Sitting pretty: Proper sitting posture

Most of us spend more time at the office than we do at home, which is why it’s so important to consider how our behavior at the office can affect how we feel at home. If you sit at your computer for several hours each day, are you sitting pretty?

Before you look at yourself in the mirror, reflect on your desk and workspace. Specifically, says Alan Zovar, a physical therapist that works at Dandelion Dreams, Inc., (aPhysiquality partner), you should think about the angles in your body as they interact with your desk. Your eyes should be approximately 18 inches away from your computer screen, he says, and they should align with the middle of the screen, to avoid looking down or up too much, which could cause neck strain in the long run. In the same manner, your chair should be centered with the monitor to minimize twisting the head in order to see the screen.

Take a look at how you sit in your chair: Click to enlarge.Take a look at your chair now, and how you sit in it. Adjust the chair’s height in order to be able to rest your elbows at about a 90-degree angle on your desk; if the chair’s arms get in the way, it’s probably better to remove them, Alan notes.

Your forearms should be parallel to your desk and your wrists should be as flat as possible. Alan suggests using mouse and keyboard supports to maintain this posture. And your knees should also be bent at a 90-degree angle. If your feet don’t reach the floor, you can use a foot support in order to properly support the weight of your legs.

Once your desk is properly set up, you can think about your sitting posture. Lumbar support is essential to support the back and reduce back strain. If your office chair is not supportive enough, you can purchase a back support like the Kiss My Back! support from Dandelion Dreams, Inc. The back support will reinforce the natural curve of the lumbar spine. In turn, this straightens the neck, shoulders and upper back. When you’re sitting at your desk, your torso, neck and head should all be upright, without any slouching or straining.

Frequent phone users should use a headset to avoid balancing the phone between their shoulder and ear.Other office behaviors are just as important, reminds Richard Baudry, a physical therapist and the founder of Baudry Therapy Center, a Physiquality member in the New Orleans area. He cautions workers to keep their desk — and the space underneath it — clear of clutter, in order to enable easy movement around your workstation. Frequent phone users should use a headset to avoid balancing the phone between their shoulder and ear, which can create neck and back pain. And frequent movement is key — stand up once an hour to stretch your back or take a walk to the building cafeteria to grab a drink.

If you’re concerned about your workspace, use this OSHA worksheet to evaluate how your desk is set up. Or contact a physical therapist near you to evaluate your entire office, ensuring a healthier — and happier — team.

 

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Exercise trends: Rucking

Have you heard about rucking? The word “ruck” is short for “rucksack,” a military backpack that soldiers use to carry supplies on their back. Rucking, or ruck marching, refers to walking over paved or unpaved terrain with a loaded rucksack for the purpose ofimproving your fitness.

The military often uses rucking to measure physical fitness. Many units require a soldier to complete a timed ruck march in order to qualify for the unit. For instance, the U.S. Army Special Forces requires potential recruits to be able to ruck 12 miles in 2 hours with a pack that weighs 65 pounds in order to be eligible for Special Forces Selection. Even after leaving the armed services, some veterans continue to use rucking as a way to remain strong and build social ties while exercising.

Rucking with even a modest pack strengthens the legs, back and core muscles, while improving your cardiovascular health.For most everyone else, rucking is a great way to add diversity to your training, regardless of whether you’re in or planning to join the military. Rucking with even a modest pack strengthens the legs, back and core muscles, while improving your cardiovascular health. And because you’re walking, it’s usually considered lower impact than running. Those who backpack or hunt in the wilderness can also benefit from rucking, as it provides a very functional way to train for such activities.

So how do you ruck? It’s pretty simple: Load a backpack up with some weight (not too much!) and go for a walk. It can be down the sidewalk or along the trails at the local park. Start with short trips — less than 30 minutes — and work up to about an hour. Then slowly increase the weight in your pack until you can do about 30% of your body weight.

The number one concern regarding these types of workouts is overexertion. Even with a lightweight pack and a short workout, this is still a very tough form of exercise.Dehydration can be a factor, as much of the time these workouts are performed in thewarmer months. Lower body injuries are also common with rucking, including such ailments as shin splints, knee pain, plantar fasciitis and ankle sprains. And don’t be surprised to you feel soreness in the shoulders and neck, as these muscles aren’t used to carrying a heavy load.

West Point rucking. Photo by Mike Strasser, West Point Public AffairsAs with any form of exercise, it is important to listen to your body. Start slow and build up your “ruck” stamina over time. Add weight and time gradually, and spread out the workouts with other activities — and rest. And if those aches and pains don’t go away within 48 hours of your rucking workout, talk to your physical therapist to discuss your exercise regimen and whether you may have an injury that needs to be treated.

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How does physical therapy help after a cast comes off?

How does physical therapy help after the cast comes off?

The adult human body is made up of 206 bones. (We’re born with 270, but over time, as we grow, some fuse to give us 206 around the time we turn 30.) Unfortunately, many of those can break or fracture, leading to a cast in order to heal. So what happens after the cast is removed? What is necessary in order to return to normal activity?

A variety of factors will affect the length of time needed to heal, as well as how physical therapy will help you regain your pre-injury range of motion and level of activity.

The American Physical Therapy Association, or APTA, points out that there are several levels of bone fractures. The simplest is defined as a non-displaced fracture. This means that the bone may be broken, but the pieces are still properly aligned within the body.

There are several levels of fractures.From there, more complex fractures range from fractures that only include one break but are not properly aligned (displaced fractures), to a bone having multiple fractures, the fracture(s) affecting the soft tissue around the break, or even the fracture piercing the skin. The more complex the fracture, the longer it will take for the bone to heal, which will mean activity will be curtailed for a longer time, increasing the possibility that physical therapy will be necessary to regain function.

Another factor is where your fracture has occurred. For example, with a wrist or elbow fracture, it may be easy to walk around, but you will most likely have to limit the use of your wrist and arm. Your physical therapist can be of great help even while your arm is still in a cast, adapting your exercise regimen to remove any stress to the affected bones.

After the cast is removed, says the APTA, it’s normal to have some pain and stiffness in the affected area. Physical therapy can help you to regain strength and range of motion, allowing you to return to your previous level of activity.

Lower extremity injuries take longer to heal.Lower extremity injuries, i.e., fractures below the belt, are more difficult to come back from — when you have a cast on your leg or even a walking boot, your mobility is more limited. Once you have been fitted with your cast, your physical therapist can teach you how best to move around given the limitations of your cast.

When the bone is fully healed and the cast is removed, your PT will work with you to start putting weight on the affected leg, building up to a regular walking gait with your full weight on both legs. Physical therapy will include a strengthening regimen to regain any muscle that was lost while the bone was healing. Eventually, this will lead to a release from PT and a return to your pre-injury levels of activity.

Keep in mind that every fracture and every patient is different. Be sure to follow the directions from your physician and physical therapist carefully in order to recuperate safely. And if you have any pain for an extended period of time, whether while in a cast or after it has been removed, talk to your doctor about what might be the cause.

 

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Cycling for better health

How are those resolutions coming? Are you cooking more at home? Have you seen your dentist (or at least made an appointment for your annual cleaning)?

If you’re looking for a way to increase your activity, cycling or bike riding is a great way to be active.

Anna Dark, the Fitness Director of the Take Charge Fitness Program (a wellness facility run by Physiquality member Clinton Physical Therapy Center in Tennessee), says that cycling has many health benefits. Cycling is an aerobic activity, which is great for your heart and circulation. Going for regular bike rides also increases muscle strength and flexibility, while also improving joint mobility and bone strength.

Cycling offers mental and emotional benefits that help you cope with stress.Like most exercise, cycling offers mental and emotional benefits that help individuals cope with stress, even when you’re on a stationary bike. “And cycling is a great way to enjoy the great outdoors, which in itself can help individuals feel better emotionally!” Anna adds.

If you’re serious about committing to regular bike riding, Anna recommends going to the local bike store to choose the proper bike. Consult with the staff about the type of bike that might be best for you, a road bike, mountain bike or a hybrid, based on where you’re planning to ride. And, adds Anna, they will make sure that your bicycle is properly fitted to your body.

You must have the proper equipment for bicycling.Anyone new to cycling must have the proper safety equipment if they will be riding outside, as they’ll be sharing the streets with cars, pedestrians and other bicyclists, reminds Anna. Your bike should be fully equipped with safety features like reflectors and flags in order to be visible, especially at night. Check the air in your tires regularly in order to keep them fully inflated. And make sure that you have the appropriate gear to protect yourself, including a helmet, reflective vest and gloves.

When you’re going out on the road, says Anna, be sure to choose a route that you’re familiar with. This will give you confidence while riding, making the ride less stressful. Stay alert and be aware of your surroundings, especially other motorists and traffic. And make sure to use hand signals to let others know where you’re going.

Lastly, have fun! Cycling allows you to enjoy the scenic route while bettering your health. And that’s something to celebrate.

5 resolutions to make for 2017

We all get into bad habits in our life, in one way or another. Perhaps you don’t talk to your grandmother enough. Or you eat too much fast food. Or you stopped working out. Setting resolutions for the new year is a good way to try to work on these bad habits.

There are many habits that can be damaging to your health, but here are five resolutions you can make for the new year to improve your health.

  1. Evaluate your eating habits.

Evaluate your eating habits.Have you been skipping breakfast? Snacking constantly instead of sitting down to dinner? Picking up food on the go instead of cooking at home? These are all habits that can cause us to gain weight and damage our health. Take a look at the latest guidelines recommended by the Department of Agriculture and Health to compare to your eating habits.

If you feel that a complete overhaul is too challenging, change one habit at a time, like making sure to eat breakfast, even if it’s a smoothie or a cup of yogurt. Or pledging to not buy any afternoon snacks for the pantry. Or cooking at least one healthy, sit-down dinner per week; you can always find a recipe that will make leftovers to cover your family for another dinner or two.

  1. Calculate how much television you watch.

A study published last year found that watching more than three hours of television a day correlates with lower levels of mental acuity. Other studies have found that extended hours in front of screens can lead to heart disease and high blood pressure. And if you’re watching with your kids, it’s been shown that children who watch more television at a younger age develop language more slowly and have more problems connecting socially with their peers. If you want to escape into another world, consider picking up a book.

A study found that reading stimulates the brain over time — the excitement you feel when sympathizing with a character lingers for days. Samantha Olson at Medical Daily notes, “Researchers believe this prolonged and measurable brain boost, which was found in the region associated with language and sensory motor skills, could improve brain connectivity over time. It brings using books as an escape to a whole new level.”

Of course, both reading and television are sedentary activities, which leads us to resolution number three:

  1. Increase your daily activity.

Increase your daily activity.We all know the benefits of activity: Being more activereduces our risk for a variety of diseases, keeps our weight lower and makes us feel better. The CDC recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate activity per week, or 30 minutes a day, five days a week.

It might sound like a lot, but they do point out that if you went to see a movie, it would take the same amount of time. And you don’t need to do it all at once; even 10 minutes at a time is better than nothing. If you’re trying to start a new habit, find a friend to do it with you — it’s been shown that if you schedule a class or walk with a friend, you’re much more likely to stick with it. And you get the added benefit of social activity, which improves your mental health. It’s a win-win!

If you’re anxious about starting to work out after a long drought or injury, consult with your physical therapist. A PT can do a wellness evaluation to determine if you’d need to adapt any physical activity, and some even offer fitness programs within their own clinics. Look for a Physiquality member near you with our clinic locator.

  1. Take care of your teeth.

The American Dental Association recommends visiting the dentist for a cleaning and check-up at least once a year, if not twice. You should brush your teeth twice a day and floss daily in between those appointments.

So you’re brushing your teeth and flossing regularly. You don’t have any pain. Why should you go for a check-up? Because dentists can catch problems before they turn into something painful, both as physical pain and economic pain. Look at it this way: Filling a cavity is much less expensive than a root canal.

  1. Get more sleep.

Get seven to eight hours of sleep each night.Most adults need between 7 and 8 hours of sleep a night, but many people don’t get nearly that much. A lack of sleepcan affect your mental and physical health. It is associated with increased risk of obesity, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and system-wide inflammation. Lack of sleep can also affect our immune system, our cognitive abilities (i.e., our mental capacity), and our mood and mental health. By getting a good night’s rest, your body can recuperate from a hard day’s work, giving you more energy to get up and get going in the morning.

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The new nutrition guidelines: What you need to know

with advice from Anna Dark

The new nutrition guidelines: What you need to know

Every few years, the Departments of Agriculture and of Health and Human Services analyze their nutritional recommendations and release a new set of guidelines. If you don’t feel like reading through the three chapters and 14 appendices of the latest release, the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, nutritionist and personal trainer Anna Dark will take you through the latest changes and updates.

Anna, who works at the Take Charge Fitness Program (a wellness program at Clinton Physical Therapy Center, a Physiquality member in Tennessee), says there are three big recommendations that have been added to this edition:

Limit your added sugar intake to 10% of your daily calories.Limit your added sugar intake to 10% of your daily calories. This refers to any product or food item that adds sugars, like soda or cookies, as compared to fruit or even vegetables that may naturally contain some sugar. As the New York Times points out, “It is not the natural sugar in dairy foods and fruits that undermine health so much as the sugars added to foods like ice cream and fruit drinks and the enormous array of dessert and snack foods that Americans consume.”

This trend of increasing sugar in our diet is one of the reasons that the prevalence of type 2 diabetes is increasing. Anna points out that by limiting added sugar, we can reduce our chance of developing the disease.

Reduce your daily sodium intake to less than 2300 mg/day. This is another recommendation that isn’t too surprising; many processed foods rely on sodium, or salt, to improve flavor. The convenience can come at a cost: High sodium intake has a direct correlation to high blood pressure. Anna reminds readers that achieving healthy blood pressure numbers is an important goal for optimal overall health!

Less than 10% of daily calories should come from saturated fats. Evidence shows a diet high in saturated fats leads to cardiovascular disease, says Anna. The American Heart Association goes even further, recommending a daily limit of 5-6% of your daily calories. That means that if you’re eating 2,000 calories a day, about 120 of them would come from saturated fats, or 13 grams.

So the guidelines recommend limiting salt, added sugar and saturated fats. While this is the first time that the USDA and the HHS have specifically outlined these limits, it shouldn’t come as a surprise. Past guidelines have always emphasized fresh fruits and vegetables over fatty and processed foods.

The guidelines no longer give a specific limit for cholesterol intake.One recommendation that has changed? The guidelines no longer advise a specific cholesterol limit, Anna notes, because after several studies, the scientists and nutritionists did not find enough evidence to give a specific limit. The guidelines do recommend limiting cholesterol, but note that foods often high in cholesterol are also high in saturated fats, so by limiting one, you’ll often limit the other. The exceptions to this rule are eggs and shellfish, which means that those foods would not be as limited as they were before.

As always, these guidelines are just a guide, not hard and fast rules. They are meant to give Americans tips on how to improve their diet and eat healthier food. This version even includes sample days for three different types of diets: An American diet, a Mediterranean diet and a vegetarian diet. It’s one way to evaluate your own choices to consider whether you’re making healthy choices whenever you eat.

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How Pilates and PT help you stay active as you get older

How Pilates and PT help you stay active as you get older

As we grow older, our bodies change. While it may sound counterintuitive, staying activeis the best solution when our joints start to ache and our energy starts to fade. (Isaac Newton probably had no idea he was also talking about the human body when he explained that a body at rest stays at rest, and a body in motion remains in motion.)

Two ways to remain in motion as we age are physical therapy and Pilates. As we’ve pointed out in the past, physical therapy helps maintain and improve your health as you age. “Therapy helps to promote an increased awareness of your body,” says physical therapist Rachelle Hill. At Moreau Physical Therapy (a Physiquality member in Louisiana), Rachelle and her fellow PTs apply therapy to improve posture and reduce back pain,evaluate gait to make walking more efficient and less painful, and improve balance toreduce the risk of falls, she explains.

If you're exercising incorrectly or compensating because of pain, you're at risk of doing more harm than good.In addition, if you’re exercising incorrectly or compensating because of pain, you’re at risk of doing more harm than good. “Doing the wrong exercise or doing an exercise incorrectly can result in more pain or even joint damage,” notes Kristina Holland, a physical therapist assistant at Clinton Physical Therapy Center in Clinton, Tennessee. Physical therapist Jessica Loncar agrees. She points out that exercise in a safe, controlled environment under the supervision of a licensed physical therapist goes a long way toward improving quality of life. A STOTT PILATES® Certified Instructor and Instructor Trainer for MERRITHEW™ (a Physiquality partner), Jessica reminds us that physical therapy is good for improving strength, balance, mobility and overall fitness.

Pilates exercises are designed to restore the natural curves of the spine and rebalance the muscles around the joints, with a focus on core stability, pelvic and shoulder girdle stabilization, neutral alignment and breathing. Pilates and physical therapy go hand in hand in teaching efficient movement patterns, which will keep us healthy as we age, explains Rachelle. Because Pilates focuses on proper back alignment and strengthening and lengthening the spine, she says, the back becomes stronger, preventing early wear and tear and reducing pain, as well as the risk of injury. This is key to staying active as one ages, as back pain often causes people to quit exercising for fear of further pain.

Many physical therapists often incorporate Pilates into their rehabilitation programs because of how it can be used to strengthen the body and improve flexibility with low-impact exercises. Mika Yoshida, a Pilates instructor at the Take Charge Fitness Program atClinton Physical Therapy Center, notes that this is especially beneficial after an injury or joint surgery, when one often loses range of motion in the affected joint. And while some of her students blame their lack of flexibility on their age, Mika reminds them that incorporating Pilates exercises into their daily or weekly regimen can improve their flexibility, regardless of their age.

Pilates is an excellent way to ease back into a more active lifestyle.If you’re dealing with joint pain or haven’t exercised in a while,Pilates is an excellent way to ease back into a more active lifestyle. A certified instructor like Jessica will know how to adapt exercises for your specific body and work with you to grow stronger. And if you take a class at a physical therapy clinic, you may end up with a physical therapist like Rachelle teaching your class. This means that she’ll zero in on any musculoskeletal weaknesses you have, and, if you need it, recommend coming into the clinic as a patient.

Practicing Pilates, says Mika, is like maintaining your car: You get an oil change for your car so that it can run for another 5,000 miles. You practice Pilates so that your body continues to move efficiently for years!

 

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How will rehabilitation therapy help me get better?

The goal of rehabilitation therapy is to improve a patient’s health and wellbeing after an injury or illness. It’s a broad umbrella term that covers a variety of therapies. At PTPN, the parent company of Physiquality, therapists fall into three categories: physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech/language pathology, sometimes referred to as speech therapy.

Physical therapy

Physical therapists are experts in biomechanics and the musculoskeletal and neuromuscular systems. In other words, says Randy Gustafson, the owner and director ofMesa Physical Therapy (a Physiquality network member in San Diego, California), “Their advanced degree focuses on learning everything about how the body moves.” Physical therapy incorporates specific exercises to strengthen muscles and improve function. Therapists utilize an integrated approach that includes modalities and manual therapy, he adds.

Many patients often see a physical therapist to strengthen and rehabilitate injuries in order to avoid surgery.PT is practiced in a variety of settings, from outpatient clinics to hospitals and skilled nursing facilities. While physical therapy is often thought of as the way torecuperate after a surgery, particularly in orthopedics (like a knee replacement or rotator cuff repair), many patients often see a physical therapist to strengthen and rehabilitate injuries in order to avoid surgery. And as patients and clinicians have turned their attention from reacting after an injury to preventing injuries and improving health, these patients — often athletes — have turned to physical therapists to condition muscles and joints, and to (hopefully) avoid injury altogether.

Occupational therapy

The word “occupation” in occupational therapy refers to any activity that a person spends time doing. Occupational therapist Michelle Kessell, who also works at Physiquality clinic Mesa Physical Therapy in San Diego, explains that “occupational therapy focuses on helping people get back to the daily activities with which they occupy their time,” often described in medical terms as activities of daily living, or ADLs. This can mean helping an injured employee get back to work, retraining patients on how to groom themselves, or helping people slowly get back to their favorite hobby.

Patients are referred to occupational therapy when they suffer pain or functional limitations due to a particular disability or disease, as well as after trauma, surgery or laceration. The American Occupational Therapy Association defines the practice of OT as having a holistic perspective, in which therapists adapt the environment or task to fit the person, and the person is an integral part of the therapy team. OTs often evaluate a client’s home or workplace in order to recommend adaptive equipment that will improve quality of life, while giving guidance on how best to use the equipment and adapt daily activities to the client’s limitations.

Speech-language pathology

 Speech-language pathologists assess and treat a variety of disorders related to communication and swallowing.Speech-language pathologists assess and treat a variety of disorders related to communication and swallowing. They might work with children who need help as they develop communication skills, or with adults who have impairments after a cerebrovascular accident (CVA) or brain injury, hearing loss, or progressive neurological disorders, explains speech-language pathologist Jan C. Key, who works at Pacific Therapy Services, a Physiquality network member in southern California.

SLPs work in a variety of settings, depending on the type of treatment they give. Those that work with children might work in a private practice or educational setting. Others work in hospitals and skilled nursing facilities, focusing on functional skills. Some even consult with companies on communication, teaching the staff a variety of skills, including voice control, social communication and diction.

Many therapists also complete extra education and certification in order to specialize. Physical therapists might focus on oncology patients, women’s health, or geriatrics. Speech-language pathologists might get certified to treat child language and language disorders; occupational therapists can earn special certifications in mental health or treating low vision.

Some specialties can apply to multiple licenses. For example, both physical and occupational therapists can earn certification as a hand therapist, like Michelle. CHTs help patients regain their fine motor skills by treating everything from the tip of the finger, or the wrist and elbow, all the way up to the shoulder, she explains. And treating swallowing disorders, also known as dysphagia, can be done by both occupational therapists and speech-language pathologists.

At the end of the day, these therapists work to help people feel better and live better lives.

 

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Will overspeed running help me?

With margins in elite competitions getting smaller and smaller — Usain Bolt won his gold medal in Rio by running the 100 meter dash 0.08 seconds faster than Justin Gatlin — many advanced athletes, particularly in track and field, are constantly looking for ways to grow stronger and improve their times.

Overspeed training is one way that runners (and other athletes) try to strengthen the muscles used in short bursts of movement, by using some type of external assistance to run faster than one normally would run, about “8% to 13% faster than the athlete’s fastest speed.Daniel Butler, a clinical exercise specialist at the Take Charge Fitness Program, a wellness facility run by Clinton Physical Therapy Center (a Physiquality network member in Tennessee), explains that there are several ways to do this. Tail wind running is the simplest method, running with a wind at your back. Similarly, slight downhill running is running down a hill with a slight grade. (A study in 2008 used NCAA sprinters to determine the best grade of hill for improving sprinting times; the authors concluded that a hill with a grade of about 5.8 degrees was optimal for improved performance.)

Runners use anti-gravity like those from AlterG to improve sprinting times.For more intense athletes, towing machines pull the runner down the track at a slightly faster pace than his normal rate. Runners have also used anti-gravity equipment like that from AlterG, a Physiquality partner, as well as wind tunnels, parachutes and speed harnesses. Chelsea Cole, a physical therapist assistant at Clinton Physical Therapy Center, cautions that athletes trying these types of methods should do pre-testing to determine maximum limb speeds and target speeds before training, and advises that any of these training methods should be created and supervised by a professional to ensure safety.

Daniel also notes that using pre-activation, or potentiation, exercises before sprinting has been shown to improve running times. “The exercise performed before the sprint would be selected for its ability to activate the target muscles without overly fatiguing them, allowing the muscles to fire more effectively and the athlete to sprint faster,” he says. John Shepherd, a coach for Team Great Britain, explains in an article how this has been done by other athletes: “To provide a potentiation example, the 30m sprint performance of athletes from various sports, including football, handball and basketball, was improved by performing 10 single repetitions at 90% of their 1 rep maximum 5 minutes before the completion of the sprints.”

Increasing leg strength through squats and deadlifts can help improve sprinting strength.Before focusing on speed and results, good form must be established, reminds Mark Salandra, a certified strength and conditioning specialist and the founder ofStrengthCondition.com, another Physiquality partner program. Mark emphasizes the importance of flexibility in improving stride frequency and length, two key components of faster running times. He suggests strength training to increase leg strength, incorporating such exercises as squats and deadlifts into your off-track regimen, in order to increase your stride.

Mark also notes that overspeed training often causes eccentric muscle damage, which usually presents as soreness in the quadriceps (thigh) muscles and can be painful to the touch. To minimize such pain, Mark recommends that these techniques be introduced into any training program gradually, combined with other pre-conditioning and strengthening exercises. Daniel also emphasizes that overspeed techniques should be used only by advanced or elite athletes, as beginner to intermediate runners and athletes would see more results from perfecting their technique and form (as noted by Mark above) and building their explosiveness strength.

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What is dementia, and how does rehabilitation therapy help?

What is dementia, and how does rehabilitation therapy help?

Getting older can be scary. We worry about weaker bones and osteoporosis. We worry about losing our balance and falling, which can lead to serious injury. And many of us worry about losing our memory. Older adults and their family members should know that there is a difference between becoming a little more forgetful (what some elders call their “senior moments”) and the early signs of dementia.

Dementia is more than being forgetful; it’s categorized by the loss of cognitive skills, or the way that a person can consider and make decisions. The National Institutes of Health explain that compared to mild forgetfulness, dementia impacts daily life, interferes with decision-making, and affects every-day tasks. Dementia can affect “memory, language skills, visual perception, and the ability to focus and pay attention.” It is caused by damage to brain cells; when the brain’s cells can’t communicate properly, the way we navigate the world around us is affected.

Dementia is often but not always permanent.Dementia is not always permanent. It can be caused by excess fluid in the brain (normal pressure hydrocephalus), infections, head injuries and brain tumors, or reactions to alcohol or medication. If these conditions are treated, it is possible that the dementia will recede.

Unfortunately, most causes of dementia are irreversible.Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia, accounting for as much as 80% of dementia cases. Alzheimer’s causes permanent changes in the brain, affecting short-term memory and learning at first, and eventually causing almost complete memory loss.Other irreversible causes of dementia include vascular dementia, dementia with Lewy bodies and Parkinson’s disease. Some people have a combination of conditions that cause the dementia, referred to as mixed dementia.

If you or a loved one is concerned about recent memory loss, the Alzheimer’s Association has posted 10 early signs that you might be at risk of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. If you are starting to feel confused when you solve problems, have issues completing familiar tasks at home or at work, or feel yourself withdrawing from work or social activities, it may be time to talk to your physician about whether you’re at risk for dementia.

The process of dementia can be slowed down with both medication and therapy.While irreversible dementia isn’t curable, the process can be slowed with both medications (prescribed by your doctor) and some types of rehabilitation therapy. Specially trained speech-language pathologists help patients with dementia and memory loss retain cognitive skills as long as possible. According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, the professional organization of speech-language pathologists, SLPs focus on the “cognitive aspects of communication, including attention, memory, sequencing, problem solving, and executive functioning.”

Others on the rehabilitation team can also help people with dementia. Occupational therapists can help to set up safe environments without obstacles; if the person is still living at home in the early stages of dementia, an OT can do an assessment to reduce the risk of falling and remove the risk of dangerous items (like flammable liquids or the use of the stove). OTs and SLPs can create a home environment where reminders are posted about daily tasks, helping the patient to remain independent for as long as possible. Andphysical therapists can work with the person to keep her physically active for as long as she is able, which can also contribute to slowing down memory loss, while reducing the chances of falling.

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