Hi, I'm Doctor Jo, a licensed Physical Therapist and Doctor of Physical Therapy. I hope my physical therapy videos for common injuries and syndromes will help put you on the road to recovery. If you have a question, just ask! Be safe. Have fun. And I hope you feel better soon.

Upper Back Pain Stretches & Exercises

Here is another edition to my upper back stretching and strengthening exercises. I have a video for Ys, Ts, Is, and Ws on a swiss ball, but if you don't have a swiss ball, these will hopefully help.
 
The first stretch is for your thoracic area. Sitting in a chair that has a medium back height, put your hands behind your head, and lean back over the backrest of the chair. Relax if you can and hold it for 30 seconds; repeat 3 times.
 
Next, you want to stretch your pectoralis muscles. If you have a foam roll, this will work best for the stretch. Lie down on the foam roll where it is directly on your spine and your head is supported. Now rest your elbows on the floor out to the side. If that is not enough stretch, you can straighten your arms out and rest them on the floor. If that is still not enough stretch, place your hands behind your head, and press your elbows downward. Hold for 30 seconds and do them 3 times.  
 
Now roll onto your stomach. Roll up a towel and place it under your forehead for comfort. Now put your arms straight out to the sides like you are making a T with your body. Gently raise your arms towards the ceiling, and try to squeeze your shoulder blades together. Your arms don't have to go high, but they do need to be controlled. Hold them for about 2-3 seconds and do about 10-15.
 
Roll back onto your back for "snow angels." This exercise was shown to me from my PT friend Phil who helped me rehab from my shoulder surgery. Put your arms flat on the ground into a slight stop sign position or like you are getting ready to make a snow angel. You can bend your knees your put your legs out straight, but bending the knees will help support your back. Now slowly slide your arms upwards, and try to keep your elbow and arms flat on the ground. Once they start coming up, then slide them back down. You only need to do about 10 of these with 2 sets.
 
The next stretch is going to be in long sitting where your legs are straight out in front of you. Clasp your hands together directly in front of you, and punch forward while your are curling your back forward and bringing your chin to your chest. You want to have a curl in your back. Hold this for 30 seconds and do 3 times.
 
The last exercise is "bird dogs." This is done on all fours or in quadruped.  Try to keep your back straight like a tabletop, and try to keep your neck in a neutral position so you don't strain anything. Now lift one arm up and bring it straight forward. At the same time, lift the opposite leg straight out. Alternate your arms and legs, doing 5-10 on each side.
 

Calf Strengthening Exercises

If you have weak calf muscles, or gastrocnemius muscles, due to surgery or an injury (or if you just have chicken legs like me!), then these exercises should help make them stronger.
 
The first exercise is a heel raise off the ground. Stand with your feet about shoulder width apart, come up on your toes as high as you can. Try not to lean forward, but bring your body straight up and down. Push off as much as you can so your heel leaves the ground. If that is easy, then you can do one at a time. Again, try not to lean forward or pull yourself up. If you can't go up without using your arms, then you are not quite ready for one foot at a time.
 
If that gets pretty easy, then you can find a step to get a longer range of motion in your exercise. Put the balls of your feet on the edge of the step, but make sure you are not going to slip off. Drop your heels down as far as they will go without slipping off, and then push up as far as you can upwards. Go slow with this motion up and down for control. Again, try to go straight up and down. If you are leaning forward or pulling yourself up, you are not quite ready for the step. Once you master the control, you can go faster, but try not to use momentum, make your muscles do the work. If that becomes easy, then you can do this with one foot.
 
Finally, you can walk up on your toes for a dynamic movement exercise. Try to stay up on your toes the whole time you are walking. If you can't keep your heels off the ground, then you are not quite ready for it.
 

Hip Bursitis Stretches & Exercises

Bursitis can be very painful, especially in the hip. The trochanteric bursa sits over the part of the hip bone that sticks out on the side. Here are some stretches and exercises that will hopefully help get rid of that hip bursitis.
 
The first stretch is an IT band stretch. Standing up, cross the leg that you want to stretch behind the other leg. Bend straight down towards your toes, and hold it for 30 seconds. If you need more of a stretch, take the hip with the pain, and push it outwards away from your body. Do this stretch 3 times.
 
Next, sit down on the ground and bend your legs up. Cross the side with the pain over to the other side, placing your ankle just above the knee. This will look like a figure 4, and it will stretch your gluteus and piriformis muscles. If you can bring your ankle further up your thigh, you will get more of a stretch. Gently lean forward at your hips, and try not to bend your back. Hold this for 30 seconds, and do it 3 times.
 
For the exercises, you will start with a simple straight leg raise (SLR). You want to squeeze your muscles tight to lock out the knee and pull your toes towards your head to keep the whole leg straight. This will work your hip flexor muscles when you lift your leg off the ground. Use slow controlled movements to make sure you are using the muscles and not momentum. Just lift your leg as high as the other bent knee. Start off with ten, and work your way up. Next, you are going to lie on your side. The top leg is going to stay straight and pull your toes up towards you. Keep your body in a straight line as well. Try not to let your leg come forward. Also, keep your hips up towards the ceiling, perpendicular to the ground. This is going to work your hip abductor muscles.   
 
Finally, you will do a clamshell exercise. Still lying on your side, bend both knees slightly forward. Try to keep your hips perpendicular to the ground with the top hip towards the ceiling. Slowly lift the top leg up and out, like a clamshell opening up, and then slowly back down.
 

Improving Knee Extension (Knee Straightening)

Many times after a knee surgery, or even with knee osteoarthritis, people have a hard time getting their knee extension back. Being able to straighten out your knee is very important in many things we do, especially walking.
 
To start off, you can try chair props. Sit in a chair, and have something of equal height in front of you. It can be another chair, an ottoman, etc. Place your heel on the other chair, and try to straighten out your knee as much as possible. If this is not enough stretch, you can add weights to it. A sack of potatoes works well, but sometimes it is too much weight to start with on your leg. Get a plastic bag, and add some soup or vegetable cans to it. Slide your foot through the loop of the bag, and place it just above your knee. Try to hold it there for 5-10 minutes and relax as much as you can. Over time, you can add more cans of soup.
 
If you need more of a stretch, you can lie down on your stomach on the couch or your bed. Make sure your knee is hanging off the edge to help you get more of a stretch and take the pressure off your knee. Sometimes you can roll up a towel and place it under your thigh for comfort, and more of a stretch. If this is not enough stretch, you can add weights to it. Get a plastic bag, and add some soup or vegetable cans to it. Slide your foot through the loop of the bag, and place it at your ankle. Try to hold it there for 5-10 minutes and relax as much as you can. Over time, you can add more cans of soup.
 

Gluteus Maximus (Buttocks) Exercises

Since twerking has become the new craze, many people have been asking how to strengthen their gluteus maximus muscles. Seriously though, those booty muscles are very important with almost all of our movements, so it is important to keep them strong.
 
First is a simple squat. Many people end up hurting their knees with this exercise because they are not squatting properly. You want to keep your feet about shoulder width apart, and try to keep your feet flat on the ground throughout the whole movement. Make sure you keep your knees behind your toes so you are engaging your gluteus maximus muscles. Stick your bottom out like you are sitting in a chair, and bring your chest forward. Try to keep equal weight shift through out your feet. You can use your arms for balance. You can start off with a mini squat, and work your way further down as long as you are able to keep proper technique.
 
If that becomes easy, then you can try a single leg squat. You still want to keep proper technique, so if you have to hold onto something for balance do so. If you are squatting and your knee goes way in front of your toes, then you are not ready for the single leg squat. It almost looks like a runner's pose if you are doing it right. Try to keep it smooth, and use your arms for balance.
 
Next is a lunge. It is the same technique with the squat in which you want to keep your knees behind your toes. Make sure your toes on the front and back foot are pointed forward. Try to keep your upper body straight up and down. You don't want to lean forward for this exercise. Bring your back knee straight down, and try not to lunge forward. If that is too hard, you can place a book or block under your back knee, and only go down until your back knee touches it.
 
Now you are going to get onto all fours or in the quadruped position. Try to keep your hands directly underneath your shoulders, and try to keep your back in a straight line, no arching up or down. You can do the exercises two different ways. First you can put your leg straight out behind you, and lift it up and down. You can also bend your knee with your foot facing the ceiling, and push your foot upwards. 
 
The last set of exercises are going to be done on your back. Get into a bridge position where your knees are bent up, we call this hooklying. Then stick one leg out and hold it up. With the other leg, push against the ground to lift your hips up off the ground. This is a single leg bridge. If you can, hold it for 2-3 seconds, and then slowly come back down. No plopping!
 
Happy twerking!