Manage With Movement

#ManageWithMovement on Instagram is a Yoga Challenge that helps to bring awareness to the public about the benefits and role of Physical Therapy in managing pain as well as various facts about opioid use.

“Specifically in the US in 2012, 259 million prescriptions were written for opioid pain medication. Stats show that as many as 1 in 4 people who receive these prescriptions long-term for non-cancer pain in primary care settings struggles with addiction.
We want to educate and talk about how PT, exercise (yoga, running, weightlifting), and holistic approaches to help safely manage pain amidst the environment of the opioid epidemic can be explored.”

Be sure to follow along and check out info from our first yoga challenge #ManageWithMovement as well as our second #ManageWithMovement2 for all the facts!

Want to join in on our next one!? *Yes, you are eligible for prizes for participating! 😉

Keep an eye out on my Instagram account for #ManageWithMovement3 – coming to you sometime Mid-2018!

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Global PT Connect

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be a PT/PTA in different parts of the world?

Let’s join together to learn more!

The morning coffee ☕️
The tough patients
The smiles you receive
The new techniques you just learned
All of the ups and downs

Check out http://www.globalptconnect.com for more information!

Or follow the latest therapist take over on @globalPTconnect on Instagram.
Be sure to Like us on Facebook, too!
Want to participate and show us what your day is like as a PT/PTA/PT student? We want people from ALL OVER THE WORLD! Don’t be shy!

Join others who have already taken over and show us what your day/week is like!
Email globalPTconnect@yahoo.com to join! Or send us a DM! 😉

 

Be sure to listen to the podcast on Therapists on Fire to learn all about how Global PT Connect was founded!

NPS (Nail Patella Syndrome) – General Clinical Presentation

Hey Everyone!

Rare diseases – there are a ton of them, right? They can often times be difficult to treat just because they are not as common, the population may be widespread, and there just simply hasn’t been much research done to effectively help the people and remain “evidence-based.”

I’ve decided to try to undergo a little series here in regards to helping people with a rare genetic disease called “Nail Patella Syndrome.” Why, you may ask? Oh wait, because I have it too! While this syndrome varies widely in presentation, many factors and things seen are similar.

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Those of you who have NPS may not need this brief overview, but I’ll just summarize some typical physical clinical findings and a general presentation. Please remember that EVERYONE with NPS varies in presentation – there is not just “one” type of presentation. Due to other co-morbidities, health conditions, lifestyle factors, etc., nobody presents exactly the same.

Nails – people will generally have abnormal looking fingernails and toenails, especially the thumbnails.

Elbows – people may be unable to fully extend the arm at the elbow, they may also be unable to supinate fully at the forearm due to an increased growth of the radial head (this made it SUPER easy for my partners to palpate my radial head during PT school, ha). On the other hand – people may have underdeveloped bones in the elbow, leading it to be easily dislocated.

Shoulders – not usually talked about, but due to the inability for some to turn the palms up (supinate), the shoulders may become more unstable and demonstrate increased external rotation. Think about it – if you can’t turn your palms up all the way, you will compensate and use what you have next up the chain — your shoulder! Many also present with underdeveloped scapulae.

Back – Generally, people with NPS present with increased lumbar lordosis – meaning a little more curve in the lower spine. This may make the buttocks appear more prominent. This extra curvature could also make gaining weight in the stomach region and pregnancy even more painful in the lower back. With weight in the stomach, gravity naturally pulls your body more forward, creating an angle in your lumbar spine. Already having an angle there may just make the pain a little more evident.

Hips – When I asked my professor about “iliac horns” in PT school, she looked at me like I had 2 heads. Yes, these are talked about being present on diagnostic imaging; however, they generally do not affect anything. Hips, as with most people, may tend to be stiff and inflexible. At times, people may complain of pain in the groin area due to a muscular imbalance in the hip and core region which may cause a hip impingement.

Knees – People may present with abnormally small kneecaps, or at times, no kneecap at all. This can predispose these people for dislocations if there is decreased musculature around the surrounding areas. The small size of these kneecaps and easy dislocation ability may also then cause pain under the kneecap where it improperly glides and/or partially dislocates in/out of place.

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General appearance – It may be difficult for this population to gain weight, particularly muscle, especially in the proximal musculature (upper arm and upper leg). While difficult, it is not impossible by any means. It certainly just takes more work and dedication and the proper exercise program.

Fatigue – Many will note chronic fatigue syndrome. Many times this may be due to lack of activity due to abnormal kneecaps, other underdevelopments of the musculoskeletal system, or even fear of getting involved due to social reasons with the abnormality. The more active you are – whatever it may be – over time, your body will build up endurance, allowing you to participate in more activities and feel more energy.

Pain – Many will also complain of general pain, chronic pain, etc. especially at the knee joint and other joints in the body. While people with NPS have a different musculoskeletal makeup, it is at times not all that different. To feel more stable in your joints, you must have more musculature supporting them. The issue here is that it tends to be more difficult to gain muscle when you have NPS.

So, you get a general picture, right? Some people have things worse, some better. The word syndrome defined, per good ole Merriam-Webster, “a group of signs and symptoms that occur together and characterize a particular abnormality or condition.” Meaning NPS is mainly a collection of signs and symptoms that tend to present together and make up this condition. Having NPS doesn’t mean NPS will cause something necessarily, it is just the makeup of the body with NPS (the genetic mutation, the other parts of your genetic history, your diet and exercise habits) that then may cause other things to happen. Don’t get me wrong, obviously abnormal kneecaps and fingernails were caused from the genetic mutation – but you must be careful when talking about certain symptoms that may not be associated directly with NPS.

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If you’d like to read up more about the disease, I have provided a few public links below. Again, these are just a few. A quick google search will give you more available links:

https://rarediseases.org/rare-diseases/nail-patella-syndrome/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1735400/pdf/v040p00153.pdf

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/nail-patella-syndrome/

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So..you have NPS. What next? Stay tuned as I write up a few exercise programs, tips, tricks, and adaptations to help you manage your pain, improve your function, and hopefully improve your quality of life! Not to mention helping you understand NPS and your body a little better 🙂

 

Keep an eye out for the first blog — NPS and Knee Pain!

Until next time,

Jen

LennyLarry

The Generalist PT

It’s 2018. I’ve been out of PT school for about 2.5 years now. Time flies, right? I can’t believe it. I’ve been working in acute care mainly, a little PRN help in SNFs and outpatient facilities… Ya know, the typical post-grad-need-to-pay-off-my-loans thing. Meanwhile, I feel like everyone around me is getting certified in a million different things. I mean, I’ve been doing my continuing ed (and some extra), but I still feel like I’m behind because I don’t have any certifications…

But do I want any? I’m honestly not sure. Each certification is hundreds to thousands of dollars, and of course certain ones require that you get approved before you can sit for the exam. It’s a lot of time and money to dedicate to something that I’m not 100% sure and confident that I want. But what do I do then? Am I falling behind? Am I going to be able to keep a job without adding letters to my name? Am I overreacting? Probably, but maybe not. I truly feel like so many PTs around me are doing residencies and fellowships and publishing articles and doing these amazing things. And for that, I applaud them (and you if you’re one of them). Frankly, I think I’m a little jealous that others know exactly what path they want to take in this career. I want to make a difference, but I want to be in it 100% – not just to add some letters or pad my resume. Not to mention I’m still drowning in over 100k of student loan debt.. and trying to experience life a little here and there..

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These questions and thoughts go through my head on a very regular basis. I have looked at various certifications that I think would be good for my “life goals” but continue to have a difficult time deciding which one I want to choose (commitment issues, much?). Truthfully, I feel like I want to continue learning and improving my skills as a “General PT.” I think I made this up – but basically, I want to be like the “family practitioner” of PT. I want to learn as much as I can about a variety of things so that I can be that primary care PT who can help with differential diagnosis so that the patient can get the appropriate treatment – whether that be from me or not.

I want to work with a team of nurses and physicians and other healthcare workers to derive the best plan for a patient – whether they are a pediatric patient or geriatric patient, total knee replacement or post-CVA. I want to understand and learn as much as I can. I want physicians to look at me and ask me questions when they are deciding the best plan of care, so that they have my respected perspective on it too. I want to collaborate, I want to help.

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I want to keep taking continuing ed on clubfoot and the Ponseti method and then next month take it on traumatic spinal cord injuries… and then in a few months on treating Parkinson’s. I want to confidently know the difference between an allergic reaction and cellulitis when a patient walks into my clinic. I want to understand the McKenzie method and other ways to treat low back pain – never settling with using only one tool, one technique, or one specific method.

I want to be able to read diagnostic imaging, maybe hopefully down the road (pending the state), even order it. I want to be able to determine if someone just had a stroke or if they just have facial droop from Bell’s palsy. I want to be able to notice that a patient’s back pain is caused by something that needs medical treatment instead of physical therapy treatement. I want to be an expert in differential diagnosis. Not just good, but great.

I essentially want to be that New Grad PT… but better. I want to not be pigeonholed into one category – afraid that I may lose my manual skills (which truly has already happened only 2.5 years out after mainly working in acute care), afraid I might forget how to talk to a 2 year old and be creative during treatment, afraid I may only want to do repeated extensions for everything musculoskeletal, afraid I may keep repeating the same treatment for every older person who has a fall without personalizing it.

I want to interact with people all over the world in the PT profession. Because even though I know I will always want to stay up to date generally, maybe there is something else out there, somewhere else, where my skills are in need and can provide the greatest benefit. Maybe I just haven’t found it yet.

But how? How do I demonstrate this on my resume? How do I keep improving as a generalist PT? Are there any certifications for differential diagnosis and understanding pathologies at this primary care level? Are there any interdisciplinary courses that are offered that involve all members of the healthcare team? So that we can learn and grow together?

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I think this is okay to feel like this. Again, I’m not sure, but I think so. But how do we change this? How do we make these thoughts and notions about being a generalist PT feel okay? I’m simply not ready to step into the neuro world, or the ortho world, or the pediatric world, or becoming a yoga therapist… I’m not ready to fully dedicate my life to one area. And, yes, I know this doesn’t mean I can never take courses in those again, but it does mean I will be characterized by the OCS, CSCS, COMT, or the GCS or whatever letters appear behind my name. People may feel that because I did a residency with the geriatric population that I am only equipped to treat them – and completely leave out my love for the sports population. I don’t want that.

This blog isn’t meant to have answers. Mainly questions and insights for us as a profession (and other professions) to build and grow together. And for other “generalist” PTs that may feel lost to know that you are not alone. I’m not advocating for certifications or not – I’m simply saying I am personally not ready to commit, and I’m not sure when I will be. But until then, I want to keep improving my skills to show that we, as PTs, can be great as generalists.

It shouldn’t be frowned upon to be a generalist, as long as we are improving ourselves in whatever way will lead us towards our goals. And again, I’m not saying it is frowned upon necessarily, but I do know that I personally feel pressure all of the time from the advancing PT world to pursue one specific area. I’m not ready for that, and it’s okay. I’m allowing myself to feel okay about it. I know I will do my best to make a difference however I can.

Until then, I will keep seeking opportunities, progress a little, fail a little, and learn as much as I can. And I hope you will too.

– Jen

LennyLarry

Going Vegan in Japan

Going vegan seems to be the hottest new trend in health and diets out there. Recently, my husband and I watched the Netflix documentary, “What The Health.” While I do feel that some of the documentary was a little dramatized, there were definitely some great takeaway points and facts that I didn’t know prior to watching. I won’t go into detail, but you should check it out yourself, whether you decide to take the vegan plunge or not!

After watching, we were a little disturbed with some of the foods we consumed. There are definitely some vivid, lasting images in my mind that I can never unsee. As a physical therapist, promoting health and wellness is part of my role in life, so this all seemed like something I should definitely listen to and try. Seeing how dairy and eggs alone can lead to a higher risk of disease was enough to make me want to try switching to a vegan diet.

Over the last few years, I have come to realize firsthand the part that nutrition plays in my health. Two years ago, for about 3-4 months, I kept a food diary and completed an “elimination diet.” To break this down – I eliminated all major allergens and food intolerances that would be questionable (dairy, eggs, soy, gluten, etc.) and then reintroduced one thing (dairy), ate a lot of it one day, and then tracked how my body reacted the next 3 days. Then I would introduce the next thing. It’s a bit more complicated than that, and it definitely requires self-discipline. It was very much worth it though. Now I can “pick my battles” when it comes to food based on if I want to feel bloated that day, or if I want my allergies to act up, etc. It’s pretty interesting. Shoot me a message if you’re interested even more 😉

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With this history of eliminating many of these foods from my diet, I felt like I already had an upper hand on the whole “vegan” thing. I knew there were decent dairy and egg-free pizzas, cheeses, milks, yogurts, etc. I just had never gone without meat before – Ah!

The even trickier part to starting this is how limited we are with groceries in Japan. Neither of us can read Japanese, we can hardly speak the bare minimum conversationally, so we don’t know much of what we can buy at the grocery store besides your fresh items. Of course, we have the grocery store on the naval base, but again, it is a limited selection since only certain things are shipped from the US.

Scott and I agreed that we would try, but we also agreed to not give up hope if we couldn’t make it work in Japan. We will be in San Diego, CA in just about 2 months and we know it will be much easier to adapt to a vegan lifestyle there.

Oh and did I mention – in Japan, they don’t have ovens in their homes!? Yeah, so we can only use the stovetop and our microwave. We could buy a toaster oven and/or a crockpot – BUT we’re also in a predicament here. You see, all of my 1 bedroom apartment belongings (food processor, crockpot, George Forman grill) are all back in MD… so we obviously don’t want to buy too much more and have duplicates of items that we already have (and will be reunited with soon).

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So to get started, we did a lot of searching online. From Pinterest to Instagram to random other websites. I have my basic recipes, but we wouldn’t to make sure we didn’t get bored. I’ll post a few links below that helped us out, specifically the ones that were easy and tasty 🙂

Our general grocery list looks like this:

  • Bananas
  • Fruit that is on sale (blueberries, pineapple..)
  • Baby spinach
  • Potatoes (regular or sweet depending on what is accessible)
  • Onions
  • Green and Red Peppers
  • Broccoli
  • Baby Carrots
  • Mushrooms (I know there are different kinds but we’re not that smart yet)
  • Dried fruit (raisins, mangos..)
  • Nutritional Yeast
  • Fortified Cereals (Cheerios)
  • Granola
  • Ground Flax seed
  • Frozen fruits and veggies (whatever is on sale)
  • Granola bars (whatever we can find that is Vegan and somewhat healthy)
  • Almond milk (usually unsweetened vanilla.. but chocolate is also delish)
  • Tofu and/or some other “meatless meat” in the frozen section (hoping to eventually only rely on the frozen ones every once in awhile)
  • Quinoa
  • Rice
  • Pasta
  • Avocados
  • Salsa
  • Black Beans
  • Pinto Beans
  • Hummus
  • Pretzel crisps (or other chips for dipping/snack)
  • Spaghetti Sauce (to at least have around, even if you don’t use it right away)
  • Seasonings (we already have a few, but basic sea salt, ground pepper, garlic salt, chili powder are helpful.. others too – but again, we are on a time constraint)
  • Coconut Oil
  • Nut butter (we already had almond butter and peanut butter)
  • Vegetable broth
  • Coconut Water
  • Vegan Protein Powder (because we like to work out a good bit)
  • Enjoy Life chocolate chips (very optional but we love chocolate so..)

Okay so that is a basic list for the two of us for about a week (maybe more, maybe less). Of course sometimes we have to run out and get something else, but that’s usually only one thing and it changes all the time!

So for breakfast, we generally eat cereal/granola and almond milk with some sort of fresh fruit. I will also make smoothies (fresh and frozen fruit with some flax seed, coconut water, and almond milk) occasionally, oatmeal, overnight oats, I’ve even made vegan pancakes pending what we have in the cupboard. And of course, I’ll have a cup of coffee usually. Right now we’ve been drinking ours black, but I know there are almond, soy, and coconut milk creamers back in the US.. just none available to us here!

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When you think about not eating meat, the first thing you probably think about is a protein deficiency. There are plenty of articles that go into depth with this – but what I didn’t think about were other deficiencies, the main one being Vitamin B12. Okay, so you could buy a supplement (I love gummy vitamins, not gonna lie). BUT you can actually get B12 in Fortified cereals (Cheerios, for example) and nutritional yeast! This was something I definitely didn’t know until I did some research.

Easy Lunch and/or Dinner meals:

Smoothie Bowls (AKA make a smoothie and sprinkle whatever toppings you want on top)

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– Usually my smoothies consist of banana, frozen fruit, flax, coconut water, almond milk. I’m kind of plain and stick to that often, but feel free to make your own and switch it up! I’ve made green smoothies plenty of times with kale, spinach, and/or avocado!
– Toppings may be: granola, sliced almonds, coconut flakes, flax seed, chia seed, other fresh fruit.

Salads

Be creative with salads because they can get old quick!

Usually our salads include some sort of darker leaf (spinach), sometimes we mix other types of lettuce in (romaine, arugula). Toppings include things like: dried fruit (craisins), almond slices, tomatoes, onions, peppers, fresh fruit (strawberries), avocado, cucumbers, zucchini, garbanzo beans, vegan cheese … really whatever you have and seems to go together!

Rice/Quinoa Bowls

Quinoa bowl – The one below is a Spinach Quinoa “Risotto” that was sooo good. See the recipe here!

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Poke Bowl – This is just your basic “sushi bowl” … kind of. Use white or brown rice – whatever you prefer – and throw some raw veggies on top! We cut up some carrots, avocado, cucumber, and then threw some soy sauce on there! You can definitely top it with tons of others, it was just what we had at the time! Super easy!

Rice and Veggies – Simple cook your rice (or make it in bulk so you can use it for other ones above too) and then sautéed vegetables.. throw them together and voila! If you want to add a salsa or vegan cheese.. hot sauce..liquid smoke.. the options are endless!

Mexican bowl – Again, plop whatever rice and/or quinoa in a bowl. Throw in some salsa, black beans, if you want any seitan or tofu that is seasoned to taste, avocado, vegan cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, onions.. literally whatever!!

Tacos/Wraps

Tacos – For our tacos, we used seitan ground “beef” that we bought in the frozen center. We grabbed a taco seasoning packet and then made the “meat” according to the packet – super easy! We grabbed some tortillas, cut up some tomatoes, lettuce, avocado, vegan cheese, and added some salsa.. yum! You can also just make black bean tacos.. And I’m sure you could substitute the black beans for the seitan even!? Not sure, but it’s worth a try!!

Veggie Wraps –

You know all those veggies that are about to go bad? Well, we used leftover tortillas and all our leftover veggies, put them in a wrap together and put some salsa and vegan cheese on it. Or you can add hummus. Again, the options are endless and really depends on what you have! Super simple and tasty!! And helps us get rid of veggies that are about to go bad…

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Vegan Sushi

— This may be tricky, but as long as you get the sticky white rice, you should be good. You will need a bamboo wrap thing too (not sure what the fancy name is, just being real here). I didn’t do this one, my husband did. I’m a little more impatient so I think it was better for him to do 😉 Haha. We used this video to help us out!

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Chili

So for this, I ended up boiling some regular potatoes first. I put them in the Tupperware containers and then poured the chili over top so that it gave a little “meal.” I based everything off of this recipe – but I’ll be honest, I really changed it and kind of just “winged it” (how I cook most of the time, let’s be real). I also really want to try making pumpkin chili one time… I had it once in the past from a co-worker and it was amazing!

Pastas

Basic Spaghetti – Okay, this is for real the most simple. Grab a vegan spaghetti sauce and some noodles of your choice. What I ended up doing to add a little extra – I sautéed some spinach, onions, and green peppers together and then added them to the sauce and let it simmer a little. I threw in some chick peas then for a little extra protein! You can get creative with this, though! And if you want to make your own sauce – by all means, go for it!

Another easy pasta dish we tried (recipe below)…

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Creamy Vegan One Pot Pasta

Snacks

Hummus and pretzel crisps/veggies. Anyone who knows me knows I’ve been doing this foreverrrr anyways, haha.

Banana “Nice Cream” – There are so many varieties of this you can look up. There’s even a whole Instagram account dedicated to it! I do recommend a food processor, my blender had some issues with grinding up the frozen bananas and it was a little frustrating.

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Oat balls – Amazing. I’m obsessed with both kinds. Peanut butter chocolate chip and almond butter with raisins. Note: I’ve had to change these both a little bit – I’m not sure if my proportions were off or what, but I usually end up with more dry ingredients…? Just as a heads up 😉

Complete Cookies (okay, we buy these). They aren’t too bad for you and they definitely help a sweet tooth! You may be able to find limited flavors some places, or you can order in bulk here.

I hope this gives you a good idea on how to eat vegan even with limited resources. Will it take time to learn – yes, definitely. But if you’re committed, there shouldn’t be anything stopping you!! You can do it! 🙂

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Oh and if you’re in Kamakura, Japan, I highly recommend checking out Vegetus – an all vegan restaurant that we visited for a night out. It was delicious whether you’re vegan or not!! We found it on Happycow.net — which is an amazing restaurant that can help you find Vegan restaurants (or options) near you!

Good luck if you want to try it out! If not, you can still try the recipes 😉 You might be surprised!

– Jen

(Follow me on Instagram – @jennstrack19 if you want to check my vegan progress!)

 

Frostbite on the way up, Sunburn on the way down: Mt. Fuji Night Hike

Hiking Mt. Fuji is one of the main reasons younger tourists come to Japan nowadays. As my husband and I began our research, we found there were a decent number of blogs, youtube videos, and lots of Instagram posts describing each person’s experience.

While my husband had hiked it once before, I had not. And to be honest, he didn’t even remember much of it as he did it with a tour group. We looked up and researched as much as we could. We noticed the average time is 6-7 hours to hike up the Yoshida Trail, with about 3 hours down. We are fairly active people; however, just before our hike, we had a 2 week vacation in the states where we did almost nothing other than eat and drink a lot of horrible things. And by horrible, I mean, horrible for your body. Taking all of this into consideration, we assumed it would probably take us around 7 hours to get up the trail, especially with the altitude difference. Plus, we didn’t really see anybody writing about how “easy” it was to hike.

We decided to hike through the night so that we could see the sunrise when we got to the top. After reading and seeing a few Instagram posts, we noticed that it was dropping to the 30-40s at the top, so we made sure to pack adequately (hat, gloves, scarf, jackets, and I even packed sweatpants to go over my thicker leggings). We bought headlamps off Amazon for about $10 each to wear as we hiked, since it would be dark the entire time.

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Our journey to the mountain started off a bit rocky. We left from Yokosuka around 2 PM with an assumption to get to the mountain around 6-7, according to Google Map and the directions we had screenshotted from my phone. We decided to head to Shinjuku to catch the bus that takes you straight to the 5th station. Of course, after arriving to the station, we realized the bus was completely booked for the rest of the evening. Poor planning on our part for sure. From here, we had to re-screenshot directions and we ended up missing one train and waiting 30 minutes for another, which was the wrong train. Luckily, a super nice Japanese lady wrote everything down for us and told us when to get off so that we could get to the right train station (Otsuki). We ended up waiting another 20-30 minutes for another train, and after hopping on there, then getting off at Otsuki, we hopped on yet another train and made it to Kawaguchiko just before the last bus left for the 5th station. Basically, it was a whirlwind of a day. I, of course, was freaking out but luckily Scott kept it cool the whole time.

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From Kawaguchiko station, the bus ride to the mountain is about 45-50 minutes. We were exhausted, not only from traveling the whole day, but also from jet lag from the day before) and finally were able to catch a short 20-30 minute power nap. The bus left the station at 8:10 PM and arrived around 9 PM, which was definitely later than we were hoping. We were a little nervous we wouldn’t make it to the top for the sunrise (around 5 AM), but we were just happy to at least FINALLY make it to the mountain.

At the 5th station, they are able to lend you a lot of things and you can even buy oxygen for when you reach the higher altitudes. We didn’t end up buying or renting anything, so we can’t really speak to it, but it’s available!

We began our hike around 9:15 PM with hopes to make it by 5 AM, just a little less than 8 hours. The beginning of the trail is all pretty flat and even a little downhill. You actually start above the clouds already – I felt my ears pop on the way up on the bus! We arrived at the 6th station fairly quickly and took a very quick rest/bathroom break along with plenty of other hikers. Determined, we didn’t rest long and kept on our way. Between the 6th and 7th station (if I remember correctly) is basically just a lot of zig-zagging and walking up ash at a steady, slow incline. In our opinion, this was the worst part. I’m not sure if it’s because we like climbing more or if it was just the beginning, but we ended up stopping every 2-3 full zig-zags to catch our breath. We ended up making it to the 7th station by 11 PM…Only 2 hours!

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When we got to the 7th station, we realized we had been passing just about everyone and recognized nobody else around us. We heard others saying that it takes about 2.5 hours to get to the top from the 7th station. At our pace, that was probably accurate.. AKA we needed to slow down, especially as we climbed the altitude. It was starting to get colder at this time, so I put on my sweatpants and another jacket. We ended up taking a 50 minute power-nap/rest, again, with other hikers nearby, at this station. We decided it was only going to get colder at the top and we might as well just relax for a little because we were pretty confident in our ability at this time.

Once we woke up – around 11:50, we decided to begin ascending the trail again. We got to the next little mountain hut and saw they had cup of noodles and hot tea. We didn’t really want to stop again – but hey – what the heck! So we each got some hot, lemon tea. I swear it was the best tea I’ve ever had. That’s probably because I was so cold, but it was so worth it. We sat for about 10-15 minutes finishing our tea and warming up a little before we really began again.

Between the 7th-8th station is where we really “took off.” It’s basically rock climbing/really big rock steps that you have to climb up. We were passing people right and left. It was the booty workout anybody could dream of.. so much hip extension (nerd alert). But seriously, this part was fun. We got a little tired and would take breaks, but it was way better than the first part, in our opinions. We got to the 8th station pretty quickly, but I can’t remember the exact time.

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We took a solid 10 minute rest at the 8th station. Once you get past the 8th station, it’s almost like a combination of part 1 and part 2.. Long zig-zags with slow inclines but smaller rocks that aren’t really climb-able, if you know what I mean. It’s definitely tougher/more annoying, plus you start to hit 9-10,000 feet and your breathing starts to become more shallow. We took a 5+ minute break at each mountain hut, and as we got higher up, we took a break just about every 1-2 minutes.

While we didn’t necessarily feel nauseous, super dizzy, or pass out.. I can definitely say I had a headache when I first started; however, I tend to get headaches when the weather is colder, even in the 50s. Once I put my headband/ear-warmer on, I was fine the rest of the way. Our hearts started pounding with just a few steps when we got to the top, but again, we tended to move faster than others. We really started taking a lot of rest breaks because we knew we still had plenty of time.

We made it to the top just before 3 AM, so it took us a little less than 6 hours to get to the top. Don’t forget our 45-50 minute nap in the middle also! Overall, it was definitely tough, but it’s obviously doable in 5 hours if you’re in shape, especially if you’re more conditioned to higher altitudes (we flew from the east coast of the USA to Yokosuka, which is just above sea level.. then hiked).

Once at the top, we rested for a little. There is a mountain hut; however, it wasn’t open. We thought it may not open until 5, but it actually opened around 3:30 AM for food/drinks. It was kind of confusing and didn’t help because everybody swarmed in. You kind of just sat in a few rows and they took your order for simple things. I got a coffee for me and a corn soup for Scott. In case you haven’t had the corn soup before, it does come in a can. Some people around me were kind of weirded out by this. They actually sell the corn soup at train stations, which is where we first tried it.

Scott and I ended up taking turns getting up and walking around, because since we were up there around 3, we had a front row seat for the sunrise! We obviously didn’t want to lose our spot, but it was so cold that we had to get up and move a little. Once 5 AM rolled around, there were tons of people surrounding us, and the sun began to rise!

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It ended up being a little cloudy, but it was still such a beautiful sight. We were still freezing, but also mesmerized by a sunrise above the clouds. We hung out for about 45 minutes watching it rise until we walked further over to check out the crater.

We probably stayed up on the mountain until about 6:30 AM, then began the trek back down. Our fingers and toes were numb and everything else was just cold. It was a beautiful sight on the way down, though. Especially since we were unable to see the scenery on the way up in the dark. We took breaks walking down also, not because of fatigue, but because it was definitely tough on our knees/ankles (are we that old?).

You’re literally sliding down ash and rock in a zig zag pattern, but lots of people were actually slipping too. I think I would have rather climbed back up, to be honest.

It took us about 3 hours, as predicted, to get back down. There definitely were people who passed us, but again, I guess we just have old and achy bones.. Back at the 5th station, we checked out a few shops and then got in line for the bus to take us back to Kagurachiko station.

We were exhausted, I was legitimately concerned for Scott because he had barely slept on our flight over and the jet lag was pretty crazy. We got back to the station, went to grab some food, and then came back to make sure we got bus tickets for the next day. We were able to get tickets from Kawaguchiko to Yokohama station, which is so much closer to where we live. And way more convenient.

Finally, we headed off to our hotel. Check-in wasn’t until 3PM, but we got there around 1PM. We waited in the lobby for about an hour and they brought us our room key an hour early! They probably felt sorry for us, but hey, we took it.

The hotel was super nice and I definitely wish we could have spent a little more time there. We ended up showering and then going right to sleep. We woke up once around midnight, but then slept in again through until around 6 AM. We slept at least 12 hours total, it was amazing.

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The breakfast at the hotel was included in our stay. Everyone was wearing their robes from their rooms, it was pretty cool. I definitely would have worn mine if I had known. The breakfast was a buffet-style, but still pretty fancy.

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As it was a spa, resort-style place, they also had private and public baths that could be used. We checked them out but ended up just heading back to the room to relax a little longer instead. The hotel does have a shuttle bus you can schedule, and it’s free! We just didn’t know that ahead of time.

Our trip home was, luckily, uneventful and much quicker. It was a great trip overall! Very rewarding, fulfilling, and then relaxing. 🙂

Hope this helps you plan your future Fujisan hike!! Or I just hope you enjoyed reading this 🙂

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Until next time,

Jen

 

The Safe Way to Improve Your Shoulder Flexibility: A Self-Study

As many people may know, I recently began participating more in yoga. One of my goals in 2016 was first to run a half-marathon, and then to get more flexible (and do a cool handstand with the sunset in the background like one of those super cool yogis). While we are taught in physical therapy school the different ways to lengthen and “stretch” a muscle, I have now started to actually experience it, because I want to. Nothing like putting your knowledge to work and getting a better perspective, right?

While there are many viewpoints in regards to muscle extensibility, I feel the article by Weppler and Magnusson describes it well. A muscle’s length tends to be measured one-dimensionally; however, there are many factors that come into play when increasing a muscle’s length and extensibility. We are not one-dimensional humans, we have joint capsules, various tissues and fascia pulling in different directions, muscles overlapping one another, ligaments holding our joints together. We are by no means one-dimensional, and neither is our ability to move. According to the science of biomechanics, we already know and understand that muscle length is multi-dimensional, so why do we keep attempting to stretch and measure it in only one way? (This is a segway to another future write-up…) There are many different theories and reasons behind why our muscles appear to lengthen after a short-term stretch including an alteration in pain and sensation, a short-term relaxation due to neuromuscular reflexes, etc. Anyway, knowing that there are many factors that come into play with stretching allows us to take a step back, breathe, and realize this is going to take time (if you want to do it effectively and appropriately). Without patience, you risk greatly injuring yourself, and maybe not even at the site of the stretch due to all of the overlapping tissues in your body. Let this be a reminder to you that our bodies are pretty amazing (and also insane, but still amazing).

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While I have not yet reached my perfect handstand (with the sunset in the background), I have come to find and critique each one of my movements so that I may focus on different aspects of stretching, strengthening, and balancing in order to achieve that “perfectly aligned” handstand. As a physical therapist, this opportunity and goal setting has been an amazing learning experience. As a beginner yogi, this has also been a wonderful learning experience. Let me break it down for you a little in some pictures.

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From a Beginner Yogi: This was my first documented (on Instagram) “wheel pose” back in May 2016. I used to do this known as a “bridge” when I was younger. I didn’t fully understand the concept of how to improve my form yet, nor did I have the flexibility for it. But the water was cool and it was a sunny day, so why not yoga?

From a Physical Therapist: Lacking full shoulder flexion – do we need to test that in standing just against gravity first before we do things like this? There’s a little thoracic extension here, but that could use some work. I can see tight hip flexors and a compensation of a heel raise to allow for more flexibility and space to open up. Just need to be careful not to overcompensate and start using the lumbar spine to make up for the lack of shoulder and thoracic flexibility.

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Second documented wheel pose in August 2016, while I was participating in a “yoga challenge” ..also at a Goo Goo Dolls concert (lol, what).

From a Beginner Yogi: Cool lighting, cool background, at a concert, cool. Plus I need to do my yoga for the day, right!? I didn’t have time for a warm up at all here, just kind of whipped this one out. Thanks for the pic, Mom! Hope you aren’t too embarrassed!

From a Physical Therapist: Am I starting to compensate using my lumbar spine? Is that safe? And wait, no warm up? I hope I don’t injure something, even holding these prolonged stretches can damage you. Wow, those hips flexors are still tight, definitely a (+) Thomas test, if you know what I mean. And still compensating with the heel raise? Hm. And yeah, we definitely need to work on that full shoulder flexion and elbow extension… what exercises can we do? (And by we, I mean me, myself, and I).

(Minimal disclaimer: My elbows don’t actually extend fully due to being born with a rare genetic disease that causes bone abnormalities. In my case, it is a large radial head which limits my ability to fully supinate as well as fully extend my elbow. BUT I think the yoga has actually slowly been helping, a little. Long story short, I am not going to target them, because it’s more of a bone on bone end range and is just silly to try to realistically change that.)

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So from this point on, I am looking at myself in these pictures and thinking… Wow, I really need to be careful, I could really injure myself. Luckily, I see this. Not every patient will. Many will continue to push through the pain to get that “perfect picture.” Or work harder to be able to get back on the playing field, or back to work to support his/her family, or back to just being able to play with his/her friends. This is key. Education is key.

Overuse, improper stretching, and pushing through pain make up a great deal of the injuries out there. It is our jobs, as physical therapists, yogis, athletes, humans, to educate ourselves and others on these risks. There is nothing wrong with setting goals and trying to achieve them, we just need to make sure we do it safely.

So where did I start? Well, I’d say back in September 2016 is when I really started focusing more on stretching my shoulders and my thoracic (upper back) region. It is still very much a work in progress, and will certainly continue to be. These are the main exercises I perform below:

  1. Foam roller for improved thoracic extension or “Fish Pose” on a foam roller: To perform this, I initially start with my hands behind my neck to support my head, elbows in for additional support. I roll myself a few times over the foam roller along my upper back from the base of my neck to the end of my ribcage or so. After a few reps, I begin breathing and arching my back a little more and holding the pose to allow for an additional static stretch. I also will perform this without a foam roller as I feel comfortable.
  2. “Puppy pose” for improved shoulder flexion and thoracic extension on the floor and on the foam roller. I perform this a few different ways and hold it for a few breaths (anywhere from 30 seconds to 2 minutes pending how I’m feeling). Make sure not to compensate with your lower back here – really focus on breathing and pressing your shoulders and chest forward and down.
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    2. img_20170113_070842196 Not exactly puppy pose here, but still working on pressing the shoulders into the ground.
    3. img_20170113_074717866 More of an “extended” puppy pose, really trying to push the chest forward and down.
  3. Doorway stretch: 2 different ways
    1. Pec Stretch: Arms up, parallel to the floor. Gently lean in with a lunge. You should feel a stretch on the front of your arm/chest area. (Sorry for the hair – thanks 1 Mission Fitness for the cool shirt, though).
      1. Shoulder Flexion: Similar set up to the pec stretch, but I would extend my arm up higher. Allow your shoulder to sink into the wall while you lunge.
  4. Hanging shoulder flexion stretch (Not sure what else to call this): I would generally hold onto something above me, whether it be at the gym (a pole or something), a doorway, etc. Again, gently lean in without compensating using your upper or lower back. By performing such a compensation, you are only cheating yourself! And no, this isn’t me, but during the pictures, I couldn’t reach 😀 so I had to use my model substitute 😉

Additionally, I would do these a few times with a hold of 30-60 seconds, then perform some sort of yoga pose that utilized the new “space” I achieved from my short-term stretching. After all, mobility before stability, right?

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October 2016. (Saulita Skull Leggings from AltarEgo Apparel – they have a Gandhi quote on the front inside of them!)

As I analyze myself these next few pictures, I definitely notice a difference in my overall flexibility. Some of it may be from the warm up I did before the picture, some of it may not, I’m not totally sure how to differentiate. What I do know is that stretching the proper way and progressing the safe way is saving me from an increased risk of injury (specifically lower back here).

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January 2017

The above 2 pictures are from the same day, very recently, in the beginning of January. This was the first time I felt I could safely go into the wheel pose on my forearms. As you can see, my shoulder flexion is improving, slowly but surely. Again, still a work in progress and I still need to do my own home exercise program, maybe even add on a few other different stretches to challenge the multiple dimensions of my joints, but I am getting there. My point here again is that this takes time, it is not going to happen overnight, or even in a few weeks. Whether you are trying to improve your general flexibility (like me) or your patient is recovering from a torn ACL, the emphasis is the same. The most important thing is patience so that you are not placing yourself or your patient at an increased risk of injury.

Anyways, I hope my journey thus far has taught you something, inspired you to teach something to someone else, or just been fun to read/laugh at my experience. 😀

Until next time,

Jen Strack

P.S. Because I’m a “beginner yogi” and obsessed with cool pants.. Here are the links and codes for discounts to some of the pants I was wearing in the pictures above. Because they’re awesome and I like to reward myself sometimes and I think you should too 😉

1 – The Saulita Skull Leggings from October 2016 are from Altar Ego Apparel -> http://www.altaregoapparel.com/ – An all female run company. Code “JNS” gets you 15% off.

2 – Red Bohemian pants are from Bohemian Pants.com -> Bohemian Pants. Code: “x3jennyfur10” gets you 10% off AND they donate 10% of your purchase to help save the environment !

Citations:

Cynthia Holzman Weppler, S. Peter Magnusson; Increasing Muscle Extensibility: A Matter of Increasing Length or Modifying Sensation?. 2016; 90 (3): 438-449. doi: 10.2522/ptj.20090012