Yoga, Yoga Everywhere! How To Practice Yoga Safely With Tips From SPEAR’s Phaeleau Cunneen!

Posted by | Posted in Education, Tips & Favorites, Yoga | Posted on 14-08-2014

Gisele Bündchen shared this picture of her doing a headstand on Instagram.

“Everybody’s doing it!” says this article on the recent wave of celebrities sharing their Yoga pictures on social media.  It’s no secret that Yoga’s popularity as a fitness and wellness activity has grown exponentially in the United States.  The Huffington Post touted Yoga as a $27 Billion Industry and even former pro-wrestlers are getting in on the Yoga action, with Diamond Dallas Page’s D.D.P. Yoga profiled this month in a NY Times Magazine feature.

But is Yoga a one-size-fits-all activity? In a recent article on Yoga Dork, Brooklyn yoga instructor J. Brown reveals the dangers of being swept up in the pressure to do challenging poses, the headstand and shoulderstand in particular. Mr. Brown experienced a pinched nerve in his neck that went away immediately after he stopped doing headstands. He stopped teaching headstands all together when a student of his injured himself while performing one and never returned to Yoga again.

Mr. Brown’s story is a good reminder to listen to your body’s signals. In this entry, SPEAR’s Phaeleau Cunneen PT, CHT, shares his insights on the Yoga phenomenon along with his tips on how we can all practice Yoga safely!

Mo’ Yoga, Mo’ Problems

1. Yoga has exploded in popularity and with that increase, many new yoga teachers have also come onto the scene, some with more experience than others. The quality of instruction then has been diluted a bit, so make sure you are working with an experienced and highly rated instructor. Don’t be afraid to speak to your instructor and find out more about their training and education.

2. Many yoga classes can be overcrowded, so that the instruction and attention to detail and form you receive is less than ideal. Try to find a yoga class with less students, or enough that you are able to receive some attention to your form as you practice.

You Don’t Have To Be The Valedictorian of Yoga

Hilaria Baldwin practicing a headstand with no hands!

3. We are experiencing the rise of a fitness culture where more and more people want to be pushed beyond their limits by instructors, whether it be through P90X, CrossFit, boot camps, or tough mudders. While it’s admirable to want to push your personal limits, you should understand that safe (and effective) training takes time.

4. Many of us are walking around with slight disc bulges, even disc herniation. They are not always symptomatic, but that doesn’t mean that they are not there. Before practicing Yoga, consult a physical therapist to have your body mechanics evaluated.  This way you can understand your body’s limits and any underlying conditions you may have.  This will not only help your Yoga practice, but will also help you train up to the more challenging poses safely.

5. Most of us spend most of day with our neck in a forward head position – staring at a computer, looking down at our phone or iPad. The neck is in a flexed position for the majority of our waking hours. The after work we rush to class and go into a shoulder stand! The shoulder stand exerts extreme amount of posterior forces on the cervical spine.

Listen to Your Body

6. If you develop chronic pain from any form of exercise, stop! Don’t “suck it up” or listen to “no pain no gain” chants in your head. Do not continue doing something that is hurting your body because of peer pressure or because everyone else you know does it and it helps them.

7. Serious injuries can occur in any sport from improper form, improper supervision, poor strength and flexibility, and performing a stance or exercise that your body is not ready for.

Phaeleau’s Bottom Line: Although yoga benefits millions, it can lead to injury if you have an unknown preexisting condition, weakness to key stabilizers of the neck and shoulders, poor posture, and or poor flexibility. Listen to your body; it is smarter than you think it is. Chronic pain is often your body trying to tell you something. Your friendly neighborhood physical therapist can help translate!

#Backtolife Exercise: Side-Lying Clam Shells

Posted by | Posted in Back to Life, Education, Running, Tips & Favorites | Posted on 08-08-2014

Recommended by Lisa Yirce PT, DPT to strengthen glutes:

“We use clam shells to increase glute strength for anyone with low back pain, hip pain, and knee pain. It is a great exercise for runners, and any sport really, because your glutes stabilize the pelvis when on one leg, which people do all the time during athletic activities.”

Instructions: While lying on your side with your knees bent and an elastic band wrapped around your knees, draw up the top knee while keeping contact of your feet together as shown.

Do not let your pelvis roll back during the lifting movement.

Top 5 Tips from SPEAR’s “Running For Life: How to Keep Doing What You Love, Injury Free!”

Posted by | Posted in Education, Running, Sports, Tips & Favorites | Posted on 07-08-2014

It is running season in NYC!

Last month, 16th Street‘s Laura Muzzatti PT, DPT and Kellen Scantlebury PT, DPT, CSCS debuted their fun and informative running talk: “Running For Life: How to Keep Doing What You Love, Injury Free!” at Google’s GFIT gym!

Whether you’re a running beginner or an avid runner training for a marathon, Laura and Kellen’s tips will help keep you running safely, happily, and injury-free!

(Editor’s note:  I’ve used these tips myself and have found that the shin splints that plagued me are now gone! In July I ran a total of 47.4 miles, which is unheard of for this desk jockey!)

1. Land in the middle.

While the debate’s still out about what kind of running shoes to wear, Laura and Kellen (and physics) are pretty clear on where your foot you should land when you run: the middle. A mid-foot strike is safer in the long run (see what we did there?) than a heel strike because heel strikes break up your forward momentum.  Each time you land on your heel, you are essentially slamming the brakes on your stride, and depending on how fast or powerfully you’re running, the force on your heel can be tremendous. It’s a nifty (albeit injury-inducing) thing called the “impact transient.”  According to a Harvard study on foot-striking patterns, “this is equivalent to someone hitting you on the heel with a hammer using 1.5 to as much as 3 times your body weight. These impacts add up, since you strike the ground almost 1000 times per mile!”

Here’s what the forces on your foot look like when you land on your heel:


Here’s what the forces on your foot look like when you land mid or fore-foot:


As you can see the impact transient (or force/braking action) on the heel is absent when you’re landing in the middle or the front of your foot.  Running with a mid-foot strike will help you prevent injuries over time!

2. Shorten your stride.

To promote landing on your mid-foot, take shorter strides.  We all want to run with long, graceful strides, however taking longer strides than are appropriate for your body’s dimensions (or over-striding) will promote a heel-strike and will result in injuries over time. Experiment and find the a comfortable stride for you that helps you naturally land on your mid-foot.  Once you do, you’ll likely experience less pain in your shins and knees simply by making this small change.

3. Pay attention to your cadence.

Finding the right cadence, or how many steps you take per minute while running, will also help your running performance and help you prevent injury.  The ideal cadence for runners (regardless of stride length) is about 180 steps per minute. You can train yourself up to 180 steps by using a metronome app, which helps you time your steps.  A fun and not so clinical way to improve your cadence is to run to a song that matches the cadence you’re trying to achieve.  Kellen loves running to “Timber.”

4. When it comes to training, gradually increase intensity.

Increase the number of your shorter runs before you begin increasing the mileage of each run.  This will help to condition your body and help you get fit to run! If you’re training for a race and want to train up your mileage, increase your total weekly mileage by 10-15% per week to prevent overload.

5. Strengthen your core to prevent injury and increase performance.

Kellen recommends adding strength training two times a week to your running routine.  His strength exercises of choice for runners are:  Plank, side planks, dead lifts, clams, squats, and band walks!  For pictures and instructions on how to perform these exercises check out the “Running For Life” presentation on slideshare, and of course, consult your friendly neighborhood SPEAR Physical Therapist!

Is Barista Elbow the New Tennis Elbow?

Posted by | Posted in Blurbs, Our Therapists, SPEAR in the media, Tips & Favorites | Posted on 07-05-2014

The New York Post recently asked SPEAR’s Certified Hand Specialist and Physical Therapist, Phaeleau Cunneen, to weigh in on a new ailment they’re dubbing, “Barista Elbow.”

According to the article, the injuries suffered by “java slingers” are the result of repetitive use (lifting gallons of milk and grinding coffee on a daily basis), similar to golfers elbow and tennis elbow.

“Treatment for RSI ranges from physical therapy to cortisone shots to surgery, Cunneen says. There are also preventive measures, including exercise to build muscle and better posture.”

Click here to find out more about how SPEAR’s hand specialist gets NYC back to life:

Pilates-based Physical Therapy

Posted by | Posted in Education, Our Therapists, Tips & Favorites | Posted on 28-04-2014

In this entry, SPEAR’s Kasey Johnson, Physical Therapist and licensed Pilates Instructor, writes about the benefits of Pilates-based treatment and the impact of poor posture on musculoskeletal health.

By Kasey Johnson, PT DPT

I initially discovered Pilates, a method of core strengthening and exercise created by Joseph H. Pilates, as a method of recovery from my own dance injuries and have been practicing for over 10 years. Since becoming a physical therapist I started incorporating the Pilates method of strengthening into treatment sessions after noticing how many patients have difficulty contracting their abdominal muscles correctly and how many musculoskeletal problems are truly caused by poor posture.

Pilates has a strong emphasis on lengthening as you strengthen, specifically in elongating the spine. Since most of us work at full-time desk jobs, we end up sitting in a flexed and compressed posture all day long. We then go to the gym and reinforce this posture by performing crunches and abdominal exercises with a strong emphasis on shortening. This always seemed counter-intuitive to me and Pilates is an excellent method for reversing all of those compressive forces and creating the length and strength necessary for proper posture.

Since initiating the Pilates program at SPEAR I have been able to incorporate Pilates into treatment sessions for a wide variety of injuries and the equipment has given all of our therapists at 56th street a new tool to help patients reach their goals faster and more efficiently.

A Brief History of Pilates
Pilates is a method of core strengthening and exercise created by Joseph H. Pilates. After growing up in Germany with many illnesses leading to muscular weakness he dedicated his life to physical fitness and overcoming these struggles. He studied yoga, martial arts, meditation and Greek and Roman exercises to come up with his own unique program originally named Contrology.

He brought his exercise method to the United States in 1923 and it became a popular recovery method among injured dancers in the 1930s and 1940s. Pilates continued to gain recognition and become well known in the rehab world in the 1990s.

Pilates exercises are performed on a mat, reformer, chair or cadillac apparatus that utilizes springs to assist and resist injured individuals to regain motion and increase strength. It has a strong focus in strengthening the deep stabilizers of the core musculature and improving posture.

Pilates proved to be effective in rehabilitation by allowing for reintroduction of movement very early on in the healing process from injury by minimizing the gravitational effect on the body and minimizing the degrees of freedom within a movement. As a therapeutic exercise Pilates has been found to be useful with patients of all ages and impairments ranging from low back pain to osteoporosis to stroke recovery.