Beyond Basics’ Marathon Prep Program: The Evaluation

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Fiona McMahon PT, DPT & Jessica Babich PT, DPT
Fiona: Hello everyone, for those of you who didn’t get a chance to catch my blog a few weeks back, Beyond Basics Physical Therapy is joining forces with the Tisch Multiple Sclerosis Research Center of New York to raise money to support multiple sclerosis research, through Team Tisch MS NYC, in this year’s New York City Marathon. Our goal is $2,500  and WE ARE SO CLOSE, if you care to donate, please click here. I will be running the marathon in November, and Beyond Basics Physical Therapy is working to support my fundraising endeavors as well as showing the running community the invaluable benefits of having a sharp, perceptive, thorough and expert physical therapist on your side during training; and that goes for ANY sports training!

I just had my first evaluation with Jessica Babich, PT, DPT,  who is both a pelvic floor physical therapy expert as well as a functional movement specialist with an extensive background in orthopedics and sports-related injuries. Jessica was super thorough, she took an extremely detailed history, she looked at my posture, joint mobility and mechanics, strength, core function, and even how my shoes were constructed to see if they were good enough to run in! The shoe part was super wild!  In this blog you will see where I stand from a physical therapy perspective, and where I hope to go. Both Jessica and I are authors in this blog so keep an eye on who is talking so you can get the full scoop from both the physical therapist and the patient perspective

3 pillarsJessica: When I look at runners,  I first assess the individual as a whole and identify which area in their body seems to be driving inefficiency. I look at the 3 pillars of functional efficiency, (Mechanical, Neuromuscular, and Motor Control) when examining my patients. Within the mechanical capacity, I examine which structures such as joints, muscles, viscera, neurovasculature, etc.,  that could inhibit optimal functional performance.  Specifically with a runner, I am interested in his or her alignment as well as range of motion through their rib cage, spine, pelvis, and lower extremities.  Looking at a patient’s posture in both walking and running, allows me to determine the momentum driving the patient forward. This can be helpful in finding out what and where a dysfunction may be that could affect a runner’s performance. With a runner, I am interested in how he or she initiates his or her run.  Are they able to drive force through their lower extremities into their trunk without spinal compensation.  Does the runner have adequate strength and endurance to maintain appropriate form and movement strategy throughout their run?  I also examine what happens to the patient’s form during walking when you slow him or her down. Breaking down the whole movement pattern and looking at individual parts helps to further expose any problem areas. I examine dynamic stability and controlled mobility to ensure my patients are moving efficiently. From there, I examine the basics, is there a lack of movement (is something stuck or tight) that can affect a runner’s ability to powerfully push off the ground when they run and absorb force when they land.   Lastly, I am evaluating Motor Control.  If the mechanical capacity and neuromuscular function is present, how does this individual choose to move, or what is his or her strategy to get from point A to point B.  This is where a lot of the training comes into play.

 

History

Fiona: I told Jessica about my previous injuries, almost all have occurred secondary to decades of running (It truly is my favorite activity), currently I am feeling some left sciatic pain, which has become fairly bothersome.

.Orthopedic Injuries

  • Right hip labral tear
  • Right knee pain (patellofemoral pain syndrome), which comes and goes but is currently under control
  • Occasional left knee pain (patellofemoral pain syndrome), much less bothersome than the right side
  • Mild to moderate left calf pain, which also comes and goes
  • Right ankle sprain, from a failed handstand (don’t ask), no longer bothersome, but not properly rehabbed

Medical

  • Largely unremarkable, neural tension secondary to Arnold Chiari Type I malformation. Chiari occurs when part of the brain  (the cerebellum) herniates through the skull opening into the spinal cord. It sounds pretty awful, but for me, it’s not too bad and I only experience occasional dizziness as a symptom.

Current Exercise Routine:

  • I’m pretty regimented and break most of my workouts into 2 daily sessions. I run in the morning, currently I am working on speed training and run something between 3 and 8 miles daily, 5-6 times weekly. I am following one of my favorite marathon gurus, Hal Higdon’s plan, which you can see for yourself here.  I have used Hal’s plans for 2 of the 4 previous marathons I’ve run, and I really like how he organizes his plans. I would advise anyone thinking of trying a marathon, to use a training plan.  It allows you to ease yourself gently into upping the mileage, rather than panicking at 5 weeks before the race that you haven’t taken your long runs over 20 miles.  Following my run I do a mixture of stretches, use my stick ( it’s like a foam roller) and a trigger point ball to roll out my muscles. 4 nights a week I do PM weightlifting sessions, which last about 40 minutes. I split my lift into upper body and lower. I do a mixture of stabilizing and traditional exercise. When I’m done I’ll stretch again and this time roll out on a foam roller. In order to support all that exercise I drink a ton of water and try and fill my diet with lots of whole grain carbs, lean protein, and healthy fats (I’m looking at you avocados!)

The Evaluation:

Posture:

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Jessica examining my posture and my ability to tolerate load through the spine using the Vertical Compression Test

     Fiona has a posterior/posterior alignment.  ( This terminology comes from the Institute of Physical Art (IPA), and is a wonderful training program for PTs) Meaning, her ribcage is set posterior in relationship to her pelvis and her ribcage is tipped posteriorly.

Range of Motion (ROM):

 

  • Poor lumbar spine ROM, with an inability to reverse the curve in my lumbar spine
    • Why this is important: my spine should have motion in order to absorb the shock from repeated foot falls, also an immobile spine may inhibit the core stabilizers from firing properly
  • HISL testing ( another IPA test): Positive  at the right (hip) at 90 degrees, with poor glide of the femur down on the left side. Positive at left  (hip) at 100 degrees.
    • How do we translate this into non-physical therapy speak? First of all the HISL stands for Hip, Innominate, Sacrum, and Lumbar. It measures the relationship between the bones of the upper thigh, pelvis, and low back. What my results tell us is that my hips are stuck and cause my innominate (bone in the pelvis) to move too early. This is not so great because it causes the bones further up to have to move extra to compensate. We have to clean this up.

 

Strength and Function :IMG_3010

  • Instead of testing muscles one-by- one, which is commonly done in traditional physical therapy practices,  we decided to take a look at functional movements. Who gives a hoot if I have strong quadriceps while sitting on an exam table, if they can’t function properly during actual running, right?
  • LPM (Lumbar Protective Mechanism)( another IPA test) : absent in all quadrants
    • Dang! Lumbar protective mechanisms refers to the ability to stabilize your spine and protect your core in response to bumps and jostles. I didn’t stabilize at all. This is important because running is essentially a series of bumps and jostles, running on an unstable spine and core can increase your chances of injury as well as reduce your power during push-off in running leading to slower times (HORRENDOUS!).
  • Sagittal Plane Lunge: I have deficits with initiation and weight acceptance on both sides. I compress my arms in prayer position to create stability and when taken away I have a loss of trunk control. My right ankle more unstable than the left.
  • Runner’s Start Jump: difficulty coordinating movement on both sides, but significantly worse with initiation from right side at the ankle.
    • Remember my ankle sprain? Well, apparently that’s still holding me back and decreasing my ability to push off the ground. You could imagine how this could become a problem over the course of 26.2 miles. Moral of the story, see a PT after you hurt your ankle!
    • Also we see deficits in core control again.  I think addressing this with Jessica will really improve my time.

Shoes and wear:IMG_3000 (002)

  • Apparently my shoes were good! Jessica told me that sometimes right and left sneakers can be made in different factories and have different densities, which can really mess you up while running. Also if the back part of you sneaker extends too far it can make your brain think your foot is larger than it is, leading to injury. The wear of the shoe is also important to see if one foot pronates or supinates more than the other. If this was the case, Jessica could work on the alignment of the bones in my feet, ankle and foot strength, as well as teaching me how to tie my shoes in a way that better support my feet.

 

Assessment and Take Away:
Jessica’s Assessment: Fiona, like a majority of our athletes presents with deficits in the 3 major pillars leading to functional inefficiency. The goal of physical therapy, isn’t always to reduce pain, it is to get you to function better, which in turn will decrease wear and tear that contribute to common pain patterns.

Fiona: I can’t say I am surprised by much of what we found. I am slightly disappointed with my core activation finding, because I had been focusing on that particular issue for months and months in the gym. Jessica told me she thought part of my issue was that my lower (lumbar) spine was so rigid, it might be hard for me to get into a place where my deep core muscles can work to facilitate stability. It goes to show, even as a physical therapist, you need someone else to literally watch your back. As a physical therapist, my evaluation showed me that now is the time for help. Although I am strong and spend hours working out, my core stability is something I need more help with, and I simply cannot work my way out of my weakness alone in a gym. I’ve tried long enough. I need gentle manual therapy and proprioceptive neuromuscular feedback to wake my lazy deep stabilizers out of their hibernation and orthopedic work to allow the joints of my spine and pelvis to move more efficiently and effectively. Although this body has its deficits, I’m really proud of what it has done so far, and I’m really excited to see where Jessica will help me go!

 

Plan:

  • Improve the movement of: right foot, trunk, and cervical spine
  • Improve core stability and strength to allow for more power and reduction of injury risk
    • We will achieve these goals through manual work, neuromuscular re-education in order to teach the muscles to activate better and a strong home program to maintain changes made in physical therapy.

 Goals

Jessica: My goal is to treat the mechanical deficits inhibiting her neuromuscular system and then functionally reintegrate the parts into the whole system to enhance performance efficiency.

Long Term Goals:

  • 1: (12 Weeks) | Patient to demonstrate core first strategy with transitional movements to improve stability, energy efficiency and decrease risk for injury
  • 2: (12 Weeks) | Patient to demonstrate optimal ribcage over pelvic posturing for automatic core engagement and decrease mechanical load on system.
  • 3: (12 Weeks) | Patient to improve R foot positioning for stability and push off in gait

 

Home Exercise Program:

So far I have one addition to my workout routine. It is a split stance at the wall designed to wake up my stabilizers before I go running. I stand at the wall with one leg fully extended on my toes and the other bent at the knee and the hip, with my toes pointed up. I hold for 30 seconds per side and then I get going. It has been a couple days since this exercise was assigned, and I’ve done it on about 50% of my runs. Remembering to do your home program is one of the biggest challenges of physical therapy. My strategy to combat this is to leave a sticky note on my door reminding me before I leave the house. I will report back on future blogs to let you know how my strategy worked out.

That’s it for now:

Check out more info and pictures on our instagram and facebook pages

Click Here to Donate to support Team Tisch MS NYC:

 

 

Preparing for the Marathon with Physical Therapy at Beyond Basics!

JHO-Muscogee Moms Contest-Blog

Fiona McMahon, DPT

Hi all! If you have been following our blog, you should be aware that Beyond Basics Physical Therapy and I are teaming up to raise money the Tisch Multiple Sclerosis Research Center of New York with Team Tisch MS. I’m hoping to raise $3,000 dollars to support multiple sclerosis research.  We have currently raised approximately $1,500!. Please support us and click HERE to donate. What puts the fun in this fundraiser ( sorry, not sorry about the pun) is that we get to get donations through running the New York Marathon, which I will be running in November.

I have run 4 marathons before including New York, and even though my timed goals were not lofty ( I really only cared about dragging my body from A to B 26.2 miles later), I relied on PT every single time, to keep my body whole and prevent me from sustaining race ending injuries. This year is no different and this week I will be having my first appointment with Jessica Babich, at Beyond Basics.

 

Why go to Physical Therapy if you are not injured?

No matter how you cut it, physical therapy is an investment. Based on your insurance, co-pays can vary to very little to more expensive, and no matter how much you are paying, the time it takes to go to physical therapy and diligently do your exercises is a finite resource. So why add more tasks to an already arduous training schedule? For me, the answer is easy, I want my body to not only run a faster marathon this fall, but I want to do so in a health way to protect my joints, ligaments and muscles, so I can not only continue to run, hike, ski, and play outside, but also so I can continue working without pain.

But aren’t you a PT, can’t you just PT yourself?

One of the most powerful and surprising lessons I’ve learned through being a physical therapist is, it is really hard to be objective about your own body. Physical therapists are trained to see large scale impairments like weak hip strength, which I know for a fact is something I need to work on, but also small scale impairments in movement, like slightly more pronation on the right foot than the left, those are things another practitioner needs to observe from the outside to diagnose and treat. Having an objective movement analyst ( aka a physical therapist), can help you see weaknesses, and alignment issues that even the most expert observer may miss on themselves. Long story short, you don’t know what you don’t know.

Why someplace like Beyond Basics Physical Therapy

I work at Beyond Basics, so full disclosure, it is the most convenient place I could go. That being said, it is also the best place I could go. Physical therapy clinics come in “flavors” and for someone hoping to truly optimize their performance, Beyond Basics Physical therapy and clinics with the same “flavor” are where to go. What makes Beyond Basics physical therapy so special is the hour one-on-one treatment they offer. This allows us to address all three pillars of movement, efficiently, effectively, and completely. The three pillars are mechanical, ( tightness, or lack thereof, of muscles, joints, fascia and ligaments as well as bony alignment), strength (how strong is a particular muscle and is it strong enough to do it’s job), and finally neuromuscular control, ( do your muscles do the right thing at the right time, this is really important to stabilize the joints of the leg and back, and is often overlooked in some busier physical therapy practice). Other physical therapy practices have a slightly different flavor. They may have a one physical therapist treating 4 patients and hour. Even if time is divided up perfectly equitably between patients, this allows the therapist of only 15 minutes on hands-on treatment to correct mechanical and neuromuscular issues, therefore leaving 75% of the time doing exercises with other patients. That flavor of physical therapy can work for some people, especially those who like to socialize with other patients during treatment, but for me, marathon training is too hard to only get 15 minutes of hands on time and spend 45 minutes doing exercises in a crowded gym. I feel that I am perfectly capable of doing my assigned exercises regularly as part of my home program. I would much prefer to work with a therapist who can tailor my treatment to suit my needs, not one who has to juggle the time constraints of treating multiple patients at once.

How are you preparing for PT?

Beyond Basics Physical Therapy is based out of New York. Like most states in the USA, New York has direct access, so I don’t need to have a prescription to come in. I will be bringing a few things to my appointment that I think are essential: health history, attire, and attitude.

Health History: Health history is a big one. In physical therapy a complete health history includes your current medications, and medical conditions, past injuries ( this is really important, and things like an ankle sprain a few years ago can clue us in on a lot ), and other factors like stress, amount of sleep you typically get, how much you work out and what you do, and diet.

Attire: Another important and sometimes overlooked item on the list. Your physical therapist will have to examine different areas on your body, as well as have access to treat those areas. Loose fitting shorts and an athletic top are a good bet. Even if you are going to physical therapy, for a condition like pelvic floor dysfunction, your therapist may ask you to do exercises, so it wise to bring workout clothes to your appointment. If you are a runner, bring in your shoes. The wear pattern on used pair of running shoes can provide heaps of valuable information.

Attitude: This is super important. Physical therapy is a partnership between you and your physical therapist. For me I already, foresee finding time to do the exercises that Jessica will prescribe to be a challenge. But the fact is, home exercise is part of the deal, and I won’t get nearly as much benefit from physical therapy alone, versus physical therapy with home exercise. Like I said before marathon training is simply too hard to just go through the motions at physical therapy.

 

What are your goals and what do you expect to gain from physical therapy?

Like I said before, I want to stay as healthy for as long as possible, but I would be lying if I said my primary goal wasn’t to increase my time. I want to put my money where my mouth is and put all my old times out in the open. So you can know where I am starting from and where I hope to go.

Here are my past times:

Mount Desert Island 2010: total time 3h 56 minutes 18 second: 9 min per mile pace

Mount Desert Island 2011: total time 4h 05 minutes 21 second: 9 min 22 seconds per mile pace

Sugarloaf 2011: total time 3h 52 minutes 25 second: 8 min 51 seconds per mile pace

New York City 2013: total time 3h 52 minutes 25 second: 8 min 51 seconds per mile pace

Here’s my dream goal for this race:

3 hours and 45 minute at 8: 35 pace.

As you can see, it’s 7 whole minutes faster than my fastest race over 7 years ago . To get there, I can’t get injured and I certainly can’t waste any precious energy during the race running inefficiently. I know that Beyond Basics will give me the best chance to meet my goals.

If you are looking to increase your performance in your sport of choice come see us to make sure you are getting the most power out of your serve, swing, or stride. Click here to access our home page and make an appointment today.

Continue to follow us here, on Instagram, and on Facebook to see my progress in physical therapy as well as my progress towards my goal of raising $3,000 dollars for MS research. If you care to donate please click here to donate to this worthy cause

Without Happy Ankles and Feet, We Don’t Have a Leg to Stand On!

foot

By, Amy Stein, DPT and Fiona McMahon, DPT

Our ankles function to help us do simple tasks from walking down the hall, climbing stairs to advanced tasks like cutting during a high level soccer game. Ankles need two things to do their job well. They need stability to allow us to transfer our weight onto them and mobility to absorb forces, like little shock absorbers when we move. A deficit in either one of these area’s can affect our ability to efficiently do certain activities and may cause pain in the foot and ankle itself or further up the leg.   As physical therapists we evaluate and treat ankle and foot issues to get the athlete or non-athlete back to optimal function.  

Get this, the foot has 26 bones, 33 joints and 100 muscles in it. There is a lot to look at and unfortunately, a lot that can go wrong with the foot. As physical therapists and especially here at Beyond Basics Physical Therapy, we like to use a systematic approach when evaluating the foot and ankle. We look at the foot’s range of motion (how far it can move), its strength, it’s ability to move well (motor control), and whether or not something’s not moving well when it comes to the soft tissue or the joint of the foot. If something’s up with any of these categories we open our tool box and treat using functional manual therapy, neuromuscular and postural re-education and self care!

Things we look at

  • In standing we assess the patient’s baby squat ( or plié, as our former dancers would call it) we are looking to see if there is an issue with the tissue of the foot’s ability to stretch and fold
  • Heel raise: We look at our patient’s’ ability to go up on their toes, aberrant or weird motions tell us about motor control, strength, and joint mobility.
  • Arm Swing: We promise this isn’t to make our patients look silly. It allows us to assess pronation and supination, which are super important motions of the foot.
  • End feel: We will passively move the patient’s foot and ankle through its range of motion to assess how the joint feels. It can tell us a lot about what’s wrong and where it’s coming from.
  • Palpation: We pride ourselves on our hands at Beyond Basics Physical Therapy. One of our PT’s calls it our “brain hands”. Palpation can reveal a ton about what’s going on in the foot.

These are all pretty basic first steps when assessing our patients. They are the starting point, but by no means the finish line. Once we get the big picture we will refine our examination to see what’s going on when our patients are doing their specific sport or activity. Once we get a good handle on  what’s going on we select the most appropriate techniques for our patients. Each patient is different and one basic protocol for everyone isn’t how we roll at BBPT. If you think your ankles or feet could use a little extra TLC, book an appointment today. To get the ball rolling, check out our blog written by our therapist, Denise Small . 

BBPT Health Tips: Let’s Roll!

Fiona McMahon DPT,

Foam rolling. I certainly have a love hate relationship with my foam roller. My IT bands (the tissue on the side of your leg) hate it, but I love how it keeps my knees and joints happy. Foam rolling is a method to release knots in muscle and improve the mobility of tight muscles and joints. If you are a gym rat, runner, or athlete of any kind, consider giving foam rolling a try. In a review published in the International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy in 2015, foam rolling was shown to reduces delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), and temporarily increase range of motion.

First of choose your weapon…. I mean roller.

 

White roller: Great for starters: gentle, but can deform over time because it is softer.

white-foam-roller

foamroller6x36fsBlack roller: This roller is not for the faint of heart, it’s the toughest one of the bunch. It’s not a great place to start, nor is it good if you bruise easily, but for the foam roller aficionados out there, it is really great for a tight IT band and hamstring.

 

 

21nc-kpj2l-_sy300_Grey roller: This is a nice in between roller for those of us who need a little more than the white roller, but aren’t quite ready for the black one. It is actually a composite of both rollers.

 

 

 

Artisanal Foam Roller: This one retails for about 120$ on Amazon and is good if you are super fancy. I haven’t tried it because I’m not very fancy.13187983_252069785150011_953005372_n

 

The Stick and other hand rollers:

 

48d2a548-59cd-437f-b9a1-7a145ae1e592This one is good for those who travel often, because it occupies relatively low amounts of space in carry-on luggage. It is also great for people with tight inner thighs and tightness closer to the pelvic bone, which can be difficult to get to using regular foam rollers. Retail names include: “The stick”, “the tiger tail”, and others.

Other Rollers:

There are other rollers that come in a variety of fun colors and designs. These rollers are less standardized so you may want to experiment if you feel like opting for one of the less classic varieties.

 

Now that you’ve picked your roller, let’s get rolling!

When foam rolling, you can adjust the weight you place on the roller by reducing the amount of support you give yourself. The more of your body weight you put on the foam roller, the more intense it will be.  If you find a particularly tender part oscillate your body on that spot to facilitate release. In addition, you can flex and straighten the area that you are working on to help with additional lengthening of the tissue.   Attempt 10-15 passes for each body part to help improve your function and tissue mobility.

 

ITB band rollingitb
Quad rolling

quads

 

Hamstring rolling

hams

 

Back rolling

rolling-back

 

Adductor rolling with stick

the-stick

 

Sources:
Cheatham S, Kobler M, Cain M, et al. The effect of self-myofascial release using foam roller or roller massager on joint range of motion, muscle recovery, and performance: a systematic review. Int J Sports Phys Ther. 2015 Nov;10(6):827-38

Happy Marathon Training Season! Preserve your Performance with Beyond Basics Physical Therapy!

Fiona's Marathon photo

Fiona McMahon, DPT

Marathon training season is just around the corner! If you are competing in the New York Marathon, it’s about time to lace up those sneakers and set off on your 18 or 20-week training plan. As an experienced marathon runner, I know personally the frustration and anxiety that can accompany being sidelined from the action. Prior to my days as a PT, I accumulated ankle injuries, knee injuries (both of my knees), and hip injuries while training for various races. These injuries were so upsetting, I had given up my weekends with my friends to wake up for 20 mile long runs on Sunday, I had gone through more sneakers than I care to think about, and coughed up $300 a race in entry fees. Total bummer.
At the time of my first marathon, I was not a physical therapist; rather I was working in a genetics lab in Maine. I was fortunate to have two physical therapists that worked for my company help me when my knee became so painful I could not stand to work at my lab bench, let alone run 26.2 miles. Through weeks of work, they returned me to my old self and I successfully completed my first marathon in Mount Desert Island, Maine. Since that time, I have run 4 marathons and sought the help of physical therapists to help stave off injuries and allow me to train at my top capacity as I push closer towards a Boston Marathon qualification time.
Physical therapy helped me gain a critical awareness of my deficits as a runner. I found out I had a weak butt, tight iliotibial bands, and hamstrings. Who knew?! There is a lot as runners that we tend to overlook in terms of physical fitness. Many of us believe that putting in the mileage alone will prepare our bodies to endure the stress of months of training on hard pavement. It won’t. We need a strong core and hip stabilizers to reduce the impact on our joints. We need long and strong muscles to help generate enough force to efficiently move your body the length of the race. If you are only thinking cardio with marathon training, chances are good you are missing something that could help your overall time and health.
If you are starting out on your first 26.2 mile journey (or any athletic journey), or completing your 30th, don’t ignore your body’s signals that there might be an injury that needs attention. Treating an injury early with good physical therapy treatment is often much easier than treating one later on. Early treatment also minimizes disruption to your original training plan.
At Beyond Basics Physical Therapy, we go beyond what is offered in many physical therapy clinics. Our clinicians are orthopedic experts and spend an hour with their patients in one-on-one treatments, creating specialized plans to keep you in tip-top shape and return you to training faster. We are trained to look at the athlete holistically to determine the specific cause of a patient’s injury/deficit rather than a cookbook “one size fits all approach).
As clinicians, our goal is not only to heal our patients but to empower them to know more about their own bodies and to be able to take control of preventing future injuries. We take pride in our specialized home exercise plans, which a runner or any athlete for that matter, can take with them for the rest of his or her athletic career. I encourage you as a runner, to check us out and learn more about your running needs.