Physical therapist Priti Shah uses a replica spine to demonstrate how the back moves and how to keep it healthy.
ADAMS, Mass. — Keep your back straight and keep walking.
That's simplest way to avoid back and muscle strain and pain, physical therapist Priti Shah told the Maple Grove Civic Club on Sunday.
Shah, director of rehabilitation services at North Adams Regional Hospital and for Visiting Nurse Association and Hospice of Northern Berkshire, spoke about body mechanics and therapies and tips for relieving or avoiding pain.
She's been visiting senior centers and senior housing to let residents know about some of the programs now available at NARH in response to community needs.
"We looked at what was missing here ... we have a lot of elderly and middle-aged population with neck and back problems," Shah said. "We are trying to find things to help this community and become more expert in that."
Wielding a replica spine, Shah pointed out the complexity of the human back and explained how it's wrapped in muscles.
"If the spine is too curved, the muscles have to work so much harder," she said, demonstrating by slouching over. "It's very imprtant that if you pick up a chair or something from the oven or a pail of water ... that you pick it up correctly and hold it close to your body."
She also told the nearly 30 members of the club in attendance not to stress one side of the body over the other: change sides when doing activities such as raking or shoveling.
"There's no reason to wear our joints down sooner than they have to," said Shah, adding that any pressure on the joints should be minimized. "If you can do anything to reduce your weight than that is helpful because there is less pressure on your body."
Sit up straight to lengthen the neck; when sitting a computer, make sure your arms are no higher than 90 degrees. Walking is a good to do because the deep breathing also strengthens the torso muscles. Use tools, such as garden carts or furniture sliders, when trying to move large objects.
Among the programs now being offered at NARH is LSVT, or Lee Silverman Voice Treatment, a therapy developed at the behest of Parkinson's disease sufferer Silverman 20 years ago.
The therapeutic program involves retraining the brain through separate movements that are then combined to help sufferers of muscle and neurological diseases such as Parkinson's, multiple sclerosis or stroke.
Silverman wanted to be able to communicate but the concept has been adapted to movement. The hospital has the only LSVT certified physical and occupational therapists in Western Massachusetts and among the few LSVT voice therapists in the area.
Shah said it isn't a cure, but the intense exercise program can enhance patients' abilities to do everyday things, speak, chew and swallow better, become more flexible and, in some cases, slow the progress of a debilitating disease.
Shah demonstrates a simple exercise for desk workers: Stretch your fingers out then sweep your arms back.
"I had a woman who came in a wheelchair and when she was done with therapy in a month, she was walking," said Shah. "Not everybody has that kind of response but they can make a big difference."
Her own father had been diagnosed with Parkinson's and she had traveled to India to work with him, first with regular therapy treatment and then with LSVT.
"It made a huge difference ... I had worked with him for a month with regular therapy and there was some improvement but this was a night and day difference."
Shah can be reached at 413-664-5450 and appointments can be made at 413-664-5448.
In other business:
• The club officers were sworn in by member and Selectman Joseph Nowak, stepping in for the late Austin Rogge who had done it for years.
• A moment of silence was held in memory of two recently deceased members, John O'Hearn and Theodore Kolis.
• The club is hosting a chicken dinner fundraiser for the Dana Labbee Summer Basketball Program on Saturday, Jan. 25, from 4 to 7 at the Polish National Alliance. Cost is $8 adults, $7 for those 12 and younger.
The Maple Grove Civic Club meets every third Sunday at 3 p.m. at the PNA to hear speakers of civic and general interest. It also raises funds for scholarships and youth sports programs.