How to Use a Foam Roller

Friday, April 10, 2015
Foam rollers have the ability to alleviate tight muscles and soreness because they increase blood flow and flexibility. They've become popular over the last few years because they're lightweight and portable, and they can be used to work so many areas of the body like a sore back or tight hips or hamstrings.

Similar to traditional stretching, a foam roller is great for lengthening and elongating muscles, but unlike stretching it adds a massage effect into the mix. By utilizing your own body weight the foam roller allows you to perform a myofascial release, which is much like a self-massage, because it breaks up trigger points and helps stimulate blood flow and circulation to your muscles and tissues.

Using the foam roll
A foam roll should be used as part of your daily routine, not just when you have a sore spot. A lot of people wait until they feel tightness and simply roll it out, but it is ideal to think of the roll as a preventative measure to reduce your chances of a future injury or tightness.

Here are a few methods for using the foam roller effectively. If you have any questions on which foam roll is the right size for you, exercises, aches, or pains, feel free to contact our personal trainer at 616.997.6172.

Image via Health Central

The Benefits of Water and the 100 Ounce Challenge

Tuesday, April 07, 2015
What if there was a magic pill that could make your skin look clearer, ease your aching joints and muscle cramps, and help you lose weight? That's enough to entice you, right? But it gets even better. What if the pill was free? 

Here's the thing…this "magic pill" does exist, only its not actually a pill. Its a liquid, its abundant, and its practically free. We're talking about water and the benefits it provides is utterly amazing.

When thirst takes over, what is your beverage of choice? In the US, the most popular choice is a soft drink, followed by water. Considering the amount of sugar and empty calories in a soda, and the rate at which obesity is climbing, water seems like a clear choice.

Surprising Benefits of Water
Approximately 60% of the body is made of water so it only makes sense that drinking enough will help to maintain your fluid balance, which is crucial in helping all organs and parts work properly, transporting nutrients throughout the body, regulating temperature, digesting food regularly, and the list goes on and on.

Aids in weight loss
Want to shed a few pound the easy way? Drink a glass of water before each meal. The H2O helps to fill you up so you don't consume as many calories. You're also not consuming the empty calories you would if you were drinking a soda instead.

Flush more toxins
Extra water helps your body to flush out excess toxins through sweat and urination which results in clearer pores and less acne. Water also reduces your chances for kidney stones and urinary tract infections. 

Increase productivity & decrease fatigue
Feeling the afternoon slump coming on? Grab a glass of water to give you the boost you need. One of the most common symptoms of dehydration is feeling fatigued. Water can help with concentration and staying alert, too.

No more pain
Keeping your body hydrated can keep your joints and cartilage lubricated and give your muscles more elasticity which will relieve aching joints, muscle cramps, and strains. Water is also a natural headache remedy and it can even help people who suffer from back pain and migraines because these issues are commonly caused by dehydration.

Aids in digestion
Not feeling regular? Ample amounts of water help your colon, which in turn, keeps things moving smoothly.

Fight Illness
Drinking plenty of water aids in decongestion and dehydration, which both help you bounce back faster when you're feeling under the weather. Some researchers even believe that drinking plenty of water helps fight against common issues such as cold and flu, as well as more serious issues like cancer and heart attacks.

Here's The Challenge
If we haven't already convinced you with the numerous benefits, let your body tell you. We challenge you to drink 100 ounces of water each day for the next 30 days and see if you feel any different at the end of the month. Its really not that difficult, we promise. Grab a refillable water container and keep it at your desk, drink it with your meals, have a glass first thing when you get up in the morning and before you know it you'll have reached your 100 ounce goal. We encourage you to take a photo of yourself at the beginning of the month and then again at the end. Does your skin look different? Have the dark circles under your eyes gotten any lighter? Do you look healthier overall?

We want to hear about (and see) your results, so be sure to let us know how you did. And here's the thing - even if we're wrong (which we're not), what's the worst that can happen? Your body is going to thank you for accepting this challenge.

Repeal the Medicare Cap

Monday, April 06, 2015
As Michigan consumers, you have a right to let your voice be heard!

Medicare beneficiaries have a dollar cap on the amount of therapy they can receive per year - $1940 for physical therapy and speech combined, and $1940 for occupational therapy. If a patient has been diagnosed with a complicated illness, sustained multiple injuries, or needs more than one orthopedic surgery within a year, the cap can easily be exceeded - limiting the amount of services they need and deserve.

There is legislation to repeal this cap. Give your voice to Congress so they know you'd like the Medicare cap to be repealed. Follow the link below to send an email to your legislator. It only takes a few seconds to let your voice be heard! The American Physical Therapy Association is lobbying on Capitol Hill in your favor, but they need your support.

The Benefits of Choosing Organic

Friday, April 03, 2015
While shopping in the produce department you see two peaches, side by side, and they appear to be identical - the only visual difference is that one costs 20 cents more. But the actual difference is far greater. Which do you buy?

If you've perused the organic produce section in your local grocery store you've noticed the prices are higher than conventional produce, but in return you're missing out on the addition of nasty pesticides that can leach into your foods. 

Over the last few years people have begun to understand the effects of pesticides and their actions are speaking volumes. USDA economists have reported that organic produce sales have increased by $10 billion in the last decade. The immersion of pesticides in our diets has become a topic of interest over time and researchers and consumers alike are questioning whether increases in diseases and illness are a direct result of the foods we eat.

Organic Benefits
- Organic produce contains fewer pesticides and higher levels of antioxidants
- Organic food is often fresher and tastes better
- Organic food is safer for babies and children
- Organic farming is better for the environment
- Organically raised animals are not given antibiotics, growth hormones, or fed animal byproducts
- Organic food is GMO-free

Although we feel that its best to buy organic whenever possible, if you have reservations, there are some foods that are definitely worth the extra cost and others that you might be able to skip. 

Foods you don't have to buy organic
Be looking for fruits and vegetables that have thick skin or are grown underground. The thick peels make it more difficult for the pesticides to seep through and many bugs avoid produce that is grown underground.
- Avocado
- Onion
- Pineapple
- Sweet Corn
- Asparagus

Foods you should buy organic
As you might guess, produce with thinner or edible peels typically sustain higher amounts of pesticides within the food itself. If at all possible, always buy organic versions of the following:
- Apples
- Peaches
- Strawberries
- Grapes
- Peppers
- Tomatoes
- Cucumbers
- Spinach

If you want to learn more about organic foods, check out the EWG website, which highlights the Dirty Dozen, the Clean Fifteen, and everything in between.

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.