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Our Ancestors May Have Held the Secret to Better Brain Health

It turns out that while our early ancestors spent their days out in the wilderness hunting and foraging for food, they may also have been keeping their brains sharp. Researchers at the University of Arizona have found a connection between the highly active lifestyle that was prevalent in those ancient days and the prevention and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease and other age-related diseases.

Some two million years ago, our ancestors covered long distances, mixing moderate and intense bouts of aerobic activity throughout the day, as a means of survival. In sharp contrast, today’s average American starts his day by getting ready for work or school, then travels by car or train to an office where he’ll likely spend hours in meetings or in front of a computer, only to retire home to catch up on the latest series on Netflix. For the most active among us, exercise might consist of an hour at the gym three or more days a week and perhaps a few short walks sprinkled in throughout the day. Contrary to popular belief, that level of activity doesn’t completely erase the damage we do to our bodies during the other 23 hours in the day, which are largely spent sitting in a desk chair or at the dining room table, reclining on the family sofa or sleeping.

An obvious connection can be drawn between today’s sedentary lifestyle and a host of prevalent modern-age health problems like obesity and chronic illness. But how do low levels of activity affect our cognitive abilities? The study’s co-authors hypothesize that the amount of exercise that our ancestors engaged in reduced the burden of a genotype that leads to a high risk of Alzheimer’s disease, cardiovascular disease and increased mortality. As a result, the researchers stress the importance of exercise as a potential disease prevention and intervention tool.

Beyond reducing the risk of disease, the role that movement and exercise play in a person’s cognitive performance cannot be underestimated. Many research studies have proven that engaging in regular physical activity keeps our brains in top form, helping us to focus, recall and think more clearly. While it’s not exactly feasible to adopt a hunter/gatherer way of life in today’s world, the takeaway is that moving, more frequently and for longer periods of time, can help stave off disease and boost our brain function. Just some food for thought next time you settle in to binge watch your favorite series or pass up an opportunity to bike to the office.

in Blog | November 17, 2018

Break Your Sitting Addiction

We’re rapidly transforming into an out-of-shape nation. Most Americans spend the bulk of their days driving a car, working on a computer, eating meals and watching TV. What’s the common thread in all of these activities? Sitting.

With the advent of wearable devices to track fitness levels and so many other resources to safely add more activity into our lives, there really isn’t any excuse to falling victim to a sedentary lifestyle.

Statistics show Americans spend an average of 11 hours a day sitting on their rumps. That’s an alarming amount of time considering sitting for as little as two continuous hours has been shown to increase the risk of heart disease, diabetes, obesity, metabolic syndrome, cancer, and numerous orthopedic problems.

Physical therapists, trained to identify asymmetries, movement compensation, and risk for potential injury, are an often overlooked weapon in the battle to spend more time vertical. A sedentary person’s capacity for exercise is an important consideration, one that can be addressed through endurance tests such as the six-minute walk test and three-minute step test. With this knowledge, a PT can create a plan of care to reduce pain, teach healthy postures and movements, and increase activity level.

Increased activity levels can lead to a healthier and happier lifestyle as well as a longer life, according to an article published in The Journal of the American Medical Association. In a study of the six-minute walk test, study investigators draw a stunning correlation between walking speed and life expectancy.

Many think of physical therapy services when an impairment or injury pops up, however, PTs can be a real asset to those trying to become more active. Despite attempts to educate people on proper movement and nutrition, our society is more overweight and obese than ever and a staggering number of people are suffering from pain and injury. Let’s not settle for that! Make this your month to get moving. If you need help, call Western Berks Physical Therapy today!

in Blog | November 3, 2018

Physical Therapists Boost Falls Prevention Programs as our Nation Quickly Ages

This year, one-third of all Americans 65 years old and older will experience a fall. Some will quickly brush off the dirt and go about their day, but others won’t be so lucky. The physical therapy profession has long been involved in fall-prevention efforts, guiding our seniors to ambulate safely, maintain mobility longer, and be more independent.

Falls rank among the top burdens on our healthcare system, with $34 billion shelled out for fall-related injuries in 2013 alone, and threaten the health of our nation. Falls land a member of our nation’s elderly population in the emergency department every 13 seconds, and every 20 minutes an older adult dies from fall-related trauma, reports a survey conducted by Carnegie Mellon University’s College of Engineering.

Moderate to severe injuries incurred during a fall can lead to further health declines and loss of independence among our seniors. A team approach with a solid foundation of communication is crucial to adequately prepare for the steady stream of baby boomers crossing the 65-year-old threshold. As part of a medical team, PTs are trained to identify each patient’s risk factors, provide education and preventive strategies, and address impairments. The biggest risk factors for a fall include balance/strength impairments, medication interactions, safety issues in the home and community, and visual impairments.

Exercise has been shown to reduce the incidence of falls by up to 40% according to a new study published in The Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. The study titled “Exercise and Fall Prevention: Narrowing the Research-to-Practice Gap and Enhancing Integration of Clinical and Community Practice,” reinforces the premise that falls are preventable with risk assessment and exercises that incorporate elements of balance, gait, and strength training.

This could be music to the ears of U.S. adults who expressed concern in the Carnegie Mellon survey about an older parent falling, 54% of 1,900 participants to be exact. A PT exercise program to prevent falls among the elderly includes core strengthening, lower extremity resistance exercises and balance training.

The Journal of the American Geriatrics Society study also reveals some of the evidence-to-practice challenges in addressing this global public health crisis. Falls and their associated healthcare costs can be reduced by better integrating research on exercise intervention into clinical practice and community programs, the study says.

As healthcare increasingly embraces prevention and wellness strategies, strong communication between physicians, physical therapists and other key stakeholders will help to capture our elders most at risk for falls. Education, risk assessment, evidence-based falls prevention classes in the community and skilled physical therapy interventions are the basis for a solid plan of attack.

in Blog | October 27, 2018

Physical Therapy Plays a Crucial Role in Post-Concussion Treatment

The critically acclaimed film Concussion has brought the subject of concussion into a new light for athletes across the United States. In the public health exposé, Will Smith portrays a Nigerian forensic pathologist who fights the National Football League’s efforts to bury research on the brain damage suffered by its players.

Now that concussion awareness is enjoying its time in the limelight, it’s up to athletes, coaches and parents to recognize the injury’s signs and symptoms and immediately pursue an accurate diagnosis and an appropriate treatment plan. Although concussions can occur in any sport, the high school sports with the highest concussion rates include boys’ football and ice hockey and girls’ soccer and lacrosse.

According to the American College of Sports Medicine, reported concussion rates have increased at all levels of sports participation during the last few years. Improved diagnostic strategies and increased disclosure by student athletes contribute, in part, to this phenomenon.

Physical therapists specializing in post-concussion treatment can evaluate and treat this type of traumatic brain injury. A physical therapist begins with a full evaluation and a thorough patient history. Contrary to popular belief, MRIs and CT scans do not detect brain abnormality, even in patients exhibiting concussion symptoms.

A physical therapist asks the patient a series of questions to identify symptoms and performs strength, coordination, balance, sight, smell, hearing, and memory tests to establish a treatment plan. Throughout treatment, the physical therapist frequently repeats the same questions and tests to gauge the patient’s progress and determine a safe return to work, school, athletics, and other activities.

Experts suggest parents initiate open dialogue with their children to build awareness of the signs and symptoms of concussion. Young athletes in particular need to understand the long-term consequences of a concussion so they learn to speak up when exhibiting signs of an injury.

Research suggests that suffering multiple concussions can have a compounding effect. A study appearing in the American Journal of Sports Medicine titled “Concussion Symptoms and Neurocognitive Performance of High School and College Athletes Who Incur Multiple Concussions” drew a connection between multiple concussions and prolonged symptoms, recovery time, and risk for future concussions.

in Blog | October 20, 2018

WEEKEND WARRIORS: FIVE WAYS TO BATTLE INJURY

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates nearly nine million Americans pack a full week’s worth of exercise into just two days. These occasional athletes, also known as Weekend Warriors, account for the largest population encountering nonprofessional sport-related injuries, which add up to healthcare costs exceeding more than $18 billion per year.

The most common injuries Weekend Warriors face include rotator cuff injuries, Achilles tendonitis, golf or tennis elbow, acute knee pain and ankle sprains. Weekend Warriors and recreational athletes suffer injuries at a higher rate than less active individuals. Age and physical condition play significant roles in these injuries, as tissue loses its elasticity and are not conditioned properly for rigorous activity. However, these injuries can be minimized.

  • Rethink the Personal Trainer. There is no one more knowledgeable and well equipped to help you understand your musculo-skeletal system than a physical therapist. At Western Berks Physical Therapy we will assess strengths and weaknesses from which a comprehensive fitness plan will be tailored to best fit your individual needs and goals.
  • Always Warm Up Before Physical Activity, and Cool Down Before Finishing. Warmed muscles are ready for activity and are less susceptible to injury. Warm up and cool down should become part of every workout.
  • Light Stretching. Often, weekend warriors skip stretching altogether, and sometimes overstretch. Routine light stretching helps warm muscles up and increases range of motion, reducing the likelihood of injury.
  • Commit to Fitness Throughout the Week. To eliminate muscle shock, introduce physical activity throughout the week that includes cardiovascular activity, stretching and weightlifting for balanced strength and conditioning.
  • Rest and Listen to Your Body. Consecutive days of training translate into increased injuries. While many athletes think the more they train, the better they’ll play, the truth is, a tired body is more susceptible to muscle strain and other injuries. Consistent pains and strains over time can be a sign of health problems, and are among the most frequent causes that derail a fitness regime.

 

in Blog | October 13, 2018

Your Smart Phone Could Be Rapidly Aging Your Spine

Chances are that you probably haven’t given much thought to how your neck and back are faring in the era of the smart phone, but studies show that you most certainly should. It’s practically a reflex these days to pull out our smart phones when we’re standing in line, sitting at the airport or riding the subway. And while it’s great that we rarely need to venture beyond our pockets for entertainment, our bodies are beginning to retaliate—and mourn the pre-texting days.

So, what exactly are these contemporary conveniences doing to our bodies? A surgeon-led study that published in Surgical Technology International assessed what impact surgeons’ head and neck posture during surgery—a posture similar to that of smart-phone texters—has on their cervical spines. With each degree that our heads flex forward (as we stare at a screen below eye level), the strain on our spines dramatically increases. When an adult head (that weighs 10 to 12 pounds in the neutral position) tilts forward at 30 degrees, the weight seen by the spine climbs to a staggering 40 pounds, according to the study.

How pervasive of a problem is this? According to the study, the average person spends 14 to 28 hours each week with their heads tilted over a laptop, smart phone or similar device. Over the course of a year, that adds up to 700 to 1400 hours of strain and stress on our spines. As a result, the number of people dealing with headaches, achy necks and shoulders and other associated pain has skyrocketed. Trained to address postural changes and functional declines, physical therapists are well-versed in treating this modern-day phenomenon, widely known as “text neck”.

Over time, this type of poor posture can have a cumulative effect, leading to spine degeneration, pinched nerves and muscle strains. Scheduling an appointment with a physical therapist can help people learn how to interact with their devices without harming their spines. The PT will prescribe an at-home program that includes strategies and exercises that focus on preserving the spine and preventing long term damage.

Exercise is an important part of taking care of our spines as we age, but what we do when we’re not in motion matters, too. So next time you pick up your smart phone or curl up with your e-reader, do a quick check of your head and neck posture. Your body will thank you for years to come.

in Blog | September 29, 2018

Preventing ACL Injuries with Physical Therapy

Physical Therapists Play Key Role in Reducing Frequency of ACL Injuries

A quick change in direction on the soccer field or a shaky landing following an explosive jump on the basketball court can spell trouble for the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). Each year, the United States sees anywhere from 80,000 to 250,000 ACL injuries, resulting in about 100,000 ACL reconstructions, according to the Journal of Orthopedic and Sports Physical Therapy. Moreover, statistics show the prevalence of ACL injuries has surged in recent years alongside a spike in youth sports participation.

With a reported 36 million kids (aged 5 to 18 years) playing organized sports each year, the chances of an athlete tearing her ACL are good. The populations most at risk are young female athletes—who sustain ACL injuries nearly 10 times more often than males—and young athletes who specialize in a single sport at an early age. To avoid the physical, emotional and economic toll of such an injury, athletes are beginning to embrace preventive programs.

Many think of physical therapists when it comes to treating ACL injuries, but the latest research shows a need for the rehab professionals to play an even bigger role in prevention. An American Journal of Sports Medicine study concluded that incidents of ACL injury drop by about 50% at the hands of physical therapists.

Contrary to popular belief, three-quarters of all ACL tears are non-contact injuries, occurring when an athlete cuts, decelerates or jumps. Sports including basketball, soccer, volleyball and football, and activities that involve jumping and landing, open field running and cutting or deceleration moves put athletes at a higher risk of ACL injury. Why are these routine moves so harmful? The biggest culprit is often muscle imbalance.

Physical therapists, particularly those who specialize in sports medicine, are trained to develop an individually tailored program based on an assessment of the athlete’s functional deficits in motion, strength and control. The program might address strength, flexibility and coordination, and correct existing movement patterns that may be damaging to joints. Regular neuromusculoskeletal evaluations with a physical therapist can help identify impairments, and reduce the risk of ACL and other injuries. Call a therapist today and prevent injuries that will cost you time, money and your quality of life!

in Blog | September 26, 2018

Helping Keep Your Dreams Alive During the Golden Years

Are you among the millions of Americans who have high aspirations for how you’ll spend the extra time during your post-retirement years?

Whether you plan to travel the world, pick up fly fishing, spend more time woodworking or sign up for a golf league, your physical fitness level will be a factor.

A 2010 study suggests that fitness declines we typically attribute to advancing age are largely caused by living sedentary lifestyles. This runs contrary to the widely held belief that any declines in our physical abilities are caused solely by biological aging. Do we really have control over how active we’ll be in our “golden years”?

In a word, absolutely. The study, which examined 900,000 running times of marathon and half marathon participants aged 20 to 79, found no significant age-related performance declines in those younger than 55 years old, and only moderate declines among the older cohorts. In fact, more than one quarter of runners aged 65 to 69 were faster than half of the runners aged 20 to 54. For those thinking that these runners must have been lifelong enthusiasts of the sport, the study revealed that 25% of runners aged 50 to 69 were relative newcomers, and had started marathon training within the previous 5 years. The researchers concluded that even at an advanced age, people in the “non-athlete” category who engage in regular training can reach high performance levels.

If this revelation is intriguing, then perhaps it’s time for you to get moving! If you aren’t currently active, then you likely have questions and concerns about where to start. If you regularly engage in physical activities, then you’ve probably set goals that you’d like to achieve. Either way, there’s no shortage of tools and resources to help you live a more active lifestyle. One reliable place to start is with a free consultation at Western Berks Physical Therapy. Our Doctors of Physical Therapy can get you started in the right direction to lead a happy and healthy life!

The benefits of beginning with a physical therapist consultation are endless! Physical Therapists are trained to assess your abilities and limitations, consider your health concerns, demonstrate safe exercises and build a plan to increase strength, function and mobility. Whatever your passion is, physical therapy will help you be fit and injury-free so you may enjoy life’s many pursuits! Call now to schedule your free consultation!

 

in Blog | September 24, 2018

Routine Physical Therapy

Physical Therapy Should be as Routine as an Oil Change

The automobile industry recommends regular oil changes to keep your car running at its peak performance. Chances are that you adhere to the guidelines outlined in your car manual as closely as possible, and probably even have a favorite business nearby that performs the services.

Just like a car, the human body thrives on a tune up from time to time. People may not be born with maintenance and performance manuals, but we ought to follow the advice and guidelines of trusted medical sources. Members of the Private Practice Section of the American Physical Therapy Association would like to see scheduling time with a physical therapist to treat and prevent injuries become as routine as going for an oil change.

Educated and trained in the movement and function of the human body, physical therapists help patients reduce pain, restore function, prevent disability and improve workout performance. Contrary to popular belief, the movement specialists don’t just want to see you when you’re sidelined with an injury. They’re also available to teach you exercises that prevent injuries and help you participate more fully in daily activities.

Just like oil changes are only one piece of a car’s maintenance schedule, physical therapy is part of an overall focus on health and wellness. According to recent research, lifestyle changes such as increased physical activity can have a significant impact on health. For example, being physically active can improve the health of patients with chronic diseases and lead to a better quality of life.

A car is an investment, one that needs to be protected by changing its fluids and otherwise making sure it performs well on the road. Going to physical therapy is one way to protect your biggest investment: Your health. Actively protecting your health improves your chances of living a long, active and productive life.

Which Bones, Joints and Muscles Do You Want to Keep?

Chances are you’ve come across the old dental health saying, “Floss the teeth you want to keep.” The first time you heard the phrase uttered by a dentist probably made you giggle a bit. Once the humor of it washed away though, you more than likely had an a-ha  moment. It just makes so much sense, doesn’t it?

Let’s try to apply this principle to other parts of the human body: What if you only stretched the muscles you wanted to keep? What if you performed weight-bearing exercises to maintain the strength of just a few of your more than 200 muscles? These are extreme examples, of course, but without the guidance of a physical therapist, it’s possible that some parts of your musculoskeletal system might be getting neglected even without you knowing.

Physical therapists are trained to identify and treat a wide range of movement disorders including sports injuries, such as sprains and strains, as well as conditions including arthritis, Parkinson’s disease and stroke. When it comes to keeping bones healthy and reducing risk, Western Berks Physical Therapy will design an effective exercise program and suggest healthy habits for you to adhere to. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need an injury or other painful ailment to schedule time with a physical therapist.

The physical therapists at Western Berks Physical Therapy can address proper posture and body mechanics to help you participate in the daily activities you love while relieving pain and improving function. Our staff works closely with you to develop individualized treatment plans based on a thorough clinical assessment and detailed patient history. A personalized care plan will include a combination of flexibility, strength, coordination and balance exercises designed to achieve optimal physical function.

Western Berks Physical Therapy encourages you to visit us as often as you schedule regular checkups with your dentist, primary care physician or dermatologist! Don’t wait until it’s too late! Exercise the muscles you want to keep! Call now!