Most people seeking physical therapy intervention need to build motor control, muscular strength, or muscular endurance to alleviate their pain and help them do the things they want to do. Most likely, they need to build some combination of the three. It is important, however, to build motor control before increasing exercise intensity so that the muscles are trained correctly.
Motor control is the ability to recruit the right muscles at the right time to carry out a specific movement. Good motor control is sometimes referred to as "muscle memory." For example, playing a song on guitar requires motor control to play the right chords and coordinate the fret hand with the strumming hand. As practice continues, the player learns to move the fingers without moving the whole arm so the movement becomes faster and more efficient. Eventually, if practice continues, the player will be able to play chords even without looking at their fingers. That's motor control, baby! Practice it enough times and the body knows what to do.
The brain-to-muscle interaction can be imagined like this:
The first time through a new movement many muscles are recruited even when they aren't needed. As the body learns what is expected, it becomes more efficient at recruiting only the necessary muscles to move, making the movement faster and more energy efficient.
Now take someone with a forward head position and chronic neck pain exacerbated with picking up objects from the floor (groceries, their wiggly pug, their 20 lb. grandchild). This movement also requires motor control. The right muscles must be recruited at the right time to stabilize the neck on top of the shoulders and make the movement happen! When picking up that heavy object/precious child, the neck needs to be stabilized FIRST and then the big, powerful glutes and quads can do the lifting instead of the smaller back muscles and instead of adding torque to the neck. Neck stabilization can be practiced over and over doing really simple exercises, even while lying down, to build motor control to the neck stabilizers before any actual weight needs to be added to the training.
Motor control is practiced in many different ways, but the key is simple, consistent practice until the movement comes naturally. Once the motor pattern is established, the movements can become more complex and resistance added to increase strength.
Consistency is key when it comes to control. Short, frequent practice sessions are important; practice 5 min/day 5 days/week is better than one 25 minute practice session per week. That's because the body learns a little during each session and there should be carry-over from day-to-day; the exercise becomes easier to execute and requires less concentration. Less thought is required as the "muscle memory" develops and strengthens. Motor control is the base on which strength and endurance are built for safe and effective body movement.
Jennifer Dunn, DPT
Staszak Physical Therapy & Wellness Center
Tips for reducing back pain when working from home:
Work station ergonomics
You may have had an ergonomic assessment on your desk at work, but maybe haven't had such focus on you work station at home. Check out the picture below for areas to adjust. When sitting you back should be fully supported by your chair (that includes your upper pelvis) and your feet fully supported on the floor. Knees should be at hip level or just below. Arm rests are important for taking stress off your neck and upper shoulders so you don’t end up shrugging for 6+ hours while typing. The top of the monitor should be level with your eyes and about an arm’s length away from your face to limit eye strain and allow neutral neck position.
Change positions often
Your body is made to move. Change positions from sitting to standing, if possible, and take movement breaks - walking, stretching, arm circles, head turns - anything to get yourself out of “computer posture” for a few minutes. Aim for a movement break every 30 minutes even if it’s just to do some shoulder blade squeezes and getting your eyes off the computer screen for 20 seconds.
Make exercise a priority
Pick anything you like to do; yoga, walking, running, basketball, etc. Movement is important for many physical health benefits including lowering blood pressure, lowering cholesterol, and blood sugar regulation. Regular exercise is associated with decreased risk for illnesses such as heart disease, stroke, and many cancers. Exercise has also been shown to decrease anxiety and depression and release endorphins, the “feel-good hormone."
Jennifer Dunn, DPT
Staszak Physical Therapy & Wellness Center
Most of us are spending significantly more time at home these days. In my personal experience, the initial abrupt change in daily life equated to me sitting for way too long of periods on a poor ergonomic yet very cozy couch. I was using the extra time to do cool stuff like read, take online harmonica lessons, and practice Spanish on Duolingo, but it didn’t take long to start feeling it in my back. It only took two days of this to aggravate an old back injury that causes burning pain to go down my leg. I quickly realized I needed to take my own advice that I give all the time as a physical therapist - keep moving!
We would all benefit from incorporating more movement throughout our day in both structured and unstructured ways. It’s not only vital for physical health, but also for mental and emotional health which is being tested a little more during this pandemic. There are an endless ways to fit in small little exercises with normal, daily tasks. I often suggest for patients to do heel and toe raises while brushing teeth, mini-squats while dicing vegetables, practice standing on one leg while washing the dishes, etc. Use the counter as a makeshift standing desk for computer work or reading to break up sitting time. My favorite way to include more movement is a good old fashion dance party. Put some tunes on and dance around the house!
In addition to the unstructured exercise, try to set aside time everyday to go outside and walk. Walking is one of the best things you can do for your physical health. Plus the fresh air, birds chirping, and beautiful scenery make it all the better. Although we can’t physically be together, several places are offering virtual group exercise classes including our very own Evolve Fitness Studios. Join your beloved trainers for pilates, yoga, and strength training. Virtual classes give us a sense of community that is very much needed right now.
To sum it all up - move, move, move! Stay active and stay healthy.
Jill Grider, DPT, OCS
Board Certified Orthopedic Clinical Specialist
Staszak Physical Therapy & Wellness Center
Jaime Granchelli is a doctor of physical therapy here at Staszak Physical Therapy & Wellness Center. She is committed to helping patients thrive, regardless of their condition, in order to help them become and stay as active as possible.
Prior to studying physical therapy, Jaime practiced as a nutritionist, competed as an athlete, and spent over 10 years as a coach in several sports including tennis, skiing, swimming, CrossFit, olympic lifting, and track. She integrates her history of athletics and specialization of manual therapy into her hands-on diagnosing and treatment approach. She is currently working on her strength and conditioning certification as well as women’s health specializations.
Jaime was born in upstate New York and moved to Texas where for her undergraduate studies. She ended up in St. Augustine, Florida for her doctorate program and since then has been all around the United States as a traveling physical therapist - including Eugene, Oregon where she fell in love with the Pacific Northwest.
After saying "so long" to the whirlwind of traveling physical therapy (or at least taking a pause) in late fall of 2020, Jaime happily settled back here in Eugene with her fiancé Nick and their two fur babies; Ringo and Titus. Hiking, camping, fly fishing, exploring new places, making new friends, and visiting with family and friends are just a few things that bring joy and balance to their lives.
Nicole is an Oregon native, and she grew up in Springfield. Nicole is currently going to Oregon State University studying kinesiology with dreams of getting into a nursing program after finishing her degree.
In her spare time, Nicole enjoys going on road trips, exploring new waterfalls or hiking trails, and spending time with her family and cats. Nicole's favorite way to unwind and relax is being able to get over to the coast and have some ocean therapy; or being able to spend time with her family.
Samantha graduated from the University of Oregon in 2015 with a bachelors degree in Human Physiology. A few years later, she decided to attend Lane Community College for their massage therapy program, and completed it in 2019. Her style incorporates Swedish techniques with deep tissue, myofascial release, and trigger point holding. Samantha's approach to massage is primarily focused on pain reduction and injury recovery, as well as relieving tension from compensation patterns that have formed in clients’ bodies.
Outside of work, Samantha enjoys playing soccer (both indoor and outdoor), going on hikes, taking vacations to tropical locations, and practicing yoga.
by Bronwyn Gill, NTP
Hands down, one of the most important tools in a healthy kitchen is quality cookware. It’s a purchase that you’ll hopefully make once in a lifetime, yet we often go for what’s cheap and easy. Spoiler alert — nothing cheap or easy will ever benefit your pocketbook or health. Im going to cover the two types of cookware you’ll want to avoid, and which options are going to be the best long term investment for your kitchen and your body.
The most popular, yet arguably the most toxic option people purchase is non-stick cookware with a plastic coating like Teflon. When Teflon is manufactured, a man-made chemical called Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), also known as C8, is used in the process. PFOA is the most persistent synthetic chemical known to man and is found in the blood of nearly every person tested 1. Toxicologist Tim Kropp, Ph.D., a senior scientist with the Environmental Working Group, finds the situation alarming. He exclaims, “[PFOA] doesn't break down -- ever…It would take your body two decades to get rid of 95% of it, assuming you are not exposed to anymore. But you are.” Further, PFOA has been linked to birth defects, increased cancer rates, and changes to lipid levels, the immune system, and liver. It is likely a human carcinogen and it is highly persistent in the environment 2.
The second cookware option you’ll want to avoid is aluminum. While aluminum is the most abundant metal in the earth's crust and occurs naturally in soil, water, and air, its use is also widespread among many consumer products. You can find aluminum used and distributed in cookware, antacids, astringents, buffered aspirin, food additives, antiperspirants, and cosmetics. Specifically, aluminum cookware has been shown to leach a significant amount of aluminum into food during cooking, which could pose a toxicity threat. In humans, high levels of aluminum in the body have been shown to cause brain and bone disease, while studies in animals have shown that the nervous system is a sensitive target of aluminum toxicity 3. The EWG has placed aluminum on their “watch list” due to its extensive use and the uncertainty surrounding this metal and its long term, cumulative health effects 4. For these reasons, avoiding aluminum exposure in your cookware is generally a good idea.
Now that we’ve covered the two types of cookware to completely avoid, let’s move onto the two types of cookware you want to have in your kitchen. Oh, and if you’re wondering how to cook your morning omelet without major sticking…we’ll cover that too.
Your first option is going to be stainless steel. Stainless steel is easy to maintain, heats up quickly and evenly, can be put in the oven, and will last a lifetime. If the financial commitment of a new stainless steel set is too steep, simply start by purchasing the pieces you use the most and build your perfectly curated collection overtime. The most common complaint with stainless steel cookware is the fact that foods stick. This could happen if you don’t have the proper technique! To ensure a perfect non-stick surface be sure to heat the pan first, add your healthy fat or oil, and then the food. With some practice, it’ll become quite easy, promise!
The second option is cast iron. The first known use of cast iron cookware was during the Han Dynasty in China, around 220 A.D. Casting techniques became widespread in Europe by the 16th century, and since then, this versatile equipment has been a staple in households all over the world 5. Cast iron is non-stick, easy to clean, very inexpensive, basically indestructible, will last a lifetime, and is visually appealing. Well maintained cast iron can be passed down for generations making this not only healthy for you but a better way to create a healthy legacy in your family! Cast iron does require maintenance and care through proper “seasoning” to keep them rust-free and non-stick, but this process is quick and easy. Be sure to follow the manufacturer's guidance on how to do this!
There we have it — the two pieces of cookware to avoid and the two to go out and purchase today! Happy cooking.
1. DeNoon, Daniel J. “Is Teflon Chemical Toxic? EPA Seeks Answers.” WebMD, WebMD, 13 Jan. 2005, www.webmd.com/cancer/news/20050113/is- teflon-chemical-toxic-epa-seeks-answers#1.
2. Ewg. “New Study and New Dangers of the Old Toxic Teflon Chemical.” EWG, www.ewg.org/enviroblog/2009/…/new-study-and-new-dangers-old- toxic-teflon-chemical.
3. “Toxic Substances Portal - Aluminum.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 21 Jan. 2015, www.atsdr.cdc.gov/phs/phs.asp?id=1076&tid=34.
4. “Food Additive ‘Watch List.’” EWG, www.ewg.org/research/ewg-s-dirty- dozen-guide-food-additives/food-additive-watch-list.
5. Bomberger, Sabrina. “The History and Resurgence of Cast Iron Cookware.” WebstaurantStore, WebstaurantStore, 6 July 2016, www.webstaurantstore.com/…/…/history-and-resurgence-of-cast- iron-cookware.html.
Farrah holds a B.S. in Human Physiology from the University of Oregon and graduated from East West College of Healing Arts in 2008. She received training in Swedish and Deep Tissue massage, as well as Myofascial Release, and Trigger Point therapy.
Since graduating, she has practiced in spas, clinics and private practice where each session is customized to fit the client’s individual needs. As a massage therapist, Farrah practices therapeutic bodywork with intention and care. If you seek relief from pain or stress, desire to feel better in your body, need help working through an injury, or overcoming a long-term structural issue, she is here to help you achieve your goals.
When not assisting people in their journey to health and wellness, Farrah enjoys exploring all that the Pacific Northwest has to offer, spending time with friends and family, hiking, yoga, reading and traveling.
Janiece is a proud University of Oregon graduate with a Bachelor of Science in Human Physiology. She also completed the Medical Office Management program through Kaplan University. She enjoys the mix of business, medical and wellness worlds that comes with being an office manager.
In her free time, Janiece enjoys hiking with her husband and their dog, traveling, cooking, and reading.
I am a true-born athletics enthusiast, that is not to say I was born with a high degree of athleticism. I lagged behind most of my compatriots in elementary and middle school in everything from the presidential fitness test to organized sports. It was when I found the high school weight room in seventh grade that I was able to turn immense frustration into motivation and fuel to set me on the path I wanted to be on. But I didn't just hit the weight room, I voraciously read every piece of fitness advice I could get my hands on. And I tried it, what worked I kept, what didn't I got rid of. Transforming my body over the next several years I went from athletics afterthought to a two-way starter on my high school football team in Pennsylvania as a sophomore and captained the same team to our first ever state championship as a senior. I went on to play college football as a defensive end at Ithaca College. After college I enlisted in the Navy, while working as a crypto-analyst I was able to score a top mark of Outstanding on 3 straight semi-annual Physical Readiness Tests. With my command lagging in this area I was asked to take on the job of Command Fitness Leader. With the hard work of my fellow sailors I was able to take the command from a 75% pass rate to a 100% pass rate in the span of 6 months.
It was that experience of taking all of the knowledge I had accrued for myself and applying it to others with a positive result that led me to the path I am on now. That is, continuing to better myself every single day with countless styles and forms of workouts and passing every tidbit I gain from that onto clients when and where it's applicable. I started my professional career at Philadelphia Sports Clubs where I became a National Academy of Sports Medicine CPT, after quickly rising to one of the top 10 trainers in the Philadelphia region I set out on my own to do in home training and boot camps on the "Rocky Steps" at the Philadelphia Art Museum. At the same time I pursued a background in kettlebells at Maxwells Gym, the first place in the U.S. to offer such training.
Six years ago I moved to Oregon and was lucky enough to land a personal training job where I was expected to learn CoreAlign on the side. It changed my life. Within my first hour session I realized it was a game changer for what I wanted to do, and wanted to be able to bring to my clients. I had worked my whole life to have power and strength and had neglected efficiency of movement. This apparatus demanded it. I spent hundreds of hours perfecting my own craft and again, brought whatever I figured out daily to my clients where applicable.
In the past several years I have expanded my workout repertoire from its origins in powerlifting and sport-specific conditioning to Pilates-based CoreAlign and yoga inspired flexibility routines, heavily integrated self-myofascial release techniques, and circular training styles incorporating Clubbells and Bulgarian Bags. Currently I train everyone from high school and college athletes to octogenarians looking to make life's daily tasks a little more manageable. I'm up for the challenge if you are.
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