Bike Fit Tips for Healthy Cycling

Tuesday, December 16, 2014
Biking is ideal for the times when I feel like getting out for some exercise but I'm not in the mood to run. Its also great when I need to run a quick errand around town - its a shame to get in the car and drive just three minutes. Besides, biking is physically healthier than taking the car, it cheaper, and when you ride a bike you notice things about your neighborhood that you don't see when you're in the car. And, the fresh air is a welcome bonus. You can ride your bike year round, even in Michigan - there are some really nice days in the off season, plus its great time to tune up the bike, and yourself!

Whether you're out for a leisurely ride, or on the path of weight loss, it can all come to a screeching halt if pain or injury occur. But did you know that bicycle-related pain and injuries are commonly associated with poor bike fit. So if you have pain related specifically to cycling, you might have a bike fit problem.
Bike Fit Basics
- Keep a controlled but relaxed grip of the handlebars
- Change your hand position on the handlebars frequently for upper body comfort
- When pedaling, your knee should be slightly bent at the bottom of the pedal stroke
- Avoid rocking your hips while pedaling

Problems and Possible Solutions

Problem: Anterior (Front) Knee Pain
Possible causes are having a saddle that is too low, pedaling at a low cadence (speed), using your quadriceps muscles too much when pedaling, misaligned bicycle cleat for those who use clipless pedals, and muscle imbalance in your legs (strong quadriceps and weak hamstrings).

Problem: Neck Pain
Possible causes include poor handlebar or saddle position. A poorly placed handlebar might be too low, at too great a reach, or at too short a reach. A saddle with excessive downward tilt can be a source of neck pain.

Problem: Lower Back Pain
Possible causes include inflexible hamstrings, low cadence, using your quadriceps muscles too much in pedaling, poor back strength, and too-long or too-low handlebars.

Problem: Hamstring Tendinitis
Possible causes are inflexible hamstrings, high saddle, misaligned bicycle cleat for those who use clipless pedals, and poor hamstring strength.

Problem: Hand Numbness or Pain
Possible causes are short-reach handlebars, poorly placed brake levers, and a downward tilt of the saddle.

Problem: Foot Numbness or Pain
Possible causes are using quadriceps muscles too much in pedaling, low cadence, faulty foot mechanics, and misaligned bicycle cleat for those who use clipless pedals.

Problem: Iliotibial Band Syndrome (ITBS)
Possible causes are too-high saddle, leg length difference, and misaligned bicycle cleat for those who use clipless pedals.

Do you have questions on how your bike fits, or how to get on the right fitness program? We can help. Call 616.997.6172 and one of our personal trainers can get you rocking and rolling in no time!

Hormone Happy Hour :: January 14, 5-6pm

Monday, December 15, 2014
A friend recently shared a story with me in confidence. She was out with a group of girlfriends, catching up over a glass of wine when it happened. In the midst of a bout of laughter, she accidentally leaked a little. Yes, down there. Uh-oh, what now? Mortified, she panicked and ran to the nearest restroom.

The unfortunate part of the story (other than the leakage) is that this isn't the first time this has happened to her. As I began to offer her some comfort (and potential solutions) she replied "this has been happening for a while, its just part of getting older, I suppose."

Yes, urinary leakage may be part of getting older, giving birth, or illness, but there are ways to remedy the problem. We'll be talking about this and other female topics at our Hormone Happy Hour with Keystone Pharmacy.

If you notice your core and pelvis muscles are getting weaker, you experience pelvic pain on your annual exam or in daily life, or if you map out your shopping trips based on where the closest restroom is, this event is for you.

RSVP Today - click here!
Join us January 14th, 5-6pm | Keystone Pharmacy Seminar Room, 4021 Cascade Road SE, Suite 50, Grand Rapids, MI 49546

Special guests for the evening will be Terri Jeurink, a Women’s Health Specialist from Northern Physical Therapy, and Keystone Pharmacist and fellow in Anti-Aging & Functional Medicine, Mary PreFontaine Heim. They'll be available to talk about exercise and healthy habits that can help you move beyond kegels.

Terri's strong passion for helping both men and women return to optimal function with a whole body approach toward healthy living has been apparent throughout her 17 years in the physical therapy field. 
She has a specialty in Pelvic Floor Rehabilitation and completed her pelvic floor certification through the American Physical Therapy Association.

Our Interview with eightWest and Jordan Carson

Tuesday, December 09, 2014
Being on television in front of thousands of viewers can be very intimidating, but the folks at eightWest and WOOD TV8 made us feel right at home this week when we stopped by to talk with them about Direct Access and all the changes that are happening in physical therapy.

Jordan Carson of eightWest talks with Gina Otterbein about Direct Access and Physical Therapy

Check out our interview below, and if you have any questions on direct access or whether physical therapy is right for you, give us a call at 616.997.6172.

Direct Access to Physical Therapy in Michigan

Sunday, December 07, 2014
Direct Access gives consumers and patients the ability to be evaluated and treated by a physical therapist without being referred by a doctor or other healthcare practitioner. Michigan was the last of the 50 states to implement direct access and it goes into effect on January 1, 2015. These big changes lead to questions about what this means for you and how you can benefit. We've put together a Q&A to let you know how Direct Access works and how you can benefit. Get all the information here, and if you have any additional questions, feel free to email us or call our office at 616.997.6172.

Tips to Beat Afternoon Fatigue

Monday, December 01, 2014
We've all been there. The morning was super productive, you crossed a few things off the to-do list, grabbed a power lunch and then 2 o'clock rolled around and you were ready to curl up under your desk for a little cat nap. What is it about those afternoon hours that leave us yearning for a little shut eye?

Well, the answer is simple really. There are three main causes that lead to afternoon exhaustion:
Diet - reaching for caffeine and sugar can actually backfire, leaving you more tired, because of the fluctuation on your blood sugar levels. Try a healthy snack instead. We have some great examples below.
Sleep - The simple answer, right? A majority of us don't get enough sleep and it affects the way we feel the next day. Avoid caffeine and alcohol before bedtime, and put the electronics down. Research shows that staring at your phone, tablet, or television before bed can actually prevent you from getting a good night's rest.
Exercise - Regular, vigorous exercise is great therapy for fatigue, but try to do it earlier in the day, not right before bed.
If you're still ready to pull the shades and grab a pillow in the afternoon, here are some quick tips to help you recharge and get on with your day.

Get Up!
You should try to get up and walk around once an hour anyhow, but when fatigue sets in try a few quick power exercises. Run up and down the stairs a few times, get up and talk to a co-worker instead of emailing, stand whenever you can (during meetings, when on the phone, etc). You can also check out our video tips on office stretches to reduce fatigue and back pain here.

Back Up
To avoid eye strain its always best to keep your computer monitor at least an arm's length away from you.

Try Green Tea
Green tea has less caffeine than a cup of coffee, and it can provide that afternoon pick-me-up without keeping you up all night. And, it has great nutritional benefits.

Snack Time
Choose snacks that are full of nutrients so you can keep your metabolism going and increase energy levels. Great choices are bananas & apples, veggies & hummus, almonds & walnuts, yogurt with fresh fruit & granola, kale chips (get the recipe here), and lots of water.

Try a combination of these activities - they'll help get you through the afternoon feeling refreshed and ready to tackle the rest of your day!

Meet Jason Smits: Director of Fitness and Aquatics

Tuesday, November 25, 2014
As the Fitness and Aquatics Director at Northern and the Wayland & Northview Community Fitness Centers, I consider myself extremely blessed to be employed in the field that I love and by an organization who shares my zeal for making a healthy difference in the lives of it’s clients. Achieving a high level of personal health and wellness has always been a joy to me. I reside in the Wyoming area with my wife Jennifer of almost three years. She too works in the fitness industry as a personal chef and loves making sure we always have a home filled with healthy, tasty meals! A few of the things we enjoy together include reading, serving in our Church and spending time in nature, especially by the water!

Staying Fit After 50

Wednesday, November 19, 2014
One thing we can't deny in life is getting older. And as we age, we often lose flexibility, strength, and balance, which can make staying fit after age 50 a challenge, even for the most determined of Baby Boomers. But just because you're getting older, doesn't mean you have to stop exercising all together. In fact, the more you can get out and move around, the better you'll be feeling, for decades to come. Remember, if you don't use it, you lose it!
Here are four of the best types of exercise to practice as you age.

Strength Training
Remember to relax and keep breathing, keep motions smooth and steady, and avoid locking your joints. 

Bicep curls to strengthen upper-arm muscles
- Sit in an armless chair and keep your feet flat and even with your shoulders
- Hold your hand weights at your sides, arms straight, palms facing forward
- Slowly bend your elbows, lifting the weight toward your chest
- Rotate your palms to face each other while lifting the weight
- Hold the position for 2 counts and slowly lower back down
- Repeat 10 times

Knee flexion to strengthen muscles in the back of the thigh
- Stand straight and hold a chair for balance
- Without moving your upper leg, slowly bend your knee as far as possible so your foot lifts up behind you
- Hold for 5-10 seconds and slowly release
- Repeat with other leg and continue alternating for 10 reps on each side

Stretching should involve slow, steady movements to help your muscles stretch naturally. Never bounce into a stretch.

For flexibility in your legs, try the legs in v pose:
- Sit on the floor with your legs comfortably spread apart in a V shape.
- It doesn't matter if the V isn't that wide to begin with; it's more important to stretch comfortably.
- Gather some firm pillows and place them in front of you.
- Lean forward, keeping your neck long, and use the pillows to support your upper body.
- Breathe six times, allowing yourself to feel the stretch along your legs.

The seated forward bend will help reduce blood pressure. 
- Sit on a chair, keeping your knees together and your feet flat on the floor. The chair helps to avoid stress on your back.
- Inhale, then as you exhale, bend forward, rounding your shoulders and bending your back forward one vertebra at a time.
- Let your arms hang freely by your sides and hold the pose for three deep breaths.
- Your chest should make contact with your thighs, and your forehead should be near your knees.
- As you gain strength and flexibility, you can remove the chair and execute this position as a standing forward bend.
- Use caution if you have a bad back.

Always do these exercises near a table or chair so you can grab on if you feel you are going to lose your balance.

Hip extension to strengthen your buttock and low back muscles
- Stand 12 to 18 inches from a table or chair with your feet slightly spread
- Bend forward at the hips at about 45-degree angle; hold on to the table or chair for balance
- Slowly lift one leg straight backwards without bending your knee or upper body
- Hold for 5-10 seconds and slowly release
- Repeat with other leg and continue alternating for 10 reps on each side
- You can add leg weights once you are ready for a more challenging exercise

Enhance balance anywhere
These are quick and easy and can be performed anywhere, just make sure you have something to grab on to if you lose your balance.

- Walk heel-to-toe by positioning your heel just in front of the opposite toes each time you take a step. Your heel and toes should almost touch.
- Practice standing up and sitting down without using your hands
- Stand on one foot as long as you can, then alternate feet.

If you're just starting out you'll want to start slowly and build your endurance gradually. The idea is to get your heart rate up. Moderate cardio exercises include walking briskly, swimming, and flat surface bicycling. Once you are ready to move on, try stair climbing, snow shoveling, or bicycling up hills.

Always remember to start out slow with any new fitness activity. It's normal to feel a little discomfort when you're using new muscles, but intense pain should not occur and is a sign you're doing something wrong - you'll need to talk to a healthcare provider right away. Physical Therapists are experts in body movement and can show you the proper way to stretch, exercise, and work out. But it's important to know that it's never too late to start a new program, just make sure you start at a mild level and work your way up.

Do Pedometers Really Get You Moving?

Tuesday, November 04, 2014
Fitness gadgets are all the rage these days, and with so many to choose from, do you really think something as small as a pedometer will affect your overall health? The research is pointing to yes.

If you recently upgraded to the iPhone 6 you may have noticed that among the new features is a built-in pedometer. A small gadget or an app that counts your steps is a novel idea, but how does it really get you up and moving? Well, the answer is simple. It's a motivational tool that's always there, reminding you to keep moving. And if you have even an inch of competitiveness in your body, you're going to want to reach (and even exceed) that goal each day.

Simply start by setting a goal of walking 10,000 steps each day, which equals approximately 5 miles. Yes, it sounds like a lot and if you're not there yet, keep track of how many steps you are taking and try to increase the amount each day. You'll find that eventually you can easily walk the 10,000 steps without even trying because of certain habits that have evolved over time.

Easy ways to contribute to the 10,000 step goal
- Clean the house: I recently clocked over 6,000 steps just by cleaning my house and garage
- Park further from the store
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator
- Break it up by taking 3 power walks throughout the day
- Invite a friend for a walking lunch date
- Pace while on the phone or watching tv
- And the most obvious choice - get out and go for a walk!

Fitbit has many options to choose from

If you're not sure where to start when it comes to getting the right pedometer, you can begin with something simple like an app that you download on your phone. Runtastic is a great option, and it's free. The downside to using an app is that you have to have your phone with you at all times to track your steps. The Fitbit is also a great choice, and recommended by many of our therapists. Because it's worn on your wrist, it's a constant reminder to get up and walk around. Fitbit also makes it easy to see how close or far away you are from your daily goal.

Benefits of walking include
- Regular walkers have fewer heart attacks and strokes, lower blood pressure, and higher levels of healthy HDL cholesterol than couch sitters do
- Lower chances of diabetes
- Burn calories
- Reduced stress, increased energy levels, and a better mood all the way around
- Boosts your immune system
- Strengthens your bones
- Improves your balance and coordination

Walking is an easy and inexpensive way to help you get in shape, and it can be fun if you invite a friend. If you really want to dig in and make the most out of your walks, we offer gait analysis tests that will check your stride and form, orthotics that will help with balance and comfort, and personal training sessions to establish a routine just for you. But the most important thing to remember is to get up and walk. 

What Are the Benefits of Stress Balls?

Thursday, October 30, 2014
When was the last time you sat down and thought to yourself "Hmm...I have nothing to do..." Ha! It's been a while, hasn't it? Between shuffling kids to school functions and sports practice, work priorities, and social commitments it's no wonder we feel stressed at times. And let's not forget what time of year it is - the holidays are right around the corner so you can add baking, shopping and entertaining to the list.

Wouldn't it be nice if in times of chaos you could just get a little bit of stress out, in a quick and healthy way? Have you ever tried a stress ball? They work well on days when you want to squeeze the life out of something too - they always bounce back!
A Quick Fix
Stress balls, or Eggsercizers, are small egg shaped objects, filled with a malleable gel, that fit perfectly in the palm of your hand. Repeatedly squeezing the egg releases tension and in turn, helps to relieve stress. In addition to the mental benefits, stress balls also boost blood circulation and help with the treatment of carpal-tunnel syndrome and arthritis -- and they're used as a tool for meditation too. Because they're so small, they're convenient to store in your purse or bag - pull them out whenever you're on the verge of feeling stressed.
How Do Stress Balls Work?
Lowering levels of stress and tension can help to improve your quality of life by promoting better sleep habits, warding off illness and increasing a general feeling of well-being. Squeezing the egg activates the muscles of your hand and wrist, then releasing the grip allows the muscles to relax. The repeated pattern of gripping and releasing helps to alleviate tension and stress.
Great For Hand Injuries Too
The muscles in your hands and wrist can become weak or strained from daily overuse, arthritis or a fracture or sprain. Squeezing a stress ball or Eggsercizer can help to rehabilitate and strengthen your hand. Simply hold the ball or egg in the palm of your hand and squeeze it as tightly as possible; hold the grip for five seconds and release. Repeat 10 times.
If you have any questions on hand exercises, stress relief techniques, or hand injuries, feel free to contact us at 616.997.6172 or via e-mail. We'd love to help!

7 Myths About Physical Therapy

Wednesday, October 29, 2014
People everywhere are experiencing the positive effects physical therapy can have on their daily lives. In fact, as experts in the way the body moves, physical therapists help people of all ages and abilities reduce pain, improve range of motion, and stay active and fit throughout their entire life. But there are some common misconceptions that often discourage people from visiting a physical therapist.

Today we're here to debunk 7 common myths about physical therapy:

1. Myth: I need a referral to see a physical therapist.
Fact: Starting January 1, 2015, residents of Michigan will no longer need a referral from their physician to receive physical therapy treatment....this is big news! In fact, Michigan is the last of the 50 states to jump on board so this is a long time coming. We know you'll have questions regarding insurance and the process so we'll be putting together a list of everything you need to know in the near future. In the meantime, feel free to call our office at 616.997.6172 with any questions you may have.

2. Myth: Physical therapy is painful.
Fact: Physical therapists seek to minimize your pain and discomfort—including chronic or long-term pain. We work within your pain threshold to help you heal, and restore movement and function. We often find that people who have never visited a physical therapist think physical therapy is painful, but that number significantly decreases among patients who have seen a physical therapist in the past year.
Amanda, Corey, and Janeen at the massage expo

3. Myth: Physical therapy is only for injuries and accidents.
Fact: Physical therapists do a lot more than just stretch or strengthen weak muscles after an injury or surgery. We are skilled at evaluating and treating potential problems before they lead to more serious injuries or disabling conditions—from carpal tunnel syndrome and frozen shoulder, to chronic headaches and lower back pain, to name a few.

4. Myth: Any health care professional can perform physical therapy.
Fact: Although 42% of consumers know that physical therapy can only be performed by a licensed physical therapist, 37% still believe other health care professionals can also administer physical therapy. While many healthcare professionals (physical therapists included) work in the area of rehab, only a physical therapist is properly trained and certified to perform physical therapy. Because of our expertise in rehabilitation, injury prevention, movement, and fitness, we are able to provide our clients with specialized treatment plans to ensure the best outcome. In fact, many of our physical therapists have also pursued board certifications in specific areas such as McKenzie treatment for back pain, orthopedics, sports injuries, and women’s health.

Janis Kemper, PT and NPT co-owner, participated in the Geek the Library campaign

5. Myth: Physical therapy isn't covered by insurance.
Fact: Most insurance policies cover some form of physical therapy. In fact, physical therapy is considered one of the Essential Benefits required of all health plans in Michigan. Beyond insurance coverage, physical therapy has proven to reduce costs by helping people avoid unnecessary imaging scans, surgery, or prescription drugs. Physical therapy can also lower costs by helping patients avoid falls or by addressing conditions before they become chronic.

6. Myth: Surgery is my only option.
Fact: In many cases, physical therapy has been shown to be as effective as surgery in treating a wide range of conditions—from rotator cuff tears and degenerative disk disease, to meniscal tears and some forms of knee osteoarthritis. Those who have recently seen a physical therapist know this to be true, with 79% believing physical therapy can provide an alternative to surgery.

Our therapists help with hand and wrist pain too!

7. Myth: I can do physical therapy myself.
Fact: Your participation is key to a successful treatment plan, but every patient still needs the expert care and guidance of a licensed physical therapist. We will leverage our specialized education, clinical expertise, and the latest available evidence to evaluate your needs and make a diagnosis before creating an individualized plan of care.

If you have any questions on physical therapy and how it can help you, we'd love to talk! Feel free to contact us at 616.997.6172 or via email so we can get more information about your areas of discomfort.