The Science Behind Thanksgiving Sleepiness

By: Alanna Pokorski, PT


This is a topic that comes up at every Thanksgiving table! So, why do we feel sleepy after that big meal?


The turkey is only partially to blame. The meat from the turkey contains tryptophan which is an amino acid (or protein) that the body uses to make serotonin.


Serotonin is an important chemical in the brain that helps to relax us and regulate sleep patterns. Almost every meat contain tryptophan at comparable levels, so its not just the turkey that makes us sleepy. A heavy meal, such as the Thanksgiving meal, includes many side dishes that include carbohydrates which gives us a very full feeling. When the stomach is very full, it will stimulate more serotonin in the brain which is why we feel sleepy. The feeling of relaxation and happiness you feel after the meal is a result of large amounts of serotonin release from the meat and quantity of food. Many pharmaceutical drugs to treat anxiety and insomnia mimic this same type of serotonin release.


So, enjoy your meal and your healthy dose of relaxation today!


Dancing With The Pain

By: Julie Wolfley, PT, DPT, OCS

As fans of Dancing with the Stars may know, Alfonso Ribeiro danced through his back pain last week after injuring himself during rehearsal. At 43 years old, part of his drive could be the fierce competition against some of the younger contestants. Alfonso was crying in pain during the judges’ critique, indicating that he may have made the wrong decision to dance through the pain.


Many of us have been in a similar situation, where pain interrupts our competitive edge during a sporting event. You may start having back pain two weeks before your marathon or in the middle of your final basketball game. When is it a safe to work through the back pain and when is it a good idea to rest and hold off on your competitive activities?


Twisting, lifting and making any quick motion required in competitive activities may lead toward lower back pain, if you are not moving with proper form. If your back pain can be described as an achiness with no leg pain, then your muscles may just be tired and tight and you may be safe to compete. However, if you experience a sharp pain with additional pain or numbness and tingling in your leg, it is best to sit out. Back pain that is accompanied by leg pain indicates that you may have irritated a disc or a joint, which is pinching a nerve. These warning signs could mean even more damage to the source of the pain.


If you are unsure whether you should rest or push through the pain you can consult with a physical therapist to help guide you. As for Alfonso we shall see if he will be able to dance tonight and we hope that he hasn’t pushed it a little too far.


5 Tips To Eating Healthier This Holiday Season

The holidays are here and parties are approaching quickly! Below are tips to help stick to your health plan throughout this indulgent season.


  • Try to eat a healthy snack at home before attending a party. You will be more likely to make better choices if you aren’t famished!
  • Go for the veggie trays FIRST before hitting the dips. Avoid excessive bread and carb eating. These are the foods that make us feel bloated and add pounds post-holiday.
  • Don’t deprive yourself! If you see a sweet holiday treat you adore- go ahead and try it, but take ½ or ¼ of the portion. Often times, it’s just the taste we want, not the feeling of being so full.
  • Stay hydrated! Between the additional salt, sugar, and alcohol content during the holidays, our bodies need that water to fight the colds and germs that we are exposed to during parties. Stay committed to 6-8 glasses of water per day.
  • Take a smaller sized plate when sitting down for that great family dinner. You will take less of everything.


We hope you have a joyous and healthy holiday season!


Five Reasons to Suspect You May Have a Hip Labral Tear

By Elizabeth McMahon, SPT


Unless a traumatic injury occurs (like a dislocated hip and a concurrent tear after a car accident or a fall), hip acetabular labral tears often get misdiagnosed or go undetected. This is because non-diagnostic testing for labral tears coincides with more common problems like tendonitis.


The “hip labrum” is the cartilage that surrounds the socket of the ball and socket joint in the hip. It helps to provide greater stability by forming a ring around the edge of the socket. It is frequently torn, and here are some signs that you may have an acetabular labral tear:


  1. Pain, locking, clicking, or catching sensation in the hip joint with a loss of motion or stiffness in the joint that has lasted more than 6 weeks and up to several years. In fact, people often go years without having their nagging hip pain checked out.
  2. You have the symptoms listed above, and you also participate in a repetitive motion sport such as hockey, soccer, or football requiring sideways movement, cutting, sidestepping, and other actions that cause stress on the hip joint.
  3. You had a fall or were tackled and landed on your hip and have had unresolved pain, clicking, or catching in the joint. Many labral tears are the result of a fall directly onto the femoral head, pushing the head of the femur (your thigh bone) tightly into the acetabulum (the socket of your hip bone) with force greater than normal and thus tearing the labrum.
  4. You have a known hip abnormality such as dysplasia, or retroversion, or you’ve had prior surgical intervention for another problem that resulted in complications. Some cases of acetabular labral tears occur after a hip surgery that left bony fragments behind, leaving them to consistently graze against the labrum and cause a tear.
  5. Conservative treatment has not worked. Physical therapy does not always resolve symptoms of a labral tear. If your hip pain is not resolved after a typical physical therapy treatment routine, it may be time to seek another opinion. It will be important to weigh risks vs. benefits to determine if the pain is tolerable to live with or if more serious intervention, such as surgery, is necessary.

For more information on hip labral tears, please contact us at




Carson Palmer Suffers Knee Injury in Yesterday’s Game

By Alanna Pokorski, PT


Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer suffered a painful ACL tear in yesterday’s win over the Rams. The replay from Sunday’s game shows Palmer being “barely hit” when he dropped to the ground after stepping back on his left leg for a pass. The phrase ACL tear is notorious with sports fans, who see this as a season-ending injury for their Cardinals quarterback.


The ACL is a major stabilizer of the knee when cutting, running, jumping, twisting, and even going up and down stairs. It is important to note that two-thirds of ACL tears are from non-contact injuries. In fact, many ACL tears occur when an athlete comes down from a jump or pivots, as in Carson Palmer’s case.


When an ACL tear occurs, many people hear and feel a strong pop in their knee. The pain and swelling is immediate. Clinical testing such as an MRI typically confirms the diagnosis; however, testing on the field can often confirm the laxity on the ACL immediately after injury. Some people can rehabilitate an ACL tear without surgery if they are returning to low-level activities throughout the day. In Palmer’s case, his physical requirement is extreme and will be undergoing surgery in two weeks, along with intensive physical therapy afterwards.


ACL surgery typically takes a tendon from another part of the leg and connects it in place of the torn ligament. At times, surgeons will prefer to use a graft from a cadaver to replace the ligament. The incisions are small and barely noticeable, once the injury has healed. After surgery, there is significant swelling and bruising. A brace that limits motion of the knee is typically used to help keep the knee from bending and pulling at the newly constructed ligament. Crutches are used to help take weight off, although most people can bear weight almost immediately.


The formal rehabilitation for this injury starts within the first week after surgery. It is a lengthy rehabilitative process but important for restoring the same level of athletic function and speed. A minimum for this rehab is three months, whether the injured person is an athlete or not. Often the rehab is closer to 4-6 months pending on how quickly strength and agility can be regained.


We are hoping for the best prognosis for Carson Palmer, even as current news updates suggest that he will be out for the remainder of the season.


Proper training is essential for reduction of ACL risk. For more information on ACL prevention, please contact us at



How to Avoid Back Pain While Hiking This Fall

By: Steven Schuhmann, SPT


Whether you are taking a long or short hiking trip, a backpack is an essential item for carrying equipment, emergency items, or just a lunch. When I first hiked in the Adirondacks, I wore a backpack. I had no idea whether it was the right kind or if it fit correctly. By the end of the day, my shoulders and lower back were killing me. What I learned is that a poorly fitted backpack could turn a good trip into a journey filled with neck, shoulder, or low back pain.


Here are some tips on making sure your backpack fits correctly:

To maintain a proper fit and better distribute your load throughout the hike, a good backpack should include hip, shoulder, and chest straps.

Hip Belt:
 Your legs are much stronger than your shoulders. To offload weight from your shoulders to your hips, secure your backpack’s waist belt making sure the top-edge is 1 inch above the iliac crest (top of hip bone).












Shoulder Straps: Adjust your shoulder straps so there is no gap between your shoulder blades and the backpack. The connection points of your shoulder straps to the pack should begin about 2 inches below C7 or the top of your shoulders.











Chest / Sternum Strap:  This maintains comfortable positioning of shoulder straps during your hike. Adjust the straps to 2 inches below your collarbones and lightly cinch it down. Pulling tight will restrict your chest from expanding when you are breathing.












Size:  To make sure your backpack fits correctly and comfortably, it must be proportional to your torso size.  Have a friend measure along your spine from your seventh cervical vertebra (the knobby bone at the base of your neck when you put your head down) to the level of your iliac crest (the top of your hip bones).  This will ensure that your pack is a comfortable and the correct size.


Proper posturing on the trail:  When you’re wearing your backpack, your body’s center of gravity changes. To maintain proper balance, lean forward slightly by bending at the hips. If you were to stand straight up, the bottom of the pack would increase the weight placed on your lumbar region (the lower back).


Weight distribution:
 Inside your backpack, place heavier items closer to your back, leaving lightweight items to the periphery to better control the load of your pack. This will also decrease any added stress to your shoulders or lower back.












For more information on proper posturing during hiking, please contact us at