Ask the PT
Brookridge talk explores benefits and uses of physical therapy
By CECILIA BROWN
Journal Staff Writer
MARQUETTE — Physical therapy can help with a wide range of issues that a person may experience throughout their lifetime. Many may wonder if they are candidates for physical therapy or if it can help them with a specific issue.
Due to this, Brookridge Heights Assisted Living and Memory Care held an “Ask the Physical Therapist” talk Feb. 26 with Kristen Andreae from U.P. Home Health & Hospice.
While all physical therapy has the same overarching goal of improving quality of life, Andreae explained that physical therapists can work in multiple areas like neonatal intensive care units, sports medicine settings, industrial workplaces, home health and outpatient services.
“What we specialize in is function,” she said. “We want you to be able to function through your day, to do the things that make it easier … getting out of your chair, getting onto and off of your toilet, getting in and out of your shower. Those things are just normal daily things, but if you’ve had surgery, an injury or have a disorder that is causing weakness through your body, those things get more and more difficult.”
Physical therapists study movement, Andreae said, and based on the way a person moves, they can determine their needs and what could help them.
“We might evaluate what type of device would be best for you,” she said. “Do you just need a little help where a cane would help with balance, or do you need a lot of help where a walker, something more supportive, would be a better option for you?”
Physical therapists can also help ensure that a person’s assistive device is a proper fit for them, Andreae said.
It’s important for these items to be sized and fitted properly, she said, as something that is too high or too low can impact posture and movement. She also explained how to see if a cane, walker or crutches are sized and fitted correctly.
“We have you stand up as tall as you can, relax your arms by your side, then we’ll measure where that handrest is compared to the inside creases of your wrist,” she said. “So ideally your walker, or your cane or your crutches would meet you right in the inside of your wrist when you’re standing up as tall as you can.”
Andreae also emphasized that “motion is lotion” for stiff or sore muscles and joints. While our first reaction to a painful area is to avoid moving it — and it is important to get it checked by a professional to make sure it’s not serious — movement can be helpful and safe in many cases, she said.
“Movement is the best thing for it,” she said. “And even though getting through that motion might be uncomfortable, the more you do it — two, three, four reps — the easier it gets and the more motion that you can get out of it.”
She also shared a few examples of simple exercises that can help decrease pain while improving mobility and strength.
“By kicking out to the side, you’re working those muscles that help to keep your pelvis level as you’re walking,” she said. “And rarely do we actually directly work those muscles; so by doing side stepping, kicking out to the side, you’re working those muscles that help you do better with walking.”
One of the best things to do, Andreae said, is one of the most simple exercises that can be done — walking for distance.
Andreae also spoke about exercises that can be done in a chair.
“Point one with the exercises in the chair is just finding a good position for your posture,” Andreae said. “We want to be in what’s called neutral spine … it’s not slouched too far forward, but it’s not ‘royal guard’ strict. Neutral spine is just kind of where your spine feels the most comfortable, the most straight. And then from there, you want to engage your abdominals, and to do that you’re just pulling in your belly button, just tightening your belly button a little bit. And then from there everything you do becomes a core exercise.”
She emphasized that from this starting point, a number of exercises can be done: kicking legs out straight, marching in place, as well as various arm and leg stretches using a theraband, a stretchy piece of material that comes in a variety of resistance levels and can be used for many exercises.
Beyond the seated exercise methods, Andreae also shared a few tips about sitting in general.
For one, she said, it can be helpful to adopt the “nose to toes” approach when rising from a chair. This means scooting forward on your chair and lining up your nose with your toes to shift your center of gravity to make it easier to rise from a seated position.
Secondly, when crossing your legs, it’s important to alternate sides, she said.
“If you’re always crossing to one side, over time you’re shortening the muscles on that side of the spine,” Andreae said. “So you want to make sure you’re doing each thing equally and that you’re not spending too much time on one side.”
Overall, Andreae emphasized that there’s many ways physical therapy can help with a variety of health concerns.
“Modalities, manual therapy, exercise and education are all ways that we can help to improve your quality of life and improve your injuries, your pain and inflammation,” she said. “Any areas that you’re kind of struggling with, physical therapy may help to at least provide either some education or some relief.”
Brookridge has partnered with U.P. Home Health and Hospice to offer talks by health care professionals every fifth Tuesday from 2 to 3 p.m. at Brookridge.
“We appreciate the partnership with U.P. Home Health and Hospice,” said Jennifer Huetter, executive director at Brookridge Heights. “Presentations like this are extremely valuable for our residents and seniors in the community. We look forward to being able to offer more presentations from month to month.”
Cecilia Brown can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 248. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.