by Shanna Fitton, DPT.

Shanna Fitton, DPT width= The New Year has finally arrived. With the closure of 2010 and its bad habits comes 2011 with its promises of a change.

So, did you do it? Did you make your New Year’s resolutions? If you are like most Americans, your New Year’s resolutions involved making changes in your diet, exercise, spending, and volunteering. According to, four of the top 10 resolutions involve some sort of change to an individual’s health and well being.

So here is the sad statistic for all these optimistic plans that begin January 1 each year. 

Most resolutions are broken by Valentine’s Day. That’s merely six weeks of work of eating healthy, decreased fast food and increased activity. Even worse than that, many “resolutionists” break their New Year’s resolution after only four days. 

But that’s not you. Let’s say you are one of the dedicated ones. You are still going strong in your quest to be a runner, weight lifter, or just improve your overall fitness. 

You are a couch potato convert who went from spending your evenings with take-out in your Lazy Boy® to jogging and enjoying a salad. Things are going fantastic, and you are pleased with yourself at the dedication you’re displaying. 

Then it happens.

There’s that twinge in the knee after doing squats at the gym or a foot pain after returning from a run. Perhaps it’s a pinching in your shoulder after those 100 pushups you promised yourself you would do daily. At this point, you find yourself asking what to do now? This is the “resolutionists” downfall.

The problem is this. 

Individuals who were previously fairly sedentary have rapidly increased their activity level, and this can unfortunately backfire on them. January and February often see an increase in knee, foot, ankle, and shoulder pain from new work out plans which are either too difficult for the individual, or they are not properly educated or equipped for their new endeavors. 

One way to safely begin a new program is to start with a licensed individual who can tailor a program to your specific needs. Physical therapists are one such professional. Their advanced educational background, at a masters and often-doctoral level, in the science and physiology of exercises make them uniquely qualified for this role. 

With the evolution in health care, and with more responsibility lying on patients for their own well-being, many individuals are beginning to seek out physical therapists not only for treating current injuries but also as a health coach. In this role, the physical therapist can work with the client to develop a safe progression of exercises and stretching. This way, the client can be proactive with their own health while being guided by a trained professional who is treating the whole person and can take into consideration any other health related issues which need to be monitored.

Foot and ankle pain are common in new runners who are either not stretching appropriately, have muscular imbalances or are wearing the wrong shoes. Improper footwear can lead to problems up the leg and into the lower back. A physical therapist can perform a full lower extremity evaluation and gait analysis and can then recommend appropriate exercises, stretches and foot wear to alleviate those problems. 

Shoulder and upper extremity pain, as well as low back pain are common with individuals starting a new strengthening program. Often inexperience is the culprit where individuals are performing exercises incorrectly and putting themselves at risk for tendonitis and other overuse injuries. Proper guidance about form, weight and repetitions as well as being certain to strengthen all of the muscles in the shoulder and upper back will decrease this risk.

By seeking the advice and guidance of a licensed physical therapist, individuals can assure themselves that they are starting out 2011 the right way. With proper guidance and direction, they can achieve their goals safely and injury free.

Shanna Fitton, DPT.

Shanna is a graduate of Florida State University, where she earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Exercise Science and completed her Doctorate in 2008. She has been employed at Body Owners Physical Therapy since June of 2010.

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