Five common myths corrected about physical therapy

Five common myths corrected about physical therapy

October is National Physical Therapy month, a time of the year when physical therapists like Gopal T. Raghunath, PT MS, DPT, CSCS of Buffalo Grove Physical Therapy & Sports Rehabilitation, P.C. celebrate their profession while educating others about the role physical therapy plays in improving the health and vitality of their patients — and of health care in general.

In doing so, Dr. Raghunath points out that while physical therapy’s roles are both broad and diverse, several misconceptions still exist about what physical therapy is, what it isn’t, and the various ways it can help people improve the health and lives of people of all stages in life.

“When a lot of people think about physical therapy, they think rehabilitation. But that’s just a part of what we do,” said Dr. Raghunath, owner/clinic director of Buffalo Grove Physical Therapy & Sports Rehabilitation. “Physical therapists can improve the lives of people of all ages dealing with a number of common ailments … even people dealing with no ailments at all.”

According to the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA), physical therapists (PTs) are highly educated and licensed health care professionals who can help patients reduce pain and improve or restore mobility. Sure, this includes those who’ve suffered musculoskeletal injuries, Dr. Raghunath says, but it’s much more than that.

Here five common misconceptions about physical therapy:

I need to be injured to see a physical therapist.

Post-injury and post-surgical rehabilitation is just a sliver of what they do. It’s common for a physical therapist to treat other common ailments like balance issues, headaches, pelvic pain, chronic pain, incontinence, and basic joint and muscle pain. They also work with clients
on injury prevention and athletic enhancement.

It’s going to hurt!

Physical therapists don’t subscribe to the philosophy of “no pain, no gain.” In fact, they’re specifically trained to work within your pain threshold to ensure your gains in movement and strength are safe and incremental.

Surgery and/or medication are better options.

Both have their place, but multiple studies have shown that physical therapy is more effective and safer than such common options as prescription painkillers and common surgeries for lumbar spinal stenosis, degenerative disk disease, and even meniscus tears.

PT is expensive.

Physical therapy is a real bargain when compared with surgery. But more than that, studies have shown that for the treatment of one of the most common ailments, non-specific back pain, patients can save up to 60 percent on their medical bills if they visit a physical therapist early in their treatment.

I can’t see a PT without a prescription or referral.

According to the APTA, this myth is shared by 70% of health care consumers. The truth is all 50 states allow patients to be evaluated by a PT without a physician referral, and all but Michigan allow some form of treatment or intervention without a referral or prescription.

To learn more about how physical therapy can benefit a particular ailment or condition, or for an injury, pain or movement evaluation, contact the physical therapy team at Buffalo Grove Physical Therapy & Sports Rehabilitation at (847) 520-3382.

A better movement screen for swimmers

A better movement screen for swimmers

Is the standard movement screen adequately evaluating swimmers?

The Functional Movement Screen (FMS) is indeed a valuable standard operating procedure used to rate and rank movement quality on an ordinal scale, prior to the start of a sport season, in efforts to pin-point injury risk. Per the athlete’s score, corrective exercise strategies are then prescribed to address any presenting asymmetries and/or mobility/stability deficits. However, movements examined within the FMS may be most applicable to field and court sport athletes, thus begging the question — should there be screens that capture movement complexities respective to one’s sport?

Take swimming for example, which involves many intricate motions through the shoulder girdle and core, while demanding high degrees of hip, knee, and ankle mobility. Accordingly, in efforts to bridge this gap, a movement screen specific for swimmers, would not only help spot dysfunctional patterns and potential injury risk, but provide vital feedback to optimize energy efficient stroke mechanics and conditioning platforms as well as minimize and/or prevent injuries that could otherwise sideline one’s season, and instead maximize the longevity of their competitive career.

No matter what kind of athlete you are, your training, preventative care, and rehabilitation following injury should take into account the complex motions of your sport. We’ll be discussing specialized movement screens right here on the BGPT blog!

Studies prove physical therapy more effective than drugs for chronic pain

Studies prove physical therapy more effective than drugs for chronic pain

During a time researchers and health care professionals are working collaboratively to re-evaluate the safety and efficacy of prescription drugs to address chronic pain, Gopal T. Raghunath, PT MS, DPT, CSCS, owner/clinic director of Buffalo Grove Physical Therapy & Sports Rehabilitation, P.C., says physical therapy offers a safer and more cost-efficient remedy for such conditions.

The topic is indeed appropriate as we dive into Pain Awareness Month, an annual effort by the American Chronic Pain Association (ACPA).

A staggering 25 million Americans suffer from chronic pain, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). A January 2015 report notes physical therapy as a suitable, non-pharmaceutical alternative for chronic pain management.

“Movement is in essence medicine for both the mind and body, and is indeed a healthier choice for those suffering from chronic pain,” said Dr. Raghunath.

The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), in its newly released guidelines as of March, specifically highlights physical therapy as a safe and more effective treatment measure for chronic pain compared with opiates such as Vicodin and OxyContin. Additionally, the CDC reports that opioid use led to more than 28,000 deaths in 2014 alone.

Unlike acute pain, attributed to a specific ailment such as burn or fracture, and spanning from the time of injury to approximately 7 to 10 days, chronic pain is discomfort persisting for 3 months or more and carries an emotional component. The ACPA describes chronic pain as “pain that continues when it should not.”

“Individuals with chronic pain can begin to feel hopeless and, in turn, desperate for any solution, considering they have been suffering for a long period with minimal to no relief in symptoms,” said Dr. Raghunath. “Thus, it’s not surprising that prescription drugs including opiates may at first seem like a great option, though for many can be addicting. However, the side-effects can be harmful and, in turn, an unfavorable long-term solution.”

Through appropriate postural education, ergonomics, body awareness training, flexibility, strength and cardiovascular conditioning, physical therapists are licensed and trained specialists who evaluate, identify and assess the causes of chronic pain. Based on his/her physical findings, a physical therapist will customize a plan of care to address one’s condition, says Dr. Raghunath.

Physical exercise essential for a strong mind

Physical exercise essential for a strong mind

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.

Stand-up paddle boarding improves balance, coordination and core stability

Stand-up paddle boarding improves balance, coordination and core stability

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.

Walking a ‘gait-way’ to back pain relief, says Buffalo Grove physical therapist

Walking a ‘gait-way’ to back pain relief, says Buffalo Grove physical therapist

Are you experiencing low back tightness or discomfort? Try going for a stroll, suggests Gopal T. Raghunath, PT MS, DPT, CSCS, owner/clinic director of Buffalo Grove Physical Therapy & Sports Rehabilitation, P.C.

According to Dr. Raghunath, studies show walking to be a safe and effective way to prevent, alleviate and treat low-back pain, a condition that according to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) affects 80 percent of U.S. citizens during their lifetime.

“The human body craves movement and exercise,” Dr. Raghunath said. “Walking provides a host of benefits for individuals who experience
chronic low-back pain and stiffness, ranging from weight reduction and increasing bone mineral density to helping to combat osteoporosis,
to improving cardiorespiratory fitness and reducing hypertension particularly for individuals struggling with diabetes or other metabolic

With increased daylight, and spring around the corner, organized events such as the annual “Take a Walk in the Park Day,” held each year on
March 30, are sure to help motivate people to hit the outdoors.

“Walking is perhaps the simplest, easiest, and most cost effective way to get fit and stay fit,” said Dr. Raghunath. “No expensive equipment or gym memberships required. Just appropriate attire, well-fitting shoes, and motivation to get moving.”

According to Dr. Raghunath, a regular walking regimen results in:

Increased Muscle Strength: Stronger feet, legs, hips, and core muscles lead to increased spinal stability and better balance.

Increased Bone Mineral Density: The weight-bearing effects of walking impart safe/sustained loads to the musculoskeletal system to help optimize bone density, in efforts fight osteoporosis and minimize falls and fractures.

Healthier Spine: Walking improves general circulation throughout the body to help nourish the spine’s soft tissues.

Improved Flexibility & Posture: In addition to regular stretching, walking facilitates improved range of motion representative of whole body movement patterns to help promote better functional mobility and prevent injuries.

According to a study published in The Spine Journal, walking stimulates the brain to release serotonin and endorphins, neurotransmitter
chemicals that boost your physical and mental well-being. With the “stop and smell the roses” effects provided by nature’s surroundings
during a walk in the park, the study discovered a 10 to 50 percent reduction in low-back pain after just a single walk.

“However, if your back pain is so severe, rendering you incapable of standing and walking for sustained periods, this could be a sign of injury,” said Dr. Raghunath. “Consulting a physical therapist for a thorough assessment to determine the source of your pain, and put you on a path toward healing, would be appropriate.”