Wearing the Right Shoes is Pivotal for Comfort and Safety

Whether you are training for a marathon or simply trying to improve overall fitness, the shoes you wear play a pivotal role in your comfort and safety. 

Many people go for a walk or run without giving their footwear much thought. They simply believe that as long as they have some sort of “active footwear,” they will be fine. This may be true of short distances or infrequent workouts, but if you plan on running or walking with any sort of frequency or distance, you will want to make sure that you are wearing the correct footwear. 

There is a seemingly unlimited number of choices when it comes to brands of running shoes, and each brand typically offers anywhere from five to 20 different models. For shoppers, this can be very confusing. “How much cushioning do I need? What is the difference between a supportive and neutral shoe? The most expensive pair must be the best, right?” The most important question should be, “Which shoe is the best for MY feet?”  The answer should come from someone who is trained in anatomy, physiology and running/walking kinematics. 

Our physical therapists are experts in all of these subjects as well as custom orthotic fabrication. They are happy to assist you in finding a shoe with proper amount of support and cushioning, based on your physical makeup and the way you run or walk. A movement/running analysis will help our therapists determine the right shoe for you.

If you’ve never been through a movement screen/running analysis, it may shock you to find how the right shoes can make a significant difference in comfort and running efficiency.

Give us a call today at (402) 682-4210 to schedule your running analysis/movement screen. Let us help you find the right shoes before you begin your next training cycle or fitness goals!

Stay Safe During Winter Running

As we see flakes of snow falling and temperatures below freezing, it is a good time to discuss strategies for running outside safely. First, make sure to dress appropriately for the weather. Wearing multiple layers will help to retain body heat and keep you comfortable in the cold. Begin with more clothing than you think you’ll need. You can always take a top layer or your gloves off if you feel you are getting too warm. You can’t add layers if you leave the house without enough on to begin with.  

Next, take note of the condition of the surface(s) you plan to run on. Is there fresh snow covering the ground? If you plan to run on sidewalks and/or running paths, has enough time passed to allow for snow removal? If you plan to run in the morning, was the temperature warm enough the previous day to cause any melting, which would freeze overnight and turn to ice? All of these things must be taken into account. If there is snow and ice on the ground and you plan to run on it, you should mentally prepare yourself for a slower pace and understand that safety, not speed, is your top priority. Ideally, you’ll have shoes with some sort of increased traction. Whether that means shoes designed specifically for winter running or adding some yak trax onto your current shoe. You also must take into account the material the upper portion of your shoes are made of. If the upper part is primarily mesh or “breathable,” they will allow moisture to get inside your shoes and make your feet very cold. Anything made of Gore-Tex will help keep your feet dry and warm during your run.

            Lastly, if there is any possible option of getting your miles or workout done indoors on a treadmill, that should be the option you choose. While the treadmill can be boring and monotonous, we can assure you that the weeks or months of rehab that will follow a bad slip and fall on the ice is worse.  

            If you have any questions regarding strategies for running outside in the winter, feel free to call us at (402) 682-4210 or email our physical therapists, who not only specialize in treating runners, but are also runners themselves!  

           Run well and be safe!

Physical Therapy Treatments Benefit Long COVID Patients

In the last few years, COVID-19 has disrupted many lives in social, emotional and physical aspects. Most of those who became ill with the virus recovered within a few short weeks, but some experienced a continuation of the symptoms, or Long COVID.

Long COVID is not yet well understood, but we do know it impacts an individual’s ability to function and is severely disabling. It affects activities of daily living as well as social and family life. It can affect multiple body systems, including the respiratory, cardiac, renal, endocrine and neurological systems.

Individuals with Long COVID, or Long Haulers, can experience fatigue, chest pressure or tightness, shortness of breath, headache and a delay in cognitive functions. These symptoms cause Long Haulers to seek out physical therapy. Some individuals who suffer from Long COVID can benefit from physical activity. However, treating these individuals using traditional physical therapy has sometimes triggered or worsened symptoms.

Long Haulers require vitals to be checked and tracked during treatments to avoid a negative reaction to the therapy. Finding the right physical therapist is key to a successful recovery.

Innovate Physical Therapy has physical therapists to get Long Haulers moving again, occupational therapists to help them get back into their routine and speech therapists to help them regain their cognitive thinking and communication skills.

Our therapy team can get anyone with Long COVID back on their feet and on the road to a successful recovery. The Innovate Physical Therapy team consists of skilled clinicians who understand Long COVID needs to be monitored during therapy sessions. They will consistently check blood pressure, heart rate, changes in oxygen saturation and level of exertion.

Therapy sessions at Innovate Physical Therapy are one-on-one. Each appointment is tailored to the client’s individual needs and tolerance levels.

As more cases of Long COVID are assessed, it is becoming clear that an exercise program, like physical therapy, guided by vitals, is the best way to take back your life from COVID-19.

If you are suffering from Long COVID, you could benefit from physical therapy. Call us at (402) 682-4210 to get scheduled today!

Manage Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome With Physical Therapy

Patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS) is a condition that affects runners and non-runners alike. With symptoms that typically include dull/achy or occasionally sharp pain in the anterior (front) of the knee.  Some activities that are commonly painful for somebody with PFPS are squatting, kneeling, walking up or down stairs, and sitting with bent knees for extended periods of time.

Physical therapy can often yield positive outcomes and therapists have several treatments available to help alleviate pain, strengthen the muscles surrounding the knee, and support the patella and knee. Depending on the severity and specifics of your symptoms, your therapist may suggest any of the following as treatment for this condition.  

  • Exercises and stretches specifically targeting muscles and other soft tissues that need to be strengthened or stretched, as well as modifications of activity or movement patterns.
  • Taping techniques to assist with proper knee alignment and to give support to areas of the knee and/or lower extremity that need it.  
  • Knee bracing or custom arch supports/orthotics may be implemented to further support the knee and alleviate stress to the affected area.  
  • Applying ice to your painful knee after a period of increased activity level or sporting event may also be beneficial in decreasing your pain.

If you believe you may be experiencing PFPS and would like to be evaluated and treated by one of our therapists at Innovate Physical Therapy, who specialize in these treatments, please call 402-682-4210 to get scheduled today!

Avoiding Winter Injuries

Winter activities and sports are a great way to stay active during colder months if you participate with common sense and caution. However, do not take on more than your health and skill level will safely allow.

Before heading out on that long-awaited ski vacation, most people prepare by reserving a room, booking a flight, packing their winter clothes and skis. However, if you do not prepare your body, you might end up spending more time in the doctor’s office than on the slopes.

According to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission, more than 440,000 people are treated annually at hospitals, doctor’s offices, and emergency rooms for winter-related injuries. Women and children appear to be at slightly higher risk than men.

For example, annually in the United States:

  • 58,500 injuries from ice skating
  • 91,000 injuries from sledding and tobogganing
  • 144,000 injuries from snow skiing
  • 148,000 injuries from snowboarding
  • 28,000 injuries from shoveling snow that require a trip to the ER.
  • Over 1,000,000 injuries from falling on the ice or snow

Common winter injuries include sprains, strains, dislocations, and fractures. Unfortunately, many of these injuries happen at the end of the day, when people overexert themselves to finish that one last run down the slope or shovel that last bit of snow.

However, injuries can often be prevented if you prepare in advance for your activity, stop when tired, and stay alert for changes in conditions and the other people around you.

Here are a few guidelines to keep in mind when engaging in winter activities.

1.  Keep in shape and strengthen the lower extremities and torso before the winter season starts.

2. Warm up thoroughly before participating in your winter activity. Cold muscles, tendons, and ligaments are more vulnerable to injury.

3. Wear appropriate protective gear, including goggles, helmets, gloves, and padding.

4. Check that equipment is working correctly before use.

5. Learn how to fall correctly and safely so you can reduce the risk of injury by falling on your side or buttocks and rolling rather than bracing yourself with your hands.

6. Avoid participating in activities when you are in pain or exhausted.

(American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, AAOS)

Understanding a few of the most common winter injuries may help you avoid them and get the most out of your season.

Knee and Ankle Injuries:

Downhill skiing, snowboarding, and sometimes just walking on an icy sidewalk can lead to a nasty fall, which can cause a substantial injury to your knees and ankles. An ankle sprain can be more painful and take longer to heal than an actual fracture at the ankle. For example, of the nearly 144,000 skiing injuries reported per year, anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears are the most common. Tears or ruptures of the Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) or Medial Collateral Ligament (MCL) of the knee are debilitating injuries and often require surgery. To help protect yourself from these injuries, have your sports equipment frequently inspected. Ensure that your footwear is the correct size, has good traction, and be sure to walk consciously. Your arms keep you balanced, so keep your hands out of your pockets and avoid carrying heavy loads.

Elbow, Finger, Hand, and Wrist Injuries:

It is easy to break your wrist or fingers when skiing, skating, or simply walking on an icy surface.

The most common injuries due to winter slips and falls are neck and back strain and a broken wrist, elbow, or hand. While falling, it is instinctive to try and catch yourself, landing on your hand incorrectly, causing the wrist, hand, or elbow to break.

Suppose you experience an injury while falling or develop pain that persists after the fall. In that case, it is essential to see a doctor or physical therapist and determine the type of injury and its severity. If you feel yourself starting to fall, try to avoid landing on your knees, wrists, or back. Try to fall on a fleshy part of your body, like your side. If you can relax your muscles when you fall, you may injure yourself less.

Lower Back Injuries:

Cold weather constricts muscles and diminishes flexibility. Failing to warm up properly and overworking your body may result in back pain or injury. Improper movement and posture can also stress the back resulting in a strain or sprain. A fall can damage vertebrae or compress the discs in your back, leading to a more severe back injury. Keeping the back and abdominal muscles strong before starting your winter activities will give you the muscular endurance you need for a full day of activity.


You can start by jumping rope to prevent ACL tears, then progress to jumping side to side and back and forth over a pillow or small stool. Stepping sideways up and down on a step is another great way to strengthen the muscles around the knees. Correctly performed lunges and squats are excellent fundamental exercises for the back and lower extremities. Playing basketball or tennis improves your lateral movements while familiarizing the body with skiing motions.

Working with a trained and certified physical therapist from Innovate Physical Therapy can also help you avoid winter injuries. Our therapists can evaluate your trunk and lower extremity strength, endurance, balance, and flexibility. They can diagnose and identify any muscle imbalances that could predispose you to injury. Then they will develop a customized treatment plan to help you prepare for the winter activities.

Individuals are treated in private rooms and have access to a warm water aquatic therapy pool and advanced strength and balance equipment. At Innovate Physical Therapy, we offer specialized programs to ensure individuals quickly progress to recovery. In addition to traditional therapy methods, we empower individuals with the necessary tools to take an active role in their health and wellness to continue with the life they want!

Contact us today to learn more about how our physical therapists can help you. Three convenient locations: Bellevue / Omaha /Lincoln

7 Steps to Feeling Great on Your Vacation

Do you have a vacation coming up? Planning on getting away from it all? One of the fun things that we do on vacations is indulge in fun and different foods and drinks. But unfortunately, this can also lead to us feeling unhealthy and sluggish because our bodies are getting lots of extra fat, sugar and alcohol. Here are seven ways to feel great on your vacation while still being able to indulge in some yummy treats!

  1. Bring plenty of bottled water. This will help you to stay hydrated, decrease your cravings for sugary drinks and will give you tons of energy because your body is energized by water! Okay, you can put a little flavoring in it if you need to. But please note that soda, tea, coffee and seltzers are not water and won’t hydrate you well. Have those fun drinks in addition to regular water breaks!
  2. Bring healthy options for breakfast and skip the sausage and pancakes. I know, you want to get your money’s worth at your hotel and love those “free” breakfasts. But breakfast that is laden with high fat, sugar and refined flour, like in pancakes, waffles and pastries, can have you begin your day feeling slow and heavy. Replace this meal with a healthy whole grain breakfast bar, fruit, instant oatmeal, etc. to energize your body to begin the day. Save your vacation treats for later in the day, and you’ll have more energy for a full day of fun!
  3. Start your meals with water and a salad or fruit. After that you can eat that amazing sandwich or meal at your favorite vacation restaurant. Enjoy the meal, but remind yourself that you don’t have to eat every bite! You’ll feel better wasting a little food rather than feeling stuffed to the gills. Is there a fridge where you’re staying? Bring back the leftovers and eat them when you feel a snack urge coming on later in the day. 
  4. Bring healthy snacks with you wherever you go. My husband and I enjoy bringing small bags of popcorn, protein bars, fruits and veggies to snack on. This saves tons of money and calories, and we feel so much better throughout the day!
  5. Enjoying some fun alcoholic beverages? Change it up by having a cocktail and then having a glass of water. You’ll feel better and be able to enjoy yourself more instead of not wanting to move from your chair or feeling sick later.
  6. Get moving! If your vacation doesn’t already have hiking, walking or movement mixed into the day, then add some! Plan walks around the area, swimming or other activities that will get you up and moving. Even small movements can make a big difference.
  7. Get a free physical therapy evaluation. You want to be at your most active and healthy on your vacation, and at Innovate Physical Therapy we want to help you do that. That’s why we offer free physical therapy evaluations, to make sure that you are ready for all of the fun activities you have planned! Call us at (402) 682-4210 and we’d be happy to talk to you about what you need to be at your best.

I love a great vacation with great food, relaxation and fun! But I have also learned that in order for me to enjoy myself to the fullest I need to be feeling good. Consider the above suggestions, and don’t forget to have a blast on your next vacation. Self-care is so important! We all need a break. Just don’t forget to take care of your body while you’re doing it, and you’ll come home feeling amazing!

Kathy Ramaekers, OTR/L, CHT
Innovate Physical Therapy

National Women’s Health Month: Managing Your Health with Physical Therapy

Women’s health issues like back pain, pelvic health and urinary incontinence are not the easiest topics to discuss. But they are incredibly important to address, and what better time to do so than in May, which is National Women’s Health Month?

“It’s time for issues like urinary incontinence and other women’s health concerns to be treated just as common place as a fever or other aches and pains,” said Jenifer Johnson, PT, DPT, at Innovate Physical Therapy. “Ask your doctor about physical therapy. They are typically on board with anything that may help you improve your quality of life.”

The therapists at Innovate Physical Therapy help empower women to manage their health with specialized services designed to improve the health concerns that women are likely to encounter. Therapy services include pelvic floor evaluation, manual therapy, biofeedback and electric stimulation, general education and pelvic floor strengthening exercises.

 “We focus on many things from more general orthopedic lower back pain and wellness to more specific conditions including osteoporosis, pelvic organ prolapse and urinary incontinence,” said Johnson.

Physical therapy is a great option, as research has shown that pelvic floor muscle rehab can produce a 73 percent cure rate and 97 percent improvement rate for women with stress urinary incontinence.

Innovate physical therapists also can treat Sacroiliac joint (SIJ) dysfunction, cystocele and rectocele. In order to provide private and comfortable spaces, Innovate Physical Therapy offers individual therapy rooms.

The therapists at Innovate Physical Therapy are happy and ready to help address your concerns and needs, getting you back to full health! Call us at (402) 682-4210 to talk to one of our therapists and schedule a free therapy screening.

Occupational Therapy Month: Defining Occupational Therapy and the Benefits for You

April is Occupational Therapy Month. This month is set aside to focus on the role that occupational therapists play in helping individuals have a good quality of life and staying active, happy and healthy.

At Innovate Physical Therapy, we know first-hand how critical occupational therapists are in the health care world.

“Occupational therapy is so fulfilling because I get to help people become more independent in their daily living activities,” said Kathy Ramaekers, OTR/L, CHT, occupational therapist at Innovate Physical Therapy in Bellevue. “No matter what our age is, it’s important for us to be independent with our personal care and to be able to engage in our favorite pastimes.”

Occupational therapy is all about empowering the individual to maintain or regain their quality of life and independence. This is done by focusing on what is possible, what an individual can do and not on any debilities the individual might have.

“One client I worked with wanted to be able to pick up her newborn without hand pain, and another client wanted to be able to play golf again,” Ramaekers said. “That’s what was important to these clients, and they were both able to return to these activities after therapy intervention. I am truly blessed to be in this profession!”

Though they have similarities and often work together, occupational therapy and physical therapy are two different forms of rehabilitational sciences with their own focuses. Physical therapy primarily focuses on mobility, reducing pain and gross motor skills as well as rehabilitation and injury prevention. Occupational therapy concentrates on everyday activities that an individual needs to be able to do. According to the American Occupational Therapy Association, occupational therapy is the only profession that helps individuals across their lifespan to do the things they want and need to do through the therapeutic use of daily activities.

“Occupational therapy is a tremendous resource for the team at Innovate Physical Therapy,” said Luke Collin, DPT, outpatient therapy coordinator for Innovate Physical Therapy in Bellevue. “Being able work with a team that can incorporate occupational therapy, physical therapy and speech therapy into the recovery process is a luxury that not many outpatient facilities in the metro area offer. Our OT Kathy Ramaekers is highly skilled at treating complex injuries of the upper extremity and post-surgical hand patients. She is also certified in lymphedema treatments and in LSVT-BIG® treatments for Parkinson’s disease.”

Do you need occupational therapy? One of our highly skilled therapists would be happy to give you a free screening to assess your needs and help you develop a therapy plan that is personalized to you. Call (402) 682-4210 for more information or schedule your complimentary screening here.

Is Dry Needling the Right Therapy Treatment for You?

Though the name itself might not sound like something that falls in the realm of physical therapy, dry needling is a great option when looking for a therapy program to treat pain related diagnoses. It is a simple, cost-effective and efficient solution to many physical deficiencies.

Dry needling is a physical therapy practice that allows therapists to directly treat the deep and superficial tissues which are contributing to dysfunction. Fine filament needles help bypass restrictions from soft tissue and improve circulation to reduce chemicals signaling pain. By using a needle, trigger points are targeted more directly and accurately. Dry needling is different from acupuncture in that acupuncture comes from Eastern-based medicine and dry needling comes from Western-based medicine. The same “dry” needles, without medication or injections, are used in both practices.  

Dry needling is often integrated into a wider rehabilitation plan and used in conjunction with other therapy treatments. Because it falls under the umbrella of physical therapy practices, dry needling is covered by most major insurances.

“Dry needling can play a role in improving physical function for a wide variety of people,” said Luke Collin, DPT, the Outpatient Therapy Coordinator for Innovate Physical Therapy. “It has benefits with most pain, acute muscle strains, chronic pain, tennis elbow, headaches and postural deficits.”

Typically, dry needling is used to treat a client one-to-two times per week at the beginning of treatment. Then the number of sessions is reduced as the therapy program progresses.

The best part is that not only does dry needling have a wide variety of benefits, it is also a simple and quick technique with minimal side effects.

“Dry needling itself is generally a short process,” said Collin, who has been certified in dry needling since 2014. “Most of the time it is done in just a few minutes.”

Dry needling is relatively painless, with a sensation that is often described as deep and achy. Side effects after a session can include muscular soreness, similar to soreness after a workout, and mild bruising. Though side effects of dry needling typically subside after 24 to 48 hours. 

To find out if dry needling is the right therapy treatment for you, call (402) 682-4210 to speak to one of our skilled therapists and learn more about what other therapy treatments we offer.

Don’t Let Debilitating Hand Pain Impact Your Independence

Think about how many times a day the average person uses their hands. From hitting the snooze button in the morning to setting the alarm at night, hands rarely remain still. They are constantly moving through both simple and complex motions as a regular part of daily living.

“Any kind of deficiency, caused by an injury, surgery or neurological event, can significantly affect one’s daily function,” explained Kathy Ramaekers, an occupational therapist and certified hand therapist with Innovate Physical Therapy in Bellevue.

This is why Ramaekers wishes more physicians would refer patients to physical or occupational therapy when patients first notice pain and/or movement limitations with their hands.

“Most people just accept that some pain or stiffness is a normal part of life,” Ramaekers said. “But that isn’t necessarily true. In fact, there is a lot that a hand therapist can do to alleviate pain and improve hand function.”

Each hand contains 27 bones that are wrapped together by ligaments, tendons, muscles, nerves and arteries. All work in concert to perform activities like tying a shoe, opening a jar or putting together a model airplane. When something limits one’s use of their hands, it can have a profound effect on his or her entire life.

“As individuals age, learning to live without functioning hands is challenging physically, mentally, emotionally and socially,” Ramaekers said. “A hand therapist works to get his or her patients back to as much normal function as possible. Hand function is key to independent living.”

Even though complaints may be localized to the hand, all hand therapy treatments should be preceded by an assessment of the entire arm extremity – from the neck and shoulder down through the arm and to the fingers.

“I always look at alignment, position, strength and flexibility, range of motion and grip strength,” Ramaekers said.

As the provider of choice for multiple orthopedic physicians focusing on the hand, Ramaekers recognizes such assessments would also identify inflammation, swelling or other indications of medical conditions, such as arthritis, which can affect the hand.

Once a cause of pain or loss of function is determined, a treatment plan is formed. In addition to exercises and therapies, such as massage or ultrasound, a hand therapist can suggest compensating strategies and adaptive equipment.

Compensating strategies may include selecting shoes with Velcro® or magnetic straps that don’t require knot tying, learning to do certain tasks with the other hand or choosing shirts without buttons. Adaptive equipment prescribed may include an appliance that opens jars, handles that make gripping and pulling easier (such as seat belts) or specially designed silverware or writing tools.

Hand therapists will also work with individual clients to devise strategies that help them alleviate stress on the hands, such as carrying items with the arms and not the hands.

To learn more about our hand therapy services, call us at (402) 682-4210.