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We have reviewed some cardiovascular related health numbers in our last two blogs, but today we will change gears and focus on some musculoskeletal and balance related norms.

There are a multitude of joints in the body and each one has several different motions that it should be able to perform.  I am not going to bore you with explaining the motions of each joint and giving you proper measures for every joint in the body; however, we will focus on a few key areas that tend to be restricted in many people.

Physical TherapyHamstring tightness is one of the most common issues I see in patients.  Your hamstrings run along the back of your thigh spanning from your buttocks to your knee.  When this muscle group is tight, it can cause various issues including hip, knee, and often back pain.  Normal hamstring flexibility falls within the 70-90 degree range meaning that when you are lying on your back and raise your leg up as high as it can go while keeping the knee straight, your hip should be bent to a 70-90 degree angle.  A simple solution for the problem of tightness in the hamstring is to STRETCH.  There are several different methods of stretching the hamstrings and depending on other ailments like back or knee pain you may have to adjust the method you use.  If you are having trouble with finding a good stretch that does not aggravate other symptoms, contact your physical therapist for assistance.

Another common deficit that I see is weakness along the shoulder blades.  Typically the top muscle along your shoulder blade (upper trapezius) which helps to Physical Therapyhike your shoulder toward your ear is not weak.  The weakness is usually in the muscle that holds your shoulder blade downward (lower trapezius) while you are doing overhead or lifting work.  Physical therapists rate strength on a 0-5 scale.  If you have a 5/5 strength level, then you have no muscle strength deficits.  I don’t expect you to know your level of strength on this scale unless you have been formally assessed, but you can tell if you have weakness in these lower shoulder blade muscles by how difficult it is to keep your shoulder blades held downward while you try to lift a weighted object overhead.  There are several different exercises that your physical therapist can give you to help improve strength in these muscles.

A third area that commonly has deficits, especially in the older population, is balance.  One test known as the single leg stance test tends to be particularly difficult.  For this test an individual attempts to stand on one leg for as long as possible before having to place his/her foot down or grab onto something.  The test can be perform with the eyes open or closed.  The expected length of time that a person can hold this position varies based on age. If you want to find out if your ability is within the normal range, click here.  

In this particular test, participants unable to stand on one leg for at least five seconds are at increased risk for a fall resulting in injury.  There are various other balance tests that a physical therapist may perform which also correlate with a person’s level of balance and risk for falling.  If you are concerned about possible balance deficits or have a fear of falling, contact your physical therapist for an assessment.





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In our last blog, we discussed the normal measures for blood pressure and heart rate.  This week we will address normal body mass index and cholesterol levels.

Body mass index (BMI) calculates the projected amount of fat in your body based on your height and weight.  Obesity has been associated with several different health related problems including diabetes, heart attacks, strokes, and even cancer; therefore, it is important to monitor your BMI level in order to determine where you fall on the scale.  To calculate your BMI use the following equation:

  • BMI = weight (in kg) ÷ height2 (in meters2)

If you are not familiar with converting to the metric system, the following modification can be made to the equation:

  • BMI = [weight (in pounds) ÷ height2 (in inches2)] x 703

You can also find quick and easy BMI calculators online.  BMI ranges span from underweight to obese.  The following chart provides the various BMI classifications for adults under age 65.


For children the following scale is used.


Growth charts can be found on the CDC website to see if your child falls within the appropriate percentile.

It is important to note that BMI is not 100% accurate.  It does not account for entire body make up (muscle versus fat).  Women tend to have more body fat then men even if they rate at the same BMI level, older adults tend to have more body fat than younger adults at the same BMI level, and muscular individuals may have a high BMI due to the weight of their muscles despite a low fat content.  Overall, other assessments may be necessary in order to determine risk for various diseases and cardiovascular problems.  Waist circumference measures and blood pressure are two examples of other tests that may assist in evaluating your risk for disease.

Cholesterol levels are another important measure that you can look at in order to determine your level of health.  High cholesterol can increase your risk of heart disease and possible death from a heart attack or stroke.  There are two types of cholesterol: low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and high-density lipoprotein (HDL).  LDL levels are the ones that you want to stay low.  These low-density lipoproteins are more likely to stick to the lining of your arteries and cause clogging whereas high-density lipoproteins will continue flowing within your blood stream.  In addition to cholesterol, triglyceride levels are also important.  Triglycerides are a type of fat (lipid) that is stored in your body from calories that are not used right away after eating.  Triglycerides provide energy for the body, but if you do not use these stores of fat, then you are left at a higher risk for heart disease.  All of these levels can be determined by examination of your blood.  The following chart gives classification ranges for total cholesterol levels, LDL, HDL, and triglyceride levels.

Total cholesterol

Check out our blog next week for more “know your numbers” related to the musculoskeletal system and balance. 








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So you’re going for a check-up at the doctor’s office and you have your vitals taken, blood work done, and a general health screen is performed. In the end your are provided with a bunch of numbers including your blood pressure, heart rate, body mass index, cholesterol, etc. That’s nice and all, but what do all these numbers mean? What is a good rating for all of these tests?

Let’s start with blood pressure (BP). This is a measure that is taken at almost every doctor’s visit. The top number is your systolic BP which measures the pressure in the arteries when your heart beats. The bottom number is your diastolic BP which measures the pressure in your arteries between beats when the heart is at rest. The American Heart Association categorizes blood pressure levels in the following way:

blood pressure

Note that this chart does not provide any measures for abnormally low blood pressures. Typically individuals with low blood pressure will experience certain side effects like dizziness, lightheadedness, fainting, nausea, and various other symptoms. It is normal for your blood pressure to rise during activity due to the increased need for oxygen to get to your muscles and therefore the heart has to pump out more oxygenated blood than at rest. Generally, to have a normal response to exercise, your top number (systolic BP) should rise (possibly up to 180 mm Hg) but your bottom number (diastolic BP) shoulder show little change.

Heart rate (HR) is another important measure that also fluctuates with activity. The normal range for heart rate is between 60-80 beats per minute (bpm) for adults. Depending on your age and level of exercise intensity, your heart rate will rise normally with activity. Your maximum heart rate is typically calculated by subtracting your age from 220. The following chart displays various normal ranges for heart rate depending on age and exercise intensity level.

heart rate

A resting heart rate of over 100 bpm is called tachycardia, where as a heart rate less than 60 bpm is considered bradycardia. Elite athletes are often bradycardic at rest due to their improved heart function from exercise; however, each of these conditions could be a serious cause for concern regarding the heart. Tachycardia may leave an individual at higher risk for a stroke or cardiac arrest. Bradycardia may mean that the body isn’t getting enough blood pumped out of the heart which may require a pacemaker to help the heart maintain a proper rate. If you are concerned about any abnormalities in your heart rate, contact your doctor.






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Disclaimer:  The information in this medical library is intended for informational and educational purposes only and in no way should be taken to be the provision or practice of physical therapy, medical, or professional healthcare advice or services. The information should not be considered complete or exhaustive and should not be used for diagnostic or treatment purposes without first consulting with your physical therapist, physician or other healthcare provider. The owners of this website accept no responsibility for the misuse of information contained within this website.