Hi, I'm Doctor Jo, a licensed Physical Therapist and Doctor of Physical Therapy. I hope you enjoy my video demos of stretches & exercises for common injuries and syndromes. If you have a question, just ask! Be safe. Have fun. And I hope you feel better soon.

Going Up and Down Stairs with an Injured Leg

Steps can be a scary place when your balance is not good. It can be even scarier when you have a leg injury. When going up and down the steps with a leg injury, you want to use your strong side to do most of the work. In the rehab setting we have many sayings to help you remember what to do. "Up with the good, down with the bad" is my favorite. Another helpful one is "Good goes to heaven (up), bad goes to hell (down)."

When going up the steps, you want to step up with your uninjured side so you can power yourself up. This is using a "step to" approach where each foot touches each step. When you are going down, you want to lead with your injured side. This is because when going down, the leg staying on the step is doing all the work. It is the one lowering you down.

It is as simple as that! Take your time and be safe!

Spondylolisthesis Back Pain Exercises & Stretches

There are many different things that can cause back pain. You can be diagnosed with many scary sounding things. In some cases the spine becomes weakened or fractured and it is unable to maintain its proper position. The vertebra can start to shift out of place. This condition is called spondylolisthesis. If too much slippage occurs, the bones may begin to press on nerves and surgery may be necessary to correct the condition.  However, you can stretch and strengthen the muscles around the spine and possibly prevent the need for surgery.

The first exercise is called a pelvic tilt. Lie down on your back with your knees bent. You want to imagine pushing your belly button into the ground, or push your back flat onto the ground like you are squishing something. You can put your hand under the curve of your back, and try to push your back into your hand. Make sure you are breathing and not holding your breath while doing these exercises! You should also feel your pelvis rotate backwards slightly while doing this. Try for just five second holds, doing about 5 -- 10 and then work your way up to 30-second holds three times.

Next, keep your knees bent and flatten your back into the ground; slowly lift one leg just a little off the ground while you are raising the opposite arm above your head. Alternate back and forth and try about ten at a time.  

Next, bring both knees to your chest, and hold it for 30 seconds doing it three times. This is called a double knee to chest stretch.

Finally, you will stretch your hamstrings. You can check out my hamstring stretches video for other ways to stretch your hamstrings. Here you will need a belt, beach towel, or dog leash. Wrap it around the ball of your foot. Try to keep your leg straight and pull your leg up in the air towards you as far as you can comfortable go without bending your knee. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds and repeat 3 times.

Hip Flexor Stretches & Exercises

Your hip flexors are made up of many different muscles including the psoas, iliacus, rectus femoris, sartorius, tensor fasciae latae, adductors, and gracillis. The major hip flexor muscle is two muscles combined called the iliopsoas. These muscles work to move your upper thigh (femur) to your chest. When this muscle is injured, it can cause pain even with walking. Here are some stretches for your hip flexors.

First start in a kneeling position. Place the knee of the hip flexor you want to stretch on the ground, and take the opposite leg and bend it in front of you at a ninety-degree angle. You might want to place a pillow under your knee to protect it. You will be in a lunge position with the knee of your injured side on the ground. Now drive the knee of the uninjured side forward away from your body. Hold for 30 seconds, and do this 3 times.  

Next, you will be on your stomach, or in prone. Bring your foot of the injured side towards your buttocks and grab your ankle. Gently pull your foot towards your buttocks and then lift your thigh off the ground pushing your leg up in the air. To help lift your hip, push your foot away into your hand. Hold for 30 seconds and do it 3 times.

Finally, lie down on your bed or a high surface. You will need good balance for this so you won't fall off the bed. Slide to the side of the bed with the injured side hanging off the edge. Now bend the opposite knee towards your chest and hold onto it. Just relax your leg off the side and you should feel a stretch. Hold for 30 seconds and do it 3 times.

 

How to Walk with a Cane Correctly

Using a cane or a crutch when you have an injury can be very confusing especially when characters on TV shows don't even use them right! So let me show you how to walk with a cane correctly. Once you get the hang of it, it becomes very easy and natural. When we walk normally, our opposite arm swings forward with our opposite leg. When using a cane, you want the same technique so you don't risk injuring something else while you are recovering.

The most important part to start with is to make sure your cane is the right height. Most canes have a pin you can push in to change the height. On your upper leg there is a bone that sticks out called your greater trochanter. It is just below your hip. This is where you want the top of the cane. You should have a slight bend in your elbow about 20 degrees.  If the cane is too high, you might irritate your shoulder, and if it is too low, you might lean over too much.

Now for the walking part. The cane should be in the opposite hand of the injured side.  Yes, House, MD did it wrong! The cane should always move with the injured side. If the injured side goes forward, the cane goes forward for support. Again, this is how our bodies naturally move; so don't think about it too much. Just move how you would normally move. The cane should be for balance and safety, and if you feel like you are pushing really hard on it, or if you can't walk smoothly, then you probably are not ready for a cane yet.

Neural Glides for Ulnar, Median & Radial Nerves

The nerves in your arms and legs can move and stretch. Nerves can become injured just like muscles and tendons. Scar tissue can build up and trap the nerves. This can lead to chronic inflammation and pain. To get the nerves moving again, you can do special stretches called neural glides (also called neural flossing or nerve stretching).  

For your arm, there are three main nerves that can get damaged or trapped at your neck, shoulder, wrist, or elbow. These three nerves are your ulnar nerve, median nerve, and radial nerve. Neural glides should be performed very gently and there should never be pain. Nerves are very fragile and too much stretching can injure them as well.

To stretch the ulnar nerve, take your index (pointer) finger and touch it to your thumb while holding your other three fingers in the air, like an okay sign. Bring your hand towards your face leading with your pinky finger like you are going to place it over your eye (like making a mask when we were children). At first you might not be able to place it completely over your eye, but remember not to push too hard, you just want a gentle stretch. Start off with ten times and do this two to three times a day.

The next stretch is for the median nerve. Take your arm out to the side of you at a ninety-degree angle with your palm facing up. Keeping your fingers straight, bend up and down at your wrist. You can add more of a stretch by side bending your head to the opposite side (touching your ear to your shoulder). If that is still not quite enough, then move your arm slightly behind you and repeat the process.

With the radial nerve, you want to perform the same stretch as the median nerve, but this time turn your palm down towards the ground.

For the legs, you want to sit down. Straighten out your leg (kick it forward). Pull your toes towards you and then point them out (doriflex and plantarflex). If that is not enough stretch, then slump your upper body down and bring your chin to your chest, and repeat the above movements.

Remember to be very gentle with these stretches and only do about ten at a time, two to three times a day.  

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