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Heat or Ice – Is one better than the other?

7/28/17 7:06 AM


A very common question that patients ask during their physical therapy treatment is whether they should use heat or ice for pain relief.  The main consideration before deciding which to use, is determining whether or not inflammation is present in the painful area.


What is inflammation?

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Written by Lauris Rigdon, PT.

Topics: pain


8/26/16 2:23 PM

Cervical pain is a common musculoskeletal complaint, with greater than 50% of the population experiencing cervical pain at some point in their lives. During a given year time span 30-50% of people are currently living with cervical pain. Cervical pain is a common reason for one to seek care with physical therapy. It is prudent to determine the most effective treatment approach based on the symptoms and examination findings for that patient presents with.  Manual therapy directed at both the cervical and thoracic spine has been shown to be an extremely effective approach for people with cervical pain.

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Topics: pain, tips, shoulder pain, NECK PAIN


8/5/16 3:55 PM
We get this question a lot...Do massage therapy and physical therapy work together? How? There are a lot of reasons why the two can compliment each other, especially with certain injuries or cases. 

There are many benefits to massage, both the type of manual massage performed by a Physical Therapist, and also by a massage therapist, to include:
  • Analgesic effects
  • Increased circulation
  • Improved range of motion
  • Decreased Trigger Point activity and Muscle hypertonicity
  • Increased overall well being

Physical Therapists, Physical Therapy Assistants, and Licensed Massage Therapists all have training in various massage techniques to enhance the desired outcome of your treatment and your Physical Therapy experience. 
  • Alleviate pain and discomfort.   It might not sound pleasant, but before, during or after a good Physical Therapy session, you may experience some muscle soreness and pain. Massage therapy added into your treatment can help alleviate some of that discomfort. Not convinced? The term PhysioTherapy was even used back during the Civil War Era. With so many wounded soldiers, there was almost always a shortage of morphine. Massage was used as a substitute to aid in pain management - some of those manual techniques are still used today in Physical Therapy.

  • Give your body a boost toward recovery & healing itself.    Massage can increase blood flow to the affected, or sore area. Improved circulation helps to facilitate the recovery and healing process of the body. It can also help reduce DOMS, or Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness. Endorphines are also released with massage.

  • Help to gain Range of Motion.  In applying manual massage to an area of the body, soft tissue, deep tissue and many other massage therapy techniques introduce a stimulus to the affected areas. This causes a sedating or stimulating effect depending on the desired outcome. The therapist can feel where there is tension & trigger point activity, and the patient is also able to give feedback. With those same pain management & sedating effects also comes more ease of range of motion.
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Topics: hip pain, pain, tips, back pain, MASSAGE, SORENESS


2/22/16 11:22 AM

As a Physical Therapist, I am asked a lot of questions about low back pain. With so much information available to us online from various sources - both reliable and unreliable, both too general and too specific, it is hard to know what to believe is truth or the best practice for most individuals. These are general guidelines to get you started based upon the common questions I am asked.




I know I have a lot of comfy places to sit at home, couch, recliner, love seat and this is often where I end up sitting at the end of the day. I have had many patients come and say they sit on their couch with their feet on the coffee table or sit in their recliner with their feet up.  They say, it feels great while sitting there, then it is painful getting up due to low back pain. This is because your spine is flexed or rounded especially when you have your feet up. This is one position you want to try and avoid at home. Try to sit with your feet on the floor and try not to slouch when sitting at home.  Try sitting in a more upright chair, kitchen chair or dining room chair. I know these aren’t as comfortable but they are better for your back.



Ice or heat?


If you just hurt your back yesterday, then ice is the answer. Ice is good for new or acute injuries for 24-48 hours. Ice helps to decrease the blood flow to the area which helps to decrease pain and inflammation. If an area is swollen or bruised, use ice.  Now if you have had back pain fo

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Written by Laura Donlan.

Laura Donlan, PT is contributing author to our blog. She has been a Highland Dancer for over 20 years and specializes in treating dancers - getting them back to their sport!

Topics: hip pain, Low back pain, pain, tips, back pain, lumbar pain


2/12/16 2:02 PM

Back pain is very common in the population and often can become chronic. Our spine has three different curves that occur naturally. Our lumbar spine and cervical spine have the same curve and the thoracic spine has the opposite curve. There is less stress placed on our spine when these curves are maintained. Many times during the day whether we are sitting, lifting or doing activities around the house, we diminish or reverse these curves in our spine. When we repetitively do this, often times it can lead to back pain.

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Written by Laura Donlan.

Laura Donlan, PT is contributing author to our blog. She has been a Highland Dancer for over 20 years and specializes in treating dancers - getting them back to their sport!

Topics: pain, tips, back pain


12/22/15 10:47 AM

Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease that is a chronic inflammatory condition usually affecting joints on both sides of the body in the hands and the feet, as well as the hips, knees, and elbows.

As an autoimmune disorder, RA occurs when your body’s immune system mistakenly attacks your own tissues.  In the case of RA, the lining of your joints are attacked leading to damage and erosion of cartilage and bone.  As the disease progresses, pain and deformity of the joints occurs.

1. Cause:

UNKNOWN:  Research has yet to determine the exact cause of the disease. 
It is known that it is not hereditary.  It has been shown that people with specific genes are more susceptible to the disease, but are not guaranteed to have RA.

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Topics: arthritis, pain

Straight From a Seasoned Dancer: Prevent Injury and Cross Train!

12/24/14 4:47 PM
I have been a Highland Dancer for over 20 years and have only experienced three injuries during my career. All of these injuries were over use injuries - achilles tendonitis, stress fracture in my foot and a calf strain. No matter what type of dancing you may do, it is important to take care of your body.

What is an over use injury?
  • They are injuries that occur over time.
  • They are a result of repetitive micro-trauma to tendon, bones, ligaments and joints (ouch!)
  • They can happen when you first begin a sport or activity - or even when you do too much, too soon.
  • They can also result from improper technique.
  • With exercise or activity, muscles & tendons get stronger. This happens through the breakdown and build up of tissue. If too much breakdown is happening in comparison to the amount of rebuilding, these type of injuries can occur.

Dancers can prevent this from happening....

There are usually a few times throughout the year that a dancer may take a week or two off for various reasons - vacation, holiday, illness, etc. It is important to remember to ease back into classes or practice when you return. You can even try some strengthening exercises during your holiday when you are not dancing!

These strengthening exercises should use the same muscles you need in dancing, but work them in a different way. When you complete strengthening exercises it helps to keep you in shape and even strengthens your muscles for when you return to class or practice.  This concept is known as cross training...

What is Cross Training and Why is it Important for Dancers?
  • Cross Training is an exercise routine that uses several different activities, which varies your exercise routine
  • Cross Training uses the same muscles in different ways. This helps to strengthen those muscles even more.
  • Cross Training helps to reduce injuries while also maintaining and increasing strength and performance in the activity of choice.

As a dancer it is importance to work on endurance, leg/core/shoulder/upper back strength and flexibility outside of your dance classes and practices...

So instead of dancing 4-6 times a week, try to take a day or two off from dancing and try some cross training! You can work on strengthening, flexibility and endurance during cross training.

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Written by Laura Donlan.

Laura Donlan, PT is contributing author to our blog. She has been a Highland Dancer for over 20 years and specializes in treating dancers - getting them back to their sport!

Topics: pain, exercises, stretching

Exercising with Arthritis: Do it Right

12/5/14 4:54 PM
Arthritis doesn’t have to debilitate or destroy your lifestyle.  Many people with arthritis are able to enjoy the quality of life they desire, escape surgical procedures, and decrease their pain by improving their overall fitness level through exercise.  

When arthritis attempts to slow you down, exercise will help to keep you moving.

Benefits of exercise for arthritic patients include:

  • Helps to decrease swelling

  • Exercise promotes weight loss

  • Increases in energy and drive

  • Reductions in Pain and stiffness

  • Increases in strength, flexibility, and stamina

  • Improved mental attitude and outlook

  • Better sleep

Exercise routines for arthritis should be well balanced including strengthening, flexibility training, and aerobic conditioning.  

Strengthening Exercises:  

Weight training is an example of strengthening exercises that will help build muscle to protect your joints.  By alleviating the pressure on the joints and increasing bone strength, patients may have less pain and experience less effects of the disease.  

Strength training should be done 3-5 days a week, with rest days in between.


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Written by Jeffrey Romans.

Jeff Romans, PT is a contributing author to our blog and a great resource on Physical Therapy.

Topics: arthritis, pain, exercises

Top 8 Interesting Facts about Low Back pain

2/5/14 4:05 PM
The back is a complex structure made up of bones, joints, ligaments and muscles - this means that there are various ways for one to injure the back and therefore various reasons that you might be experiencing low back pain. You can strain a muscle, sprain a ligament, rupture or irritate a joint to name a few. Certain conditions can also cause back pain, such as stenosis, arthritis and spinal curvatures.

Did you know....
  • 31 million Americans are experiencing low back pain at any given time.
  • 50% of working Americans admit to having symptoms of back pain each year.
  • Low back pain affects 80% of people in their lifetime. Men reports symptoms up to 10 years earlier than women.
  • Back pain is one of the leading causes for missed work
  • Back pain is the second leading cause for MD visits each year behind only upper-respiratory infections.
  • Americans spend $50 billion yearly on issues relate to back pain.
  • Most causes of back pain are mechanical - meaning pain is not caused by arthritis, infection, fracture or cancer.
  • Individuals lifting with a twisting motion are six times more likely to experience an acute disc injury than an individual who lifts properly. (Yikes!)

While it may sound like the odds are against you, you can try to prevent any type of back injury and experiencing low back pain. Keeping your entire body healthy can help! 
  • Avoid prolonged bed rest and remain physically active under the guidance of a therapist, if needed. 
  • Be sure to warm muscles up for physical activity - stretch before & after the activity!
  • Maintain proper posture. Avoid slouched sitting throughout the day.
  • Practice safe lifting techniques. Lift with your legs, keeping objects close to your body. Avoid twisting motions while lifting.
  • Maintain a healthy weight and diet. As a general rule, we each should get 30 mins of moderate physical activity on most days of the week, combined with a healthy diet. The Department of Health & Human Services recommends balancing calorie intake with physical activity to manage weight, consuming more fruits, vegetables & whole grains. They also recommend consuming fewer foods with salts(sodium), saturated & trans fats, added sugar and refined grains. Review the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 or browse for further information by visiting their website with the link provided.

For more information regarding prevention of low back injuries, proper lifting techniques and recommended exercises for the low back, we think you might also be interested in...

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Topics: Low back pain, healthy habits, pain

Pregnancy & Back Pain: Is there any Relief?

1/15/14 3:07 PM
50-70% of all pregnant women experience some type of back pain during their pregnancies. Back pain, lumbar and pelvic pain are all common complaints. An expectant mother's body is going through hormonal and postural changes, as well as a shift in the center of gravity - all of which contribute to these complaints. Anticipation and making room in homes, in life and in finances for that bundle of joy can be stressful. These increased levels of stress can also contribute to the aches & pains experienced.

Pregnancy-related back pain should also be taken seriously by mother-to-be and physician as there is potential for endangering mother and fetus if not handled appropriately. Luckily, low back pain usually resolves postpartum, but in the meantime there are some simple things to try to get some relief and enjoy the rest of the pregnancy. 

Reducing Pregnancy-Related Back Pain on your own...

  • Avoid sleeping on your back. Add in a pillow between your legs, and shift to sleeping on your left side. This will help alleviate low back symptoms and ensure the baby and the placenta is receiving the most blood flow.
  • Elevate your feet whenever possible. Getting plenty of rest and elevating your feet will help to reduce swelling and low back symptoms. 
  • Shoes, shoes, shoes. Choosing footwear with adequate support can work wonders for reducing low back pain. Avoid high heels during pregnancy as they exaggerate postural changes that are contributing to your back pain.
  • Wear a support brace. There are various types of abdominal support braces available for expectant mothers. These are sometimes called Sacro-Iliac Joint Belts or a prenatal cradle. A Physical Therapist can help you choose one appropriate for your symptoms, and issue one to you as well.

How Can a Physical Therapist Help?

  • A Physical Therapist can instruct an expectant mother on ways to relieve pressure from the low back.
  • While each stage of pregnancy is different, a Physical Therapist can guide you through specific exercises tailored to each stage. They can also help to accommodate pregnancy complications if needed.
  • Pain relief. A PT can help to relieve aches and pains through various manual therapy techniques. Many women also find relief from their pregnancy-related aches and pains with Aquatic Therapy.
  • Strengthening. A PT can instruct you on strengthening exercises to prepare for labor and delivery.



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Still wanting some advice? Ask one of our therapists a specific question or request a Free 15 Minute Screening below.


Get Help with Low Back Pain


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Topics: Low back pain, pain, pregnancy, sciatica

10 Most Loved Forms of Exercise for Arthritis

12/19/13 4:50 PM
10. Jogging

9. Dance/Zumba

8. Golf

7. Strength/Resistance Training

6. Yoga

5. Tai Chi

4. Walking

3. Biking

2. Aquatic Exercise or Therapy

1. Physical Therapy

Have an injury, concern or question regarding any of these forms of exercise? Contact one of our offices. A Physical Therapist will be happy to answer any of your questions - or even perform a Free Injury Screen! Read More
Written by Garry Campbell, PT.

Garry is currently practicing as a Physical Therapist in our Cicero Location.

Topics: Low back pain, healthy habits, arthritis, pain

VIDEO BLOG: Top 3 Stretches for an Arthritic Low Back

11/23/13 4:35 PM


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Written by Garry Campbell.

Garry Campbell, PT is currently practicing as a Physical Therapist in our Cicero office.

Topics: Low back pain, arthritis, pain

8 Ways to Beat Arthritis

11/11/13 4:23 PM

Joint pain can have a variety of symptoms as well as treatments. Most are chronic (long-term) conditions and the goal of treatment is to control pain and minimize further joint damage. 

Combating arthritis most often involves a multi-pronged treatment approach, based upon your specific case. With the right health care provider, such as a Physical Therapist, and the know-how, you can battle the effects of arthritis! 

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Written by Garry Campbell.

Garry Campbell, PT is currently practicing as a Physical Therapist in our Cicero office.

Topics: healthy habits, arthritis, pain

What is Sciatica, Anyway?

1/31/13 2:41 PM
Sciatica is a condition caused by irritation to the Sciatic Nerve. Sciatica is a symptom rather than a diagnosis - so treatment will vary depending on the underlying cause of the symptom. The main causes of Sciatica are: a Bulging Disc, Spinal Stenosis and Piriformis Syndrome.

The Symptoms...
  • Pain in the buttocks, with or without burning/tingling down the leg.
  • Weakness, numbness or difficult moving the leg or foot.
  • A sharp pain in the low back that may make it difficult to stand or walk.
  • Pain often starts slowly and may worsen after prolonged sitting, standing, at night and when sneezing, laughing or coughing.

What to Expect if you're experiencing Sciatica...
  • Most Sciatic Symptoms result from inflammation and will resolve in two weeks to a few months.
  • Because nerve pain can be difficult to treat, severe cases may cause the pain to be quite severe and persist for a longer period of time.
  • A full recovery is possible if the underlying cause of the Sciatica is correctly identified and treated.

Treatment Options...
  • Apply heat or ice to the area. This can help to control the pain and inflammation. Not sure which one to apply? Check with one of our therapists.
  • Over-the-counter pain relievers or anti-inflammatory medications. These can also help to reduce the pain and inflammation.
  • In chronic or more severe cases, a physician may recommend injections to help to reduce inflammation around the nerve.
  • Physical Therapy. A physical therapist can develop a program of exercises and stretches specific for your symptoms. These can provide immediate relief of pain.



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Topics: Low back pain, pain, sciatica