Wednesday, December 15, 2010

2011 New Year Resolution Event!!

Buy 5 personal training sessions, get 1 FREE! NO LIMIT on the number of sessions you can purchase and so NO LIMIT on the number of FREE TRAINING SESSIONS you can earn. Offer valid from now through January (1/31/2011).

Gift Certificates available.

Train with one of the most talented groups of Fitness Pros in Northern VA! Huge savings on what is already the best value in the area. Your satisfaction is GUARANTEED!

Contact us today at to get started.

Anyone can take advantage of this offer, so feel free to share this offer with your friends and family.

Be well in 2011!!!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Know Your Physical Therapist?

Being able to make good decisions about your health care begins with an understanding about different health professionals, how they can help and how to know if you have chosen the right one for your situation.

Physical therapists have changed a lot in the recent past. Nowadays, most people are free to see a PT directly without the need for a prescription or a visit to their primary doctor.

PTs are more highly skilled in differentiating between problems we can solve or issues that must be referred to a different medical specialist.

More often now we see people as an alternative to surgery or to pick up on clues that can prevent pain or injury altogether while still maintaining our high value post-surgery skills.

We are the Movement People. If your pain impacts your ability to work or enjoy your free time then we highly recommend you find a PT in your area who will find the problem and design a comprehensive plan to get you pain free again.

There are several criteria we urge people to examine.
Doctorate level education: Not all PTs are educated in the same way or with the same intensity. You want to work with the best available when it’s your body on the line.

Treatment time with a PT: Many clinics pass off a lot of treatment to less educated and less attentive aides or technicians. Be sure to know how much hands-on time you will be getting with your PT. This is equivalent to seeing a nurse when you wanted to see your physician. This piece couldn’t be stressed enough. The more time with your PT, the faster you will get better and back to pain free activity.

Sometimes clinics that provide the highest ratio of PT to client time may require you to bill your own health insurance. While this might sound inconvenient, practices that operate in this manner are typically among the highest in client satisfaction. Additionally, and this is an important tip, the total cost of treatment is relatively the same as when the clinic bills your insurance for you when one takes into account co-pays and the amount of time that treatment will take.

Expertise in a specialty: Some PTs work with children, others with athletes. Some specialize in certain injuries or certain sports. Become educated about the specialty of the PT or the practice that you are selecting so you are certain you will receive the best care.

Do your best to follow this advice and you will surely be in good hands with a physical therapist.

Friday, October 22, 2010

What a Pain In the Neck! As Seen in the current "Your Health Magazine"

Pain resulting from poor posture is becoming more prevalent. With people spending increased amounts of time in front of computer screens, on laptops, and on the phone, more people are dealing with neck pain on a regular basis. Your mom was right when she continually told you to sit up straight and to not slouch. She was looking out for your neck and back health the entire time.

What Gives us Bad Posture?
• The spaces in which we work are set up in a way that feeds into back, head, neck and trunk alignment. Forcing yourself to sit with your head protruding forward and your shoulders rounded only makes that portion of your posture worse.
• Weak neck, back and core muscles are often a big problem. These muscles come specially equipped to hold you upright. Most of us train our “six pack” muscles (rectus abdominus) very hard but forget about some of our strongest core stabilizers, the transverse abdominus. If your core and back muscles are strong, you are winning a very important battle against neck pain.

How is This Related to my Pain?
• When the above is going on, the muscles that support your head and neck work extra hard to keep things in line. The problem is that these muscles fatigue quickly and cause pain that can radiate from the top of your head, all the way down to your shoulders and further still toward your mid-back.

How Can You Fix This Yourself?
• First things first: take a look at your workspace. The computer screen should be at or just slightly below eye level. Your keyboard should be in a position that allows your elbows and wrists to be supported and relaxed. Your chair should be at a height that allows your feet to be firmly on the floor and knees at ninety-degree angles.
• Improve your core and back strength. Row, row, row your back. There is a lot of variety at most fitness centers, but ask questions if you are not sure of what to do. Using these machines will ensure that you are strengthening your back and neck-supporting muscles in a way that will most benefit you. For core strength, try to integrate planks and pelvic tilting exercises to get those deep muscles to work hard for you.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

FREE Injury Prevention and Pain Screenings

October is National Physical Therapy Month. To raise awareness about how physical therapists can be used as a resource to prevent pain and improve performance, we are offering FREE Physical Therapy Evaluations.

We will be performing evaluations and physical exams to uncover the reasons behind current and past pain issues that may have prevented you from reaching your true potential.

Contact us at your convenience to set up an appointment.

Happy National Physical Therapy Month.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

As seen in October Edition of "Your Health Magazine": New Season, New Work Out

Fall is around the corner. A slight chill is in the air. And you are stuck in an exercise rut!

Most of us like to get into a groove when it comes to working out. But many times this is the reason we quit before we’ve made it to our goals! Need some variety? Now is a great time to shake-up that exercise “routine.”
Here are three simple ways to inject some variety and fun back into your day-to-day fitness.

Cross Training:
• By definition, this can be described as performing an activity that is in no way related to a target activity. Choose a sport or activity that you have never done and have wanted to learn, and do that three times per week over the next month instead of your usual program. This will keep your body guessing and the results coming.

Try Some Fun Indoor Activities:
• Find a swimming pool: Swimming is great exercise and, even if you can’t swim, the benefits from normal exercise movements in a pool are widely recognized. Swimming also helps alleviate the aches and pains associated with exercise.
• Rock climbing: There are several safe indoor facilities that you can try and most charge little or nothing to give you a crack at it. It’s fun, exciting and especially challenging! It is a great workout in a small amount of time — perfect for the person who likes to work hard but is dealing with some time constraints.
• Join a racquetball, squash or volleyball league: Often times, experience and skills are not a requirement for these groups. The idea is to find something you can have fun with while trying to improve your skills and fitness.

Hired Help:
• The best way to make your current exercise regimen more enjoyable is to learn some new exercises! There are thousands of ways to vary your weight training or cardiovascular exercise program, but often times our clients simply tell us, “I would have never thought of that!”
• Be sure to do your homework. There are many resources available to find the best fitness professional near you. This will ensure that you and your new trainer are a good personality fit and that they possess the skills and knowledge necessary for safe and effective help.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Back to School and in a hurry!!

So you are late again. Kids need to get rushed off to the bus stop or to day care and you're behind as always. Did you remember your briefcase? Where are your keys? What time is it? OH, no! I'm WAY behind. Need to eat something: grab one of the kids sugary snacks? A pop tart might work.... dunno. Well, at least I have my coffee. Where is THE SPLENDA!!! ARGH.

No time for a real breakfast... again. You need a quick and nutritious on-the-go-meal. But what to do?

Here is a simple way to eat on the go and not deprive yourself, or your family, of the essential nutrition they need in the AM. Before bedtime, wrap up a good ol' PB&J and a banana or other hand held piece of fruit and pop it in the fridge.

Now you're all set. In a rush the next morning? Grab it and go. You can easily and safely eat a quick sandwich in the car on the way to work and you will be assured several hundred excellent calories in the process. Is breakfast a problem for your entire household? Replicate the above steps and now everyone's equipped for the first part of their day.

Give this a whirl and take a deep breath: your morning routine just got easier (and HEALTHIER!)

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

As seen in this month's "Your Health Magazine": Back in Action!

Back pain is among the leading causes of disability across all age groups and is only second to ‘dizziness’ as the most commonly seen complaint at the doctor’s office.

Back pain doesn’t discriminate. It impacts everyone from expectant or new Moms, recreational to professional athletes, busy executives, and increasingly, even young children. This pain can range from mild to debilitating and can definitely decrease your mobility and overall quality of life.
Luckily there are few simple rules to follow to prevent back pain from playing a role in your day to day.

1. Sit up. Remember when your Mother told you to stop slouching? She knew how your posture impacts your back health. Just being conscious of sitting up straight throughout your day can significantly decrease your pain and other symptoms that result from what we in the physical therapy world call “poor postural awareness”.

2. Ergonomics at work and play. Ergonomics is a fancy word for your posture and body position. An easy way to help you out with Rule #1 is to take a close look at how you sit at work or at home. Is your chair helping or hurting you? We recommend that you support your lower back while seated using a towel roll, pillow or other type of lumbar support to make sure your lower back has a nice healthy forward curve. Also be sure to keep your work close to you. If your arms are reaching forward excessively your lower back is more likely to arch in the wrong direction.

3. Use your legs. Are you using good lifting technique around your home or when playing with your children? Most of us struggle with this but correcting this goes a very long way to decreasing pain.

4. Be strong. A regular exercise program designed to strengthen your core, hips and legs is one of the most important pieces of this puzzle. Improving your trunk and lower body strength can improve your postural awareness without you even knowing it. This is apparent when patients and clients of ours come back to us saying, “I notice that I slouch from time to time”. We love hearing this because before they never even realized it. Becoming aware of it is a huge step in the right direction.

5. Already have pain? It is widely recognized that conservative treatment for any spinal or pelvic restrictions, combined with a structured strengthening program, is the most effective way to regain your pain free mobility. Consult your physician or an orthopedic physical therapist to get started on a plan of care to rid you of pain for good.

Monday, July 12, 2010

... Just like novicaine: works EVERY time if you just give it a shot!

As a physical therapist and fitness pro, I have developed a neat little library of fun-terms or cliches that I use from time to time. You may already know some of the oldies but goodies like, "No pain no gain" or "You are what you eat".

One of my all-time favorites is: "Proper nutrition and regular exercise are like novicaine: each works EVERY SINGLE TIME if you just give it a shot!"

The idea is simple but most people never really give proper nutrition and regular exercise a fighting chance.

I URGE you and those around you to give it a shot. Take a good hard look at what you are doing now and dial it up for 8 ENTIRE weeks. That's long enough to see some very significant gains and hopefully propel you into whatever the next step of your training is. DON'T QUIT! DON'T STOP! DON'T LET UP! No matter what. Sick? Feeling down? "Tired?" Suck it up! Give this thing your BEST honest effort and accept all of the rewards.

I'd love to hear what you are doing to make the changes you need to be on top of your game. Post them here and help everyone else with ideas for how they can make real change in their lives.


Monday, July 5, 2010

Heating up!


Heat exhaustion is no joke. It can sneak up on you faster than you think. Know the signs and know how to reverse the tide before things become a lot more dangerous:

- nausea
- nausea/vomiting
- profuse sweating
- confusion
- rapid and weak pulse rate
- weakness
- cramping

What to do if you or a loved one is exhibiting these symptoms:
- move to a cool area
- cool, non-alcoholic beverages
- get out of the sun if possible
- get seated or assume a safe position in the event of lightheadedness

Even those of us who are accustomed to hot weather and vigorous exercise outdoors can be caught off guard with heat exhaustion so know and pass on the info.

Stay well.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

What's in the water around here!?

It's getting HOT!!! High humidity and warm temperatures are reason enough to be sure to get enough water in. Combine that with all of the outdoor exercise that we do, it becomes even more important to stay properly hydrated.

Did you know that if you are 2% dehydrated that you stand to lose up to 20% of your muscle's ability to contract? That means that if you could squat 100 lbs when normally hydrated that you would only be able to squat 80 lbs if you were ONLY 2% dehydrated!!! And guess what? When we 'feel' thirsty we are already about 40-50% dehydrated.

What's the solution? Keep drinking water. Sip all day. Just plain water. If you stay on top of this you can keep your muscles operating at their optimal level.

If you are doing higher intensity exercise or sports outdoors, it may be appropriate to have a good sports drink with you. These drinks can help replace vital salts and fluids and at the same time provide you with some simple sugars to keep you playing hard.

Friday, May 28, 2010

2010 Summer Kick-Off Boot Camp: Begins June 21st!

Boot Camp will run for 4 weeks: meeting Tuesdays and Thursdays at 7AM

Sessions to begin promptly at 7AM and end on time at 8AM.
60-minute, high energy and FUN exercise session
-Led by SPARK Physical Therapist and Wellness Consultant: Elizabeth Polis, PT

Each participant must bring:
-yoga or stretching mat
-a positive attitude and your best effort!

Exercise session to include: warm-up, flexibility training, full-body strengthening and toning exercises, targeted core strengthening exercises, cardiovascular conditioning and cool down.

All workouts will take place in the ‘quad’ area in front of the Carlyle Club:
411 John Carlyle Street
Alexandria, VA 22314-6817

Max 20 participants

$99 per participant for entire 4-week program

Registration closes on June 17th


Now that we are all getting more exercise we need to be able to take care of ourselves when we get dinged-up.

Rest: Take it easy for a few days. Avoid movements that make it hurt.
Ice: Apply ice to the injured area for up to 20 minutes as often as you can tolerate for the first 72 hours.
Compression: ACE wraps work great for this. This will provide the muscles with a little more support while they heal.
Elevation: Keep the injured area above the level of your heart to encourage inflammation to leave the injury.

If injuries linger for more than just a week or you continue to injure the same body part the issue might be more serious than you pre piously thought. Seek a physical therapist to get you back to your best.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Childhood Obesity: PLAY!!!!

More and more children are battling obesity every day! While many of us were playing outdoors with our friends, a culture of sedentary behavior and horrid eating habits was gaining momentum.

Remember when we were growing up? Bored? Call your buddy. Ask your girlfriend to take a walk to the mall. See if Mom or Dad could play catch or help you build or create something. Doesn't this happen anymore???? What has changed? Are we so busy as to overlook the evolutionary NEED to play, compete and rid ourselves of pent up energy?

Thankfully, our leaders are bringing these and other childhood obesity issues to the forefront.

Here's a great take home message: GET OUTSIDE. Play with your children. Go play with your friend's children. Teach each other that time spent running around outdoors is more fun than time spent in front of the TV or computer.

If we all take responsibility for each other we will all win.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

How important is your BMI?

BMI stands for 'body mass index' and uses your height and weight to give us very rough estimate of your overall health and risk for many types of disease.

Here is a link that will help you determine your BMI:

Your BMI along with your body fat percentage, blood pressure, HR, total cholesterol and a number of other health metrics, can give us a good indication about how you are doing in your wellness program.

Would you like to discuss concerns about your health status? Post them here or feel free to contact SPARK for help.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Food as Fuel!

There is much confusion about ingredients, portions and calories. There are some resources out there to guide us along the path of real wellness. However, the best are still those professionals who have made it their life's work to spread the word of wellness.

I happen to be more of a do-it-yourselfer and so I found a great link that I thought I would share.

This will likely answer many questions about how you can make good decisions at the grocery store. Take a look and share your experiences with us!

Your wellness is not a passive thing. Make health happen.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Pass (on) the salt...

In the news:

Here's an idea, police your overall salt intake yourselves!
Here are some figures you may be interested in:

  • Total daily allowance of Sodium: 1500-2400mg
  • More than 11% of all the sodium intake is from what you add in food preparation
  • More than 70% is added in the processing of many food products

A tax on increased salt in the production of food may be a step in the right direction. We need to be more realistic when policing ourselves and our loved ones as to our own habits.

Decreasing your risk for disease and disability can be as simple as getting the right information about how to make proper nurtition and increased physical activity a part of your life.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Back In Action

Back pain is among the leading causes of disability and is a very common issue treated in physical therapy clinics. A recent article published by the AP highlights several different approaches for the treatment of back pain. It is concluded that there are differing opinions about the most effective treatment.

However, we do know that before a surgical approach, more conservative measures should be taken. The best evidence points to a comprehensive program of postural reeducation, core muscle strenghtening and techniques to ensure the balanced relationship of the hips and spine.

In the general sense, once patients have a surgical procedure to fuse a level of their spinal column the levels above and below are asked to take on more stress and abnormal amounts of mobility in order to compensate for the loss of motion. If this newly stabilized segment is not treated with care, more surgeries are down the road.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

ICE, ICE, Baby!

Spring is upon us!! Our bodies are craving movement. As we get more active, you might notice that some of us are moving around a little more slowly than we have in the past.

Nothing to fear... yet. Here is a simple way to alleviate some pain and maybe even shed some light on a very commonly made mistake when dealing with joint pain.

While applying ice to achy joints might not be the most comfortable experience, it is among the most effective for decreasing pain and inflammation. Heat feels better but in some cases, it may actually exacerbate the problem!

How do I know when I should use ice?
The simple answer: If it's red, swollen, painful and warm it would probably benefit from a good cool down. 15 - 20 minutes of ice with a break for 10 - 15 minutes. Repeat as often as possible for the first couple of days.

If a joint requires heat, then the problems is more likely a long-standing one. General stiffness, pain and decreased ability to move that joint(s) is an indication for heat.

The bonus about ice: Even if ice is inappropriate for the injury, it won't do you any harm. While if you mistakenly apply heat to an area that is inflammed you may cause more damage.

Moral of the story: When in doubt ICE, ICE, Baby!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Knee Pain: Calling all endurance athletes

A very common problem seen in endurance athletes who present with knee pain is weakness in the outter hip muscles and poor coordination between the foot and hip. Recently published research in the Journal of Sport and Orthopaedic Physical Thearpy continues to enforce this assessment.

Be sure to work to strengthen each limb independently to increase your ability to absorb impact, stabilize your mechanics and ultimately prevent injuries to your knees and hips that will put you on the shelf.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Small Physical Therapy practices: the new wave!

Size may matter to some but in the case of physical therapy and fitness services, smaller and more agile is a more popular trend.

Smaller organizations can offer much more to their clinetelle in the way of personal service, more intimate atmosphere and are better equipped to change with new developments in practice than their larger corporate counterparts.

Do you have pain? Do you need to improve your fitness? Have athletic aspirations for yourself or your friends? Seek out the smaller groups in your area. To help you select the right group for you, ask yourself questions like:

"How many runners (swimmers, baseball players, dancers, etc) have they worked with?"

"What makes this place the best fit for me?"

"Do they have availability that fits my schedule?"

If you do a good job of answering these questions, you will set yourself up for success even before setting foot in the door. Always remember that smaller physical therapy and fitness organizations will be more willing to speak with you over the phone or email so that you are comfortable with the details so don't hesitate to reach out to them.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Welcome to SPARK Physio LIVE!

Follow our blog to hear about new developments in physical therapy, strength and conditioning, personal wellness and health.

We are excited about reaching a wider audience of people who are taking the initiative to seek a higher level of overall wellness.