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Monthly Archives: January 2016

Treadmill or the Outdoors The Great Debate

Treadmill or the Outdoors The Great Debate


You like to run on your gym’s treadmill, with the air-conditioning blowing and the television on. Your friend swears that the outdoors is the only place to really run. So who’s reaping more benefits?

On a physiological level, treadmill running (or walking) can be easier on your bones and muscles—which can be a good thing if you have joint problems. But your body expends less energy—which can be a bad thing because you are getting less of a workout. As the belt of a treadmill moves, it pulls your feet behind your body, making running easier on your leg muscles.

There’s also no wind resistance in an indoor, climate-controlled environment. Some people feel that running against the wind makes them work even harder, which may in fact be true. However, studies have shown that, if you run at the average speed of five to nine miles per hour (mph), the wind resistance factor is practically nonexistent. Even if you are a nine-mph runner, setting the treadmill at a 1 percent incline makes up for the level of exertion you may lose by running without wind resistance.

Besides having the benefits of a shock-absorbent surface and climate control, treadmill runners have far fewer safety concerns than their outdoor colleagues. Listening to music can be distracting and dangerous when dealing with passing cars and other outdoor factors. But some experts worry that treadmill runners get bored easily—some people prefer the changing scenery outdoors to a television or the static feel of a gym.

It all comes down to preference—you are more likely to run if you choose whichever method is more enjoyable for you. So if you prefer walking or running on a treadmill, you’ll do it consistently, improving your health and stamina. If indoor gyms bore you, keep up the outdoor regimen—just take proper precautions, like wearing shock-resistant shoes and being aware of your surroundings and traffic at all times. If the weather is bad, use the treadmill—but try varying your workout to minimize the boredom.

ACL Repair Autograft vs Allograft


ACL Repair Autograft vs Allograft - Western Berks Physical Therapy


The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is the main ligament that stabilizes the knee to anterior displacement. If you have torn your ACL and are scheduled for reconstructive surgery, you may have been told that your surgeon could use either an autograft or an allograft.

An autograft is a piece of tissue removed from elsewhere in your body and used to repair the ACL. The advantages of autografts include the following:

  • It’s your own tissue. There is no chance of getting a disease from the graft
  • Your own tissue is always available. There are no problems with supply and demand
  • Your own tissue usually incorporates into the knee better in the long term

Autografts also have disadvantages. The surgery takes longer since there are two portions of the operation: obtaining the graft tissue and then repairing the ACL. A limited amount of tissue can be removed for grafting without causing secondary damage, and the chance of surgical complications increases because of the multiple incisions.

An allograft is a piece of tissue that has been donated by a tissue donor. The advantages of allografts include the following:

  • You undergo a shorter operation
  • You have less initial pain and can get back to daily activities sooner
  • A larger amount of tendon is available for the surgeon to work with

Because allografts are cleaned and sterilized using radiation or other processes, disease transmission is extremely low—fewer than one out of one million procedures. However, allograft tendons may be less sturdy than autograft tendons—they usually come from older donors, and the sterilization process may weaken the tissue, and the demand for allograft tendons usually exceeds the supply.

Either autografts or allografts can be used in successful ACL reconstruction. People who have ACL surgery using autografts have more pain the first two weeks after the operation and take longer to get back to their daily activities when compared with those who have ACL surgery using allografts. Whichever technique you choose, a physical therapist will work with you to help you get back on your feet.


Walk Your Way to Fitness

Walk Your Way to Fitness - Western Berks Physical Therapy


Starting an exercise program can seem like a daunting task, but it is really as simple as getting off the couch and walking out your front door. Walking is one of the easiest and most beneficial forms of exercise. It burns calories, is easy on your joints, strengthens your bones and muscles, reduces stress and reduces your risk of chronic conditions such as heart disease and diabetes. Best of all, walking requires no expensive, special equipment, can be done anywhere and it’s free!

You can begin your program by walking for 20 minutes every day for one week. Each week add five minutes to your total walking time. Keep increasing the amount of time you walk daily until you are at your walking goal. Below are seven tips to help get you started. Contact Western Berks Physical Therapy today about designing a walking program to improve your overall health.

1. Start slow and easy. Don’t try to burn up the miles your first week out.

2. Take time to stretch. Walk a few minutes first and then stretch; this helps prevent injuries.

3. Practice good walking posture. Keep elbows close to your body. Each arm should move forward and backward with the opposite foot. Also, keep your chin up. This helps align your posture for maximum benefit.

4. Drink plenty of water before, during and after your walk.

5. Invest in proper footwear. Comfortable walking shoes with a flexible sole and plenty of toe room are a good choice. Some shoes are even designed to help with any walking issues you may have, like overpronation. Also, choose socks made of materials that will help keep your feet dry to prevent blisters.

6. Dress appropriately. Don’t forget a hat, sunglasses and sunscreen when you need them during the day. At night, wear clothing with reflective materials so you are visible to others.

7. While not a necessity, a personal stereo can be a great energizer by keeping you moving to the music—but be careful to not get too lost in the music and become endangered by the traffic.


Using Exercise to Manage Weight Gain

Using Exercise to Manage Weight Gain - Western Berks Physical Therapy


Many people struggling with weight gain hope to either maintain their weight or lose weight by improving their exercise routines. Unfortunately, the solution is not that simple. Weight maintenance or loss involves monitoring your caloric intake and output. You gain weight by ingesting more calories than you burn.

Weight maintenance occurs when your caloric intake is equivalent to your caloric output. Weight loss occurs when you burn more calories than you consume. A caloric deficit can be achieved through diet, exercise or both. It’s important to understand that if you continue to ingest more calories than you expend, you will progressively gain weight.

To prevent weight gain, you can:


  • Continue to exercise regularly;
  • Vary your exercise routine;
  • Increase the frequency and intensity of your exercise routine; and
  • Make healthy changes to your diet.


Exercise combined with a healthy diet reduces visceral fat, the insulating layer of fat around your midsection, more effectively than weight control based on diet alone. If your current routine isn’t sufficient to prevent weight gain, tweak components of your diet to reduce calories while also increasing the frequency and intensity of your workouts. We can monitor your progress to help you get the most out of your exercise routine and to safely increase your workouts.

One type of cardiovascular exercise, high intensity interval training, has shown success in burning more calories than steady cardiovascular exercise for the same amount of time. By raising intensity for several minutes, then reducing it, then raising it again, a person works harder and raises his or her heart rate, while still allowing for brief rest periods.

To complete your program of weight maintenance or loss, make simple changes to your diet, such as choosing lower-fat foods in place of the regular versions and adding more fruits and vegetables. Ideally, it’s best if these dietary measures are not viewed as a total solution but instead as a complement to regular exercise. People who are most successful in managing their weight include both exercise and dietary changes to their routine.


Stay Loose as You Age

Stay Loose as You Age - Western Berks Physical Therapy


When you climb out of bed each morning, you may wonder why your muscles are so stiff. After all, you just slept a full eight hours! Why don’t you feel rested and limber? There are several reasons why you may feel stiff each morning.

As we get older, there is an underlying physical tendency to lose lean body mass. Unfortunately we are adding fat as we lose muscle and thus become vulnerable to aches and pains. Furthermore, as we age our sleep patterns change, leading to frequent awakenings, poor quality sleep, and more tossing and turning in bed, amplifying those aches and pains even more.

But despite this predisposition toward stiffness, you can lessen its impact.


  • Make sure you have a good mattress. It’s common for people to forget the importance of a good mattress. An older mattress that sags can be responsible for more aches and pains than you might think. Try the different types of supporting mattress surfaces to find what works best for you.
  • Exercise the smart way. Older individuals can fight back against the loss of lean muscle mass by staying active. Brisk walking on unpaved natural surfaces is highly recommended, not only to keep you in shape but to minimize impact-related muscle and joint problems.
  • Warm up. Stretching is not just a good way to combat muscle soreness from exercising; it can also alleviate stiffness in the morning.
  • Use heat for relief. A warm shower or heating pad can do wonders for loosening your muscles for the day ahead.


But beware—more bed rest is not the answer. By remaining in that one position in bed, muscles tend to shorten. No matter how you plan on alleviating that stiffness and keeping your limbs loose and limber, getting out of bed is always the first step.

If the above remedies don’t seem to help or the stiffness is persistent or painful, Western Berks Physical Therapy can evaluate your situation for the best course of action.


Why Does My Back Still Hurt After Lumbar Disc Removal?

Why Does My Back Still Hurt After Lumbar Disc Removal? - Western Berks Physical Therapy


First, ask yourself if the discectomy was performed to alleviate leg pain or lower back pain. While you can expect good results from lumbar disc removal when the goal is relieving leg pain, generally lumbar disc removal is less successful at relieving lower back pain, and a significant number of patients will experience additional disc injury. However, you can take several steps to promote the best possible outcome.


  • Give physical therapy a chance. A rehabilitation regimen should last for several months, sometimes up to a year, after spine surgery. In this time, the physical therapist works on strengthening and conditioning your back—and the core muscles that support your back—to lessen discomfort. Remember, too, that the longer you had pain prior to surgery, the longer you need for complete rehabilitation.
  • Evaluate your lifestyle. If you are overweight, try to lose weight—the extra pounds could be putting undue strain on your newly repaired back. Be very conscious of your posture when sitting, standing and especially lifting; if you need tips on body mechanics, we will be glad to help. Don’t be ashamed to ask for help when lifting heavy or bulky objects. Plan ahead—know what you are lifting and the proper way to lift it.
  • Be aware of scar tissue. Many patients form scar tissue (epidural fibrosis) after back surgery, but it becomes a problem for only a few. If your postsurgical pain began about six to 12 weeks after the procedure and has become gradually worse, then scar tissue may be the culprit.


Western Berks Physical Therapy can help you pinpoint the cause of your pain and recommend whether further medical attention is needed. Sometimes a procedure such as diagnostic imaging (CT scan, x-ray, MRI) is warranted to help get a better picture—literally—of what’s going on in your back. Although the surgery is successful for the vast majority of people, some patients will have residual pain after lumbar disc removal, and not all patients will achieve complete pain-free function.

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Strong Quads Help Fight Osteoarthritis

Strong Quads Help Fight Osteoarthritis - Western Berks Physical Therapy


Many individuals experience pain from osteoarthritis, also called degenerative joint disease, the “wear and tear version of arthritis. It can occur in any joint but is especially common in the knee.

Your knee is a complex joint where the thigh bone (femur), a lower leg bone (tibia) and the kneecap (patella) come together. These bones are covered with tough cartilage and lubricated with a special fluid so that they slide smoothly over each other. If your knee is injured, overused day after day, misaligned or has to bear excess weight, these bones can rub on each other. Eventually the cartilage begins to deteriorate. As the bones respond to these changes, the joint becomes inflamed. When this happens, your knee becomes sore and stiff.

The quadriceps femoris (or quads) is a large four-part muscle that runs down the front of your thigh. You use this muscle to straighten the leg at the knee whenever you walk, climb stairs or squat. So what does this muscle have to do with osteoarthritis?

As you age, you lose muscle strength. When the quads begin to weaken, the knee becomes less stable, and there is more side-to-side movement in the joint, increasing wear on the cartilage. Extensive research has shown that strengthening the quads increases your ability to function and stabilizes the kneecap so that it moves less, reducing bone rubbing and potentially preventing the need for surgery. For many older individuals, exercising to strengthen the quads results in:


  • Less knee pain and stiffness;
  • Increased ability to walk and climb stairs; and
  • Steadier gait that decreases the likelihood of falls.


Quad-strengthening exercises can be performed at home or in a facility with exercise equipment. Western Berks Physical Therapy can show you the correct way to strengthen your quads while minimizing joint or muscle injury. Importantly, quad strengthening often improves function and reduces pain significantly.


Simple Steps to Starting a Weight-training Program

Simple Steps to Starting a Weight-training Program - Western Berks Physical Therapy

One of the challenges of weight training is determining how much effort to put in for the most benefits. A little may not be enough for an impact, while too much may be detrimental to your health. Extensive research recommends a weight-training program of two sets of eight to 12 repetitions per set, three times per week. Regular weight training within these parameters is thought to successfully provide maintenance and growth for muscles.

When performed three times a week, weight training can help to increase bone density and strength while also allowing you to burn more calories, even when at rest. The following steps are easy ways to incorporate strength training into your day:


  • Lift weights at home or during an office break
  • Consider joining a strength-training class or gym
  • Try weight training with a friend to keep you on track.


To achieve the maximum benefits of a weight-training program there are some things to consider.


  • Find the appropriate amount of weight you can handle and only increase the amount when you are ready. The amount of weight will ultimately determine the impact you make on improving your health and overall fitness.
  • Be sure to space weight-training days evenly, so that you are not working the same muscle group on two consecutive days. It’s important to allow sufficient recovery time after weight training, allowing your muscles to repair themselves adequately following exercise.
  • Stick to the program. Not enough sets or too few repetitions may not be enough to make a difference, while too many repetitions or too much weight may be counterproductive to your goals and cause injuries.


Consult us to begin a program today. We will help design the program to match your desired outcomes. Scheduling time for regular weight training can seem challenging, but the benefits to your strength and overall fitness are well worth the effort. Goals are important!


Alleviating Soreness During Car Rides

Alleviating Soreness During Car Rides - Western Berks Physical Therapy

After a few hours in the car, your body may crack and creak, often painfully. What is it about a simple automobile ride that can cause such dreadful muscle soreness? You are at risk of developing soreness any time you stay in one position for an extended period of time. Some of the most common causes of this muscle soreness are:

  • Lack of movement;
  • Decreased blood flow;
  • Prolonged pressure on nerves; and
  • Pre-existing medical conditions including arthritis, obesity, sciatica, peripheral vascular disease and recurrent back pain, among others.

Aggravating muscle soreness can be minimized with a little know-how. As you plan your car trip, consider simple ways to make your journey more comfortable for you and your passengers.

  • Get out and move. Stop and get out of the car every two hours. By simply walking around at a gas station or rest area, you change your static sitting posture in the car.
  • Switch drivers. Surprisingly, the most static position is the driver’s. Switch drivers often so each person in the car can benefit from stretching and moving in the passenger seat.
  • Adjust your seat. Reclining the seat too far can lead to muscle imbalances and soreness. Properly adjust your seat so that your head is positioned squarely above your shoulders. Some individuals increase overall support by adding cushions to the upper portion of the seat.
  • Get some support. A small lumbar pillow at the small of your back can help you if you have a bad back. Take two support pillows, one larger than the other. Use one pillow for 20 minutes—the other pillow for 20 minutes—and no pillow for 20 minutes. Sequencing the pillows avoids maintaining a single posture for too long.
  • Finish with a little TLC. Follow up your car ride with a walk, heating pad or warm bath to help loosen up joints and muscles.

If the problem doesn’t go away after a few days or becomes worse over time, it could be more than simple muscle soreness. If changing positions doesn’t relieve the pain, if the pain prevents you from or interrupts your sleeping, if the pain is severe and sudden or if you are unable to bear weight on a limb, seek medical attention.