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Brett Sears

Physical Therapy Blog


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Treat Upper Trap Spasm with Kinesiology Tape

Saturday May 31, 2014

If you have neck and shoulder pain, you may also be feeling tight knots of muscle in your upper trapezius muscles or levator scapula muscles.  These muscles help attach your shoulder to your neck and spine, and they sometimes get a bit tight when you are not stretching properly or being mindful of your posture.

Your PT can help determine the cause of the trigger points in these muscles.  He or she can also help devise a strategy to treat these pesky knots.

Kinesiology tape can be used to help decrease the tension and pain that these knots may cause.  While intricate strips of kinesiology tape can be used to support these muscles, a simple method to help decrease the pain and spasm can also be employed.  You can use a type of kinesiology tape strip called a "lift strip."

A lift strip looks like a BandAid.  You can make it by cutting a 3 or 4 inch piece of tape.  Tear off the backing to the tape on the middle part, exposing the adhesive.  The end backing should remain.  Your tape should now look like a BandAid.

Take the lift strip, pull it to 85-100% stretch and stick it over your trigger point.  Gently rub the tape to make sure it adheres.  Then, remove the backing on either end and secure it under no stretch.

You can wear the tape for 2 to 5 days, and it can get wet while swimming and bathing.  Be sure to watch for signs of irritation.

It is always a good idea to consult your PT before trying this, or any other form or kinesiology taping.

Learn more: Kinesiology Tape for Shoulder Trigger Points and Spasm


Contraindications to Using Kinesiology Tape

Saturday May 31, 2014

Watch any sporting event these days, and you'll likely see athletes covered in all sorts of colorful tape.  That stuff is kinesiology tape.  The tape is used by many physical therapists and sports medicine professionals to help facilitate muscles, inhibit pain and spasm, and improve swelling.  It can also be used to support your joints.

But is kinesiology tape for everyone?  Are there some folks who shouldn't use the stuff?

There are a few absolute and relative contraindications to using kinesiology tape.  Here's just a few reasons to avoid kinesiology tape:

  • Active cancer
  • Open wounds
  • Allergic reaction to adhesives
  • Diabetes
  • Infection

If you have any of these problems, you should consult your doctor or PT before considering using kinesiology tape.  Remember the adage: first, do no harm.

Read more: Who Should AVOID Kinesiology Tape?


Rotator Cuff Weakness? Try Kinesiology Tape

Saturday May 31, 2014

If you have shoulder pain, you may benefit from the skilled services of a physical therapist to help you restore your normal mobility.  A focused PT evaluation can help discover the biomechanical problems that may be causing your pain.

Weakness in your rotator cuff muscles is a common cause of shoulder pain.  The rotator cuff muscles help provide dynamic stability to your shoulder.  When you lift your arm, the muscles contract to help keep your shoulder joint in the right place.

There are many different exercises that you can do to help strengthen your rotator cuff.  Your physical therapist can also teach you to use kinesiology tape to help augment your shoulder rehab.  The kinesiology tape can be used to help facilitate muscular activation to improve the way your muscles contract.  This can help speed your shoulder rehab.

If you have rotator cuff weakness, ask your PT about adding kinesiology tape to your shoulder rehab.  It is a simple and effective method to facilitating your rotator cuff muscles.

Learn more: Use Kinesiology Tape to Facilitate Your Rotator Cuff and Shoulder


Unicompartmental Knee Replacement

Saturday May 31, 2014

Last week, president George W. Bush underwent knee surgery for osteoarthritis.  His surgical procedure, as reported by a Bush spokesperson, was a partial knee replacement.  This surgery is different from a total knee replacement, as only one side of the knee is replaced. The procedure is less invasive than a total knee replacement, and there is less blood loss and risk of infection with a partial knee replacement.

After partial knee replacement, you may benefit from physical therapy.  The rehab for a partial knee replacement is similar to that for a total knee replacement.  Initially, a focus on basic range of motion and strength can help improve functional mobility in the hospital.  Home care PT can help improve mobility around your house.  More aggressive outpatient rehab can help you recover fully and return to your previous level of function.

If you are planning on having a partial knee replacement, ask your surgeon about your rehab options after the surgery.  Physical therapy may be just what you need to help you return to your previous level of function.

Learn to Properly Cut Kinesiology Tape Strips

Saturday May 31, 2014

Kinesiology tape is becoming more and more popular in PT and sports medicine clinics in recent years. If you watch any sporting event, you're likely to see an athlete with tape on his or her arm, shoulder, or leg.

Kinesiology tape is used to help facilitate muscular function, inhibit pain or spasm, or support joints.

Your physical therapist can teach you how to apply kinesiology tape for your specific condition. To effectively use the tape, you should learn how to make the basic cuts necessary. There are 5 basic types of kinesiology tape strips. These include:

  • The I strip
  • The X Strip
  • The Y Strip
  • The Fan
  • The Lift Strip

Each strip is used for different purposes and different body parts.  Be sure to ask your PT about kinesiology tape and how it may help you with your specific condition.

Read more:  Types of Kinesiology Strips

Kinesiology Tape: What is it and What Does it Do?

Thursday May 29, 2014

If you've watched any sporting event over the past few years, you've likely seen athletes with tape plastered over various body parts. So what is that stuff?

What you are seeing is something called kinesiology tape. Kinesiology tape is a special tape that is flexible. This flexibility allows for motion around your joints and muscles, but still provides a certain level of support.

There are many uses for kinesiology tape. These inlclude:

  • Muscle facilitation
  • Muscle and pain inhibition (to help decrease pain and spasm)
  • Edema and swelling control
  • Scar tissue management

Kinesiology works by altering the relationship between the skin and underlying tissues. This is thought to increase proprioception around the muscle and reset the circuitry surrounding the muscles. It also creates a pressure differential between the skin and underlying tissue that can help improve circulation and decrease pain.

If you have been injured and visit a PT, perhaps he or she is using kinesiology tape. If so, inquire if it can help your specific condition. While there is limited research about kinesiology tape and its method of action and efficacy, it seems that it may help you quickly improve your mobility, decrease pain, or improve athletic performance.

Learn more about Kinesiology Tape: Kinesiology Tape in Physical Therapy

President George W. Bush Undergoes Knee Surgery

Wednesday May 28, 2014

Former president George W. Bush, an athlete and avid runner, underwent knee surgery over the weekend. The 67 year-old leader had a partial knee replacement surgery and is resting comfortably at home, says Bush spokesperson Freddy Ford.

A partial knee replacement is performed whenever knee osteoarthritis causes knee pain, loss of range of motion, and decreased funcitonal mobility. The OA only affects one part of the knee joint, typically the medial side, so a partial knee replacement is performed rather than a total knee replacement.

The rehab process after a partial total knee replacement involves improving knee range of motion, restoring strength of the quadriceps, hamstrings, and hips, and controlling pain and swelling around your knee. After the incision has healed, scar tissue massage and mobilization can also be performed to improve mobility of the skin and underlying tissues.

Hopefully president Bush makes a speedy recovery and can return to his previous level of function.

Read more: Physical Therapy after Knee Replacement

Sets, Reps, and Other Exercise Related Words

Wednesday April 30, 2014

If you have never been to visit a physical therapist before, you may have a bit of anxiety about what to expect. Your physical therapist should be able to put you at ease and help you understand your condition and the steps that should be taken to help you return to your normal activity and function.

Therapeutic exercise is one of the main tools that phyiscal therapists use to help people move better and feel better. But exercise has its own languang and lingo. If your PT asks you to perform 3 sets of 10 reps, what does that mean?

In order to understand what your PT is talking about when he or she talks about the intensity, frequency, or duration of a specific exercise, you should check out this handy article: Sets, Reps, and Other Exercise Related Jargon.

By understanding what your PT means by "3 sets of 10" you can be at ease when you attend therapy and focus on getting your body back to its normal function.

What Causes Sudden Onset of Low Back Pain?

Wednesday April 30, 2014

One of the most frequent questions I get asked of patients who have low back pain is, "What could have caused my back to start hurting so bad?" More often than not, back pain seems to strike out of nowhere. It can come on like lightning when sitting, rising from bed, or while bending over to tie your shoes.

It seems that the most common cause of low back pain is "no apparent reason."

Sure, trauma like auto accidents or falls may cause back pain, but what about those episodes of pain that come on for no apparent reason? What could cause such fierce pain to appear out of the blue?

When I explain the sudden and often mysterious onset of back pain to my patients, I tell them that we think it is caused by repetitive stress and strain to the back that happens slowly over time. The strain occurs every day, and usually every time you sit or bend. The stress to the back builds until - WHAM! - the tissues can no longer support your back and injury occurs.

It is commonly thought that a sudden onset of back pain that occurs for no apparent reason is caused by three simple things that are easily changed. They are:

  • Poor sitting posture.
  • Frequent forward bending.
  • Heavy lifting.

So if you develop low back pain, a visit to your physical therapist can help you determine the probable cause of your pain. Your PT can also prescribe the best treatment and exercises that are specific to your condition to help you quickly and safely return to your previous level of activity and function.

Learn more: Common Causes of Low Back Pain

President of NYPTA Responds to Recent Article About PT and Medicare Fraud

Wednesday April 30, 2014

The other day an article in the New York Times reported on a physical therapist who billed Medicare $4 million in 2012.  That seems like quite a bit of cash for one PT to bring in from Medicare, but the therapist explained that he had about a dozen PTs working for him all billing under his individual Medicare provider number.

Hopefully, a Medicare chart audit and investigation is in this particular PTs future. Regardless, a very poignant response was written yesterday by Matthew Hyland, PT, the president of the New York Physical Therapy Association.  In it, Dr. Hyland explains that " Physical Therapy is one of the most appropriate, impactful and cost effective providers of care in today's health care system."


The saying is true that one bad apple can spoil the bunch. In this case, one physical therapist can do a lot of damage to the profession if he is found guilty of committing Medicare fraud. But most PTs are caring people who provide their patients with a value packed, low cost option for treating many musculoskeletal and neurological conditions.

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