While conditions such as tendonitis, carpal tunnel syndrome and tennis elbow — known as repetitive strain injuries (RSIs) — are often linked to an occupation or some type of sports or recreational activity, Buffalo Grove physical therapist Gopal T. Raghunath, PT MS, DPT, CSCS, points out that the physical rigors of parenting can often lead to a similar level of pain and discomfort.
The continual lifting, carrying, reaching and twisting so common to parents of babies and toddlers, Dr. Raghunath says, make moms and dads susceptible to RSIs. As the name suggests, such injuries to the muscles, tendons and nerves are due to the repetitive use of specific regions of
the body to perform tasks, oftentimes in sustained awkward positions.
“Parents will hold, carry, rock and lift their babies dozens of times throughout the day, which after some time when performed for prolonged periods can take a toll on the body,” said Dr. Raghunath, owner/clinic director of Buffalo Grove Physical Therapy & Sports Rehabilitation, P.C. “This is the physical wear and tear of being a parent.”
Additionally, poor posture while performing these everyday parenting tasks can eventually compound the problem of RSIs.
“Performing these tasks with sub-optimal body mechanics places the body under unnecessary stress leading to pain, tenderness, tingling and
numbness, commonly observed in repetitive stress injuries,” Dr. Raghunath said.
Dr. Raghunath offers the following for maintaining good posture and avoiding repetitive stress injuries while parenting or babysitting, based on guidelines provided by the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA):
Lifting Baby from the Crib: When lifting your baby out of his/her crib, avoid reaching over guard railings and away from your body as this places undue loads to the spine. Instead, first bring the railings to its lowest setting, set your feet shoulder-width apart and bring your baby close to your body. Then, maintaining a slight arch in your back and bracing your spine tight, bend your knees and using power through your
legs, and slowly lift the baby.
Lifting Your Child from the Floor: Stand close to your child with back straight. Step forward with one foot and slowly lower yourself to one knee into a lunge position. Place both arms around your child holding him/her close to your body, and lift with your legs upon ascending up.
Repeat these steps when setting your child down to the floor.
Carrying Your Toddler: Avoid holding your child with one arm and/or balanced on your hip, as this can cause a muscle strain in the low back or sprain to the surrounding ligaments. Instead, hold him/her close to your chest with their legs wrapped around your waist, and balanced in the center of your body.
Lugging Around that Infant Car Seat: Avoid carrying the infant car seat to one side of your body or around your forearm as you would a purse or handbag, as this places stress on the back, shoulder, and arm. Instead, carry the seat by the handle with both hands, elbows bent,
positioned in front of your body with its weight distributed evenly.
According to Dr. Raghunath, strong hip and lumbopelvic musculature can significantly reduce a parent or caretaker’s risk for developing RSIs.
The physical therapy at Buffalo Grove Physical Therapy & Sports Rehabilitation can provide customized core strengthening strategies, along
with assessing and treating your current musculoskeletal ailments.
Those who experience back, hip, and knee pain while walking, running, working, or exercising may find that the source of their discomfort resides much lower in their bodies – perhaps in their feet, said Gopal T. Raghunath, PT MS, DPT, CSCS, owner/clinic director of Buffalo Grove Physical Therapy & Sports Rehabilitation, P.C.
Made up of 26 bones, 33 joints and more than 100 muscles, tendons and ligaments, the feet are complex structures designed for shock absorption and propulsion. Any functional deficiencies within the feet can negatively affect muscles and joints up through the legs and into the back.
“Pain in the spine, hips, and knees can often be caused by an ailment in the foot, resulting in gait abnormalities,” said Dr. Raghunath. “When dealing with such issues, you have to take into consideration the entire kinetic chain, from the feet up through the body. Assessing how your body moves globally, starting with the feet, is often key in identifying the underlying causes of pain and dysfunction in other parts of the body.”
Such assessments may find your feet to be the cause of these dysfunctions, or they may determine your feet are innocent bystanders (so to speak) in a more complex chain of movement-related deficiencies.
For instance, an improper step brought on by issues in strength, balance, flexibility, gait or improper footwear, Dr. Raghunath said, can lead to painful foot conditions such as plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendonitis and bunions, to name just a few. Such conditions, along with the issues that caused them, can justifiably create back, hip, and knee problems.
“It’s common to take our feet for granted – that is, until they start to hurt,” Dr. Raghunath said. “It’s at this point when the rest of our bodies are most susceptible to injury because, to compensate for the pain and possibly a lack of flexibility or proper movement, more of the impact and stress normally absorbed by the feet is transferred up throughout our kinetic chain.”
Dr. Raghunath suggests stopping such potential chain reactions, before a chronic condition is manifested. As a physical therapist, he is able to analyze a person’s foot type and gait, then suggest footwear specifically designed for the shape of his or her feet. Physical therapists are also trained to identify deficiencies in strength, flexibility, balance and musculoskeletal makeup that may affect the feet.
“By achieving the right balance between flexibility and strength, plus wearing shoes that are appropriate for your foot type, your feet will feel great,” Dr. Raghunath said. “And of course, the rest of your body will benefit, as well.”
While a relationship between the body and mind has long been theorized – 1st century Roman poet Juvenal once suggested people should pray for “mens sana in corpore sano” (a sound mind in a sound body) over power and wealth – Buffalo Grove physical therapist Gopal Raghunath, PT MS, DPT, CSCS, points out that there does exist a strong physiological connection between exercise and improved memory, per well-documented science.
“Researchers generally agree that one of the most important things you can do to boost memory and guard against amnesia is to make regular exercise a part of your daily routine,” said Dr. Raghunath, owner/clinical director of Buffalo Grove Physical Therapy & Sports Rehabilitation, P.C. “Movement in the form of exercise is indeed a powerful tool to combat disease and dysfunction, while optimize quality of life.”
A recent study by the National Institute on Aging, published in the journal Cell Metabolism last month (June 2016), discusses the potent effects of exercise and the mind-body connection. The study demonstrated that during exercise, muscles release a protein called Cathespin B to help stimulate production of new cells in the Hippocampus – a part of the brain that controls memory.
This is just the latest in an extensive history of scientific research asserting the benefits of exercise on improved memory, delayed onset of dementia/Alzheimer’s disease, and improved mental faculty for aging individuals.
A Mayo Clinic study discovered that adults who engage in moderate exercise 5 to 6 times per week can reduce their risk of cognitive impairments such as loss of memory and comprehension by up to 32 percent due to increased blood flow to the brain.
“Moreover, regular exercise helps improve mood and sleep, while also reducing stress and anxiety, among a host of other general health benefits,” said Dr. Raghunath.
A physical therapist is a movement specialist trained to assess and treat people suffering from pain due to injury and dysfunction, that make regular exercise or even just getting through the day a formidable task. If an ailment is sidelining your ability to establish and maintain a sound mind and body, allow the team at Buffalo Grove Physical Therapy & Sports Rehabilitation to help put you on the path toward improved health and happiness.
Buffalo Grove physical therapist Gopal Raghunath and his wife tried stand-up paddle boarding for the first time 3 years ago during a trip to Maui. Not only was he quickly hooked on the sport, but he immediately identified a host of health benefits that make the activity unique among other leisurely water sports.
“Stand-up paddle boarding (SUP) is a fun, warm-weather sport that not only young or middle-aged people can enjoy, but active older individuals, as well,” said Dr. Raghunath, PT MS, DPT, CSCS, owner/clinic director of Buffalo Grove Physical Therapy & Sports Rehabilitation, P.C. “It improves balance, coordination and core stability, thereby creating a positive carryover to everyday activities, while reducing the risk of falls and fractures for older adults.”
Stand-up paddle boarding originated in sections of Peru and French Polynesia as a means of transportation and was modernized in Hawaii as an offshoot of surfing. Within the last 5 to 6 years, it has gained traction and popularity in the mainland U.S., particularly on the West Coast.
“Rather than riding big waves, boarders simply use a paddle to propel themselves through generally calm waters,” Raghunath said. “Moreover, once your skill level improves, you can be on the water for hours and not realize you’re exercising or burning calories.”
Key fitness benefits of stand-up paddle boarding
It engages your core muscle stability. Paddling in a reciprocal, chopping pattern while in a standing position engages your trunk stabilizers while challenging your balance.
It improves balance. Maintaining your body’s symmetry and equilibrium against varying water currents improves proprioceptive/kinesthetic awareness, which in turn minimizes risk of falls and fractures particularly in the aging population.
It’s low-impact on the joints. As a water-based activity, stand-up paddle boarding does not impart jarring forces on your joints. Additionally, because it’s a weight-bearing activity, it helps maintain healthy bone mineral density to combat osteopenia/osteoporosis.
It’s an effective cross-trainer. Stand-up paddle boarding engages the entire body, which is vital to optimal performance of daily, leisure and sporting activities. And, if performed vigorously for a sustained period, it can also build cardiopulmonary conditioning as well as relieve stress and defend against stroke, hypertension and heart disease.
“Ultimately, the goal is to stand up, paddle and effectively maneuver your board through varying water conditions. However, there are some lead-up stages within the activity itself, to gain more acumen and expertise, such as learning how to paddle on your knees, smoothly transitioning from your knees to a standing position and vice versa, and being able to get back on your board if you fall, in an energy-efficient manner,” says Dr. Raghunath.
“Even as a beginner, the injury risk is very low. If you fall, you fall in water, which makes for a refreshing swim!” Stand-up paddle boarding provides benefits to one’s balance, stability and coordination so uniquely distinct that Dr. Raghunath employs the use of a training board in his clinic, under which balance discs are carefully positioned, to help acclimate beginners to the sport and provide innovative conditioning strategies for the seasoned paddler.
Dr. Raghunath recommends beginners to undergo a comprehensive functional movement screen prior to getting on the board, to help analyze existing patterns and identify any balance, mobility and stability deficits. The Buffalo Grove Physical Therapy & Sports Rehabilitation team will use the results from the movement screen to customize a program to help address these deficiencies and optimize performance.
In light of the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention’s (CDC) mid-March release of new guidelines questioning the safety and effectiveness of subscription opioid use for the treatment of chronic pain, Buffalo Grove physical therapist Gopal T. Raghunath, PT MS, DPT, CSCS points out that physical therapy has long been considered a safer, cheaper and more effective treatment for such conditions.
In fact, the CDC report itself lists physical therapy and exercise as options for managing chronic pain that “may actually work better” than oft abused opiate painkillers like Vicodin and OxyContin – and with fewer risks and side effects.
“Given the potential harmful long-term side effects of opiates, I would certainly prefer progressive exercise and movement therapy,” said Dr.
Raghunath, owner and clinical director of Buffalo Grove Physical Therapy & Sports Rehabilitation, P.C. “Exercise, when prescribed in appropriate therapeutic doses, not only helps improve strength, flexibility and cardiorespiratory endurance, but also stimulates endorphin production to bring about feelings of well-bearing and reduce pain, thereby making it ‘wonder drug’ itself.”
An often debilitating condition that can lead to fatigue, depression and anxiety, chronic pain is defined as persistent pain that continues for months – even years.
The country’s top federal health agency, the CDC established its new guidelines based on research and trends that suggest the risk of opiate drugs far outweigh the benefits in most people. Such drugs are addicting and often overused and abused, stated the CDC, contributing to the death of nearly 20,000 Americans in 2014 alone.
“We know of no other medication routinely used for a nonfatal condition that kills patients so frequently,” said CDC Director Thomas Friedman in a recent USA Today article. “We hope to see fewer deaths from opiates. That’s the bottom line.”
In contrast, several studies over the years points to movement, exercise and individualized physical therapy as effective options for treating chronic pain. A report about chronic pain released by the National Institutes of Health in January of 2015, in fact, specifically mentions physical therapy as a key, non-pharmaceutical option for treating, managing and even ending chronic pain.
“Despite what is commonly done in current clinical practice, there appear to be few data to support the long-term use of opioids for chronic pain management,” states the report titled “The Role of Opioids in the Treatment of Chronic Pain.”
“Chronic pain can indeed be physically and emotionally depleting,” said Dr. Raghunath. “However, it can be treated safely and effectively with physical therapy. Regular exercise performed in appropriate increments is a lifestyle choice that empowers individuals to establish and maintain control of their health and their lives.”
From education, strength and flexibility training and manual therapy, to posture awareness and body mechanics instruction, physical therapists are licensed and trained to identify the causes of chronic pain, then establish an individualized treatment plan for alleviating and possibly eliminating the pain.
Gopal received his Doctor of Physical Therapy degree (DPT) with a specialty certification in Sports Physical Therapy (CSPT) from the University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences, in 2007. Dr. Raghunath lives with his wife Bhakti in Vernon Hills, who is also a practicing Physical Therapist.