West Haven physical therapist demonstrates techniques for self therapy

Tuesday , August 12, 2014 - 12:00 AM

WEST HAVEN – With a little know-how, a person can do a lot of inexpensive and effective exercises to keep themselves healthy and away from doctors, physical therapists and massage.

That is the message that Chad Tenney, owner of Utah Physical Therapy, Inc., shares with the patients he helps each day.

“We start planning your discharge from day one,” Tenney said. “Our goal is to help your body heal itself. Doing therapy at home is highly recommended.”

Tenney said the greatest culprit in a person’s spine and muscle health and alignment is the work they do all day.

“We’re sitting at a desk typing now,” he said. “Nothing is going to develop more headaches and shoulder pains than sitting all day long like this. We can teach patients how to get in a better position to fight injuries.”

Tenney said progress is responsible for many of the problems people have with their bodies these days.

“We aren’t farmers. I say that all the time to patients,” he said. “We get tight in the front and that pulls everything in the back.”

Tenney said the most common problems with those he sees in his office are shoulder problems with posture and neck issues falling right behind those in the number of occurrences.

“We develop tightness in the chest and shoulders, and that automatically puts your shoulder at risk,” he said. “There is a correlation.”

And he said back pain also is often the result of tightness in one’s frontal body muscles.

“There is a correlation between tightness in the front and back pain,” he said.

Tenney demonstrated the position people take throughout the day when typing at a computer and said that position sets people up for problems unless they do something to counteract its effect.

He outlined a few simple exercises to accomplish this counteraction. They were:

Door-frame stretching. In this exercise, a person puts his or her hands a little above their head in a door frame and then they stretch forward with one leg out in front to stretch their shoulders out.

Swiss ball stretches. For a $20 investment in a Swiss ball, Tenney said a person can lay on the ball face up curving his or her spine around the ball, allowing gravity to stretch their back out. He said this exercise may be enhanced by allowing one’s arms to lay outstretched. Another variation is to lay on the ball on one’s side with both arms outstretched.

Leg and arm lifts. Tenney said this is one of the most important exercises for the back. One is able to stretch out the moltifitus muscle, one of the most important stabilizing muscles from the pelvis to the neck, he said, by doing this stretch. This exercise is done on one’s hands and knees by stretching one harm out front and extending the opposite leg while keeping the back straight.

Shoulder pinches. In a standing position throughout the day, Tenney said, a person can pull his or her shoulder blades back and pinch them together. He said not to push up but to aim for back and down if not level. “That’s going to strengthen the postural muscles that actually counteract the muscles that get tight in your chest,” he said.

Double tennis ball massage. Tenney demonstrated a technique using two tennis balls that have been taped together to massage one’s spine. He said to position the groove between the two balls directly over the spine. Then, a person can lay on a flat surface and roll the balls up and down to massage on each side of the spine. “This is a great self-massager,” he said.

Pillow case tennis ball massage. By putting a tennis ball in a sack or pillow case, Tenney said a person can roll the ball around on an affected area. “You can throw it over your back and get any level you want to massage a trigger point,” he said, noting how a person can roll the ball around, move it up and down or move the ball in circles around a painful area. “One of the greatest techniques is simply to put pressure on (the muscle),” he said. “Hold it for a count of ten, relax and do it again. … Sometimes, you will feel that muscle release right underneath that ball.”

TheraCane massage. While he said other brands are available, Tenney recommends a TheraCane, a device that looks like a large candy cane with handles and nodules. He said for about $40, much less than a therapy session or massage, a person can purchase this device on-line. “This is a muscle spasm release tool,” he said, demonstrating how the cane shape allows a person to reach any place on his or her back with a nodule. “Find that trigger point and put pressure on it,” he said. “Pull it forward. Put pressure right on that trigger point, relax and repeat. Move it throughout your spine.”

Demonstrations of all of Tenney’s exercises as outlined are found in a video that accompanies this article on-line at www.standard.net.

Utah Physical Therapy, Inc. is located at 4640 South 3500 West, Suite 3 in West Haven.

To make an appointment, call Tenney’s office at 801-689-0200.

You may reach JaNae Francis at 801-625-4228. Follow her on Twitter at JaNaeFrancisSE. Like her Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/SEJaNaeFrancis.

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