Low-Impact Yoga, Pilates Brings Big Health Benefits at All Ages

Low-Impact Yoga, Pilates Brings Big Health Benefits at All Ages

Yoga and Pilates are suitable for people of all ages and fitness levels, medical experts say.

These low-impact workouts don’t require special equipment and, after initial training, can be done at home to improve physical and mental health.

“Both use your own body weight and can be tailored for levels from beginner to advanced,” said Dr. Jayson Loeffert. He’s a primary care sports medicine physician at Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center.

Pilates aims to strengthen core muscles between the shoulders and pelvis, while yoga tends to focus on the mind-body connection, and often includes meditation and breathing techniques. Yoga can help people manage stress, according to the American Osteopathic Association.

Both exercises include slow, careful movements that can improve strength, balance and flexibility. Beginners should attend classes to learn how to do these exercises correctly, Loeffert advised.

Because they are low impact, yoga and Pilates are ideal for people with arthritis or injuries. “Most people can tolerate it without much problem,” Loeffert said. “It’s good for healing.”

The exercises also help people with diabetes, high blood pressure or neuropathy (problems with nerves) in their legs, he said.

Yoga and Pilates have other benefits, too, according to nurse practitioner Barbara Cole, who is also at Penn State Health. Among them: preventing and treating back pain; boosting posture and balance; increasing range of motion; and improving sleep.

Pregnant women and people with high blood pressure, risk of blood clots, herniated disks or other pre-existing conditions should check with their doctor before beginning yoga or Pilates, Cole recommended.

Health Tip: Risk Factors for Male Osteoporosis

Health Tip: Risk Factors for Male Osteoporosis

While people typically associate osteoporosis with women, men aren’t immune.

Osteoporosis commonly leads to weakening of the skeleton and fractures. According to the U.S. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, by the age of 70, men and women are losing bone mass at about the same rate.

The institute mentions these factors that raise a man’s chances of developing osteoporosis:

  • Having a chronic disease affecting the kidneys, lungs, stomach or intestines.
  • Taking certain medications regularly.
  • Having low testosterone.
  • Smoking, drinking alcohol excessively, getting insufficient calcium or failing to get enough exercise.
  • Getting older.
How to Prevent Ankle Injuries

How to Prevent Ankle Injuries

Ankle injuries can keep you from enjoying the activities you love. If you participate in any of these sports or athletic activities that put players at a higher risk of damaging the joint, here are the steps you can take to avoid getting hurt.

For many athletes, ankle injuries are a common cause for concern. While most sprains can heal in less than two months through rest, icing, and bracing, that still means time off from playing sports and enjoying other aspects of an active lifestyle.

In addition to the pain and discomfort they cause, sprains can put you at risk for developing more serious conditions. Even after they heal, they can leave the ankle weaker and more prone to dislocations, fractures, or osteochondral defects formed by cracks in the cartilage.

Whether you’ve had sprains before or simply want to avoid this painful condition, careful prevention is key to maintaining your health and continuing to enjoy your favorite sports. Here’s what it takes to avoid ankle injuries while playing soccer, running, and more.

SOCCER

In sports and in life, it’s a good idea to look before you leap. Aside from being on the receiving end of an unexpected slide tackle, the most common way to sprain your ankle is jumping — perhaps for a contested header — and landing badly. If you jump in a crowded area, spare some attention to where you touch down. While in competitive leagues it’s expected that you go for every ball you can, weekend warriors might exercise some caution and avoid risky jumps.

Soccer is a sport of quick acceleration, and the rapid directional changes it requires can also cause ankle injuries. Preemptive balance training can help you avoid sustaining any damage. This training consists of exercises like standing on one foot with your other ankle behind your back, catching and throwing a ball while on one foot, and one-legged squats.

BASKETBALL

As much as fans and announcers talk about “ankle-breaking” ball handling, the main cause of ankle injuries in basketball is actually rebounds. Be careful of risky leaps, whether it’s a heavily covered jump shot or a battle at the rim. Similar to soccer, landing on an uneven surface after a jump causes the most problems. So if the area is too congested, don’t be afraid to fall.

In addition, the stiff floor and rapid pivots of basketball are a recipe for ankle strain. Basketball shoes are designed with this in mind, so someone playing on a competitive team can take comfort in that layer of ankle protection. However, if you’re playing a pickup game in a regular pair of sneakers, watch out for quick stops and turns.

FOOTBALL

In any sport, it’s important to know your risks — and in football, those can vary by position. The causes of injury for a lineman are going to be different from those for a receiver or defensive back. For open-field positions that make rapid cuts and go up for the ball, the primary risk is landing unevenly. For those closer to the line of scrimmage, the bigger worry is getting forced into an unnatural position by the weight of a pileup.

Football is a contact sport, so some risks must be accepted. Still, a consistent stretching and strengthening regimen can go a long way. Jumping and skipping exercises can both strengthen the ankle and prepare it to absorb the impact of hitting the ground with force. Band exercises are useful for stretching your ankle beyond the normal pressures of practice, and could make all the difference if your foot ends up lodged at an awkward angle.

DANCE

Dancing is rigorous exercise, and ballet in particular puts the ankles under intense strain. As you learn new routines, it’s vital to gradually strengthen and work up to moves that force your feet into more difficult contortions. It is also important to strike a balance between mastering a move and overworking the muscles of the foot.

In what is already a standard practice, wrapping satin shoe ribbons around the ankle while dancing en pointe will help keep the foot stable in this elongated, high-pressure position. Although less research has been done on other forms of dance, proper warm-up, strengthening, and stretching have all proven helpful for injury prevention among ballet dancers.

RUNNING

Beyond buying sturdy shoes, choosing the right surface is key to safe running. By sticking to flat surfaces, you can decrease the risk of rolling your ankle. If you prefer running trails, then make sure not to lose sight of the changes in terrain. While some ankle injuries come from missteps and twists, others can stem from repetitive pounding. When you start to feel consistent pain, it’s time to take a break. Stretching before and after running sessions is also useful.

If you’re suffering from an ankle injury, consult an orthopedic specialist to learn about your treatment options. At Comprehensive Orthopaedics, our team of ankle specialists —Dr. Engel,  Dr. Nute and Dr. Lasee — have helped countless patients get back on their feet and return to the activities they enjoy. Contact us today to take your first step on the road to recovery.

Health Tip: What To Expect From Joint Replacement Surgery

Health Tip: What To Expect From Joint Replacement Surgery

Joint replacement surgery removes damaged parts of a joint and replaces them with man-made parts. The goal is to restore function and reduce pain and inflammation.

The most commonly replaced joints are the hip or knee. Less often, a shoulder, finger joint, ankle or elbow is replaced, the U.S. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases says.

The agency describes what to expect while preparing for and recovering from joint replacement surgery:

  • You doctor probably will prescribe pain-relieving medication, both before and after the procedure.
  • A growing number of patients are able to take advantage of out patient surgery centers where you can go home the very same day.  If you are elderly or disabled, you may spend some time at an in-patient rehabilitation center before going home.
  • Expect to use a walker or crutches for at least a few days.
  • Physical therapy should begin soon after surgery, to help strengthen muscles around the new joint and help you regain motion in the joint.
  • Pain and discomfort can be relieved with medication. Both should go away within a few weeks or months.
Anxious Women May Want to Keep an Eye on Their Bone Health

Anxious Women May Want to Keep an Eye on Their Bone Health

As if older women didn’t already worry enough about their bone health, new research suggests that anxiety may up their risk for fractures.

Based on an analysis involving almost 200 postmenopausal Italian women, the finding builds upon previous research linking anxiety to a higher risk for heart disease and gastrointestinal problems.

“Our findings are quite surprising because an association between anxiety levels and bone health was not reported before,” said study author Dr. Antonino Catalano, though the study did not prove that anxiety caused fracture risk to rise.

Catalano is an expert in internal medicine, bone metabolism and osteoporosis with the department of clinical and experimental medicine at the University Hospital of Messina in Italy.

As to what might explain the association, Catalano pointed to a number of factors.

“Our opinion is that anxious women are more likely to engage in poor health behaviors, such as smoking or a poor diet,” he said. “Moreover, the negative effects of stress hormones on bone status may be considered as also enhancing fracture risk.”

Catalano added that women who struggle with higher levels of anxiety were also found to have lower levels of vitamin D. “Poor vitamin D status has been previously associated with increased fracture risk,” he said.

The researchers noted that osteoporosis is the most common metabolic bone disease in the world. An estimated 33 percent of women and 20 percent of men will suffer from an osteoporosis-related fracture at some point in their lives.

The research team also noted that 7 percent of the world’s population suffers from anxiety disorders.

To see how the two issues might intersect, the researchers focused on patients attending one Italian osteoporosis clinic in 2017.

On average, participants were nearly 68 years old. All underwent in-depth health screenings to assess, among other things, prior fracture history, arthritis diagnoses, heart and lung health, and smoking and alcohol habits. Bone mineral density exams were also done.

A wide range of mental health concerns were also explored, including depression, tension, insomnia, memory and anxiety levels ranging from moderate to severe.

The investigators determined that women who had the most anxiety faced a noticeably higher fracture risk, compared with women with the lowest degree of anxiety.

Higher anxiety was linked to a 4 percent greater risk for a major fracture over a 10-year period, and a 3 percent greater risk for a hip fracture in the same time frame, said Dr. JoAnn Pinkerton, executive director of the North American Menopause Society.

The study was published online May 9 in the society’s journal Menopause.

Higher anxiety was also linked to lower bone mineral density scores in both the lower back area (known as the lumbar spine) and in the femoral neck area (just below the ball of the hip joint).

The findings should encourage physicians to explore anxiety levels among older women when assessing fracture risk, the researchers said.

Pinkerton highlighted a number of steps women can take to minimize fracture risk as they age.

“Women reach peak bone mass around age 35,” Pinkerton noted. “So it becomes important for perimenopausal women and menopausal women to get adequate amounts of calcium.” Experts recommend 1,200 milligrams a day, between diet and supplements, she said.

Getting sufficient magnesium and vitamin D — from either sun exposure or supplements — is also critical, she added, alongside routine strength and resistance training. That, she said, can include walking, lifting weights or using elliptical machines.

Women should also avoid smoking, drinking too much, being sedentary, taking excessive thyroid replacement medications, and/or medications such as steroids or proton pump inhibitors, Pinkerton said.

For women particularly concerned about anxiety, she suggested turning to “mindfulness, cognitive therapy, self-calming strategies, yoga, or seeking help through counseling or, if needed, medications,” she said.

As for hormone therapy, Pinkerton stressed that while it’s not a treatment for depression or anxiety, “it can sometimes be helpful in women, and is sometimes used alone or in combination, depending on whether women have menopausal symptoms or respond favorably to a trial of hormone therapy.”

More information

There’s more on bone health at the U.S. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases.

SOURCES: Antonino Catalano, M.D., Ph.D., expert in internal medicine, bone metabolism, and osteroporosis, department of clinical and experimental medicine, University Hospital of Messina, Italy; JoAnn Pinkerton, M.D., executive director, North American Menopause Society, and professor, obstetrics and gynecology, University of Virginia Health System, Charlottesville; May 9, 2018, Menopause, online

Why Does My Foot Hurt?

Why Does My Foot Hurt?

Plantar fasciitis, bunions, or achilles tendonitis got you down? If you’re experiencing pain in your feet, we can help you pinpoint the source of your discomfort and recommend the best course of treatment for your condition.

While joint pain of any kind can put a serious damper on your ability to participate in sports or exercise regularly, pain in the feet can be especially debilitating. If you’re having difficulty simply staying on your feet throughout the day, a number of conditions could be to blame.

From Morton’s neuroma in the ball of your foot to Achilles tendonitis in the ankle, the first step to seeking relief from your pain is identifying its source. We’ve identified the most common conditions that affect the feet, and what you can do to address your symptoms.

1. BACK OF THE FOOT

If you’re experiencing burning, swelling, or stiffness in the back of your foot, you could be suffering from Achilles tendonitis. Most common in athletes whose sports are centered around running, jumping, or lunging, Achilles tendonitis occurs when the Achilles tendon (which controls flexing of the foot or ankle) becomes inflamed due to injury or overuse. The pain may worsen with intense exercise, particularly if you wear tight shoes when working out.

Most cases of Achilles tendonitis can be effectively treated by regularly resting and icing the tendon and wearing soft, loose shoes with special orthotic inserts. If the pain persists, taking anti-inflammatory medication or cortisone shots can help. If necessary, you can also opt for a physical therapy program designed to restore the tendon’s range of motion and redevelop the surrounding muscles.

2. BOTTOM OF THE FOOT

Pain in the bottom of the foot could result from several sources — but if it’s concentrated in the heel, the arch, or both, it’s most likely the product of plantar fasciitis, which is an inflammation of the tissue that runs from the heel to the base of the toes. Pain in this area of the foot may also be caused by a heel spur, which is an abnormal bone growth that usually forms in response to poorly fitting shoes, improper posture, or frequent running. Some patients suffer from heel spurs and plantar fasciitis at the same time.

In the case of heel spurs, relief can generally be found through the use of orthotic inserts. Meanwhile, the treatments we recommend for plantar fasciitis are similar to treatments for Achilles tendonitis: rest, icing, orthotic shoe inserts, and physical therapy. Anti-inflammatories and corticosteroid shots can provide additional relief. If your symptoms don’t improve in a year, you’ll likely need to undergo a short procedure to remove the damaged tissue.

3. SIDE OF THE FOOT

Pain or discomfort on the side of the foot is a common sign of a bunion: a bony protrusion on the side of the big toe that forces it to slant against the remaining toes. In addition to pain and swelling, bunions can alter the shape of your foot, making it more difficult to wear certain shoes.

Bunions are permanent, so if they’re causing you particular distress, you should discuss bunion removal surgery with a qualified orthopedic specialist. Otherwise, wearing wider, more comfortable shoes or custom-made inserts can help.

4. BALL OF THE FOOT

High heels and ill-fitting shoes are the most common source of pain in the ball of the foot, which can be a sign of metatarsalgia or Morton’s Neuroma. Metatarsalgia is a more general inflammation, while Morton’s neuroma is a compression or thickening of a nerve in the ball of the foot. For athletes, this pain can be a consequence of repeated stress or overuse.

Metatarsalgia usually responds well to rest and physical therapy, but more advanced cases of Morton’s neuroma may require further treatment. If you still feel pain after trying different shoes and custom shoe inserts, anti-inflammatories, and corticosteroid injections, your podiatrist may suggest surgery to remove the damaged portions of the nerve.