Knee Pain Associated with Gardening

Woman gardening. New Heights Therapy talks about Knee Pain Associated with Gardening in Portland, OR and Vancouver, WA

Knee Pain Associated with Gardening

Tending to your garden can be a fun and relaxing hobby. It’s been shown to improve strength, memory retention, mood, and more. The benefits are nearly endless, but the repetitive stress on your knees can also lead to knee pain.

In this article, we’ll explain what gardner’s knee is and how to help prevent it.

What is Gardener’s Knee?

Prepatellar bursitis, commonly called gardener’s knee or housemaid’s knee is a condition caused by the inflammation of the prepatellar bursa–a small fluid-filled area that sits on the front of your knee cap. This condition is common in people who spend a lot of time kneeling. The most common symptoms of gardener’s knee include swelling at the front of the knee, redness, and tenderness. It may also be difficult to bend your knee or walk.

Tips to Avoid Knee Pain While Gardening

When you garden, you’re engaging in low-impact exercise so you’ll want to approach it like you would any other exercise: warm up and know your limits. Here are some more tips to help you garden with less pain.

  • Use knee pads or a kneeling pad to help protect your knees
  • Wear comfortable and supportive shoes
  • Take frequent breaks so you don’t strain your knees
  • Change your positions frequently to relieve stress on the knees
  • Apply ice on your knees after gardening
  • Use gardening tools with long handles
  • Consider a raised garden bed
  • Exercise to strengthen your legs
  • Purchase gardening supplies in light-weight quantities
  • Ask for help when gardening tasks are too difficult for you or cause you strain

Physical Therapy for Knee Pain

Many people brush off knee pain when it first occurs, thinking it will eventually go away. If you’re suffering with pain and swelling around the knee, don’t ignore it. There are several causes of front knee pain other than gardener’s knee which physical therapy may be helpful with.

We at New Heights Physical Therapy Plus in Portland OR can diagnose your condition and offer you the proper treatment so you can continue to do the things you love pain-free!

Are Enhanced Waters Good for You?

Colorful bottles of sports drinks. New Heights talks about why enhanced waters aren't healthy for you.

Reaching for a sports drink or electrolyte-enhanced water might seem like a better choice than a soda, but are they really any healthier? In this blog post, we’ll talk about what enhanced waters are and why they may actually be bad for your health.

Enhanced Waters

Enhanced waters come in a variety of brands: Gatorade, Powerade, Vitaminwater, Smart Water, and more. They were designed for elite athletes to help replace electrolytes and carbs lost during intense exercise. The keyword here is elite. Researchers say the average person exercising for less than an hour may not need sports drinks to re-hydrate or improve their performance.

Sugar

This is a big one. You may be surprised to learn most enhanced waters contain about the same amount of sugar as a can of soda. A typical can of soda contains about 40 grams of sugar, while a 20-ounce bottle of Gatorade, for example, has 36 grams of sugar. Vitaminwater isn’t much better. It contains 32 grams of sugar in a 20-ounce bottle.

Doctors say too much added sugar puts you at risk of several health issues including obesity, fatty liver disease, diabetes, and cancer. And if you think drinks labeled as “zero-calorie” are a safe bet, think again, doctors say those contain artificial sweeteners– which have been linked to cancer.

Vitamins

Vitamins like vitamin B and C are another component of enhanced waters, especially for Vitaminwater. Researchers say most people already get enough of these vitamins from their diet and consuming more will not provide you with any added health benefits.

Some enhanced waters contain vitamins A and E. Research has shown excess amounts of these have been associated with the risk of premature death.

Electrolytes

Electrolytes are minerals that help regulate and control fluids in your body. They help keep your brain, nerves, and muscles functioning properly and they can be lost from perspiration, diarrhea, and vomiting. Some of the main electrolytes include magnesium, potassium, calcium, chloride, and sodium. Most if not all enhanced waters contain electrolytes, even SmartWater. And just like anything else, too much of a good thing can be bad. Doctors say having too much of a certain electrolyte can cause an electrolyte imbalance. Too much sodium, for example, can lead to dizziness. While too much calcium can lead to joint and bone pain, fatigue, and seizures.

So before reaching for enhanced water. Read the label to ensure what you are consuming. Just plain water is a safe bet. And if you need carbohydrate and electrolyte replacement, doctors recommend fresh fruits and vegetables as healthy alternatives.

Tips for Properly Fitting a Bike

Person riding a mountain bike. New Heights provides professional bike fittings.

We don’t have to tell you this; bike riding is big in the Portland OR and Vancouver WA area. Cyclists ride bikes for recreation as well as transportation to work and school regardless of the weather. But did you know simply hopping on a bike and taking off may cause you to suffer pain later? In this article, we’ll talk about how to properly fit a bike so you can ride in comfort.

What is a Bike Fitting?

Before we dig into bike fitting, it’s important to know what a bike fitting is in the first place. A bike fitting is a process performed by a professional. Because everyone is different, they may ask how you use your bike and what your goals are. Then they’ll have you sit on the bike and adjust things like the frame and saddle so you and the bike work in synchronization.

Adjusting Your Bike For You

Cycling should be pain-free. Here are a few ways you can change your experience, so you can ride longer and harder.

Adjust the Saddle Height

This step is probably the easiest and most important one to set. You want the saddle to be at a height that when your leg is extended during a pedal stroke, your heel barely touches the pedal, and is not above your toes.

Adjust the Saddle Setback

To avoid pain in your pelvis, your saddle setback should be adjusted as well. This involves moving the saddle forward and backward until your knee is over the pedal spindle.

Change Bike Stems

The bike stem is the piece that bridges your handlebars to your steerer. It shouldn’t be too long or too short because your reach to the handlebars is important for weight distribution. When reaching for your handlebars, your elbows should have a slight bend.

If you travel and take your bike apart often it’s a good idea to measure and record these adjustments. Keep them somewhere handy so you can use them for a quick and easy reference.

Signs Your Bike is Not Properly Fitted

If your bike is not properly fitted, your body will tell you. Below are some of the common symptoms you may experience.

  • Knee, hip, and ankle pain: if you’re experiencing pain in these lower extremities, it is likely due to your saddle’s position.
  • Shoulder and neck pain: if you suffer pain in these areas this is likely from your stem or handlebar position.

Your Local Source for Bike Fitting

Want help with your bike fit? At New Heights Physical Therapy, our highly-experienced therapists provide professional bike fitting for patients whether it’s a road bike, mountain bike or hybrid bike, we can help. So contact New Heights Physical Therapy today for your professional bike fitting in the Portland OR and Vancouver WA area!

The Importance of Rest and Recovery

New Heights Physical Therapy gives advice on why recovery is important in Portland OR and Vancouver WA.

We so often hear about the health benefits of exercise, but another important part of any exercise program, and for life in general, is recovery. For some it’s one of the hardest things to do but taking time to rest can help prevent an injury and create a healthier body.

What is Recovery?

Recovery in exercise is taking a day or two off to allow your muscles to repair themselves for your next exercise. It also engages muscles that are sore from your previous workouts. Weightlifting, sprinting and endurance runs stress your body so it needs to adapt to these stresses. When you don’t let your body rest as much as it should, you can end up with an injury. The American College of Sports Medicine suggests people take a rest day at least one to two times per week.

Ways to Recover

  • Sleep: The most important part of recovery is sleep! Your body needs 7 to 9 hours of sleep everyday for chemical, hormone and anti-inflammatory responses to happen. Sleep is also very important for your immune system. If you don’t get quality sleep, you may be at a higher risk of getting sick.
  • Staying hydrated: Water plays a vital role in the recovery process. Water helps nutrients repair muscles damaged during exercise, aids in digestion and reduces fatigue. Here’s a fun fact: muscles are actually made up of 75% water.
  • Stretch: After a tough workout, consider stretching. This simple and fast method can help your muscles recover quicker.
  • Massage: Massages not only feel great, they improve circulation allowing you to fully relax. You can self-massage or use a foam roller on tight muscles.
  • Take an ice bath: Some athletes swear by these. An ice bath causes your blood vessels to constrict pushing the blood away from your muscles. Then once your out and your body warms up, the vessels open up and blood flows back into the muscle, bringing more oxygen to help you recover.

Taking time to give your body a rest can be challenging mentally, but it has significant benefits including preventing injuries. The most important thing you can do to recover quickly is listen to your body. At New Heights Physical Therapy, you can get the help and advice that you need to recover especially after an injury. Call us today to schedule an appointment!

Exercise Bands to Rehab an Injury

New Heights Physical Therapy gives advice on recovering from an injury with exercise bands in Portland OR and Vancouver WA.

Rehabilitation is hugely important after any type of injury. Incorrect or nonexistent rehab can lead to pain, inflexibility, and weakness that could last for months or years. Simple rubber exercise bands can not only help rehab your body, but can also be safely and easily used for a variety of needs even after your injury has healed.

Which Injuries Do Exercise Bands Help?

Exercise bands are great for nearly any type of injury to the joints or muscles and can even be used to improve flexibility if you have arthritis. However, they are particularly effective on the following types of injuries:

  • Tennis elbow
  • Knee injuries
  • Ankle sprains
  • Hip bursitis
  • Shoulder dislocation
  • IT band syndrome

When Should Exercise Bands Be Used?

Even though your body will first need some time to heal before you break out your resistance band, you may be surprised at just how soon after certain injuries you can use these simple tools to improve your strength. Some areas can be worked out just three days after the injury occurred. Major ligament or tendon tears will definitely need more time than this. In general, make sure your pain is mostly gone before you begin to use exercise bands.

Check with your doctor or your physical therapist before starting any new type of workout after an injury. Not only will you be able to find out if you are healed well enough to begin, but also you will get tips on how to best use the exercise band to heal your injury.

What are the Benefits of Using Exercise Bands?

Exercise bands come with many benefits. They are very small and lightweight, making them easy to take with you anywhere you go. This also makes them perfect if you travel frequently. Plus, they come in a variety of resistance levels, letting you start with light resistance and increasing as you go. They are quite budget-friendly and are simple enough to be used by nearly anyone. They will help you in the following ways:

  • Improvements in muscular strength
  • Improvements in joint stability
  • Improvements in balance and flexibility
  • Assistance during difficult moves

Be sure to check with your doctor or therapist before working with exercise bands yourself. However, these cheap and portable tools can take your workout to the next level and can help you rehab your joints and improve muscular strength following an injury. If you’d like to see if working with exercise bands can help your rehabilitation from injury, contact New Heights Physical Therapy today!

Why Do You Experience Swelling After an Injury?

New Heights Physical Therapy answers questions about injury swelling in Portland OR and Vancouver WA.

Have you ever suffered from a mild injury and noticed that the affected area has swollen up by the next day? Swelling can be so inconvenient and uncomfortable that it often feels worse than the initial injury. It is useful to figure out why exactly your body reacts to injuries, so you can properly deal with swelling.

What is swelling?

To understand why you encounter swelling after an injury, it is important to learn what the response actually involves. Medically speaking, swelling is fluid collecting in between the individual cells that make up your tissues. This fluid can be almost entirely water, or it can contain white blood cells, amino acids, hormones, and nutrients.

Why did my injury swell?

Your body starts swelling because it’s trying to keep you safe. It senses that there is potential damage to the area, so it collects a lot of fluid there to pad the area. This can have a number of benefits, including:

  • This keeps the healing process from being impaired if you bump it again.
  • Swelling prevents you from moving a joint easily, so you do not cause more damage by moving around while injured.
  • Swelling also helps with healing, because it sends useful items to the damaged area.
  • The fluid involved in swelling can contain white blood cells that help prevent damage and infection.

Can I do something for a swollen injury?

Once you understand the reason that swelling is happening, you can treat it more easily. As you have learned, swelling is the body’s attempt to heal and protect an area from more injury. This means you can treat it through the following methods:

  • Rest: Avoid putting any pressure or weight on the area to help it heal faster.
  • Ice: Chilling the area constricts blood flow, reducing inflammation.
  • Compression: A compression bandage keeps fluid from building up.
  • Elevation: You can keep the injured area raised above your heart to help fluid drain.
  • Diuretics: These are medications that encourage the body to remove excess fluid from its system.

Recovering from an injury is an important part of managing swelling. At New Heights Physical Therapy, you can get the help and advice that you need to recover from your injury. Call us today to schedule an appointment!

How to Warm Up for a Run

How to Warm Up for a Run with New Heights Physical Therapy, serving Vancouver WA and Portland OR.

Warming up before a run is important in two ways: it prepares you mentally for the exercise ahead, and it’s a great way to protect your body against injury. A warm up will do several important things for your body, including:

  • Improve blood flow throughout your body
  • Make your muscles more flexible
  • Get your heart and lungs ready for the increased workload to come
  • Improve your body movements and coordination

The best way to warm up before a run has long been debated by runners, doctors, trainers, and many others involved with exercise. At New Heights, we want everyone to feel comfortable with their chosen form of exercise. We’ll work with you to figure out exactly how your body prefers to warm up!

Do I need to warm up before exercise?

Warming up your muscles before you use them vigorously during a run or other physical activity significantly reduces the risk of joint and muscle injury. Your body needs to be limber and flexible before doing any intense movement, and a warm up is not a matter of personal preference. It’s a necessity!

Can you warm up with stretches?

Many people opt for basic dynamic stretches for their pre-running routine. Dynamic stretches keep you moving, helping to warm up your body while lengthening your muscle fibers. Prior to a run, focus on stretches for your quads, glutes, and hamstrings. Don’t forget your arms! Do some shoulder rolls and arm circles.

Can you warm up with a light jog?

Some experts in the field disagree with stretching before a run, arguing that because muscles are still cold and inflexible, stretching before working out is a terrible idea. Instead, they prefer to walk or jog slowly for a few minutes. A slow start with your run can prepare your body for larger movements. By mimicking the same movements during your warm up that you plan to use for the main part of your exercise, you will be prepping your muscles with minimal impact. You could also try jumping rope or performing walking lunges.

Which warm up option is right for you?

As long as you are safely performing dynamic stretches or light cardio, either option can be the right choice for your warm up. You might try doing one warm up for a week or so, paying attention to your body, and then switch methods for another week.

Choose the option that most appeals to you. The longer you run, the more easily you will be able to tell what feels best, and which type of warm up decreases soreness both during and after your run.

A physical therapist can help you develop habits and goals for exercise that will work with your body. At New Heights Physical Therapy, our specialists can watch you run, examining your stride and looking at previous injuries to help you make changes to your running pattern. With our help, you can start running more comfortably and create a lifelong healthy habit!

Cycling for Mental Health

New Heights Physical Therapy offers bike fittings in Portland OR and Vancouver WA.

Cycling is a popular pastime for many. A lot of people even rely on biking for commuting to work and school! Whether you take advantage of cycling for your health, or simply as a cheaper way to get to work, you’ll be happy to know that you are doing more than strengthening your body, burning calories, and saving on gasoline. When you choose to cycle regularly, you may be significantly improving your mental health!

You May See Mood Improvements With Cycling

As you exercise, your body produces special hormones called endorphins, which are the “feel good” hormones of the body. Your brain also produces serotonin and dopamine, two of the hormones within the brain responsible for mood stability and happiness. All three of these can surge in your brain with regular exercise. They may help your mood remain stable and elevated, making cycling a great way to maintain your mental health and even combat your down days.

Cycling Can Decrease Stress

Not only will your “feel good” hormones rise, but the stress hormone cortisol will decrease with aerobic exercise. Stress reduction decreases your chance of developing other ailments that are tied to raised cortisol, such as inflammatory diseases. Biking can help you relax and let your worries go.

Cycling Can Improve Brain Growth

Riding a bike can improve blood flow throughout your body, including to your brain. As blood pumps more vigorously into your brain, new capillaries slowly grow, helping your brain receive more oxygen and nutrients, which in turn can help grow new brain cells. Over time, this habit can help you think more clearly and may even decrease memory loss.

Take Advantage of a Bike Fitting for the Best Results

As you get healthier through continued cycling, your body will start to reflect this positive change, and you may feel your self-confidence rising. You will feel great about doing something so good for your body.

Of course, cycling also benefits you physically. Science has proven that it is good for your heart and lungs, while also strengthening your bones and muscles. However, if your bike does not fit you well, you may end up with aches and pains rather than with a strong, flexible body.

At New Heights Physical Therapy, we offer professional bike fitting to help you get a comfortable ride that aligns your body, helping you and your cycle work together. We can look at your bike size, frame, and handlebar setup, as well as the way you ride your bike, to get you the right adjustments. We have a physical therapist who specializes in bike fittings and cycling injuries, so you’ll get expert care, as usual! Contact us today to schedule your fitting, and discover what cycling for mental health may do for you!

Understanding Golfer’s Elbow

New Heights Physical Therapy provides treatment options for golfer's elbow in Portland OR and Vancouver WA

Golfer’s Elbow vs Tennis Elbow

Golfer’s elbow, or medial epicondylitis, is the strain or damage to the muscles and tendons surrounding the elbow. It can also be referred to as “climber’s elbow”. Golfer’s elbow specifically refers to pain or damage felt on the inside of the elbow. The main cause is repetitive or intense usage, and any movement that strains the inside of the forearm can cause golfer’s elbow. Pain or damage that occurs on the outside of the elbow is called tennis elbow, and while these two conditions occur in different areas of the elbow, they are treated in exactly the same way.

What Causes Golfer’s Elbow?

  • Overuse
  • One-time direct injury, like falling on the elbow
  • Ill-fitting sports equipment, like golf clubs or tennis rackets
  • Lack of general fitness or proper conditioning

The most important thing to remember is that golfer’s elbow is typically an overuse injury. Avoid straining the elbow further by ceasing the activity that caused the injury. If you haven’t done an activity (like golfing or rock-climbing) in some time, take it easy and go slowly. Your elbow needs time to regain strength and conditioning.

Signs and Symptoms of Golfer’s Elbow

Golfer’s elbow commonly begins with a mild strain, with pain being felt on the inside of the upper forearm. Golfer’s elbow can cause pain anywhere from the wrist to the elbow joint itself. As the pain gets worse or progresses further along the forearm, symptoms advance to weakness and stiffness. Movement restriction is common as the pain increases, and you may even experience tingling or numbness.

Treating Golfer’s Elbow

The most important first step is to stop overusing the elbow. Avoid the activity that caused the pain in the first place, and make steps to avoid any movement that continue to compromise the joint. Because golfer’s elbow is a soft-tissue injury involving muscles and tendons, the following steps (R.I.C.E.R) should be taken:

  • Rest
  • Ice
  • Compression
  • Elevation
  • Referral

If the R.I.C.E.R. regimen is followed within the first 48-72 hours, the injury is much more likely to heal faster and without further complication. Once ice has been applied on and off again for three days or so, heat and massage should be used to prevent scar tissue and to speed up the healing process.

When most of the pain has been reduced or removed entirely, the elbow joint, tendons, and muscles should be stretched and rehabilitated to regain their former strength. Your elbow has been compromised, and it needs to be restored to proper conditioning. If pain or stiffness lasts longer than a couple of weeks, it may be time to consider physical therapy.

Golfer’s Elbow Prevention

  1. Listen to your body. Golfer’s elbow is an overuse injury, meaning that at some point pain was produced in the elbow, and the activity was continued anyway. The science of how muscles are formed and are maintained is still being researched, but we do know that if a muscle is not allowed to heal, the injury or strain will continue to get worse. When you feel strain that is intense or sharp, stop!
  2. Strengthen and condition. Your elbow works because of an intricate network of tendons and muscles. When those parts of your body haven’t been properly stretched or strengthened, they are more prone to strain. Make sure if it’s a new activity, or one you haven’t done in some time, that you take it slowly and carefully. It takes time to properly condition muscles, joints, and tendons!
  3. Rest, therapy, and modifications. If golfer’s elbow is a recurring source of pain for you, consider bracing and strapping, modifying or replacing sports equipment, taking extended rests, or going to physical therapy. There may be another injury co-occurring, making it difficult for the elbow to truly heal. Our bodies are made up of a network of interconnected muscles, and every area of the body is affected with an injury–even just on the elbow!

If you’re having difficulty healing, or you feel that the injury is getting worse, it’s probably time to consult a physical therapist or doctor. Repeated or prolonged injuries can produce scar tissue, making it ten times more difficult to heal the next time. By resting and treating the injury, you are respecting your body and preventing a worse injury.

The Importance of Gait Analysis

New Heights Physical Therapy offers Gait Analysis in Portland OR and Vancouver WA

What is Gait Analysis?

Gait analysis is a commonly misused term. Most people think of being fitted for running shoes in a sports-footwear store as gait analysis, but gait analysis should be a carefully monitored, scientific evaluation of gait–in other words, an analysis of the patterns, angles, and positions of hips, knees, and feet while walking or running. While sports-footwear stores can offer a generalized recommendation, they lack the scientific equipment necessary to make a true evaluation of your body’s patterns and functions.

Do I Need My Gait Evaluated?

When a physical therapist evaluates your gait, they are evaluating much more than how a shoe fits: they’re evaluating your injury history, your present physical condition, and the steps you may need to take to properly train or condition your entire body.

Gait analysis is used to identify past or present injuries or issues, repeated habits that may lead to injury, and preventative therapies to strengthen and condition the lower half of the body. It’s an important step for anyone with a present injury, recurring injuries, or future plans to train seriously for an activity or sport. Areas of the body considered during gait analysis:

  • Hips
  • Knees
  • Ankles
  • Feet

Your body is a network of interconnected muscles, tendons, and joints. Any injury or bad habit in one area of the body can lead to overuse, strain, or more serious injuries in another part of the body. Gait analysis is the first step to identifying and changing harmful patterns before they can cause serious damage.

New Heights Physical Therapy Offers Running Evaluations

We offer gait analysis in the form of running evaluations, as part of our wide range of physical therapy services. By identifying problem areas, habits, and recurring injuries, we can help you walk or run in a way that is helpful, rather than harmful, for your body. It’s always best to prevent an injury before it occurs, and our running evaluations can help to determine the best training and habit-changing methods for you.

If you’re having difficulty healing from a current injury, it’s probably time to consult a physical therapist or doctor. Repeated or prolonged injuries can produce scar tissue, making it ten times more difficult to heal the next time. By resting, treating, and evaluating the cause of an injury, you are respecting your body and preventing more damage from occurring.