A New Type of Balance Board Aimed at Peak Performance

By Brian Rog for ATI Physical Therapy

We mean it when we say “our team leads the way in pioneering the future of the industry”. Such is the case with Chad Franche PT, DPT, United States Air Force (USAF) veteran, and founder of the TherRex Balance Board. What initially started as an idea rooted from a practicum as a graduate student has now evolved into a game-changing product that is revolutionizing the health and fitness industry.

As someone who grew up wanting to make a difference in the lives of others, Chad felt the health and fitness industry needed a balance board that could truly facilitate all levels of motion without sacrifice. While in rotation at an outpatient clinic, Chad discovered that all the current balance boards took on a hemispherical shape on the bottom.

But while in a standing position, current boards give you more distance to shift your weight side to side (frontal plane) than front to back motion (sagittal plane). With this in mind Chad knew he could introduce a product with a base that would mimic this level of movement, but allow for full ankle range of motion without having to dismount from the board.

Fast forward a few years and this very idea was brought to life through the TherRex Board, which resembles a football shape to mimic the movement addressed above. The football shape also replicates the movement attained by a BAPS board (BioMechanical Ankle Platform System) in that it provides inward rotation of the ankle throughout flexion, but through a greater range of motion, which allows for the ankle to be exercised in the position sprains occur.

Chad originally intended for the board to be a pediatric balance board with an interactive gaming component, but after seeing the potential the football shape could provide, it was clear he needed to take this product to the next level.

“I knew with the football shaped base, if the board were to be used in the plank or seated positions there would be two different intensities at which exercises could be performed,” said Chad. “The board would just have to be turned 90 degrees to make it easier or harder (the shorter arc of the football shape is less stable and higher difficulty than the longer more stable arc).

I added a pair of handles at the ends of each arc and a flat edge lateral to the handles that projects underneath the board and stops it so a person’s fingers won’t get pinched against the ground. The flat edge also provides a stable surface for the board to be mounted and dismounted. Other balance boards with a round platform wobble against the ground and make it difficult to mount/dismount.”

With the product officially hitting the market a few months back, we met up with Chad to hear how things are going, see what’s next for him and the brand and get his perspective on this new adventure.

Who is the TherRex balance board intended for?

Our customers are primarily outpatient PT clinics, but we are also targeting gyms (Formula Fitness Club in Chicago as our most recent), schools, and direct to consumer. Ultimately, the TherRex board benefits anyone with a fitness goal or those rehabbing from an injury. Its greatest benefits are in joint stability, core strengthening, and of course balance. I actually use it each night as part of my daily workout routine.

For more information on TherRex Balance Board, please visit the official TherRex Balance Board website.


Overcoming Sleep Challenges and Discomfort

By: Brian Rog and Todd Sayer, PT, MBA for ATI Physical Therapy

Overcoming Sleep Challenges and Discomfort

When a night’s rest leads to a subsequent day of non-resolved misery and pain, your body is desperately trying to tell you something. For one in three Americans, post-sleep pain is relentless in disrupting performance and amplifying stresses beyond adaptable control. How you sleep dictates how you perform, so whether you are falling short on logging enough sleep each night or poor sleep posture is inhibiting a solid day’s performance, making a few simple changes can help to enable a good night’s rest and support your body’s ability to adapt and adjust.

Time’s effect on the body

The residual effects of a daylight saving transition or other time-altering endeavors can be challenging adjustments for many. The truth is, when our body’s natural functioning tendencies are thrown off sync, the outcomes lead to struggles in performance and emotional balance. Getting your body’s sleep cycle back on track will require some consistency in your daily routine. This period of adjustment is said to take a week or two. While it’s difficult to dodge the hurdles a change in time presents, simple tunings will help to enable the body to manage the transition more effectively.

What can be done to adapt to a change in sleep cycles?

Like everything else, the healthier you are, the easier it becomes having to adapt to drastic variations in your environment and lifestyle. For factors such as daylight saving or other variables affecting external time cues, such as traveling across time zones, preparation is key – whether that means going to sleep earlier/later or restructuring your environment (noise, light, temperature, etc.). Another way to better plan and adjust to a change in sleep cycle is to exercise on a consistent basis (or regularly, if consistency isn’t an option). Exercise is one of the best ways to get your body’s circadian rhythm back on sync as it aids in supporting adaptation levels in the muscles and helps refresh the immune system.

How to improve a night’s sleep

A sufficient night’s rest gives the body an opportunity to heal itself from a hard day’s work. Incorporating a few simple but important strategies and tips can go a long way in getting the results you need to dock a good night’s rest and leave you feeling energized and mentally sharp. We recommend reviewing and incorporating these tips into your nightly routine:

Use pillows for support

Pillows help to neutralize and support position by filling the space that has a tendency to displace joints from non-neutral positions. When used properly, your pillow will help to alleviate and even prevent consequential back and neck pain as well as many other levels of joint pain. When considering the types of pillows to use, we suggest cervical pillows as they allow for the neck to be supported in the neutral anatomical sleeping position while on your back or side. It’s also important to ensure your pillow fully supports your head by filling the negative space from your head and neck down to the mattress at a height that allows for the spine to maintain this neutral alignment.

Position joints in neutral alignment

Sleep positions play a key role in neutralizing your joints. But if you aren’t following the expert-recommended sleeping positions, the potential long-term damage to your body and health is significantly increased. Regardless of your position of choice, you must ALWAYS make certain that maintaining alignment of your spine remains one of the most important variables in the mix. Which of these positions are your go-to?

Sleeping on your back

Known to be the ideal position, sleeping on your back with a pillow supported underneath your thighs allows your head, neck and back to settle in the best neutral and natural position. When it comes to arm positioning, comfort preferences dictate what’s best, but ultimately, it’s recommended you keep arms at your side. Back sleeping helps to also fight acid reflux, just be sure to use a pillow that supports and slightly elevates your head to a position where your stomach is below the esophagus so food or acid can’t funnel up.

Sleeping on your side

Though not recommended, side sleeping, which is one of the more commonly used positions, is an acceptable alternative to back sleeping since it helps to elongate your spine. The best thing you can do when sleeping on your side is add a thick and firm pillow underneath the rib cage/torso to fill the space between your hips and shoulders. This will help to alleviate compression from the downside shoulder. Doing this may also help to eliminate a contributing variable to the development of shoulder dysfunctions.

Sleeping on your stomach

If you can, avoid this position at all costs. The only value stomach sleeping provides is lessening the likelihood of snoring. Stomach sleeping is extremely taxing and counterbalancing on the back, spine and neck. Since most of our weight is in the middle of the body, stomach sleeping makes it difficult for your spine to sustain a neutral position. As for the neck, most stomach sleepers turn their head to the side to breathe, so by doing this, the head and spine are forced out of alignment and can lead to serious damage down the road. And for those of you experiencing that ‘numbness’ feeling in your hands and arms, this might be a result of constricted blood flow and compressed nerves, so consider other positions to avoid this.  Compression/sustainment on any joint for a long period of time also inhibits the body’s ability to repair itself on a nightly basis as nutrient-rich fluids are not transferred as freely. This can lead to premature stages of arthritis.

If you are among the 17 percenters unable to break away from stomach sleeping, consider using a flat pillow to reduce the angling of your neck. We also recommend sleeping with a pillow under the abdomen to take some of the pressure off of your back and spine.

Ensure your structure is supported throughout

As we mentioned, maintaining proper alignment of your spine is by far one of the most important things you can do for your body. But how can you tell if your approach is effective? It’s simple; fill spaces and gaps to help neutralize and support sleep positions. Doing this will help to preserve body alignment and relieve any pressure.

The good and the bad

Like most things in life, desired outcomes rest on the amount of effort you put in. When it comes to sleep and your daily habits, if you are willing to make a few simple changes – whether it be avoiding your phone or electronics before bedtime – or looking after your sleep posture, you’ll be doing your body much good in the long run. Though interruptions in your sleep routine may not seem like a big deal, its lasting effect on your well-being can be troublesome.

If aches and pains follow you through the day, it’s time to take action. Get in touch with one of our experts to setup a complimentary screening at your nearest ATI clinic or call (855) MY-ATIPT.

Featured Body Part: Core

By ATI Physical Therapy

Featured Body Part: Core

Your ‘core’ is a complex series of muscles, extending far beyond your abs, including everything besides your arms and legs. It is incorporated in almost every movement of the human body. The core is comprised of several muscle groups including the local muscles (lumbar multifidus & transverse abdominis), global muscles (erector spinae, quadratus lumborum, external and internal oblique abdominis, rectus abdominis), and other muscle groups such as the psoas major, pelvic floor musculature and the diaphragm. Specifically, the transverse abdominis performs an anticipatory contraction prior to extremity movement in order to contribute to core stabilization.

The function of the core is to stabilize the spine from potentially harmful forces and to create and transfer forces through the body. Think of your core like the foundation of a house. A nice strong foundation lets you build a stable house. A nice strong core lets you absorb and create forces for meaningful movement. Poor core strength can contribute to injuries ranging from your ankle all the way up to your hips, back, shoulders, and neck.

Signs of a Weak Core
These common symptoms can be signs that you have a weak core:

  • Lower Back Pain – Since the core is incorporated in almost every movement of the human body, muscular weakness can be a sign of a weak core.
  • Poor Posture – The core muscles hold your spine and pelvis in place. If these muscles are weak, your body will be unstable, causing an inability to stand up straight or sit properly.
  • Bad Balance – Since your core muscles stabilize your entire body, a weak core will affect your ability to balance.
  • General Weakness – Since the core is incorporated in almost every movement of the human body, muscular weakness can be a sign of a weak core.
  • Inability to Hollow Your Stomach – The inability to hollow your stomach is another potential sign of core weakness. Can you do it? Take a natural breath and pully your bellybutton toward your spine. Hold this position for a count of 10 and then release. If you were unable to hold this position for the full count, you may have a weak core.

Injury Prevention
John Duncombe, PT, DPT, OCS, CIMT, CSCS, GCS, gives us some tips to help prevent core weakness and injury:

  • Warm Up – Perform at least 5 minutes of cardiovascular activity or dynamic total body warm up activity prior to initiating core exercises. Dynamic total body warm up activities may include jumping rope, jumping jacks, dynamic squats and lunges, inchworms, walking knees to chest, hip rotations, and gluteal kicks. See a trained ATI clinician for assistance with these exercises if needed.
  • Stay Tall – Make sure to try to keep your chest up, shoulders stacked on top of your hips, and stomach muscles turned ‘On’ as often as possible. No matter the activity, sitting/standing/walking, this position helps to alleviate unneeded stress to your spine and specifically your lower back.
  • Isometrics – Stronger muscles provide greater stability to the spine to help establish and maintain proper body mechanics during prolonged activities and lifting. Common examples include various plank positions, the Pallof Press, and abdominal bracing.
  • Active Range of Motion – Maintaining good flexibility in your hips (primarily your hamstrings, hip flexors, and piriformis) as well as your lower back will allow for your pelvis and lumbar spine to move freely during your day.

John Duncombe, PT, DPT, OCS, CIMT, CSCS, GCS, also gives us some tips to help rehabilitate the core:

  • A Strong Trunk Leads to a Healthy Spine – Work on strengthening both the local and global muscles (see above for which ones these are) to help maintain proper body positions as you move throughout your day.
  • Be Balanced – Work on dynamic flexibility exercises for your Hips and Shoulders. Lacking mobility in your extremities will put more stress on your trunk to complete dynamic movements and lifts while at home or work.
  • Suck in the Gut – Sitting/standing tall and slightly sucking in your lower abdominals (just below your belt or waistline) towards your spine will activate not only your inner core, but all necessary trunk muscles for optimal functional movements.
  • Check your Chair – Many of us sit for the majority of our day. In our car to/from work, while at work, relaxing at home, etc. Make sure your spine is upright and you have good support for your back. Consider a small pillow or rolled up towel in the small of your back to remind you to not slouch and stress your lower back.

When weighing your treatment options for injury rehabilitation, consider physical therapy. Physical therapy offers a wide variety of treatment options including strengthening, stretching, and sustainable home exercise programs. Stop in or call any ATI location for a complimentary injury screen or to learn more about how physical therapy can help you overcome your pain.

Work with ATI to get to the core of your issues!

Featured Body Part: Head

By: Cori Cameron and Katie Varnado, ATC for ATI Physical Therapy

Featured Body Part: Head

The brain is one of the most important and powerful organs in our body. It’s also one that we may often take for granted; forgetting the fact that it’s responsible for everything from our movements to our thoughts. According to the Brain Facts from Medical Daily, 85 billion neurons must complete upwards of five trillion chemical reactions each second, at speeds of over 260 miles per hour to keep us going. That’s crazy impressive! With all of this power and responsibility, comes the fact that we need to be able to protect our head and brain. The more we know about prevention and the cause of injury, the better the chances are of avoiding an injury in the future.

Common Conditions

  • Hematoma – A collection of blood outside the blood vessels. This can cause pressure to build inside your skull, causing loss of consciousness or even permanent brain damage.
  • Hemorrhage – Uncontrolled bleeding can occur in the space around your brain or there can be bleeding within your brain tissue.
  • Concussion – A brain injury that occurs when your brain is jarred or shaken inside the skull. Loss of function is typically temporary, but repeated concussions could lead to permanent damage.
  • Skull Fracture – A break in one or more of the bones in the cranial portion of the skull. When the skull is broken it is unable to absorb the impact of a blow, which makes it more likely that there will be brain damage as well.

Common Causes
Head injuries can be broken into two categories:

  • Blows to the Head – Injuries are typically caused by:
    • Motor vehicle accidents
    • Falls
    • Physical assaults
    • Sports-related accidents
  • Shaking – While this is most common in infants and small children, they can occur any time one experiences violent shaking.

Injury Prevention
Katie Varnado, ATC, Midwest Director of Sports Medicine, gives us some tips to help prevent and rehabilitate head injuries:

  • Appropriate Equipment – Make sure to wear the appropriate protective equipment for your sport.  This could include helmets and mouthguards.  Equally as important as having the correct equipment is making sure it is fitted appropriately (not too loose).
  • Use Proper Technique – Make sure you have learned and practice proper technique for the sport you play. Do not lead with your head and do not use your head as a “weapon.”
  • Neck Strengthening Exercises – Some scholars believe that strengthening the neck musculature allows forces dissipate during a head collision or rapid rotation, thus reducing the force the brain sustains and lowering your risk of concussion.

Rehabilitation after a head injury is important and recognition of an injury is key:

  • Know the Signs and Symptoms of a Concussion – Headache, dizziness and nausea are just a few.
  • Discontinue Physical Activity – If you suspect you have sustained a concussion, it is important to immediately remove yourself from further physical activity.
  • Seek Appropriate Medical Evaluation – See an athletic trainer, physical therapist or a physician for a full evaluation.
  • Rest – Physical and cognitive rest are crucial to allowing the brain to heal. Follow physician instructions regarding gradually returning to taxing activities.
  • Vestibular Rehabilitation – If you have symptoms that do not resolve in a relatively short time span, vestibular therapy may help reduce symptoms.

When weighing your treatment options for head injury rehabilitation, consider physical therapy. Physical therapy offers a wide variety of treatment options including strengthening, stretching, and sustainable home exercise programs. Stop in or call any ATI location for a complimentary injury screen or to learn more about how physical therapy can help you overcome your pain.

Get your head in the game with ATI!