Holiday Stress

3 Tips to Avoid Unwanted Aches and Pain from Holiday Stress

3 Tips to Avoid Unwanted Aches and Pain from Holiday Stress

The holiday season is a time of celebration, joy, and cherished moments with loved ones. However, it often brings with it a flurry of activities, responsibilities, and – unfortunately – stress. While the holidays are meant to be a time of relaxation and enjoyment, the reality for many is quite different. The pressure to create the perfect holiday experience – coupled with the hustle and bustle of shopping, cooking, and entertaining – can lead to elevated stress levels. What’s more, this heightened stress can manifest physically in the form of aches and pains, making it essential to manage both our mental and physical well-being during this season.

Here are three of my top recommendations for reducing stress during the Holidays (or any time of the year), to help you avoid unwanted physical aches and pain.

3 Tips to Avoid Holiday Stress:

  1. Prioritize Intentional Breathing

Breathing is one of the most powerful tools at your disposal for rapidly reducing and interrupting stress. The act of taking a deep breath sends a signal to your brain to calm down and relax. This simple yet effective technique can have a dramatic impact on your stress levels in as little as 30 seconds. The beauty of intentional breathing is that you can do it anywhere and at any time—whether you’re stuck in traffic, at your desk, in a crowded store, or even in the privacy of your bathroom.

The premise behind intentional breathing is to interrupt the accumulation of stress. By doing so, you decrease the overall toll it takes on both your body and mind. When stress builds up, it can manifest physically, leading to muscle tension, headaches, and even neck and back pain. Therefore, taking a moment to practice intentional deep breathing can make a significant difference in how you feel during the holiday season.

  1. Practicing Gratitude

Gratitude is a powerful antidote to stress. Studies have shown that practicing gratitude can lower cortisol levels in the body by approximately 23 percent. Cortisol, often referred to as the stress hormone, is responsible for many of the negative effects of chronic stress, including high blood pressure and an increased risk of heart disease.  Chronic stress can also be responsible for unwanted muscle tension – especially in areas like your neck, back, and hips.

When we focus on things we appreciate and practice gratitude, we activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for calming the body and returning it to its natural rhythm. By consciously practicing gratitude, you actively lower your stress levels. This not only benefits your mental well-being but also has a positive impact on your physical health. Reduced stress can lead to lower blood pressure, improved sleep quality, and decreased muscle tension.

  1. Incorporate Physical Activity

Physical activity is a powerful stress-reduction tool with numerous benefits for both body and mind. Engaging in regular exercise helps boost your mood by releasing endorphins, the body’s natural stress and pain relievers. Additionally, physical activity helps put an end to the “fight or flight” response triggered by stress.

In ancient times, our fight or flight response served to protect us from immediate danger, such as being chased by a predator (aka Lion). Physical movement, like running, signaled the end of the stress cycle by telling the brain that we were safe. In the modern world, stress triggers may not be as obvious, but they can still activate these ancient systems. When stress becomes chronic and prolonged, it can have detrimental effects on your physical and mental well-being.

Purposeful movement, even something as simple as a brisk walk, can help break the cycle of stress in your body. Engaging in simple activities like jumping jacks, push ups, or even dancing in your living room can elevate your heart rate just enough to signal the end of the fight or flight response.

While the three essential tips outlined above can be highly effective in managing holiday stress, they may not be suitable for everyone, especially if you’re dealing with pain or injury. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by stress and physical pain this time of year, consider reaching out to a qualified specialist for guidance.

Are you local to Portsmouth, NH?

See if you could qualify for a free discovery visit with a specialist by clicking HERE.

Dr. Carrie Jose, Physical Therapist and Pilates expert, owns CJ Physical Therapy & Pilates in Portsmouth and writes for Seacoast Media Group. To get in touch, email her at [email protected].

Active and Mobile

Seven Tips for an Active and Healthy Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is one of my absolute favorite Holidays. I love all the food, sweets, time with family, the Macy’s Day Parade, afternoon naps, and football. While it’s historically been a time for indulgence and relaxation, more and more people are opting for a more active and healthier Thanksgiving Day. And there are numerous benefits for doing so… boosted mood and energy levels (which can make your day even more enjoyable), improved digestion, happier hips, knees, and back, and you’ll offset some of the extra calories you may have consumed.

If you’re looking to be more active and healthy this Thanksgiving – here are seven tips to make it easy for you:

  1. Interrupt your sitting

We were not designed to sit for prolonged periods, so getting up frequently is an easy way to not only incorporate movement throughout your day, but to help keep away back, hip, and knee stiffness. I recommend standing up at least once every 30 min. This could be a fun “job” to give a young child. Make them accountable for watching the clock and remind you to stand up. This is quite possibly the easiest and most effective strategy to keep your knees, hips, and spine from getting painful and stiff – and it’s an easy way to stay a bit more active this Thanksgiving.

  1. Sign up for a Turkey Trot

Thanksgiving Turkey Trots are a popular event in most towns and it can be a really fun event for the whole family. Turkey Trots are typically 5K’s – or 3.2 miles. If you’re not able to sign up for an actual race, grab your friends and family and create your own Turkey Trot within your neighborhood. This is a great way to get your blood flowing and joints lubricated first thing in the morning. Plus, it will help offset some of those extra Thanksgiving calories. 

  1. Stretch during Commercials

Whether it’s the Macy’s Day parade, football, or both – it’s easy to find yourself lounging for hours on a soft sofa or recliner. A very easy way to keep yourself from sitting or slouching too much, and to incorporate some healthy movement into your day, is to get up during commercials. It’s the perfect opportunity to do a quick 2 min exercise or stretch.  It doesn’t have to be complicated. Choose from a quick set of squats, heel raises, planks, or back stretches. And make it fun. Get a plank or squat competition going with your most competitive family members – you know who they are.

  1. Walk your Dessert Off

While skipping dessert is of course an option – why not just walk it off instead? Choosing to walk off your dessert rather than skipping it strikes a balance between indulgence and staying healthy. Plus, opting for a post-meal walk has many benefits. It aids digestion, helps regulate blood sugar levels, and it’s good for your hips, back and knees. A post-meal walk is an opportunity to get some much needed lengthening and stretching of our muscles and joints after being parked in a chair for a length of time. It’s also one of the best and most natural exercises you can do for yourself – but it’s especially great to do after a big meal like Thanksgiving – and before you settle in for the evening.

  1. Help with clean-up

Don’t be shamed into “just sit down and relax” because you’re a guest. Helping with clean-up (or set-up) is an easy and effective way to keep moving during your Thanksgiving Holiday. Not only will your Thanksgiving host love you – but your body will too. If you’re suffering from back problems, be careful bending and leaning over – especially if it’s repetitive – when you’re collecting or washing dishes. But otherwise, carrying heavy plates, moving chairs, and wiping down tables can burn quite a few calories and it’s good for your body.

  1. Stay hydrated

Staying hydrated is important all of the time – but especially on a day like Thanksgiving. Good hydration will help regulate your digestion, which is particularly important given the heavy and often rich foods we typically consume during this holiday. Plus, water aids in breaking down food, allowing for better nutrient absorption and preventing digestive discomfort. Staying hydrated also helps with maintaining your energy levels and keeping your mind clear. When it comes to appetite, we often mistake thirst for hunger, so when you stay hydrated, you have more control over your portions and are less likely to overeat. When you stay hydrated – it not only supports your body’s essential functions – but making healthier choices becomes easier – which will contribute to a more balanced and enjoyable Thanksgiving Day.

  1. Make your dishes health-conscious

It’s easier than ever to make your traditional Thanksgiving recipes more health conscious. Start by reducing the amount of sugar and salt in recipes, and consider natural sweeteners like honey or maple syrup instead. When it comes to stuffing and flour – opt for whole grains instead of refined ones. Incorporating more fruits and veggies can boost the nutritional value of traditional dishes, and sticking to lean meats such as turkey breast is a healthier choice compared to something like ham. Lastly, watch your portion sizes. Don’t dump everything you see onto your plate – however tempting it might be – and eat slowly. The faster you eat – the more you tend to eat. 

There you have it – seven easy tips to make your Thanksgiving more active and healthy.

I hope you have a wonderful Holiday and get to spend it with those you love most.

Dr. Carrie Jose, Physical Therapist and Pilates expert, owns CJ Physical Therapy & Pilates in Portsmouth and writes for Seacoast Media Group. To get in touch, email her at [email protected].

avoid back pain when raking leaves

6 Tips to Protect your Back when Raking Leaves

Leaves are everywhere right now in New England, which means for many, the tedious task of raking them is right around the corner. I love Fall – but I don’t love raking leaves. And raking leaves is even worse when you’re suffering from back pain. The good news is there are many things you can do to protect your back when raking leaves. 

Here are 6 of my most popular tips to protect your back when raking leaves:

1. Warm up before you start.

Just as athletes warm up before a game, so should you before raking. Beginning any physical activity without preparing your body can lead to unwanted strains and injuries. For raking, focus on warm up activities that target your back, shoulders, and legs. Something like a quick walk around the block before you start is an excellent way to warm up. It gets blood flowing to your legs and arms, and the gentle rotational aspect of walking is great for your spine and torso. You could also include some basic stretches into your warmup such as torso twists, shoulder shrugs, and arm circles. This gets some lubrication into your joints and spine to help protect your back once you start raking.

2. Choose the Right Rake.

With any repetitive activity such as raking – good ergonomics is essential. Ergonomics refers to how safe and efficient you are in your working environment. Bad ergonomics will typically cost you unnecessary energy and labor – and can often result in an injury. When it comes to raking, choose a rake with a handle that is long enough so that you can maintain upright posture while using it, and go for one that is light in weight yet still durable. A good, ergonomic rake might require a bit more investment than you were intending, but it will be worth it in the long run because ultimately, a back injury will cost you much more. And knowing how to protect your back from injury is priceless.

3. Bend with your legs and hips

When performing repetitive activities or lifting something heavy, one of the most vulnerable postures for your back to be in is the combined position of flexed (bent forward) and rotated. To protect your back and avoid injury, you want to use your legs and hips to bend and lift. If you’ve got the right rake, it will be easy to maintain an upright posture while raking. And then when it’s time to scoop up the leaves and deposit them, you’ll want to squat using your hips and knees, and pivot with your trunk and pelvis. Avoid lifting with a curved back and twisting from your waist or spine. Maintaining these habits on a regular basis (not just when raking) will help you protect your back from strain or injury that could otherwise be very easily avoided.

4. Take regular breaks

Continuous and repetitive raking can tire out your muscles and make them more susceptible to injury. Plus, when you get into the monotony of raking, the mindlessness of the activity makes it easy to not pay attention to things like maintaining good posture and using good body mechanics. An easy way to combat this is by taking regular breaks. I recommend at least once every 30 min. Set an alarm on your phone or watch to remind you – and when it goes off – stop what you’re doing, put the rake down, and give yourself a quick upright back stretch. This very simple and easy strategy will go a long way in protecting your back when raking leaves.

5. Engage your Core

You don’t need six-pack abs to protect your back while raking leaves, but simply being mindful of your core can be super helpful and certainly won’t hurt you. Most back injuries occur when you least expect it – and when you aren’t paying attention. When you’re raking leaves, or any other mindless, repetitive activity for that matter, make an effort to think about gently drawing in your lower abdominals while you perform the activity. It’s a subtle move, and you should be able to easily breathe and talk while doing it. If you struggle to breathe and talk normally – you’re overdoing it.  This simple act of engaging your core will help keep your spine more supported and stable while raking and it will help protect your back.

6. Keep Moving Afterwards

What you do after raking is equally as important as what you do during to help protect your back from pain and injury. One of the biggest mistakes people make after a repetitive or strenuous activity (like raking) is to slump on the couch or recliner and “rest”. This is one of the worst things you can do to your spine because it’s more pliable and vulnerable right after strenuous activity. And when you put your spine in a relaxed, flexed position while it’s vulnerable – you’re just asking for an injury. You won’t notice it while you’re resting – but you might feel a tweak or strain when you go to stand up – or even up to several hours later. Do yourself a favor and perform some gentle stretching after raking, or go for another walk to help relax your back. And be mindful of your resting postures for a few hours after raking. This is an easy way to protect your back during raking season.

Hopefully these tips give you a few things to think about before you go raking all those leaves in your yard – but most importantly – help you protect your back and avoid unwanted back pain this fall season.

Dr. Carrie Jose, Physical Therapist and Pilates expert, owns CJ Physical Therapy & Pilates in Portsmouth and writes for Seacoast Media Group. To request a free copy of her guide to back pain CLICK HERE or to get in touch, email her at [email protected].

How Regenerative Shockwave Therapy is Helping Injured People Stay Active and Mobile

Regenerative Shockwave Therapy

Arthritis, degenerative joint disease, and general wear and tear of our bodies are all a normal part of aging – and these things tend to become more problematic once we get into our 50’s and beyond.

A lot of people falsely believe that as these ailments start to rear their ugly heads, it means you need to slow down, or even cease, some of your favorite activities. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. But as you get older, what is true is that you’re probably going to need some aid and assistance to keep doing all the activities you love – especially if you’ve had an injury.

Aside from mastering the basics… drink plenty of water, get adequate sleep, fuel your body with wholesome nutritious food, and exercise/move daily… There is something else I’ve found that can really make a difference in how active and mobile you’re able to get (and stay) once you’ve hit your fifties. It’s called regenerative shockwave therapy – a treatment that utilizes high-energy “shock waves” (or soundwaves) to trigger a biological response that helps to aid and accelerate the healing process of your soft tissue (anything that isn’t bone). I only came across this revolutionary technology a few months ago. And while I was initially skeptical – I’ve since become a huge fan. Why? It’s safe and non-invasive, it aids the body’s natural healing process, it’s backed by research, and I’ve seen it work remarkably well to help with pain relief and soft tissue healing. 

Here are just some of the ways regenerative shockwave therapy is helping injured people (especially those aged fifty-plus) stay active, mobile, and doing the activities they love.

Pain Management:

One of the main reasons people reduce their physical activity is due to pain. But movement and exercise are actually an essential component (in most cases) for pain relief. But let’s face it, when you hurt, you’re just not as motivated to move. This is where regenerative shockwave therapy comes in. It quickly penetrates deep into your soft tissue to help bring blood flow and healing properties to a targeted area to reduce pain. And it keeps working even after the treatment is over. As your pain reduces, you feel more confident to move and resume your favorite physical activities faster.

Improved Mobility:

As you approach age 50 and beyond – you may notice your joints naturally becoming stiffer. Stiffness on its own might not seem like a big deal – but it becomes a problem when it leads to compensatory movement patterns – which can eventually lead to pain. Shockwave therapy helps to promote collagen production, the protein responsible for maintaining the suppleness and flexibility of your soft tissue. Good mobility helps you move better and feel better – and shockwave therapy can be a valuable companion in this process.

Blood Flow Stimulation:

Good blood flow and circulation are essential components to quick healing of any soft tissue injury. Shockwave therapy aids in this process with vasodilation – ensuring that the injured or degenerated tissue receives a higher influx of nutrients – which speeds up the recovery process. As we get older, the integrity of our soft tissue can suffer, so anything that can stimulate blood flow is going to help you heal – and get you back to your favorite activities faster.

Reduces Scar Tissue:

It’s not uncommon to meet folks in their 50’s (and beyond) with at least one or two orthopedic surgeries under their belt. While I consistently advocate against resorting to surgery, there are times when it’s necessary and beneficial. But a mismanaged scar can ruin everything. Scars don’t act like your original tissue and if they aren’t managed properly – will cause mobility restrictions that worsen over time. Shockwave therapy can help to break down scar tissue and stimulate the production of new, healthy tissue – which can restore any discomfort or dysfunction that the scar was causing – getting you back to your activities faster.

Accelerated Recovery:

At the end of the day, and for all the reasons already stated, shockwave therapy helps to speed up your body’s own natural healing process and thus – recovery. Consider it a companion and “best friend” to any rehabilitation protocol. With increased blood flow, reduction of scar tissue, and improved pain and mobility – you tolerate things with more ease and can progress more quickly. When you’re younger – you have a lot of this naturally on your side already. But as we age, everything slows down, including our body’s natural recovery processes. Shockwave therapy steps in to fill this gap so you don’t have to miss out for too long on your favorite physical activities.

If you’re currently injured and avoiding exercise – consider adding regenerative shockwave therapy into the mix to help reduce your pain, improve your mobility, and get you back to your favorite activities faster. Who knows, it could be the missing link to your healing that you didn’t even know existed.

Dr. Carrie Jose, Physical Therapist and Pilates expert, owns CJ Physical Therapy & Pilates in Portsmouth and writes for Seacoast Media Group. To get in touch, email her at [email protected].

7 Reasons Everyone over 50 Should be Walking

A meet a lot of folks who think (or have been told) they need to “slow down” once they get into their 50’s and beyond – especially if they have arthritis or an injury. But this can’t be farther from the truth. As we age, regular movement and exercise becomes even more critical – especially if you’re injured or suffering from arthritis. 

If it’s been awhile since you’ve exercised, or you’re looking for something you can do that’s accessible and where you can be consistent, then let’s talk about all the benefits a walking routine can bring you – especially if you’re in your 50’s and beyond.

Here are 7 reasons why I think everyone over 50 should be walking:

  1. It’s good for your cardiovascular health

The leading cause of death in older adults continues to be cardiovascular disease. A regular walking routine can help combat this by improving your heart health, increasing your blood circulation, it reduces bad cholesterol, and raises the good cholesterol. Plus – the rhythmic nature of walking gets your heart pumping at a steady rate – which is great for your overall cardiovascular health.

  1. It makes your muscles and bones stronger

As we age, losing both bone density and muscle mass are normal and common. But there are things you can do to counteract this process – and regular walking is one of them. Since walking is a weight-bearing activity, it’s good for strengthening your bones and reducing the risk of osteoporosis and fractures. Walking also engages several of your muscle groups at once – which helps them to stay active and strong.

  1. It’s boosts your mental health

Ever heard of walking meditation? It’s a thing. Walking has been shown to significantly reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety, and it’s an opportunity to get your mind off the day to day, self reflect, and even meditate as I mentioned above. Plus – if you assume a regular walking routine with friends or loved ones, the social aspect can be so beneficial to your mood and mental health. To further enhance the mental benefits of walking – try to get out in nature. The fresh air – plus tranquil sounds and smells – is not only cleansing for your mind – but for your soul as well.

  1. It helps you manage weight

Along with bone density and muscle mass, your metabolism also takes a hit as you get older. But regular walking can help counteract this. Regular walking burns calories to help you maintain a healthy weight, which is critical for avoiding chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease. Plus, being at a healthy weight can increase your energy levels, it’s easier to move around and do your daily tasks, and you’ll have less stress on your joints.

  1. It improves your joint health

A lot of people don’t realize this – but arthritis is something that occurs naturally as you age and it’s not something to be feared. But because we fear it, we unknowingly avoid activities that are good for us and that actually help arthritis. Walking is one of these activities. Movement is one of the best things you can do for arthritis, and walking in particular helps to lubricate your joints, especially your knees and hips. Regular walking also helps to make the structures and soft tissue around your joints loose and flexible – which is important for successful management of arthritic joints.

  1. It helps enhance your balance and coordination

As we get older, falls become a major concern because lower bone density means you’re more prone to fractures. It gets more difficult to work on balance and coordination after you’ve lost it – so maintaining it is key. A regular walking routine does just that. Each step you take requires coordination of several muscles as well as balance – and the repetitiveness of wal

king helps enhance your body’s natural ability to quickly correct and stabilize itself – all helping you to decrease your risk of falling.

  1. It’s low impact and adaptable

One of the reasons I recommend walking for folks over 50 is because of its low-impact nature. Unlike jogging or other high-impact exercises, walking is gentle on the joints and can be easily adapted to your current fitness level. Whether it’s a slow-paced walk around the block or a brisk hike up a hill, walking can be tailored to suit your individual needs and goals

If you’re over 50 – incorporating regular walking into your routine can be a game-changer. It’s a simple yet profoundly effective way to get and stay fit – and you’ll find it improves your quality of life in ways that are beyond physical. Walking nurtures your mind and soul, is a great way to catch up with friends and stay social, and you can literally do it anywhere. If you’re not already incorporating a regular walking routine – what are you waiting for? And if an injury is what’s stopping you – talk to an expert who can help you get rid of your pain and get started in a way that is safe for your body.

Learn more about our next exclusive free live event – Fit After 50 – HERE.

Dr. Carrie Jose, Physical Therapist and Pilates expert, owns CJ Physical Therapy & Pilates in Portsmouth and writes for Seacoast Media Group. To get in touch, email her at [email protected].

Before you get a Cortisone Injection – Ask these questions

Cortisone (or steroid) injections have become increasingly popular over the years for people looking to address chronic joint pain and inflammation.

Why have they become so popular? Well, for starters, they have a reputation for getting rid of pain quickly, and they are generally considered a better alternative to something like surgery. But there can be consequences when you choose the “quick-fix” route. Before you decide on whether or not a cortisone injection is right for you – let’s look at some important considerations.

First… the benefits…

Quick Relief:

This is the main reason folks don’t think twice about getting a cortisone injection. And when you’ve been suffering for a while with something like back or knee pain – or it keeps coming back at the most inopportune times – cortisone injections are an attractive option.

Targeted Treatment:

In contrast to a pain pill – or even an oral steroid – people like the idea of a cortisone injection because you can choose exactly where it’s going to go. This makes your treatment more targeted and theoretically, more effective. Plus, a localized injection compared to an oral medication could mean smaller amounts of the drug going into your body, thus, potentially minimizing any potential side effects.

Alternative to Surgery:

I’m a huge advocate of avoiding surgery unless absolutely necessary. So if all other conservative and natural treatments have truly failed, then a cortisone injection could be a good option for you. It’s certainly better than a surgical procedure.

Now – let’s look at the risks and side effects…

Cartilage Damage and Weakening of Tendons:

Based on research and evidence, we know that repeated cortisone injections cause damage to cartilage (the cushioning material inside your joints) and weakening of tendons. This might not be an issue for you if you know you’re getting a joint replacement surgery and using cortisone to pass the time and help control pain. But otherwise, repeatedly getting cortisone injections in your joints or tendons will increase your likelihood of needing surgery down the road – so it’s an important consideration – especially if your first cortisone injection doesn’t work or doesn’t last.

Risk of Infection:

This is an important risk to consider – especially when it comes to cortisone injections in your spine. With any type of injection – you run the risk of inadvertently introducing bacteria, which could lead to serious complications. While an infection is not ideal in any area of your body, it can be especially dangerous in your spine because it could lead to things like meningitis and epidural abscesses. 

Short-term Relief:

While the quick pain relief you can get from a cortisone injection seems attractive, there are unintended consequences. First, even though joint inflammation is what’s causing you pain, it’s rarely the root cause of your problem. That’s why the relief you get from cortisone injections rarely lasts and the pain returns. The problem with this is that you’re more likely to get repeat cortisone injections which we know causes damage. Plus, once the pain is gone, you think your problem is gone, and you’re less likely to address it. 

If after all this you’re still considering a cortisone injection – at least ask these important questions first…

  • Are you absolutely sure the root cause of your issue is inflammation? Or is it a symptom of an underlying problem?

I can’t tell you how many people (even healthcare providers) get this wrong. Since 70-80% of all joint pain is mechanical in nature – meaning something in the joint isn’t moving right, and thus, irritating the surrounding structures which can lead to inflammation – it’s critical you rule this out first. Cortisone injections won’t fix an underlying mechanical problem.

  • What are the long-term side effects of repeated cortisone injections?

This can be a bit of a trick question – because we already know the answer to this. Repeated cortisone injections cause joint and tendon damage. If your doctor is not already aware of the current research, or dismisses it, they are less likely to caution you away from the procedure when there could be better, more natural alternatives. It’s always important to be well-informed and advocate for yourself when you’re working with any type of healthcare practitioner and being recommended an injection or procedure of any kind.

  • What are the alternatives?

Have you already tried quality physical therapy treatment that is designed to address your underlying problem and help you get rid of your joint inflammation naturally? Pain relief is slower with this option, and can sometimes be worse before it gets better, but it’s more likely to result in long-term relief instead of short-term. Movement and exercise are considered the best medicine when it comes to joint pain, inflammation, and arthritis. You may need some guidance so as not to overdo it, but exercises such as Pilates and Yoga are gentle on your joints, allowing you for safe movement without exacerbating your pain in most cases.

When prescribed properly, cortisone injections do work. But sadly, for most people, steroid injections are oversubscribed, not always necessary, and disappointing when they don’t work or last.

I’ve seen too many cases over the course of my career where cortisone injections provide a false sense of hope, or worse, irreversible joint damage. For all of these reasons, I highly recommend you educate yourself, and consider all the risks and possible alternatives before you get a cortisone injection. I’m a huge fan of avoiding pills, procedures, and surgery and using natural movement and exercise to get rid of most musculoskeletal problems. If you’re looking to do the same – consider talking to a mechanical pain expert who can help you.

Dr. Carrie Jose, Physical Therapist and Pilates expert, owns CJ Physical Therapy & Pilates in Portsmouth and writes for Seacoast Media Group. To get in touch, email her at [email protected].

Orthopedic dry needling

The Top Four Benefits of Orthopedic Dry Needling and Why You Should Consider it.

Orthopedic dry needling is a modern therapeutic treatment technique that has been adopted by physical therapists and medical professionals to alleviate pain and improve muscle function. But despite its escalating popularity, I’m still surprised at how many people are unaware it even exists.

What exactly is orthopedic dry needling?

Orthopedic dry needling involves the insertion of fine, sterile acupuncture needles into myofascial trigger points (“knots”), tendons, or muscles that are typically painful, stiff, or causing discomfort. Unlike acupuncture, which aims to balance and restore the flow of energy (“chi”) in your body, dry needling focuses on restoring your muscles and soft tissue back to their optimal state. During a dry needling treatment, a needle is inserted into specific areas to encourage blood flow and homeostasis, sometimes eliciting a ‘twitch’ response in the muscles. The needles may remain in place for a short duration, or may be removed quickly, depending on the condition being treated. Dry needling is backed by scientific research and has been shown to work effectively. It’s thought to turn off trigger points, ease muscle tension, reduce inflammation, and relieve pain – all to help improve how your muscles perform and work.

Here are the top 4 benefits of orthopedic dry needling and why you should consider this treatment technique if you haven’t already:

1. Pain Relief 

Dry needling can quickly alleviate pain, which means you can get back to your regular activities sooner. While the treatment itself can sometimes be painful, and lead to residual soreness 24-48 hours after your treatment, you’ll find that the positives far outweigh the negatives. Most of my clients find that a little bit of soreness right after the treatment is well worth the pain relief they experience afterwards. Dry needling works best for pain relief when it’s performed alongside functional and integrative therapies such as corrective movement strategies – which will result in long-lasting pain relief instead of more short-term.

2. Better Mobility

Dry needling does more than just relieve pain – it helps to enhance how you move. When muscles are tight, they can restrict movement and create a lot of discomfort. By releasing tension in tight muscles, increasing blood flow, and reducing inflammation – dry needling facilitates more comfortable and more extensive range motion in your joints. This allows you to move more freely and perform your favorite activities with less pain and restriction. In conjunction with corrective exercises and stretches, dry needling can be an extremely valuable tool for enhancing and maintaining good mobility.

3. Enhanced Muscle Function

Good mobility is just one aspect required for optimal muscle function. Your muscles also need to know how to activate properly and together. Sometimes – when you’ve been suffering from pain for a while – the muscles surrounding the problem area can “fall asleep at the wheel”. While you may be able to successfully get rid of your pain in a particular area, getting rid of and correcting the problem is a different story. I often say: “just because your pain is gone – does not mean your problem is gone”. If you don’t address underlying muscular compensations, your pain will eventually come back and sometimes it’s worse. The stimulation provided by orthopedic dry needling can help get your brain to pay more attention to the affected area, thus, helping “sleepy” muscles come back to the party and work like they’re supposed to.

4. Faster Recovery

When you’re injured, your body needs all the help it can get to heal. Dry needling not only enhances blood flow to the targeted area, but helps to create an environment for muscle regeneration as well – thus – helping to speed up the recovery process of injured or damaged soft tissue. Additionally, the improved blood flow aids in the removal of metabolic waste products and the delivery of nutrients to the tissues, fostering faster healing of the injured areas and less inflammation. This accelerated recovery is particularly valuable for athletes or weekend warriors aiming to return to their sport faster, as well as anyone looking to get back to their favorite activities as quickly as possible.

Should you consider orthopedic dry needling?

When I think of orthopedic dry needling, I think of it like a helping hand to feel better, move more freely, and enhance just about any other treatment you’re using alongside it. For example, a corrective exercise is only going to work if you can execute it properly. If you’ve got stiff, painful muscles that prevent you from performing your exercise or stretch that you know you need to do to help a particular problem – dry needling can be the magic in between.

It’s important to note that dry needling is not necessary or right for everyone.  So it’s important that you know what it is and when it can be used to improve your health. If after reading this article you think orthopedic dry needling could be something that you’re missing – talk to a qualified physical therapist or health care practitioner who practices dry needling – and ask if you’re a good fit for this treatment technique.

Dr. Carrie Jose, Physical Therapist and Pilates expert, owns CJ Physical Therapy & Pilates in Portsmouth and writes for Seacoast Media Group. To get in touch, email her at [email protected].

Sciatica

Battling Sciatica? Here’s what to Avoid and what you should do Instead

Did you know that nearly four out of five people will suffer from a debilitating back pain episode at some point in their lives and that it can result in sciatica?

“Sciatica” is a term used to describe searing pain, burning, or numbness that runs from your back and down your leg, often below your knee and into your foot. It occurs because something in your lower back is irritating the nerve that sends signals to your leg. It can be caused by anything that puts pressure on and/or irritates your sciatic nerve –  such as herniated or bulging discs. 

What a lot of people don’t know is that you can have sciatic symptoms without actually having any back pain. Sciatic symptoms can occur just in one place in your leg – like your knee and/or foot – or run down the whole leg as described above. Regardless of how your sciatica is behaving – there are some general “best practices” that almost all versions of sciatica will respond to. 

Here’s what you should avoid when you’re battling sciatica – as well as what to do instead:

What to Avoid:

1. Soft beds and couches 

While it may feel better in the moment – lying in soft beds or couches will ultimately aggravate your sciatica. When you lie in soft beds or couches – it forces you into a slouched posture – which puts unwanted pressure on your already irritated nerves. What’s tricky is that you often won’t notice the aggravation while you’re in the slouched position. It won’t be until later, perhaps when you get up to walk or move around, that you’ll feel worse. Because of this, people mistakenly attribute the aggravation of their sciatica to the activity they just did instead of the prolonged, slouched position they were assuming perhaps just minutes or hours before.

2. Child’s pose and stretching forward.

Just because a stretch feels good, doesn’t mean it is good – another big misconception when it comes to sciatica. Since sciatica is often caused by a bulging or herniated disc that is putting pressure on your nerve – you want to avoid anything that is going to increase that pressure. When you stretch forward – like in child’s pose – you’re opening up the space in between your vertebrae (intervertebral space). In between each vertebrae lies your discs. Although it feels good “in the moment” when you’re stretching forward – and may even temporarily relieve your sciatica – this relief won’t last. By opening up your intervertebral space – you’re making it easier for your discs to protrude out and irritate your nerves – unknowingly prolonging or worsening your sciatica.

3. Letting your MRI dictate treatment.

As already mentioned, sciatica often involves bulging discs – and an MRI will typically confirm this. But here’s what you might not know… Research has shown us that lots of folks (more than 60%) have bulging discs showing up on their MRI’s, but they don’t all have back pain or sciatic symptoms. What that means is that while sciatica is often caused by a bulging disc, a bulging disc doesn’t always guarantee you’ll have sciatica. Why is this important? Because when you allow your MRI findings to dictate your treatment plan, you’re more likely to undergo a procedure or surgery that might not be necessary. Removing the bulging disc material or fusing your spine together might take the pressure off the nerve temporarily, but if the underlying issue is a movement or mechanical problem, and it’s not addressed, it’s only a matter of time before your problem comes back and/or shows up in a different area of your spine.

What to Do:

1. Go for Walks. 

Walking is one of the best things you can do for back pain – even though it may seem counterintuitive to do so when you’ve got pain running down your leg. Walking is an upright activity that is generally good for sciatica versus the slouched, curved posture you have when sitting. When you walk, pay close attention to what happens in your leg. Do your symptoms worsen or start to get better? If they worsen, certainly stop and seek professional guidance. But if your leg starts feeling better – then the walking is likely good for your sciatica.

2. Pay attention to your Posture.

This may seem trivial – but maintaining good posture is critical when you’re suffering from sciatica. When your sciatic nerve is irritated, it becomes highly sensitive to postural changes in your lower back (especially slouched postures). Whether you’re sitting or standing – you want to maintain the natural S-curve of your spine as best as you can. I recommend to my clients they use a lumbar roll whenever they are sitting to make maintaining this posture easier. Correcting your posture alone is often not enough to get rid of your sciatica, but it can keep you from getting worse, and prevent it from coming back if you’ve successfully eliminated your sciatic symptoms.

3. Talk to a Mechanical Pain Specialist.

Did you know that 70-80% of all musculoskeletal pain is mechanical in nature? Both back pain and sciatica can fall into this “mechanical pain” category – which is caused by slowly developing movement problems or habits that eventually result in stiffness and mobility restrictions in your spine. These restrictions can lead to irritated structures, such as nerves. So if your sciatica is due to a mechanical problem – it’s not going to permanently improve with pills, procedures or surgery. You’ll need to find a mechanical pain specialist who can help correct and restore your movement patterns for a long-term solution you can maintain on your own.

Dr. Carrie Jose, Physical Therapist and Pilates expert, owns CJ Physical Therapy & Pilates in Portsmouth and writes for Seacoast Media Group. To request a free copy of her guide to back pain CLICK HERE or to get in touch, email her at [email protected].

6 Reasons Your Back Surgery Failed

Back surgery, often viewed as a last resort for those suffering from debilitating back pain, has become increasingly common in the last 15 years.

A quick Google search reveals that an estimated 1.5 million spinal fusions are performed annually in the United States alone. When you consider that 70-80% of all back pain is considered “non-specific” and does not require surgery – that number is staggering. Additionally, it’s been well documented that 20-40% of all back surgeries fail, resulting in what we call “Failed Back Surgery Syndrome”. So why then – do we continue to operate?

If you or a loved one is considering back surgery – I highly recommend you do your due diligence and research first.

To give you a head start – here are 6 reasons why back surgery often fails:

1. Incorrect Diagnosis

If the wrong diagnosis leads you to an unnecessary surgery – then your back surgery is going to fail. How does this happen? All too often we blame aging structures in the spine as the main source of our pain. But what many fail to understand is that arthritis and degenerating discs (for example) are a normal part of aging. Everyone has it – but not everyone has back pain. An aging spine is not a reason to get back surgery – so be cautious anytime someone blames arthritis or disc degeneration for your pain. It’s typically not the full story.

2. Surgical Complications

Surgical complications are a risk when you undergo any type of surgery – even when it’s coined “minimally invasive”. From anesthesia reactions, to accidentally nicking a nerve, to the possibility of infection – complications can occur – and some of them irreversible. Conservative therapy and natural treatments involving movement and exercise come with virtually no risk – and have better outcomes than surgery according to research. You want to make absolutely certain that a back surgery is warranted before you put yourself at risk for complications.

3. Scar Tissue

Scar tissue is an unavoidable consequence of any surgery and a necessary part of the healing process – but its impact is significantly underestimated. For some, scarring can get out of control and be excessive, manifesting itself similar to an auto-immune condition. For others, they simply have no clue that scars need to be managed and mobilized. Unmanaged scar tissue will become adhesive and may cause problems with your nerves, fascia, and general mobility. While there are treatments such as Shockwave therapy that can help regenerate damaged soft tissue from scarring – unmanaged scar tissue can be one reason your pain doesn’t resolve after back surgery

4. False Expectations

A lot of folks go into back surgery with false expectations. They think they’ll be out of pain and back to their activities in no time. But proper healing from back surgery is deceivingly long. While most incisions will technically heal in about 2 weeks – your body has a different timeline. Most people grossly underestimate the impact their condition prior to surgery will have on their recovery. Your pain may be gone after surgery, but all of the underlying, compensatory problems that developed leading up to your surgery have not magically disappeared. For example, it takes a minimum of 6-8 weeks to build and retrain muscle. If you had nerve impingement that was inhibiting a muscle from performing properly, it’s going to take several months to get that strength back. When this is not considered, and you jump back into activities too soon, you’re asking for trouble. False or mismanaged expectations about recovery after back surgery is a big reason for poor outcomes.|

5. Images are Misleading

X-rays and MRI’s do not tell the full story when it comes to back pain. And in most cases, they are misleading and can result in an incorrect diagnosis. For example, I already mentioned to you that most things you see in your images – such as arthritis, degenerative disc disease, and even bulging discs – occur naturally as you age. But they don’t always lead to back pain. Studies have shown that 60% of folks in their 50’s will have bulging discs on X-ray and 80% will have disc degeneration – regardless of whether back pain is present or not. These statistics only increase with age. If you allow your imaging alone to dictate your decision to get back surgery – you’re increasing your risk of it failing because it may not have been necessary in the first place.

6. Back Surgery Makes Money

At the end of the day, healthcare is a business. And back surgeries are among the most lucrative procedures in the medical industry. According to studies and statistical data, common back surgeries like lumbar fusion cost anywhere from $50,000 to $90,000. But it only costs hospitals a fraction of that amount to actually administer. Plus, despite its unethical nature, some surgeons have been reported to receive kickbacks for using certain medical devices and performing more surgeries. While this is an indirect reason for your back surgery failing, it’s not something you can ignore. The profitability of back surgery naturally lends itself to being overutilized when there could be better, natural solutions instead.


After all this, I hope you can see that back surgery isn’t a decision you should take lightly, and a good outcome should not be assumed.

Consider the statistics. Anywhere from 20-40% of all back surgeries fail and it could be due to any of the reasons we just looked at. Most back pain (70-80% to be exact) is considered non-specific and mechanical in nature, and can be resolved naturally with prescriptive exercises, lifestyle changes, and corrective movement strategies. It’s worth exhausting all of these options first before jumping into a surgical procedure that has a good chance of failing you.

Dr. Carrie Jose, Physical Therapist and Pilates expert, owns CJ Physical Therapy & Pilates in Portsmouth and writes for Seacoast Media Group. To request a free copy of her guide to back pain CLICK HERE or to get in touch, email her at [email protected].

How Back MRI’s Lead to more Invasive Treatments and Surgery

If you’ve ever suffered from acute or long-standing back pain, you’ve likely wanted to “see inside” and know what’s going on. If this is you – you’re not alone in your thinking – and many medical doctors agree with this approach. However, evidence suggests that unwarranted MRI’s on your back can lead to unnecessary invasive treatments and surgeries, which often result in more harm than good in the long-term.

Let’s take a look at the research.

As part of their International Choose Wisely Campaign, the BMJ (British Journal of Medicine) published findings of a 2020 study that investigated what happens when back pain sufferers get MRI’s done too early (defined as less than 6 weeks into an episode and absent of any red flags). In more than 400,000 patients, those who received early MRI’s on their back were more likely to undergo back surgery and be prescribed opioids. And worse – they had higher pain scores at 1-year follow-up than those that didn’t get an MRI. This is not an isolated study. There is mounting evidence that indicates when MRI’s are done too early or unnecessarily – it leads to more surgery, more invasive treatments, more negative perceptions and catastrophization of spinal conditions, and overall – poorer outcomes.

So when is a back MRI needed? 

When you’ve got any alarming symptoms (known as “red flags”) you should absolutely get an MRI. These include signs of cancer, infection, inflammatory disease, possibility of fracture, or severe neurological deficit. Qualified health care practitioners are trained to identify these red flags. However, they are seen in only about 5-10% of all back pain cases. For context, in my two decades of treating patients with back pain, only three had these serious symptoms. This isn’t to downplay severe back pain cases, but to emphasize that most back pain patients don’t need an MRI for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan. And if you get an MRI when you don’t need one – you might end up with unnecessary treatments or surgeries, be prescribed opioids, and are likely to feel generally worse about your back pain.

The problem with relying on back MRI’s

When you get an MRI of your back – the problem is it shows you everything.

You’ll see a comprehensive view of bulging discs, arthritis, stenosis, and degenerative discs – which are all common findings – but also a normal part of aging. Everybody gets them whether you have back pain or not. But because we haven’t done a good enough job of normalizing these findings – they often get blamed for your back pain when seen on an MRI. But the research shows you can’t reliably correlate your MRI findings to the true cause of your back pain. In fact, they’ve compared MRI’s of people with and without back pain and found they can share almost identical results. In a set of publications known as the Lancet series, Martin Underwood, MD, co-author and professor at Warwick Medical School, said: “If you get into the business of treating disc degeneration because it has shown up on an MRI, the likelihood is that, in most of those people, it is not contributing to their back pain.”

Confused? I don’t blame you.

The truth is, about 70-80% of all back problems, even sciatica, are considered what we call “mechanical” in nature. Your pain will come and go, you’ll have good days and bad days, and you’ll often feel better with movement. Mechanical back pain cannot be diagnosed by an MRI – it’s diagnosed via repeated movement testing to see what triggers and relieves your back pain. And it’s treated with corrective movement strategies designed to get rid of your pain and keep it gone. If you undergo an MRI for what’s essentially mechanical pain, you risk receiving treatments that are not only unnecessary, but can exacerbate the problem. Remember, you can’t reverse a back surgery. And complications related to back surgery are complicated to treat. You owe it to yourself to exhaust all possible conservative treatments.

If you’ve been suffering with back pain for years, I know it’s frustrating.

Consider speaking to a mechanical back pain expert who can help you accurately determine the root cause of your back pain with corrective movement strategies instead of a back MRI.

Give yourself a chance to resolve your back pain naturally instead of resorting to invasive treatments or procedures.

Dr. Carrie Jose, Physical Therapist and Pilates expert, owns CJ Physical Therapy & Pilates in Portsmouth and writes for Seacoast Media group. To get in touch, or request a seat in her upcoming Masterclass for Back Pain & Sciatica – visit her website www.cjphysicaltherapy.com or call 603-605-0402