Is Your Desk Setup Hurting You?


By Mandie Martuzzo, PT

Did you know that most neck pain and headaches can be attributed to poor posture? Low and mid back pain can also be rooted in postural origins.  Wikipedia defines poor posture as “the posture that results from certain muscles tightening up or shortening while others lengthen and become weak which often occurs as a result of one’s daily activities.”

The positions where you spend most of your time can lead to postural changes that then promote dysfunction and pain. For most of us, the positions we are in most frequently are those we are in at work.

How you sit in your chair, your desk height, and computer set up all can affect your posture and sustained positions. How far you have to reach for things, the direction your head or body is turned, and how you talk on the phone all can make a difference.

Some of the symptoms of bad posture include:

  • Rounded shoulders
  • Potbelly
  • Head that leans forward or backward
  • Muscle fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Back pain

Rounded shoulders encourage the head to come into a forward position, and the forward head position forces the muscles of your neck and upper back to attempt to counterbalance the force of holding up your head against gravity in an abnormal position.  The potbelly can also cause increased pressure at your low back as those muscles try to counterbalance the weight.

Some things you can do to avoid postural pain are to change your positions frequently, make repetitive tasks as symmetrical as possible, and avoid persistent movements to one side or constant rotation of the neck and back to the same side. An example of this would be looking back and forth at multiple computer monitors throughout the day which can often aggravate joints and soft tissues causing neck and back pain.

Good desk/computer ergonomics include:

  • Sitting all the way back in your chair, with the chair adjusted for height so that your feet reach the floor. Generally, your knees should be bent at about 90 degrees and hips at about 100 degrees
  • The computer keyboard or desk should be at the level of your hands when your shoulders are relaxed down and elbows are bent to 90 degrees.
  • Your computer monitor shoulder be at eye level and right in front of you.

Learn more on PhysioPartners YouTube channel, and if you need assistance, consider scheduling an onsite ergonomic assessment with PhysioPartners’ occupational therapist.



One Annual Checkup That’s Probably Missing from Your Calendar


Some health habits are instilled in us at a young age. For as long as you can remember, for example, you made annual treks in the family minivan to both the pediatrician and the dentist. As you entered adulthood, you probably transitioned to a primary care physician, and maybe even a different dentist better equipped to address adult needs. Anytime you’ve moved or switched insurance carriers, one of your first priorities has been to track down new providers. You probably figure that between these two health care professionals, all of your health needs are covered, right?

As it turns out, neither of these health care professionals are specifically trained to assess your musculoskeletal system, which is comprised of your muscles, bones, cartilage, tendons, ligaments, joints and other connective tissues. Who is the right health care professional to ensure that these essential internal structures are working properly and helping to support, stabilize and move your body? That’s right — a physical therapist.

At a yearly physical therapy “checkup,” your physical therapist will gather your medical history and observe as you participate in screening tests and other assessments to establish a baseline of your physical abilities, fitness level and personal health. Physical therapists are educated on how your musculoskeletal system functions properly and are trained to identify dysfunctions before they grow into bigger problems.

To maximize the encounter with your physical therapist, prepare before your appointment. To ensure that you cover everything and address any issues you may be
having, make a list that includes:

• Health issues like diabetes or high blood pressure
• Current medications, including supplements
• Physical fitness activities
• New activities you’re considering
• Fitness goals

The information exchange between you and your physical therapist is critical to forming an ongoing relationship, and to ensuring that you’re functioning and moving at top form. By understanding what sports and recreational activities you’re currently participating in and the fitness goals you’re aiming to achieve, your physical therapist will be better prepared to make recommendations and tailor a home exercise program designed to help you achieve your goals.

Making wellness a part of your everyday life and taking steps to ensure that your
musculoskeletal system is functioning at top notch can be very empowering and rewarding. Why not begin—or continue—that journey with a physical therapist? Now that you know how to prepare for a physical therapy checkup and understand what you can expect during the appointment, the next step is to call and schedule your annual visit!

Get Moving to Manage & Prevent Arthritis


By Susan Hardin Rocchini, PT, DPT

Arthritis affects about one in four adults or more than 54 million men and women.    Arthritis is defined as inflammation of joints, and osteoarthritis is the most prevalent type of arthritis. This type of arthritis is characterized by deterioration of a joint, with the hip and knee being the most common joints affected. Osteoarthritis can be further defined by inflammation and degradation of the cartilage on bones, which can be quite painful. The good news is that you can manage the pain and dysfunction associated with arthritis, and research has shown that the actions you take can help minimize disability related to the condition. Arthritis is typically diagnosed through medical imaging and discussion of one’s symptoms.  Typical symptoms can be the following:

  • Sharp, shooting pain or dull, achy pain in the region, both during or following an activity
  • Stiffness of the joint, which is worse after sleeping or sitting for an extended period
  • Swelling of the joint
  • Crunchiness and/or popping of a joint with movement
  • Difficulty with everyday activities such as walking and stair climbing

Osteoarthritis of a joint can cause surrounding muscle weakness, loss of motion and balance problems if a lower extremity joint is affected, such as the knee or hip joint.  At first thought, one might thing that exercise could worsen the condition, but in reality, exercise can reduce arthritis-related pain and improve function, when done appropriately. In fact, research has shown that activities such as walking, biking and swimming are very beneficial to your joints. Additionally, walking 6,000 steps a day or about 1 hour of walking has been shown to potentially help knee arthritis.  More research is needed regarding this specific number, but an observational study published in Arthritis Care & Research in 2014 demonstrated that functional limitations were reduced by 16 to 18% among those who walked 6,000 steps per day. Also, it is important to note that exercise and activity must be gradually implemented and incrementally increased, especially in someone who has arthritis and/or who has been sedentary.

Community-based physical activity programs can be beneficial in helping one manage exercise and symptoms related to arthritis.  According to the American College of Sports Medicine, all adults, including those with arthritis, should aim for at least 150 minutes per week of moderate intensity aerobic exercise and weight or resistance training two to three times per week.  For example, to meet the aerobic guidelines, you could set a goal of walking briskly for 30 minutes, 5 times per week or breaking up the 30 minutes into several 10 minute sessions within the day. Arthritis may be prevented or limited by maintaining strong muscles around a joint and flexibility of muscles around a joint, maintaining a healthy lifestyle and weight, and moving with good body mechanics.

You physical therapist can help you manage the symptoms of arthritis by providing tips to reduce the pain, improve muscle strength and mobility around the affected joint, and improve performance of functional activities such as walking, stair climbing and sitting and standing from a chair. In severe cases, surgery might be recommended.

Need help getting started?  Join us each Monday at 9:30 a.m. at our Lakeview clinic at 2869 N. Lincoln Avenue for Walk with Ease, PhysioPartners’ community-based and free walking program developed by the Arthritis Foundation to help you get moving and feel better.  Sign up for this free program by calling (773) 665-9950 or emailing


Physiopartners will be hosting team walks beginning Monday July 9th at 9:30 am. Sign up today!

Exercise for Optimizing Chronic Neurological Conditions

Celebs-With-Parkinsons-Intro-RM-pg-fullBy James Lyon, student physical therapist

Are you or a loved one suffering from a neurological condition that affects energy levels, strength, balance, or functioning throughout the day, such as Parkinson’s Disease or Multiple Sclerosis? A physical therapist is trained to assess strength and limitations, as well as to tailor routines and activities to assist in returning you to the activities you love doing.

While exercise is beneficial for anyone and everyone, regular participation in physical activity is especially important for people living with neurological conditions. For conditions such as Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease that impact cognitive function, regular physical activity has been proven to slow cognitive decline. With conditions that affect balance such as multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, and stroke, exercise can help to improve stability to reduce the risk of falls. For any conditions that impact muscle strength, physical activity assists in slowing, and even reversing muscular atrophy. Regular cardiovascular exercise can improve endurance and activity tolerance to reverse the effects of neurological conditions that impact energy levels. Physical activity is also widely known to improve emotional state, as mood is often affected by these conditions, as well.

Chicago and its suburbs offer many community-based resources in variety of styles to keep those with a chronic neurological condition moving.  After consulting with a physical therapist to determine the right plan for you, identify what type of exercise activity you want to try first!

Chicago – Downtown

CrossTown Fitness – 1031 W. Madison (also available in Roscoe Village and Lakeview)
Personal training classes offering adaptive sessions for people living with diagnoses such as Parkinson’s, SCI, stroke, and multiple sclerosis

Hubbard Street Dance – 1147 Jackson
The oldest Parkinson’s dance program in the midwest, which helps to slow disease progression through dance techniques.

Movement Revolution – 227 E. Ontario (+ suburban locations)
Group classes built to empower and inspire participants to challenge themselves and defy stereotypes associated with neurological conditions.

  • Rock Steady Boxing: For Parkinson’s and Parkinsonian conditions
  • Vim and Vigor: Modified spin cycle class for patients with, Parkinson’s, SCI, stroke, MS, fall risk, and other neurological conditions
  • Neuro Fight Club: Strength and conditioning boxing, for same populations as vim & vigor
  • Spin for Parkinson’s (also welcomes stroke, SCI, MS, fall risk, Alzheimers, and elderly)

Northwestern Memorial Hospital – 251 E. Huron Street
Exercise classes and support groups for people living with Parkinson’s disease

Shirley Ryan Ability Lab – 541 N. Fairbanks
Offering adaptive sports and fitness programs to suit people with physical/neurological disabilities.

  • Sport Programs:
    Archery, Boccia, Cycling/racing, Golf, Rock Climbing, Sailing
  • Fitness Programs:
    Treadmill Training, Boxing, Zumba, Flex-Ability, MaZi Cardio, Nordic Walk, Seated Bootcamp, Seated Yoga, Water Aerobics, Tai Chi
  • Parkinson’s-specific Classes: Amplitude-Based Training, Integrated Exercises for Parkinson’s, PWR! Circuit

Chicago – South

Roots of Integrity Holistic Fitness and Wellness – 1006 S. Michigan Ave
Gentle Pilates with an emphasis for neurological conditions, designed to improve posture, balance, and strength.

South Side YMCA of Metro Chicago – 6330 S. Stony Island
Offers water aerobics classes geared for individuals with multiple sclerosis and other conditions which may limit mobility.

Chicago – Northwest

JCC Chicago – 3303 W. Touhy Avenue
This program was founded with the Northwestern University Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorders Center to improve the lives of people with Parkinson’s through exercise, support, education, and medical collaboration.


Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital – Barrington
Advocate offers a variety of exercise classes welcome to all people, as well a specialized aquatics class for people with multiple sclerosis.

Chicago Dance Therapy – Northfield
Offering dance classes targeted to people with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s as a method of alternative psychotherapy.

Dance For Parkinson’s Disease – Various Locations
Specialized dance classes of various styles designed to address symptom-specific aspects of Parkinson’s such as balance, cognition, motor skill, depression, and physical confidence.

  • Downer’s Grove, Good Samaritan Hospital
  • Lake Forest, Northwestern Hospital
  • Glenview, Belmont Village Senior Living
  • Urbana-Champaign, Kranner Center for the Performing Arts

Glenview Park District – Glenview
Exercise classes suited for Parkinson’s patients that incorporates cardio, balance training, and PWR (Parkinson’s Wellness Recovery).

Lieberman Center for Health and Rehabilitation – Skokie
Offering specialized exercises programs for Parkinson’s patients to decrease symptoms of the disease, increase strength, and improve energy levels and daily function.

  • Parkinson’s on the Move
  • Seated Dance and Movement
  • Seated Tai Chi

NeuroBalance Center – Barrington
Individual and group fitness classes designed for people with neurological and autoimmune conditions that affect mobility, balance, strength, gait, coordination, and speech.

  • FitMS: Seated class incorporating Tai Chi, Yoga, Pilates, and Balance Ball exercises for people with multiple sclerosis and other similar movement disorders
  • FitPD: Hour long class for patients with Parkinson’s and other movement disorders

Northwestern Medicine, Lake Forest Health and Fitness Center – Lake Forest
Lake Forest branch of the Northwestern hospital system that offers low- to moderate-intensity exercises classes for people with Parkinson’s and fibromyalgia.

  • Dance for Parkinson’s
  • Functional Fitness
  • Pedal for Parkinson’s
  • Pilates for Parkinson’s
  • Rock Steady Boxing
  • Strength and Balance
  • TRX for Parkinson’s
  • Yoga for Parkinson’s
  • Fibromyalgia: Warm water therapy pool class specifically designed for people with fibromyalgia

The Wellness Pros – Various Locations
The Wellness Pros mission is to provide quality fitness services for people with disabilities including, but not limited to, Alzheimer’s, adult CP, and wheelchair bound citizens. They are a not-for-profit company that serves Chicago and the surrounding suburbs.

  • Strength training and general conditioning
  • Yoga
  • Drums
  • Therapeutic dance and creative movements
  • Senior fitness

Yoga Heals Us – Various Locations
Private and group yoga classes of various styles, with certified instructors in TAYMS: Therapeutic Adaptive Yoga for Multiple Sclerosis. Classes are offered all around the Chicago area and suburbs.

Contact PhysioPartners to schedule an appointment and determine the right program for you!



Ask a Physical Therapist To Screen Your Movements Before You Start Exercising This Spring

annual_musculoskeletal_examLet’s talk about the last time you—or someone close to you—interviewed for a new job.
Chances are that the first step was a phone screen with your potential employer, and when you passed that portion of the process with flying colors, you were then invited for an in-person interview. At that stage, the employer probably asked you to answer a series of questions and to demonstrate your skills through a test or two. The process is set up in a way that narrows down the options until the most suitable candidate is found. Makes sense, right?
Just as job recruiters screen applicants to find the best fit for an open position, your PT will ask you to perform a series of exercises so that she can observe and understand your body mechanics to uncover any issues or limitations. Used in combination with a full evaluation and assessment, these so-called movement screens are just one tool in identifying the most appropriate treatment or prevention program for you. But unlike that test you may have taken during a job interview, the screen is not testing your skills or abilities, it’s simply a way of identifying how your body functions during a variety of movements.
Now that spring is in full swing, it’s the perfect time of year to make an appointment with your physical therapist for a movement screen. The warmer weather means more time spent outdoors participating in sports and other recreational activities that may be physically demanding. A PT checkup that includes a movement screen will ensure that you’re physically able to engage in popular spring and summer adventures, whether it’s exploring in the woods, tending to your garden, or swimming at your family’s lake house.

Physical therapists perform movement screens for a variety of reasons, including:
• To identify areas of strength and weakness
• To uncover issues or rule them out
• To determine readiness to begin a safe exercise program
• To improve sport performance (for both novice and elite athletes)

A movement screen is something that you can have done whether you have a nagging injury or are simply ready to kickstart your activity level after a long hiatus. Gaining an understanding of how your body performs during basic exercises such as squats and lunges helps your physical therapist ensure that you can safely jump on a bike or into a pool this summer. And just like an employer screens candidates to identify the one individual who is likely to thrive on the job for many years to come, a movement screen can help you develop a lasting and fulfilling relationship with the activities you enjoy most.

Ready to try a self-screen to confirm when to see a physical therapist?  Check out the Fit Factor, a self movement screening tool on our website.

Request an Appointment

“Body, Heal Thyself!” How To Achieve Better Health Through Good Sleep Habits

642x361_The_Science_of_SleepBy Jennifer Nelson, PT, DPT, DscPT

How do you wind down from a stressful day at work?  Even if a good workout is your preferred method, most people don’t exercise right before bedtime.  Instead, up to 90% of Americans use some sort of electronic device at least a few nights of the week within 1 hour of going to bed.  Whether it is your smart phone, laptop, TV, or settling in with an e-reader to wind down before bed, recent research is suggesting that use of those items may prolong the amount of time it takes you to fall asleep.  While I love my Kindle and the convenience it provides, I have never thought about the effect it may be having on my natural sleep cycle.

The importance of a good night’s sleep cannot be understated.  Beyond setting your energy level for the next day, quality sleep allows your body time to heal itself and rejuvenate.  Whether bumps and bruises, sore muscles, or a more serious injury, your body releases hormones while you sleep that can enhance tissue growth and healing.  You also make more white blood cells as you sleep that help you fight off bacteria or viruses.  These and many other benefits may be enjoyed with high quality and quantity sleep, but the challenge is finding enough time to go to bed on time or being able to fall asleep promptly after you do decide to shut down for the night.  Research suggests that the ability to fall asleep quickly is impacted by using electronics before bed.

The reason my Kindle may keep me up longer after reading it is simple, but not as obvious as you may think.  The screens from these devices emit blue light, which stimulates receptors in your eyes and research has shown that will suppress the level of Melatonin produced in your brain.  Melatonin levels help regulate your normal sleep/wake cycle (called the Circadian Rhythm) and should rise as you reach the end of the day.  Naturally, as the sun sets, the amount of blue light taken in by the body should decrease, but normal screens prolong your exposure to it and could, in turn, add to your difficulty of falling asleep.

So, what can you do about it?  Multiple apps have been developed to track the time of day for your device and adjust the amount of blue light emitted, based on the natural rise and set of the sun.  Software like F.lux and Twilight can be used on iOS or Android devices, as well as downloaded onto your PC.  They can be turned on/off as needed and will automatically adjust your device based on location and time of year as the sun sets and your exposure to natural blue light decreases.  While it may take a little while to get used to a reddish colored screen, the screen will be easier on the eyes and can cut down on glare at night without altering levels of Melatonin as much.  The best part is both of these apps are free!  Newer versions of the Kindle Fire and iPads have these features auto-loaded, called “Blue Shade” and “Night Shift” respectively.

Use these quick tips help you get more sleep and allow your body to heal or recover faster!  Physical therapists can also provide pointers on improving your sleep posture so you may sleep more soundly and wake up with fewer aches and pains!

Jennifer Nelson, PT, DPT, DscPT, is a physical therapist at PhysioPartners.  She is accepting new patients in our Loop office and may be reached at (773) 665-9950.




Ready for Summer?

imagesBy Stephanie Penny, PT, DPT

With all the snow and cold temperatures, spring has snuck up on us, but get ready — summer and all your favorite outdoor activities are around the corner!  The following tips can help you and your body be prepared.

Sticking to an Exercise Routine

  • Schedule exercise as an appointment, writing to down or making an appointment in your calendar.
  • Never go more than two days without exercise.
  • Mix up your workouts! Try a new class or personal training.

Healthy Eating

  • Shop the perimeter of the store, where most of the fresh food is located, and stay away from the processed foods in the center of the store.
  • Track what you eat by writing it down or using a fitness app.
  • Drink lots of water.  Read more about the benefits of adequate hydration.
  • Cook at home, avoiding the hidden calories of eating out.  Even salads at restaurants are calorie and fat laden.

Prevent Knee Injuries When Starting a New Fitness Routine

Stretching and strengthening your hips can go a long way in preventing knee injuries.

  • Stretching
    • Gluteal Stretch:  Bring your knee towards your opposite shoulder.  Hold 30 seconds and repeat twice on each side.
    • Hamstring Stretch:  With a towel around your foot, lift your leg to stretch the back of the thigh.  Hold 30 seconds and repeat twice on each side.
  • Strengthening
    • Hip Abduction:  In sidelying, keep your hips stacked as you lift and lower your leg.  Repeat 10x, 2 sets on each side.

The team at PhysioPartners is here to help you Achieve Freedom Through Movement.  Consult with our physical therapists, personal trainers or Pilates instructors to start your summer fitness routine right!

Stephanie Penny, PT, DPT, is a board-certified clinical specialist in orthopedic physical therapy and sees patients in our Lakeview location.