How to get rock star Physical Therapy when all you’ve been getting is factory made.

How do you know if you are getting great Physical Therapy? Wouldn’t you like your physical therapy to help you heal, feel better AND help you understand your body better at work, home and play?

You might not be getting the best Physical Therapy in NYC if the following describes your physical therapy experience.

• How much time does your Physical Therapist spend with you? Does she spend only 5 or 15 minutes with you one-on-one?

• Is most of your physical therapy time spent with a hot or cold pack, maybe some electrical stimulation for 15-20 minutes, maybe some ultrasound, maybe a little massage (if you’re lucky)?

• Or maybe you get heat or ice and e-stim, ultrasound and then are sent into the gym on your own to ride a stationary bike or do a few exercises.

• Does your Physical Therapist just hand you a pre-printed sheet of exercises to do on your own in the clinic?

• Does your physical therapist watch you do your exercises? Give you adequate instruction? Does your Physical Therapist progress your exercise program, gradually increasing its intensity, as you heal?

• Are your exercises healing? Do they feel good? Do they feel right? Do they feel too hard? Do they hurt?  [Hint: good Physical Therapy is usually NOT painful or super hard.]

• Do you feel confident you are doing your exercises correctly? Does your physical therapist spend time working with you to help you find the inner feel, the inner logic of each exercise?

• Does she work intensively with you, guiding and giving you personalized feedback on how you move and perform each exercise? Are her instructions clear and easy to follow? Does she take the time to give you verbal and tactile cues?

• Does your PT help you learn the best way to do each and every exercise, both in the clinic and at home? Does she give you help with your alignment? Make sure you are finding ease of movement and not creating more strain?

• Are you getting effective manual treatment to aid the healing process, which helps resolve your pain, swelling or inflammation?

• Are you receiving a personalized home program to help you relieve pain between sessions?

• Does your home program help you manage and ease pain and tightness? Does it help you balance and strengthen your connections with your body?

• Does your Physical Therapist hand you a pre-printed sheet of exercises to do at home, maybe ones you’ve never done before, unrelated to your work in the clinic?

Healing takes time – your valuable time. To optimize your time and healing, wouldn’t you prefer to work with an experienced Physical Therapist who really hears you, who uses discrete exercise instruction, who is skilled at using mind-body integration tools and who has an arsenal of manual skills? Wouldn’t this be the best way to go?

 

Please feel free to contact Sharon Gary for more information or to set up an appointment.

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The Best Way to Relax

by Sharon on October 14, 2011

When you are suffering from neck, back, hip or shoulder pain, even if you’re just plain tired, Constructive Rest, practiced just 10 minutes a day, is the way to go.

Constructive Rest, pictured below, is a resting position of the body, in which the arms and legs are supported rather than held by the muscles of the neck and spine. By relieving the spine of the weight of the legs at their articulation with the trunk, the pelvis, trunk muscles, fascia and internal organs are also given a chance to rest. As the weight of the arms across the chest presses into the articulation of the shoulders where they meet the trunk, chronically tight and overworked neck, shoulder and back muscles are given an opportunity to reset, too.

Basic Position: open your feet hip-width apart with the heels outside the toes in a slightly pigeon-toed position. Let your knees fall together so your legs support one another. Cross and drape your arms one over the other, resting them on your chest like empty coat sleeves. Your hands should be relaxed and open, falling off the arms.*

In The Thinking Body, Mabel Todd, who originated Constructive Rest, recommends it for “relieving the spine from strain of leg weights and favoring a return of blood to heart.”² She describes how, throughout nature, cycles of work are always followed by a dynamic pause, or rest. Different from sleep, these dynamic rest periods are intrinsic to life — from the tiniest cells to the heart, lungs, digestive and neuromuscular systems. The moment of rest and silence in the lub dub of the heart is when the heart’s atrial chambers fill with oxygenated blood in preparation for the next squeeze of the heart, which then sends newly oxygenated blood out to each and every cell in the body. It is a dynamic pause.

Lulu Sweigard, a student of Todd’s, wrote in the Human Movement Potential that “the distribution of its structural weight should balance the body so that no muscle work need be added to maintain equilibrium in the position.”³ What we are seeking to accomplish with Constructive Rest, then, is to bring the body into effortless mechanical equilibrium.

Constructive Rest creates an opportunity for the spinal curves, from head to tailbone, from left to right, to relax and lengthen onto the even surface of a supportive ground. Tense muscles, tissues, joints and organs throughout the body can relax and literally unwind from the demands of maintaining an upright position against gravity.

Remember, the point is to be absolutely comfortable and use as little muscular effort as possible to maintain the position. If you don’t find this position comfortable, perhaps another variation on Constructive Rest might work better for you.

Practicing Constructive Rest only 10 minutes a day has delicious effects. By supporting your body in dynamic relaxation, you can unwind from pain and fatigue while you tune into your breath and your body, relax and let go.**

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NOTES AND REFERENCES

* Try not to forcefully bend your arms or hold your arms in place by gripping with your hands.

** Other benefits may be similar to those of meditation and yoga where lowered stress levels, decreased anxiety, lower blood pressure, decreased heart rate, improved mood and energy levels are well documented. However, to discuss these bonus effects is beyond the scope of this article.

¹ Image provided by Ann F. Cowlin, Yale University, and Dancing Thru Pregnancy.

² Todd, Mabel Elsworth, The Thinking Body: A Study of the Balancing Forces of Dynamic Man,  Dance Horizons, Incorporated, 1937, p.290.

³ Sweigard, Lulu E., Human Movement Potential: Its Ideokinetic Facilitation, Harper & Row, Publishers, Inc., 1974, p. 216

Please feel free to contact Sharon Gary for more information or to set up an appointment.

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Variations on Constructive Rest

by Sharon on October 14, 2011

Constructive Rest*

In a previous blog post, The Best Way to Relax, I described the many benefits of Constructive Rest. Here, I wish to offer a few variations on the basic position, pictured at left. At different times, or because of your body type, you might find one of these variations more comfortable. And comfort is what we’re looking for here.

 

  • Try placing a small pillow under the head if you have a deep chest (thoracic kyphosis) or forward head. If you notice your chin is pointing towards the ceiling and your head is cocked back, you need a pillow. If you simply feel strain in your neck or back, try a pillow. It should be as small as possible to comfortably support your head and neck. The goal is to support your body’s neutral alignment in a comfortable, balanced way so that you can let go of all muscular holding.
  • If the backs of the hips are tight (this is true for many men), try lining up your knees with your hips and ankles rather than trying to force the knees together. Then cross the arms over your chest. If your legs stay in place on their own without drifting to the sides or falling open, this may be the optimal position for your body.
  • If you have a large chest, or if for any reason you are simply uncomfortable crossing your arms over the chest, try resting your arms about 45 degrees away from the trunk of your body with your palms facing up. Allow the weight of the arms to release into gravity.
  • You can loosely tie your thighs together with a scarf or theraband to keep legs from falling open.
  • If the floor feels hard or uncomfortable, try putting more padding down.
  • Sometimes a small pillow placed under the pelvis or low back may feel good.
  • Another approach to Constructive Rest is to prop the legs, bent 90 degrees at the hips and knees, onto a chair seat or sofa. Open the arms out to the sides, palms up, or cross your arms across your chest as in the basic position.

Whichever adaptation you choose, try lying in the same position for 10 minutes a day for a few days. Notice the difference in how you feel.

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* Image provided by Ann F. Cowlin, Yale University, and Dancing Thru Pregnancy.

Please feel free to contact Sharon Gary for more information or to set up an appointment.

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Is Your Posture Causing Shoulder Pain?

September 7, 2011

Have you been taught by your Physical Therapist, Yoga teacher, Pilates teacher or trainer to press your shoulders back and down for good posture? What if, instead, you were to ease your shoulders up; rotate them slightly back to open the chest; and then allow them to gently drop into place. Then forget about them […]

Please feel free to contact Sharon Gary for more information or to set up an appointment.

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Diagnosed with Degenerative Disk Disease and Depressed about it?

March 8, 2011

At the age of 42, after an MRI, I was diagnosed with Degenerative Disk Disease. I also had two bulging and one herniated disk. I went home, crawled into bed and cried, convinced that my body was aging beyond repair, and it would be all downhill from there. The Bad News Yes, your neck or […]

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Free Your Body – Part II

March 7, 2011

Holding On vs. Letting Go Just for a moment, think about what you are doing right now. Feel your body. How are you sitting? What muscles are you using? Are you sitting still? Are you relaxed or are you holding tension in your body? Next, let’s move to thinking about the concept “holding the body.” […]

Please feel free to contact Sharon Gary for more information or to set up an appointment.

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What are your Intentions?

January 7, 2011

I did it my way. -Frank Sinatra Why I prefer Intentions over New Year’s Resolutions  Creating an intention is about finding out what I’d like to do or have happen in the New Year. It is a gentle process, one of tuning in and listening to the still small voice within. It’s a taking stock […]

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2010 Bessies Highlights | DanceNYC

October 23, 2010

DanceNYC.org 2010 Bessies Highlights Click on above to see video footage from the Bessies. Issac Mizrahi MC’d. It was a night of fun, shouts and tears devoted to choreographers, dancers and the usual suspects in New York’s vibrant dance scene.

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Bacon and cheesecake ‘alter brain like heroin’

October 22, 2010

Say no more . . . Bacon and cheesecake ‘alter brain like heroin’

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Sleep Apnea: An Alternative Approach

October 21, 2010

Obstructive sleep apnea syndrome (OSAS) is caused by a disruption to the breathing cycle, often for 10 seconds or more at a time, when you are sleeping. Contributing factors vary — from narrow or clogged airways to the tongue falling back in the throat cutting off the air supply. If you snore, keep your partner […]

Please feel free to contact Sharon Gary for more information or to set up an appointment.

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