the risk of injury by speeding recovery and allowing you to be better prepared for the next workout, which can be of higher quality

Many studies have investigated the benefits of ice baths after athletic performance, and although the findings are inconclusive, research has confirmed that it can bring about the benefits listed above.  In addition, many athletes swear by ice bath immersion and have experienced significant gains in recovery and performance after using them.  Athletic trainers can attest to this as well.

What does icing do to the body?

After a very intense or long workout, or after a race—which is essentially the most intense workout—the body has just experienced a state of elevated body temperature, high cardiovascular demand, and muscular stress.  Inflammation from muscular stress triggers an immune response, which causes blood vessels to dilate and sends an influx of immune cells to the areas of stress.  This process is helpful because it repairs the injured tissue, but too much of a good thing can lead to some negative repercussions.  In this case, the result of all this inflammation is swelling and pain.

For an injury to a specific area of the body, applying an ice pack will cause blood vessels in the region to constrict (become smaller), which reduces swelling, and less swelling results in less pain.  Cold also slows down the speed at which nerves send messages, which is another way in which pain is reduced.

Immersing the body in cold water is a more efficient way of cooling down multiple groups of muscles at the same time.  Just like an ice pack, it reduces swelling and muscle damage from exercise by constricting blood vessels and decreasing metabolic activity.  It also reduces strain on the cardiovascular system and brings down hyperthermia (elevated body temperature), which can reduce fatigue.  For both local icing and ice bath immersion, another beneficial part of the process comes after the cold stimulus has been removed.  During this warming period, there is a return of fresh blood to the body, which floods the cells with nutrients and oxygen, and helps to flush out the waste products of tissue breakdown.

How to ice

If you’re thinking about using ice after an injury or workout, here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Local injury
    • Apply a cold pack (or a bag of peas works!) to the injured area, immediately after the injury
    • Be sure to place a thin cloth between your and the icepack (a pillowcase works well) to prevent frostbite
    • Keep the pack on for 10-15 minutes
    • This can be performed a few times a day as pain and swelling persists
  • Ice bath
    • Most studies suggest immersing one’s body up to the hips at a temperature of 50-60° for 10-15 minutes
    • Make sure there is someone nearby for your safety and in case you have trouble lifting yourself out of the bath due to numbness or fatigue
    • Be sure to fully warm up about 30-60 minutes later with a warm shower or hot drink since the cold can make muscles tense and stiff

One important reminder is that you should never ice a body part or take an ice bath before running, racing, or any other workouts.  The body needs to be warm before these activities, and ice can also decrease strength and delay the body’s reaction time.

Ice baths should be reserved only for after the hardest training sessions or races, or if you will be performing again soon afterwards (like back-to-back races).  It is most beneficial for short-term recovery between events or hard workouts, and research suggests that it can hinder long-term adaptations.  This is why ice baths should be avoided during a building phase of training.  Research has also shown that icing after strength training can actually slow down the growth of new muscle, so if the goal of your workout is to build strength, it may not be the best choice for you.

Remember that after a tough workout or race, it’s also important to rest, rehydrate, and replenish your body with healthy food to help you recover as quickly as possible.

If you’re interested in learning more about cold therapy in any form, or if you’re dealing with some lingering pain that hasn’t improved despite the use of ice, we can help.  Contact Dynamic Sports Physical Therapy in New York City at 212-317-8303 to schedule an appointment today, or click here for more information on ice baths.

Find relief for your headaches in New York City with biofeedback that teaches your body how to change

Headaches are often a challenging problem to treat.  This is primarily due to the many possible causes responsible for headaches and the various types identified, as well as the fact that all patients respond to treatments differently.  Medications typically serve as the most common intervention used to manage headaches, but they are far from the only choice available.  Physical therapy is an alternative approach to treating headaches that many studies have shown to be effective, especially when it involves a technique called biofeedback.  We now offer biofeedback therapy here at Dynamic Sports Physical Therapy, which allows us to provide superior relief for your headaches in New York City.

More than 150 different types of headaches have been classified, but they can all be generally categorized as either primary or secondary.  A primary headache simply means the headache itself is the disorder, while secondary headaches result from other conditions like stroke, infection, or head injury.  The most common type overall is called tension headache, which affect more than one-third of men and more than one half of women.  Patients with tension headaches usually experience a dull, aching pain and tightness across the forehead and around the head that some describe as wearing a headband that’s too tight.  Some tension headaches are hard to tell apart from migraines, the second most common type.

Migraines affect up to one in seven adults and are about three times more common in women than in men.  They are usually described as a throbbing, pounding pain that can last from hours to several days, sometimes multiple times each month.  A unique sign of migraine is that many patients experience other symptoms, such as sensitivity to light, noise, or smells, nausea or vomiting, loss of appetite, or upset stomach.

What physical therapy and biofeedback can do for headaches in New York City

Physical therapy is commonly regarded as an effective treatment for headaches that can be used either instead of or in addition to medications.  This applies to all types of headaches, but particularly tension headaches and migraines, as numerous studies have found physical therapy to be beneficial for patients with these conditions.  Physical therapists may utilize a variety of possible treatments and techniques for headache patients, including education, manual therapy, stretching and strengthening exercises, posture correction, or biofeedback.

Biological feedback—or biofeedback—teaches individuals to control certain functions of their involuntary nervous system, including heart rate, skin temperature, muscle tension, and blood pressure.  It does this by using an instrument that measures one of these bodily responses as the patient tries to modify that very response.  For example, increased muscle tension and changes in body temperature are two of the body’s responses to stress that can lead to headaches.  Therefore, by providing a patient with instant information on these involuntary processes, they can observe their body’s response to stress and make changes to reduce it.  After using the device successfully and learning how to make the right changes, patients can use the technique any time to prevent headaches from occurring or even stop them in their tracks.

The first step of our process is identifying what type of headache each patient has through a detailed evaluation, and then selecting the appropriate method of biofeedback based on this diagnosis.  Patients with migraines often respond to skin temperature biofeedback, while those with tension and other types of headaches may respond to a combination of skin temperature and electromyogram (EMG) biofeedback.  Here’s how these types of biofeedback will help address your headaches in New York City:

  • Skin temperature biofeedback
    • This type of biofeedback is based on the concept that the hands tend to get cold and clammy when under stress, but warmer when the body is relaxed due to more blood flowing to the area
    • In this technique, a patient will attach a temperature reader to their index finger for an extended period and monitor how the skin temperature of their hand changes
    • The goal for patients is to increase the temperature of the hands, since that will increase blood flow to the area and away from the head, which will lower stress levels and the incidence of headaches
  • EMG biofeedback
    • This type of biofeedback is based on how certain muscles in the head, jaw, and neck respond to stress by becoming more tense
    • In this technique, three sensors are placed on one of these muscles to record the body’s response, and as tension increases, the EMG will become louder (and vice versa)
    • The goal for patients is to monitor these changes and learn what lowers tension in these muscles, and then practice this on a regular basis to reduce stress levels and headache frequency

If you’re dealing with regular headaches in New York City and are interested in seeing how you respond to biofeedback and other physical therapy techniques, we’d like to help.  Contact Dynamic Sports Physical Therapy at 212-317-8303 to schedule an appointment today, or click here for more information on biofeedback for headaches.

Success stories from Dynamic Sports Physical Therapy in New York City: Maria notices significant improvements with her hip issues after eight therapy sessions

Maria is a preschool teacher who came in to Dynamic Sports Physical Therapy in New York City after she had been experiencing issues with her right hip.  Her primary complaint was stiffness, pain, and weakness in the hip, and these symptoms were interfering with many of her abilities.  In particular, Maria found it difficult to walk, stand, exercise, sit on the floor with students, squat down, and sleep because of these problems. 

After performing a complete evaluation, Maria’s therapist found that she had decreased strength in the muscles of her buttocks (gluteal muscles), decreased stability in her lower back and hip region, decreased hip range of motion, and muscle tightness in the muscles responsible for rotating and moving her hips outwards.  Based on this assessment, Maria was diagnosed with right hip pain and a condition called trochanteric bursitis, which is the inflammation of a fluid-filled sac in the hip. Maria also reported that she has had juvenile rheumatoid arthritis since the age of 7, and based on her X-rays, it was determined that the goal of her treatment would not be to increase her hip range of motion. Instead, the goal was stabilization in the appropriate range. This was based on the fact that Maria was also diagnosed with trochanteric bursitis three years ago, and was successful with physical therapy at that time.

Before beginning treatment, Maria stated that her personal goals were to reduce her pain levels, increase her strength, and improve her mobility and tolerance to walking. She also wanted to be better prepared for work tasks at school, particularly in her ability to sit and stand.

Maria’s treatment program from Dynamic Sports Physical Therapy in New York City

The first part of Maria’s treatment plan involved therapist-led education on her diagnosis and the importance of continuously strengthening her hips and core muscles, as well as staying active, even when she’s not in pain. From there, hands-on treatments included Active-Release Techniques, the Graston Technique, and stretching exercises for the quadriceps and hamstring muscles of her right thigh.  The program also focused on strengthening exercises that Maria was to perform while her arthritis symptoms were flaring up.  As her strength increased, Maria was soon instructed to perform an advanced home-exercise program to maintain the improvements she was making within the clinic. Eventually, the focus of her treatment shifted to single-leg stabilization exercises.

Each of Maria’s sessions would include one or a combination of the following techniques:

  • Joint manipulation and lateral distraction
  • Soft-tissue massage
  • Taping to improve posture
  • Cupping and the Graston Technique
  • Postural restoration and integration techniques
  • Stretching and strengthening exercises of the hips, quadriceps, and hamstrings
  • Exercises to improve the flexibility and stability of the core muscles

After eight sessions of physical therapy, Maria started noticing much less pain in her hips, and she was able to tolerate walking and standing for longer periods of time.  Her gluteal strength increased, and she quickly started to tolerate single leg movements. Eventually, Maria was able to return to her normal exercise routine and felt more confident with her hip movements.  Maria had this to say about her experience with us: “Physical therapy has really helped me get back to my daily routines and even push myself further!  The exercises and helpful tips from my physical therapist, Ashli, are what helped me increase my daily exercise while decreasing the pain and discomfort.  Thanks Ashli!”

We couldn’t be more pleased with Maria’s outcome, and are thrilled that she had such positive things to say about her treatment.  If you’re experiencing any pain or movement-related issues of your own, we invite you to come in and see us for a consultation that will serve as your first step towards improvement.  Contact Dynamic Sports Physical Therapy in New York City at 212-317-8303 to schedule an appointment today, or click here to read our last blog for more information on juvenile arthritis.

Children can get arthritis, too, but our New York City physical therapists can provide an effective solution through education and activity

When you hear the term “arthritis,” the first image that comes to mind might be a frail elderly person who has trouble opening up a jar of pickles or tying their shoes.  It may surprise you, then, to hear that arthritis can affect children and adolescents, too. Arthritis that affects these younger populations is referred to as juvenile arthritis, and although it’s not nearly as common as rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis, it can still be a major barrier to a normal life for the many individuals with the condition.  Fortunately, our New York City physical therapists can provide an active treatment program for these patients that focuses on movement to alleviate symptoms.

The immune system develops rapidly throughout childhood and is not fully formed until about age 18.  This state of development in the immune system is one of the main factors that leaves children and adolescents vulnerable to juvenile arthritis.  As an autoimmune disease, juvenile arthritis causes the body’s normal defense system to attack itself, which compromises a child’s ability to fight normal diseases and leaves them open to further complications.  Nearly 300,000 children have some form of juvenile arthritis, many of whom are impaired in their abilities to function normally in everyday life.

Juvenile arthritis is actually an umbrella term used to describe the many autoimmune and inflammatory conditions that can develop in these younger populations.  It can appear in children as young as six months old and as late as 18 years old, and though each type of juvenile arthritis has its own unique features, most involve some degree of joint pain, swelling, redness, and warmth that doesn’t go away over time.

Some forms of juvenile arthritis affect the musculoskeletal system, but oddly, joint symptoms may be minor or nonexistent.  It can also affect the eyes, skin, muscles, and gastrointestinal tract.  The most common form is called juvenile idiopathic arthritis, often referred to as juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (JRA).  JRA affects about 50,000 children in the U.S. and is the result of the immune system mistakenly attacking the body’s tissues, which causes inflammation and an array of painful symptoms.

When children show signs of juvenile arthritis, some parents assume the swollen joints and fever may just be the flu, or that a rash is from an allergic reaction.  It’s for this reason that parents should be vigilant and know the possible indications of juvenile arthritis when these symptoms continue longer than expected.

How our New York City physical therapists can manage juvenile arthritis

There is currently no cure for juvenile arthritis, so the condition is instead managed by helping patients control their pain, reduce inflammation, and maintain mobility.  Many children with juvenile arthritis lose muscle mass and flexibility during a flare-up, which is a period in which symptoms get significantly worse.  These patients are often unable to regain these losses in between flare-ups, and their physical abilities tend to gradually decline over time as a result.  It’s for this reason that physical therapy is often recommended as one of the best solutions for these patients since it aims to improve joint flexibility, muscle strength, and overall fitness levels.  A treatment program for children with juvenile arthritis from our New York City physical therapists will typically consist of the following:

  • Stretching exercises to help patients regain flexibility that has been lost
  • Strengthening exercises to build back strength deficits, particularly high-repetition, low-weight resistance exercises that target weak muscles
  • Education and guidance on how to stay physically active and what types of activities are best
  • Pain-relieving modalities like ultrasound, ice, and heat therapy
  • In some cases, a physical therapist will also recommend an assistive device like a splint to help keep joints properly aligned and stretch them

Juvenile arthritis is a bothersome condition for younger patients that must be acknowledged and managed accordingly, and we strongly believe that physical therapy is the best way to accomplish this.  If your child is displaying symptoms that might suggest juvenile arthritis, our New York City physical therapists recommend that you come in for an evaluation to determine if the condition is present.  Call Dynamic Sports Physical Therapy at 212-317-8303 to schedule an appointment today, or click here for more information on juvenile arthritis.