News - Kinetic Edge Physical Therapy
Saturday December 1, 2018


Lycra tunnel


by Occupational Therapist Elise Spronk

Take a trip down memory lane with me. Think back to your best memory of gift opening at Christmas. Can you recall a favorite gift you received? How did it look, sound, feel? More importantly, how did it make you feel when you received it? From whom did you receive it?

Iowa Occupational Therapist Elise SpronkMy first memories race toward homemade doll clothes made from scraps of my own clothing, a magical musical thing, and a cladly dressed teddy bear I wanted for months. My childhood memories of receiving gifts has turned into the joy I now experience when I give gifts to my own kids.

However, the desire to give the perfect gift can sometimes be stressful and take away from the joy of giving. Thus, I’ve compiled a list of 20 Christmas gift ideas for sensory development for all of you who want to bring joy to the kids you love this Christmas that will also benefit their developing brains and sensory systems.

These are organized by sensory system categories and are not meant to be an endorsement for any particular brand. So, in other words, I’m not getting a kick back from a company to promote their items. I’m just a mom and aunt who also happens to be an occupational therapist who gets to play with toys every day.

Movement: The movement (vestibular) sense gives us a physical reference that helps us make sense of visual information, particularly where we are and other things in our environment are in relation to each other.  It builds the foundations for handwriting, bilateral coordination, and most physical activities.  We all even move to a certain extent in order to listen better as movement stimulates the listening centers of the brain.  Kids with vestibular processing problems may need to move more.  Children who cannot process movement must use their vision to compensate.  They might be clumsy, fall out of chairs, be slow to complete work, or appear disorganized.

  1. Trampoline: There are a variety of indoor and outdoor models that are great. One client’s mom recommended the Skywalker Trampoline for indoor play. It has a safety net that can be removed as the child grows and no longer needs this feature.
  2. Outdoor play set: Gross motor and pretend play are both developed during play with a backyard play set. I especially love the ones that also include a fort, probably from fond memories of making mud pies as a child.
  3. Dizzy Disc Junior: This helps develop balance, coordination, spatial awareness and sensory stimulation for children 3+ years of age. The Dizzy Disc Junior is very durable and can be used for kids up to 200 pounds.
  4. Lycra tunnelLycra tunnel: I prefer the homemade versions of these tunnels because they are way more economical… if you know someone who sews. I purchased a 10-foot-long piece of lycra/cotton blend fabric and double stitched the ends together to make a tunnel. Kids love to crawl, do animal walks, push balls, and even just hideout and relax inside these tunnels.
  5. Swings: Indoor and outdoor swings are a great way to provide calming sensory input. I especially love pod swings for calming, and platform swings for sitting on while doing other fine motor activities.
  6. Experiences including memberships and tickets to places such as the zoo, science center, trampoline park, local recreation centers make a great gift that keeps on giving all year long. If you’re local to the Des Moines are, you can get a year long pass to the Blank Park Zoo and Science Center of Iowa for $168.

Tactile: The tactile sense comes from how we interpret information from the receptors on our skin. When you feel something, your nervous system helps you sense the object’s pressure, texture, traction, and other tactile qualities. Some kids experience difficulty processing tactile information. You might notice your child is over-reactive if he avoids certain textures, doesn’t like getting messy, avoids certain foods, or doesn’t like certain clothing items. On the other hand, some kids are under-reactive which is evidenced in behaviors like loving to touch and be touched, fiddling with objects in their hands, or fearlessly touching everything they see, even if the object might be dangerous. These gifts help promote a healthy tactile system.

  1. Kinetic sand: This can be purchased or make your own following our recipe!  Even older kids like to play with kinetic sand as it is very calming. It’s not that messy so kids with tactile sensitivities can explore without aversion.
  2. Water beadsWater beads: Walmart sells a large jar for $8.97, often in the craft/color section of the store. This is a great bargain as a medium-sized container can be made with only a few tablespoons of the small beads. If you can’t pick this up at your local Walmart, you can order this pack online. A trick I’ve learned is to add salt and keep the lid off to preserve freshness. I also hide small beads in the water beads for kids to search and then string.
  3. Kits to make homemade slime: I prefer using homemade recipes from Pinterest but you can also purchase a slime kit like this one.
  4. Soft fleece homemade blankets and weighted blankets: Weighted blankets should be 7-10% of the child’s weight. Fleece tie blankets are easy to make for the non-sewers and add a personal touch since you make them yourself!

Vision: Vision helps us process, understand, and take action in our environment. Most kids develop a strong visual system simply by participating in activities that encourage visual exploration in their everyday environment. These gifts will help promote a healthy visual system!

  1. Liquid motion bubbler: These liquid motion bubblers are small, fascinating toys that can provide visual stimulation for a child and are a good alternative to technology.
  2. Light-Brite: This is an oldie but a goodie. I prefer the slanted Light Brites that may be considered “vintage”. By having the board angled there is an additional benefit of improving fine motor coordination training with encouraging wrist extension. This is a fun, entertaining way to work on eye-hand coordination skills.
  3. Spot It
  4. Kanoodle
  5. Q-Bitz Extreme: These three games are some of our favorite visual perception games to use in the clinic, especially with older kids.
  6. Slick Trick Bouncing Bubbles: Watching bubbles can be very calming for kids. And if you add in having them try to catch the bubbles, you can work on eye-hand coordination.

Auditory: A healthy auditory system allows for children to respond appropriately and naturally to sounds. Your child might be struggling with auditory processing if she is distracted by unimportant noises or if they miss out on important noises, such as directions from you or a teacher. If your child has outbursts as a result of noisy environments or tries to avoid noisy environments, he is likely hypersensitive to noise. If your child seems like she doesn’t hear things around her or doesn’t respond appropriately to auditory input (like her name being called or following directions), she may be hyposensitive to noise. These gifts help with a child’s auditory system.

  1. Rain stick: Encourage imagination, motor skills, and auditory stimulation with a rain stick!
  2. Musical instrument set: This might be a better gift to give to your niece or nephew since sometimes music sets drive parents crazy (Ha!). Music sets provide sound stimulation while allowing kids to work on rhythm and motor skills including using their right and left hands at the same time or with alternating movements.
  3. Simon: This is another toy that’s made a comeback that has both auditory and visual sensory benefits. Simon works on reaction time, auditory-visual-and hand coordination. Kids can play alone or with a friend.
  4. Rocktopus: With three ways to play, Think & Learn Rocktopus helps kids explore a variety of musical styles while learning about different instruments, rhythmic patterns, and more. Rocktopus comes with 15 musical instrument pods for preschoolers to mix (and remix) and let their creativity flow!
Saturday December 1, 2018


Astym deep tissue massage Des Moines

How to eliminate back pain (Part 4)

Enhancing foot and ankle mobility

by Dr. Troy Vander Molen, PT, DPT

It’s time for part four of our series: 5 Reasons Why Your Back Hurts When You Walk. This month, we’re focusing on how to eliminate lower back pain by focusing on limited foot and ankle mobility.

Astym deep tissue massage Des MoinesStudies demonstrate that every time your foot hits the ground, your body absorbs forces equivalent to two-three times your body weight. If your foot is stiff and does not flatten when you walk like it is designed to do, increased forces are transmitted to your spine, which increases pressure on the spine and can irritate the joints and nerves in the spine.

The following activities are a good start if you need to enhance foot and ankle mobility, but it is always wise to seek the advice of a lower back pain specialist to assess your specific needs and find the exact program to overcome your unique issues. Remember, if you want good outcomes, it is always better to assess than to guess.

  1. Foam Rolling & Massage Sticks – The same foam roller you use for thoracic mobility can be used to enhance foot and ankle mobility. Just sit on the ground and place your calf on the foam roll with your other leg on top. Roll over the calf while actively moving the ankle for a minute or two, stopping briefly on any trigger points you feel.

If you have difficulty creating enough force through the calf on the foam roller, you can also purchase a massage stick. Get in a half kneel position, lean forward, and push through the calf with the massage stick like Mike Reinold of Champion Physical Therapy & Performance in Massachusetts demonstrates in this short video.

  1. Calf Stretching – There are many ways to stretch the calf, but a method that works for nearly everyone is to get close to a wall and place the toes on one foot up on the wall while your heel touches the ground. Bring your body close to the wall until you feel a stretch on the back of your calf and hold for 15-30 seconds, like the people at Next Level Physical Therapy (Hamilton, NJ) demonstrate in this video.

  1. Simple Ankle Mobility Exercise – Hockey training expert Kevin Neeld shows how you can turn the previous calf stretch into a simple ankle mobility exercise by adding a dynamic movement element to the stretch in this video. If you look closely, you can see that his knee moves towards the wall in three planes: straight forward, slightly inward, and slightly outward.

  1. Advanced Ankle Mobility Exercise – Canadian chiropractor Jeff Cubos demonstrates another variation on ankle mobility in the half kneeling position using a dowel. Place the dowel just outside the fifth toe of the front foot. When you lean forward, bring the inside of your knee outside the dowel while keeping the bottom of your foot firmly planted on the floor. Check it out in this video.

In part five of this series, the Kinetic Edge team and I will continue to provide practical information on how to eliminate back pain by managing spine arthritis and/or stenosis. If you can’t wait for that information to be released and you have health insurance benefits that are scheduled to renew at the beginning of 2019, I welcome you to contact us today to set up a thorough evaluation with one of our lower back pain experts.

Even if you’re not experiencing pain currently but have dealt with it in the past, you’d likely benefit from the help of a knowledgeable physical therapist who can find and fix the issues that contribute to the pain. Fixing those root problems will reduce the likelihood of your pain returning.

Want to learn more about eliminating back pain? Check out the other articles from this series:

Tuesday November 27, 2018



imageFor the past 19 years, I have run the minutes of my years on my birthday. For some, this is no bid deal, as some people run their years in miles. For others, the thought is crazy, especially in the middle of December.

At age 25 I felt let to start this tradition that I felt I could sustain for many years.  The run for most years has been pretty easy.  As I got closer to 40, I realized that I would need to start training for my birthday run and be more prepared as the years brought more minutes.  For the past several years I have been trying to do the run with others, as my goals with endurance sports have been shifting to be more around community instead of just competition.  This is not just because I am getting older, but because I have learned that doing activity with others is quite fulfilling.

This year, the tradition continues. Please join me for a 44 minute run at 7:00 AM on Monday, December 17th. We will be leaving from our Des Moines clinic at 516 3rd Street, Suite 100. To RSVP, email us or call 515-309-4706.

I challenge you to start your own health traditions. Don’t forget to invite others to join you on the journey!

Thursday November 1, 2018


Stiff Upper Back

How to Eliminate Back Pain (Part 3): Decreasing Upper Back Stiffness

Dr. Troy Vander Molen, PT, DPT

In our June 1, 2018 article entitled 5 Reasons Why Your Back Hurts When You Walk, I outlined the most common root causes of this type of back pain: poor hip mobility, decreased hip strength, stiff upper back, limited foot and ankle mobility, and spine arthritis. In this month’s follow-up installment, I will highlight the problems often caused by stiffness in the mid- to upper back and what you can do to eradicate those problems.

As I often say, a lack of stability at a particular link in the kinetic chain causes your body to display dysfunctional movement at that joint. Likewise, a lack of mobility at a particular joint (or set of joints) also has consequences, but these consequences most often affect neighboring regions, particularly the closest neighbors. This is the case at the mid- to upper back. Poor mobility in this area increases movement demands below at the lower back and above at the neck.

Stiff Upper BackSo, once again, we see that the body part that experiences pain isn’t really the true problem. It is simply the part that is experiencing increased mechanical stress because of the root problem.

The thoracic spine is an area of the spine that has the least amount of mobility primarily because it is surrounded by the rib cage, which exists to protect several important organs in the thorax. The rib cage is also a connection point to many critical core muscles.

The end result is that, by its design, the thoracic spine area does not move excessively, but that does not mean that movement in this region is not important. It is vital! Poor thoracic mobility can affect the lower back, hip, shoulder, and neck. Unfortunately, though, our daily postures make most of us prone to thoracic tightness.

The following activities are a good start if you need to enhance upper back mobility, but it is always wise to seek the advice of a lower back pain specialist to assess your specific needs and find the exact program to overcome your unique issues. Remember, if you want good outcomes, it is always better to assess than to guess.

  1. Foam Rolling – There are a ton of ways to use a foam roller to enhance thoracic mobility, and thoracic extension is one motion that can be accentuated. Watch the video below produced by Dan Pope, a physical therapist and certified strength coach. Remember to relax the spine as you move over the roller, because the goal is to gain mobility in multiple vertebral joints. You can accomplish relaxation by focusing on deep breathing techniques. Don’t hold your breath.

  1. Seated Trunk Rotation – This exercise (demonstrated below in a video produced by Jeff Cubos) is done sitting with a tall posture on the front of a chair. An object is placed between the knees, and this object is squeezed to engage the core, which stabilizes the lower back and emphasizes movement at the thoracic spine. If you are doing this exercise correctly, you will feel limitations to rotation with minimal trunk movement.

  1. Quadruped Trunk Rotation – There are few people who understand the importance of a balance between mobility and stability than Eric Cressey, who owns baseball training facilities in Massachusetts and Florida. In the video below, Cressey drives trunk rotation with his arm while in on all fours. To limit lower back rotation, a person should flex the hips (and therefore the lumbar spine) by moving the hips closer to the heels.

In upcoming installments, the Kinetic Edge team and I will continue to provide practical information on how to eliminate back pain by enhancing foot and ankle mobility (Part 4) and managing spine arthritis and/or stenosis (Part 5). If you can’t wait for that information to be released and you have health insurance benefits that are scheduled to renew at the beginning of 2019, I welcome you to contact us today to set up a thorough evaluation with one of our lower back pain experts. And remember, poor thoracic mobility may also be the root cause of your shoulder or neck pain as well.

Even if you’re not experiencing pain currently but have dealt with it in the past, you’d likely benefit from the help of a knowledgeable physical therapist who can find and fix the issues that contribute to the pain. Fixing those root problems will reduce the likelihood that your pain will return.

Thursday November 1, 2018


Matt Scotton enters Kinetic Egdge Physical Therapy in Newton


by Lindsey Klyn, Marketing Manager at Kinetic Edge

Matt Scotton Kinetic Edge Physical Therapy in NewtonStar Wars fans are familiar with the concept of the student becoming the master, but at Kinetic Edge, we’re doing things in reverse these days. Clinic Manager, Doctor of Physical Therapy, and Athletic Trainer (Can we call him the master of our Newton clinic?) Matt Scotton underwent surgery to replace his ACL on October 18 after tearing it while doing a backward lunge.  Now he’s become a physical therapy client for the first time ever.

This isn’t the first time Scotton has gone through ACL surgery though. As a 14-year-old, he tore his ACL playing football. Back then, a surgeon sewed the ligament back together and then after the surgeon placed him in a cast from his mid-thigh to his ankle for eight weeks. He was on crutches for almost three months.

Matt Scotton at age 14 after ACL surgery“I didn’t receive any physical therapy after my knee surgery at age 14, but I wanted to play baseball and football again so I studied leg strengthening exercises and realized that I loved studying anatomy and biomechanics,” shared Scotton. “Turns out, that ACL tear was one of the best things that ever happened to me. It helped me find the perfect career for me.”

Since then, doctors learned much about the importance of early motion and prescriptive exercises from physical therapists so recovery from an ACL surgery looks much differently for Scotton this time around. He currently wears a locking knee brace and uses one crutch. Plus, his first physical therapy appointment occurred on October 22, just four days after surgery. Now he’s on the physical therapy schedule at Kinetic Edge twice per week, just like his physical therapy clients.

Matt Scotton Initial Evaluation for Physical Therapy in Newton“Our entire team participated in Matt’s initial evaluation,” shared Physical Therapist Jared Gerber. “We rarely do evaluations together, and we all do things a little differently, so it was cool to all work together to develop a plan.”

Scotton has worked alongside hundreds of teams in his lifetime as an athletic trainer for over a quarter of a century. Now, he’s learning another example of the power of teamwork as he experiences being a physical therapy client of the team at Kinetic Edge Physical Therapy in Newton.

“I have learned that teams with great chemistry and common goals can accomplish much more than any team who has a few superstars and lacks tight-knit people who work together toward the same goals,” commented Scotton. “Both my knee and my heart feel better after working and learning from my teammates at Kinetic Edge because of how talented they are, the chemistry we share, and the genuine care they show.”

Already, his teammates have suggested modifications to some of the basic exercises that helped Scotton reduce swelling and regain his range of motion more rapidly. Scotton is confident his team will help him gain strength faster and get rid of his crutch sooner too.

Scotton’s counting down the days until he can resume his passions of biking and running without pain. Even little things like walking on uneven ground without knee instability are anticipated soon as a result of this surgery and physical therapy at Kinetic Edge. Scotton expects this ACL surgery will be even better than the one he did at age 14, giving him a stable knee for another 35 years or more.

Physical therapy is a well-kept secret from many people, and many people don’t realize you don’t need a doctor’s referral to see a physical therapist in Iowa. Statistics report that 75% of people have muscular or joint pain during the year and less than 20% receive physical therapy.

At Kinetic Edge Physical Therapy, we’re committed to transforming lives and restoring hope through movement for each person we treat, whether you know nothing about physical therapy or you’ve been practicing it for 25 years like Scotton. If you have muscular or joint pain, give us a call at 866-588-0230 to see what Kinetic Edge can do for you.