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Drug-free Relief for Chronic Pain: Physical Therapy as an Alternative to Opioids

Physical Therapy as an Alternative to Opioids

No one wants to put their health at risk from the medical side effects of prescription pain pills. That’s why so many physicians recommend physical therapy as an alternative to opioids. Healthcare providers want to help patients manage pain without relying on habit-forming drugs. PT is a low-risk, minimally-invasive way to handle a variety of pain. A physical therapist treats pain through hands-on manipulation, education, and physical activity.

What are CDC recommendations for pain management?

Centers for Disease Control recommends primary care providers maximize non-opioid treatments for chronic pain. Before starting drug treatments, consider alternatives such as physical therapy. When prescribing pain killers, use the lowest possible effective dosage and closely monitor patients for side-effects.

Avoiding Opioids for Chronic Pain

Opioids have long been accepted for their role in acute and terminal pain. However, their use in treating chronic pain is controversial. The opioid epidemic has revealed the dangers of masking long-term pain with drugs rather than treating the deeper cause. Therapists work with clients to the root out of the underlying problems. Using physical therapy as an alternative to opioids is a long-term solution for managing chronic pain. 

Side Effects of Opioids 

Opioids have dangerous side effects such as addiction, depression, overdose, and withdrawal. Other common side-effects are:

  • Sleepiness
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea 
  • Vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Physical dependence
  • Respiratory problems

The only “side effects” of physical therapy are improved mobility and a reduction in health problems. PT may reduce the need for more invasive procedures, or it can support post-operative recovery when surgery is warranted.

Benefits of Physical Therapy as an Alternative to Opioids 

Physical Therapy improves the overall quality of life for patients. Sessions help get to the root cause of the pain, rather than masking it with medication. Therapists can identify and treat a variety of health concerns beyond the initial presentation or pain. Patients tend to see better results because they are active participants in their recovery process. 

Referring for Physical Therapy as an Alternative to Opioids 

When patients present with chronic or post-surgical mobility issues, physicians may decide to temporarily prescribe medication to get the pain under control initially. Quickly referring to physical therapy gets individuals off pain meds quickly before addition and adverse side effects set in. To refer a patient for pain management, call our office at 201-833-1333.

How to Avoid Surgery with Non-operative Rehabilitation

Non-operative Rehabilitation

Torn ligaments and injured joints can render a person immobile. Non-operative rehabilitation is a non-invasive way to return you to daily activities safely. Physical therapy will guide you through progressive steps designed to strengthen the affected area and return to normal functioning over time. Rehabilitation typically happens in three phases. Therapists will personalize each program depending on the patient’s needs and activity goals.

What activities should I avoid after tearing a ligament?

Following a sprain, which is a tearing of some of the fibers in a ligament, you want to avoid anything that overextends the affected joint. For torn knee ligaments, pain-free ROM and isometric strengthening is the first order as guided by your therapist. You don’t want to start more vigorous exercises too early on in the rehabilitation process, or re-injury may occur.

Phase One – Increase Protection and Decrease Pain

The first four to six weeks are designed to protect the affected area and decrease pain and swelling. The first phase requires multiple therapy sessions per week. Many clients require the use of a brace and/or crutches. Therapists will educate you on how to use assistive devices and will begin manual manipulation to increase mobility. You will also start light exercises such as hip activation, ankle pumps, and isometrics.

Phase Two – Regain Strength and Mobility

You will most likely begin to wean off the crutches in this phase. Your therapist will continue hands-on manipulation for mobility support. You will introduce new exercises such as lunges, squats, and leg presses to build strength and flexibility. Riding a stationary bike is another way to workout injured knees. Phase two aims to return to a full range of motion and improve stability and gait. 

Phase Three – Ease Back to Normal Function

Typically, it’s safe to stop using the brace after about 12 weeks of non-operative rehabilitation. Your physical therapist will direct the adding of resistance to your leg presses and guide progression to more advanced lunges and squats. In phase three, we aim to return to full functioning and meet your doctor’s clearance criteria. 

Getting Back in the Game after Non-Operative Rehabilitation

Your physician will tell you when you’ve met clearance criteria to return to functional activities. When returning to sports drills, always listen to your body. Pain and resistance are signs that your knees are not quite ready. Avoid pushing hard too soon. Over-exertion can cause re-injury. Returning to training or work takes more than physical healing. There is a psychological element to recovering from injury as well. You need to be able to trust the injured part. Physical therapy takes a holistic approach to helping you get back in the game. 

Non-operative Rehabilitation in Bergen County New Jersey

Churchill Orthopedic Rehabilitation offers rehabilitation options without surgery for torn ACL, PCL, and MCL. Our highly-trained physical therapists will work with you to design a program that meets your personal recovery goals. Schedule a consultation today.

Cold Laser Therapy to Treat Pain: Can Exposure to Red Light Promote Healing?

Cold Laser Therapy to treat pain

Cold laser therapy to treat pain is a rapidly growing technology used to reduce inflammation and pain. The red light activates the body’s response to increasing tissue repair, healing, and relief. The low-levels of light are not enough to heat body tissue or cause skin damage. When used correctly, this non-invasive, natural treatment is free from damaging side effects. Other names for this process include low-level laser therapy (LLLT), low-power laser therapy (LPLT), and soft laser biostimulation.

What’s the Science Behind Cold Laser Therapy?

Cold or low-level laser therapy treats pain and inflammation through skin exposure to red and near-infrared light. The long wavelengths stimulate pigment molecules in the mitochondria of skin cells to produce chemicals the body needs for healing and repair.

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Uses for Cold Laser Therapy to Treat Pain

LLLT is approved by the FDA for several conditions, from acne to autoimmune disorders. In physical therapy and rehabilitation, it helps alleviate the chronic pain of carpal tunnel syndrome and arthritis. It also reduces pain and swelling for minor injuries such as:

  • Sprains
  • Strains
  • Tendinitis
  • Tennis elbow
  • Neck and back pain
  • Knee and joint pain

Pros and Cons of Cold Laser Therapy

Soft lasers are safe and effective when used by a qualified practitioner. The process is quick and non-invasive. The procedure takes a few minutes, and all the patient feels is the device on their skin—there is no heat or pain.

On the downside, most patients require multiple sessions per week, and it may take several weeks before you feel the full effects. Some insurers may not cover laser treatments. Fortunately, the staff at Churchill Orthopedic Rehabilitation will provide the best care possible regardless of insurance.

When to Avoid Cold Laser Therapy

While there are no known side-effects in healthy patients, there are times when LLLT is not advisable. For example, avoid using it directly over malignant tumors except for pain relief in terminal cases. You also don’t want to use cold laser therapy over tattoos or thyroids. The effects have not been tested on unborn children, so women should avoid this treatment while pregnant.

When to Refer for Cold Laser Therapy

When patients experience pain, start with the least-invasive options. Consider referring patients for cold laser therapy to treat pain before moving to shots or surgery.  Laser therapy is also good for weaning patients off pain medications. If you are interested in learning more about our low-level laser treatment options, give us a call at 201-833-1333.

Regaining Mobility: Joint Replacement Rehabilitation for Knee, Hip, and Shoulder

Joint Replacement Rehabilitation

Surgical joint replacement is a last resort to heal chronic pain and mobility issues after non-surgical treatments proved unsuccessful. It takes severe pre- and post-surgery joint replacement rehabilitation to restore your quality of life. Getting moving again is a crucial part of recovery. Physical therapy helps bring back your mobility and range of motion following joint replacement. 

What are the joint replacement surgery risks?

Joint replacement has the same risks as other surgeries such as infection and blood clot. More likely problems are stiffness, swelling, and range-of-motion issues. Active rehabilitation before and after surgery can reduce some risks.

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Pre-operative Physical Therapy 

Completing pre-surgery exercises prepares the body for the upcoming operation and leads to shorter recovery times. A PT can determine advanced exercises for strength, endurance, flexibility, and balance. Support your joint by strengthening the surrounding muscles. Endurance training helps your body recuperate faster. Improved balance keeps you steady on your feet and reduces falls. 

Training your body is just part of the preparations. A skilled physical therapist can also provide education for the patient on what to expect following surgery. Your PT can teach you how to use assistive devices such as walkers and crutches and how to prepare your home to help you live as independently as possible. Recovery is safer and faster when you prepare ahead of time. 

Post-operative Joint Replacement Rehabilitation 

The physical therapist at the hospital will get the rehabilitation process started. At first, you’ll learn how to get out of bed and chairs safely. During the initial days following surgery, your physical therapy needs will focus on reducing pain and swelling. Your PT can show you how to use ice, compression, and elevation to control swelling around the affected joint. 

When you can move freely without pain, your physical therapy program can focus on returning to full function. Depending on the joint—knee, hip, or shoulder—your PT will design a specific recovery program including strength, balance, and mobility exercises. You will start range-of-motion exercises right off the bat. These restore movement to the joint so that you can perform activities of daily living. Still, you may need to use a cane or other assistive device for a while.

Joint Replacement Rehabilitation at COR

When you are recovering from joint replacement, the experienced physical therapists at Churchill Orthopedic Rehabilitation can provide techniques to reduce swelling and maximize comfort. Schedule a consultation to talk about your joint replacement rehabilitation needs. 

Sports Injury Rehabilitation: Getting Back in the Game

Sports injury rehabilitation

Your feet fall rhythmically in step as you run. Your body moves with effortless focus until a stray rock rolls under your arch. Your ankle turns, and you tumble onto your side. Pain ends the training session, and you go home for some rest, ice, compression, and elevation. When you get hurt while exercising, ice packs and wraps aren’t always enough. To get back in the game, you may need sports injury rehabilitation.

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Which sports injuries are most common?

There are around 8.6 million sports injuries each year in the US. According to CDC data, approximately 40% of sports-related diagnoses include sprains and strains, making them the most common sports injuries by far. The next are fractures, which account for 20% of sports injuries. Others include superficial injuries and concussions.

What are Sports Injuries? 

Sports injuries are bodily harm or damage that occurs during recreation, exercise, or athletic events. They are often caused by accident or direct impact. However, a lack of proper warm-up, stretching, form, or equipment use can also lead to training injuries. If you are hurt while working out, seek medical attention—untreated injuries can lead to more significant future problems. 

What is Sports Injury Rehabilitation?

Recovering from sports injuries requires a multi-disciplinary approach to prevention, evaluation, and treatment. The goal is to restore the athlete to optimal form and function. With the right therapy, some clients return to the game better than ever. Once the injury is accurately diagnosed, a sports injury specialist can work with the athlete to develop an individualized treatment plan involving manual therapy techniques and strengthening exercises.

Sports Injury Rehabilitation at COR

At Churchill Orthopedic Rehabilitation, therapists, clients, and specialists work together to quell pain and improve mobility and strength. We work with referring physicians and coaches to ensure a continuum of care before, during, and after therapy. Our physical therapists use research-based methods to help with recovery from a sports injury. We develop a plan specifically designed for you to get you back in the game. If you are ever in need of sports injury rehabilitation, schedule an appointment to work with our highly-trained PTs.

What Out-of-Network Physical Therapy Means at Churchill Orthopedic

Out-of-Network Physical Therapy

Out-of-Network Physical Therapy can sound scary.  When the PT is not a member of the insurance plan, patients often are required to pay the full amount of a treatment upfront, then are given a ’superbill’ to submit to their insurance. This can mean a couple of things for the patient. One is that they have to wait a period of time to receive reimbursements for their PT care, and secondly, they may have to argue with their insurance carrier about what may be covered. This can pose a real headache for many patients. Of course, primary care and specialist providers want to refer in-network providers of PT to save patients any hassles and make sure cost isn’t a barrier to recovery. Referring physicians must balance this goal with referring to practitioners who may provide a higher level of care, by virtue of providing one-to-one care, as in most out-of-network settings. We do things differently at Churchill Orthopedic Rehabilitation by facilitating the process for your out-of-network care, and we guarantee that your experience with us will be far superior to any in-network experience. The choice, ultimately, is yours.

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Will insurance cover out-of-network?

Every insurance plan is different. HMO plans do not cover out-of-network costs, except in cases of emergency. PPOs offer more flexibility and cover partial payments for out-of-network providers.

In-Network vs. Out-of-Network Physical Therapy  

Health care payments are complicated—at times, it can be like speaking another language. Insurance companies use terms like in-network and out-of-network physical therapy. It can be challenging for patients to know how much each service costs and if they are getting the best deal.

Here’s how it works. Insurance companies negotiate lower costs with in-network healthcare providers. The term “in-network” means the PT is included in your plan because the insurance company contracted a discount with them. “Out-of-network” means the PT doesn’t have a special deal with the company, but it does not mean your insurance won’t cover some of the cost. Providers are not bound by the insurer’s rules. We can work with insurance companies and provide the best care possible at the lowest price to patients.

The Churchill Difference

At Churchill, we care more about providing exceptional physical therapy than we do about who pays the bill. We treat all patients the same, regardless of their insurance network. Once a patient has met their deductible, we accept their insurance payment. Referring physicians can rest easy that their patients will receive the highest quality care without breaking the bank. 

Our billing staff is here to help answer any questions you may have. Call the office to talk with Stephanie to discuss how the plan will work for your circumstances. We will work with your insurance company to determine the cost based on your remaining deductible if any. Patients recovering from surgery or injury should talk to their doctor about using Churchill for physical therapy. Give us a call at 201-833-1333.

Empowering Recovery and Prevention Using the McKenzie Method for Pain Relief

The McKenzie Method For Pain Relief

Everyone deserves to be able to do daily activities without pain and stiffness in their back and neck. Using the McKenzie Method for pain relief enables people to take back control of their lives.  The McKenzie Method of Mechanical Diagnosis and Therapy® empowers patients with the skills they need to control pain without injections or surgery. This evidence-based method has been used for decades to relieve back, neck, and extremity pain.

What physical problems does the McKenzie Method address?

The method helps with nearly all musculoskeletal issues in the back, neck, and joints, such as:
Arthritis
Sciatica
Muscle spasms
Numbness of hands and feet
Degenerative disc disease
Sacroiliac joint pain

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What is The McKenzie Method for Pain Relief?

This holistic program is an exercise-based approach to assessment, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention. Physiotherapist Robin McKenzie developed the process in the 1950s, and since then, decades of clinical practice and research have shown their effectiveness. The treatment principles focus on the body’s ability to repair itself without medication, ultrasound, and surgery. The goal is to empower clients to manage their own symptoms and reduce reliance on medical intervention. 

The process is an efficient way for providers to understand symptoms accurately, determine the best treatment approach, restore functionality, and educate clients in self-treatment and prevention. A qualified provider will also know when to refer for medical testing if needed.

The 4 Steps of Mechanical Diagnosis and Therapy

1. Assessment

The clinician looks at the client’s history, symptoms, and behavior to determine the problem’s cause. The patient performs specific movements and positions to assess range of motion that help the provider diagnose the issues. 

2. Classification

MDT addresses each issue using an overarching classification system. Specific musculoskeletal symptoms require particular mechanical procedures. For example, pain caused by movement requires different techniques than pain caused by scarred tissue.

3. Treatment

The assessment and classification help determine the treatment. The therapist develops an individualized treatment plan with exercises and advice for posture and adaptive movement. The clinician may also apply hands-on manipulation until the patient can manage their pain. 

4. Prevention

Symptoms may reoccur after therapy ends. By teaching clients to treat their conditions, the therapist empowers them to minimize the risk of further complications. People can learn to manage chronic problems through self-maintenance. 

Pain Relief Experts

Our clinicians have over 100 years of combined experience in manual therapy, including using the McKenzie Method for pain relief. With an emphasis on education and lifestyle modification, we empower patients to control their pain for the long-term. Contact us to learn if this treatment is right for you.

At-home Strength Training to Stay at the Top of Your Game

At-home Strength Training

Sports training doesn’t stop in the winter, not even during a pandemic. With gyms closed and practices canceled, athletes are finding creative ways to workout during lockdown. Good at-home strength training programs will make all the difference when you get back on the court or field. Fortunately, there are many ways to workout with minimal space and equipment. 

How do I continue sports training from home?

Bodyweight exercises such as push-ups, burpees, and squats take little space and no equipment. A few additional items, such as resistance bands, boost your at-home workout. A personal trainer can design a home exercise program that works for you. 

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Bodyweight Exercises for At-home Strength Training

Your sports performance doesn’t need to suffer just because you don’t have a home gym. Your body and the floor is all you need for building strength. The basic principle is simple—working against resistance builds muscle, whether from barbells or your own weight. In fact, bodyweight training is possibly the oldest form of exercise. People have used their bodies and gravity as a form of resistance since the dawn of time. Since all you need is yourself, you can exercise anytime, anywhere.

To start, warm up with stretches and some light cardio such as jumping jacks or running in place. Perform sets to target the specific muscle groups that need strengthening. For example, push-ups  for the arms, planks for abs, squats and lunges for legs. The program that works best for you depends on the specifics of your body and sport.

Resistance Bands

Add an extra boost to your at-home strength training with resistance bands. These simple simople training tools are impressively flexible—pun intended. A single band gives you a wide range of exercises without the cost and bulk of home gyms. You can work all the same muscle groups as you would with free weights or machines at the gym. 

Secure the band to the top of a door frame to do tricep pushdowns. Stand on one end and pull upward for bicep curls. Bands have the added benefit of resistance in the upward, or positive motion, and the controlling tension in the downward motions. These are also termed concentric and eccentric contractions.  Barbells provide similar work, but are not quite as versatile as bands. In this covid era, it may be more difficult to purchase barbells if you do not have any. Bands are readily available online at various sources. A physical therapist can design individualized workouts that suit your needs. Contact us.

Elite Athlete Performance Plan

At Churchill Orthopedic Rehabilitation, we offer in person and telehealth sessions with personalized programs. Come back from lockdown game ready with an Elite Athlete Performance Plan designed just for you. Request a video session today.