3 Ways To Get a Healthy Start to the New Year

calendar January 1, 2020

Looking for ways to get a healthy start to the new year? If you are like most, you are setting your New Year’s resolutions and preparing for a health “restart” come the beginning of January.

If you are unsure of where to start, here are three ways to get a healthy start to the new year that are good for your body, mind, and soul.

Don’t Underestimate The Importance of Sleep

Adequate amounts of sleep eliminate risk factors for many diseases such as stroke, heart attack, and diabetes. We make better decisions when we are well rested too. Lack of sleep can cause you to crave junk food, salty or sugary snacks, and starches. This is because sleep deprivation causes your hunger hormone ghrelin to increase and your appetite suppressing hormone leptin to decrease. If you sleep less than five hours per night, your risk of obesity increases by 50%, according to research from John Hopkins Medicine.

[Learn more tips for health: Why Staying Hydrated Is So Important]

Practice Gratitude

Practicing gratitude has been shown to reduce depression, reduce stress, and lower blood pressure. Take a moment each morning to be mindful, count your lucky stars and make a note of what you are grateful for. Keep a gratitude journal if it helps. Focusing on the positives help you to realize how many things you have that are good in your life and takes the focus off the negatives a little bit more.

Learn Ways To Exercise Safely

If you simply got out of your normal workout routine over the holidays, it’s time to pick back up where you left off. Or, if exercise is new to you, now is a great time to create a new workout routine. Either way, in order to avoid risking injury, start out slow.

[Considering hiking? Here are 3 Stretches For Avid Hikers]

A physical therapist can help to show you ways to get a healthy start to the new year, including ways of safely starting an exercise program. Contact us at 1-833-861-6161 to find an Empower Physical Therapy location near you.

Lifting Techniques to Avoid Back Injuries

calendar November 23, 2020

“Lift with your legs, not your back!” We’ve heard it many times before, but what does it mean, and why should we do it? Lifting heavy objects is an easy way to injure your back if done incorrectly. In fact, just working a job that requires lifting is a risk factor for developing back pain. But whether you’re lifting at work, at the gym, or at home, it is important to use proper form to decrease your risk of injury.

Components of Proper Lifting Technique:

Start with a strong, stable base. Keep your feet about shoulder-width apart, and get as close to the object as you can. Brace your core to support your spine. Imagine drawing your belly button in towards your spine; this will activate a muscle called the Transverse Abdominis (your built-in back brace!). This will help you to maintain a neutral spinal position as well. While a healthy spine is built to move in many directions, it is safest to maintain the natural curve of your spine when lifting heavy objects. This means avoiding rounding your low back. Use your legs to lower yourself down to the object by sitting your hips back and bending your knees. Keep the object as close to you as possible. The closer the object is to your center of gravity (around your belly button), the easier it will be to hold. Use your leg muscles to return to a standing position, pushing through your heels. This will utilize your stronger muscles to do most of the work. To avoid injury while holding the object, avoid twisting. Make sure your feet and shoulders are facing the same direction while holding the object. And lastly, know when to ask for help. Some objects are simply too big, heavy, or awkwardly shaped to be lifted by one person. Don’t suffer from a back injury and bruised ego because you didn’t ask for help!

If you’ve already suffered from a back injury, come see us at Empower Physical Therapy. This is a very common condition that physical therapists are well trained to treat. We can help manage your pain and teach you proper lifting techniques for the future.

If you’ve been told to “lift with your legs,” but never understood what it meant, hopefully, this brought you some clarity. We also have a video with demonstrations of the techniques outlined above for your reference.

Posted by Ashley Warner, PT, DPT, from our Empower PT – Glendale MetroCenter location.

Empower Physical Therapy Care Recognized as ‘Exceptional’ by Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS)


Empower PT’s performance score in national physical therapy benchmark reflects on-going commitment to delivering best in class patient outcomes.

Empower Physical Therapy voluntarily participated in CMS’s Quality Payment Program (QPP) which resulted in its clinicians being recognized as top-tier providers under the nation’s premier quality of care measurement program.  The Quality Payment Program is part of Medicare’s Merit-Based Incentive Payment System (MIPS) which is designed to tie payments to high quality and cost-efficient care, and is the only national benchmark for physical and occupational therapy services.

The Quality Payment Program rewards providers for creating value, achieving excellence in clinical outcomes, improving population health, reducing costs and empowering patients to take an active role in their care process.  Individuals and organizations who score in the ‘Exceptional’ range are designated as top-tier providers and will be awarded a bonus on every covered Medicare Part B payment received in 2021.

In 2019, physical and occupational therapists nation-wide became eligible to report under the MIPS program.  Empower Physical Therapy and its clinicians voluntarily participated in the program, understanding participation in this program provided an opportunity to create value and promote excellence in outcomes for patients.  MIPS performance is scored on a scale of 1-100, with exceptional performance defined by scores at or above 75 points.  Empower’s average performance score across the Phoenix area clinics exceeded 90 points, well above the Exceptional Performance Threshold of 75. 

Empower Physical Therapy provides the highest quality physical and occupational therapy rehabilitation services to communities, employers and athletes in Arizona and through its affiliate clinics in California, Texas and Louisiana. 

Hiking Safety: Stay Safe On The Trail This Fall With These Tips

calendar September 10, 2020

Looking for hiking safety tips to prevent injury? Hiking is a fun way to enjoy nature, stay fit, and enjoy time with friends and family, so hiking safely is important to allow you to keep enjoying all these things.

Preventing injury on the trail starts with some basic preparation, the proper gear, and knowing your skill level. If you are just getting started hiking, don’t be afraid to start out slowly and work your way up to bigger trails, mountains, and hikes. Doing too much too soon is a surefire way of losing your interest in this outdoor activity.

Hiking Safety Tips To Prevent Injury

Follow these hiking safety tips to prevent injury:

Get The Right Gear

Wear layers. You might start out cool or cold, but will warm up as you progress down the trail. Wear layers that you can peel away as you warm up to help you prevent overheating and stay comfortable. Also avoid wearing cotton material as it holds moisture. Find material that wicks sweat away from your skin, whether it is in your shirt, pants, and/or socks.

Also, get proper shoes that offer grip on the trail and ankle support for climbing over rocky terrain. Carry a water pack or anything else that you need to stay hydrated. Also bring a first aid kit, and know what to do in case of an emergency.

Rest When You Need To

If you are undertaking some of the most challenging hikes in the area, you will most definitely want to rest. Feel no shame in doing so, some of the most beautiful views will be alongside the trail when taking a break, so sit down and enjoy the view.

Hike At Your Level

Know the terrain and the trail you are going on. Don’t take on mountains that are too high or where you can get easily lost. Don’t start out on the toughest hikes, take it easy and work your way up to the bigger trails that you really want to go on. 

Stretch, Stretch, Stretch

Common injuries are sprained or twisted ankles or knee injuries. Be sure to warm up before your hike and cool down afterward. Stretch out your feet and ankles, calf muscles, hamstrings, obliques, and back.

[Related article: 3 Stretches For Avid Hikers]

Wear a Mask

You’ll be sure to encounter other hikers during your hike. Wearing a mask is the best way to protect against the possibility of spreading COVID-19. When you encounter another hiker, put your mask on as a sign of respect and protection. You’ll have plenty of time to be mask free when you’re alone or in your close group. Stay safe!

If you are looking for more hiking safety tips to prevent injury in the form of learning how to properly stretch and exercise, or if you have suffered a hiking injury, contact us at 1-833-861-6161 to find an Empower Physical Therapy location near you.

Your Empower physical therapist will work closely with you, one-on-one, to develop a specialized treatment plan that is specific to you and you alone.

Shoulder Exercises to Maintain a Healthy Rotator Cuff


The rotator cuff is a group of 4 muscles that surround the shoulder joint. They connect your upper arm to your shoulder blade and help to move and stabilize the joint.

Rotator cuff injuries are common at any age and can be due to trauma, overuse, or simply degenerative changes that happen over time. Common signs and symptoms of rotator cuff injury include pain, weakness, and difficulty with activities like reaching overhead, lifting, or reaching behind your back.

If you experience symptoms like these, a physical therapist would be happy to evaluate you and determine the best treatment plan for managing your condition. If you are not experiencing symptoms like this, here are a few exercises you can implement to help maintain a strong, healthy rotator cuff.

Posture: Is It Worth It?


Is having good posture beneficial for your overall health? There are varying and conflicting opinions about this, but I personally believe it is very important for long term health. Now, does this mean that one must stand at attention like a drill sergeant all day long to have good posture and be pain free? Absolutely not. However, there are certain postural abnormalities that can cause increased neck, shoulder, and spine pain.

In today’s world, we spend a significant amount of time sitting, driving, working on computers, and using our phones. When we get comfortable doing these activities our trunk starts to slouch, our shoulders round, our heads jut forward, and our jaws protrude. When these positions are held for prolonged periods of time, it can lead to increased pain due to the undue stress placed on the muscles and joints of the spine. Pain can occur in the neck, jaw, shoulders, and even low back. If this is not promptly addressed, worsening symptoms can occur including radiating symptoms down the arms and onset of headaches.

The good news is that posture and the pain associated with poor posture can be addressed with exercise! The focus is to counteract the forward position that the joints and muscles are in. Over time and repetition, the neuromuscular system of the body can correct these postural faults, leading to improvements in pain and overall function.

So how can you do that?

Here are 5 exercises you can do to counteract postural abnormalities and improve pain.

  1. Chin Tucks– This is a super easy exercise that requires no equipment and can be done anywhere! In an upright sitting position, first, start by pulling your shoulders back and gently squeezing your shoulder blades. Next, focused on tucking your chin into a retracted position. I like to cue this exercise to my patients by saying “take your chin towards your throat to make a double chin”. Doing this movement takes your head and neck out of the forward, flexed position and produces a more neutral spine position. This position is repeated multiple times for greatest effect. This can be done multiple times a day, every day while driving or working on the computer as a reminder for proper posture.
photo of man gently pressing on chin, moving head and neck out of forward flexed position
  1. Snow angels– This exercise can be done lying down on your back or while standing with your back against a wall. Start the exercise by performing a chin tuck, then move your arms out to the sides and over your head like you are making a snow angel. This exercise will open up your chest wall, stretching out pectoral and anterior shoulder muscles. This is another exercise that can be done for repetition, 20-30 at a time every day.
woman standing with back and arms raised on wall, arms at 45 degree angles
  1. Doorway stretch– This exercise is done while standing in a doorway as the name describes. The arms can be placed at both sides of the doorway at either hip height or shoulder height. Next, keep shoulders and head erect and then step into the doorway. This is another exercise that stretches the anterior chest and shoulder muscles to counteract the forward posture. When stepping into the doorway, pay attention to avoid having the head fall forward. Hold for 30-60 seconds at a time and perform 1-2 times per day every day.
woman standing in doorway, hands pressed on door jam at head height
woman standing in doorway, hands pressed on doo jam at hip height
  1. Band pull-a-parts– Hold a resistance band with hands shoulder-width apart and arms at shoulder height. From there, pull both hands apart and squeeze the shoulder blades together. This exercise works to strengthen the muscles around the shoulder blades and upper back in order to promote the upright posture. Perform 3 sets of 10 repetitions.
man standing with arms stretched out at shoulder height
  1. Rows– Using a resistance band placed at chest height, start with your elbows straight and then pull your elbows to your sides, bending your elbows and squeezing your shoulder blades at the end of the movement. This exercise also works to strengthen the muscles around the shoulder blades and upper back in order to promote the upright posture. Perform 3 sets of 10 repetitions.
man pulling bands with elbows to sides, hands at waist level

Try out these 5 simple exercises! They are the building blocks to improving posture and ultimately improving pain caused by postural abnormalities. But as always, if you are continuing to have pain or functional difficulties related to your posture, seek out a Physical Therapist for further assistance.

Posted by Dr. Kyle Black, PT, DPT from our Empower PT – Chandler Ocotillo location.

Our Commitment to Safety During COVID-19

calendar July 10, 2020

During these unprecedented times, we wanted to remind you of our commitment to keeping our patients and employees safe. COVID-19 has affected our communities in ways we couldn’t have predicted. Our facilities are essential businesses and remain open to help you with your rehabilitation needs. We have also implemented Telehealth, or virtual visits, available for patients who desire to continue their care electronically from home.  As a reminder, here’s what we’re doing to keep our patients and employees safe and healthy. 

In-Clinic Procedures

  • All employees are screened daily for COVID-19. Staff with ANY symptoms are instructed to not report to work and only return to work when they are well.
  • All patients are screened for COVID-19 signs, symptoms, and risk factors before proceeding with any treatment session. No symptomatic patients are being seen.
  • Employees are required to wear masks at all times.
  • Patients are required to wear masks while receiving therapy (considerations will be made on a case by case basis)
  • The number of patients receiving care in each clinic has been reduced to allow appropriate social distancing
  • Before and after each therapy session or patient encounter, employees and patients are washing or sanitizing hands. 
  • We are continuously cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched objects and surfaces. (mats, treatment tables, exercise equipment, keyboards and mice, pens, phones, light switches, door handles, faucets, etc.)  This also includes disinfecting our lobby furniture after each patient use.  

How you can help us maintain a safe environment.

  • Wear your mask for your appointment. If you do not have a mask we will provide you with one to wear during therapy. 
  • Wash your hands or use hand sanitizer when you arrive and be prepared to have your temperature taken before treatment.
  • We ask that family members and caretakers wait in their cars unless their presence is absolutely necessary. Masks and social distancing rules also apply to family and caretakers. Masks will be provided to those that do not have one.   
  • Cover mouth and nose with flexed elbow or tissue – discard tissue into a closed bin and wash your hands immediately.  
  • Avoid touching eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • If you have symptoms of any respiratory infection (cough, runny nose, difficulty breathing) please consult your medical provider. You must postpone your physical therapy appointments until you are fully well. No symptomatic patients are being seen.
  • If you have a fever, please consult your medical provider and refrain from coming to the clinic. No symptomatic patients are being seen. 

We believe a successful recovery comes from completing your recommended course of care if you are healthy enough to do so. If you feel continuing your care at a clinic is not the best option for you, we also provide telehealth so patients are able to continue their recovery from the safety of their homes. Please help us maintain a safe and healthy environment for our patients and employees.

Desk Work Can Be A Pain in the Neck

calendar June 18, 2020

Today’s work environment, whether in the office or at home, usually involves a significant amount of time sitting at a desk and computer.  While sitting at a computer can be an efficient way to get work completed, it can also lead to problems in your spine, particularly the neck.

Last time I checked, the force of gravity is still pretty consistent on all of us.  We get fatigued and then adopt the most comfortable position we can find.  Prolonged sitting, especially in forward or “Slouched” posture, can lead to significant physical problems.  This posture can be described as “Forward Head and Rounded Shoulders”.  You know this position because you’ve probably been there thousands of times.  The problem is, this is an unbalanced posture which can lead to a variety of physical problems including:

  • Compression of the Discs in between the Vertebrae in your Neck
  • Compression of the Joints in the Back Part of the Neck,
  • Excessive Strain on the Muscles in the Upper and Lower part of your Neck
  • Weakness in the Muscles in the Front of your Neck
  • Trigger Points or Muscle Spasms in any of these Muscles
  • Stiffness and Reduced Range of Motion in your Neck
  • Headaches or even Pain Radiating to the Shoulders or Arms

The good news is this condition can easily be treated!  Physical Therapists at Empower Physical Therapy are experts at providing relief of the pain from these compression and strain injuries related to posture.  We use a variety of hands-on treatment techniques and exercises for stretching, strengthening and re-training for proper postural positioning in sitting, standing and even sleeping.

If you sit at a desk or computer as part of your work or personal life, here are a few tips to start repairing your posture:

  • Get up and walk!  Walking and moving around every 20 minutes helps to re-set posture and get the blood flowing in your muscles.  Stretching during this time really helps as well.
  • Feet flat on the floor.  Having both feet on the floor while sitting provides a more stable base and sets up your whole spine to be in better alignment.  Adjust your chair if needed.
  • Sit back!  Keeping your lower back against the lumbar support is a great start.  Keeping your shoulder blades back against your chair is the next step.  Keeping your head on top of your shoulders instead of out front is the icing on the cake.
  • Head and Eyes Level.  Keeping your computer monitor up near eye level helps keep your head in optimal position to prevent the neck pain and headaches so common with poor posture.  Adjust your work station if needed.
  • Stomach Muscles in!  Pulling your abdominal muscles in toward your lumbar spine and holding them there creates a tight core and helps form the base of a great pyramid.
  • Train for your job.  Doing specific exercises for building flexibility, stability and endurance will make you more than ready to tackle your desk work without injury.

If you have aches and pains related to time spent at a desk or computer, why not set up an appointment to see an Empower Physical Therapist and get rid of it for good!  Go to www.EmpowerPT.com or call 1-833-861-6161.

Posted by

Matt Figueroa PT, DPT, Chief Clinical Officer

How to Safely Return to the Gym After a Hiatus

calendar May 29, 2020

Whether your gym has been closed, you’ve had an injury, or have simply lost motivation, it can be intimidating to return to the gym after a long break. With the announcement that gyms have reopened, it is important to have a plan for resuming your gym activities safely. The following 5 tips may help your transition back to your normal routine be less frustrating, and decrease your risk of injury. 

1. Be Patient with Yourself

After a prolonged break from exercise, it is likely that your body has experienced some deconditioning; this is normal. You shouldn’t expect your performance to be exactly the same, and therefore your gym routine shouldn’t be either. Start slow, with 2-3 workouts per week and adequate recovery time in between sessions. Decrease the intensity of your workouts to what feels good to your body now. You will improve, but be patient with your progress. For safe progression, it is recommended that intensity or duration is increased by up to 10% per week. 

2. Warm-Up

Performing a warm-up before starting your gym routine has many benefits, including increasing blood flow to your muscles, preparing your cardiovascular system for exercise, decreasing risk of injury, and reducing muscle soreness. This can be brisk walking, or performing exercises at a slow, controlled pace. 

3. Cool Down

Cooling down after a workout allows your cardiovascular system to adapt back to the body’s resting state. This helps to regulate your blood flow and blood pressure, and can potentially decrease muscle soreness following exercise. This can include continuing exercise at a low to moderate intensity, static stretching, or walking at a slower pace. Research suggests that foam rolling may decrease muscle soreness as well. 

4. Expect Soreness

It is normal to experience muscle soreness after a change in activity level. In fact, it can be a good thing! It is often a sign that your training is effective, stimulating muscle healing into a stronger state. Muscle soreness can peak at around 48 hours following your workout. Monitor your soreness to determine the intensity of your next workout. If you don’t experience any soreness following your workout, you may be ready to increase the intensity of your next session. If you experience more soreness than you are comfortable with, you might not be ready to progress yet. 

5. Set SMART goals

Setting goals is a great way to ensure your progression in the gym, but not all goals are created equal. A SMART goal is: 

  • Specific – Know exactly what you are trying to do (i.e. – running 1 mile without rest breaks).
  • Measurable – Make sure you can verify whether or not you’ve met or progressed towards your goal. 
  • Attainable – Be realistic. If you’ve never gone for a run, your first goal shouldn’t be running a marathon. Try running for 1 minute without rest breaks first, and progress from there. 
  • Relevant – Pick a goal that is important to you.
  • Time-based –  Have a deadline to keep you motivated! 

Example: I will be able to run 1 mile on the treadmill without rest breaks in 4 weeks. 

Hopefully these tips will empower you to be confident in your return to the gym. While you may not be able to jump right back into your normal routine, using effective goal setting, adequate preparation, and safe exercise progression will get you back on track safely. Regardless of your end goal or starting point, know that you are taking steps to improve your overall health and wellbeing.

Posted by Ashley Warner, PT, DPT, from our Empower PT – Glendale MetroCenter location.

Low Back Pain by the Numbers (Infographic)

calendar May 8, 2019

Below you’ll find an excellent infographic from our friends at the APTA on low back pain!

If you’re one of the 61% of Americans with low back pain, we can help you get back on your feet! 

Originally posted by GetPT.org >>