Running and Stretching on eightWest

Thursday, March 12, 2015
The weather has finally warmed up, after what seemed like the longest winter ever! Many people are itching to get outside, go running, and maybe even start training for a 5k. We stopped by the studios of eightWest this week to talk about stretching, running, and our latest 5k training program, RunFit.

Corey and Gina talked running and stretching with Rachael Ruiz.

Corey explains the proper way to stretch before running, while Gina demonstrates.

Watch our entire segment below, and if you have any questions on running, stretching, or fitness, just give us a call at 616.947.2720.

Our RunFit 5k training program starts March 18 at our new Grand Rapids location. The cost is only $20 for the 8 week session and participants will run the 5/3 Riverbank Run together on May 9. Register and get details here.

Check out our previous segments on eightWest where we talked about direct access and women's health.

Easy Exercises You Can Do Anywhere

Tuesday, March 03, 2015
Too busy to hit the gym? Don't like people watching you work out? No more excuses - you don't need a gym for these quick and easy exercises. All you need is the comfort of your own home or office - you can do these exercises anywhere. Burn a few calories and build strength and flexibility in just a few minutes each day.

Segmental Rotation: Core
Lie on your back with your knees bent and arms straight out to the side. With your back remaining neutral and your shoulders on the floor, let your knees roll slowly to the left. Go as far as feels comfortable, while keeping your spine neutral. You should feel a stretch throughout your core, but you should not feel pain. Hold this position for three deep breaths. Release and continue the exercise on your right side.

Wall Sit: Legs

No chair necessary! Against the wall begin to slide your back down the wall until your thighs are parallel to the ground. Keep your knees are directly above your ankles and make sure your back stays straight. Hold the pose for 30 seconds, rest and repeat 3-5 times. If your legs don't feel the burn or you want something more, increase the time to 60 seconds and/or grab some hand weights and do a few bicep curls at the same time.

Pelvic Brace Exercise: Core
This exercise creates a feeling of deep tension and a drawing in of the lower abdomen, low back and pelvic floor. To begin, your spine and low back should be in neutral position and you’ll always want to perform the exercise at 30% or less of your maximum effort. Bring your belly button closer to your spine as if you were deflating a balloon, not just sucking your tummy in. Always remember to keep breathing. To feel the exercise, place your fingers on your lower abdomen just inside your hip bones - you should feel the low level of contraction under your fingertips. The correct core activation contraction creates a hollowing of the lower belly to the bikini line, and stiffness in the deep low back muscles. Perform this exercise slowly and in a controlled manner in both directions of motion until you feel fatigue, with a goal of increased time or repetitions as you progress.

Calf Raises: Legs
Simple enough, you can do this while you brush your teeth. Push yourself up swiftly on your toes and slowly back down again. Increase resistance by doing it on one foot at a time. Aim for 50 to 100 reps anytime throughout the day, or do these during your two-minute teeth brushing session.

Bridge: Core
Lie on your back with your knees bent. Be sure to keep your spine in a neutral position - not arched up or pressed firmly into the floor. Brace your abdominal muscles while tightening your butt muscles and raise your hips off the floor until they are aligned with your knees and shoulders. Remember, your knees, abdomen and shoulders should create a straight line - no arching of the spine. Hold this position for three deep breaths, release, and repeat 10-15 times.
You can start out slowly if these exercises aren't comfortable - remember, it's ok to push yourself a little, but exercising should never be painful. Just like any repetitive motion, you'll get better and stronger with time and practice.

Our Grand Rapids Physical Therapy Clinic is Open for Business

Friday, February 27, 2015
March 2 marks a very exciting day for us here at Northern. After months of planning and prepping, our physical therapy clinic in Grand Rapids will be open for business! This PT clinic is really unique in that it's located inside the Northview Community Fitness Center, which is ideal because we have an incredible amount of equipment within arm's reach, making it easy to help patients stretch, exercise, and get back to feeling great again. 

We've already got patients in the books and we're ready to go! We'll be helping people who are dealing with back pain, neck pain, sore shoulders, sprained ankles, sports rehabilitation, recovery after surgery or injury, and everything in between.

Our Grand Rapids physical therapy clinic will be open for business on March 2

The clinic is located in the fitness wing of Northview High School at 4451 Hunsberger Avenue NE in Grand Rapids. Even though we're in the high school, both the physical therapy clinic and the fitness center are open to the public! To make an appointment with one of our physical therapists, call us at 616.947.2720 and we can get you scheduled right away.

We couldn't be more excited about this news! Tell your friends and family that there's a new physical therapy clinic in town and we're ready to get you back to living pain free!

We're Talking About RunFit 5k Training on eightWest

Thursday, February 26, 2015
Are you ready to start training for a 5k? Do you have questions about fitness? Well, set your DVRs for March 11 because we'll be back on eightWest and this time we're talking about fitness and our RunFit 5k training program. You may have caught us chatting with the eightWest crew about women's health and direct access to physical therapy, so we're excited to be back on once again.

Our RunFit 5k training program is ideal for people who are thinking about training for a 5k or looking for a fun group of people to run with each week. At each session you'll meet with an exercise coach and gradually progress in distance and speed. The class will offer weekly education on stretching, nutrition, strengthening, proper running form, proper shoe fitting, and orthotic inserts. Participants will also have access to a physical therapist and exercise specialist to answer questions. And, there will be a weekly opportunity to win a gift certificate.
RunFit starts March 6 in Wayland, March 7 in Coopersville, and March 18 in Grand Rapids. Our Cedar Springs program is currently underway but they're only one week in so you can still sign up and jump in and our coaches will make sure you're up to speed on all the details. Get more information and register for any of our fitness classes here.

We'll be giving details about the RunFit program on eightWest, along with some fitness tips and demonstrations. Tune in to WOOD TV8 on Wednesday, March 11 at 11am to see our segment.

Growing older, growing wiser, and everything in between

Wednesday, February 25, 2015
This letter was sent to us by a dear friend, Mrs. Greta Heugel. Greta received the letter from her son and she updated it as it applied to her own life. She plans to read the letter at her church circle meeting in March as part of her devotions and will dedicate it to a beautiful 93-year-old friend of hers. Thank you, Greta, for sharing your words of wisdom with us.


I want to dedicate this to all the over-90 persons I know.

I was asked the question: “Do you like being old?”
How dare anyone think I am old. Older, perhaps, but not old.
I am older than most of you, but being 90 is no big thing.
I thought about the question before I answered.

I have seen too many dear friends leave this world too soon, before they understood the greatest freedom that comes with aging. Whose business is it, if I choose to read or play on the computer until 4 am or sleep until noon.

I will dance with myself (even with a walker) to those wonderful tunes of the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s and if, at the same time, wish to weep over a lost love, I will.

I will walk the beach (if I can get someone to drive me there) in a swim suit that is stretched over a bulging body and will dive into the waves, with abandon, if I choose to, despite the pitying glances of the jet set. They, too will get old.

I know I am sometimes forgetful. But, there again, some of life is just as well forgotten. And, eventually, I remember the important things.

Sure, over the years, my heart has been broken. How can your heart not break when you lose a loved one, or when a child suffers, or even when somebody’s beloved pet gets hit by a car. But broken hearts are what gives us strength and understanding and compassion. A heart never broken is pristine and sterile and will never know the joy of being imperfect.

I am blessed to have lived long enough to have my hair turn white and to have my youthful laughs be forever etched into deep grooves on my face. So many have never laughed, and so many have died before their hair could turn to silver or white. As you get older, it is easier to be positive. You care less what other people think. I don’t question myself any more. I’ve earned the right to be wrong.

So, to answer your question:
I like being old.
It has set me free.
I even like the person I have become.
I am not going to live forever, but while I am here, I will not waste time lamenting what could have been
or worrying what will be.

Diana's Story :: One Runner's Journey

Friday, February 20, 2015
Thank you to our friend and colleague, Diana Painter, for sharing her story with us.

When I was 6 or 7 years old I'd often go chasing my grandparent's dog through the woods at their cabin in the Upper Peninsula. I always felt so carefree and happy.

Every year my family would spend time at my grandparent’s “camp”, which was short for deer camp in the UP. It had cold rusty water and no plumbing for a toilet. My parents and grandparents would tell me to “chase the dog to run out some of your energy”. Of course, I didn’t mind, I thought of it more as a game really. I know I was young but this is where I experienced my first “runners high”. An experience in which I felt free, invincible, and like I had endless energy- not quite what my parents had in mind.

As I look back on life overall, I've had so many wonderful memories connected to running. In elementary school we had to run a timed mile in gym class.  I was secretly excited for the day - I already knew who my competition would be and I was ready to come out on top. By the time I was in middle school I was thrilled to finally be old enough to join the track and cross country teams. These memories typically consisted of my friends and I trailblazing through woods and finding a lake to jump in. We'd come back from our “long run” dripping wet, but boy did we have a blast. I gradually built my endurance and became a little more serious by high school and could easily run our 5k races. I would complete the weekly 6 mile runs but still come back from an easy run dripping wet from a lake my friends and I found, which we couldn’t resist.

A New Chapter
College brought on a new chapter of running, including lots of hard work; 2x/day running sessions, weight lifting 2-3x/week, 12 mile runs at a time, and running 50-60 miles per week. By this point, I loved the competition and I felt so privileged to be able to travel to different states to discover where the race courses would take us. I had wonderful coaches and great teammates that encouraged me to be the best person and runner I could be.

My First Injury
It was during my second year of college that I experienced my first real injury - an excruciating pain near my first MTP joint, aka, the “big ball under my first toe”. My foot hurt so bad at times I wasn’t sure I'd even be able to drive. I continued to run through the pain, actually competing in Cross Country nationals for my first time ever. I then took some time off for several weeks, which turned into several months. I wore a walking boot, tried a steel insole, got custom orthotics, had a cortisone shot, went through physical therapy, and even tried a bone stimulator. During this time off I had to continue to stay in shape to be able to compete when my foot healed. I would cross train (bike, swim, elliptical) several hours per day. But cross training meant exercising for twice the amount of time running did. So if I should have run 12 miles, which would have taken me 11/2 hours, I now had to cross train for 3 hours. Cross training consumed my life. I remember one Friday night while aqua jogging alone in the pool, I could hear the announcements of the football game being played outside, and my friends and fans cheering. I really began to question whether running and competing again was worth this time and effort. After several physicians, 2 MRIs, a CT Scan, bone scan, and countless Xrays my physicians were unable to diagnosis why my foot was constantly in so much pain. I actually had a physician tell me “ It’s simple, your foot is not a runners foot; it is kinda like a fat person trying to be a ballerina”. I was appalled and now even more determined then ever to get back to running.

A Ray of Hope
Months turned in to years before I was eventually referred to another orthopedic surgeon who took a very awkward) Xray of my foot and was finally able to determine the source of my pain - I had a necrotic sesamoid bone. It basically meant that one of the tiny floating sesamoid bones in my foot had broken and died. I had surgery nearly 2 years after my original pain had started. With even more hard work and determination I was able to come back for 1 final year of collegiate running and compete in nationals one last time.
Diana, running the half marathon in the Charlevoix Marathon

Now, 10 years out of college, I am a wife, a mom to 2 beautiful boys, a physical therapist, and I am still a runner. I still am able to feel the burst of energy and giddiness I once had as a child when I complete a hard race or a fast, long run. It has not been easy and I've had challenges as an adult as well, to get back to this place of enjoyment. I've had to work hard to return to this point after having my 2 boys via c-section and taking a long time off from running with each baby. As an adult I now have a new outlook on my running goals; one that doesn't necessarily take into account achieving my “fastest” race time. I have long term goals that include improving my overall strength, endurance, and speed in order to maximize my health and to be able to run for as many years as possible while staying injury free.

I have learned so much through running that I can apply to my profession as a physical therapist, including the frustration towards medical professionals, the inability to do what you want to do, the time and effort it takes to come back from an injury, the loneliness at times of recovery, and also the knowledge of the health benefits that running and a healthy lifestyle can provide.  To me, running has always been such a liberating experience. A place where I can be myself, a way of showing people who I really am and what I'm made of. My past drives me to help my patients achieve their dreams and meet their goals, all the while knowing this journey will be challenging and may push them to their limits. But I can say firsthand, it is worth it in the end.

Which Physical Therapy Clinic is Near You

Monday, February 16, 2015
People often ask us which one of our 6 physical therapy clinics is closest to their home or workplace so we've compiled a list of locations throughout West Michigan. Simply find the city nearest you and it will tell you which clinic is the closest. If you have any questions on our 6 locations, feel free to call us at 616.997.6172.

Allegan - Wayland
Allendale - Coopersville
Alpine Township - Grand Rapids or Sparta
Amble - Cedar Springs
Ashland - Grant
Bailey - Grant
Belmont - Grand Rapids
Bishop - Grant
Bradley - Wayland
Burnips - Wayland
Byron Center - Wayland
Caledonia - Wayland
Cannonsburg -  Grand Rapids
Casnovia - Grant
Childsdale - Sparta
Comstock Park - Grand Rapids
Conklin East - Sparta
Conklin West - Coopersville
Coral - Cedar Springs
Croton - Grant
Dorr - Wayland
Eastmanville - Coopersville
Edgerton - Sparta
Englishville - Sparta
Ensley Center - Grant
Forest Hills - Grand Rapids
Fruit Ridge - Sparta
Fruitport - Coopersville
Gowen - Cedar Springs
Grand Rapids North - Grand Rapids
Greenville - Cedar Springs
Hastings - Wayland
Herrington - Sparta
Hilliards - Wayland
Hopkins - Wayland
Howard City - Cedar Springs or Grant
Kent City North or West - Grant
Kent City South - Sparta
Lakeview - Cedar Springs
Lamont - Coopersville
Marne - Coopersville
Martin - Wayland
Moline - Wayland
Monterey Center - Wayland
Moorland - Coopersville/Grant
Morley - Cedar Springs
Newaygo - Grant
Nunica - Coopersville
Orangeville - Wayland
Oxbow - Grant
Pierson - Cedar Springs
Pierson - Grant
Plainfield Township - Grand Rapids
Plainwell - Wayland
Ravenna East - Sparta
Ravenna North - Grant
Ravenna South - Coopersville
Reeman - Sparta
Reno - Sparta
Rockford North - Cedar Springs
Rockford South - Grand Rapids
Rockford West - Sparta
Sand Lake South - Cedar Springs
Sand Lake West - Grant
Shelbyville - Wayland
Sitka - Grant
Slocum - Grant
Spring Lake - Coopersville
Trufant - Cedar Springs
Walker - Grand Rapids
Wright East - Coopersville
Wright West - Sparta
Yankee Springs - Wayland

Massage : How Much Pressure is too Much?

Thursday, February 12, 2015
We know there are so many alternative benefits to a massage but let's face it, the main reason most of us go is to feel great and get immediate relief. But how many times have you layed there in pain while the massage therapist was digging in a little too deep? Do you say something or quietly cringe with every touch?
It Hurts So Good
This is the motto to use when receiving a massage. A good type of pain would cause slight discomfort while the irritated muscle is being worked on, but as the knot or kink gets worked out you should feel immediate relief. Painful massages don't really make you feel any better at the end - they just leave you feeling sore.
No Pain No Gain?
Not so. Pain isn't really necessary to loosen up tight muscles and knots. Sure, there can be slight discomfort while certain parts of your body are being worked on, but oftentimes when our muscles are sore to begin with the cause is typically from and injury or improper use. Sometimes its just a matter of a lack of oxygen or blood flow to that portion of your body. In those cases a minimum amount of pressure can help soothe the irritated area.
Some folks confuse the idea of pain, believing they won't be getting the full benefits unless the massage therapist is pushing them to their limits, but this simply isn't the case. A well trained masseuse will know just the right amount of pressure to apply, and exactly where to apply it. Everyone and every part of the body is different, it's not a "one pressure fits all" answer.

So what do you do when the pressure is just too much to bear? Don't be afraid to tell your massage therapist that you're experiencing discomfort. You want to get the most out of your session, you paid for it and you're there to relax - not lay in pain. Give your massage therapist the opportunity to adjust the amount of pressure being applied - they want you to be comfortable too!
So even if your main reason for seeking the massage was just to relax for an hour, there are benefits for all parts of the body, including:
- Alleviate low back pain
- Reduce depression and anxiety
- Relieve migraine pain
- Lower blood pressure
- Reduce postsurgery adhesions & swelling
- Offer less pain for arthritis sufferers
- Enhance immunity
- Improve circulation
- Enhance sleep quality
- Improve concentration
- Reduce fatigue
- Improve energy
- Helps digestion

If you're not ready to feel relaxed just yet, perhaps we can entice you with 10% off all massage packages for the month of February! No coupon code necessary, just click here to buy and let your stress melt away.

Got Priority Health? Give Physical Therapy A Try!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015
Has your back been sore for a while now? Are you dealing with a recurring sprain from all that running you've been doing? If you don't really want to deal with seeing your physician, and you're not sure where to turn, consider giving physical therapy a try.

Gina shows a patient how the spine works, explaining why she may be experiencing back pain.

Now that Direct Access is in full effect, you can visit a physical therapist without a referral from your doctor. And, what's even better, is that if you're a customer of Priority Health, they'll cover your treatments!

Priority Health has become the first local insurance provider to reimburse physical therapy services without a prior referral from a physician, as announced here. This news comes just 5 weeks after the Direct Consumer Access Bill went in to effect, which allowed residents of Michigan to seek physical therapy treatment without a referral. Despite the fact that the state law had changed, most insurance companies were not on board, until now.  If you're not a Priority Health customer, call your insurance company directly and tell them you want physical therapy treatments covered directly - the movement can start with you!

Corey treats a patient who has suffered a knee injury.

What does this mean for you? 

There's a shift towards empowering people to take their health into their own hands and to be more involved in the decisions that are being made. People that suffer from constant back or neck pain, have had a recent sports injury, or are looking for an alternative approach to healthcare can now come directly to a physical therapist - we've been advocating for and working towards this for decades - it really is an exciting shift in Michigan healthcare. And, its important to remember, just like you can choose your doctor or your dentist, you can also choose your physical therapy provider, regardless of your insurance provider.

When the Direct Access bill went into effect on January 1, 2015, Priority Health chose to continue to require a prescription before they would pay for physical therapy visits. However, after careful consideration, they have decided to follow state law for their commercial insurance products and physical therapy visits will be covered, with or without a prior referral from a physician.

Terri shows Amanda the proper way to stretch and flex her back and shoulder muscles.

This is a huge leap forward for Michigan consumers and healthcare in general, as the Michigan Physical Therapy Association (MPTA) has been working on the Direct Access plan for 34 years. 

If you have any questions on Direct Access, visit our FAQ page, or check out our segment on eightWest. If you are experiencing pain in your back, neck, shoulders, or elsewhere; have suffered a recent injury; or have questions in general about your health, feel free to stop by and set up an appointment with one of our therapists, or give us a call - we'd be happy to answer any questions you may have.

Boost Your Brain Health

Monday, February 09, 2015
Your brain is just like the rest of the muscles in your body - you use it or you lose it. But I bet when you think of enhancing brain health, you think of mind games and puzzles, don't you? Over the last 20 years we've seen countless studies which indicate that exercise may be the real key to a healthy brain…so put down the brain teaser book and let's get moving.
Choosing The Right Physical Exercise
Even 20 minutes of exercise can boost your brain's levels of information processing and memory function.
  • Aerobic exercise improves brain function and acts as a first aid kit to damaged brain cells
  • Exercising in the morning increases retention of new information throughout the day
  • Try something that combines coordination with cardiovascular exercise, like a dance class
  • Circuit work outs quickly spike your heart rate and constantly redirect your attention
  • Jumping jacks help when you feel mentally exhausted
Other Brain Benefits of Exercising
Regular exercise improves your mood and the ability to sleep, it reduces stress and anxiety, and helps with memory function. The benefits of exercise come from its ability to reduce insulin resistance and inflammation, and stimulate the release of growth factors which affect the health of brain cells, the growth of new blood vessels in the brain, and the abundance and survival of new cells.

Many studies have suggested that the parts of the brain that control thinking and memory are greater in volume in people who exercise versus people who don’t. 

So why would exercise build brainpower in ways that thinking might not? Well, your brain is just like your other muscles and organs - it's a tissue, and if its not used enough, it will eventually stop working at maximum capacity. In fact, in your late 20s, it 's not uncommon to begin to lose about 1% per year of the volume of the hippocampus, which is a key portion of the brain that handles memory and certain types of learning. Evidence shows that exercise seems to slow, or reverse, the brain’s physical decay, just like it does with our muscles.
Food For Thought?
In addition to exercise, eating the rights foods can also boost brain health because your brain requires nutrients too! The list of foods below will get you off to a great start.
  • Nuts - Full of magnesium, which is linked to improvements in both short and long-term memory
  • Essential Fatty Acids - Good sources include linseed/flaxseed oil, soya bean and soya bean oil, pumpkin seeds, walnut oil, and oily fish such as salmon, trout, mackerel, herring, sardines, pilchards and kippers.
  • Blueberries - Research shows that blueberries may help to improve or delay short term memory loss. 
So what were those tips again? If you've already forgotten, perhaps you ought to grab a handful of blueberries and go for a run. Your brain will thank you.