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Stability balls are a great, cheap piece of exercise equipment that can be used to help improve everything from ROM to strength. Stability ball exercises can easily be completed anywhere including home, gyms, and in physical therapy sessions. My favorite way to use a stability ball is to help build core strength. Here are my 5 favorite core strengthening exercises using a stability ball:

1. Prone roll outs. Begin by kneeling on the ground with the stability ball in front of you. Place forearms on ball with elbows bent. Activate your transverse abdominis (TA) by gently pulling your belly button into the spine. Keep shoulders relaxed roll forward slow and controlled. Return to starting position.








2. Prone walkout. Lay on your stomach on the stability ball. Tighten your TA. Keep your feet together and shoulders relaxed. Slow walk your hands forward, until the ball reaches your knees. Slowly and with control return to the starting position.










3. Supine Walkout. Start by sitting on the stability ball. Activate TA by pulling belly button into the spine. Cross arms in front of your chest. Slowly walk your feet forward until the ball reaches your shoulder blade area. Slowly and with control return to starting position.






4. Bridges. Place your feet/calves on ball while laying on your back. Activate TA and contract your glute muscles. Lift hips off of the ground, making sure to lift hips evenly. Hold for 3-5 seconds and return to starting position.






5. Bird dogs. Lay on your stomach on the stability ball. Keep your hands and feet on the ground. Activate your
TA. Lift opposite arm and leg a couple of inches off of the ground. Hold for 3-5 seconds. Make sure to keep hips level so you don’t roll off the ball. Repeat with other arm and leg.



I hope these exercises help you start a stability ball core strengthening program! What are your favorite stability ball
exercises? Let us know in the comments below! Happy strengthening!

Rebecca Varoga, PT, DPT
Physical Therapist
Physical Therapy Consultants, Inc.

April 4th, 2018

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Have you ever experienced a muscle pain (tightness) so intense that it stops you in your tracks? This tightening of a muscle, usually in the calf, is called a muscle cramp or “charley horse.” They are defined as a sudden and involuntary muscle contraction that can cause severe pain. Muscle cramps are typically harmless but in some cases they can be red flags for underlying problems.

What are some causes of muscle cramps?
• Dehydration: decreased fluid to the muscle doesn’t allow for proper function disrupting nerve endings.
• Mineral Deficiency: not allowing for proper nerve conduction. This can happen during pregnancy due to depleted magnesium and potassium.
• Medications treating other medical conditions such as blood pressure medication
• Overuse, exercise intensity and fatigue
• Neurological: from Multiple Sclerosis, Osteoarthritis, and diabetic peripheral neuropathy

How to prevent muscle cramps/self-care?
• Stay properly hydrated. Drink plenty of water!
• Exercise coupled with good stretching practices

When to consult a medical professional?
• Cramps happen frequently and cause severe discomfort
• Cramps are associated with leg swelling, redness or skin changes
• Cramps are associated with muscle weakness
• Cramps don’t improve with self-care
• Cramps aren’t associated with an obvious cause, such as strenuous exercise.

Kerra Pietsch, LPTA
Physical Therapist Assistant
Andover Physical Therapy

March 28th, 2018

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It’s March Madness!!  I hope you are enjoying all of the college and high school basketball tournament games taking place this month.  It is a great month to be a sports fan!

As an athletic trainer I spend a lot of time working to keep athletes injury-free and to help them rehab from injuries that do occur.  Here are the top 5 most common injuries that occur with basketball participation according to the National Athletic Trainers’ Association and tips on how to decrease their occurrence.

1. Foot/Ankle Injuries
These injuries are easily the most common seen injuries in basketball.  They include ankle sprains, fractures, and tendonitis.

Prevention: First, make sure you have the appropriate footwear for basketball participation.  Strengthening, balance training, and proper conditioning all help decrease injury risk.

2. Hip/Thigh Injuries
Hip flexor, hamstring, and quadriceps strains are among the most common injuries in basketball.

Prevention: Strengthening, balance training, using proper jumping/landing mechanics, and proper conditioning can decrease injury risk.  Proper warm-up and increasing flexibility can also decrease injury risk.

3. Knee Injuries
Knee injuries including overuse injuries and ligaments sprains/tears have the third highest incidence of occurring in basketball.

Prevention: Once again strengthening, balance training, using proper jumping/landing mechanics, and proper conditioning can decrease injury risk. The use of a proper fitting knee brace may also lessen injury risk.

4. Wrist/Hand Injuries
Wrist and hand injuries account for approximately 11% of basketball injuries occur to the wrist/hand/forearm according to the study.

Prevention: Having good court awareness, hand-eye coordination training, and having proper technique when taking a charge can decrease injury risk.

5. Head/Face Injuries
Injuries to the head and face are hard to prevent.  They include concussions, contusions, nose and eye injuries, and lacerations.

Prevention: The important thing to watch out for here is concussion symptoms and to make sure they are managed by a healthcare professional with concussion management expertise.

One very interesting statistic that was found in the NATA report is that roughly 60% of injuries occur in the second half of games, suggesting that fatigue plays a big part in when injuries are most likely to occur.  Managing playing time throughout a game may play a role in staying injury-free.

If you are experiencing pain from a sports related injury our rehabilitation experts can help!  Visit to request a free consultation and a member of our care team will call you to answer any questions you may have.


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


March 21st, 2018

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It’s that time of year again! Spring is almost here which means baseball season is officially here!! When starting spring training, it’s important for the players to maintain proper shoulder mobility as repetitive overhead throwing can cause tightness of the shoulder and chest, typically resulting in loss of throwing velocity and overuse injuries. I’ve incorporated a combination of mobility and strengthening exercises below for the baseball player to reduce the likelihood of injury to the throwing arm over the course of a long season.

Range of Motion Exercises

Cross-Body Stretch
This stretch addresses the muscles in the back of the shoulder which are prone to tightness in overhead athletes. This stretch is performed lying on the involved side with hips and knees bent. The involved shoulder and elbow are positioned in 90 degrees of flexion. The hand of the uninvolved arm grasps the elbow of the involved arm and gently pulls it across the body. Once a mild stretch is felt on the outside or back of the shoulder, this position is held for approximately 30 seconds.

Thoracic Spine Windmill
This is a great dynamic mobility drill to restore thoracic spine rotation and improve the flexibility of the lats and pectoral muscles. Begin on your side with both arms outstretched in front of you. Place a foam roll under your top leg with the knee and hip bent to 90 degrees. The bottom knee and hip remain extended throughout the exercise. Reach forward with your top hand and then complete a large circular windmill motion as you rotate your entire upper body. Keep reaching as if you were attempting to lengthen your entire arm. Follow your hand with your eyes to ensure proper thoracic spine and rib cage movement. The top knee and leg should remain in contact with the foam roll throughout the exercise. Perform 10 reps on each side.


Strengthening Exercises

Side lying external rotation with dumbbell
Lie on uninvolved side with involved arm at side of body and elbow bent to 90. Keeping the elbow of involved arm fixed to side, raise arm with dumbbell in hand. Hold for 2 seconds and lower back to starting position. Perform 2 sets of 20 reps. Make sure to start light and work up to 3 pounds. It is more about proper form and range of motion rather than the amount of weight. Start at 2 sets of 20 reps and progress to 3 sets of 20 reps as able.


Lower trap strengthening on stability ball
Seated on SB, with both arms fixed at side and elbows bent to 90 degrees. thumbs facing upwards. Grasp tubing with both hands and rotate both shoulders outward, rotating thumbs until parallel with floor. Hold for 2 seconds then return to starting position. Perform 2 sets of 15-20 reps.


Lie on stomach on stability ball, face down, with both arms hanging straight to floor and palms facing down. Raise both arms out to the side parallel to the floor, hold for 2 seconds then lower slowly back to starting position. Add weight as able, perform 2 sets of 15 reps.


Our team of experts at Physical Therapy Consultants, Inc can design a sport specific rehab program that incorporates a combination of strengthening and range of motion exercises for the overhead athlete. This program is created to help the athlete return to the field from injury, improve form, and work to avoid injuries in the future.

Kaitlyn Grell, LPTA
Physical Therapist Assistant
Physical Therapy Consultants, Inc.

March 14th, 2018

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The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates there is 1.6-3.8 million concussions in sports and recreational activities every year. However, because not all individuals seek medical attention this number is greatly underestimated.

What is a concussion? A concussion is a “trauma-induced alteration in mental status that may or may not involve loss of consciousness.”

Symptoms of a concussion can present very differently among individuals. Some of the more common signs and symptoms include headache, feeling “foggy”, dizziness, difficulty concentrating, being easily confused, slowed thought processes, difficulty remembering, nausea, lack of energy, blurred vision, sensitivity to light and/or noise, and abnormal mood changes.

Post Injury Management:
When a concussion occurs it is important for the following initial steps to be taken.

• Rest, rest, rest (remove from athletic participation, decrease screen time, decrease other physical and cognitive exertion activities). Past literature used to suggest to not let the patient sleep or to wake them up throughout the night, however this is no longer the case and it’s important to let them rest unless otherwise instructed by a physician.
• See a physician that specializes in concussion management within the first 1-3 days after injury
• Stay hydrated
• Avoid physical or mental exertion, especially in the acute phases
• Decrease any activities that increase symptoms, such as TV, electronics etc.
• Avoid medications other than acetaminophen (Tylenol)
• Eat a well-balanced diet
• Academic accommodations (Physicians can prescribe accommodations to help students navigate the return to learn process.)
• Avoid ingesting alcohol, drugs or other substances

Home care:
After a concussion is diagnosed their needs to be communication between all those involved. This includes family, school personnel (coaches, teachers, counselors etc.), school medical personnel (ATCs, school nurse), and community referral sources (team physician, physical therapist and other healthcare providers). The home healthcare plan should involve frequent follow-ups with the continuing monitoring of concussion signs and symptoms. Patients and their parents or significant others need to be aware of the signs and symptoms that indicate a deteriorating condition and warrants immediate referral to the ER. Those included are listed below.

• Decreasing level of consciousness
• Increasing confusion
• Increasing irritability
• Loss of or fluctuating level of consciousness
• Numbness in the arms or legs
• Pupils becoming unequal in size
• Repeated vomiting
• Seizures
• Slurred speech or inability to speak
• Inability to recognize people or places
• Worsening headache

Return to Play Criteria:
It is important to note no patient/athlete diagnosed with a concussion should return to sport or physical activity the same day of injury. Once an individual/athlete is diagnosed with a concussion the return-to-play progression does not start until he/she no longer reports any concussion related symptoms, has a normal clinical exam, and performs at or above preinjury levels of functioning on all objective concussion assessments.

According to the National Athletic Trainers Association (NATA) there are six stages when following a return-to play progression.
• Stage one: No activity
• Stage two: light exercise: <70% age-predicted maximal heart rate
• Stage three: sport specific activities (non-contact)
• Stage four: noncontact training drills, resistance training
• Stage five: unrestricted training (full contact)
• Stage six: return to play

It should be noted that there needs to be at least 24 hours between each stage. If at any time a certain activity returns symptoms or a decrease in test performance is seen, the activity should be immediately stopped and started again in 24 hours at the same stage the symptoms occurred previously.

Allyssa Hoopman, ATC
Certified Athletic Trainer
Physical Therapy Consultants, Inc.


information obtained from:

Broglio, Steven P., et al. “National Athletic Trainers Association Position Statement:
Management of Sport Concussion.” Journal of Athletic Training, vol. 49, no. 2, 2014, pp. 245–265., doi:10.4085/1062-6050-49.1.07.

March 7th, 2018

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February is American Heart Month.  Here are the top 5 tips to keep your heart healthy to celebrate this month and all year long!

  1. Exercise! ACSM recommends at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise at least 5 days/week for a total of 150 minutes per week.
  2. Avoid smoking or secondhand smoke. If you smoke, use one of many options to help you quit. Also try to avoid secondhand smoke if at all possible.  Smoking and secondhand smoke put a lot of stress on the lungs, which puts increased stress on the heart.
  3. Manage Stress. Take a few minutes to decompress and de-stress. In this busy world it’s hard to find time to unplug and take a few minutes for yourself, but your heart will thank you for it!
  4. Drink in moderation. If you choose to consume alcohol, limit yourself to 1-2 drinks per day. Moderate alcohol consumption is considered 2 drinks/day for men and 1 drink/day for women.
  5. Sleep! Aim for 7-8 hours of sleep per night. Lack of sleep can cause increased stress on the heart, increase blood pressure and calcium in the arteries.

Heart Disease is still the #1 cause of death in the United States. Keep your heart healthy with these tips, and don’t forget to get yearly physicals to guarantee heart health.

What are some of your favorite ways to maintain heart health? Let us know by commenting below!

Rebecca Varoga, PT, DPT
Physical Therapist
Physical Therapy Consultants, Inc.


February 28th, 2018

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According to Carey and Freburger, more than 80% of Americans will experience an episode of low back pain at some time in their lives. There are many things that cause back pain such as an acute injury or improper use of muscles. It is important to keep our core muscles strong and working properly to decrease the risk of injury.
So what exactly is our CORE? The core consists of muscles surrounding the torso; front, back, sides and pelvis.

Some of my favorite exercises to do are: Bridging, Dead Bug, Bird Dogs, Planks and Clamshells. Keep in mind all the exercises should be performed activating your lower abdominals, most importantly the transverse abdominis. This muscle is characterized as your internal girdle, helping support and unload your spine. By pulling your belly button to your spine, slightly decreasing the curve in your low back this muscle can be activated. I always say if you tighten your stomach as if you were bracing yourself to receive a punch, this will help engage the transverse abdominis.

While lying on your back, tighten your lower abdominals, squeeze your buttocks and then raise your buttocks off the floor/bed as creating a “Bridge” with your body. Hold and then lower yourself and repeat.

Dead Bug
While lying on your back with your knees and hips bent to 90 degrees, tightening lower abdominals to keep your back flat, slowly straighten out a leg without touching the floor. At the same time raise an opposite arm over head. Do not allow your spine to arch during this movement.
Retrun to starting position and then repeat on the opposite side.

Bird Dogs
While on all fours, brace at your abdominals and then slowly straighten a leg and opposite arm upwards. Maintain a level and stable pelvis and spine the entire time.
Retrun to starting position and then repeat on the opposite side.

Planks (Forward and Side)
While lying face down, lift your body up on your elbows and toes. Keep your elbows under your shoulders and maintain a straight spine. Do not allow your hips to drop. This can be performed on knees as well.

While lying on your side with your knees bent, keep your elbow under your shoulder and shoulder, hip and knee in a line, lift your body up on your elbow and knees. To progress this try going onto your toes versus your knees.

While lying on your side with your knees bent, draw up the top knee while keeping contact of your feet together.  Do not let your hip roll back during the lifting movement.

Perform each exercise until fatigue and 2 sets of each progressing to 3 sets as you can. If you are experiencing low back pain, seek help from a physical therapist.

Pictures courtesy of HEP2go.

Kerra Pietsch, LPTA
Andover Physical Therapy

February 21st, 2018

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February celebrates Heart Health! As a dietitian with Coborn’s, I have the opportunity to work with clients on building a lifestyle that focuses on choosing the right types of foods and in the right amounts. Our goal is to make the healthy choice, the easy choice! Along with that comes some simple nutrition education. Here’s a brief run-down of a heart healthy diet:

  • More Fruits and Vegetables. They are loaded with fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants! All forms matter- try fresh, frozen, dried and even canned varieties to get more fruits and vegetables into your daily routine.
  • Whole Grains. Grains are important, but what’s key is choosing the right types of grains in the right amounts. Choosing whole grains offers more fiber, protein, vitamins, minerals and so much more! Make the whole grain choices when shopping for bread, pasta, cereal, granola bars, and snack crackers. Tip: Shopping tip: For a product to be whole grain, WHOLE must be the 1st ingredient on the ingredients list. For example, look for ‘whole wheat flour’ on the back of your breads!
  • Lean Protein. Look for lean sources of protein throughout the store. This includes meat and seafood, nuts and seeds, + dairy products! Here is a cheat sheet to help you pick out lean sources of meat and seafood next time you’re at the store.
  • Low-fat Dairy. In the Midwest, we love our cheese and our dairy products! The American Heart Association still recommends dairy products that are low-fat. There are plenty of milk, yogurt and cheese options at the store. The tricky part is consuming them in the right portion sizes.
  • Limit Sodium & Saturated Fat. Limit your sodium by cooking more with herbs and spices, or simply start using some Mrs. Dash blends, which are salt-free and have great flavor. Limit saturated fat intake by choosing low fat/fat-free dairy products and lean meats.

Simple substitution for your daily meals and snacks! Here are some ways in which you can make the swap for better nutrition! Remember, make small changes and overtime it will become a lifestyle, not just a short-term “diet”.

  • Try 100% whole grain bread over white bread
  • Try whole wheat pasta over white pasta – don’t like the texture? Do a 50/50 mixture of whole grain and white pasta
  • Choose chicken breasts and other sources of lean protein as listed in the handout provided Here
  • Enjoy a bowl of low-fat yogurt with some fresh fruit for a sweet treat. (tip: aim for less than 10 grams of sugar per serving in your yogurt).
  • Simply start by filling your plate 1⁄2 with fruits and vegetable before adding on your other foods.
  • When seasoning chicken breasts, sirloins, or whatever lean meat you choose, simple season it with Mrs. Dash. It’s a salt-free seasoning that is full of herbs and spices to offer great flavor without the sodium.

If you’re looking for more ideas, schedule a grocery store tour with me! I’ll take you through the aisles and help you identify better-for-you foods in every department of the store. It’s like having a personal shopper, but I don’t pay the bill! Reach out via our website at to schedule an appointment.


Happy & healthy eating,


Amy Peick, RD, LD
Coborn’s- Isanti, MN
Supermarket Registered Dietitian

February 14th, 2018

Posted In: General


Wow, what an entertaining Super Bowl! Congratulations to the Philadelphia Eagles!   The offensives for both participating teams were amazing!  The amount of yards and points scored in the game will be remembered for a long time.

As an athletic trainer I tend to look a little closer at another aspect of football, the medical care provided to the players.  Being able to appropriately evaluate and treat injuries over the course of such a fast-paced game can be tricky and the policies and procedures will continue to evolve.  It takes a team effort to provide appropriate and comprehensive medical care to players.  Here is a look at the medical professionals that are present during every NFL game:

Each sideline has:

  • 4 Athletic Trainers – Assess and treat player injuries in conjunction with team doctors
  • 2 Orthopedic Medical Doctors – Evaluate and treat players for injuries to the bones and joints
  • 2 Primary Care Physicians – Evaluate players for general medical conditions and concussions
  • 1 Unaffiliated Neurotrauma Consultant – Evaluates players for possible head injuries and concussions
  • 1 Chiropractor – Provides back/spinal adjustments for players and treats muscular injuries

Each stadium has these additional members of the medical team present on gameday

  • 1 Dentist – Treats dental issues
  • 2 Independent Athletic Trainers – Notify on-field staff of possible injuries from the press box. The independent Athletic Trainer spotters can call a medical timeout to stop the game to have a player receive medical attention.
  • 1 Airway Management Physician – Provides emergency intubation to severely injured, non-breathing players
  • 2 EMTs/Paramedic Crew – Transport players to hospital in the event of serious injuries
  • 1 Radiology Technician – Takes x-rays of injured players at the stadium
  • 1 Ophthalmologist – Treats eye injuries
  • 1 Visiting Team Medical Liaison – Local emergency physician certified to practice medicine in the state where the game is being played. The VTML works with the team to provide access to care, medication and first-rate medical facilities.

Although the Minnesota Vikings came up short in the NFC title game last month, their medical team was honored with a big award. The Vikings athletic training staff was recognized last month as the Ed Block Courage Award NFL Athletic Training Staff of the Year. The Ed Block Courage Award for NFL Athletic Training Staff of the Year is voted on by all 32 NFL athletic training staffs and the members of the Professional Football Athletic Trainers Society and recognizes one NFL athletic training staff annually for their distinguished service to their club, community, and athletic training profession. CONGRATULATIONS!

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

February 8th, 2018

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Keeping kids active in the winter can be difficult. It is so easy to stay inside during the winter, especially in Minnesota during times of subzero temperatures. There are actually lots of fun ways to keep kids active indoors. Here are a few ways to burn off a little energy!

Have an indoor snowball fight
Whether you use balled up socks or crumpled tissue paper to get everyone moving. For easy clean up, you can have a snowball free throw contest into a laundry basket.

Play indoor ice hockey
Bend the bottom of a wrapping paper tube and use tape to hold it in the shape of a hockey stick.  Add a ball, a sock or jar lid and you are ready to play.

Have a dance party
Crank up the music and get moving. Move the furniture around so you have a large open space. March, stomp, twirl, jump, and hop. Get out some fun musical instruments. Join in and have fun!

Have hallway races
Let your little ones and/or their friends race down the hallway. Make it even more fun and tape up a piece of party streamer for them to bust through.

Bring outdoor toys that keep kids active inside
Think jump ropes, balls, push toys, hula hoops, small toy cars, and even small portable sliding boards.

Exercise together
Do jumping jacks or push ups, run in place, or try sit ups.

Play Simon Says…. and make it as active as possible.

Let little ones jump from cushion to cushion
Pull the cushions off the couch and tell them the floor is lava and that they can’t touch it.

Create a fun indoor obstacle course
Make tunnels to crawl under, hurdles to jump over and poles to weave through. Have your kids jumping, balancing and so much more!

Let us know some of your kiddos favorite indoor winter activities. We would love to hear them!

Kaitlyn Grell, LPTA
Licensed Physical Therapist Assistant
Physical Therapy Consultants, Inc.


January 31st, 2018

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