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Your Guide to Heavy Lifting
last updated:
Thu, 9/23/2010 2:11 PM
Well, we have sold our house and began moving into an apartment. I have been watching the movers move our furniture and the physical therapist in me has begun teaching those who lift-for-a-living proper body mechanics because I saw many back injuries in the making and this job is their living. So, I want to share these same proper body mechanics with you because it is so important to protect your back and use the proper technique and body structures to lift so you don't injure yourself.

First, it is important to pay attention to your spine and posture when lifting. A neutral spine must be maintained with lifting to prevent the injury. A neutral spine has 3 normal curves- 1. neck 2. middle of back, and 3. lower back. To practice maintaining a neutral spine take a cane or dowel rod and place the stick down your spine. The top end must stay in contact with the back of your head and the bottom end should rest at your tailbone area. Holding the stick against your back, bend at the hips forward. Now begin to bend your knees and squat as if you are sitting down. Your knees should not pass your toes. Your bottom should be sticking out behind you. So..1. Maintain neutral spine, 2. bend at hips 3. squat by bending knees and then lift.

Lifting tips to prevent injury

  1. Check to see how heavy the load is you will be carrying.
  2. Make sure the load is close to your body when carrying the item.
  3. Move your feet apart, bow at hips, squat by bending knees and lift by using your buttocks and legs to push up to straight posture.
  4. Keep the stomach muscles tight and maintain a neutral spine.
  5. To lower the load perform the bow, squat and sticking your buttocks out behind you bending your knees as you lower the load. 
  6. It is eaiser to load and unload at waist height.
  7. If there is pushing or pulling involved, PUSH DO NOT PULL.

I hope these tips help you protect yourself when lifting or carrying items so you do not experience the pain from a back injury.

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Dawn Caldwell is a Physical Therapist in Memphis, Tennessee with Methodist Healthcare. All opinions expressed here are those of their authors and not of their employer. Information provided here is for medical education only. It is not intended as and does not substitute for medical advice. Call 888.777.5959 for more information.

Fall Prevention Tips for Elderly Patients
last updated:
Mon, 5/24/2010 10:00 AM
As a home health physical therapist, I go in and assess and teach patients and family members how to prevent falls. Each time I make a visit I reinforce these tips:
  1. Use nightlights 
  2. Keep walkways clear especially to bathroom
  3. Have patients wear slippers, shoes, or slipper socks with rubber treads when up walking for greater traction 
  4. Encourage patients to try to get up slowly. Sit for a moment and do ankle pumps to prevent dizziness from blood pressure dropping and promote circulation so when he/she stands the blood pressure does not drop lower 
  5. Use a walker or cane to stabilize your balance for support if there is a problem with unsteadiness. 
  6. Use a temporary bedside commode at night if alone or at risk of falling. 
  7. Some may need to use nighttime incontinence pads to improve confidence and reduce the need to rush to the toilet. 
  8. Use a baby monitor in the bedroom so if a patient calls for help the one assisting can hear easily and provide needed help. 
  9. If the patient is alone always keep a portable phone so if there is emergency or problem he/she has security to reach someone quickly.

Something to keep in mind that if your elderly family member is having falls and not sure why talk with the physician about ruling out a UTI (urinary tract infection).

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Dawn Caldwell is a Physical Therapist in Memphis, Tennessee with Methodist Healthcare. All opinions expressed here are those of their authors and not of their employer. Information provided here is for medical education only. It is not intended as and does not substitute for medical advice.

7 Ways to Prepare for Physical Therapy
last updated:
Thu, 4/08/2010 3:40 PM

Hello. I am Dawn Caldwell, PT. I have worked as a physical therapist for 19 years and work in the homecare environment with my patients. Some people refer to PT as pain and torture but it refers to a physical therapist. There are some things you should know before you are referred to physical therapy. 

If you go to your doctor with a problem and he says, "we are going to try some physical therapy to help you," you need to educate and prepare yourself so you know what to expect. Here are some ways to be ready for that first physical therapy visit:

  1. Ask your doctor what type of therapy you will be doing and what to expect.
  2. If you have a specific problem like a wound, fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis, lymphodema, chronic pain, stroke, orthopaedic problem, then ask the doctor who he recommends because therapists have different training, specialties and certifications. 
  3. Ask your friends if they have had physcial therapy, what their experience was and if they would recommend their physical therapist. You must still be referred by your doctor, but this will give you a name to start with.
  4. Go and visit the facility. When you make your appointment, do it in person and meet the therapist. Look around and see if the facility is clean, see if the therapists give the patients one on one, or if it is like a gym and fitness center.  
  5. Make sure your insurance covers the physical therapy and the clinic where you were referred. See what your out of pocket expense will be. 
  6. Before your appointment for your evaluation, write down your problem in detail.  Therapist are usually good listeners and like facts on your history, medications, sleeping patterns, recent changes in activity, what can you do and don’t do, why are you here for therapy—in addition to the fact that the doctor sent you. 
  7. Think about your goal. What do you want to accomplish? What is the realistic outcome of therapy? Communicate all this with your therapist because it will help establish a plan of care that will meet your needs.

When you arrive for your first physical therapy appointment, wear comfortable clothes and athletic shoes for your evaluation and therapy sessions. Relax and talk to your therapist. It is important that you feel comfortable talking to him or her about what is going on. I have talked with patients and found that the reason for the cramps or pain in their legs might be due to not taking their potassium as ordered, that another doctor has ordered a new medicine with pain as a side effect, not sleeping at night. When they saw the doctor this was not addressed.

So, the most important thing you can do is COMMUNICATE with your physical therapist and your doctor so you can get the best treatment for yourself.

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Dawn Caldwell is a Physical Therapist with Methodist Healthcare. All opinions expressed here are those of their authors and not of their employer. Information provided here is for medical education only. It is not intended as and does not substitute for medical advice.

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Methodist Healthcare is an integrated health care delivery system, dedicated to the art of healing through our faith-based commitment to minister to the whole person. 1211 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee 38104 • (901) 516-7000

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