Is Cancer Physical Therapy Rehabilitation right for me?

Cancer and its treatments can take a heavy toll on the body, often leading to physical challenges that may seem overwhelming. But there’s a beacon of hope in this journey: cancer physical therapy rehabilitation. This specialized form of therapy is designed to help cancer patients regain strength, improve mobility, and enhance overall quality of life. If you’re navigating the complex path of cancer treatment and recovery, you might be wondering, “Is cancer physical therapy rehabilitation right for me?” Let’s explore this question together.

Understanding Cancer Rehabilitation

Cancer rehabilitation is a patient-centered approach that focuses on addressing the physical and functional challenges faced by cancer patients. This form of therapy is not just for those in recovery; it can be beneficial at any stage of cancer treatment. Whether you’re dealing with fatigue, pain, lymphedema, or mobility issues, cancer rehabilitation can offer tailored solutions to help you manage and overcome these challenges.

Who Can Benefit?

  • Newly Diagnosed Patients: Starting cancer physical therapy early, even shortly after diagnosis, can help in maintaining strength and function during treatment.
  • Patients Undergoing Treatment: Chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery can lead to side effects like fatigue, weakness, and restricted movement. Rehabilitation can help in managing these symptoms.
  • Survivors and Those in Remission: After completing cancer treatment, rehabilitation can aid in regaining pre-treatment levels of activity and health.
  • Patients with Advanced Cancer: Even in advanced stages, physical therapy can improve mobility, reduce pain, and enhance quality of life.

Key Benefits of Cancer Physical Therapy

  • Improved Mobility and Strength: Cancer treatments can lead to muscle weakness and stiffness. Physical therapy helps in restoring muscle strength and flexibility.
  • Managing Treatment Side Effects: Techniques like lymphedema therapy can help manage swelling often seen after certain cancer treatments.
  • Enhancing Mental Well-being: Physical activity in therapy can also improve mental health, reducing feelings of depression and anxiety.
  • Personalized Care: Therapists work closely with you to create a personalized plan that addresses your specific needs and goals.

What to Expect in Cancer Rehabilitation

A cancer rehabilitation program typically begins with a thorough assessment of your physical condition, treatment history, and specific challenges. From there, the therapist designs a personalized plan that may include:

  • Exercises tailored to improve strength, endurance, and flexibility
  • Pain management techniques
  • Lymphedema management
  • Education on energy conservation and activity pacing
  • Guidance on safely returning to daily activities

Making the Decision

Deciding to embark on cancer physical therapy rehabilitation is a personal choice and one that should involve discussions with your healthcare team. Consider the following:

  • Consult Your Doctor: Discuss with your oncologist or healthcare provider to understand if and when you can start physical therapy.
  • Evaluate Your Needs: Consider what physical challenges you’re facing and how therapy could address them.
  • Explore Available Resources: Look into the options available at your treatment center or in your community.


Cancer physical therapy rehabilitation offers a ray of hope and empowerment for those fighting cancer. By addressing physical challenges, it not only aids in physical recovery but also boosts emotional well-being. If you’re considering whether this is the right path for you, remember that it’s about taking control of your health and working towards regaining your strength and independence. With the right support and guidance, cancer physical therapy rehabilitation can be a vital part of your cancer journey.

Simple exercise plan for recovering from West Nile Virus or COVID-19

COVID & West Nile Impacts

Nearly everyday lately we hear of someone newly diagnosed with West Nile Virus or severe COVID here in Arizona. This can really put you down for several weeks, causing you to suddenly be out of breath doing simple things such as getting out of bed, doing the dishes or walking your dog. This may leave you or a loved one very frustrated as things that were once simple seem like too daunting of tasks. Wondering where to start to get back on track? This post is aimed to give a guide for a simple exercise routine for building your endurance back after an illness.

Getting back on track & getting stronger

Start with these few simple exercises daily to get you back to living normally, especially if you don’t quite feel ready to leave the house. Doing these once a day for a few days or weeks will help you build back your strength and endurance to return back to normal living. These are all very simple, and can be done in your home with ZERO equipment needed!

Home exercises to start getting you back to yourself:

  1. Wall Pushups – Put your hands up on the wall at shoulder height with your feet a few steps back and complete a push up. This will work on both your core and arm strength to allow you to use your arms for things like pushing yourself out of bed or a chair.
  2. Counter top taps – Stand on one leg or with back toe down for balance, and alternate reaching across your body to tap the counter on the opposite side. This will help you with weight shifting and balance for doing things like the dishes, laundry and reaching into your fridge or pantry.
  3. Mini sit ups – Lay on your back either in your bed or on the couch with pillows propping you partially up and perform a sit up. As you get stronger, try to slowly start removing the pillows for more of a challenge. This exercise will help making getting in/out of bed easier as well as getting off the couch!
  4. Chair tricep dips – Place both of your hands on the armrests of a sturdy chair and press yourself out of the seat with your arms. Scale this exercise to your ability by placing your feet closer or further away from you when doing this. You will gain confidence with being able to stand up, especially if the chair or couch is very low!
  5. Squats to couch armrest – Work on regaining your lower body strength using your couch’s arm rest for assistance! Stand slightly in front of your couch and squat down until you touch the arm rest. Stand up pushing through both your thighs and glutes. As you improve, you can lower the height you sit down to.
  6. Forward reaches with water bottle – Stand on one leg holding a water bottle (or something similar) out in front of you. Hinge at your hips to reach the water bottle forward, while keeping a slight bend in your knee. Return to starting position. This will help strengthen your hamstrings and improve your stability while reaching at home.

If you are feeling very fatigued, start with one set of 10 reps of each of these and work yourself up to being able to complete 3 sets. Once you are able to do that, try doing the full program twice a day until you can get back to your regular routine! If you are still struggling, reach out and we can get you in for a more specific exercise program to fit your needs!

Suffering from “Jaw Pain”? Do I have TMJ?

Is “jaw pain” or TMJ causing you to have symptoms that make chewing difficult? Do you feel like your jaw is clicking and/or locking? OR ALL THE ABOVE?!

“Jaw pain” and TMJ related issues have spiked in 2020! The TOPS Physical Therapy Team has seen a large increase in people seeking help for pain related to “jaw pain”/TMJ. With the increase in patients suffering from this, TOPS has provided education on TMJ pain and how to manage the pain and symptoms!

Why has 2020 increased “Jaw Pain”/ TMJ?

Based on the reports we have received from our patients battling “jaw pain”, many individuals have been forced to change up daily routines and as a result people have more stressors weighing on them. We have heard from many patients that they have had an increase in stress at home given the current events that have transpired since January 2020. The most common increases in stress were: trying to manage their kids, adjusting to online learning, working full-time from home, and/or poor posture (some cases related to the new non-ergonomic home offices). With the increase in stress, patients have started clinching and/or developed neck tightness that results in TMJ issues. You’re not ALONE!

What does jaw pain really mean?

The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is made of bones, nerve, ligaments, discs, tendons and muscles. Similar to other joints in the body, if there is a dysfunction, physical therapy can help with this by:

  • Decreasing pain & inflammation
  • Improving range of motion & strength
  • Restoring function and helping you get back to your daily activities

Temporomandibular disorder (TMD) is an umbrella term used to describe several conditions that involve dysfunction of the jaw (“jaw pain”). The most common symptoms of TMDs are pain and decreased mobility to the jaw. There are numerous non-invasive/conservative (non-surgical) treatment approaches for TMDs that we can perform at TOPS Physical Therapy, including, but is not limited to: manual work, stretching, posture correction, and/or dry needling.

Lateral Pterygold Muscle- two-headed, fan-shaped muscle located in the infratemporal fossa of the skull. It is one of the four masticatory muscles that act upon the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) to enable chewing and biting.

Tension in the TMJ can be largely related to tightness of the lateral pterygoid muscle (Look in the picture below to see the location of the lateral pterygoid muscle). If the tension in the jaw is coming from the lateral pterygoid muscle it can be difficult to palpate that area to decrease tension. Why is it hard to palpate that area? The anatomy of the skull makes difficult to get into that muscle efficiently, and it is much better targeted via dry needling.

What is Dry Needling and how does it help to reduce tension?

The belief behind dry needling and how it works is that during healing, soft tissue becomes adhered to one another, limiting mobility, and consequently blood and lymphatic vessels become blocked. This results in inflammation, pain and the formation of trigger points and chronic soft tissue dysfunction. The interruption of normal function leads to atrophy, aggravated irritability and sensitivity. A tiny lesion created by a needle stimulates tissue relaxation through mechanical stimulation of the trigger point/symptomatic tissue.

These tiny lesions stimulate a localized healing response, as well as activate a neural physiological response that decreases pain. This response also releases proteins that help to rebuild tissues and minimize the pain signals to the brain. This process results in a reduction in pain, clicking and popping of the jaw. 

What symptoms can Dry Needling reduce when dealing with “jaw pain” and TMJ/TMD:

  • Jaw discomfort or soreness
  • Headaches
  • Pain radiation behind eyes, face, shoulder, neck and/or back
  • Earaches or ringing in the ears (not caused by infection of the inner ear canal)
  • Clicking or popping of the jaw
  • Locking of the jaw
  • Pain with chewing gum
  • Restrictions in mouth motions
  • Clenching or grinding of teeth
  • Dizziness
  • Sensitivity of teeth (not caused by oral health disease)
  • Numbness or tinging in fingers
  • A change in the way upper and lower teeth fit together 

Using the combination of dry needling and provided exercises or postural improvement you can significantly improve your symptoms and quality of life. Reach out to us if you are experiencing these symptoms to set up an initial appointment.

Click here to see to see more information about TMJ/TMD/Jaw Pain from TOPS Physical Therapy. 

Click here to watch and listen about TMJ from Mayo Clinic Radio 

COVID-19: Stay at home doesn’t mean stay on the couch!

COVID-19 “stay at home” order does not mean to quit moving and stay on the couch…. The TOPS Physical Therapy Team IS HERE TO SUPPORT YOU through the good times and the COVID times 🙂 Our team strides to provide you with all the tools and resources to keep your health and wellbeing at the “TOPS”! One of the best tips we can give you is to stay moving! We understand that the coronavirus pandemic has likely caused massive changes to your life and routine; however, it’s crucial to remember that exercise and movement are necessary for our mental and physical health.

Don’t allow the quarantine to give you the “COVID-19”…. get up and move!

“Get up and move” is an essential during COVID-19. Think of movement and exercise as FREE MEDICINE! Movement through exercise gets your heart beating and your blood flowing. Increased blood flow allows new oxygen and nutrients to be carried throughout the body! This free medicine benefits your blood pressure, blood sugar, lowers cholesterol, helps with weight management/weight loss, relieves pain and more!

I know I need movement…. But, where do I start?

A good start is Moderate Exercise: Each day, it’s recommended to get at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise or 20 minutes of vigorous activity ON TOP of our daily activities. Since many people are affected by the “stay at home” orders, walking around work and climbing stairs are less common, thus we have to do even more! Here is a list of ideas for you to do:

    • Home workouts (some examples: pushups, lunges, air squats, jump rope, core work-crunches/planks/bicycles/mountain climbers/etc.)
    • Walks around the neighborhood
    • Swimming in your backyard pool now that it’s warming up
    • Biking
    • Hiking
    • Rollerblading
    • Stairs at home (going up and down your stairs a few times or for time)
    • etc! 

Does exercise affect mood, especially since we are all cooped up inside?

Have you noticed changes in your mood since the “stay at home” order? Are you feeling stressed and depressed? Exercise also helps with that! Why?!? Exercising releases those “feel-good” endorphins, reduces anxiety and boosts self-esteem while controlling and regulating stress hormones, such as cortisol and adrenaline. Exercise increases the delivery of vital nutrients and oxygen to the brain, improving concentration and clarity.

Wondering what you can do post exercise? Or what else you can do to feel better after you get moving?

Recovery is very important when increasing exercise! There are many things you can do to enhance your recovery and recharge:

  • SLEEP! Deep sleep is crucial for proper recovery and mental clarity. Physical activity helps increase time spent in slow wave sleep, or deep sleep. Most of our commute times have been drastically reduced, so use that time to get 30 extra minutes of sleep.
  • Refuel! Find yourself eating more snacks due to boredom? Exercise helps boost metabolism and burns calories while giving you something engaging and fun to do rather than binge on Tiger King/ Netflix. Getting the proper fuel from whole foods is a great way to recover from exercising. Your body needs the right nutrients to perform at a high level. To really enhance your workouts and get some results in both lean muscle/fat loss try to combine journaling with exercise for an added boost to mental health. Jot down what you eat and how you feel daily!
    • What is a whole food?
      • Fresh vegetables such as leafy greens, avocados, radishes, cucumbers, squash, and sweet potatoes
    • What isn’t a whole food?
      • Anything with too many ingredients, chemical ingredients, or ingredients that you can’t pronounce

Is pain hindering your ability to fulfill your exercise quota?? We are an essential business and are here to help you!

TOPS Physical Therapy is open and here to serve you! Our company has taken extraordinary measures to keep our patients and team safe! We understand that injuries happen (even in quarantine) and by choosing PT first you can help decrease the load in hospitals and urgent care facilities.
Our staff is thoroughly trained and has significant experience in various treatment options (including manual work, ASTYM, dry needling, spinal manipulations, and corrective exercises) with the overall goal of decreasing your pain and helping you to return to your active lifestyle and daily routines. Our team of experienced clinicians provide individualized, hands on, full body physical therapy techniques designed to maximize muscle and joint function, core stabilization, and sports rehabilitation!

Outpatient Case Study-Shoulder Pain

Outpatient Case Study from a student’s perspective…

Clinical Scenario:

Patient is a 63-year-old female who presents to physical therapy with left shoulder pain that started 3 months ago. Patient said that she was lifting an object from overhead when she felt sudden pain in her left shoulder. Patient also said that sleeping is okay, but can be uncomfortable if she tries to sleep on her left side. Additionally, brushing her hair and doing anything above shoulder height is very difficult and causes her pain. Patient is very active and says that her shoulder pain is limiting her from bending her arm, lifting, and working out. Patient went to the MD where she had an x-ray done; x-ray was negative for bone spurs. MD told the patient that she may have bursitis and was sent to physical therapy to treat. Patient has had two cortisone injections into her left shoulder, both which have helped to some degree.

During the examination, it was noted that the patient presented with rounded shoulders and a forward head position during stance. Patient was able to perform all cervical AROM within normal limits (WNL), as well as elbow AROM. Patient’s shoulder AROM was assessed and noted that left shoulder flexion was limited to 135-degrees and abduction to 87-degrees. The right side was compared; shoulder flexion reached 171-degrees and abduction 175-degrees. Patient’s external rotation and internal rotation was WNL on the right side, however left external rotation measured 45-degrees and internal rotation was 10-degrees. Gross muscle testing was examined with both cervical flexion and extension a 4+/5. Patient’s right shoulder flexion, abduction, elbow flexion and extension were all 4+/5. Left shoulder flexion, abduction, elbow flexion and extension all measured 4-/5. Patient’s myotomes and dermatomes all tested normal. Power grip was assessed, with right handedness noted. Patient’s grip on the right was 17 kg and left grip was 14 kg. Special tests were not assessed during the time of the examination due to patient apprehension to move her left shoulder. When palpating around the left glenohumeral joint, patient had moderate tenderness along her left levator scapulae, upper trapezius, supraspinatus, and infraspinatus. After further evaluation, patient was given a physical therapy diagnosis of “adhesive capsulitis.”  

After a complete and thorough examination, I was interested to see if dry needling to the patient’s peri-scapular area would increase her ROM faster than manual therapy alone. Patient’s first two treatment session consisted of manual therapy and PROM alone to assess how much ROM the patient could achieve. After one week, dry needling was performed to the same area that manual therapy was administered to see if further ROM could be achieved. Further treatment is detailed below.   

Focused Question:

In a patient with adhesive capsulitis, what will produce the greatest ROM- dry needling plus manual therapy or manual therapy alone? And which intervention will have the greatest improvements within a 12-week period?

Articles Selected for Appraisal and Summary of Their Study Design:

Articles Selected for Appraisal and Summary of Their Study Designs

Level of Evidence References *

References for all articles selected for and used in the appraisal.  Please list in hierarchical order (1-5) of evidence; min total of 4. (AMA)

Study Design
  1. Clewley D, Flynn T, Koppenhaver S. Trigger Point Dry Needling as an Adjunct Treatment for a Patient with Adhesive Capsulitis of the Shoulder. Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy. 2013;44(2):92-101. Accessed July 24, 2018.
Case Report
  1. Bron C, Wensing M, Franssen JL, Oostendorp RA. Treatment of myofascial trigger points in common shoulder disorders by physical therapy: A randomized controlled trial [ISRCTN75722066]. BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders. 2007;8:107. doi:10.1186/1471-2474-8-107. Accessed July 24, 2018.
Randomized Control Trial
  1. Palomares S, Blazquez B, Palomares A, Calvo E, Benito M, Lapena E, Beldarrain M, Botaya R. Contributions of Dry Needling to Individualized Physical Therapy Treatment of Shoulder Pain: A randomized clinical trial. Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Phyiscal Therapy. 2016; 47(1):11-20. Accessed July 24, 2018.
Randomized Control Trial
  1. Liu L, Huang Qm, Liu QG, Ye G, Bo CZ, Chen MJ, Li P, et al. Effectiveness of Dry Needling for Myofascial Trigger Points Associated with Neck and Shoulder Pain: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2015;96(5):944-55. Accessed July 24, 2018.
Systematic Review
  1. Bron C, et al. Prevalence of MTrPs in Patients with Shoulder Pain. Dry Needling for Craniofacial, Cervicothoracic & Upper Extremity Conditions: An Evidence-Based Approach. 2011;9(6):117-118.
Systematic Review  
  1. Langevin HM, Schnyer R, MacPherson H, et al. Manual and Electrical Needle Stimulation in Acupuncture Research: Pitfalls and Challenges of Heterogeneity. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. 2015;21(3):113-128. doi:10.1089/acm.2014.0186. Accessed July 24, 2018.
Systematic Review
Total Number of Articles 6

Summary of Key Findings:

In a case report by Clewley et al, 1 they looked at a 52-year-old female with primary symptoms of shoulder pain and decreased motion, secondary to adhesive capsulitis. The authors initially treated the patient with joint mobilizations to the shoulder region and trust manipulations to the cervicothoracic region. However, the patient continued to have pain and limited motion in her shoulder. On the third visit, the patient was treated with dry needling targeting the upper trapezius, levator scapulae, deltoid, and infraspinatus muscles. The patient was treated with dry needling for 10 visits, with improvements in pain-free ROM and an increase in functional outcome measures, like the DASH and Shoulder Pain and Disability Index. In conclusion, the authors found that when incorporating dry needling into the treatment sessions, the patient seen rapid improvements in ROM. Additionally, the authors suggested that the above musculature is a great source of pain in regard to adhesive capsulitis.

Bron et al,2 conducted a randomized control trial to investigate whether physical therapy modalities could inactivate trigger points in order to reduce symptoms and improve shoulder function in a chronic, non-traumatic shoulder population. They compared the modalities to a wait-and-see approach that many people often use when dealing with shoulder injuries. One hundred subjects between 18 and 65 years old were included, all with unilateral shoulder pain, and sent to physical therapy to treat the neck, shoulder, or, arm. Patients completed the DASH for baseline testing measures and myofascial trigger points were identified before beginning. The control group took the wait-and-see approach and the intervention group received physical therapy. At the 12-week mark they all received the same physical therapy program and were re-evaluated using the DASH. The physical therapists used stretching, compression, and cryotherapy in order to decrease pain and symptoms, whereas the control group just used over-the-counter painkillers. Researchers found that stretching and compression to trigger points increased patients’ ROM and decreased pain sensitivity when comparing to just taking medication alone.  

Palomares et al, 3 conducted a randomized clinical trial intended to treat MTrPs with dry needling. One hundred twenty patients were looked at, all of which had nonspecific shoulder pain. Subjects were randomly placed into either a physical therapy treatment group or a trigger point dry needling plus physical therapy group. Patients were measured in regard to pain and function and the number of active MTrPs were calculated. Investigators found that there was no significant difference between evidence-based physical therapy treatment compared to dry needling, both showed significant improvements over time.

Liu et al,4 evaluated dry needling used as the main treatment in patients diagnosed with MTrPs associated with neck and shoulder pain. Two independent reviewers looked at twenty randomized controlled trials involving 839 patients and found that dry needling for MTrPs was effective in short term (3 days) and medium term, however wet needling was more effective to treat trigger points for medium term cases.

Bron et al,5 looked at the prevalence of MTrPs and the correlation between MTrPs and pain intensity in patients with chronic, non-traumatic unilateral shoulder pain. Researchers found that all 72 subjects that were studied had active MTrPs and 67/72 had latent MTrPs. Active MTrPs were found in the infraspinatus, upper trapezius, middle trapezius, anterior deltoid, middle deltoid, posterior deltoid, and teres minor. Latent MTrPs were found in the infraspinatus, upper trapezius, teres major, and anterior deltoid. Examiners found that the infraspinatus and upper trapezius muscles were the most common muscles to have active MTrPs. By treating the active trigger points, patients were able to have a more normal activation pattern and had spontaneous recovery of shoulder pain.

Langevin et al, 6 evaluated the benefits and modes between electrical acupuncture versus manual acupuncture. The authors found that MA encompasses a much shorter duration than EA and provides a brief, intermittent stimulation to the muscle. On the other hand, EA provides a constant stimulation that causes depolarization of the muscles for several minutes (15-30 minutes). Depending on the duration of stimulation and mechanism of acupuncture that is being elicited to the muscle, there are different physiology responses that can occur. The authors looked at 89 systematic reviews and found that EA is superior to MA when treating knee OA. Lastly, the authors suggest that many factors play a role in comparing the two modes, including: mechanism of action, clinical recommendations, and patterns of use; which the authors state is widely different across practitioners. The authors suggest that both EA and MA are beneficial, however it just depends on clinician preference, treatment area, and patient symptoms.   

Limitations that would apply to Clewley et al would be that they only looked at one individual patient’s outcomes, rather than examining a larger subject field. By doing this, readers cannot conclude whether DN would work for their patients because it was administered to a female, of a specific age, with a specific diagnosis. Contrarily, Bron et al looked at a large range of ages within their study. Although this is better for data collection purposes, age can play a role in shoulder function and pain perception/sensitization. I think future studies should look to see how dry needling varies across multitudes of ages and compare outcome measures based on improvements in ROM and pain perception via the DASH.

Application to Patient Care:

For this particular patient case, I wanted to apply a similar study design like that of Clewley et al,1 but apply dry needling to the same musculature as Bron et al.5 In my patient case, we decided to treat the patient with just manual therapy for the first two visits. Manual therapy consisted of massaging the patient’s active MTrPs within the left trapezius, levator scapulae, rhomboid major and minor, serratus posterior superior, latissimus dorsi, serratus anterior, deltoid, supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres major and minor, subscapularis, pectoralis major and minor, and coracobrachialis. Additionally, PROM was performed into shoulder abduction and flexion to stretch the left latissimus dorsi and RTC musculature.  On the initial evaluation, patient was able to reach 87-degrees of left shoulder abduction and 135-degrees of left shoulder flexion. After the second visit with just manual therapy and PROM alone, patient gained 3-degrees of shoulder abduction. Patient was unable to improve in shoulder flexion. During the third visit, patient was administered manual therapy to the same muscles and then dry needling was applied. DN was performed x 15 mins at 2Hz for 250usec to the patient’s left shoulder. 25-40 mm single use needles were administered and individually wrapped with guide tube (Sierin) were utilized. Needles were inserted targeting: trapezius, levator scapulae, rhomboid major and minor, serratus posterior superior, latissimus dorsi, serratus anterior, deltoid, supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres major and minor, subscapularis, pectoralis major and minor, and coracobrachialis. Unilateral spins were applied to all needles, as well as slight tenting. Patient was sidelying with ipsilateral UE resting on a pillow. Patient responded as expected, with mild deqi response noted. Patient did not have significant pain and was able to tolerate treatment. Patient was also educated on the effects of DN and what to expect over the next few days. Needles were counted upon insertion and all needles were accounted for upon removal.

After two visits of administering manual therapy plus dry needling, patient has had an additional 5-degree improvement in shoulder abduction and 4-degree improvement in shoulder flexion. Patient has also stated that her pain has decreased significantly with shoulder all motions. Patient will continue to be evaluated for the next 10 visits to see how effectiveness dry needling is on the patients shoulder mobility.

Clinical Instructor Feedback:

My CI is on board with implementing the plan above and thinks that dry needling is a good recommendation for this patient, especially when treating adhesive capsulitis. CI said that dry needling will facilitate breakdown the adhesions within the glenohumeral joint since manual therapy alone cannot. My CI discussed that there is a neurophysiological response that occurs once the skin is punctured that releases opioid  and non-opioid factors that are found present in the tissue for 7-10 days post treatment, Thus performing this treatment allows for the patient’s healing of the injury to continue upon leaving. This response can be exaggerated by piggybacking the days that the patient gets the needling performed. We are also using 25 mm to 40 mm needles, thus we are able to access areas of the joint that we are not able to normally access. One in particular is the area of the supraspinatus that is deep to the AC joint and rarely able to be stimulated. She has seen great improvements in shoulder injuries when this area is addressed with the DN. CI also says that dry needling will be beneficial to administer for the next couple visits to see if further improvements are able to be made. After proper lengthening of above musculature is addressed and relieved, then the patient will progress into a strengthening program.

Data Bases and Sites Searched:

  1. Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy (JOSPT)
  2. PubMed
  3. PEDro
  4. Physiopedia
  5. PTNow
  6. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine
  7. Osteopractor WordPress
  9. Dry Needling Institute: American Academy of Manipulative Therapy

Pain can be a REAL GRINCH! Let TOPS help you STEAL back your Holiday Spirit!

Is the “Grinch” trying to hold you back this year and steal your HOLIDAY SPIRIT?!

Tis the season of giving…. But, pain is not what you want to be given! And, at this time of year, pain can be the REAL Grinch…

How can you overcome the PAIN-Grinch?

Well, we have some GREAT NEWS FOR YOU! Your deductible is most likely met! Arizona is direct access, meaning you don’t even have to see a doctor before coming… You can come straight in and we will check you out, and get you started, on your FIRST appointment. We are a one stop shop at T.O.P.S. (rare thing to find during the Holiday time)!!! In the clinic, we have an Osteopractor, which means you can get all your dry needling, joint manipulations, or physical therapy done in ONE LOCATION!

We want you to enjoy eating TOO much Turkey, Christmas shopping, home decorating… Annnnddddd, great weather in Phoenix! This is the time of year when we start to get back out running, hiking, biking, etc. At T.O.P.S., we believe that getting out and moving is essential to your physical and mental health. We also understand that you may have aches and pains that arise after hibernating all summer! Not only does this affect you physically, but it’ll take a toll on your mental well-being as well. Don’t let that happen! Aches and pains should not be on the forefront of your mind, or limiting your desire to do any of these activities!

Not to mention, once your physical pain is minimized, your mental clarity will improve, providing for shopping stamina, great gift ideas for those hard to shop for, and delicious meals!

As Saint Augustine said, “The greatest evil is physical pain.”

So, we invite you in, to come check out what we can do for you during these hectic holiday times, and get you running, hiking, or biking your way into 2019!!!

Young Female Athletes Sidelined From Injury- Week 3

How much is too much?   

Below is the max pitch count for each age group. It is important that your young female athlete does not pitch the same pitch over and over to decrease overuse injury. In order to prevent injury and harm, you should have your female athlete following these guidelines as closely as possible.

Every athlete should have two days of rest after a day of pitching to prevent injury. A day of pitching would include two or three games with the maximum pitch count listed below. Girls < 12 years-old should not pitch more than 2 consecutive days and girls > 13 years-old should not pitch more than 3 consecutive days.

Recommended rest time means no live pitching, which includes no pitching during batting practice. It is important that your young female athlete takes this time to fully rest to allow proper healing components to the area.  

Young female athletes that are in their resting phase can still participate in hitting and fielding drills, but should eliminate as much overhead throwing in the field as they can. During rest periods, it is essential that your athlete performs a 2-5 minute jogging routine to stretch muscles before starting to stretch specific areas. They then should follow-up with a 20-30-minute stretching program that targets cross-body movements, shoulder rotation, flexion, and abduction, and wrist motions.   

Maximum Pitch Count

Age Pitches/Game Pitches/Day
Days 1 & 2
Day 3
8-10 50 80 0
10-12 65 95 0
13-14 80 115 80
15-over 100 140 100

Reference for chart:

Ireland L. Mary, MD, Snyder-Macker Lynn, PT, ScD, Ferguson Bonnie-Jill, Coach. Stop sports injuries- Keeping Kids in the Game for Life. American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine. 2010. Accessed July 31, 2018.

How can physical therapy prevent your young female athlete from injury?

Surprisingly, surgery is not always required! Whether preventing injury or stopping further injury, physical therapy can help in various ways. Physical therapy will give your female athlete insight on proper body mechanics both on and off the field in order to prevent injury.

Referring back to the electromyogram (EMG) study I talked about in my first blog on young female athletes who perform windmill pitches; it has been found that there is a greater increase in the biceps and brachialis musculature contractions than all other muscles within the arm.

Physical therapy can provide your athlete with specific exercises to these muscles to promote proper contraction throughout the arm. This can be done through specialized training like dry needling, myofascial decompression, or individualized manual therapy techniques. Your female athlete can also be provided with knowledgeable experts who have background on functional training and proper upper body mechanics in order to prevent unnecessary strains and sprains.  

Additionally, your athlete must have good stability of their lumbo-pelvic junction. This include their low back and pelvis. If your athlete does not have a strong base of support then they will have poor body mechanics, will eventually fatigue, and cause injury to areas that cannot handle torque and compression. Physical therapy can address this deficit by engaging your athlete in glute exercises, lower body functional strength and endurance, as well as stretching routines to perform pre and post gamedays.

Lastly, it is pertinent that your athlete knows how to properly transfer ground-reaction forces throughout their body. This means transferring forces from their legs, through their abdominal cavity, and up to their pitching arm. If this is not done properly, then momentum will be lost, and power and speed will be decreased. At therapy your athlete can be taught proper rotational forces to apply along the spine, can receive evidence-based osteopractic techniques, and be provided with a sports-specific program.  

At TOPS Physical Therapy your athlete is guaranteed an individualized program to get stronger and faster both on and off the field! Come see us today before it’s too late!!    


Young Female Athletes Sidelined From Injury-Week 2

Why do we see so many young female athletes sidelined from injury?

Did you miss the first blog? Go back and check it out! This is an awesome series!!! Our student Ashley is sharing her personal story and some insight on why so many young female athletes end up injured. If you are wanting to get a better understanding, then this blog series is for you! The purpose of this blog series is to go through some of the most common injuries, early identifications, and prevention of injuries for young female athletes.

Do you know what the most common injuries are that a young female athlete can endure?

Most of you can probably come up the obviously injuries like: rotator cuff tears/ strains, low back pain, and nerve impingement, but what how many of you actually know why these occur? Well, below I have listed common injuries that young female athletes undergo, as well as some explanation as to how these injuries occur.

  • Shoulder-Impingement (most common)

    • Compared to an overhead thrower who has a range of motion (ROM) of 108 degrees, a female windmill pitcher requires 360 degrees of motion. This ROM then places torque on the biceps brachii (talked about in last week’s blog). The biceps tendon can either become impinged underneath the acromion of the shoulder, cause inflammation of the biceps tendon, or at worst, can rupture the tendon. In turn, your young female athlete may start to complain of pain on the front side of their shoulder, state relief of pain when the shoulder is down by their side, or the biceps muscle may look like a “pop-eye.”
    • “Pop-eye” muscle:
  • Ulnar Nerve Impingement 
    • This injury is due to abnormal forces through the elbow. While pitching, you may notice that your young female athlete may have her forearm too far outside her pitching zone while her elbow is tucked near her body. This causes a valgus force and can end up causing impingement on the inside portion of the elbow (Cubital Tunnel) or at the wrist (Guyon’s Tunnel). If your athlete has a nerve impingement they will complain of numbness and tingling down the inside of their forearm and/or in their fourth and fifth (pinky) fingers.
    • Cubital Tunnel Entrapment
    • Guyon’s Tunnel Entrapment
    • Pain Location


Check out the blog next week to learn more about when these young women are over doing it! 

Saved By The KettleBELL

Saved By The KettleBELL!!! The rundown on kettlebells and how to add them into your gym routine.

Kettlebells are a common workout tool in almost any gym. They come in a variety of different sizes and the specific shape of the kettlebell adds an element of versatility that you just can’t get from a dumbbell. As healthcare professionals and people who are constantly looking to improve our physical capability, using kettlebells simply makes sense. The distribution of weight with the modification of a larger grip allows for more powerful and dynamic movements that challenge your entire body, including your core to a much greater extent. As with any exercise, learning proper form is absolutely essential to maximize the intensity of your workout as well as prevent injury. Below you will find a few of the TOPS Teams favorite kettlebell exercises as well as some instruction on form. Give these exercises a try next time you’re at the gym to revamp your normal routine.

Kettlebell Swing


  • This exercise will not only challenge full body strength and power, but also your cardiovascular system. It’s crucial to implement proper hip hinging technique when the kettlebell is lowered and then exploding into a standing position. Do not raise the kettlebell above shoulder height

Goblet Squat

  • As opposed to a traditional squat, the goblet squat with a kettlebell will allow you to squat through a larger range of motion. Controlling this larger range of motion is essential before you hit the squat rack with heavy weight. It also adds some arm and shoulder strengthening. Grip the kettlebell on either side of the handle and keep the weight close to your body.

Reverse Lunge in Rack Position

  • This is a traditional reverse lunge with the kettlebell in the rack position. This means that the weighted portion of the kettlebell is supported by the forearm and upper arm, just below your shoulder, while gripping the handle (as pictured).  Maintain an upright posture throughout the movement, not letting the kettlebell deviate your trunk.

Single Arm Press

  • TOPS has found that the use of a kettlebell when pressing overhead allows for a more fluid motion than with a dumbbell. The weight of the kettlebell will rest against the back of your forearm here. Performing this with a single arm (rather than both arms at once) with challenge your core to a greater capacity.  

Single Arm Row

  • Start in a lunge position with the same leg extended backward as the arm you are rowing with. Rotate the back leg out and place your opposite arm on your thigh for added stability with the exercise.  The rowing motion should be performed through full range of motion, with the kettlebell returning to ground height with each rep. Again, this single arm exercise is great for core strength as well.

Kettlebell Cleans

  • This exercise is a true total body, explosive exercise. Start with the kettlebell at ground level and your body in a squatted position. Similar to the kettlebell swing, explode into a standing position bringing the kettlebell to shoulder height, and ultimately into the rack position. This movement takes practice, as it is a more advanced exercise, so start with lower weight, perform in front of a mirror, or have someone with experience critique your form.

Know Your Insurance

Know Your Insurance

What do you know about your medical insurance? What services does your insurance cover? What does “patient’s responsibility” actually mean? How can you better understand your policy? Will medical offices check your benefits for you? T.O.P.S. is here to answer all these insurance questions and more!

We know that no one plans to get sick or hurt, but there comes a time that everyone needs medical care at some point. Health insurance and coverage seems to be a sensitive topic today, so we wanted to provide you all with a quick read that is important for all consumers to understand when getting medical services from ANY OFFICE! Consider this as a simple lesson on health insurance and medicine…

Do you know your plan?

Did you know… you can easily check online or make a phone call to the number on the back of your insurance card to learn more information about your specific plan??  Take the time to check what type of plan you have during open enrollment aka prior to committing to the insurance! Find out what type of policy you have, check to see if you have: premiums, deductibles, copays and in/out of network benefit details, and etc. (Here a quick breakdown of what that means:  Premium- the amount paid monthly for health insurance, Deductible- the money that is paid out of pocket before coverage starts, Coinsurance- the percentage you will need to pay after the deductible is met, Co-pay- a flat payment for medical services, In-Network- doctors and medical office that are covered in the insurance plan, Out- of-Network- Doctors/ medical office that are NOT covered)

Do medical offices verify your coverage?

At T.O.P.S. Physical Therapy, as a courtesy, we verify insurance benefits for physical therapy for all new and past patients. (NOT ALL MEDICAL OFFICES WILL DO THIS FOR YOU).

Regardless of whether offices check your insurance benefits for you or not, you should really know all parts of your plan to make sure that it can be used to it fullest. Knowing your plan allows you to see what you like/don’t like. If you don’t currently like something about your plan, keep that in mind when you go to back to open enrollment to choose your plan for 2019. You should pick a plan that best fits the needs of family/yourself.  If your someone with a pre-existing condition, you might want to consider a plan with a high premium and low-deductible. If you’re a healthy family/individual, then a low premium with a high-deductible. One thing to always keep in mind is that insurance is an investment and if you don’t know what your signing up for, how do you know if it can really help with your needs?

If you know your insurance plan start here!

For those of you who know your plan, you already know and dread this time of year because you know your plan has to RESET! Which means that when you visit TOPS Physical Therapy, or other medical offices, you are most likely going to have some out-of-pocket costs.

With that said, we saw an interesting post by, Dr. Ron Pavkovich. He gave a great summary of the fiasco that patients and offices go through when this reset happens. He wanted to share and give the point of view of a PT front office… It is a great read, for consumers, PT offices, and ANY medical office!

For those who don’t know, you, the patient, is ultimately responsible for knowing and understanding your benefits for medical care. The patient has the responsibility of knowing their plan, what is, and is not covered. As a courtesy, physical therapy and medical offices verify your benefits and explain them to you in a “language” that you can better understand. This courtesy of checking benefits is a relatively COST CONSUMING gesture on their part. It is also ALWAYS an estimate. With that said, it is your choice and responsibility to either check your own benefits or know your plan. If your insurance does not pay for the services or care you received, it is still your responsibility at the end of the day. This is why you sign your initial paperwork advising that you understand and agree to pay for the services provided, in the scenario that your insurance does not pay.

If you have had a service performed, it is not the PT or MD office’s fault that your insurance did not pay. Therefore, you cannot, and should not, expect that office to not collect for services rendered and treat you for free.

This is a simple education lesson on health insurance and medicine. Please do not blame your provider for you not knowing what your plan does and does not cover. Your provider’s office is simply the messenger and doing you a courtesy by trying to help you understand the type of coverage you have. At the end of the day, your provider does not make these insurance policies nor do they have a say in what is paid for. Also, please keep in mind that your provider is likely only getting reimbursed about 40% of what they bill your insurance carrier. Insurance carriers are killing medicine!

Another point made is that often the PT or MD offices are responsible for pre-certifications. If the office is “in-network”, the office is obligated to write off some procedures, which are oftentimes beneficial.
Furthermore, if you provide insurance information that has lapsed after the first of the month, that carrier isn’t liable for payment! Good luck collecting or getting backdated approval from whatever carrier, if any, succeeds the lapsed carrier. And TPA’s will not backdate authorizations until you can prove they were wrong with processing it the first time. So in other words, they can allow for their mistakes, but never yours.

This becomes particularly frustrating for small private practices. They bill everyone the same, yet they generally are not able to negotiate with insurance companies, as they have no leverage. Thus, they have to either take what they pay (usually around $0.40 of every $1 billed) or not participate as in-network. They then approve the full rate, but pass it to the patient as an out-of-network cost. Most small private practices will offer anyone who pays day of service, a discount (and if insurance paid day of service, they would get it too). So, anyone is welcome to see the prices, but insurances can change what they pay on a whim, so that is more difficult to keep up with.

This is an issue in our healthcare system that tends to be heated and followed with a lot controversy. Some responses we have had about this topic are:

  • Insurance anymore is only catastrophic Insurance at best. The deductibles are crazy and you’re 100% right about it killing medicine.
  • The mouse print on our patient delivery confirmation is extensive and has expanded to include all these points. Most folks have no clue how their insurance works. I have to explain regularly that office visits to their doctor and prescriptions don’t generally apply to deductibles.
  • I agree and fully understand your point. When will I be able to pay my doctors the same price for a service that they accept from insurance companies?
  • I agree the patient is ultimately responsible to know their benefits but we all live in the real world and that usually never happens. Protect yourselves and document, document and document some more!

If you do not like your coverage… Make a change for 2019!

Now is the time of year to start talking with your employer and see what other health insurance options exist for you. Do some research on your end and think about what medical services you will need for the upcoming year. Call around and see if your doctors offices take the various insurances your employer offers and which one gives you the most coverage at the offices you visit the most. Do your homework!