Preparing for Joint Replacement Surgery

Let’s talk about that dreaded moment … when knee pain prevents you from getting into the car. Or your hips are so sore that putting on socks seems impossible.

If this sounds familiar, you’re in good company. By 2030, about 11 million Americans will have either a hip or knee replacement — making joint replacements one of our most common elective surgical procedures.

Being prepared in advance, and receiving the right care immediately following, is key to an excellent recovery, according to Crystal Madyda, PT, RVNAhealth Rehabilitation Services Team Lead.

“Patients used to spend days in the hospital, and then weeks in a short-term rehab facility,” Madyda says. “Now, most spend a maximum of two days in the hospital, followed by in-home therapy and then outpatient care. People tend to do better at home; hospitalization increases their risk of infection.”

Home Safety and Post-Surgery Therapy

RVNAhealth’s Motion Matters programs — designed for those getting joint replacements or other significant surgeries — include a home safety evaluation to ensure that your home is properly equipped for potential physical limitations and begin aftercare promptly after surgery (often within 24 hours of returning home).

Physicians rely on the home safety recommendations to determine if it’s safe for a patient to return home post-surgery, says Gigi Weiss, MSPT, director of RVNAhealth Rehabilitation Services.

Recommendations might include installing a shower chair, grab bar or elevated toilet seat in the bathroom. The therapist making the assessment will also note if a home has lots of stairs and the quality of handrails.

“We also look at factors including the height of your bed. Is it on the ground level. Do you have someone to help you?” she says.

“We want to keep you safe so that upon arrival home, recovery and recuperation can begin in earnest,” Weiss explains. “Within two weeks, eighty percent of our in-home therapy patients have recovered enough to begin outpatient therapy.”

To learn more, visit rvnahealth.org/services/get-well/rehabilitation-therapies.

RVNAhealth’s Gigi Weiss Earns Innovation Award

Gigi Weiss (third from left) with members of the RVNAhealth Rehabilitation team.

At RVNAhealth, we all know that Gigi Weiss, MSPT, CDP, CKTP is incredible. That opinion was seconded today when Gigi, RVNAhealth’s director of rehabilitation services, was selected for the Innovation Award by the Connecticut Association for Healthcare at Home.

The CAHCH Innovation Award is given each year to an association member agency or individual who embraces change and consistently strives to use new methods and technologies to optimize home health, hospice or personal care delivery.

During her decade-long tenure at RVNAhealth, Gigi has had a resounding theme: forward progress, forward motion. Her many accomplishments have included introducing innovative, proven programs and capabilities, such as LSVT Big and Loud® (for patients with Parkinson’s), Otago (a fall prevention program) and Vestibular Therapy (to address inner ear/balance issues).

Gigi has also embraced technology to augment traditional interventions, incorporating digital apps and technologies into treatment plans when appropriate. Examples include Constant Therapy and Apraxia Therapy, for improving skills such as speech, memory and attention. These exciting therapies allow treatment to continue even after their reimbursed care ends.

Growing the Facility, Staff and Partnerships

Building and growing have also been constant themes under Gigi’s leadership. Thanks to her vision, the 2,100 square foot RVNAhealth Rehabilitation & Wellness Center was created at RVNAhealth’s 27 Governor Street headquarters. The team that she leads has also grown, from 6 therapists to 32 (including physical therapists, occupational therapists and speech therapists). She has also forged preferred partnerships with local surgical centers, meaning that more and more patients have access to excellent pre- and post-surgical care.

Throughout her tenure, Gigi has been committed to the patients that RVNAhealth Rehabilitation Services serves and the staff whom she leads.

“Gigi has worked tirelessly to help patients get the rehabilitation care that they need, both in their homes and onsite at the RVNAhealth Rehabilitation & Wellness Center,” says Theresa Santoro, MSN, RN, RVNAhealth President & CEO. “She was instrumental in spearheading efforts to help Medicare patients continue to receive therapy in their homes when logistical issues prevented them from pursuing outpatient care.”

Crystal Madyda, PT, Rehabilitation Team Lead, notes that Gigi’s compassionate, friendly nature and dedication to helping her staff develop has earned their loyalty. “I have been with RVNAhealth for nearly six years, and I feel fortunate to know her and work with her,” she says. “She’s a really strong, really caring, and really inspiring leader.”

Gigi received her prestigious award at the Hartford Marriott Downtown, as part of the Connecticut Association for Healthcare at Home Annual Conference.

Feeling Dizzy? You’re Not Alone.

RVNAhealth wellness programs for patients feeling dizzy

More than one in three Americans will experience dizziness at some point in their lives.

If you’ve never heard the words “vestibular therapy” before, consider yourself lucky. And about to be informed.  If you’ve ever experienced vertigo, feeling dizzy, falls, or imbalance, however, the words might ring a bell.

Vestibular therapy is a form of rehabilitation, performed by specially-trained physical therapists, that specifically addresses balance and dizziness. Dizziness is the second most common complaint heard in doctors’ offices and the #1 complaint for individuals over 70. Statistics reported by The National Institute of Health indicate that dizziness will occur in 90 million of the nation’s population at some time in their lives.

Feeling Dizzy?

“People get dizzy – aka ‘the vertigo’ — for a variety of medical reasons,” says Gigi Weiss, MSPT, Director of Rehabilitation and one of three certified vestibular therapists at RVNAhealth (in addition to Crystal Madyda and Casey Sarmiere). “And it can occur gradually or come on suddenly and acutely. It can range from absolutely debilitating to simply annoying and inconvenient. In all instances, when you’re dizzy, you need to find out why.”

The role of the vestibular therapist is to do just that — identify the root cause and develop and execute a therapeutic plan to address it. “At RVNAhealth, we see vestibular patients of all ages, including children, both at our Rehab Center and in their homes. Some already understand where the dizziness is coming from, and we treat them. Others don’t know and it’s our job to help them find out and regain their equilibrium.”

If you are experiencing general dizziness; suffer from headaches or frequent falls; experience imbalance or the need to hold onto objects when walking, it’s time to explore the issue. Call the RVNAhealth Rehabiliation team at 203-438-5555.

Mind Those Curves!

RVNAhealth well-child clinics, back-to-school

Above: Students off to conquer the world!

With the 2019-20 school year in session, it’s time to pay attention to one big test that many students today face. You might be thinking about those pesky, annual standardized tests, or perhaps the SATs. But today we’re here to talk about posture.

“Kids’ postures are under constant assault these days,” says Gigi Weiss, MSPT, RVNAhealth’s Director of Rehabilitation. She points to a couple of culprits. First, the stuffed-to-the-gills backpacks that students often lug to, from and around school each day. Second, cell phones, which – when stared down at too much – can cause a painful condition known as “text neck.”

Misuse of these ubiquitous accessories places an enormous amount of stress on growing, developing bodies, and can eventually cause a slumping posture. A normal, healthy spine has an S-shaped curve,” says Weiss. “When you’re slumping, the spine has a C-shaped curve.”

Some signs that your child might need a better (or lighter) backpack or less time staring down at a cell phone include discomfort or pain in the neck, shoulder or lower back, or any combination of the above.

To help your child avoid getting text neck or a C-shaped curve, Weiss shares some recommendations:

Backpacks

  • Should ideally be 10 percent, but never more than 15 percent, of body weight (for your 50-pounder, that’s just 5-7 pounds!).
  • Straps should be on both shoulders and cinched tightly to the body.
  • Heaviest items should be placed closest to the body.

Cell phones (this can be trickier!)

  • Teach your kid to look down at the screen with their eyes, rather than bending the neck – or to hold the phone up closer to eye level.
  • When you see hunching, encourage backward shoulder rolls: Shrug shoulders, extend shoulder blades toward each other…enjoy, repeat.
  • Encourage daily physical activity (a win/win, compared to simply limiting device time)

To learn more about keeping your child’s S-curve in tiptop shape, contact the RVNAhealth team at 203-438-5555 or AskOurPT@rvnahealth.org.

Beware the Innocent Flip Flop

RVNAhealth wellness alert, education programs

When you think of the scourges of summer, mosquitoes, ticks and dizzying heat are probably among the first annoyances that come to mind.

But another health hazard that affects countless individuals during the warmer months are … drumroll, please… flip flops, according to Gigi Weiss, MSPT, RVNAhealth’s Director of Rehabilitation Services.

Flip flops are breezy and cool, so what makes them so dangerous?

Explains Weiss: “Their appealing characteristics – lightweight, minimally structured, easy to slip in and out of – often lead to debilitating conditions, including back pain, knee pain, plantar fasciitis and Achilles tendonitis.”

Your aching back

For starters, says Weiss, many flip flops have thin soles and minimal arch support. “This can wreak havoc on your kinetic chain – the muscles, connective tissues, joints, bones and nerves that work together – and cause back or knee pain.”

Heel and lower-leg pain

Another threat unique to flip flops is that tiny thong that separates your big toe from the rest of its partners. While this design allows your feet plenty of room to breathe, it also means that the tendons in your toes need to work constantly to grip the bottom of your footwear.

This, says Weiss, often leads to plantar fasciitis – a painful condition resulting from inflammation of the fibrous tissue along the bottom of your foot that connects your heel bone to your toes.

Traveling a bit farther up the leg, another area where you might experience discomfort is in the Achilles tendon. This largest tendon in your body connects your calf to your heel bone, notes Weiss. “Flip flops that lack support and structure cause the Achilles tendon to strain in unnatural ways, particularly if you have low arches or flat feet.”

What to do?

Patients who visit RVNAhealth Rehab with the conditions described above are generally prescribed a routine that includes biomechanical stretches to address the underlying symptoms, says Weiss. But, she adds, prevention is the best medicine. “If you must wear flip flops, purchase a pair with good orthotic support. And try to avoid wearing flip flops exclusively.”