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Laureldale, PA 19605


Monthly Archives: November 2015

Weight Machines or Free Weights: Which Is Better?

The debate over whether weight machines or free weights better help a person achieve fitness is not new. Recently, the trend has been away from weight machines and toward free weights, so it is worth revisiting the benefits and drawbacks of both.

Weight machines have several advantages. For one thing, they are easy for the beginner to use and result in fewer injuries. Because they allow individual muscle groups to be isolated and worked, machines move the body through a specific range of motion with good control. And properly adjusted machines provide support for the lift.

On the downside, weight machines reduce the need for balance and coordination while lifting. Their fixed motion pattern can lead to overuse injuries. Not all machines fit all body types well, and they are not portable.

Free weights help develop balance and coordination. They can be used through a full range of motion and for many different exercises, while working on muscles in a way similar to the way the body works muscles in real life.

However, free weights are more difficult for beginners to use and result in more injuries. They also require more control than weight machines, and when working with heavy weights, a spotter may be needed.

So which is really better? The American College of Sports Medicine recommends the following options for different groups:


  • beginning and intermediate training should incorporate both free weights and machines 
  • advanced training should emphasize free weights with supplemental weight machine work
  • seniors should use weight machines for safety 


But perhaps finding a program you enjoy is the most important factor, because if you do not like your training routine, you will not stick with it. If you are ready for a change, talk to us about designing a new program that will add variety to your current workout.

Still have questions? Contact us at Western Berks Physical Therapy


Treating Plantar Fasciitis with a Night Splint

The plantar fascia is a ligament full of fibers that runs along the bottom of the foot from the heel to the toes. More than two million Americans seek treatment each year for the pain and inflammation that result when tiny tears occur in the tissue. When the tears are located at the end of the ligament attached to the calcaneous, or heel bone, what you feel is plantar fasciitis or heel pain—a burning, aching or sticking sensation.

As you sleep, your foot naturally and normally flexes downward, and the plantar fascia contracts. If you suffer from plantar fasciitis, the initial stretching of the ligament when you arise from bed and put your foot on the floor will be particularly painful.

Wearing a night splint (or more precisely, a dorsiflexion night splint) keeps your toes flexed a bit upward so the plantar fascia does not have the opportunity to contract. Thus, in the morning, you reduce the difference between the ligament’s position while you were sleeping and the ligament’s position when you place your foot on the floor. This should alleviate a good deal of pain.

Conservative methods of treating plantar fasciitis include other modalities besides a night splint. The simplest include

  • rest
  • ice packs on your heel for 10 minutes a few times daily
  • calf-muscle stretches

You should also avoid walking barefoot, which strains the plantar fascia. Your doctor may recommend taking a pain reliever like ibuprofen or another nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug.

We can help you manage your plantar fasciitis with additional foot devices, such as custom orthotics and pads, as well as a program of physical therapy exercises. In tandem, this regimen can help you avoid foot pain first thing in the morning.

Contact Western Berks Physical Therapy today for help if you are experiencing foot pain and symptoms of plantar fasciitis.


Treadmills: Getting the Best Results

If you are new to working out on a treadmill, you will want to make sure that you not only get the best results but that your program is a safe one. Whether you are an avid outdoor runner who wants to transition to the treadmill for indoor exercise or a complete exercise beginner, you might ask the following questions before purchasing or using this piece of equipment:


Treadmills: Getting the Best Results


  • How far can I safely run?
  • How fast should I be walking or running?
  • What incline should I use?
  • How do I know if I am working too hard?


While outdoor running is exhilarating, it involves such challenges as bad weather, joint stress and safety. Treadmill running tends to be more forgiving on the body because it does not have the energy costs of running against wind and outdoor elements. However, it is generally best to start slowly on the treadmill, keeping a routine similar to your outdoor run but cutting back 10–20% during the initial couple of months.

If you are new to running and your doctor has given you clearance to start using a treadmill, we can help you reach your goals, whether you want to achieve


  • weight loss
  • better endurance
  • toning
  • improved heart health


We can answer any questions you may have regarding this type of exercise. We will assess your current fitness level and design a program to give you the best results from the treadmill. With our support, you can feel confident that, as your fitness improves, your program will progress with it, helping you to reach your full potential.


Three Rs of Managing the Pain of Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition, leaving those who suffer from it struggling with muscle, tendon and ligament pain, as well as fatigue and tenderness throughout the body, where even gentle pressure triggers discomfort. Fortunately, physical therapy exercises can help manage the pain of this debilitating condition.

Part of the role of physical therapy is not only to help you cope with fibromyalgia but also to empower you to take an active part in your treatment. Even though you may take medication to alleviate pain, we focus on a whole-body solution by supporting you in the three Rs of managing the pain of fibromyalgia.


  • Reduce daily pain and stiffness
  • Relieve deep muscle pain
  • Restore range of motion, flexibility and strength


Another important benefit of physical therapy is access to a broad range of safe, effective resources. Your treatment may include deep tissue massagelow-impact aerobic conditioning, hydrotherapy, nerve stimulation andexercises you can perform at home.

We can offer you a number of different approaches through a custom fibromyalgia-specific treatment program that suits your unique lifestyle and needs. We will also monitor your progress and provide practical advice as needed to keep you on track with your fibromyalgia management. If any changes to your condition occur, we can fine-tune your program to ensure that it complements any medications you may be taking. A successful program will equip you with the tools to experience an independent and healthy life as free of pain as possible.


Resuming Exercise After Being Bitten by the Flu Bug

Flu season is in full swing, and along with the regular flu, the new H1N1 virus is infecting thousands of people. Influenza can be a serious illness. Symptoms include fever, chills, headache, body aches, sore throat, runny nose, dry cough and a general feeling of exhaustion and sickness. While the fever usually lasts two to five days, other symptoms can linger for 10 days or more. If you have the flu, stay home, rest and do not exercise.

Resuming Exercise After Being Bitten by the Flu Bug

You can start exercising again safely when you have been fever-free for at least 24 hours or longer. Not only can you harm your body by exercising with a fever but you also may be capable of spreading the flu virus to others. If you are an athlete and monitor your resting pulse regularly, one sure sign that you are well enough to exercise is a resting pulse rate no more than 10 beats per minute higher than normal.

Most people who exercise do not know their normal resting pulse rate, so here are some other tips about returning to exercise after the flu:

  • If you have chest congestion or a deep, painful cough, do not exercise. Some people develop pneumonia after having the flu. Because flu weakens the body, bacteria that would normally be disposed of by the immune system can enter the lungs and grow.
  • Restart your exercise program with very light exercise that does not cause you to get out of breath.
  • For the first week to 10 days after you are healthy, cut the number of times you exercise in half. For instance, if you exercise daily, switch to every other day.
  • Gradually increase the intensity and length of your exercise.
  • Stop exercising if you feel unusually short of breath or dizzy.
  • Stay well hydrated.


If you are unsure about resuming exercise after having the flu, schedule an appointment with us to discuss modifications to your program. This way, as your body heals from the illness, you can continue your fitness regime—at a reduced level—without missing a beat!