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Medication isn’t the only way to relieve pain.

After an injury or accident, or while experiencing chronic pain, you might try over-the-counter pain relievers or get a prescription for more powerful drugs. Both kinds of pain relievers, however, can have side effects. If you’re going through rehabilitation and dealing with pain, you might want to consider alternative pain relief methods.

Relaxation Techniques

Methods of relaxing the body can reduce pain, especially chronic pain. Some of the specific techniques for achieving relief include:

  • Mindfulness meditation – This calls for focusing only on the current moment, and not judging any thoughts, feelings, or sensations in the body—such as pain.
  • Breathing exercise – This focused breathing is meant to relieve pain. It requires paying close attention to each inhale and exhale, which should be as deep as possible. During breathing exercises, practitioners are encouraged to keep their shoulders and stomach relaxed.
  • Progressive relaxation – Starting at either the top of the head or the toes, patients tighten and then relax the muscles in each major region of the body.
  • Hypnosis – Done either with a trained practitioner or alone, a sequence of steps leads a patient into deep relaxation.

Acupuncture

Acupuncture has been used in China for several thousand years to reduce pain. A doctor places thin metal needles into points on the surface of the skin that correspond to the part of the body experiencing pain. Acupuncture has been to shown to help with:

  • Lower-back pain
  • Neck pain
  • Certain headaches

Supplements

A number of supplements are thought to help pain, especially the pain of osteoarthritis. Some of these include:

  • Capsaicin, the chemical in hot peppers that gives them their heat
  • SAM-e, an amino acid
  • Fish oil, which helps reduce inflammation
  • Glucosamine and chondroitin, which, when taken together, are especially helpful with severe knee arthritis.

Cognitive Therapy

This form of therapy, initially developed to treat various psychological conditions, has also been shown to help patients cope with chronic pain.

When you need rehabilitation to ease pain and restore mobility, Therapy Services at North Hills Hospital are ready to help. For more information about both inpatient and outpatient services, call (817) 255-1672.

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Hear from Alison Parnell, a physical therapist at North Hills Hospital, about ways to improve your posture.

Good posture means that the three natural curves in our spine are in a neutral position. In other words, your spine should not be too rounded or arched. This is important in our everyday activities because the neutral position places the least amount of stress on the body’s tissues. The neutral position also optimizes breathing, circulation and overall function by reducing strain or overuse. Faulty posture can lead to abnormal wear of joints and pain since muscles and ligaments are not working in their optimal position. Muscles and ligaments tend to fatigue more quickly, too.

What Causes Faulty Posture?
Contributors to a faulty posture include a sedentary lifestyle and osteoporosis. Although osteoporosis causes decreased bone density, supplements, diet and exercise can decrease the impact of this disease. For those with a sedentary lifestyle and those with osteoporosis, posture can be improved by strengthening core muscles and increasing flexibility.

How Can Posture Be Improved?
One of the easiest ways to start working on your posture is to sit tall and straight, as if a string is pulling your head toward the ceiling. However, it is important to ensure that you're not overarching your spine when you do this.

To find your neutral spine in sitting, first slouch as much as you can, bringing your shoulders towards your hips, then arch your back as far as you can. Now find the middle of both positions — that is your neutral spine. To help you maintain this position, it is important that your core muscles are able to hold you there for extended periods of time.

One of the most effective exercises to achieve a neutral spine is an abdominal brace. Think of pulling your belly button in toward your spine, without allowing your chest to move. Also be sure to breathe throughout the exercise, as it is easy to forget when holding your stomach in. Hold this for 5 seconds and do 10 at a time. Repeat 2-3 times a day.

For those of you who must sit most of the day, it is important to get up and move around about every 30 minutes. While sitting, you will need a chair with a good lumbar support. Your feet should be flat on the floor or on a stool if unable to reach the floor. Your weight needs to be distributed evenly between your hips. Be sure to keep your shoulders in a relaxed and back position.

Would you like to learn more about Therapy Services at North Hills Hospital? Be sure to visit us online or call 1-855-5NHILLS for a physician referral.

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Fast Facts About Hand Therapy

Knee Injury Prevention Tips from the Experts

This post is part of our series meant to encourage women in various stages of their lives to tune out the noise of society’s demands and find a balance that works for them, which in turn makes their whole families much healthier.

Meet Jennifer – single mom of two, full time physical therapist and community volunteer.

Hi Jennifer! Tell us a little about your family:
I am a physical therapist full time at North Hills Hospital and single parent to two daughters, ages 14 and 11.  I regularly volunteer at River Legacy Living Science Center and Mission Arlington.

What tips do you have for managing your time in the midst of so many responsibilities?
I make lists and keep a detailed calendar.  The list will show what needs to be done today and what can wait.

What are your best tips (or tricks) to get your family to eat healthy?
My daughters help with meal planning and grocery shopping.  When we go to the store, they each get to choose one item.  Last time the older one chose asparagus and the younger daughter cauliflower.  I encourage them to try different things and we find new recipes to try.

How has being a mom made you view sleep/rest differently?
I still make time to get plenty of rest so I can take care of what tomorrow will bring.  This might mean that something may not get done that day, but I will feel better the next day. Rest helps me to stay healthy and avoid illness.

What does a balanced life for you look like?
Having enough time for family, exercise, work and volunteering. 

What advice do you have for fellow women?
Make sure and make time for yourself to do the things you want.  Find out what is important to you.  This will help keep the balance and maintain your sanity.

In honor of organized women like Jennifer, we wanted to give you a free meal planning and grocery list download. Just click on the image to download your very own! This is only intended for personal use – not for resale.

What about you? What other tools do you use to stay organized while running a busy house? We’d love for you to share in the comments, or linke to your own blog post with some good tips.

Learn more about the benefits and importance of hand therapy

Chances are you used your hands to click open this blog post. In fact, your hands have probably been hard at work all day accessing information on the computer, tackling daily chores and assisting with almost every single thing that you do. We know the importance of caring for hands, and here at North Hills Hospital, we offer hand therapy for a number of debilitating conditions.

In honor of Healthy Hands Week, Heidi Hutchings, an occupational therapist and certified hand therapist at North Hills Hospital, has shared five interesting facts about hand therapy.

Did you know …

1. Hand therapy treats upper extremity disorders including:

  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Fractures of the upper extremity
  • DeQuervain's
  • Trigger fingers
  • Trauma to tendons
  • Burns
  • Dupuytren's contracture
  • Dislocations
  • Boutonniere deformity
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Infections
  • Nerve compression syndromes (tennis elbow, golfers elbow, cubital tunnel, carpal tunnel syndrome)
  • Amputations and replantations
  • Birth defects
  • Rotator cuff disorders
  • Bursitis
  • Tendonitis
  • Thoracic outlet syndrome

2. A CHT is a certified hand therapist, and each therapist must have 4,000 hours of experience with treating upper extremity (shoulder, elbow, wrist and hand) diagnosis. Therapists must also pass an extensive examination process.

3. There are only 5400 CHTs in the world.

4. Hand surgeons refer patients to CHTs because they have specialized knowledge about the complex nature of the anatomy in the hand and upper extremities. They also know which repeated therapies and exercises can effectively treat various conditions.

5. Along with hand therapy, North Hills Hospital offers patients physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech / swallowing therapy and wound care. As a result, a comprehensive plan for hand care and recovery can be created for each patient's individual condition.

For more information about our inpatient and outpatient hand therapy services, contact us at (817) 255-1672. For a physician referral at North Hills Hospital, please call 1-855-5NHILLS.

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Knee Injury Prevention Tips from the Experts
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Whether you're an athlete recovering from a sports incident or a patient recovering from an unfortunate fall, knee injuries can be extremely debilitating and painful. Mobility and daily activities become limited due to pain and internal damage in the knee. To prevent these types of injuries from happening, we would like to offer some important insight about knee injuries and how you can prevent them. We spoke to Rebecca Thomann, North Hills Hospital's Joint Replacement Program Coordinator and a physical therapist, to find out more about knee injury diagnosis, treatment and care.

What are the most common knee injuries?
They include:

  • Strains of various ligaments around the knee including Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), Posterior Cruciate Ligament (PCL), Lateral Collateral (LCL), Medical Collateral (MCL).
  • Tears of various ligaments around the knee including ACL, PCL, LCL, MCL
  • Meniscus tears (lateral and/or medial) or torn cartilage in the knee
  • Patellar (knee cap) dislocations
  • Fractures
  • Patella femoral syndrome (pain on the inside of the knee and below the kneecap)
  • IT band friction syndrome (pain on the outside of the knee)

Who experiences the most common knee injuries?
Knee injuries occur at all ages. Generally, osteoarthritis type knee injuries occur most often in older populations. High school and College aged females are most likely to sustain an ACL tear (ligament in the knee). Eighty percent of knee injuries result from torn ACLs (which is a tear in a ligament found in the knee). One in 3,000 people will face an ACL tear in their lifetime. Those who play sports that include cutting and other fast changes in direction have an increased risk for knee injuries. These sports include soccer, basketball, volleyball, and tennis.  Also sports with high levels of contact such as football increase the risk of knee injury.

When do you know your knee injury is serious?
If your knee isn't functioning as it should, be sure to seek medical treatment. Serious knee damage is likely when people:

  • Can't put weight on the knee
  • Struggle with their knees giving out or locking
  • Can't climb stairs without experiencing pain
  • Do not have a full knee range of motion

How do you treat knee injuries?
Injured knees need to be rested to reduce swelling, along with the following:

  • Protection
  • Rest
  • Ice
  • Compression
  • Elevation
  • Modalities
  • Medicine
  • Support

Other treatment options include prescribed medication, physical therapy and surgery. For those struggling with osteoarthritis, some alternate knee treatment options would include:

  • Physical therapy (often including aquatics)
  • Injections from a physician
  • Minimally invasive arthroscopic knee surgery
  • Total knee replacement (followed by several weeks of physical therapy)

When is surgery needed to treat a knee injury?
Knee injuries must be considered on a case-by-case basis to determine whether they should be treated with physical therapy, surgery or a combination of both. Surgery is always the last resort and may not be the best treatment for the specific injury. Physical therapy can help the knee build more strength, which takes pressure off injured ligaments, cartilage, or bone. Therapy can also help retrain muscles to ensure proper firing of the muscles and aid in the symmetry of muscle forces allowing decreased strain to the tendons and ligaments.

Ligament tears are considered for surgery more often in younger patients but, even then, may only be considered if physical therapy has not improved their condition.

Cartilage tears are often treated with arthroscopic surgery to clear away floating debris or help improve the knee's function. Physical therapy typically follows to help rebuild muscles around the knee for maximized support.

Breaks may require surgery if pins are needed to keep bones in place during the healing process. Otherwise, using the self-treatments above, followed by physical therapy, is beneficial.

Older patients with knee conditions due to osteoarthritis may be good candidates for arthroscopy or joint replacement surgery. These are considered on a case-by-case basis and only if all other treatment options have been exhausted.

How can I prevent knee injury?
Our expert suggests the following tips to avoid unnecessary pain and damage from knee injury:

  • Train for the activity you plan to do.
  • Cross train, which includes strength training, stretching, core training, and proprioception activities. IF participating in cutting sports, you should include plyometrics in your cross training routine.
  • When training, watch your alignment carefully. Your feet, knees, hips and shoulders should line up.
  • If you are a long-distance runner, watch how fast you increase your mileage. It should increase no more than 10% a week.
  • If you have pain, stop what you are doing.
  • Stay active and make physical fitness a priority.
  • Ask for advice! North Hills Hospital's physical therapists can train you in injury prevention or help you get started on an exercise program that is right for you.
  • If you are in a high-risk sport for ACL tears, such as soccer, basketball, volleyball, or football, we have a therapist certified in an ACL tear prevention program that is backed by research (Sportsmetics).
  • We are a certified Joint Replacement Hospital by JACHO.

North Hills Hospital provides the Northeast Tarrant County community top-notch therapy services to assist patients on an inpatient and outpatient basis. We offer physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech / swallowing therapy, and wound care. To find out more about patient therapy options, please visit us online or call 1-855-5NHILLS for a physician referral.