PTC Blog

As a Physical Therapist I get the question all of the time: “Should I use heat or should I use ice?”.  Both can be used for pain relief, but different mechanisms are used to achieve the end result. Here is a quick an easy break down of when to use heat vs. cold.


  • Heat increases blood flow by opening up blood vessels. Heat can also help relax tight muscles and decrease pain.
  • Heat should never be placed on an injury that is less than 3-4 days old. It is usually used for more persistent injuries.
  • Heat is more appropriate for persistent injuries such as tension headaches or chronic low back pain.
  • Heat should also never be used if there is swelling or bruising, as heat increases inflammation and will make swelling worse.
  • Heat should be applied for 15-20 minutes and never applied directly to the skin.  Use towels between the hot pack and skin to help prevent burns.
  • Wait at least an hour between treatments.
  • Check skin during treatment to avoid burns.
  • Do not use if you have poor circulation or poor sensation in the area due to increased risk of injury.


  • Ice decreases blood flow by constricting blood vessels. Ice can also be used to decrease swelling and inflammation, which can decrease pain.
  • Ice is used for acute injuries to decrease swelling and bruising.
  • Ice is appropriate for injuries such as post surgery, sprains, strain, bumps, burns, and bruises.
  • Ice can also be used to treat chronic conditions depending on the person’s preference.
  • Ice should be applied for 15-20 minutes and also should never be applied directly to the skin. Use a towel between the cold pack and skin to avoid frostbite.
  • Wait at least 1 hour between treatments.
  • Ice can be used in addition to elevation to help decrease swelling after acute injuries.

When in doubt it is usually safer to try ice first, if you do not see results then try heat. You can also alternate between heat and ice. Always make sure to wait at least 1 hour between each. Hopefully this helps you figure out whether heat or ice is more appropriate for your symptoms.

If you have more questions give us a call at 1-888-THERAPY and we will be happy to help!

Rebecca Varoga, PT, DPT
Physical Therapist
Isanti Physical Therapy

July 25th, 2018

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With summer in full swing, now is a great time to start a conversation about caffeine vs. water! No, this is not just another blog that is going to tell you to put your coffee down or dump out your pop. We understand that it takes time to change habits. Today we are just going to dive a little deeper to take a closer look at how caffeine and water effect our bodies.

Let’s first start by taking a look at our bodies (not literally, ha!). According to the US Geological Water Science School, the adult human body is comprised of 60% water. Let’s break that down even further. Below is the percentage of water our organs carry:

Brain and Heart: 73%
Lungs: 83%
Skin: 64%
Muscle and Kidneys: 79%
Bones 31%

That’s pretty incredible to think about! Water is essential to our health and well-being.

Here are just a few benefits of water:

  • Helps build our cells
  • Transports waste and nutrients throughout our body
  • Acts as a shock absorber for our brain, spinal cord and growing fetus’
  • Helps to lubricate our joints.
  • Boosts our immune system
  • Improves our complexion
  • Promotes healthy weight management

So what happens when we add caffeine to the mix?

Caffeine is a diuretic which means it removes water from your body which in turn has you taking more potty breaks. With caffeine having the effect of removing water from your body, this puts you at risk for dehydration. You may also not know, that caffeine is considered an addictive drug. When regularly consumed, it can cause you to be anxious, restless, jittery and can even increase your heart rate.

BUT, don’t let all this get you down. I think I can speak for many momma’s when I say that caffeine has its benefits! Research has shown that caffeine can help combat fatigue, improve memory, and potentially decrease the risk of some diseases. Good news RIGHT?!

So I promised I wasn’t going to tell you to dump out your favorite caffeinated beverage, but we do have a responsibility to take care of ourselves. With most things in life, balance is key. There is no denying that our bodies function best when we are well hydrated, but that doesn’t mean you have to give up your morning coffee or give up mixing your favorite caffeinated cocktail. What we need to do is figure out how to balance it all.

So how do we do that? It really depends on you! If you are a person who consumes a lot of caffeine but are ready to make a change, start slow by cutting back 1 beverage a day. You can also follow the recommendation to add a cup of water for every cup of caffeinated drink you consume. This can help you stay hydrated.

For those of you who have a hard time getting your daily water intake (GUILTY!)… Set goals for yourself and always be sure to keep a water bottle close by. A great rule of thumb is to aim to consume half of your body weight in fluid ounces of water. For example, someone who is 160lbs should consume 80oz of water in a day. But again, start small, set a goal and you will be sure to succeed!

We hope you found this informative and helpful. Post a comment below with your water intake goal and you will be entered in a drawing to win a FREE water bottle!

Jackie Giese, LPTA
Physical Therapist Assistant
Community Outreach Coordinator
Physical Therapy Consultants, Inc.

July 19th, 2018

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Can you believe the 4th of July has already come and gone? !! We grill all year round but there is something about grilling on a beautiful summer night. Summer is a time for good food and good company sitting put on the patio watching all the kids run around having fun!

Every year for the 4th, we do a neighborhood get together before we all head out for fireworks. This year instead of the usual hamburger and hotdog, we had kebobs! They are easy and healthy way to load up on your veggies and fruit!

The nice thing about kebobs is there is no right way! Pick your favorite meats (steak, chicken, shrimp, etc. or no meat at all) and veggies and assemble how you like, grill and enjoy. I typically do chunks of chicken, steak, green, red, yellow peppers, zucchini, mushrooms, onion, and pineapple. The other nice thing about kebobs, is you don’t need the added calories of sauces. I usually just lightly salt and pepper the meat and let all the natural flavors cook together.

For some 4th of July fun assemble blue berries, strawberries and banana into the American flag! It’s was festive and healthy!

Have a happy and healthy rest of your summer!


Kerra Pietach, LPTA
Physical Therapist Assistant
Andover Physical Therapy

July 11th, 2018

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Try these fun and healthy desserts all summer long. Enjoy sweet treats without over-indulging with these figure-friendly dessert recipes.

Strawberry Sundae Bites


12 large strawberries
Reddi Whip
Chocolate sauce
Rainbow sprinkles
12 maraschino cherries


  1.  Cut tops of strawberries and use a paring knifeor melon baller to core the centers. Cut a small amount off the bottom of the strawberries as well, to help them stand.
  2. Fill each strawberry with whipped cream, top with chocolate sauce and garnish with sprinkles and a cherry.
  3. Serve.

Banana Split Kebabs


2 bananas, cut into 1″ pieces
24 1″ pieces pineapple
12 large strawberries, rinsed, dried, and halved
2 c. chocolate chips
1/2 c. peanuts, chopped


  1. Make kebabs: Thread two pieces each banana, pineapple, and strawberry onto skewer. Repeat process to assemble 23 more skewers. Place all on parchment-lined baking sheet.
  2. In a microwave-safe bowl, melt chocolate in the microwave in 30-second intervals, stirring in between, until completely smooth.
  3. Drizzle chocolate over fruit kebabs and top with chopped peanuts.
  4. Freeze until ready to serve.


Kaitlyn Grell, LPTA
Physical Therapist Assistant
St. Francis Physical Therapy

July 3rd, 2018

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In golf, flexibility and strength are essential to improving your game as well as preventing an injury from occurring. The better your body moves, the better you will feel while golfing. Here are a few simple exercises that will increase your flexibility and strength.

Wrist Flexion and Extension Stretch
While keeping your right elbow straight, use your left hand to bend the right wrist downward as shown until a stretch is felt in the forearm. Next, while still keeping your right elbow straight, use your left hand to bend the right wrist upward as shown until a stretch is felt in the forearm. Repeat 2 times in each direction. Hold for 30 seconds each. Switch sides between repetitions.

Shoulder Stretch
While lying on your back pull your right elbow across your body until a gentle stretch is felt. Always keep your wrist above your elbow. Repeat 2 times on each side. Hold for 30 seconds each. Switch sides between repetitions.

Mid-Back Rotation
While lying on your side with your top leg positioned as shown, bring your top arm over without allowing your knee to lift off the ground. Also turn your head and follow that arm as you rotate backwards. You should feel a gentle stretch in your mid and upper back. Repeat 10 times. Hold for 3 seconds each. Switch sides between repetitions.

Lower Trunk Rotation
While lying on your back with your knees bent, move your knees side-to-side until a stretch is felt in the low back. Repeat 15 times on each side. Hold for 3 seconds each.

Piriformis Stretch
While lying on your back with both knees bent, cross your right leg on to your left knee. Next, hold the back of your left thigh and pull it up towards your chest until a stretch is felt in the buttock of the right side. Repeat 2 times on each side. Hold for 30 seconds each. Switch sides between repetitions.

Thoracic Rotation Strengthening
Start in a child’s pose position. Next, with your right hand behind your head, rotate your body and your head to the side then return. Repeat 10 times. Complete the exercise for both sides.

Lateral Planks
While Lying on your right side with your knees bent, lift your body up on your elbow and knees. Try and maintain a straight spine. As this exercise gets easier progress towards performing with your legs straight. Repeat 2 times. Hold for up to 45 seconds each. Switch sides between repetitions.

While lying on your back, tighten your stomach muscles. Squeeze your buttocks and raise it off the ground. Hold for 3 seconds and then lower yourself. Repeat 15 times.

While lying on your right side, bend your knees and hips. Slowly lift the top leg away from the bottom leg. Lift your leg up until your hips and upper body begin to roll backwards. When this happens, hold that position for 5 seconds and slowly lower the leg back to the starting position. Keep your ankles together throughout the entire movement. Repeat 15 times on each side.










Dustin Eslinger, MA, ATC
Athletic Trainer
Physical Therapy Consultants, Inc.

June 27th, 2018

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Warmer weather allows us to tackle those long overdue summer yard projects. An increase in activity shouldn’t mean an increase in injuries. Help prevent sore muscles by doing these stretches before taking on your summer yard project. All stretches should be held for 30 seconds, and 2 sets should be completed on each side for optimal benefit.

1. Upper Trap stretch. Tilt your ear to you shoulder, while keeping your nose pointed straight forward and shoulders relaxed, until you feel a gentle stretch through the side of your neck. Hold for 30 seconds and switch sides.

2. Shoulder Cross body stretch. Grab just above your elbow with your opposite hand and gently pull your arm across your body until a stretch is felt on the back of your shoulder. Hold for 30 seconds and switch sides.

3. Piriformis stretch. Laying on your back bring your knee toward your opposite shoulder until a stretch is felt through your buttocks area. Hold for 30 seconds and switch sides.

4. Hamstring stretch. Seated in chair with one leg bent and one extended out in front of you. Lean forward slightly until a stretch is felt down the back of your thigh. Toes should be relaxed to avoid putting stress on your sciatic nerve. Hold for 30 seconds and switch sides.

5. Gastroc stretch. Standing facing a wall with a staggered stance (1 foot closer to the wall and 1 foot behind). Bend the knee closer to the the wall, while keeping the back leg straight. Lean into the wall, until a gentle stretch is felt in the back leg. Hold for 30 seconds and switch sides.

Also don’t forget to drink plenty of water and apply sunscreen during your summer projects!

Rebecca Varoga, PT, DPT
Physical Therapist
Isanti Physical Therapy

June 13th, 2018

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We’re excited to be celebrating National Dairy Month! Today I wanted to provide you with what you need to know when it comes to understanding dairy and milk alternatives. If you ever have more questions, reach out to use directly though our website at Just click on “Ask a Dietitian,” we’d be happy to help!

We get a lot of questions regarding milk. Milk has no added sugars, little to no saturated fat, calcium, protein, and other essential nutrients, making it the best option for those without dairy allergies or intolerances. Notice how I said milk has no added sugars. When you look at the nutrition facts label on cows milk, you’ll see 12 grams of sugar. Just know that this sugar is naturally occurring, and not added as an ingredient. Lactose is the natural sugar found in all dairy products. Similarly, there is natural sugar in fruit, too! Don’t be fooled! Milk has great nutrition!

Need a Milk Alternative?
For those with dairy allergies or intolerances, milk and milk products may need to be avoided. Luckily, there are a variety of milk alternatives on the market. However, not all milk alternatives are equally nutritious. See the chart below to help guide you in making the best choice for you and your family.

Soy Milk
• Fat: low in fat
• Protein: 7 grams
• Sugar: 1-17*
• Fortified with: Calcium, Vitamin D, Vitamin B12 and DHA Omega 3

Almond Milk
• Fat: low in fat
• Protein: 1 grams
• Sugar: 0-17*
• Fortified with: Calcium and Vitamin D

Coconut Milk
• Fat: high in saturated fat
• Protein: 0 grams
• Sugar: <1-9
• Fortified with: Calcium, Vitamin D, and Vitamin B12

Rice Milk
• Fat: 1 gram
• Protein: <1 gram
• Sugar: 12 grams
• Fortified with: Calcium

Cashew Milk
• Fat: 2 grams
• Protein: <1 gram
• Sugar: 0 grams
• Fortified with: Calcium and Vitamin D

Key Takeaways:
**Always be sure to choose unsweetened varieties to avoid high amounts of added sugar. Cow’s milk contains 12 grams of sugar, all of which is natural lactose. There is no added sugar in cow’s milk, unless it is flavored (chocolate, strawberry, etc.).
Before I leave with you all these thoughts, of course I will share a recipe with you as well.
I love this recipe for Stuffed Bell Peppers. It’s a fun way to use the peppers and you can pack in so much nutrition inside. Of course there is a bit of cheese to help celebrate National Dairy Month in proper portions. You can find this recipe as well as so many others on our Dietitian’s Corner page.

Happy National Dairy Month!

Amy Peick, RD, LD
Coborn’s Inc.
Supermarket Registered Dietitian

June 6th, 2018

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Working in physical therapy I often get asked the question, “Are there certain foods I can eat to cut down on my inflammation and decrease chronic pain?” The answer is, Yes, to a certain extent. There are two types of inflammation that occur in our bodies, Acute and Chronic. Acute Inflammation is critical to our bodies healing process and is a natural and valuable response to tissue damage. When there is a disruption in our tissue caused by an injury or infection, there is an increase in blood flow and white blood cells to the localized area to start the healing process. Chronic Inflammation has a long duration and occurs with persistent injury or infection or related to diseases such as arthritis, obesity, and diabetes. Chronic inflammation usually leads to tissue damage and can be more controlled with our diets. Foods high in sugar and saturated fats can cause an over stimulated immune system which can produce joint pain, fatigue and tissue damage. Studies have shown certain foods can help decrease inflammation caused by chronic inflammation in our bodies.

Here are 5 of the many foods that can easily be incorporated into our diets.

• Fish or nuts : the omega-3 fatty acids can increase the amount of anti-inflammatory cells
• Whole grains: higher in fiber and less added sugars
• Dark leafy greens such as: spinach, kale and broccoli contain high levels of vitamin E
• Low fat dairy such as Greek yogurt contains calcium, vitamin D and Probiotics
• Berries: which are high in antioxidants

When it comes to chronic pain, what you eat can greatly impact how you feel. Eating a well-rounded diet of appropriate carbohydrates, protein, fats, vitamins and minerals along with adequate water intake will allow your body to work properly. Diets high in processed food do not supply your body with suitable nutrients and can cause the tissues to become inflamed which then manifest into pain.

When consuming the appropriate carbohydrates (which should be more complex vs simple) and in moderation, they are essential for your body to produce energy. Carbohydrates includes sugars, starches and fibers. Simple carbohydrates are quick energy sources: table sugar, brown sugar, high fructose corn syrup, honey, molasses, etc. which should be limited in your diet. Complex carbohydrates are derived from plants and contains both starch and fiber: vegetables, potatoes, whole grains and fruits. They provide 4 calories per gram of carbohydrate. Adults are recommended to consume between 45%-65% of daily calories.

Fiber is also a part to of the carbohydrate family. It cannot be digested but it is important to keep the digestive tract healthy. Dietary Fiber is found in beans, whole grain cereals, fruits, vegetables and nuts. Soluble fiber absorbs water, slows nutrient absorption and helps reduce blood cholesterol levels. Insoluble fiber does not brake down and adds bulk to intestinal contents.  Recommended daily consumption of fiber for women is 19-50 y/o 25 grams, 19-50 y/o 38 grams per day for men.

Fats provide the highest level of energy. As carbohydrates are burned off more quickly, our bodies rely on our fat storage. Fat provides 9 calories per every gram of fat and should be about 20-30% of our daily calories. Its other function is to help move vitamins through our bloodstream to be absorbed within our body. Fats are broken down into Saturated and Unsaturated. Saturated fats are primarily found in animal products such as meat, milk and cheeses.  Ingesting high levels of this type of fat is associated with the increased risk of heart disease. Some saturated fats are found in plant products, such as palm, coconut and cocoa oils. Unsaturated fats are broken down into mono and polyunsaturated fatty acids which include olive, canola, and fish oils and are associated with lowering the risk of heart disease. Trans fats are more problematic, in which they are “super whipped” changing them from a liquid to a solid form at room temperature.

Vitamins and Minerals provide no energy to the body but are important in carrying out many functions. Vitamins help control the growth of body tissue, bone health and blood clot formation. Minerals also help with bone formation, oxygen transport and immune function.

Proper water intake is one of the most important things you can do. Water makes up about 60% of our bodies and is responsible for carrying out all of our body’s normal functions, such as:

• Transporting blood sugars, oxygen and fats to working muscles.
• Providing structure and protection which cushions and lubricates joints and organs.
• It is needed for chemical reactions which involve energy production
• Regulating body temperature
• Eliminating waste

Overall, eating a clean diet and cutting out processed foods will allow our bodies to perform at their best!

Kerra Pietsch, LPTA, C.F.N.C
Physical Therapist Assistant
Andover Physical Therapy

May 30th, 2018

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Did you know that certain conditions and injuries are best treated while you are in the water? After an initial physical therapy evaluation, a licensed physical therapist may design an individualized comprehensive treatment plan for you that may include aquatic therapy.

Aquatic therapy is performed in a pool or tank of warm water that provides an ideal environment in which to exercise because its buoyancy counteracts gravity, thereby decreasing the weight placed on painful joints and the spine. In fact, when immersed to neck level, buoyancy supports 90 percent of the body’s weight. In waist-depth water, buoyancy can still support 50 percent of body weight.

Diminished weight bearing stress is one of many of the advantages of pool therapy for patients with osteoarthritis. Patients with pain from osteoarthritis are often unable to perform many land-based exercises without exacerbating the pain. However, in a buoyant, gravity-reduced environment like water, gentle movements to improve strength, flexibility, and endurance are often possible. A primary goal of aquatic therapy is to teach participants new ways of moving and retrain the musculoskeletal system to accommodate to the effects of osteoarthritis.

Exercises often resemble those performed in traditional land-based physical therapy and exercise programs. Examples of typical exercises include:

  • Stretching of the hamstrings, low back, upper back, and neck.
  • Strengthening exercises, such as using foam barbells that work against the resistance of the water.
  • Aerobics, such as water walking, cross-country skiing, or slow jogging to loosen the lower back and hips.

If you would like to learn more about our Aquatic Therapy program, check out our website; or call one of our 7 locations to speak with a professional healthcare provider.

Kaitlyn Grell, LPTA
Physical Therapist Assistant
St. Francis Physical Therapy

May 23rd, 2018

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Youth sports teach and develop life skills such as teamwork, responsibility, time management, and perseverance while improving physical and emotional health.

Traditionally, youth participated in variety of sports that would change as the seasons change. As an example, boys may have participated in baseball in the summer, football in the fall and basketball in the winter. Participating in a variety of sports over the course of a year helps develop different muscles and movement patterns. Muscles, tendons, and joints that are stressed during one season are allowed to rest during the next season.

More recently, sports culture has changed with greater options available to athletes including year-round specialized club teams, personal fitness trainers and private coaches. There is now an increased pressure on young athletes to specialize in one sport the majority of the year. This has led to a decrease in the number of multisport athletes at the high school level. There is evidence that early sports specialization increases the risk to develop overuse injuries. Younger athletes appear to be more susceptible to repetitive use injuries due to their developing tissues not being able to handle repetitive forces with out some period of time off. Some of these injuries include tendonitis, stress fractures, muscle strains and bursitis.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has a set of guidelines to help prevent overuse injuries in young athletes. They include:

  • Limit each sport activity to five days a week (including competitive play, sports specific training, and scrimmage)
  • Rest one day a week from all physical activity
  • Take two to three months off of sports per year
  • Increase weekly training time, number of repetitions, and total distance by no more than ten percent each week.

If a young athlete does develop pain or sustain an injury it is important to manage it appropriately and “listen” to what the body is communicating through pain. The Physical Therapy experts at Physical Therapy Consultants can be a great resource to help athletes recover quickly and proper when injury does occur. Visit to request a free consultation and a member of our care team will call you to answer questions you may have.

Dustin Eslinger, MA, ATC, ITAT
Athletic Trainer
Physical Therapy Consultants, Inc.

May 16th, 2018

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