8 Reasons Sports Medicine Is Essential for Active Athletes

7 Reasons Sports Medicine Is Essential for Active Athletes

We all know how important exercise and physical activity are to good health. But if you’re an active athlete looking to up your game, it’s even more important to add specialized sports medicine care to your team. Think injury prevention, performance training … and a whole lot more.

Here are 7 reasons sports medicine is essential for active athletes. 

  1. Specialization: Unlike general practitioners or ER docs, sports medicine professionals are specially trained to diagnose and treat athletic injuries – especially when it comes to concussions and repetitive motion injuries.
  2. Rehabilitation: Most sports injuries will require a rehabilitation period with or without physical therapy. This process is vital to recovery, and should never be left to chance.
  3. Prevention: Sports medicine professionals understand how athletes practice and play, and can offer expert  advice on preventing injuries and avoiding re-injury.
  4. Personalization: It’s all about you! Sports medicine professionals – like our top-notch physical therapy team – can evaluate your anatomical strengths and weaknesses to make personal recommendations for everything from running shoes to training regimens.
  5. Strength & Mobility: A quality sports medicine program will help athletes focus on individual strength, speed, mobility and agility. Learn more about OI Performance in Sioux Falls.
  6. “Return to Play” Decisions: If there’s anything a sidelined athlete thinks about, it’s “When do I get back in the game.” Trained sports medicine professionals can help you make this all-important decision at the right time, to reduce the risk or re-injury.
  7. Teamwork: Active athletes need a sports medicine specialty team that works together – from physical therapists and athletic trainers to board-certified, orthopedic surgeons.

These days, student athletes start playing younger and younger. Wondering if yours needs to be seen for an ache or pain? Read the 4 Reasons a Walk-In Physician is Beneficial for Your Student Athlete.

Top 5 Orthopedic Tips for Your Workout Routine

Top 5 Orthopedic Tips for Your Workout Routine

From pulled muscles and ankle sprains to knee, hip and shoulder pain—it’s no secret that when we work out we put ourselves at greater risk for strains, sprains and more. We asked the experts (our highly-trained Orthopedic Institute physicians) for their top tips on staying healthy while staying active.

Check out these top 5 orthopedic tips for athletes of all ages and skill levels.

1. Warm up and cool down

Whether you’re part of a competitive team or a “weekend warrior,” warming up your body prepares your cardiovascular system for activity and increases blood flow to your muscles. Cooling down after your workout allows for gradual recovery of both your heart rate and blood pressure. Both are important parts of exercising injury-free. Proper warm-ups and stretches specific to your sport can also help prevent painful pulled muscles.

2. Invest in the right equipment

No matter the sport or the amount of activity, investing in the proper shoes and equipment can help prevent injury along the way—especially when it comes to arch and heel support. Not sure what you need? Consider talking to a physical therapist, or athletic trainer. You might even benefit from inserts in your athletic shoes, which can absorb energy and help correct alignment. Our pedorthist can help with all your insert needs. Do a lot of running? Check out our post on how to find the perfect running shoe.

3. Use proper technique

From golfing, hiking and weight lifting to tennis, running, swimming and everything in between—every athletic activity involves technique. If you’re not actively working with coaches as part of your training, take time to learn the correct techniques associated with your sport or workout routine. For example, learning how to do the lunge correctly can protect your knees.

4. Switch up your routine

Not only does this beat workout boredom and keep you excited about athletic activity, it is essential for avoiding overuse injuries. By mixing up your activities, you give those overused muscles, joints and ligaments a chance to rest and recover before putting them into action again. Some great ways to give your joints a rest include elliptical machines, swimming, biking or yoga. Looking for new ideas? Check out these five unique ways to exercise outdoors this spring.

5. Don’t overdo it

You’ve heard the phrase, “listen to our body.” It’s one of the best things you can do to avoid a sports-related injury. When you begin a new sport or workout routine you’ve never tried before, begin slowly and steadily to avoid pulling or straining muscles. Even if you have been training hard, never let your competitive urges push you to strain or compromise your technique in an attempt to do more. Injury can often be the result.

Blood Flow Restriction Training for Physical Therapy

Blood Flow Restriction Training for Physical Therapy

Most anyone who’s ever played with, coached or cheered for a sports team knows the drill—sports injuries happen in the blink of an eye. A torn ACL, ripped rotator cuff, strained Achilles tendon and any number of other strains, sprains and breaks can keep you sidelined for weeks and months. So can recovering from many types of extremity surgery, no matter our age or mobility level. Now there’s a new option to help everyone recover faster.

Learn more about Blood Flow Restriction Therapy and how it’s safely helping patients of all ages, backgrounds and mobility levels.

What is BFR?

Blood flow restriction (BFR) training is a training strategy involving the use of an occlusion cuff that is placed around a limb during supervised exercise. This specialized tourniquet system is applied close to the center of your body and positioned for the targeted area to be trained. At Orthopedic Institute, our trainers use a “B-Strong” system of 6 difference cuff sizes.

Below is an example of a lower extremity cuff in action with a patient.

The cuff is inflated to a personalized/specific pressure to reduce blood flow to the exercising arm or leg. This creates a hypoxic (low oxygen) environment within the targeted muscle, allowing low-load exercise to effectively increase muscle strength and size.

Who could benefit from BFR?

  • Injured athletes returning to play after surgery or following treatment – including ACL reconstruction, Achilles tendon repairs, rotator cuff repairs, muscle strains and fractures.
  • Post-operative patients recovering from knee reconstruction, joint replacement surgery or severe breaks as the result of accidents or injuries.
  • Non-weight bearing (NWB) patients who need to minimize their loss of strength and muscle mass while waiting to return to normal activity.

Blood Flow Restriction is recognized as a safe and effective tool for rehabilitation by the American College of Sports Medicine. It should always be conducted with the supervision of a trained professional and is not a replacement for high-intensity resistance training for athletes, especially in the off season.

For more information, email Aaron Olson at AOlson@ortho-i.com or call OI Physical Therapy at 605-271-1354.

3 Exercises to Strengthen Your Shoulders and Spine

3 Exercises To Strengthen Your Shoulders & Spine

Our arms and shoulders assist us with almost all of our daily activities, so it’s easy to see why strong shoulder muscles are so important! Weak shoulders can increase your risk for injury at the gym or going about your day lifting kids, household items, grocery bags and more. Poor posture can also lead to neck and back pain.

Don’t let back pain and decreased range of motion sneak up on you. Try these three, easy-to-do shoulder and spine exercises at home. No equipment necessary.

1. Wall Angels

This upper-body mobility exercise not only strengthens the muscles responsible for holding your shoulders back (and improving your posture), it can also help maintain full range of motion. Our physical therapists recommend wall angels for everything from shoulder injury rehabilitation to improving minor back and neck pain.

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, 6-12 inches away from the wall, and your back against the wall. Your arms should be resting at your sides.
  • Bend your elbows 90 degrees and rotate your arms so that your shoulders, arms and back of your hands are touching the wall in a “hands up” position.
  • Slowly move your arms up and over your head to form a wide “V” while maintaining contact between your elbows, hands and the wall. Only go as high as you can to keep the backs of your hands and elbows in constant contact with the wall.
  • Bend your elbows and lower your arms back to the starting positions by actively pulling your shoulder blades down.
  • Raise and lower your arms like this for two sets of 15 reps. You should feel your muscles working between your shoulder blades.

2. Quadruped Scapular Retraction

Never heard of “scapular retraction?” Essentially, it’s pulling your shoulder blades (scapulae) back to improve posture and strengthen your shoulders. Modern life, and all of our sitting and/or hunching over computers and smartphones, has made us all much more likely to slump our shoulders.

  • Start on all fours with your wrists stacked directly under your shoulders, and your knees stacked directly under your hips. This creates a “neutral” spine.
  • Push into the ground, round your back slightly, and actively pull your shoulder blades together. Try to keep your shoulders relaxed and away from your ears.
  • Repeat 10-12 times for 1-2 sets.

3. Lateral Arm Raise

This simple exercise can be done while standing or sitting, and with or without hand weights. You will strengthen your lateral deltoid muscles on the side of your shoulders, as well as the muscles in your upper back.

  • Stand straight with your feet hip distance apart and your arms down at your sides.
  • With or without weights, raise both arms to the side with palms facing down until they are at shoulder level and parallel to the floor.
  • Hold the position for one second and slowly lower your arms.
  • Repeat for two sets of 10-12 reps.
3 Alternative Non-Surgical Treatments for Head & Neck Pain

5 Alternative Non-Surgical Treatments for Head & Neck Pain

Head and neck pain can occur for a variety of reasons. Some pain will go away with time, or through a change in lifestyle or behavior. But if you’re dealing with head and neck pain that lasts more than a few days and doesn’t improve with over-the-counter pain medicine, it’s time to make an appointment with one of our pain management specialists for diagnosis and treatment.    

Depending on the cause of your head and neck pain, these five non-surgical treatments might be effective for you. 

1. Physical Therapy

From muscle tenderness, tension and tightness to poor posture – certain types of headaches and neck pain can be relieved through physical therapy treatments. A trained physical therapist can design an exercise plan that strengthens your neck muscles and takes pressure off your spine. They might also apply heat or cold pads during a therapy session to either increase blood flow and range of motion (heat) or decrease blood flow and inflammation (cold). Still other physical therapy treatments could include therapeutic massage, chiropractic treatment and/or neck-strengthening exercises you can do at home.

2. Trigger Point Injections

Trigger points are areas in muscle that are very irritable, and, when pressed, produce a twitch within the affected muscle. A trigger point may produce not only pain in the affected muscle, but in a distant area, including locations in the head and neck, called referred pain. Trigger points may develop because of trauma, injury, inflammation, or other factors. A trigger point injection is a procedure where a medication, usually a local anesthetic, is injected into the painful muscle to provide relief. The pain relief should be experienced not only in the affected muscle, but in the area of referred pain as well.

3. Anti-Inflammatory Steroid Injections

If your pain is being cause by inflammation around the nerves in your neck, a cervical epidural steroid injection can help by “coating” the nerves in the area. Patients experiencing a herniated disc, a degenerated disc, osteoarthritis or inflammation that reduces the space around the nerves can benefit from this type of treatment. The goal of the injection is to reduce inflammation and associated nerve pain – and the injection itself is given with the patient laying face down under local anesthetic.

4. Botox injections

Think BOTOX® is just for wrinkles? Think again. It can be effective for the treatment of adults with cervical dystonia—a condition that causes the muscles in your neck to tighten or spasm without your control. BOTOX injections can reduce the severity of abnormal head position and neck pain. If you have chronic migraines (≥ 15 days per month) with headache lasting 4 hours a day or longer, this treatment could also be right for you.

 5. Radiofrequency Ablation (Rhizotomy)

Yes, it sounds complicated. But in reality, Radiofrequency Ablation (or RFA) is a non-surgical, outpatient therapy procedure that’s used to help patients with chronic head and neck pain related to spinal arthritis.  As with any non-surgical treatment, this procedure is only recommended after thorough examination and diagnosis. During the RFA procedure, heat is delivered to targeted nerve tissues, preventing pain signals from reaching the brain.

If you or a loved one are experiencing chronic head or neck pain, don’t wait. Learn more about our pain management program and all the options available to you at Orthopedic Institute.

Should You See a Physical Therapist?

So you know you’ve injured yourself. You’ve got the pain or the swelling to prove it. But with so many varieties of physicians, specialists and therapists from which to choose, how are you to know when is the right time to involve a physical therapist?

Take a look at some of the following common pain points and whether they necessitate a visit to a physical therapist.

Lingering Pain

Immediately after an injury, it’s often best to do what your body is demanding of you: rest. Take a few days off from normal activities, apply ice, and give the injury some time to heal. However, if its been three or four days, and returning to normal activity is still causing you to wince, it may be time to visit a physical therapist. They can figure out the source of the pain and prescribe a plan of action.

Low Mobility

Whatever the reason for it, sometimes your body’s mobility is limited. It can be caused by injury, disease or even simply aging. When it comes to reinvigorating your lost mobility and range of motion, often the best person to see is a physical therapist, as this type of health professional is trained to evaluate and treat matters of movement and flexibility.

Poor Posture

Is your posture suffering? When it comes to sitting for great lengths of the day, you might notice your shoulders hunching over and giving you back pain related to the way you sit up (or don’t). If you’re looking to improve this, a physical therapist may be your first step. He or she can work with your body mechanics to determine the best ways to build up your balance and sitting habits.

Recurring Injuries

When you’re out on the field or at work exerting yourself, you’re bound to encounter a pull, sprain or strain now and again. However, if you’re finding yourself experiencing the same pain over and over again, it may be time to call in the professionals. The best plan when you’re experiencing a moderate to severe level of pain due to a recurring injury is to see a physical therapist. He or she can work with you to determine exactly how you continue to injure yourself, as well as how to avoid pain in the future.

Know your needs

The most important thing to remember is that, if you have pain, address it. Even if you’re unsure to whom you should speak, make sure you’re seen in a timely manner to avoid worsening injury. We’re here to help.

3 Common Causes of Thumb Pain

3 Common Causes of Thumb Pain

Years of working hard and participating in your favorite hobbies can potentially take a toll on your body, especially your fingers. Think about how much strain you likely place on your hands over your lifetime. It’s no surprise, then, that many people start to feel aches and pains in their thumbs.

Are you starting to feel pain or stiffness in your thumbs? Read into these three common causes of thumb pain. 

1. Trigger Thumb

Trigger thumb occurs when your thumb remains stuck in a bent position, as if squeezing a trigger. This occurs when tendons become irritated and swollen and can’t move easily. Sometimes a bump may form on the tendon, adding to movement difficulty. Farmers, musicians or people in industrial occupations commonly experience trigger thumb due to the heavy reliance and strain on their fingers.

Signs of trigger thumb include:

  • Snapping/popping sensation when moving the thumb
  • Swelling or bump in the palm
  • Inability to fully flex the thumb
  • Locking in the bent position, requiring help from the other hand to straighten
  • Pain and stiffness when bending
  • Soreness at the base of the thumb

2. De Quervain’s Tendinosis

When tendons at the base of the thumb become swollen or constricted, they may cause pain along the thumb side of the wrist.  De Quervain’s tendinosis may occur from overuse, but it’s also associated with pregnancy and rheumatoid disease.

Signs of De Quervain’s tendinosis include:

  • Primarily pain felt over the thumb side of the wrist, along with swelling
  • A snapping sensation when moving the thumb
  • Difficulty moving the thumb and wrist

3. Thumb Arthritis

There are several types of arthritis, but the type most often affecting the joint at the thumb’s base is osteoarthritis, a.k.a. “wear-and-tear” arthritis. This is found more often in women than men and tends to occur after 40 years of age. The most prominent symptom is pain at the base of the thumb when you grasp an object or apply force with your thumb.

Signs of thumb arthritis include:

  • Enlarged appearance at the joint of your thumb
  • Decreased range of motion
  • Decreased grasping or pinching strength
  • Swelling or stiffness at your thumb’s base

Experiencing thumb pain?

We want to help. Contact us today at (605) 331-5890 or set up an appointment.

4 Everyday Tips for Fighting Off Foot & Ankle Pain

4 Everyday Tips for Fighting Off Foot & Ankle Pain

 Are your “dogs” barking? You’re not alone! Every day, we take thousands of steps. So it’s no surprise that foot and ankle pain can occasionally be part  of our days, too – especially as we age. See your doctor for serious pain that interferes with daily life. But when it comes to occasional foot pain or discomfort, there are a few simple steps you can take for quick relief. 

Here are 4 tips to give foot and ankle pain the boot. 

1. Wear the Right Shoes

One of the best things you can do to relieve foot and ankle pain today – and prevent it from happening tomorrow – is to wear properly fitted, well-cushioned shoes. Have your feet measured at a shoe store at least once a year to make sure you’re wearing the correct size and width, and replace older shoes that no longer fit. This doesn’t mean you can’t be stylish, it just means you need to know what to look for when buying new footwear.

2. Support Your Arches

Arch support isn’t just for people with flat feet – it’s important for all of us! If you’ve been experiencing foot and ankle pain, especially from wearing flat-soled shoes, try adding Powerstep inserts to your shoes. Our pedorthist, Reid Herrboldt, swears by them. They can be tough to find, but good news … we carry multiple sizes! Stop by OI to pick up a pair. Or better yet, make an appointment with Reid for a professional fitting. Your legs and feet will feel better, because proper arch support helps reduce weakness and soreness all day long.    

3. Stretch Often

Muscles can become stiff and painful whether you’re standing and walking all day, or simply sitting at a desk or table. Every hour or so, remind yourself to stretch, relax and lengthen the muscles in your feet and ankles. Start by pointing your toes down to stretch the top of the foot and ankle. Then, roll your feet in circles (clockwise and counter-clockwise) to loosen up your ankle. Finally, point your toes straight up to stretch the back of your calf. Our physicians and therapists like these six stretches from Prevention Magazine.

4. Baby Your Feet

You can help your feet recover from carrying you around all day with simple foot care techniques. Do the bottoms of your feet hurt? Try rolling them from heel to toe over a frozen water bottle, tennis ball or baseball. The gentle massage stretches muscles and helps your feet recover from the day. Pain on the top of your foot can be an indication of arthritis. Most people with plantar fascitis have very tight calf muscles. You can use the six stretches noted above for relief.

If your foot and ankle pain persists, it’s time to see a specialist at Orthopedic Institute.

Orthopedic Spine Conditions You Should Know About

Orthopedic Spine Conditions You Should Know About

Back pain can be caused by a variety of conditions—while osteoporosis and arthritis are traditionally orthopedic conditions that you hear a lot about, there are other potential causes of your pain of which you should be aware.

Here are four potential orthopedic conditions that you should know about.


You’ve probably heard someone say something along the lines of “my sciatica is acting up” at one point or another—but what does this condition actually entail? First of all, sciatica is more of a symptom than it is an out-and-out condition. It’s often a sign of other conditions, such as the ones below. It will typically involve a consistent pain, usually at its worst when a person is sitting, in the leg and rear. That achiness or feeling of weakness can make rising from a seated position uncomfortable. Pain emanating through the sciatic nerve can cause pain from the lower back all the way down one side of your lower body to your feet.

Bonus Fact: While it’s more common among middle-aged individuals, younger people aren’t immune sciatic pain—people as young as their 20s can experience this type of nerve pain. It affects nearly half of the population at some point in their lives, according to the New England Journal of Medicine. In young people, sciatica is most commonly caused by disc herniation.

Degenerative Disc Disease

The style of the condition can vary, but generally speaking, degenerative disc disease (or “DDD”) is caused by inflammation of an aging or “degenerating” disc in the spine. Perhaps the most painful symptom of the condition is the reflex spasm that often occurs when your body is attempting to stabilize its inflamed spine. While it may not always be clear that DDD is evident right away, back or neck pain that can last several days or that becomes ongoing can be an early warning sign. Bending over and picking up objects can also spur the related pain.

Bonus Fact: This condition primarily affects people as they age (hence, “degenerative”)—according to the Chicago Institute of Neurosurgery and Neuroresearch, by 50 years old, more than 80 percent of people will start to experience DDD. (But not all will have symptoms at first or at all.)

SI Joint Dysfunction

The sacroiliac joint, or “SI joint,” is situated at the base of your lumbar—essentially in the vicinity of your tailbone. It connects your spine to your pelvis. When this joint is irritated or inflamed, it can cause pain in your lumbar and one or both of your legs. Dysfunction can set it in from several causes, but two common ones are overdoing lower back movement or lack of activity in your SI joint. Injections are often considered a good way to determine an SI joint dysfunction is present.

Bonus Fact: While SI joint dysfunction can affect anyone, it’s most common in younger to middle-aged females. This is due to pelvic size and hormonal differences between men and women and can be a condition spurred during pregnancy.


When young adults experience lumbar and/or leg pain, one common cause is a slippage of spinal vertebra, causing it to become uneven with the vertebra below it. This is called spondylolisthesis—it’s a condition that can have similar symptoms to other orthopedic conditions but is typically caused by an impact or injury—or spondylolysis. This type of injury can also be quite common among particularly active teenagers—especially student athletes.

Bonus Fact: According to the American Journal of Sports Medicine, spondylolysis injuries appear to be most common in athletes with lower-back-heavy movement, such as winter sports, rowing and boxing.

Physical Therapy in South Dakota: Meet Megan Cook

Physical Therapy in South Dakota: Meet Megan Cook

We take pride in our team of physical therapists at Orthopedic Institute (OI). This talented group of individuals can be a key asset when dealing with pain or other orthopedic conditions.

Our featured team member this time around is Megan Cook. Megan graduated from the University of Sioux Falls and earned her doctorate in physical therapy from Creighton University. She primarily specializes in outpatient rehabilitation and aquatic therapy.

Keep reading to find out more about some of Megan’s most unique experiences since joining the team, as well as what she prides herself on in her care.

How did you decide to become a PT?

I was involved in sports throughout my childhood and was interested in the field of athletic training. My senior year of high school, I tore my ACL and meniscus playing volleyball and had to undergo surgery and extensive therapy. My own rehabilitation process opened my eyes to the career of physical therapy.

What led you to join the OI team?

I spent five months with the OI sports medicine team while I was recovering from my own surgery, and they were very knowledgeable and kind. My own success story as a patient led me to believe in the work that OI is doing. After physical therapy school at Creighton University, I moved to Scottsdale, Ariz., to begin my career. When I became engaged to my husband and moved back to the Sioux Falls area, I knew that OI was the place I wanted to work.

Describe a unique experience you’ve had working as a PT for OI.

I had the opportunity to work with the cast of the Broadway musical Matilda while they were in Sioux Falls performing at the Washington Pavilion. I was unsure of what to expect but was told that the cast members have an extremely demanding athletic component to their shows, so they often are susceptible to injury while traveling around the country. I stepped in as their “PT for the day” and treated multiple cast members in a fast-paced backstage setting, providing massage, stretching, corrective exercises and manual techniques according to their specific needs. It was fun to get to know the cast members and to be able to help them while they are away from their primary providers.

What is your favorite part of your job?

The best part of my job is forming relationships with patients and empowering them to be active in their pursuits of independence. I love it when patients stop back to report to me how well they are doing months or years after completing physical therapy.

What are the strengths of OI’s PT team?

There is a camaraderie that allows us to ask questions of each other and collectively seek answers that will benefit our patients. The staff has extensive knowledge and many years of combined experience, which makes it a great environment for learning new things on the job every day.

What is the best part about working with patients?

I love meeting a variety of personalities and seeing the hope in their eyes when they realize that “PT” doesn’t always consist of “pain and torture.”

If you could tell every patient one thing before they came in, what would it be?

Speak up, and be honest with us about your symptoms and your personal needs. If you do not like the “idea” of therapy, just come in and give us a chance. We are able to tailor a PT program specifically for your goals—you don’t have to be an athlete to participate in a PT program.

What is your career highlight?

I have had many patient-oriented highlights in my career, including seeing wheelchair-bound patients walk again and meeting patients who become life-long friends. Another highlight was helping to open OI’s first-ever outreach PT clinic located at GreatLIFE Woodlake Athletic Club. It has been a great two years of working alongside the GreatLIFE staff and offering excellent PT services, including aquatic therapy, on the southwest side of Sioux Falls.

How do you spend your time when you’re not at OI?

I can’t wait to get home to my two little girls every night. They are five and three years old, and I am constantly chasing them around the neighborhood. Time with my family and husband is important to me. If I get “spare time,” I like to run and play tennis and golf.

Get to know more about the PT team at OI here.