Move. Tag. Support. Share.

These four simple words comprise the essence of #IMovedToday, a social media movement that aims to support and encourage people in their efforts to integrate more activity in their lives.

Many people are starting the new year with new goals that involve movement and health. In fact, according to a YouGov poll, the most popular New Year’s Resolution for 2019 was to get more exercise…a great goal! Unfortunately, according to U.S. News, approximately 80% of resolutions fail by the second week of February. The reasons that happens are numerous and often complex, and are usually accompanied by sinking feelings of guilt and failure, as people slip back into their old, less healthful habits. But what about those 20% of people who stick with their resolutions? What factors are associated with making positive long term changes in their lives?

A study from 2016, led by Drs Kaitlin Woolley (@Kaitlin_Woolley) and Ayelet Fishbach, and published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, suggested that both enjoyment and importance are significant factors in whether people stick to their resolutions. In fact, the researchers found that enjoyment was the factor that mattered the most. In other words, if the participants were getting immediate, positive rewards from their new habits, they would be more likely to make positive long term changes.

This is where #IMovedToday comes in! #IMovedToday is both a hashtag and a supportive, non-judgemental online community that will support your efforts to incorporate more movement in your life. The “rules” for participating are simple and welcoming:

  • 1) MOVE. Anyway you want to. Walk, run, bike, shovel, lift, yardwork. Literally anything you want!
  • 2) Post about your movement on Twitter or Facebook. Use the #IMovedToday hashtag, and tag others you think would want to join.
  • 3) Support other #IMovedToday people. Search #IMovedToday on Twitter, and like, encourage, and engage!
  • 4) Have FUN! Enjoy your bodies abilities and reach your goals to MOVE!

#IMovedToday is the brainchild of Mark Milligan (@markmilligandpt), a practicing physical therapist in Austin, TX, who specializes in orthopaedics and pain science. Mark is also the founder of Anywhere Healthcare (@Anywhere_Health) – “A telehealth platform solving the problem of healthcare access by allowing any provider of any discipline remote access to their patients.”

I recently spoke to Mark, and asked him how he came up with this simple, yet highly motivating, concept. Here’s what he had to say:

“Life is changing in America. In America, people are dying faster and earlier every year and for the first time in century, the life expectancy in the U.S. is getting shorter. Diseases such as heart disease, respiratory disease, cancer, and diabetes are changing the landscapes of our lives as we all know someone who has or who has died from one of these conditions.

Movement is necessary for life. The information and evidence on movement and it’s protective qualities at this point in time are undeniable. Here’s the catch. Most people think that exercise has to be hard, long, exhausting, and unpleasant. That’s a myth. The research supports that just 150 minutes per week (about 21 minutes per day) of intentional movement can provide great health benefits for body and brain! However, if you have not been moving, or have pain with moving, or are having a hard time seeing the benefits of movement, you are not alone!!

Change is hard, especially changes that take daily sacrifices and different choices even when our surroundings don’t change. Most have experienced this in some way throughout their lives. The most common experiences include trying to lose weight, start exercising, stop drinking, to be honest, changing any behavior that is different from the one you already do!!

On the path of change there are several different stages and each stage needs support in different ways. During all stages, information and support are needed. #IMovedToday was born out of a desire to provide information and support people making the choice to change their life, and move when that choice is HARD! So please join us. We will support you in your choice to move and make a difference in your life, and the more people you bring along with you, the better!”

And there you have it! How did you MOVE today?

Thanks for reading,

Cheryl

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Getting my Duck Legs on

I recently had the honor of being a guest on the Duck Legs Podcast, run by physiotherapy students Jared Aguilar, Dy’mire Jones, and Tyler Adams. Their mission, if you will, is to interview various professionals in an effort to go beneath the surface to better understand the mindset needed to be successful.

First, let me say that these guys make a fantastic team! I had never been on a podcast before, and admittedly I was a little nervous. But after just a couple minutes of talking with them, it was as if I was chatting with a group of old friends.

In Part I, we discuss my journey to becoming a scientist, including how I battled self-doubt and self-awareness. You can hear my complete origin story as a researcher and how I transitioned between several fields of science, from muscle development to neuroscience to genomics. You will also learn about my struggles with persistent pain and my frustrations with the US healthcare system.

In Part II, we discuss my physical therapy journey, including how I got into strength training, pain science, appreciating movement, finding a passion for coaching, empathy, epigenetics, natural selection, and…wait for it…evil turtles!

You can access the full episode on iTunes by clicking here.

I have to admit that one of the hardest things about doing this podcast was reviewing the recordings afterwards. (cringe) Do I really sound like that? Ugh!

That aside, overall I had a great time, and it was a valuable learning experience. Sure, I could have probably done a better job explaining some of the scientific concepts, used few more analogies, etc., but we are our own worst critics, and the first time for everything is always a bit rough. Truth!

In any case, I want to thank  Jared, Dy’mire, and Tyler for the wonderful opportunity, and encourage you to follow the Duck Legs Podcast on Facebook and Twitter. They have had some great guests so far and have big plans for the future. You won’t be disappointed! Go get your duck legs on!

Thanks for reading,

Dr. Cheryl Keller Capone

 

 

 

Why do people ask strangers for medical advice?

I belong to a local “moms” group on a popular social media site. It is a closed group of over 3,700 members. Most of the posts are fairly mundane with members usually looking for recommendations or support for this or that. More recently, however, I have seen an increasing number of posts in which people are looking for medical advice….and not just medically related advice, such as newborn sleeping patterns, but specific questions about illnesses and injuries.

To illustrate, here are three recent posts (unedited, but names omitted for privacy):

I think I may have plantars fasciitis. What’s the best way to treat it?

My 2 yr old has been complaining that his belly hurts for 3-4 days. He won’t eat but wasn’t really an eater before. He won’t drink much, if anything. He won’t play or be himself. Temperature was 99.4. He’s not puking, no diarrhea. Flu?

I’m looking for opinions on the flu shot for my 9 month old son. Last time we were at the doctor they offered it to me but I declined because I was unaware babies that little could have one and I needed some time to think about it. He has an appointment tomorrow and I know they are going to ask again. I’m having some mixed feelings about it! Help!

The last one was particularly disconcerting to me because this poster got a lot of support from anti-vaxxers, all of whom encouraged her not to vaccinate her son.

To be very clear, this group is not moderated by anyone with a medical degree. Rather, members of this group are asking other, equally unqualified, strangers for medical advice. When I first started noticing these posts, I was somewhat surprised. Why would someone ask a bunch of strangers for medical advice, I thought to myself, incredulously? But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I did understand at least some of the reasoning behind it, because (shhh….don’t tell anyone) I’ve done it myself.

Wait, what?!

Yes, it’s true. I turned to the internet for medical advice after losing confidence in the local medical community when I was struggling through many years of chronic pain, paresthesia, and movement dysfunction. Before I go any further, let me clarify that I started off taking a relatively standard route for some pain and intermittent tingling in my feet that developed in 2009 after I stopped using my orthotics for running. I saw my primary care doctor who sent me to an orthopedist, who referred me to physical therapy. Mind you, each provider had a different opinion as to why I was having pain and tingling. I faithfully completed my home exercise program and “graduated” from physical therapy, except that my symptoms were not really any better. Instead, things got worse…much worse. Over the course of the next 4 years or so, I not only had pain in my feet, but I also developed a multitude of other symptoms, including pain in my back, constant tingling in my feet and one hand, vertigo, nausea, heart palpitations, difficulty walking, and every time I tried to sleep on my left side, my entire leg would go completely numb from hip to toe.

To be perfectly honest, this was just the tip of the iceberg. I could write pages upon pages describing my various symptoms and how I felt betrayed by my own body. My nervous system became so jacked up that at one point I’m pretty sure I could feel all the seams of my clothes against my body. Given my background in neuroscience, I came to understand that pain is a complex beast with biological, psychological and social components, but knowing that did not lessen my symptoms. I needed help. In hindsight, I needed someone to help me calm my nervous system and teach me how to regain control of my body. The problem was that I could not find anyone who could (knew how?) to help me. Over the course of several years, I saw two primary care doctors, four orthopedists, three physical therapists, two chiropractors, two podiatrists and a massage therapist.

I hated filling out new patient forms. How could I possibly describe all of my seemingly-unrelated symptoms without sounding like a hypochondriac? I couldn’t. Sigh. No, I didn’t want pain meds. No, I wasn’t depressed. I was afraid, however, and angry. I was afraid of being essentially disabled at the age of 40, and I was angry that no one could seem to help me. In a matter of only a couple of years, I went from being able to run sub-20 min 5K to having difficulty just standing up and cooking dinner for my family. I didn’t care about running anymore. I just wanted to be able to get through the day without pain and numbness.

Frustratingly, everyone had a different opinion on what was “wrong”. Each provider focused on only a subset of my pain/symptoms (some of which didn’t arise until late in the game) rather than looking at the big picture, and each recommended a different treatment plan. And when the treatment didn’t work, I was told that there was “nothing wrong” with me.

Eventually, I lost confidence in the ability of the local medical community to help me, so I turned to the internet for information, desperate to find something or someone who could shed some light on my situation.

I asked strangers on the internet for medical advice.

Truth be told, asking unqualified individuals for advice did not solve my problems, but I did learn some helpful information from online professional resources. I also discovered that there are many other people out there who also feel let down by our health care system for a variety of reasons. Some of these reasons are relatively straightforward and related to access and cost of care and insurance coverage. My own quest for relief forced me to take a lot of time off of work for appointments, and I spent many thousands of dollars (out-of-pocket) for treatments, procedures and physical therapy. Fortunately, I have job flexibility and decent health insurance through my employer, and could therefore absorb these costs and not lose my job. This is not a viable option for most people, however, and so I can understand why many people turn to the vastness of internet and the “crowd sourcing” of social media….someone out there must have the answer, right?

No doubt that there are numerous other factors at play that lead people to seek medical advice on the internet, the discussion of which are beyond the scope of this post. But I think the fact that people are willing to ask complete strangers for medical advice speaks volumes about the depth and complexity of this problem.

As for me, when I was at the proverbial rock bottom in the summer of 2013, I finally happened across a compassionate physical therapist who helped me calm my nervous system and taught me about movement and strength training, and more recently, an insightful chiropractor who identified a few more pieces of the puzzle and facilitated my return to running. It was not an easy road, and I still face some challenges. But I’m very grateful for these two caring clinicians who helped me and taught me the skills I needed to get control of my life.

Ironically, my successful treatment by these two providers was not supported by our traditional health care system. The physical therapist runs a small cash-based practice, and while this model cost me a lot of money (worth every penny!), he was also not constrained by insurance company rules and regulations dictating the number and length of visits that would be covered. Thus, we had the flexibility to arrange a treatment schedule and plan that worked for both of us and met my individual needs. By comparison, the chiropractor that helped me did accept insurance, but my insurance company refused to pay for about half of the visits, claiming that there was no evidence of medical benefit or reduction of pain as a result of his treatments.

When I received that denial letter from my insurance company, I actually had to laugh. In the past, my insurance company had paid for several MRIs and mutliple injections, none of which helped relieve my pain, but they refused to pay for some manual therapy and movement patterning, treatments that did actually improve my condition. I glanced at the letter again and shook my head. With all the hassle and frustration built into the system, is it really a surprise that people turn to strangers for medical advice? I don’t think so.

Then I laced up my running shoes and went out for a run.

Thanks for reading,

Dr. Cheryl Keller Capone

What does your path to better health and fitness look like?

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If you are human, you may perceive that it looks something vaguely like the path in the above photo…rocky, with obstacles, and you’re not entirely sure if it’s going to lead you to where you want to go. And truth be told, this analogy is not too far from reality. Very often, the path is not clear, the footing is uneven, and sometimes we run into barriers (eg. injury, illness) that require us to backtrack and find an alternate route to move forward. This approach can often be frustrating to the point where many people just give up.

Why is it so easy for some people to lose weight, gain strength, improve their body composition or increase athletic performance, while many others struggle their entire lives with seemingly little to no progress, and instead plateau? Or worse yet, experience declining health and the onset of chronic disease like obesity, metabolic syndrome, heart disease, etc.?

One of the reasons that everyone’s path looks a little different is due to normal biological differences, or genetic variation, between humans. (More on this in a future post.)

However, another reason many people struggle is due to the vast amount of seemingly conflicting information available at the touch of a button. After an hour of searching the internet, you wind up with a few snippets of quality information buried beneath unsupported claims, pseudoscience, and myths that are factually inaccurate, at best, if not potentially dangerous.

“I fear we are witnessing the “death of expertise”: a Google-fueled, Wikipedia-based, blog-sodden collapse of any division between professionals and laymen, students and teachers, knowers and wonderers – in other words, between those of achievement in an area and those with none at all.” – Tom Nichols, The Death of Expertise

That’s right! You don’t need to be an expert in anything to have website and offer advice about various topics such as how to lose weight, gain strength, improve your nutrition, enhance your athletic performance or on some other controversial health topic. Further, much of the information that’s available at your fingertips is not backed by science, but rather is based on someone’s personal experience of what’s worked for them. (Remember, everyone’s path is a little different!) In other situations, the limited science that IS available on a particular topic may be adulterated to the point that it is now meaningless or just plain wrong. And typically, the biggest explanation for this problem is that someone is trying to make money by taking advantage of those who are desperate to see change in their lives.

I do not proclaim to be an expert in all things health and fitness. I am, however, a full-time scientist with a Ph.D. in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from Penn State University, and have over 22 years of research experience in muscle development, neuroscience and gene regulation. Further, I am also a former collegiate level runner and a current certified personal trainer through the National Academy of Sports Medicine. Through this blog, I aim to explore some of the science and psuedoscience in the health and fitness industry, with the goal of helping people to think more critically about these claims and making the science more relatable to those seeking a healthy lifestyle.

Thanks for reading,

Dr. Cheryl Keller Capone

Follow me on Twitter @KellerCaponePhD