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What medical problem does a carpenter, typist, truck driver, jackhammer operator, violinist, pianist and court stenographer have in common? Carpal tunnel syndrome! Over the past 10-15 years, carpal tunnel syndrome has moved to the forefront in medicine and has become water cooler conversation. So what is carpal tunnel syndrome and how is it treated?

Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is a nerve disorder caused by compression of the median nerve at the wrist. The median nerve is one of three main nerves that provide sensation to the hand. This nerve specifically supplies sensation to the thumb, index, middle, and half of the ring finger. In CTS, compression on the median nerve occurs as it travels through a narrow passage in the wrist called the carpal tunnel. The carpal tunnel is formed by eight bones in the wrist (the floor of the tunnel) and the transverse carpal ligament, a strong ligament traveling across the roof of the tunnel. Within the tunnel there are nine tendons, which are a bit smaller than a pencil. These tendons share this space with the median nerve. In the case where there is swelling on the structures in the carpal tunnel, a person can experience pins and needles, numbness, and aching in the hand.

Common causes of CTS include:

Risk factors for CTS include:

Some common symptoms include:


To be properly diagnosed, a physician will discuss your symptoms and medical history, and examine strength and sensation. A nerve conduction study, electromyography (EMG), and x-ray may be ordered to provide information regarding sensation in the median nerve distribution and confirm compression at the carpal tunnel.


Treatment focuses on the causes. Therefore treatment suggestions may include activity modification and postural changes during activities. Other suggestions may include frequent rest periods, elevation, and exercises or stretching. Wrist splints are effective in relieving compression at the carpal tunnel and are typically recommended for night wear. Appropriate fit of the splint is vital. Occupational and physical therapists or certified hand therapists can check the fit of pre-fabricated splints or can fabricate a custom splint. The above mentioned treatments all focus on decreasing inflammation and compression on the median nerve.


Your physician may order pain relievers or anti-inflammatory medication. A cortisone injection into the carpal tunnel may also be recommended to assist with decreasing inflammation near the carpal tunnel.

Occupational or Physical Therapy

A referral to an occupational or physical therapist or certified hand therapist may be made. A therapist can provide information regarding the diagnosis, appropriate treatment, and symptom reduction. They can make recommendations to introduce into daily activities to allow appropriate positioning of the upper extremities. A therapist will also instruct individuals on helpful stretching exercises or fabricate a wrist splint. Other treatments include ultrasound, iontophoresis, and massage. The focus of therapy is to introduce changes and interventions that reduce inflammation at the carpal tunnel to assist with symptom relief.


Surgery, referred to as a carpal tunnel release, may be indicated if symptoms are significant and impair functional activity performance.


To reduce your chances of getting CTS:

Guest Contributor: Nancy Naughton, OTD, CHT, is a doctor of occupational therapy and certified hand therapist, specializing in the rehabilitation of the hand and upper extremity at Hand Surgery Associates, Olyphant, PA.

NEXT WEEK! Read Dr. Mackarey’s "Health & Exercise Forum" – every Monday

This article is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. If you have questions related to your medical condition, please contact your family physician. For further inquires related to this topic email:

Paul J. Mackarey PT, DHSc, OCS is a Doctor  in Health Sciences specializing in orthopaedic and sports physical therapy. Dr. Mackarey is in private practice and is an associate professor of clinical medicine at GCSOM. For of Dr. Paul's article, check out our exercise forum!

A local high school teacher came to my office with weakness and numbness on one side of her face. This well-groomed, attractive middle-aged woman was unable to smile, frown, pout, speak, or eat with facial symmetry. She suffered from a cold, on and off, for about two months. It was not a bad cold, but it would not go away. One day in early summer, while engaged in bird watching, one of her favorite pastimes, she noticed that she could not look through her binoculars. She noticed that her eye would not open and close at will. The next day she woke with ear pain, flaccid muscles on one side of her face, and an inability to close her eye. She had difficulty speaking with clarity due to weak mouth muscles and feared she had a stroke.

She immediately saw her family physician who determined that she had shingles in her ear and developed Bell’s palsy. She was prescribed a steroid anti-inflammatory (Prednisone), antiviral medicine (Acyclovir), and a topical cream (Zovirax). Once she got over the initial fear and shock, she was grateful that her problem of facial weakness was not due to a more serious problem, such as a stroke or brain tumor. She began physical therapy and improved slowly. Her story, along with many other patients, reminded me of the need to raise awareness about cause, diagnosis, symptoms, complications and treatment of Bell’s palsy.     

Bell’s palsy, a facial nerve paralysis, occurs when the nerve that is responsible for the movement and sensation of the muscle and skin of the face becomes damaged. The end result of this damage is paralysis of the muscles and numbness of the skin on one side of the face. Typically, the first sign of this disorder is the inability to close one eye or smile on one side of the face. While this problem can occur in any age group, it is rarely seen in people less than 15 or more than 60 years of age. The good news is that most people show signs of improvement within 3-4 weeks and have complete recovery in 4-6 months. The bad news is that reoccurrence can occur on the other side of the face in approximately 10 percent of those affected.


Bell’s palsy is caused by a viral infection. The most common virus is the herpes simplex virus, the same virus that causes cold sores and genital herpes. Other viruses that can cause Bell’s palsy are herpes zoster virus that causes chicken pox and shingles and Epstein-Barr virus, which causes mononucleosis, and cytomegalovirus. When one of these viruses causes inflammation to the facial nerve, it becomes swollen and irritated in the narrow tunnel of bone by the ear. As pressure on the facial nerve increases, damage progresses to the point that the muscles and skin of the face are unable to receive messages from the nerve, leading to paralysis, numbness and other symptoms.


The hallmark symptom of Bell’s palsy is sudden onset of facial muscle weakness and numbness on one side of the face. As a result, it is difficult to close the eye and smile on the weak side. Other symptoms on the affected side can include: the inability to make facial expressions, speak clearly (especially vowel sounds), diminished sense of taste, pain in the area of the jaw or ear, sensitivity of sound, headaches, and changes in production of tears and saliva.


While Bell’s palsy can occur in anyone, it is more common among those who are: pregnant, (especially during the third trimester or first week after birth), diabetic, or suffering from a cold or flu. Also, some research suggests that there may be a genetic predisposition to this problem.


In mild cases of Bell’s palsy, symptoms are completely resolved within 4-6 weeks. As mentioned before, most cases resolve in 4-6 months. However, recovery for those with complete paralysis may vary. For example, permanent facial weakness, facial muscle twitching, and visual problems due to the inability to close the eye, can occur.


Contact you primary care physician immediately, because these symptoms may be associated with a more serious medical condition such as a stroke. Remember, most people with Bell’s palsy make a complete recovery, but early intervention can expedite the process. In severe cases, a neurologist may be consulted. Two commonly used medications are corticosteroids and antiviral drugs. Corticosteroids such as prednisone are strong anti-inflammatory drugs used to reduce the swelling and inflammation on the facial nerve. Antiviral drugs such as acyclovir are used to stop the viral infection that may have caused the inflammation. Studies show that these drugs, when used in combination, are most effective when administered in the first 3 days of the appearance of symptoms.

Physical therapy can also assist in the restoration of facial muscle recovery. Ultrasound with anti-inflammatory drugs, electric stimulation, massage and exercise are commonly performed. While the use of electric stimulation has limited support in the literature, a home exercise program that concentrates on facial muscles, is an essential part of the therapy program. Some simple exercises performed in front of a mirror are: raise eyebrows, bring eyebrows together, open/close eye, fill cheeks with air, suck in cheeks, smile, frown, whistle, say vowels.

Surgery, to relieve pressure on the nerve by removing bone, is rarely performed. Plastic surgery, to improve the appearance of the face, may be an option in cases with permanent paralysis.    

Sources: Mayo Clinic; WebMD

NEXT WEEK! Read “Health & Exercise Forum” – Every Monday.  This article is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. If you have questions related to your medical condition, please contact your family physician. For further inquires related to this topic email:

Paul J. Mackarey PT, DHSc, OCS is a Doctor  in Health Sciences specializing in orthopaedic and sports physical therapy. Dr. Mackarey is an Associate Professor of Clinical Medicine at GCSOM.

For all Dr. Paul's articles, visit our exercise forum!

Part II of II

After a long winter, spring is finally in the air as indicated by the warm (summer-like) temperatures last week. While your mind may be ready to play golf (and other outdoor activities), however, it is important to remember that without proper warmup and preparation, the risk of injury can increase substantially. PGA professionals benefit tremendously from sport science, physical therapy and fitness programs on tour year round. Amateur golfers in northern climates require diligence and planning to prepare for the game after 4-6 months off to avoid injury.  

 Muscle strains, ligament sprains, neck and LBP is prevalent in the early season for golfers, especially for the amateur. The reasons are many: general deconditioning after winter inactivity, poor golf swing mechanics, excessive practice, inadequate warm-up and poor flexibility and conditioning. The very nature of the golf swing can create great stress on the body, especially after time off.


Keep Fit and Trim

Core Tips- A Strong Core is Critical for a Healthy Golf Swing

Photo 2
Photo 1
MODELS: Ross Zanghi, Physical Therapy Student; Ashley Ottaviani, Physical Therapist Assistant
Visit your doctor regularly and listen to your body.     

NEXT MONDAY – Read Dr. Paul J. Mackarey “Health & Exercise Forum!”  

This article is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. If you have questions related to your medical condition, please contact your family physician. For further inquires related to this topic email:

Paul J. Mackarey PT, DHSc, OCS is a Doctor in Health Sciences specializing in orthopaedic and sports physical therapy. Dr. Mackarey is in private practice and is an associate professor of clinical medicine at GCSOM

Access all of Dr. Mackarey's articles at our Health and Exercise Forum

Part II of II

According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), 32.2 million adults and children, 10.5% of the population in the United States, have diabetes. Unfortunately, one-third of these people are not aware that they have the disease. It will be the purpose of this column to raise the level of consciousness through education and offer recommendations for lowering blood sugar levels naturally.  

Perhaps no goal is more important to a person with diabetes than maintaining a healthy blood sugar level. When managed over time, healthy blood sugar levels can slow the onset of complications associated with the disease. According to the ADA, pre-diabetes, or impaired glucose tolerance, occurs when blood glucose levels are higher than normal (110 to 125mg/dl) but below type 2 diabetes levels (126mg/dl). 54 million Americans have pre-diabetes in addition to the 20.8 million with diabetes.

While medications are effective in maintaining blood sugar levels, for those who are borderline, there are effective ways to lower your blood sugar naturally. Your physician will determine which treatment is most appropriate for your problem. Also, maintaining your ideal body weight is always important.

10 Tips to Lower Your Blood Sugar Naturally

**This column is based on information from local physicians Kenneth Rudolph, MD, Gregory Borowski, MD, the American Diabetes Association L (ADA), and Lifescript

NEXT MONDAY – Read Dr. Paul J. Mackarey “Health & Exercise Forum!”

This article is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. If you have questions related to your medical condition, please contact your family physician. For further inquires related to this topic email:

Paul J. Mackarey PT, DHSc, OCS is a Doctor in Health Sciences specializing in orthopaedic and sports physical therapy. Dr. Mackarey is in private practice and is an associate professor of clinical medicine at GCSOM.

For all of Dr. Mackarey's articles, visit our Health and Exercise Forum

1. No Pain, No Gain

Pain is different than discomfort! Muscle soreness and “feeling the burn” can occur during a normal healthy exercise routine. However, you should never experience a sharp, deep, intense, or lingering pain during or after exercise. In fact, if the soreness lasts more than 24-48 hours, than you did more damage than benefit to your muscles and other tissues and it is time to scale back and take time off. If necessary, use RICE (rest, ice compression and elevation). It is important to get in tune with your body and learn the difference between muscle strain and fatigue discomfort and pain from soft tissue damage from overuse and overload. Find the proper amount of weight and repetitions and gradually increase over time.

2. Always Stretch Before You Exercise

There is no solid evidence that stretching alone before a sport or activity prevents injury. In fact, over stretching may be counterproductive before a sport as it may weaken the muscle. The current wisdom on the matter is; never stretch a cold muscle. Instead, warm up for 5-10 minutes by actively moving the extremities and light jogging or biking and THEN lightly stretch the arms, legs, back etc. More vigorous stretching should be performed to improve the flexibility of tight muscles (ie calf and hamstring muscles) and best done after your workout but not before a sporting activity (tennis, basketball, etc.).

3. Lifting Weights Will Make You Bulky

It depends on your body type and hormones! It is very unlikely that women and prepubescent males will bulk up from lifting weights…especially light weights (blame or thank hormones). It will, however, increase metabolism and fat burning efficiency which can lead to weight loss and good muscle tone. Stick with low resistance and high repetitions for best results.

4. With the Correct Program, Spot Reduction Can be Achieved

It is not possible to target an area of the body to burn more fat! It is very common for women to ask for a specific exercise to reduce the fat in their buttocks, thighs, and abdomen. Regretfully, it is not possible to target weight loss in these areas or other body parts. In fact, when you lose weight through diet and exercise, the caloric expenditure will be evenly distributed throughout the body. However, once the adipose tissue in a specific part of the body such as the abdomen is reduced from general weight loss, targeting the area with exercises specific to that muscle group will improve the tone and definition for a leaner look in that region.

5. If you don’t have 45-60 Minutes to Exercise, Don’t Bother

Sure, it would be great to dedicate 60 minutes 5 -6 days a week for exercise. But for most of us who work and raise a family it is not practical. The good news is that the research supports 30 minutes of exercise 3-5 days a week. Moreover, evidence shows that 10 minutes, three times a day, 5 days per week will help you attain the 150 minutes a week supported in most exercise studies.

6. If you have Arthritis, Exercise Will Make it Worse

Most people with the most common form of arthritis, osteoarthritis, feel better when they are moving. That is not to say that they don’t have increased symptoms when they OVERDO it. An exercise program specifically designed for a person’s problem and limitations will improve their symptoms and function. For example, if an individual has arthritis in their knees, they should use an exercise bike (partial weight bearing) or swim (buoyancy effect of water) instead of walk or run (full weight bearing) for aerobic exercise.

Furthermore, they would do far better with light cuff weights in a sitting or lying position to strengthen their legs than performing squats or lunges. It is important to remember, the weight gain and joint weakness and stiffness associated with a sedentary lifestyle will do more harm to an arthritic joint than a proper exercise program.

7. You Need a Sports Drink When you Exercise

Not unless you are planning a killer workout! The number one reason most of us exercise is to lose or control body weight. High calorie sports drinks are counterproductive and unnecessary. If you do not plan on exercising for more than 60 minutes, good old fashion H2O is more than adequate. However, if you plan to do a “killer” workout for more than 60 minutes and may incorporate a high intensity interval training (HIIT) program, than a sports drink with electrolytes and other nutrients, may be of value.  

8. Exercise Machines are Better than Free Weights

For most of us, effective resistance training is not about the equipment. It is safe to say, caveman was pretty fit and strong despite the fact that he never went to a gym and lifted weights. He did however, lift, push, pull, and carry heavy stones, timber, and animals for day-to-day survival. So too, it is for modern man, the body does not distinguish between the resistance provided by a elastic band, dumbbell, or cable with pulleys and weight stacks. As long as the basic principles of strength training are applied, (isolating a muscle or muscle group, loading the muscle with enough force to bring it to fatigue without causing tissue damage, and allowing for adequate rest and recover) than the muscle will gain strength regardless of the type of resistance.

9. Running is Better Than any Other Form of Aerobic Exercise

First, let me confess that I love to run and up until recently, ran almost daily. However, now that I am over 60, I had to find new forms of aerobic exercise which would be kinder and gentler to my joints. So, I mix it up between biking (indoors and outdoors, recumbent and upright), brisk walking or hiking, elliptical and stepper and swimming laps. Again, like the caveman weightlifting example, the body (heart and lungs) does not know what is causing an increase in heart rate for 30, 45 or 60 minutes, it only knows that it must respond to allow the body to function under this stress. And, in the process it becomes conditioned to the point that it will work much more efficiently when not under stress with a lower heart and respiratory rate and blood pressure at rest.

Those over 50 would be well-advised to engage in low-impact aerobics on a regular basis. For example, if you want to run two to three days per week, do not run two days in a row and consider performing low impact exercise in between. Some examples of low impact aerobics are walking, treadmill walking, swimming, elliptical trainer, and an exercise or road bike.

10. Continual Exercise Never Needs to be Adjusted

Change is necessary with age! For many years, I have repeatedly preached about the value of engaging in an active lifestyle throughout life. It is especially important to be active as one gets older to maintain mobility and independence. However, many take this advice to an extreme and refuse to accept the inevitable changes that occur in the body with age. They run, jump, lift and throw like a teenager and often fail to modify their activity or exercise regimen appropriately for their age. Consequently, they suffer from multiple injuries, including muscle tears, tendonitis, bursitis, impingement, and advanced osteoarthritis.

Keep in mind, everyone ages differently. One person at 60 years of age may be the equivalent of another at 50. However, change with age is inevitable, so be kind to your body…it’s the only one you have! It is always prudent to consult your physician and physical therapist for a program designed specifically for your needs.

NEXT MONDAY – Read Dr. Paul J. Mackarey “Health & Exercise Forum!”

This article is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. If you have questions related to your medical condition, please contact your family physician. For further inquires related to this topic email:

Paul J. Mackarey PT, DHSc, OCS is a Doctor in Health Sciences specializing in orthopaedic and sports physical therapy. Dr. Mackarey is in private practice and is an associate professor of clinical medicine at GCSOM.

Access all of Dr. Mackarey's articles in our Health Care Forum!

Part I of II

People will often ask me, "Is there such a thing as an exercise rut?" They want to know why they do not seem, to be improving with their exercise program?... they exercise 3-4 times a week for 30 to 45 minutes and they feel frustrated and STUCK in a rut. While initially responding favorably to exercise, after 6 -9 months or more, they do not notice progress in weight loss, strength, tone, endurance or daily function.

Here are a few suggestions on how to improve or get more out of a “stale” exercise program.

Step one is to build an exercise program that is grounded in the basics. Next, Step two, which begins after the basics have been mastered, includes the components necessary for a healthy mind, body and spirit connection and translates into functional activities of daily living including work and leisure sports.


Make sure your routine has all three fundamental components of a well-balanced exercise program:

  1. Cardiovascular
  2. Strength
  3. Flexibility Training

While each component offers its own specific benefit, the combination of all three cooperatively provides unique value. Too often, fitness enthusiasts concentrate on the exercises they LIKE or are good at more than the ones they NEED. A well-balanced program includes what you like and need!

In fact, recent studies show that those performing all three components surpassed those performing one or any combination of two of the training types when tested for efficient:


Cardiovascular exercise is any activity that raises your heart rate and respiratory rate. This type of exercise strengthens the heart muscle and the muscles that assist in breathing. When these muscles are stronger, they in turn work more efficiently to deliver oxygen to your muscles and other parts of the body. Ultimately, these oxygenated muscles can work harder and longer to burn fat during exercise and at rest.

  • Examples of Cardiovascular Exercises: 
    • Running
    • Brisk Walking
    • Swimming
    • Biking
    • Rowing
    • Elliptical Training
    • Stepper Training

*Most experts recommend at least 30 minutes of sustained cardio, 3-4 days per week. However, recent studies support the notion of performing 10-15 minutes, twice daily, 4 days per week. For those “stuck” in a fitness rut, to advance your program, cardio should be performed 5-6 days per week for 45-60 minutes.

Improving a Cardio Exercise Program:


Strength training is an activity that provides any type of resistance to muscle contraction to build strength in the muscle. The resistance can be without movement against an immovable object such as pushing against a wall (isometric) or with movement such as lifting up or lowering a weight down against gravity (isotonic/dynamic). There are two types of isotonic muscle contraction; concentric, which involves raising the weight against gravity as the muscle shortens and eccentric which involves lowering a weight against gravity as the muscle lengthens.

A standing biceps curl is an example that incorporates both concentric and eccentric contractions. A progressive strength training program includes all three types of muscle contraction. By using the classic bicep muscle curl these photos will demonstrate all three types of muscle contraction:

Isometric Bicep Muscle Curl – pull up on door knob without allowing any movement of the arm.
Concentric Bicep Muscle Curl – raise a dumbbell up against gravity as the muscle shortens.

Eccentric Bicep Muscle Curl – lower a dumbbell slowly (4-6 seconds) against gravity as the muscle lengthens.

Improving a Strengthening Exercise Program:

Sources: National Institutes of Health; American Council on Exercise

Model: Heather Holzman

EVERY MONDAY – Read Dr. Paul J. Mackarey “Health & Exercise Forum!” Next Week: Read Stuck in an Exercise Rut…Part II of II!

This article is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. If you have questions related to your medical condition, please contact your family physician. For further inquires related to this topic email:

Paul J. Mackarey PT, DHSc, OCS is a Doctor in Health Sciences specializing in orthopedic and sports physical therapy. Dr. Mackarey is in private practice and is an associate professor of clinical medicine at Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine

For all of Dr. Mackarey's articles visit: Mackarey's Health and Exercise Forum!

Happy Valentines Day

Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day! And, while you may wonder what that has to do with health and wellness, you might be surprised to learn that love can be good for your health! Studies show that it is in our DNA to seek out good relationships and that these solid relationships can lead to a happier, safer and healthier life. Conversely, infatuation and less committed, volatile relationships that are “on and off,” are very stressful and unhealthy. But those fortunate to participate in a stable and satisfying long-term relationship are the beneficiaries of many health benefits! Whether you have spouse, partner, or close friend, (love is love is love), feeling connected, respected, valued, and loved is critically important to your health and wellness!

Less Sick Visits to your Physician

The US Department of Human Services found that couples in a committed long-term relationship are less likely to require sick visits to their physician. And, when hospitalized, these “love birds,” have shorter hospital stays. One theory for this health benefit is that couples in good relationships watch after each other to ensure regular healthy visits for routine care and testing. Consequently, they are less likely to have unexpected serious illnesses.

Less Depression & Substance Abuse

Experts feel that social isolation is associated with unhealthy behavior and depression. Happy, loving and committed couples are far less likely to suffer from depression. Furthermore, these couples are less likely to engage in risky and unhealthy behaviors such as excessive drinking and drug abuse.

Lower Blood Pressure

Researchers have found a strong relationship between marital status and blood pressure. Happily married couples have the lowest, while unhappily married couples have the highest. Happy singles scored somewhere in between. It is also interesting to note that non married committed couples and well-adjusted singles with strong support groups had lower blood pressure.

Less Anxiety

Studies show that long-term committed couples have far less anxiety than new romance. MRI brain scans found both groups showed high activation in areas of the brain related to romance, but only new couples had activation of the area of the brain associated with anxiety.

Pain Control

A CDC report on pain included a study of more than 127,000 adults and found that married people were less likely to complain of headaches and lower back pain. In fact, one study showed, when a happily married couple held hands, pain thresholds improved and, the happier the marriage, the greater the effect

Better Stress Management

Similar to the findings on pain, there is a strong link between happy and committed couples and stress management. The support and love from a strong and healthy relationship provides good coping methods to help overcome adversity…job loss, illness etc. 

Boosted Immune System

Solid loving relationships can boost your immune system. In fact, researchers at Carnegie Mellon University found that people who exhibit positive emotions are less likely to get sick after exposure to cold or flu viruses.

Quicker Healing Time

It may be that a wound from “Cupid’s Arrow” will heal faster when you are in a loving relationship. Researchers at Ohio State University Medical Center gave married couples superficial wounds and followed their healing time. The wounds healed nearly twice as fast in spouses who interacted warmly compared with those who behaved with hostility.


Strong research indicates that married people live longer. Researchers found that people who had never been married were 58% more likely to die than married people. Some reasons purported were mutual financial, emotional and physical support and assistance from children. One common denominator for a short life span is loneliness and those in a healthy relationship may live longer because they feel loved and connected.


A study in the Journal of Family Psychology showed that happiness depends more on the quality of family relationships than on the level of income.  So, according to the research, when it comes to a long, happy and healthy life…love is more important than money!


EVERY MONDAY – Read Dr. Paul J. Mackarey “Health & Exercise Forum!”

This article is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. If you have questions related to your medical condition, please contact your family physician. For further inquires related to this topic email:

Paul J. Mackarey PT, DHSc, OCS is a Doctor in Health Sciences specializing in orthopaedic and sports physical therapy. Dr. Mackarey is in private practice and is an associate professor of clinical medicine at GCSOM

For all of Dr. Mackarey's articles visit our "Health and Exercise Forum"

There is a very good chance that the cold temps and snow will return soon! Winter in NEPA can be the perfect opportunity to try something new. For example, for those who enjoy running or walking you can continue to do so in the winter, with a few adjustments. Equipment, such as treaded sneakers, allows you to run or walk in the snow. Snow shoes are a great way to hike and walk in the snow while cross country skiing simulates running in the snow. But, in the last few years, another outdoor activity has become a winter sport; mountain biking in the snow has become popular.

Many mountain biking enthusiasts in NEPA enjoy 7-8 months of trail riding at our beautiful state parks. Now, with a few modifications, mountain bikers can continue year round. In fact, the adventure in the snow may be an exciting new experience. If winter biking is not your thing, maybe winter walking, running, snow shoeing or cross-country skiing will suit you better.   

The physical and psychological benefits of outdoor activities are many: each season brings its own unique beauty, and winter is no different. Most will not have to abandon outdoor activities, but some adjustments in equipment, clothing, and food are necessary for each season and the temperature changes that it brings.

Mountain Biking in the Snow

While recommended, it is not necessary to purchase a bike specifically for mountain biking in the snow. With a few simple modifications and adjustments, you can prepare a regular mountain bike for winter use.

Modify The Bike Shocks

In addition to rocks and stumps, winter biking offers the challenges of snow banks and ice chunks. The air pressure in your shock system will be affected by temperature. Additional air pressure will be required to improve shock absorption and in extreme cases, using less viscous oil will be required.

Modify The Tires

Pressure - lower the air pressure in the tires 5-10 psi lower than normally used in the summer to improve traction.

Treads – Just as with winter car tires, a larger tire with more volume and large, widely space knobs will improve traction. Some special winter tires offer studs for improved performance on the ice.


Disc Brakes – that are self-cleaning and mounted away from the snow are best for winter biking. However, brakes should be examined and cleaned intermittently for snow and ice accumulation.


Platform Pedals – allow the rider to quickly plant the foot for balance when sliding.


It is important to layer clothing. Use DryTech or UnderArmor type materials (headgear, gloves, shirts and pants) to allow sweat to breath away from the skin to the next layer of clothing. Use a facemask to cover your mouth and nose to prevent frost bite and warm air before it enters the lungs. Chemical hand and toe warmers are great. Try winter running or walking shoes as described below.

Walking or Running in the Snow

There are running shoes specifically designed for use in wet, cold and sloppy winter conditions. These “winterized” running shoes, which can also be used for walking, offer waterproofing, sealed seams, gaiter collars to keep out snow and slop, slip resistant fabric, anti-roll stability features, anti-microbal material and aggressive tread patterns for traction on slippery surfaces. Some shoe recommendations for both winter walkers and runners include:

. Some shoe recommendations for winter runners and walkers from The Runner’s World Magazine include:

  • Salomon Sense Ride 3 GTX: $160.00
  • Inov-8 TerraUltra G 270: $160.00
  • Saucony Peregrine ICE+: $149.95
  • Merrell Nova 2/Antora 2: $109.99
  • Altra King MT 2: $99.81

For winter walkers, walking or trekking poles will improve balance and safety when briskly walking in winter conditions. I am a strong proponent of using these tools. They are lightweight, adjustable, and collapsible. Some examples are: Black DiamondR Trail Explorer 3 Trekking Poles - $59.99 andMountainsmithR FX Lite Trekking Poles - $35.09. For an inexpensive alternative, an old pair of ski poles will work just fine.

Snow Shoeing and Cross-Country Skiing

These activities should also be considered as a viable option for the winter walker and runner. These are great cross-training alternatives with tremendous aerobic benefits.

Snowshoes work by distributing your weight over a larger surface area so your foot does not sink completely into the snow. Commonly used by fur traders, trappers and forest rangers, snow shoeing has become very popular among many outdoor exercise enthusiasts. It is relatively safe and inexpensive. Some snowshoes include the Tubbs Flex TRK - $169. (REI) and Redfeather Hike - $149.00 (Cabelas).Boots and poles are also required, but ski or trekking poles along with hiking boots or winter running shoes can be used.

Cross country skiing has also gained tremendous popularity among winter outdoor exercise enthusiasts. It is a cross between running and skiing in which the participant propels through a snow-covered trail by pushing and gliding with a running or fast-walking motion. Some examples of equipment packages that include boots, pole, bindings and skis are Alpina Sports Tour – no wax for $229.00 and Rossignol XT from LL Bean at $224.00.

Many of the area’s state parks, such as Lackawanna and Promised Land, offer wonderful trails for winter walking, hiking, running, snow shoeing, cross-country skiing and biking.

For the more casual walker in need of protection from the snow and ice, it may be treacherous just to walk the dog or go to the bank, post-office or grocery store. Consider traction devices that easily slip on and off your shoes or boots such as StabilicersR (cleats-type device) or YaktraxR (chain-type device).  

Visit your doctor regularly and listen to your body.     

NEXT MONDAY – Read Dr. Paul J. Mackarey “Health & Exercise Forum” every Monday.

This article is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. If you have questions related to your medical condition, please contact your family physician. For further inquires related to this topic email:

Paul J. Mackarey PT, DHSc, OCS is a Doctor in Health Sciences specializing in orthopaedic and sports physical therapy. Dr. Mackarey is in private practice and is an associate professor of clinical medicine at GCSOM.

For all of Dr. Mackarey's articles: visit our healthcare forum

Osteoarthritis, the most common type of arthritis, is often considered to be a normal part of aging. Usually by the age of forty our joints, especially those which are weight bearing (lower spine, hips, knees, ankles, feet) begin to show signs of wear and tear. The cartilage begins to thin, joint surfaces are not as smooth, and fluid which lubricates the joint becomes diluted, dehydrated and less protective. Consequently, these aging joints become stiff, sore, weak, and sometimes swollen.

Most people with osteoarthritis report additional pain and stiffness in the winter and early spring due to cold, damp weather and NEPA has plenty of it! The cold, for example, restricts the flow of blood to the joints, leading to more pain and stiffness. While moving to a warmer and less humid climate is one solution, it is not practical for most. But all is not lost because there are other alternatives to protect and keep your joints healthier this winter and early spring.

1. Parafin Bath and Hot Packs

A paraffin bath is one of the best methods to apply heat to your hands and feet to ease pain and stiffness associated with osteoarthritis. A special heating unit works like a crock pot to melt the wax to liquid form. The hands and/or feet are dipped into the wax several times to create a warm coating around the entire area. A 20 to 30 minute treatment while watching TV or listening to good music will provide pain relief, improve mobility in the joints and bring life back to winter damaged skin. $39.99 to $159.99 (

Hot packs, electric and microwavable, offer heat to bring blood flow and lessen joint pain and stiffness. They are great for neck and lower back pain, depending on the shape of the pad. Consider rectangle for lower back and cylinder/round to wrap around neck and joints of arms and legs. offers an electric pad which creates moist heat for $59.95 and a microwave “bed buddy” (herbal or nonherbal) can be found for $9.99 to $43.95 at TheWarmingStore.   

2. Hand and Toe Warmers

Hand and toe warmers are small packets placed in the gloves or boots of skiers, campers and hikers to keep the hands and feet warm. These throw away warmers can also be used by anyone with cold hands or feet whether you are shoveling snow, attending an outdoor event in the cold or sitting in a cold, drafty room watching TV. (Walmart, Dick’s,

3. Knee, Ankle, Wrist, Elbow, Wrist Sleeves

Supportive sleeves for the joints can provide protection and warmth year round, but especially during the cold winter and early spring. Those made with neoprene material offer warmth and compression and can be valuable when participating in activities such as skiing, walking, running, basketball  name a few. Additionally, it can be helpful for those having joint pain with daily activities such as grocery shopping or house work. These devices should not be used when sitting for prolonged periods of time or sleeping. There is no scientific evidence that supports the use of cooper or magnets weaved into the sleeves for additional pain relief. (available at most pharmacies and medical equipment stores)

4. Compression Shorts and Shirts

Similar to neoprene sleeves, compression shorts, pants and shirts can be invaluable to those participating in outdoor activities in cold temps. UnderArmor, Reebok, Nike, and others make these products which can also be worn indoors for those working in cool, drafty environments.

5. Hot Tub

It seems obvious how and why hot water and massaging water jets can soothe the sore joints and muscles. To ensure additional pain and stress relief, add a candle, soft music and a cocktail!

6. Low Impact Exercise for Legs/ Low Impact Exercise for Arms

If you suffer from osteoarthritis to the joints of your lower body, you would be well-advised to limit impact activities such as running and basketball. Instead, walk, swim, use the elliptical and bike to protect your joints.

As above, if you have arthritis in the joints of the upper body, use low weights, avoid push-ups and dips, which transfer your body weight through the arms.  

7. Heat Vest or Jacket

As many of you know, I love outdoor activities year round. However, with age I have become a little more sensitive to the cold…which can be a problem when you are skiing, skating, snowshoeing, or hiking. Fortunately, technology has made it possible to be “warm in the cold!” I love my heated vest because it not only keeps me warm, but I require less layers and less bulk to be toasty. These products come with a rechargeable battery. Heated gloves are also available. Vests and jackets range in price from $60.00 to $200.00 but you don’t have to by the most expensive to get a good result. Visit;;

8. Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)

These over-the-counter, non prescription drugs include aspirin and ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) which are very effective in the treatment of the pain and inflammation associated with arthritis. A topical NSAID, Voltaren, is also available over-the-counter. However, like all drugs, they are not without their risks so one must consult with their primary care physician and pharmacist before using them. For example, NSAIDs can thin the blood, irritate the stomach and may interact with other medications.

9. Topical Creams: Lidocane, Capsacian

Topical analgesics or pain relievers can be rubbed into or sprayed on the skin over the affected area. Some products are counterirritants using menthol, methylsalicylate and camphor which provide a sensation on the skin other than pain. Salicylate based products can work like aspirin to provide relieve from mild pain and inflammation. Capsaicin based products can also provide temporary relief due to the counter stimulation of warmth and tingling. A few things to keep in mind when using these products: one, discuss it with your physician or pharmacist. Two, topical agents are more effective in superficial joints such as the fingers, toes, wrist, elbow, knee and shoulder than in the deep tissues of the hip, buttocks, or lower back. Three, wash your skin thoroughly ater using these products and before using heat, cold or electric stimulation.

10. Massage

The therapeutic benefits of massage are well documented. However, like most treatments, it is important to find a qualified professional that meets your needs. Licensed physical therapists, physical therapist assistants and massage therapists are the best choice. Benefits include; relief from pain, headaches, muscle spasm, and stress, improved relaxation, posture, and breathing.


This article is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. If you have questions related to your medical condition, please contact your family physician. For further inquires related to this topic email:

Paul J. Mackarey PT, DHSc, OCS is a Doctor in Health Sciences specializing in orthopaedic and sports physical therapy. Dr. Mackarey is in private practice and is an associate professor of clinical medicine at GCSOM.

For all of Dr. Mackarey's articles visit our Health and Exercise Forum

A Clear Vision For 2023!

New Year’s Resolutions are very predictable. While most are health oriented, I purport that a healthy mind, body and spirit requires a healthy lifestyle. Interestingly, the ten most popular resolutions listed below, all have an impact on a healthy life.  

More Time With Family And Friends

Polls repeatedly show that one of the most consistent resolutions for the New Year is to make more time to spend with family and friends. Moreover, research shows that the comfort and camaraderie of these people whom we love is important to our health and well-being.

Begin or Improve a Fitness Program

The benefits of regular exercise is no longer anecdotal, it is factual. Daily exercise, even in small doses, has been associated with more health benefits than anything else known to man. Studies clearly demonstrate that it reduces cholesterol and coronary artery disease and the risk of some cancers. Also, it increases longevity, helps achieve and maintain weight loss, enhances mood, lowers blood pressure, and even improves arthritis. In short, exercise keeps you healthy and makes you look and feel better. If done properly, there is no down side. So, make this year the year to do it!

Adhere to a Weight Loss Plan

Recent studies report that more than 66 percent of adult Americans are considered overweight or obese. As a result, weight loss is one of the most popular New Year's resolutions. However, adhering to a weight loss program is not easy. It requires many things, including, setting reasonable goals and staying focused. Often, professional help is required. While this may be one of the most difficult goals to attain, the ultimate reward and value is well worth the effort.

Stop Smoking

Second only to losing weight, this resolution, while extremely difficult, is another life-saving goal that must be attempted. Studies report that smokers try and fail four times on average before they are successful. SO, KEEP TRYING! Get help. Talk to your physician about using over-the-counter or prescription nicotine replacement therapy and proven quit-smoking aids. Consider smoking cessation classes, support groups and hotlines in addition to the meds. This is one goal that is worth the effort.

Find Your Smile

Due in great part to our hectic and stressful work and family demands, the United States is home to millions of people requiring the use of mood elevators and antidepressants. As a result, it is important to learn what really makes you happy in order to FIND YOUR SMILE. It requires the balance of a healthy mind, body and spirit. It might be a walk in the snow, taking dance classes or a trip to the spa. One hint, it is often something simple and inexpensive.

Moderate Drinking

This is one tip for a healthier New Year that I expect to receive plenty of flack about! But, I would be remise if I did not mention this potentially harmful habit. While many people use the New Year as an incentive to finally stop drinking, most are unable to adhere to such a rigid goal. Studies show that moderate drinking can offer many health benefits such as lowering cholesterol and coronary artery disease but that is defined as one or two 8 ounce drinks per day and red wine is preferred. However, many heavy drinkers would do well to taper off to a moderate level. For those with a problem and have decided that you want to stop drinking, there is a world of help and support available such as Alcoholics Anonymous. There are also a number of treatment-based programs, as well as support groups for families of alcoholics.

Get Finances in Order

This is one tip that few consider being health related. However, serious stress from financial problems affects millions of Americans every day. This cumulative stress can be very harmful to your health and can be lessened by initiating a plan. Get professional help and learn how to downsize and reevaluate your real needs…less toys with less stress for a longer life!

 Try Something New

There may be no one thing more important to gaining a new perspective on life that to have learned something new. It could be as drastic as returning to school to prepare for a career change or as simple as learning to play bridge. Have you vowed to make this year the year to learn something new? Take a course at local college or read a new book. Visit the Everhart Museum or take the free tour of the Scranton Cultural Center. It will enrich your life and make you a more interesting person. Most local colleges and universities offer distance and adult education programs.

Service To Others

Service to others is service to you! There may not be anything more gratifying than providing a service to others in need. Volunteerism makes you a better and healthier person. It fits into any schedule. Donate clothes, time or resources. Locally, we have many charitable causes in need of help: Be a “Friend of the Poor,” or serve lunch at St. Frances Soup Kitchen.

Get Organized

The goal of organization, like the goal of financial order, has similar health implications because it eliminates tremendous stress. There are many books and websites that offer suggestions on how to organize just about anything in your life. For this reason, I love my iPhone – there’s an App for that!

NEXT MONDAY – Read Dr. Paul J. Mackarey “Health & Exercise Forum!”   This article is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. If you have questions related to your medical condition, please contact your family physician. For further inquires related to this topic email:

Paul J. Mackarey PT, DHSc, OCS is a Doctor in Health Sciences specializing in orthopaedic and sports physical therapy. Dr. Mackarey is in private practice and is an associate professor of clinical medicine at GCSOM.

For all of Dr. Mackarey's articles visit:

SOURCE: A. Powell, Guide