Swimming As Exercise: Advice from a Physical Therapist


Swimming is a powerful form of exercise. It can help reduce stress levels, improve your mood, give you better sleep, increase your overall strength and increase your endurance and cardiovascular capacity. Besides being a great workout, swimming is low-impact which means it’s easier on the joints than many contact sports or running frequently on a hard surface. It can burn a great deal of calories and work muscles all over your entire body. If your main focus is another sport, swimming can be a great cross-training form of exercise, and it’s something you can do almost your entire life.
These are some of the most frequent swimming-related questions I get from my patients, and the advice I give them.
I am in the process of training for a half-marathon. Would swimming be a good compliment to all that running?
The answer is yes. Not only is swimming an excellent compliment to a running program, it provides intense cardiovascular/aerobic training that reduces injuries to the runner by working other muscle groups that are otherwise not utilized. For example, runners in general have weak “hip compartments” and swimming helps improve flexibility in a runner’s hip flexors that are often overused. Additionally, runners don’t use their upper bodies with the exception of forward and backward arm movements intended for balance. Swimming uses the upper body and shoulder compartment that helps to improve overall core muscle strength and balance in the runner. 
What makes swimming a good workout option?
Swimming is low-impact which means less stress on weight bearing joints such as the hips, knees, and ankles. Swimming is an overall body workout that utilizes the upper body, core, and lower body. If you are training for a half-marathon, 10K, or marathon distance and over 40, swimming is a great substitute on “non-running” days that will maintain sufficient cardiovascular fitness without the “wear and tear” on the weight bearing joints.
What areas of the body does swimming target?
• Shoulder compartment, Chest ( pectoralis muscles), Upper Back ( Latissimus Dorsi), and abdominal muscles as well as core.
• Lower Body focuses more on muscles used for kicking like calf muscles (gastrocnemius and soleus) as well as hip flexors and hamstrings.
• The core- this includes pelvic floor muscles, abdominal muscles, and lower lumbar spinal muscles. 
Do you have any tips for swimming newbies on how to get started?
The best way to get involved in swimming is to join a USMS Masters Swim Team. Masters swimming is the largest adult fitness organization in the world and there are thousands of teams located in just about any city in the U.S. There is always a coach on deck and many other swimmers with you. The coaches are there to give the swimmer a great workout and to help the “newbie” improve their swimming “biomechanics”. Furthermore, swimming with other people is motivating and fun. Many runners and triathletes join masters swim teams to improve their swimming skills and to prevent and sometimes even treat athletic injuries. Swimming provides that overall “fitness” that is often lacking in runners due to “muscular imbalances”. Swimming helps prevent runners as they age from becoming injured. This latter reason for swimming as one gets older especially into the 50’s is an enormous advantage for anyone training for a half-marathon.
Jeff Cayo, MS, ACT, PT is a physical therapist with OrthoCarolina Pineville.

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How to Avoid Lower Back Pain While Cycling

How to Avoid Lower Back Pain While Cycling

Cycling is a low impact sport, but the repetitive movements and sustained posturing can still be hard on your back and spine. There are several factors that can affect your spine while you ride:

    Your bike fitting: Improper bike fitting can lead to a number of issues. For example, if your seat is too high it can cause you to shift from side as you reach for the bottom of the peddle stroke. This increases your spinal rotation and potentially strains the lower back. Another example is low handlebars. Riding low puts you in a more aerodynamic position, reducing wind resistance and making you more energy efficient. However, this can also put increased strain on the neck as you look ahead, while causing the rest of your back to flex more. If your back begins to bother you, try bringing the height of the handlebars up a bit. If you aren’t sure if your bike fits you well or you find yourself struggling as you ride, you can schedule a bike fitting consultation with a qualified professional.

    Your hip muscles and joints: Your posture on the bike puts your hip flexor muscles in a shortened position. If you work a desk job, your hip flexor muscles are already in this position for many hours of the day. The main hip flexor muscles have attachments to the vertebrae of the low back, so this tightness in your hips muscles can cause pulling on the spine. To counteract this, stretch your quads and hip flexors after every ride. It’s also important to maintain the mobility of your hip joints. Your body requires an adequate amount of bend in the hip, especially the more forward flexed you are on the bike.  Decreased motion at the hip joint causes increased motion of the low back and may result in repetitive strain on the spine.

    Your core strength: The strength and endurance of your core muscles will help stabilize your spine on the bike, preventing excessive repetitive movement. Core strengthening should be part of your routine for safe and efficient cycling. This can include a range of exercises and habits, from planks and Pilates to simply being mindful about your posture. Good form is critical to getting the most out of your conditioning and avoiding injury, so always consult a qualified practitioner before trying any new form of exercise.

    Your approach: Riding in gears that maintain high tension and require less pedal revolutions may seem like a good way to generate speed. But the increased tension means that your body has to work harder, leading to fatigue including the muscles needed for stability of the spine. Furthermore, if your resistance is too high then your cadence will be too low because you have to push harder, and it is less energy efficient.  A cadence of 80-95 rpm is ideal. If you’re a serious cyclist and you’re looking to improve your time, schedule a session with a certified coach who can help you develop an effective strategy that doesn’t increase your risk of injury.

Preventing snow shoveling injuries


With the impending weather this winter it is always important to have a good understanding of shoveling safety and body mechanic’s to prevent injury and illness. Shoveling is a very repetitive activity and can easily result in muscle fatigue, muscle strains, spine injuries and even fractures if performing incorrectly. Shoveling is an exercise and anyone who has contraindications to physical exertion should not shovel and everyone else should take the following precautions.

  • Make sure to stay well hydrated. Again shoveling is an exercise and just as you would hydrate during a sport, you should also hydrate during shoveling.
  • Wear good shoe wear to prevent slipping/falls.
  • Take a few minutes to stretch before and after shoveling, if you are unaware of appropriate stretches you can reach out to your nearest physical therapist.
  • Take frequent rest breaks.
  • Make sure your shovel is not too long. A long shovel can increase the lever arm which will make it more challenging to lift the snow.
  • Push the snow when you are able versus lifting the snow.
  • Do not fill your shovel fully with snow to decrease the weight you are lifting.
  • Keep your back straight when shoveling and use your hips and knees to bend.
  •  Do not twist your back with a full shovel of snow, make sure to move your feet to turn your body.

    Good luck during this shoveling season and consult one of our licensed physical therapists at Vantage Sports and Rehab if you are experiencing any pain.

Ergonomics In The WorkPlace


Ergonomics In The Workplace

Is increasing production one of your core business objectives  this year? Are you looking to reduce workers compensation claims and healthcare cost? Assuming these are your company objectives establishing or improving  an ergonomics program should be top on your list.

Studies show that understanding and applying good ergonomic practice is important to the management of a healthy workforce. Ergonomic changes are more cost effective before major problem occur (proactive ergonomics).  Reactive ergonomics cost more responding to a multitude of  cumulative Trauma Disorders (CTD’s).

Implementing a workplace ergonomic program includes the following elements:

1. Provide Management Support– A strong commitment is key from leadership. Management should have clear goals and objectives for the ergonomic program.

2. Provide Training– Training is very important for a successful outcome.  It ensures workers are educated to the benefits of ergonomics and they become more informed about ergonomics related concerns and the importance of reporting early symtoms of Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSD’s).

3. Identify Problems– Identify and reporting ergonomic problems is an important step in establishing an ergonomic program.

4. Involve Workers– Involving workers directly in the assessments, solution development and implementation will instill “team work” and a positive outcome of the ergonomic program.

5. Implement Solutions to Control Hazards– Identify solutions that can be implemented to reduce, control or eliminate workplace MSD’s.

6. Evaluate Ergonomic Process– Evaluation process and corrective measures should be established to periodically assess the effectiveness of the ergonomic process. When establishing an ergonomic process, the  assessment should include goals set for the ergonomic process.  Moving ahead, discussion should take place on the success of the implementation of the ergonomic solutions and if the goals have been met.

Establishing a ergonomic program can be tailored to meet budget guides.  It is important to start with the most critical needs first.  Initiating or improving  ergonomic programs is money well spent in reducing  cost, improving production and providing workers with a safer work environment.



Preventing Gardening Injuries

Preventing Gardening Injuries:

Winter is slowly transitioning to warmer spring weather. This is an exciting time for avid gardeners. Gardening eases stress, provides exercise, and gets you outside. It  adds beauty to your yard.
When gardening, it is very easy to become consumed spending long periods of time in awkward positions. It is important to approach gardening safely to prevent discomfort, pain, and injuries from occurring.

To avoid injuries you should follow these precautions:
1. Wear Gloves: wearing gloves will help reduce blistering from occurring. It will also protect your skin from bacteria, fungus and fertilizers.
2. Use proper body mechanics: It is important to remember to use your  leg muscles when  bending  your hips and knees to lifting. Never bend at your waist to lift!
3. Avoid prolonged repetitive motions: Gardening involves repetitive motion that can cause pain and injuries from over use. It is important to vary your gardening activity rotating and mixing up chores lessening over use of the same muscle group.
4. Remember your posture: During gardening we tend to spend prolonged periods of time in awkward flexed postures. Try to use gardening kneeling pad to help maintain better posture.  Take frequent breaks to allow your body to stretch. Try using long handle tools which will lessen awkward posture and allow you to work in standing.

5. Stretching before and after gardening helps prevent injuries.  Before starting a new exercise routine (especially if you haven’t exercised in a while)  check with your physician to see if these exercises are safe for you.

The above safety measures will lessen the risk of injuries so you can enjoy the summer months gardening. Enjoy!



Do Stretching Programs Help Prevent Work-Related Musculoskeletal Disorders?


Do Stretching Programs Help Prevent Work-Related Musculoskeletal Disorders?

Research reinforces the importance of a comprehensive program that includes flexibility & strengthening programs in preventing WMSD’s. The implementation of a comprehensive ergonomic program that includes administrative and engineering controls should be completed. The goal of the ergonomic program will identify risk factors that contribute to WMSD’s.
Utilizing administrative controls identified in a ergonomic assessment is a good place to start in making positive changes in preventing work-related musculoskeletal disorders. Administrative controls can be accomplished with minimal budget impact.