New year, no pain: Tips for an injury-free year

Tips for an injury-free 2023

The new year is a time of resolutions, goal setting and getting back to a healthier lifestyle after the holidays. For many, the new year symbolizes a clean slate, full of promise for a happier, healthier version of you. That’s why so many of us start new fitness routines, invest in gym memberships and take up new sports or activities this time of year. 

But, even with the best intentions, an injury can quickly derail your plans for the new year. Not all injuries are preventable, but so many are. Fortunately, there are things you can do to keep chasing your goals instead of nursing an injury. Check out these tips to avoid back, joint and muscle injuries this year.

1. Move

A sedentary lifestyle is the number one enemy of good physical health. When you don’t move, your muscles and joints get stiff. Chances are that coming off the holidays, you may have gotten used to moving less than usual. While you may be able to get away with being less active for a few days, it’s not a habit you’ll want to keep. This is also true for you “weekend warriors” — being sedentary all week and expecting your body to perform on demand without consequences is a recipe for joint and muscle injuries. So, the number one injury prevention tip is simple — move. 

And more specifically, move daily. Increasing your activity for a few minutes each day is a great place to start.  If you have a desk job, get up every 30 minutes, even just to stand and stretch for a moment. If you’ve fallen off your typical exercise routine, get back to it — even if it’s just five minutes of purposeful exercise or movement per day, it’s better than nothing! Or, if you already have some pain and aren’t sure where to start, check out RecoveryOne for structured exercise programs to relieve pain and help you get moving.

2. Self-care

Keyword: self. Yes, you. Not everyone else in your life. So many of us get caught up in caring for kids and other family members and simply forget to care for ourselves. But guess what — if you’re healthy and happy, you’ll be even better at showing up for others.

Self-care looks different for everyone, but generally, it means taking a few minutes a day to tend to your physical and mental well-being. Physically, this could mean getting a massage, a short foam rolling session or ten minutes of restorative yoga or stretching each day. For your mental health, this could mean some mindful meditation, a run to clear your head or practicing gratitude. Find a short routine that works for you, and stick to it!

3. Ease into new things

Want to run a marathon in 2023? Or maybe you want to join that pickleball league you’ve had your eye on. Whatever your goals are, remember that your body will need some time to get used to new things. Different activities can demand more strength and flexibility, and it takes time to develop both without injury. Setting realistic goals and easing into new activities is key to maintaining your physical health. 

Maybe a marathon is a lofty goal if you’ve never been a runner before, but it’s certainly possible in time. Ease into your training and create achievable stepping-stones along the way. Setting short-term goals to get you to your big, long-term goal is a good way to avoid getting ahead of yourself, and a health coach can help you create a plan and stay motivated throughout your journey. So, reach for the stars with your 2023 health goals but have a realistic plan to get you from where you are now to where you want to be.

4. Hydrate

Did you know the recommended daily water intake is at least 72 ounces? But, according to CDC data from 2015-2018, the average US Adult is only actually drinking around 44 ounces per day. And, of course, this doesn’t account for your environment or activity level — water intake should increase in hotter climates and with strenuous physical activity. 

So, what exactly is the connection between water and injury prevention? Water is vital for all bodily functions, including your joints and muscles. Joints have a lubricant in them called synovial fluid. Water is a major component of synovial fluid. If you’re chronically dehydrated, you may experience more friction, irritation and pain in your joints. In addition, dehydration can impact your muscles on a cellular level, making your movements less efficient and predisposing you to muscle injury. 

Are you drinking enough? If not, try getting a new water bottle to fill and sip from throughout the day and consider setting reminders on your phone to help you remember to drink.

5. Consult a professional

Let’s face it: life can be messy, and sometimes self-care, exercise routines, and even hydration go out the window. Muscle and joint soreness is not something to be feared, but it also shouldn’t be ignored. If you find yourself with a sore back from sitting all day after a rigorous workweek or an achy shoulder after playing catch with your kids for the first time in a while — it’s okay, but don’t let it linger. 

In fact, muscle soreness is normal after taking up a new activity or pushing your body’s limits. Still, any pain that lingers for more than a couple of days is usually a sign that something is not quite right and could lead to a more serious injury in the future. Getting on top of underlying issues like this can be the difference between sitting on the sidelines or setting a new personal record this year. 

Get help from a movement professional like a physical therapist to understand what might be causing underlying pain and how to address it. Most of the time, when you have pain, knowing what to do to make it better is the hardest part. RecoveryOne gives you access to professionals who can point you in the right direction before your aches and pains get worse. With a convenient 15-minute consultation, a RecoveryOne PT can create a simple program designed to address whatever you have going on. Knowing what to do to take care of yourself is a powerful feeling.

About the Author:

Written by Dr. Jess Cobb, PT, DPT. Jess is a licensed physical therapist with over six years of clinical experience in orthopedics. Jess is also a writer, educator and member of RecoveryOne’s marketing team. She’s passionate about helping people better understand their pain, manage their musculoskeletal conditions and confidently get back to the activities they love

This blog and its contents do not constitute medical advice specific to you or your condition. The information provided is for educational purposes only and should not be used for self-diagnosis. Consult a qualified professional for appropriate medical advice.

5 reasons why neck pain gets worse around the holidays

The holiday season can be a magical time — full of family, tradition, food and fun. But this time of year doesn’t come without challenges, some of which come from increased body aches and pains. Several factors — some more obvious than others — can make this happy time particularly tough for those dealing with neck pain. 

Read on for five things that could worsen your neck pain this holiday season and, of course, tips to stay ahead of them.

1. Your activity

Schedules tend to get more hectic and less predictable around the holidays, which often means typical exercise routines and self-care get put on the back burner. Overall physical activity tends to decline at this time of year, especially for those of us in cold winter climates — as winter hibernation begins, outdoor physical activities end, and time spent on our couches typically increases. It takes quite a bit more effort to stay active in the winter, and despite your best efforts, it’s not uncommon to fall short of spring and summer fitness levels.

In addition to changes in the amount of physical activity, the types of activities you’re doing may change this time of the year. You might find yourself watching more movies, spending more time on your phone or doing indoor things like board games and playing cards. You may also be doing something your body isn’t used to, like baking, cookie decorating and gift wrapping. Most of these indoor activities occur sitting with compromised posture — neck forward, gaze down. Holding this position for prolonged periods can increase neck strain and quickly contribute to increased pain. 

PT Tip: Make a daily effort to exercise and move your body, even if it is just for a few minutes, to avoid increased neck stiffness. Also, pay attention to your posture with your indoor activities. If you are playing board games, doing a puzzle or spending more time on your phone, take frequent breaks and stretch out your upper back and neck to avoid straining your muscles. If you are sitting for movie or TV marathons, use pillows to position yourself more upright or choose a more supportive chair instead of a soft couch — both will give your neck better support.

2. The cold

So now we’ve made the connection between cold weather and decreased overall physical activity, but can the cold directly cause pain? Interestingly, research suggests that the cold can impact muscle tightness and joint stiffness, directly contributing to increased pain. Picture someone shivering outside in the cold; how does their posture look? You’re likely visualizing someone hunched over with their shoulders drawn way up by their ears. And you’d be right. This posture is a universal giveaway for “I’m cold” and also happens to be very irritating for your neck. Holding tension in your neck and upper back muscles can tighten those muscles over time and increase pain.

Many people with arthritis report worsening symptoms in colder temperatures. Although science can’t say for sure why joint pain worsens in the cold, anecdotally, joint-pain sufferers agree that the cold can be tough. The predominant theory is that the fluid inside your joints thickens when it gets cold, causing more stiffness and impaired joint mobility, which increases pain and irritation. Additionally, this thickening has also been blamed on changes in barometric pressure, which are thought to cause the body’s tissues to expand, contributing to a tightening effect.

PT Tip: Bundle up! Remember, there is no bad weather, just bad clothing. With the right number of layers and outdoor equipment, you can enjoy the cold weather and still keep your muscles and joints warm. If you simply don’t enjoy exercising outside, consider setting up an exercise space inside your home — a dedicated space will make it easier for you to commit to a regular exercise routine that continues through the winter months. Finally, take a little extra time to warm up and stretch your neck and upper back after you’ve spent time outside.

3. Traveling 

Going home for the holidays? Traveling by car, plane, or train may leave you stuck in an uncomfortable seat for hours. Sitting for prolonged periods with poor support and posture can wreak havoc on your neck and back. Also, lifting and carrying heavy luggage can strain your neck, upper back and shoulders. 

To make matters worse, when you aren’t home, you may not have access to all of your typical pain relief tools like stretching straps, foam rollers, hot or cold therapy and other equipment. 

PT Tip: Pack all the travel-friendly tools you normally use for pain relief. Just because you are leaving home doesn’t mean you have to abandon your toolbox, so be sure to grab ice packs, heating pads, stretching straps, self-massage devices and any pain-relieving medication you usually take. If flying, be creative for items that aren’t travel-approved. For example, bring empty ziplock bags or paper cups that can be filled with water and frozen for ice packs once you get to your destination. Bring a hand towel or small pillow to put behind your neck or back to help you maintain good posture in any seat you encounter, and bring a lacrosse ball or tennis ball for simple self-massage. Finally, make sure you use a suitcase with wheels and luggage straps to make your belongings easier to handle.

4. Stress

The holidays can be stressful for many reasons. For starters, it’s the most expensive time of year for many with gift buying, traveling and event expenses. Watching your bank account balance diminish, credit card bills stack up or worrying about affording gifts for your family can certainly contribute to stress and anxiety. Traveling can also cause added stress, especially when battling crowds and delays. And let’s not forget family. As much as you love them, family members can be another source of stress. Spending more time with extended family over the holidays, often in confined spaces, can lead to arguments and challenge your mental health.

Research shows a direct correlation between stress and neck pain. Stress can contribute to altered pain processing in the body and increases the likelihood of neck pain-related disability. 

PT Tip: No matter the cause, stress can have a ripple effect contributing to more neck muscle tightness and pain. Regular exercise and self-care are great for your mental health and can help manage the physical manifestations of stress. Consider adding daily meditation and diaphragmatic breathing exercises to help calm an overactive mind. Working with a mental health professional or health coach or simply confiding in a friend can help alleviate some stress too.

5. Sugar

Cookies, pies and candy, oh my! Holiday baking and traditions usually mean higher dietary consumption of sugar. Sugar has been shown to increase the body’s production of inflammatory proteins, which can lead to more general inflammation and ultimately increase muscle and joint pain. Sugar and highly processed foods seem particularly problematic for individuals with osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis who already have higher baseline inflammatory markers.

PT Tip: Try (as much as possible) to stick to your regular diet over the holidays. Don’t miss out entirely on grandma’s famous Christmas cookies; instead, consume sweet treats mindfully and in moderation. Consider bringing a healthier alternative lower in refined sugar, like fresh fruit. You can also limit sugar intake by not drinking your daily sugar allotment. Eliminate soft drinks and skip the added sugar in your coffee. Drink more water to replace sugary drink alternatives and make you feel fuller, so it’s easier to have just one piece of the pie. And as always, continuing your exercise routine can help ward off any problems caused by higher sugar intake.

BONUS PT Tip: Get a routine that works year-round. The recurring theme here is that abandoning your typical physical health routine can significantly impact aches and pains. Having a self-care routine that is mobile, accessible and realistic can make all of the difference this time of year. RecoveryOne offers personalized back and joint health programs with 1-on-1 health coaching that you can take with you anywhere! So, RecoveryOne can help you stay on track and address pain flare-ups, whether you’re in a hotel, visiting family, or even in transit.

About the Author:

Written by Dr. Jess Cobb, PT, DPT. Jess is a licensed physical therapist with over six years of clinical experience in orthopedics. Jess is also a writer, educator and member of RecoveryOne’s marketing team. She’s passionate about helping people better understand their pain, manage their musculoskeletal conditions and confidently get back to the activities they love.

This blog and its contents do not constitute medical advice specific to you or your condition. The information provided is for educational purposes only and should not be used for self-diagnosis. Consult a qualified professional for appropriate medical advice.

Don’t just treat low back pain. Outsmart it.

Low back pain is the most common muscle and joint complaint among U.S. adults. Those who’ve experienced it keenly understand how frustrating it can be. When your back hurts, it’s common to feel pain with just about everything, including sitting, standing, walking, sleeping and moving in general. 

And, when everything hurts, it’s normal for worry to set in. If it hurts to move, logic says you should just stay still. But the unfortunate truth is that most of the time, being immobile makes things worse. Or maybe you take the opposite approach – go on about your daily life and try to ignore the pain. But that doesn’t work either. In fact, the activities of your daily life probably contributed to developing back pain in the first place, so you might be making the problem worse by just pushing on.

So, is there no good solution to low back pain? Resting doesn’t work, and pushing through doesn’t work either – so what does? 

Overcoming back pain starts with understanding it.

There are many types of back injuries, and everyone is a little different. So, unfortunately, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to relieving back pain. But, one thing that’s true for everyone is that it’s not usually enough just to treat back pain symptoms. You have to have a deeper understanding of what contributes to low back pain to get long-term relief.

Back pain can cause a lot of fear and worry. But, suppose you understand why your back hurts, what’s contributing to it, how to identify a problem before it gets worse and how to keep it under control. Imagine truly having power over your back pain — isn’t that what we all really want?

Let’s review five universal truths that may help you understand why your back behaves the way it does so you can take control of your back health.

1. The anatomy of your back is complicated.

The lower back is made up of five lumbar vertebrae. At each of the five levels, there are multiple places where bones come together to allow movement, also known as joints. Each of these joints moves anytime you bend or twist. Between each vertebra, you also have a “disc.” The disc’s job is to absorb shock and provide a cushion for the spine. 

Injuries to the discs are common – ever heard someone say they have a “slipped” or “herniated” disc? This type of injury happens when the disc material gets pushed out, irritating the surrounding nerves. Because of the complex anatomy of your back, several different structures can be injured. And to complicate matters further, sometimes back pain is felt in the low back, but other times, it can travel down one leg, also known as “sciatica.” 

Of course, you can’t necessarily do anything about the structure of your back. But understanding the basic anatomy can take some of the mystery out of your pain. The human body has a remarkable ability to heal and adjust. So, no matter what’s injured, the chances of recovery are high. Even if an X-Ray or MRI shows arthritis, disc herniation or other scary-sounding things — pictures never tell the whole story. 

2. Your back pain is rarely as bad as it feels.

Pain is a way for your body to sound the alarm that something isn’t right. This self-preservation technique is designed to get your attention so you can make adjustments to allow for healing. The body’s alarm system is often louder than necessary. So even if you are having bad pain, it could be an overzealous warning, and it doesn’t always mean your back is in bad shape. 

Knowing how pain behaves can alleviate stress and worry. The body’s tendency to overreact can be alarming, but knowing this is normal can calm your fears. You may also consider trying breathing exercises and meditation techniques to quiet the body’s alarm system and reduce pain. 

3. Strength matters. 

With almost every movement you make, your lower back joints are moving too.  And because it has so many little joints, the low back allows for a lot of movement. When working like a well-oiled machine, the muscles and joints of the body will work together to allow pain-free movement. But as soon as one of the muscles gets weak, other body parts can start to pick up the slack. This often happens with the low back, especially when you don’t have good core or leg strength.

The flexibility and movement that the low back allows are good when coupled with strength and stability. Ever wonder how gymnasts can be so flexible without getting injured? It’s because they are also extremely strong, which helps protect their body in extremes of motion. 

Maintaining strength in your core, low back and leg muscles is key to ensuring that your back’s movement is “checked” and you’re protected. It’s important to keep the other muscles of your body strong, so your back doesn’t have to pick up the slack. Also, be mindful of your body mechanics when lifting and bending over. Using your legs by squatting or hinging at your hips can help keep your spine straight and reduce the risk of excessive stress on the back. 

4. Your back bends forward all the time.

Did you know that the average person bends forward – as in touching your toes or tying your shoes – more than 2,000 times per day? The low back can bend, extend and rotate but most of the stress we place on it daily is forward bending. Not to mention that sitting all day is also considered bending because your spine is flexed, as opposed to being straight as it is when you are standing.

Bending in only one direction is not good for any joint in your body. Think about your elbow — ever fallen asleep with your elbow bent up underneath you? When you wake up in the morning, it might feel like your elbow will never fully straighten again. Of course, it loosens up with time, and you go back to normal. Still, if you spent your day only bending your elbow and never straightening it, it would start to get stiff and painful.

Aim for more balanced movement in your back. Think about the position your back is in when making your bed, putting on your pants and shoes, doing laundry, loading the dishwasher and cleaning your house. Most of our daily activities require us to bend forward repeatedly. So, while you don’t have to quit all of your housework and yardwork, make an effort to take breaks to stretch, straighten your back and even gently bend backward. More balanced movement in your low back can reduce the stress on your joints and discs. 

5. Your back injury wasn’t caused by just one movement.

Unless you had a traumatic injury, you can’t blame your back pain on just one movement. Many people injure their back when trying to lift something heavy. But, just as many people hurt their back doing something super unexciting like picking up a piece of trash from the floor or bending over to wash their face. Rather than blame that final movement for your pain, understand that it was likely just the “straw that broke the camel’s back.” 

Don’t worry. Just as you are not a camel, your back isn’t actually broken. The point is that something was likely going on before that final movement that made you vulnerable to injury. Sometimes, if you think about it, you may be able to recall subtle signs that something wasn’t quite right before that last straw. Blaming your back pain on just one thing is dangerous because you may not consider all the factors that contributed to it, making re-injury very likely.

Look for the signs of a low back problem and try to address it before it gets bad. Subtle signs of irritation in the low back include muscle tightness, stiffness, especially with moving from sitting to standing, and the inability to get comfortable on cushiony surfaces like your couch. Catching these early signs allows you to work on balancing out your spinal movements, performing exercises to strengthen your muscles or simply being more mindful of your activities.

Knowledge is power.

Understanding your back pain is the key to recovery and avoiding the classic back pain re-injury cycle many people fall into. This cycle usually consists of “throwing out” your back, being laid up with pain, slowly getting better, being ok but cautious for a few months and then repeating the whole cycle. Being trapped in this cycle disrupts your physical and mental health because it can feel like your back is a ticking timebomb just waiting to explode.

Understanding the basics of back pain, in general, can help tremendously. Still, unique aspects of your life or health may contribute to your back pain. Talking to an expert and getting a personalized plan can help you maximize your recovery and get to the bottom of your condition.

Try RecoveryOne for back pain. 

RecoveryOne’s experts can help you understand your back pain and get on a personalized program that will help you strengthen weak muscles, improve your mobility and, most importantly, give you the confidence you need to take control of your back pain.

About the Author:

Written by Dr. Jess Cobb, PT, DPT. Jess is a licensed physical therapist with over six years of clinical experience in orthopedics. Jess is also a writer, educator and member of RecoveryOne’s marketing team. She’s passionate about helping people better understand their pain, manage their musculoskeletal conditions and confidently get back to the activities they love

This blog and its contents do not constitute medical advice specific to you or your condition. The information provided is for educational purposes only and should not be used for self-diagnosis. Consult a qualified professional for appropriate medical advice.

The rise of online physical therapy: What is it, and how does it work?

October is National Physical Therapy month. Even if you’ve never done it, you may have some idea of what physical therapy (PT) is all about. And considering that nearly 50% of American adults are dealing with some kind of back, joint or muscle condition for which PT may be needed, chances are that you may get acquainted with it at some point.

Physical therapy is widely accepted as an effective first line of treatment for back, joint and muscle conditions —both because it’s a low-risk option and because research shows that it works! 

But physical therapy is not always the most popular option because it’s not usually a “quick fix” — instead, it takes some time to start seeing results. This may be in opposition to modern society’s value of instant gratification, which is perhaps why nearly 65-75% of patients fail to stick to their physical therapy treatment plan. Patients often drop out or decide it’s not working before they start to see results. 

Other treatments, like massage, chiropractic care, medications, injections and sometimes even surgery, can be more appealing because they may seem to offer quicker — albeit often less permanent — pain relief. Unfortunately, all these options come with several challenges that can make it tough for people to get the help they need when they need it. 

Traditional treatments don’t work for everyone, here’s why.

Buy-in for the traditional PT model, chiropractic care and even doctor’s visits comes at a literal and figurative price; for many, this price is too steep. Here are some challenges that tend to make traditional treatment methods difficult to stick to:

  1. Cost: Depending on your insurance, you may have steep copays, deductibles and other unexpected expenses. On top of that, many insurance companies limit the number of sessions or types of treatments that are covered, so you may not be able to get what you need without paying out of pocket for it.
  1. Time: Traditional PT and other in-person treatments can be a big time commitment. In addition to the time for appointments, tack on travel time at each end, and you’re looking at an average commitment of at least a few hours per week.
  1. Inconvenience: Most clinics are open from 8 AM to 6 PM, and most doctor’s offices aren’t even open that late. If you’re lucky, you may find a facility that opens as early as 7 AM and closes as late as 8 PM. But naturally, early and late appointment times are highly coveted. With competition steep for those before and after work times, you may need to change your schedule or even miss work to make it to your appointments. And if you’re also juggling family commitments or childcare, things can become even more complicated. 
  1. Reliance on the healthcare system: Arguably, a healthcare provider’s most important job is to educate and empower you to better care for your health. Of course, these professionals are also trained in many different interventions that can help make you feel better. And while treatments like massage, assisted stretching, chiropractic adjustments, and other hands-on therapies have their place, they are just one piece of the recovery puzzle. After all, you can’t go to a PT, doctor or chiropractor forever.

If any of these challenges are familiar to you, you’re not alone. In fact, it’s quite common for these things to stand in the way of people getting the help they need. Here are some of the things that RecoveryOne members had to say about the challenges they faced before they decided to try RecoveryOne:

“I had also reached out to a chiropractor in my area, who had claimed he could heal me and eliminate my pain forever — for a price of over $2000, none of which would be covered by my insurance.” – Patrick S.

“…I probably would’ve continued to try to figure it out on my own, and then I would’ve ended up at a doctor, and who knows what that would’ve led to.” – Shannon K.

“I went to the local clinic, and they told me I needed surgery. I said, ‘No thanks, I’ll find another way.’ But, being a shift worker, going to PT was not an option for me.” – Andy G.

Lucky for us, healthcare continues to grow and evolve in response to these ever-present access challenges. Due in part to the pandemic and the persistent difficulties with traditional treatments, online back, joint and muscle care solutions have grown quickly and are starting to take their place alongside the traditional model in the world of physical therapy.

But is online physical therapy really a good alternative?

You are not alone if you’re a bit puzzled about how physical therapy can be done online. The confusion goes back to the perception of PT as a hands-on experience that always includes massage, stretching, dry needling and other manual therapies. 

But, arguably, a high-quality PT experience doesn’t have to include manual therapy at all. Instead, key factors like condition understanding, body/self-awareness, lifestyle changes, motivation and a good corrective exercise program play a much bigger role in deciding whether you’ll be successful with physical therapy or not. Because, after all, if you have the tools you need to understand and manage your health, you can consistently make better lifestyle choices and keep your condition under control long term.

So, online physical therapy is a lot like in-person PT minus hands-on therapy. This treatment model emphasizes education, corrective exercises and building your confidence to manage your conditions with lifestyle changes. Let’s explore each of these a little more:

  1. Education. Sometimes the most frustrating part about pain or an injury is not knowing what caused it or what to do. Having a basic understanding of your body’s anatomy and why you’re having pain can give you much power. For example, if your back is stiff and sore, you may feel like you want to bend forward to give it a good stretch. But did you know that repeated bending can sometimes be the CAUSE of back pain, and this stretch might actually make it worse? You don’t know what you don’t know; knowledge is power. Online physical therapy focuses on helping you understand your condition so you can be confident you are doing all the right things to address it!
  1. Corrective exercises. You may be familiar with the concept of exercise but may not be clear on what it means for exercises to be “corrective.” All this means is that when you have pain, some exercises usually help you correct the problem, and some will either do nothing or even make it worse (like the bending example above). But how are you supposed to know what exercises are “corrective?” You’re not! Physical therapists go to school for seven years or more so they can provide you with a top-notch program full of movements that act as “medicine” for your condition. Don’t go at it alone when help is only a few clicks away!
  1. Self-management and lifestyle changes. What happens when traditional PT or chiropractor treatments or doctor’s visits stop? It’s up to you to keep it managed! Online physical therapy solutions hand over the control to you so you can fill your toolbox with everything you need to stay as healthy as possible and keep your pain from returning or your condition from worsening. Some programs even add health coaching that can help you with things like motivation, behavior change and habit forming so you can take better care of your health as a whole!

Plus, the online physical therapy model addresses the challenges we explored earlier by reducing costs, improving convenience, cutting your time commitment and giving control to you. Not to mention that this treatment model can be done anytime, anywhere and is more likely to fit into your busy lifestyle. 

RecoveryOne is making PT more accessible for those who need it.

With over 200 programs developed by leading orthopedic professionals and licensed physical therapists, RecoveryOne gives you access to the care and support you need at home to recover on time. Your program can adapt to your lifestyle, so you don’t have to disrupt your schedule to squeeze in recovery time. If you have 20 minutes, three times per week, that’s what your program will be. If you want to do your exercises more often, you can adjust your program to accommodate that.

Because our model is 100% online, RecoveryOne does not rely on manual therapies to help you get better. And while we all may love a good massage, when it comes down to it, treatments that drive results are what we want, not short-term fixes. RecoveryOne’s programs are designed with carefully-chosen corrective exercises, health coaching and physical therapist support to give you everything you need to stay motivated, confidently address your condition and start feeling better. After all, the only treatment programs that work are the ones you can stick to!

Did I mention that, for eligible members, RecoveryOne is also available at no additional cost?

About the Author:

Written by Dr. Jess Cobb, PT, DPT. Jess is a licensed physical therapist with over six years of clinical experience in orthopedics. Jess is also a writer, educator and member of RecoveryOne’s marketing team. She’s passionate about helping people better understand their pain, manage their musculoskeletal conditions and confidently get back to the activities they love

This blog and its contents do not constitute medical advice specific to you or your condition. The information provided is for educational purposes only and should not be used for self-diagnosis. Consult a qualified professional for appropriate medical advice.

Why you shouldn’t let your back, joint and muscle pain go untreated.

Pain is one of the most common reasons that people seek medical care. But, for most of us, it can take persistent or worsening symptoms to finally admit that it’s time to do something about it. Many of us won’t even consider a trip to the doctor or other professional until the pain starts to impact our favorite activities, day-to-day lives, work or other obligations.

But what happens when pain goes untreated? Is it really a big deal to let it linger while you wait to see if it’ll go away on its own? Surprisingly, yes — while it may not seem like a problem to ignore back, joint or muscle pain for a while, it could make it even harder to get rid of and even make your symptoms more severe. This may be both surprising and concerning because so many of us have a habit of putting off treatment for nagging aches and pains. September is National Pain Awareness Month and we’re diving deeper into all things pain, including what it is, how prevalent it is, the science behind it and why getting early treatment is crucial to avoiding complications.  

So why is ignoring pain a bigger problem than we thought? Well, pain comes in many forms, and research shows that it’s actually quite complex. In fact, a whole field known as pain science has grown out of the study and management of pain. When pain lingers, science indicates that it can become more complicated and even more ingrained in both our physical and mental health.

So, what is pain?

The International Association for the Study of Pain defines it as “an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with, or resembling that associated with, actual or potential tissue damage.” According to this definition, pain isn’t just physical; it’s a genuine sensation that can result from your emotional circumstances. The other interesting part of this definition is that pain can be associated with actual or potential tissue damage.

Naturally, we can understand how pain is associated with actual tissue damage — you stub your toe on a piece of furniture, the tissues on your toe briefly get injured, and you feel a familiar pain. But does this definition imply that you can also experience pain at the mere thought of stubbing your toe on a piece of furniture? You may be wondering how “potential tissue damage” can cause pain — stay tuned as we explore this phenomenon.

Nearly 50% of Americans are dealing with musculoskeletal pain.

Many conditions cause people to experience pain, but musculoskeletal conditions like back, joint and muscle injuries are the most common cause of pain and disability in the United States. In fact, an estimated 1 in 2 Americans over 18 suffer from musculoskeletal conditions likely accompanied by pain.

What actually causes us to feel pain?

The answer to this question is not always clear. For years, scientists and medical professionals thought that pain had to be directly linked to actual tissue damage. But recent research has found that tissue damage and pain don’t always go hand-in-hand. We can experience pain without any tissue damage at all. 

Consider this head-scratcher of an example that is quite famous in the world of pain science — a study, originally published in the British Journal of Medicine in 1995, details the case of a builder that accidentally stepped on a large nail that went straight through his boot. His pain reaction was immediate, severe and obvious to his fellow workers and emergency medical professionals. But when he got to the hospital, and medical staff began to evaluate his injury, they found that the nail had gone between his toes and hadn’t pierced his foot at all. 

So how could he have felt so much pain without an actual injury? This is where the experience of pain gets very interesting. Research suggests that many factors beyond actual tissue damage can influence an individual’s experience of pain, including biological mechanisms, pain sensitivity, past personal experiences with pain and emotions. 

The difference between acute, subacute and chronic pain.

When pain first starts, it’s known as acute pain, which simply means that its only been present for a short time, usually no more than a few days. After these first few days, the pain or injury can be classified as subacute for a couple of weeks to months. With minor back, joint and muscle injuries, the subacute phase is often when most of the healing happens, and you start to feel better. But if the pain doesn’t begin to subside during this time, you risk developing chronic pain. 

Chronic pain is defined as pain lasting more than three months. When an injury or pain becomes chronic, it can start to have a long-term impact on your overall health and become more difficult to treat. Chronic conditions can be tough to cope with and are often complicated by other symptoms like anxiety, depression, difficulty sleeping and generalized fatigue. Another big difference between chronic and acute pain is the concept of pain sensitization. 

When you experience pain for a long time, your brain and spinal cord can develop a heightened sense of threat known as sensitization. When sensitized, your body can become overreactive to even the smallest stimulation, distorting your pain perception. In other words, things that wouldn’t usually be painful, now are because your body has become overly sensitive.

Untreated pain can become chronic and complicated.

When pain becomes chronic, you’re more likely to experience sensitization and mental health symptoms that complicate pain presentation and treatment. So, what was once a straightforward pain response related to tissue damage becomes an entangled web of physiological and psychological factors that all need to be addressed for meaningful, long-term relief.

None of this information is meant to scare you or make you run out to the doctor whenever you have the slightest pain. Sometimes a pain response is a good thing; it can be our body’s way of warning us and protecting us from further tissue damage. And some things in life just hurt for a short time, like stubbing your toe, bumping your funny bone or burning your hand on the stove. With these injuries, this tissue damage is obvious and barring any complications, the pain subsides as the tissue repairs itself. 

Pain is a bigger cause for concern when the reason for it is unclear, or it doesn’t get better even after the tissues have healed. If you have a new back, joint or muscle injury and your pain isn’t consistently improving after a couple of days to weeks, getting early treatment can help you heal faster and prevent it from becoming chronic or coming back in the future.

But what if you already have chronic pain or pain lasting more than three months? Is it a lost cause? Absolutely not. Chronic pain is treatable but usually requires a more comprehensive approach. Working with professionals to help you begin addressing the physical, mental and behavioral aspects of your pain is a great way to tackle a chronic back or joint condition.

RecoveryOne can help.

Online back and joint care from RecoveryOne is designed to help ease pain and get to the root cause. With over 200 research-based recovery programs, RecoveryOne offers solutions for the various types and stages of back, joint and muscle pain. So whether you have a new injury or you’ve had pain for a while, RecoveryOne likely has a personalized program that is right for you. 

RecoveryOne’s programs can help you expedite the healing process for acute and subacute injuries so you can start feeling better faster. Getting early treatment can help you avoid chronic pain and limit the impact an injury has on your life. RecoveryOne also offers professional support with certified health coaches and our physical therapist support team. For chronic pain, RecoveryOne’s multidisciplinary approach, including health coaching, professional advice and personalized exercise therapy, can help you uncomplicate your pain and get on a path to a healthier you.

And, the best part — for eligible members, RecoveryOne is available at no additional cost and can be conveniently done from the comfort of home. To get started, check to see if you’re covered today.

About the Author:

Written by Dr. Jess Cobb, PT, DPT. Jess is a licensed physical therapist with over six years of clinical experience in orthopedics. Jess is also a writer, educator and member of RecoveryOne’s marketing team. She’s passionate about helping people better understand their pain, manage their musculoskeletal conditions and confidently get back to the activities they love

This blog and its contents do not constitute medical advice specific to you or your condition. The information provided is for educational purposes only and should not be used for self-diagnosis. Consult a qualified professional for appropriate medical advice.

Arthritis risk increases with age, but joint pain doesn’t have to

Many people think joint pain and arthritis are inevitable in aging. For this reason, being told you have arthritis can feel a little bit like a lost cause. But what if it’s not? Read on to explore available arthritis treatment options, debunk a few arthritis myths and learn why you may not be able to blame your joint pain on old age anymore.

What is arthritis?

Arthritis is pain, stiffness or swelling in the joints. A joint is a part of the body where bones come together to allow movement. There are over 300 joints in the human body. Most of the body’s major joints have cartilage, a cushion-like structure between the bones that promotes smooth movement and prevents friction. Arthritis can cause damage to the bones and cartilage within the joint. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), in 2015, over 23% of adults in the U.S. were diagnosed with some form of arthritis. By 2040, the CDC projects that this number will increase to nearly 26% of U.S. adults. And these statistics reflect only adults who have been to their doctor for a formal diagnosis – the number of U.S. adults with arthritis is likely to be even higher.  

To complicate things further, there are over 100 different arthritis-related joint conditions, the most common being osteoarthritis (OA). According to the CDC, OA affects over 32 million Americans, is a leading cause of disability and was the second most costly condition treated in U.S. hospitals in 2013. It’s the most common cause of joint pain and the type of arthritis most people are familiar with. 

OA is associated with general wear and tear of the joint, which happens more as you get older. It’s also possible for OA to come on earlier in life because of a previous injury. With OA, the joint’s cartilage can break down over time, causing swelling, pain and damage to the bone surfaces. When the cartilage wears down enough, the bones can rub on each other — hence the phrase “bone-on-bone” that many people use when describing arthritis. OA is very common in weight-bearing joints and joints that allow a lot of movement, including the neck, back, hands, knees, hips and feet.

Good news: everyone ages, but not everyone has joint pain.

The risk of developing OA increases as you age. But we all get older, so why do some people have more arthritis than others? And, why do some lucky people manage to avoid joint pain altogether?

Research suggests that aging is just one of many factors contributing to arthritis and joint pain. There is no question that your muscles and joints change as you get older. But the human body has an amazing ability to adjust and restore balance to reduce the impact of these age-related changes. So it is possible to have minimal joint damage when you get older if you give your body the care it needs to make those adjustments.

It is also possible to have signs of arthritis (as seen on imaging like an X-Ray or MRI) and not have any joint pain. One study published in the British Journal of Medicine found that 43% of people over 40 had obvious knee joint or cartilage damage on imaging without any reported knee pain or injury. This number increased to almost 75% for individuals over 70. Other studies have found similar outcomes for the spine and hip. 

So, as expected, more people get arthritis as they get older – but not everyone does. And more importantly, even when imaging shows arthritis in a joint, many people still have no pain. 

So, if getting old doesn’t necessarily cause joint pain, what does?

Genetics. You may be more likely to get painful arthritis if it runs in your family.

Previous injury or surgery. Injuries in your youth can show up again as you get older. This is particularly true for major joint injuries or previous surgeries, which can contribute to early-onset or more severe OA.

Obesity. Being overweight or obese increases your risk of arthritis and joint pain. Additional body weight places increased strain and stress on the joints.

Weakness. The muscles surrounding your joints work to stabilize them. So, muscle weakness can cause your joints to become unstable, causing more strain and increasing your risk of injury and arthritis.

Poor mobility. Arthritis can cause swelling, stiffness and reduced range of motion in your joints. Often, this increased stiffness is a protective reaction by the body to reduce the risk of injury. A stiff joint experiences stress differently and often develops further irritation and joint damage.

More good news: Joint pain can get better.

One of the reasons arthritis is so defeating is because it seems like nothing can be done about it. But now we know that it’s possible to have arthritis and NOT have joint pain. So, you may not be able to get rid of your arthritis, but you can decrease your joint pain. 

Here are some things you can try:

  1. Be active: Moving can help reduce joint stiffness and improve physical health.
  2. Physical therapy (PT): PT can help by addressing some of the major factors contributing to joint pain, including swelling, weakness, joint stiffness and poor postural habits.
  3. Weight loss: losing weight can help reduce the strain on your joints.
  4. Medications: over-the-counter anti-inflammatories, medicated creams and other prescription medications can help reduce joint pain symptoms.
  5. Supportive devices: using a cane, walker, brace, or other devices can help reduce joint stress, improve your stability and reduce pain.
  6. Surgery: total joint replacement surgery can remove the damaged joint and decrease pain.

RecoveryOne for joint pain

Just because you have arthritis doesn’t mean you have to live with pain. But if you do have pain, resist the urge to simply blame it on old age. Chances are that there are other factors at play. RecoveryOne offers convenient, online physical therapy with proven exercise programs and 1-on-1 health coaching to help address these contributing factors and get you on the right path to recovery.

RecoveryOne’s joint care programs are designed to help you get stronger, increase your mobility and help you get back to the things you love. Start by talking to a licensed physical therapist to better understand your unique condition and figure out which program is the right fit for your joint pain. And, because you can do RecoveryOne entirely online, you’ll be able to fit exercises into your schedule and make your program work for your lifestyle. 

About the Author: 

Written by Dr. Jess Cobb, PT, DPT. Jess is a licensed physical therapist with over six years of clinical experience in orthopedics. Jess is also a writer, educator and member of RecoveryOne’s marketing team. She’s passionate about helping people better understand their pain, manage their musculoskeletal conditions and confidently get back to the activities they love! 

This blog and its contents do not constitute medical advice specific to you or your condition. The information provided is for educational purposes only and should not be used for self-diagnosis. Consult a qualified professional for appropriate medical advice.