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Welcome to Health and Fitness 101, a blog for people who enjoy the Montana lifestyle.
The aim of our blog is to interpret, distill, and then deliver to you the threads that bind physical medicine with applicable health and fitness ideas and principles.
It's all about helping to connect the dots that foster optimal human function and, ultimately, superior performance. Feel better. Perform better.

Missoula Area Events

The Upshot of Physical Activity for Slowing Cognitive Decline in the Elderly

Alpine Physical Therapist, Brace Hayden, DPT , with the help of his esteemed co-worker, MS Graduate Candidate in Exercise Physiology, Laura Porisch, had the chance to present at the annual conference for the joint Montana Geriatric Society and the Governor’s Council on Aging last week in Helena. This was a  3-day conference entitled “Insights into Alzheimer’s Disease” with a variety of speakers and panel discussions on the looming topic of how do we prepare for the silver tsunami of aging baby boomers…losing their mind, or at least a large part of their memory and cognitive function.

Startling epidemiology reports published in a 2014 Neurolology journal estimate that the size of the older  population (over 65) will double over the next 25 years, growing to 70 million by 2030. The US could expect a 44 – 70% increase in the prevalence of Alzheimer’s Disease, with an estimated 7.7 million people affected in the next 10-15 years. The growing prevalence of Alzheimer’s Disease is estimated to soon affect every 1 in 8 Americans over 65 years old. Our fine state of Montana can expect an 81% increase in those affected by this neurological degeneration condition with numbers projected upwards of 29,000 in 2025.

Brace Hayden has a special interest in the Missoula community working with the often elderly population on balance, vestibular therapy (dizziness management) and the business of falls prevention. He jumped at the opportunity when asked to present at this statewide, multi-practitioner and lay public attended conference on the topic of “The Benefits of Physical Activity to Slow Cognitive Decline”, as fit/well-balanced seniors are near and dear to his PT heart. Preparing 110 slides over a 3 month period for a 90 minute presentation, on a topic he knew little about was his own dementia reduction physical exercise for the Spring.

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The take-home message of the presentation was performing a routine cardiovascular exercise program 5 days per week for 20 – 60 minutes, has many “neuroprotective” health benefits. Increasing circulation and stimulation to your brain and body as you age not only can improve your chances of avoiding neurological illnesses like Alzheimer’s Disease, but it helps reduce many other health complications like obesity, diabetes, heart disease and strokes.  So if you want to improve your chances of living a longer, healthier life, get out for some daily exercise. Your long-term physical, immune-system and cognitive health will benefit greatly.

For more information, visit our Vestibular and Balance at Alpine webpage by clicking here.

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RWM Members Get Their Pre Missoula Marathon Run on With Alpine Physical Therapy

Here’s an update from one of our running specialists at Alpine, Matt Schweitzer, DPT, OCS, CSCS.

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A couple weeks back, a group of runners gathered at Alpine Physical Therapy’s North location (by Jonnny Carino’s) for a beautiful morning run. When the runners finished their training run, a group of five of Alpine’s physical therapists and one athletic trainer were stationed by to help the runners prepare for the upcoming Missoula Marathon.

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The runners’ had their flexibility tested, core strength measured, and were tested using our new force plates. Runners learned new stretches, received exercises to increase core strength, and got to see if there was an imbalance with side to side stance on the force plates.

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This was a super fun event, and everybody walked away with some things to work on with their training for the upcoming Missoula Marathon!

Painfree IS the New Normal

Nearly every day in my physical therapy practice, I hear patients tell me their pain “is from old age.” Until I tell them that I had a 20-year-old in just before them with the same complaints.

And then they say, “Well, I figured it would just get better by its self.”

Like the lady who had mid back pain for 20 years. A single maneuver in PT, and 20 years’ worth of pain . . . gone!

Too often, people experience pain, think it’s normal, and choose to live with it . . . for a long, long time. It’s not normal. Why?

Pain is telling you something. Listen to it.

After 23 years in practice, I am pleased to see so many new approaches and technologies available to people as never before. The result?

Painfree IS the new normal.

People are finding fast and effective solutions through physical therapy. They’re choosing to do something about it.

I encourage you to do the same. Call us at Alpine Physical Therapy.

  • South 251-2323
  • North 541-2606
  • Downtown 549-0064

Get your solution today.

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Star Alpine Physical Therapist’s Boston Marathon Memory: Part 2

Congratulations to Alpine’s Dennis McCrea, PT for stepping out and taking on this years’ Boston Marathon. Here’s Part 2 of Dennis’ story.

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Marathon Monday arrived with clouds and wind. I went through my usual routine of stretching and foam rolling and eating an early breakfast. My start time was not until 10:50 AM ,so I did not need to get up in the wee hours of the morning. I dressed for the expected rainy, windy conditions. My wife, Jodie, gave me a good luck kiss, and off to the train I went into Boston to check in my gear bag and get on the bus to the starting line in Hopkinton. On the way to the start, the rain began. So much for later in the day. No turning back now. The bus ride was very loud with everybody talking from nervous energy and excitement. I chose to read the Boston Globe sports section.

We were dropped off at the high school athletic fields in Hopkinton. Now because I tried to stay hydrated all morning, the 45-minute bus ride made it necessary to head for a Porta Potty. So standing in line for 20 min was already testing my endurance. I looked around me at the site, and it appeared to be somewhat of a refugee camp with runners crammed into tents to stretch, eating and waiting for the announcer to call for their wave color to walk the 1/2 mi to the starting line. One last Porta Potty stop and the call came for the blue wave came I was in.  Along the way I had to get rid of my outer layer of nice warm sweats and donate them to Big Brothers and Sisters. Of course as soon as I got rid of them the rain came down a wee bit harder. More endurance as we walked and waited to start.

The start was slow with the mass of runners trying to get moving. What struck me as odd is that about half of the runners were dressed as if it was a 70 degree sunny day instead of the 40 degree, windy, rainy day that it was. They were much hardier than me for sure. I kept in mind the advice of the runner I spoke with on the plane, which was to avoid starting out to fast . . . and slow it down on the downhills. It didn’t take long before I realized the rolling hill type of course that it was, not steep hills but a constant rise and fall. This could be trouble for the ol’ quads eventually.

Leaving Hopkinton and by the time I got to the next town of Ashland, I realized what makes this marathon so special– the thousands of people cheering you along the way and cheering at times in a down pour. As I reached the heart of each town the crowds grew in number and the cheers grew louder. It is all part of their tradition I guess. On through Framingham and Natick and to the half way point of the marathon at Wellsley. Then I heard loud cheers at mile 12 as I entered Wellsley. It was the “Wellsey girls” at mile 13 from Wellsley College and the volume of their cheers and screams increased every step of the way. It was as the runner said, you won’t understand until you experience it. It definitely gave me a boost of energy for the hills of Newton.

The hills of Newton are not steep, they are just a series of hills culminating with Heartbreak Hill at around mile 20, and then it is pretty much all downhill to the finish. So going up the hills was fine; it was the down hill that my quads were not happy with at this point in the race, even though I kept my pace at 9-minute miles. Meanwhile as I entered Newton and Brookline, the crowds got larger and larger, which kept me going as the rain and head winds kept up.

In Brookline at Mile 23 I got another boost of energy as I got a kiss from my wife, Jodie, and headed off to the finish line. As I neared the last mile, the crowd’s cheers got louder, and when I turned on to Boylston street for the final 3 blocks, the cheers were deafening. What a great feeling!  And my first thought when I crossed the finish line was, “I did it and it was over, thank goodness.” A long cold half mile walk to get my dry clothes and change, and life was much better. My quads did not think so, but I could get out of the chair in the changing tent better than some.

It was a great experience because of the enthusiasm and spirit of the people of Boston and the surrounding towns. And that is what I will remember most–the people. I did take time to people-watch and to take in all the joy and enthusiasm of the people along the marathon and actually see the sights along the way. Will I do it again? No, I don’t think so. I am not a marathon enthusiast. It was a bucket list thing, so now it’s time to move on to something else on the list. But I hope to get back to Boston and take in more of the city, its people, and its history. It is a remarkable place. But so is Missoula, and as always, it is great to be back in Missoula.

Dennis McCrea, PT

Star Alpine Physical Therapist’s Boston Marathon Memory: Part 1

Congratulations to Alpine’s Dennis McCrea, PT for stepping out and taking on this years’ Boston Marathon. Here’s Part One of Dennis’ story.

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Traveling to Boston makes the Race finally seem like a reality. It is a long training period, and the race day seems so far away.

There were a lot of people on the plane wearing B.A.A.(Boston Athletic Association) Boston Marathon windbreakers. I visited with John who had run Boston 7 times, which was not unusual for those that I had met. He said it was hard to describe what the race is like until a person runs it. He gave me some good advice to avoid starting out too fast, which was easy to do with the energy from the crowds and the early down hill portions of the course. He said it would catch up to me by mile 20, and my legs would be shot. He also said the “Wellsley girls” at the half way point and the crowds towards the end of the race would give me the boost I would need to finish the race.

I asked runners who had run Boston in 2013 when the bombing occurred and what that was like and the common statement was “it was so senseless”.

Crowds were every where in Boston. With 30,000 runners and their family and friends a lot of  have descended on Boston. The subway is packed, especially when the Red Sox play. Long lines to pick up my Bib number. The runner’s Expo with all of the vendors at the convention center was also packed as were the restaurants.

My wife and I did get to see some of Boston, a beautiful and historic city, and we got to see the Red Sox play in the classic Fenway Park where they play. People were so friendly every where we went and were so helpful in giving us directions. I would like to return just to spend more time there.

We stayed in Brookline, 3 miles from the finish line near Coolidge Corner. It’s a quiet area but also a lot of shops and restaurants nearby. Brookline is the birthplace of JFK and near Boston University, home of the Terriers and runner up in the 2015 NCAA hockey championship game. Easy 30 minute jogs each day, stretching, foam rolling, keeping hydrated and protein and carbs in me.

The weather has been great, but always a cool breeze it seems off the water. I kept an eye on the weather reports, and they kept saying that on Marathon Monday the weather was going to change to rain and increased winds as a storm was coming up from the South. The rain was not supposed to arrive until later in the day, however. I was anxious for Marathon Monday to arrive.

Dennis McCrea, PT

Effectiveness of Physical Therapy Exercises for Knee Pain

Special thanks to star physical therapist Brace Hayden, DPT, CSCS of Alpine Physical Therapy for providing this write up on a recent article from Physical Therapy.

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Let’s face it, walking or climbing up and down stairs, moreover prolonged or pounding exercise can make our knees hurt. So why would anyone want to do more exercises to actually reduce knee pain?

Dr. Clijsen and is Swiss team of  academic research scientists and physical therapists were determined to find the effectiveness of physical therapy exercises for reducing a knee pain, as there is limited research to the incidence of this prevalent problem. They were specifically interested in a common type of knee pain known as ‘Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome’ (PFPS) that hits 15% to 45% of active adolescents and adults under the knee cap.

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Most people over the age of 13 have probably felt a twang of pain or a dull ache on the front of their knee under or under their knee cap when hiking down hills or stairs. The cluster of symptoms associated with PFPS is knee pain with running, squatting, stairs, or more strenuous weight-bearing exercise. It is more common in women than men. This syndrome is also known to be ‘self-limiting’, as reducing the provocative motions, naturally improves the knee’s unhappy status.

So what should you do to improve knee pain associated with squatting or stairs? What if I want to stay in shape by running or playing field sports, but my knees do not enjoy the impact? Often, people get in to see their physical therapist for assessing why the knee is in pain and then commit to improving their function with therapeutic exercises.

The cause for pain behind the knee cap can be coming from any number of problems or multiple issues combined. Faulty alignment of the leg joints, insufficient muscle strength, sport training errors and overly tight muscles are the bulk of the prevailing theories on why the knee is overstressed and pained. Correcting each individuals’ “patient reported measures of activity limitations and participation restrictions” by assessing their body mechanical and movement faults is often the goal of doing specific exercises to improve the PFPS.

This research study looked at a comprehensive review of 15 high-quality studies with a total of 748 male and female subjects with pain in their knee cap area. Based on the results of this systematic study, exercise therapy appeared to be an important plan of action to help achieve knee pain and functional improvements.

For example, could a 25 year old female with knee pain during and after track practice (or ‘activity limitation and participation restriction’) improve her discomfort with eight weeks of PT doing resisted leg extensions, hip girdle strengthening and using electrical stimulation over her quadriceps muscle? The verdict looks promising.

This study concluded that exercise therapy was effectively strong at reducing pain and getting participants back into their sporty activities. However, the question of which target exercises their therapist opted to use to yield the strongest effect to diminish their pain and boost their function remains unanswered.

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Ron Clijsen, PhD, et al, Effectiveness of Exercise Therapy in Treatment of Patients With Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome: Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. In Physical Therapy. 2014; 94:1697-1708.

For more information on this topic, view our clinical module on knee pain by clicking here.

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Training Insights for the Upcoming 118th Boston Marathon

Star Alpine Physical Therapist Dennis McCrea shares his training insights in prep for the upcoming Boston Marathon.

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I finished the last long training run a week ago, and since then it has been recovery and tapering. Since my last blog the longer training runs have been 20, 22 and 24 miles with shorter runs in between. I was glad to have the last long training run under my belt. It was a cold and windy run, so I may be prepared for Boston, where the weather may be just the same.

The Boston Marathon course starting line is at 450 ft above sea level, and the finish line is near sea level. It seems all down hill and an easy 26.2 miles from Hopkinton into Boston. This is not the case as there are rolling hills throughout the course that make up for the gradual down hill. And the biggest hill is between the 20th and 21st miles, the famed Heartbreak Hill. Not a spot where you want to see one. But I have included hills in the runs: up the Rattlesnake, Pattee Canyon, South Hills, Big Flat Road, and O’Brien Creek. Not necessarily rolling hills, but hills nonetheless. So hopefully that will be enough. I will know in a week.

I am looking forward to experiencing this historic race, the 118th Boston Marathon. And I am also looking forward to seeing some of the historical sites in Boston and seeing a Red Sox baseball game in Fenway Park.

I will keep you posted as to how the Boston Marathon experience goes.

Dennis McCrea, PT

Star Alpine Physical Therapist to Run the Boston Marathon

Hooray for Alpine Physical Therapy star, Dennis McCrea, as he steps up and out to run this year’s Boston Marathon. Here’s his take on it:

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I ran in the Missoula Marathon last summer and thought it would be my first and last marathon since it was crossed off my bucket list. But here I am training for another one, the Boston Marathon.

My course time in the Missoula Marathon qualified me for Boston in my age group 60-65. So many people I know who have run the Boston Marathon have told me it’s a great experience and THE marathon to run in if I had the opportunity. So I went ahead and sent my time in, and it was good enough. My thought is there must not be many 60-65 year olds running this year. But they kept my entry fee, so here I am.

The training has been a bit different compared to the Missoula Marathon. This time I am training by myself and without the help of the Run Wild Running group. I started training last Fall very gradually building up my mileage after having left back, hip and knee issues that kicked in with the Missoula marathon. Then mid way through training I had to take a couple of weeks off for a surgery.

Also, I didn’t think about it at the time, but shorter daylight has meant running in the dark a lot, and I am not a fan of that or a fan of running on a treadmill. And of course, winter training is much different than the spring and summer–a little colder, wind chill, and ice. Having said that, I am thankful this winter has been mild unlike last winter, and compared to Boston’s winter this year, I really can’t complain.

So now that March is here and the days are longer and a little warmer and since I only have a couple of more long runs left I’m seeing light at the end of the tunnel. I just keep my fingers crossed that I stay healthy and that all the mileage won’t catch up with me. And for those marathon and ultramarathon runners who do this all the time, you are to be commended for your efforts.

I will keep you posted on how my last month of training goes and as I as I head to Boston.  

Dennis McCrea, PT

Alpine PT Takes it to The Top at The 2015 Missoula Telemark Ski Race Series

The Missoula Telemark Ski Race Series, known to locals as the “Telechallenge” recently finished it’s 32nd season this year. Team Alpine Physical Therapy, with the sporty hybridized anatomical name of “GluTELEus Maximus” finished this year with an overall team standing of 2nd place.

Alpine’s star PT, Brace Hayden, captain of this merry band of telemark skiers, took 4th overall in the 2015 season’s total world cup points. New teammate and co-worker, Morgan York-Singer, also a rising star at Alpine, had a shortened season due to a knee injury while free skiing at Big Sky. We hope to get her back up to Snowbowl’s ‘Moonrise’ bowl next year with her knee-rehab’ed and stronger than ever.

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Racers (right to left) Willy Welzenbach, Alpine PT’s own Brace Hayden, Martin Fahrney and Erik McBride

The overall telemark race season was a good one for Team Alpine PT with fast times on rather smooth dual slalom courses and top finishers by GluTELEus Maximus racers. We would like to chalk this up to the pre-season strength training, telemark slalom skill development, and not due to the dwindling numbers of telemark ski racers.

Please check out the Facebook page or website for the TeleMark Challenge Series.

Brace Hayden would like to thank Alpine PT for their continued support (6 years and racing!) on behalf of the Missoula Telechallenge Race series. We couldn’t have such a fantastic evening sport series filled with competitive camaraderie and exhilarating slalom racing without community sponsors.

When Brace isn’t shaving the Thursday evening ice or weekend corn snow, he loves to treat skiers and mountain sport enthusiasts.  Call 251-2323 to schedule and recreate without PAIN!

Get more information at our clinic website at AlpinePTmissoula.com.

The Benefits of Back Pain

You mean to say that back pain has its benefits. Really? Yes.

At Alpine Physical Therapy we’ve treated over 4,000 Missoulians with it.

Strangely, the main goal of PT isn’t merely pain freedom. Why? Because many folks tend to feel better after first0time back pain within 6 weeks no matter what they do or don’t do.

But that’s not a good reason to go it alone.

Actually, back patients at Alpine get big benefits such as:

1. Learning about their condition and why their back isn’t working right.

2. Gaining strategies to protect their back for the long haul.

3. Learning ways to strengthen their back and core so they can get out and work and play hard.

4. Discovering how to transition from back exercises to full body, fat burning, muscle building exercises to improve health, wellbeing, and longevity.

If you have back pain, don’t wait to get better. Instead, discover the benefits that await you at Alpine Physical Therapy.

For more information on our approaches to helping people with back pain, click here.

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