By Sue Sveum
Things are always changing and evolving in the health and wellness space. Check out these proactive techniques and services to minimize injuries, boost your vitality and identify health issues.
FEEL THE STRETCH
Stretching tight or sore muscles is nothing new — but assisted stretching, or proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF), is the new kid in town. Although the idea’s been around for almost 80 years, it’s been gaining momentum recently.
“We’re encouraged to work our bodies hard, but TLC for our bodies afterward is often overlooked,” says Rey Coleman, general manager of StretchLab in Middleton. “PNF stretching is customized for each person’s specific needs, restrictions and goals — and benefits include improved flexibility and range of motion.”
Assisted stretching isn’t limited to one demographic. Coleman says it’s been shown to be the safest and most effective way to gain mobility for all ages and activity levels.
“Assisted stretching by certified experts reduces pain by promoting healing and recovery, and relieving tension points that contribute to that pain,” she says. She adds that research shows an hour per week of PNF stretching
promotes and establishes long-term changes — including increases in range of motion and flexibility and alleviating discomfort and pain. “I can’t emphasize enough how important mobility is, even before chronic tightness and injury are factors. The freedom to stay active is the greatest gift we can give ourselves — and our loved ones.”
HOT AND COLD CONTRAST THERAPY
Combining the heat of a hot sauna with the cold temps of a pool, hot and cold contrast therapy gives you the benefits of both — in a safe and clean indoor environment.
The practice has been around for centuries, according to Peter Kraus, owner of five Madison area fitness centers, including PKFit University Row, which offers the technique. First-timers consult with staff before a session consisting of 20 to 30 minutes in the sauna, followed by a one- to five- minute dip in the cold pool.
“The contrasting temperatures force your body out of its normal heat and cooling ranges, providing a lot of health benefits,” he explains. And if that sounds uncomfortable, well, that’s OK. “Discomfort is really the goal — helping your body to fight infection and create a robust immune system.”
Kraus says hot and cold contrast therapy benefits people of all ages in many ways, including:
- loosening muscles
- removing toxins
- increasing blood flow
- reducing tension and stress
- improving circulation
- boosting endorphins and performance
- regulating breathing
- increasing strength
- reducing inflammation
“Research shows it’s extremely beneficial to your health,” says Kraus, adding the typical response by first- time clients is, “I feel amazing!”
You may have seen snippets of celebrities on social media touting full (or whole) body imaging to take charge of their health. Patients lay down in an MRI scanner and thousands of images are taken of the patient’s body and internal organs to assess disease and cancer risks.
In the Madison area, independent imaging providers MH Imaging and Smart Scan Medical Imaging offer MRI scans. Both companies perform targeted MRIs for patients (head and neck, for example) for specific bodily concerns. However, MH Imaging can also do detailed, whole-body scans as well.
“I think people largely seek out routine, pre-emptive, full- body MRIs for peace of mind,” says Christina Wipperfurth of MH Imaging, cautioning that while whole-body imaging can be beneficial to some, they may also show insignificant findings that lead to additional testing, cost and stress — to ensure the findings are benign.
Wipperfurth explains more typically, MH Imaging performs separate MRIs of specific areas of the body after discussing a patient’s needs or after receiving their referring clinician’s order. Locally, most patients who turn to independent imaging have targeted concerns, such as a particular pain. Or, maybe their hospital system is booking out six months. Maybe they don’t feel listened to — or getting the tests they feel they need. MH Imaging and Smart Scan accept both self pay and insurance, and can generally get patients in sooner.
“It’s important that people know they can take concerns into their own hands when necessary, by turning to private imaging,” stresses Wipperfurth. “They want answers to their questions today — and that’s a real possibility. A shorter wait leads to less stress — and ultimately, better peace of mind.”