Aquatic Therapy: More Than You Would Think

By Angela Hite

Aquatic Therapy & Exercise
As an abundant resource we are surrounded by water, yet many times we overlook some of the most powerful qualities that water offers, such as buoyancy, hydrostatic pressure, temperature and comfort. Combined, these qualities create a perfect environment for purposes of aquatic therapy and/or exercise.

What’s the difference?

  • Aquatic therapy is an evidenced based/skilled practice provided by an occupational or physical therapist prescribed by a physician and typically reimbursed by insurance or Medicare.
  • Aquatic exercise is a generic term used to describe activity that takes place in the water generally delivered by an exercise professional and paid for out of pocket.

The buoyancy of water creates a reduction of gravitational forces, making exercise easier in the water than on land. It provides support and eases the stress on weak muscles and limbs thus providing a comfort unmatched by land-based exercises. Buoyancy also creates a resistive nature that leads to gains in strength, range of motion and balance.

Hydrostatic pressure (the natural compression on the body that water provides) exerts a comforting pressure on the overall body while reducing swelling in arms and legs. The improvement in circulation promotes healing to injured areas as well as stabilization of weak joints.

The temperature of the water plays multiple roles. For recreational use, water is generally kept between 84 – 86 degrees. For exercise, rehabilitation and relief of chronic conditions (back pain, arthritis, fibromyalgia) water between 88-94 degrees is most advantageous to reduce muscle guarding and pain.

Water greatly improves adherence and success with your exercise regimen. For therapeutic purposes it allows rehabilitation to start sooner – perhaps even pre-surgery and faster recovery.

HEY! National Rehabilitation Week – September 19-25, 2010

Submitted by Angela Hite, Community Relations Director for Transitions Rehabilitation, located at Dove Healthcare – South & West and Wissota Health and Regional Vent Center. Transitions Rehabilitation has a solid history of helping people return home successfully. For more information, visit

Healthy Bones, Healthy Joints, Healthy You

More than 8 million women in the US have osteoporosis and more than 22 million more have low bone density, which puts them right on the brink of developing osteoporosis in the very near future. If you combined breast, uterine, and ovarian cancer, a woman would still have a higher chance of getting osteoporosis than all the other three together. The sad fact is that osteoporosis just doesn’t get the attention it should and many don’t even know they have it until they slip and break a wrist or hip one day.

Women start to lose bone mass as early as age 35, so it’s important to start prevention early. “Our bones and joints are living tissue, like the rest of the body,” says Peter Sharkey, M.D., a joint-replacement specialist at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital’s Rothman Institute. By nurturing this tissue, you can keep your body’s structure strong.

The Basics: Most women don’t get enough calcium in their everyday diet, so try to keep important calcium rich foods like yogurt and collard greens on your grocery list. Supplementing with a good quality calcium citrate and magnesium pill can help too. “Our production of stomach acid slows as we age; calcium citrate doesn’t require stomach acid to be broken down by the body, unlike other forms of calcium,” says naturopathic doctor Christie Yerby of Optimal Health Resources in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Recommended: 1000 mg per day; 50+ 1200 to 1500mg per day.

Magnesium is also essential to prevent bone loss. This mineral helps the body absorb and regulate calcium levels and, like vitamin D, should be paired with calcium. Otherwise, the calcium could get stored in the tissues, kidneys, or arteries, where it could be harmful. Recommended: About 500 mg daily (roughly a 2:1 calcium-to-magnesium ratio).

Get plenty of D. Vitamin D is essential to helping calcium be absorbed into your bones. Try getting at least 15 minutes of sunlight twice a week to help your body naturally produce this bone strengthening vitamin. Living in Wisconsin it may be harder than thought to get those 15 minutes, so bone up with 1000 IU of vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol), the most active form, each day. Recommended: 400 to 800 IU per day.

The Basic Facts of Arthritis

A chronic condition involving the breakdown of cartilage in joints, leading to pain and loss of mobility.

  • Symptoms: Pain, stiffness, and swelling in the joints, especially in the knees, hips, neck, fingers, and lower back.
  • What causes it: OA can occur from wear and tear on joints with aging, though scientists now suspect that chronic inflammation—due to poor diet, obesity, hormonal changes, stress, or allergies—is another culprit.
  • Who’s at risk: Middle-aged and older adults. More women have OA than men.

An autoimmune disease in which the body attacks its own tissues triggering inflammation in the lining of joints. It causes swelling, aching, and throbbing, and possible deformity in advanced stages.

  • Symptoms: Pain in the fingers, hands, and wrists; fatigue, fever, and weakness.
  • What causes it: Exact cause is unknown, but the immune system, gender, genetics, and infection can increase risk.
  • Who’s at risk: Onset is more common in women ages 30 to 50, but it also affects men and children.

Numbers to Strive Towards

How high is your cholesterol? Blood pressure? A few key numbers can help you live a longer, healthier life.

18.5 – 24.9

Body Mass Index | Healthy number: between 18.5 and 24.9. You calculate your BMI by comparing your weight to your height. A BMI that is too low, under 18.5 unless you are a body builder, can lead to some health issues like anemia, bone loss, irregular periods and infertility in women.  However in this day and age most people suffer from the opposite problem of having a BMI that is too high.  For a woman if your BMI is between 25 and 29.9, she is considered overweight. A BMI of 30 or higher is defined as obese and increases your risk of heart disease, diabetes and many more diseases.  — and that’s a problem we should all worry about.


Blood Sugar | Healthy number: 99 or lower. When you consume sugar, the time it takes for your body to process it indicates whether you are at risk of getting or have diabetes. A 126 means you have diabetes or your body doesn’t produce enough insulin to combat or break down the sugar in your system. With higher numbers you are at risk of kidney disease, vision loss, and heart disease.

Height at age 21

When you have your annual check up, have your height checked. If you lose more than 1.5 inches after your 21st birthday, you are at risk of osteoporosis or bone loss. If you have become shorter, you should get a bone density test and be on alert that your risk is greater and your bones are more fragile. To help, eat calcium-enriched foods, exercise regularly, including weight bearing and strength training, and avoid alcohol and smoking.


Ideal Blood Pressure | Healthy number: 120/80 or lower. The lower, the better. This means the force of the blood against the walls of your arteries isn’t damaging the arteries themselves. Hypertension—the silent killer— leads to stroke, heart disease, damage to kidneys, and loss of vision and memory when your blood pressure is 140/90 or higher. So be mindful of your number. Even readings between 120-139 over 80-89 can mean pre-hypertension, which carries its own set of health risks.


Cholesterol | Healthy number: 200 or lower. As this number increases, so does your risk of developing heart disease. To protect yourself, make your target number for overall cholesterol less than 200. There are two kinds of Cholesterol: LDL and HDL. The LDL, or bad cholesterol, should be lower than 100, which will help reduce your risk of stroke and heart disease. If you already have diabetes or are diagnosed with heart disease, your magic number should be 70 or lower.  On the other side of the coin, the HDL, or good cholesterol, should be higher than 50. HDL helps remove the LDL in our arteries, which in turn makes us healthier.


Triglycerides | Healthy number: 150 or less. Triglycerides are a type of fat in the blood and elevated levels increase the risk of diabetes and heart disease. When measuring these fats, 150-199 is borderline and higher than 200 is high and dangerous.
Studies have shown that high triglyceride levels are more dangerous in women than in men, although the studies didn’t exactly indicate why. So watch your weight, alcohol consumption, and get regular exercise.


Thyroid levels | Healthy number: 4 or less. The thyroid secretes hormones into the body that regulate metabolism, body temp and heart rates. These hormones also affect mental function, muscle strength, and even how healthy our skin and hair are. If your reading is 4.5 or higher, that means your thyroid isn’t doing its job in producing hormones to help your body function efficiently.

Green Hospitals

by Heather Rothbauer-Wanish

As much of the country strives for a more environmentally-friendly home and workplace, hospitals have also joined in the movement. The place that you go when you are ill has been making strides towards ensuring that it is a place that not only promotes your health, but promotes the health of the environment. Whether it is cleaning solutions, cafeteria plates, or ordering processes, local hospitals are encouraging their staff and employees to think twice about being a friend to the environment.

One local facility, Sacred Heart Hospital (SHH), has been working diligently to ensure it promotes green practices. Rick Beckler, Director of Hospitality Services, has seen many changes during his 15 years in the position. “Our practices really do differ than they did several years ago,” Beckler said. One way that SHH does this is by benchmarking practices with other healthcare organizations. Part of Beckler’s job is keeping up with environmental trends through publications, conferences, and relationships with other healthcare groups.

“We feel we are on the cutting-edge of these practices,” Beckler explained. Organizational purchasing is one area where Beckler feels the hospital can make a real difference. He and his staff strongly encourage the purchase of goods that can be utilized more than once. “We look at everything and invest in items that can be used more than once,” he said. “It really has become second nature for us,” he continued. This method of purchasing includes everything from reusable needle containers to recyclable containers for carry-out cafeteria food.

If you do purchase food at the Sacred Heart Hospital cafeteria, chances are you will be purchasing locally-grown food. “We really try to purchase as much local food as possible,” Beckler explained. This not only supports local farmers and growers, but it keeps the money circulating in the local economy. When it comes to the cafeteria and the kitchen area, the green movement does not stop there. The Sacred Heart staff has worked with the Department of Natural Resources to ensure that leftover food does not go to waste. For example, watermelon rhines, strawberry tops and other food scraps are saved until a local farmer picks them up; the scraps are used to supplement feeding the farm animals.

With the amount of food that is prepared during a day, there are bound to be leftovers. The prepared food that is left is sent to the local St. Francis Food Pantry, whom the hospital has worked with for many years. Local volunteers come to the hospital and box the food each day before it is sent to the food pantry. Because the food is already done and prepared, the staff felt that it was a great idea to provide it to local families.

Hospital patients are now given reusable mugs in lieu of Styrofoam cups. Other changes include no use of plastic silverware or so-called throwaway containers. Fountain drinks are also now served throughout the hospital, instead of plastic bottles. There is no longer any bottled water offered; rather, there are pitchers of water and cups available throughout the facility. “The staff, employees, and patients are on-board with the changes,” Beckler said. He admits that its focus on green and sustainability can sometimes add costs, but he feels the environmental impact is worth the additional costs.

Another local facility, Luther Midelfort, has also implemented practices to improve its environmental impact. This is especially important to the hospital as it is in the midst of a large expansion. Gordon Howie, Director of Maintenance–Facilities Services for Luther Midelfort, explained that the hospital looks at this in two ways: new construction and existing buildings. “With new construction, LEED principles are followed and efficiency is built in from design development. Luther Midelfort works with engineers, architects, and contractors who are experienced with environmentally efficient designs and methods,” Howie said. In fact, more than 90 percent of the waste materials from the construction have been recycled.

The existing buildings are also reviewed to seek any changes that may benefit the environment. “With the existing buildings, we are continually evaluating processes and building functions to reduce energy and water consumption. We have established a team that meets monthly to review ideas, track progress, and report results. We continually challenge ourselves to do better,” Howie explained.

When asked if they feel marketplace pressure to go green, both Sacred Heart Hospital and Luther Midelfort indicated that they are challenged only by themselves. Part of the mission of SHH is to give reverance to the earth and Beckler feels they are doing that with their environmental initiatives. “We do feel a pressure, a good pressure, from the healthcare industry to go green,” Beckler explained. “The healthcare industry as a whole has done a great job of looking at our environmental impact,” he continued. Howie echoed that sentiment, saying the following, “We keep an eye on what other healthcare systems are doing, but we are our strongest critics.”

At Luther Midelfort, employees also take an active role in seeking green practices. “We have employees who truly believe in bettering the environment,” Howie said. “If our employees see something that needs attention, we hear about it and it’s fantastic,” he continued. Luther Midelfort patients are also encouraged to provide feedback on the hospital’s green initiatives. “We would not consider an environmental project a success if our patients are not happy,” Howie commented. One way Luther Midelfort is able to make an impact on the surrounding community is through its own food donations to St. Francis Food Pantry; Luther Midelfort gives its unsold but usable food items to the pantry. This is similar to the working relationship Sacred Heart Hospital also has with the pantry.

Both local hospitals recycle everything from glass to aluminum, including some more unique items. Sacred Heart Hospital has contracted with an individual who takes wooden pallets from the facility. These wooden pallets are then turned into landscape wood chips. This is just another way that certain products and assets are seeing a second life.

Many hospitals are also using more energy-friendly lightbulbs, as well as implementing energy-savings tactics. “We work closely with Focus on Energy and Xcel Energy to ensure best efficiencies for the cost,” Howie explained. SHH has implemented automatic turn-off lights and high-efficiency airdrives in an effort to cut energy cost and consumption.

For many hospitals, investing in energy efficiencies, recycling capabilities, and reusable materials means a higher initial investment. However, this investment can save and reduce operating expenses in the future. If you, or someone you know is a hospital patient, take a look around and note the changes that have been made in the building and its processes. As these businesses look to a more environmentally-friendly operation, know that they are still trying to do what is best for the community, the patients, and the environment.

Intro to Eau Claire EcoTeams

Saving the Planet, One Household at a Time:  A Brief Introduction to Eau Claire EcoTeams
by Meg Marshall

We invite you to embark on an adventure that will lead you to more sustainable lifestyle practices. “Sustainability” means meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs (Brundtland Commission, 1987). Another way to say it is, “Enough, for all, forever.” Today, that’s not how we live in America, where 5% of the world’s population uses almost 30% of its resources, wasting close to 75% through inefficiency and lack of awareness.

As Yogi Berra once said, “The future ain’t what it used to be.” Climate change is altering our world. Through our daily activities, each of us contributes to the greenhouse gas emissions that are causing this change. You can determine your impact by calculating your carbon footprint at If you are like most Americans, you will find that if everyone lived like you do, it would take between four and five planets to support us.

When a community decides to become more sustainable, government, business, and citizens must all be on board. The City of Eau Claire has come a long way in working towards sustainability, and Eau Claire County is beginning to do the same. Some towns are addressing sustainability, as well.

In the business community, the Eau Claire Chamber of Commerce has introduced a Green Business Certification program, a commendable move on their part. Community members are the next to bring on board, and that’s where EcoTeams comes in. Our local EcoTeam project is coordinated by Erin LaFaive, Horticulture Educator for Eau Claire County Extension, and is funded by grants from the Wisconsin Environmental Education Board, JONAH, UW Extension-Western Division and Xcel Energy.

A team can be made up of your friends, neighbors, coworkers, people in your faith community or civic organization, students—anyone really! The typical size is 5-8 households, or 5-15 people. Over a period of a little over two months and in a series of seven meetings, the Green Living Handbook helps you take action to develop sustainable lifestyle practices in six areas (chapters): garbage, water, energy, transportation, eco-wise consuming, and empowering others. Different team members run the meetings.

The Sustainable Lifestyle Assessment in the workbook allows you to keep track of your accomplishments. Before each chapter, you will complete the “before” column for that topic area. Then you will choose which activities in that chapter you will do. After completion, you complete your “after” column. For example, if you recycled 20% before and 40% after, you have an improvement of 20%.

The typical meeting will begin with a discussion of the previous topic, and then move on to the next.

To get a feel for how the program works, let’s look at an existing EcoTeam. The Unitarian Universalist team, in its sixth meeting, began by reporting their experiences with the chapter on eco-wise consuming, which they had intentionally chosen to do before Christmas. Not only did they reduce the number of gifts given, they made efforts to wrap presents in unwanted fabric tied with yarn scraps and give gifts of charity instead of something that may not be wanted or needed. The conversation drifted to memories of the Christmases of our childhood and how things have changed. Everyone mentioned a heightened awareness of what they bought for the holidays and how much each item was needed.

The meeting then turned to the final topic, transportation. Across the board, more attention was paid to eco-driving: driving more slowly, avoiding jackrabbit starts, inflating tires properly, and planning errands carefully to minimize miles driven. We acknowledged that public transportation is somewhat lacking in our area, but the greatest barrier to its use might be that many people don’t know how to ride the bus and don’t know what route to take. Wilma Clark suggested that anyone who takes the bus somewhere before the next meeting should get extra credit! I expect that in the final chapter, Empowering Others, there will be suggestions for educating the public on Eau Claire Transit.

Lasting about an hour and a half, the meeting was lively and full of good suggestions and laughter. Some philosophical musings made their way into the meeting, such as, when we travel, what do we contribute to the places we visit (economically, culturally) compared to the emissions caused by the air travel to get there? Overall, team members have realized that doing little things allows us to make changes without causing discomfort and inconvenience.

The East Side Hill EcoTeam has planned to go out to dinner after their final meeting, and the person who makes the most improvement will get a free dinner, compliments of the rest of the team. Matt Smith hopes he is the winner. He felt pretty green going into the process, but he says he has learned new things to help him save money and become more environmentally friendly at the same time. Like many of us, he is more inclined to take his reusable grocery bags into the store when he shops! Every chapter generates ideas for other activities and projects.

Matt likes the group setting and the motivation and support he receives from other members. That seems to be one of the most important things about EcoTeams. EcoTeams are a great way to meet your neighbors, to examine your own lifestyle, and to find ways you might be able to live more frugally as you lower your carbon footprint.

Studies show that Americans had the highest level of happiness in 1956, a much less complicated time. Since then, material consumption in our country has tripled. Clearly, stuff doesn’t buy happiness. Happiness comes from human connections, helping someone in need, volunteering, and doing what we can to make the world a better place for ourselves, our children and grandchildren, and for people around the world.

Join an EcoTeam today. Call Erin LaFaive (715-839-4712) or Meg Marshall (715-835-1733) or email us at Check out our website, for more information.