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Beyond Injury Recovery or Post-Operative Rehabilitation – A Physical Therapist Can Help Keep Your Heart Healthy

Beyond Injury Recovery or Post-Operative Rehabilitation –

A Physical Therapist Can Help Keep Your Heart Healthy

February is American Heart Month!

Jessica Hutchinson, PT, DPT



Did you know:

  • Heart disease is the #1 killer of women in the US. 1
  • 1 in 3 deaths in the US are due to heart disease. 1
  • Heart disease kills roughly the same number of people in the US as all cancers and accidents combined. 1
  • Heart disease is considered a lifestyle disease and is largely preventable through lifestyle changes, such as increased physical activity. 2
  • Walking just 30 minutes/day, 5 days/week can reduce the risk of heart disease by 50% and reduce stress, cholesterol, and blood pressure. 3
  • About 3 out of every 10 U.S. adults report being inactive during their leisure time, and only half of U.S. adults report levels of aerobic physical activity consistent with national guidelines. 4

The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend that adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity, or an equivalent combination each week. 5


Add moderate to high intensity muscle strengthening at least two times per week in addition to above.

  • Moderate intensity: 50-70% of maximum heart rate. You’ll be able to talk, but not sing the words to your favorite song.6
    • Examples: Walking fast, water aerobics, yardwork, riding a bike on level surfaces, doubles tennis.
  • Vigorous intensity: 70-85% of maximum heart rate. You won’t be able to say more than a few words without pausing for a breath.6
    • Examples: Jogging and running, swimming, basketball, singles tennis, riding a bike fast or uphill.

3 Ways a Physical Therapist can help:

  1. Address mobility issues
    Physical Therapists (PTs) are experts in movement science! A PT can help get you moving and keep you moving. Your PT will evaluate and diagnose impairments in range of motion, muscle flexibility, muscle strength, speed of movement, muscle and aerobic endurance, accuracy of movement, and coordination that may impact your ability to participate in physical activity.  Additionally, your PT will assess your baseline vitals such as heart rate, respiratory rate, and blood pressure and identify any possible risk factors or barriers to increasing physical activity.
  2. Promote independence with managing healthy lifestyle habits
    Most importantly, a PT will help you maximize your ability to move and provide you with the tools for long term success. A PT will educate you on current, best-practice guidelines, moving with correct form, preventing injury, and provide you with the resources to stay active to prevent heart disease. We will also educate and provide resources to address stress, sleep, nutrition, and smoking cessation to keep your heart healthy for years to come.
  3. Prescribe an individualized exercise program
    Based on their evaluation and diagnoses, a PT will design a tailored program that is structured, safe, and effective and help you set realistic goals while addressing any perceivable barriers for long term success. This program will include aerobic activities such as walking, jogging and swimming.  Your physical therapist will also include strength training, which further decreases the risk of heart disease and improves your overall health – here’s how:
  • Strength training can speed up the body’s metabolic rate, which can decrease fatty tissue in the body.
  • It can also decrease the amount of visceral fat, or belly fat that sits around vital organs, including the heart. Excess visceral fat can contribute to health problems including heart disease.
  • Studies have shown that strength training twice a week, especially combined with regular cardiovascular activity, can have profound positive effects on heart health and overall health.

Movement is Medicine!
Call your local Movement Systems Physical Therapist today to help you get moving!
Now serving South Lake Union, Mercer Island, and Gig Harbor



Jessica Hutchinson is a Doctor of Physical Therapy and Board-Certified Clinical Specialist in Orthopedic Physical Therapy who strongly believes in a ‘patient first’ mentality for long term success. In an alternate universe, she would be a wine sommelier. She practices at the South Lake Union clinic.

Happy Pride from MSPT!

Happy Pride from Movement Systems PT!

By Jill McVey, DPT, ATC

Pride month is in full swing! While you might see rainbow crosswalks, different mulitcolored flags hanging in windows, and joyous celebrations, the LGBTQA population has not yet achieved equity in this country. This group still faces employment and housing discrimination, problems with access to medical care, social stigmatization, and violence.

You can help by being an ally, whether you work in healthcare or not.

An ally is a heterosexual and/or cisgendered person who supports equal civil rights, gender equality, and who challenges sexual and gender phobia. This goes beyond simply feeling compassion for others — allies take concrete actions to end discrimination.

Healthcare is an important arena to focus your attention as an ally. Sexual and gender minorities report a higher incidence of mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, and suicidal behaviors, with rejection by family and harassment by peers as strong contributing factors.

According to a Center for American Progress study, up to 10% of sexual minorities, and up to 30% of gender minorities face disturbing levels of discrimination, including being turned away from care. As a result, LGBTQA individuals less likely to seek health care services in the first place.

What can you as an ally do to change these numbers?

  • Educate yourself! Learn and correctly use inclusive language. Do you know the difference between sex and gender? Can you start to eliminate gendered language from your vocabulary? More terms are found here:
  • Notice if your doctor or therapist uses inclusive language and asks inclusive questions on their intake paperwork. Do they ask for your pronouns or use other inclusive language? If not, speak up! Tell them you want to see all individuals cared for the way you are.
  • Spread the word. Did you find a great yoga instructor or therapist who works to create an open, safe space for all? Shout them out on social media or give them a five star review so others can find them too. Word of mouth is powerful.
  • Help to change the laws. Progress is slow, but it can speed up if you contact your local, state, or federal representatives to let them know that you won’t tolerate discriminatory laws or policy. If you have the financial ability, consider donating to advocacy groups such as PFLAG or the ACLU. As an ally, you likely have more power in society than minority groups; your voice can be powerful in affecting change. Use it!

If you work in the health and/or fitness profession, you can take many actions to make your workspace inclusive and welcoming to all:

  • Learn the laws and how they might impact your patients. For example, does your patient’s spouse or partner have the legal right to make medical decisions for them?
  • Use inclusive language on your intake forms and in your verbal communications. Customize your intake forms. Use gender-neutral terms such as significant other or partner rather than husband or wife. Ask your patient if they are in a relationship rather than if they are married, and include your patient’s partner in their care the same way you would for a heterosexual/cisgendered couple. Recommendations for and samples of inclusive patient intake forms are available at and
  • Provide visual cues that your office is a safe space. Post a non-discrimination policy which includes sexual orientation, gender identity, and expression, in clear view in your waiting area.
  • If you use an electronic documentation system which only includes binary language, start a campaign to change it! Submit a support ticket every single day and ask your colleagues to help. It’s easier to use inclusive language and support your patients when your documentation system does too.
  • List your practice on the GLMA (Gay and Lesbian Medical Association) Provider Directory; see for details.
  • Include your own pronouns in your email signature line. Here’s some info about pronouns:
  • Educate your coworkers and colleagues so they can become allies too. Together we can make a huge difference!

Want even more information?

Happy Pride Month! Let’s keep the advocacy as well as the celebration rolling all year long!


Jill McVey, DPT, ATC is asexual and agender and an ally for all people.

I Want to Ride My Bicycle – Commuting tips for bike month

I Want to Ride my Bicycle

By Julianne Simpson


Each year as May and Bike Month arrive, I am so excited to see more cyclists out on my morning and evening commutes. I love seeing their new clothing, new bikes and encouraging them to overcome their nervousness on their first bike commutes of the year.

I’ve been communing to and from work on a bicycle year-round for the last 15 years or so and people often ask me about what you might need to start commuting. I used to say that you really just need a bike and a helmet, but now thanks to bike share services like Lime and Jump, you don’t even need a bike!

If you have your own bike, having a proper fit is critical to keeping your knees, back, neck, etc happy and healthy. Terri Sullivan, PT, DPT, OCS offers bike fittings at our Seattle location. Give us a call to schedule one!

For the basics beyond a bike and helmet, keeping the water off you and off your stuff is an important consideration. For keeping water off my stuff, I love waterproof panniers, bags that you attach to a rack on your bike. A waterproof messenger bag or backpack is also great but they will give you a sweaty back. As to keeping yourself dry, there are two ways to go. One is with rain gear that goes over your clothes, the other is with warm clothes that can get wet and dry clothes to change into at work.

Being visible to other road users is also critical. I have always loved to have double lights, that way if one light loses power, you’ve got another to cover you. That means I have two front lights and two back lights. A lot of cyclists wear safety vests, some of them even flash.

Even if you are not participating on a bike month team through Cascade Bike Club, it’s fun to get out and explore Seattle’s bike trails and growing collection of Neighborhood Greenways and Protected Bike Lanes (City of Seattle Bike Map). Venturing out of Seattle is also fun. King County has maps of their trails. Washington Bikes has a large collection of maps as well.

City biking skills are also critical to learn and practice to stay safe on city streets. Classes are available for both adults and kids through Cascade Bike club. If you are feeling unsure about how to ride safely in an urban setting, Cascade Bike Club even offers an Urban Commuting Class for adults. Pedalheads and Cascade both offer classes and camps for kids.

Bike Month is great time to get (back) on a bike. Come say hi today, May 17, 2019 at our Bike Day station in front of our new location, 1200 Westlake from 4p-6p. We will have snacks, tunes and fun stuff!


Julianne Simpson, DPT, holds a BA from Oberlin College and a Doctorate of Physical Therapy from Eastern Washington University. A general orthopedic and pelvic health therapist, she is passionate about helping people move more and empowering her patients to live healthier lives. She dreams of raising kind children, cycling over the Alps and surfing in Alaska.

Texts4Mom – Happy Mother’s Day!

Texts4Mom – Happy Mother’s Day!

by Bridget Dwyer

Happy Mother’s Day! This week, we invited our friend from Fit4Mom Seattle, Bridget Dwyer, to write a guest blog post about motherhood, community and being active. Movement Systems physical therapists are here to support you in your active life. Our PTs can help you with incontinence, pelvic pain, diastasis rectus abdominis and a whole host of other issues. Enjoy her post!

One of my favorite texts every Mother’s Day is the group text from my mom friends.  Every year, we take a moment to wish each other a Happy Mother’s Day.  And every year, we get a chance to think about how lucky we are to have found our little village.  Motherhood isn’t meant to be done alone.  It’s not a solo sport, it’s a team.  Behind those key players of partners and family, your Village is your backup.  Your 6th man on the bench. The women you text when you are Just. Going. To. Lose. It. Today.  The ones who you ask what the hell to do about hemorrhoids because everything you Google looks scary and you’re too embarrassed to ask anyone else.  The ladies who have seen you at your most hormonal and pregnant and are STILL your friends.

To me, the absolute best part about Motherhood (aside from my actual children) is the people that it’s brought into my life.  I found my Village in a Stroller Strides class and in a Run Club. On those early morning stretches of concrete, with no phones to distract us, and no kids to chase after, we had the chance to just be ourselves, and to connect with each other.  Other friends found their Villages in their Co-Op preschool, as they worked together.  We know that Motherhood can feel isolating, to be stuck at the mercy of a baby’s schedule and needs.  It’s a time in our lives when it can feel extra hard to put ourselves on the priority list, behind all of those things we *should* be doing.  And it’s okay.  Friendship happens when we are accepted for who we truly are.  When we open up and let someone in.  Motherhood, which was so lonely at first, became my doorway into a Village of women that I cherish.  Find your people.  And send them a text on Mother’s Day to say “Thanks for being my Village”.

Bridget Dwyer: Boy mom, FitPro, runner.  Forever chasing down my wild and crazy dudes.  Come join me on the trail or in a FIT4MOM workout.

Spring Outside with the MSPT Team

Spring Outside with the MSPT Team

We love the return of warmer weather and the start of outdoor exercise season. This week, we asked our staff about what they love to do outdoors in nice weather and why. As you can see, we have a staff of outdoors lovers. Check out our outdoor interests and pick the therapist who can best help you get back to your favorite outdoor activities. We would love to help you get back to the fun!

Abby Halpin, DPT, Seattle
I enjoy anything with a view. I love trail running or hiking, especially for pay-off at the top while taking in Washington’s beautiful mountain ranges. I love the smile on my dog’s face and chatting with friends along the way.

Andrea Trask, DPT, OCS, South Mercer Island
Being outdoors puts my soul at peace – especially in the sun. I can feel myself relax the second I go outside on a sunny day. I have always loved hiking, but now I especially love being able to get my whole family exercising together, and I actually like the extra workout of carrying a 30-lb kid on my back (plus when it’s sunny, they usually sleep part of the hike!).

Betsy Rigsbee, DPT, OCS, COMT, South Mercer Island
I have just started gardening for the first time and I love it. I like getting my hands dirty, the smell of soil, and the feel of earth in my hands. I appreciate all the colors plants, trees and flowers provide us. I love doing many things outdoors but I absolutely love the smell right after it rains. And I truly feel energized by being in sunlight, so if it’s nice enough outside I’ll take any portable outside and do it on my patio.

Carrie Hall, PT, MHS, President and Owner
Warm weather brings me back to paddle boarding, biking, and hiking.  These are my most pleasurable activities to combine the joy of fitness with the purity of nature.  I am definitely a warm weather outdoor enthusiast!

Corley McBeth, DPT, Seattle
I like getting back to hiking when the weather gets nicer. I enjoy taking my fitness outdoors and I like a challenge – the longer and steeper the hike, the better. We are lucky here in Seattle to be relatively close to so many hiking trails!

Erica Clark, PT, DPT, South Mercer Island
My family and I enjoy boating as the temperatures warm up in the Northwest. Whether it is on the shores of Lake Washington , the waters of the great Puget Sound or the San Juan Islands the beauty and enjoyment is boundless.

Erik Bies DPT, MS, South Mercer Island
Living in Washington is like being on permanent vacation. As the seasons change, my view of “nice weather” changes too. Once spring rolls around though, spring skiing, flyfishing, and golfing can all be done in the same day! I call it the Trifecta. When I don’t have as much time to spoil myself with those activities, a run or walk by the river and through the woods with my wife and border collie is just right.

Jill McVey, DPT, ATC, Seattle
After a perspective-shifting trip to NYC last year, I now like to use nice weather here to explore Seattle with my “tourist” eyes – that is, to see my city in different ways.

Directly inspired by my NYC trip, my husband and I now enjoy taking a “city walk” on weekends. We take a bus to a neighborhood with which we are unfamiliar, then explore it for hours on foot, usually culminating with a meal at a new-to-us restaurant. It’s a low key way to get some miles of walking in and learn about different spaces in Seattle.

After the sun goes down, I like to strap on my roller skates and roll up and down Alki. I get to watch the last ferries crossing the sound, the lights from downtown and the stadiums, and the south end of Magnolia. Alki is quieter at night but still alive with bonfires and people walking on the beach.

When it’s really hot I like to take a kayak out on the water from Lincoln Park and paddle up and down the coastline. I get to see a side of Seattle that’s nearly impossible to get from the road and get to keep my eyes out for all sorts of birds, seals, and even an elusive orca or two.

Joanna Wu, Front Office Coordinator, South Mercer Island
I enjoy running outside but when we move into the summer months, I love swimming outdoors.  There’s something about swimming outdoors that is different than swimming indoors. At least for me it’s 100x more fun. Being able to look up and see bright blue skies (instead of a ceiling) makes me happy.

Julianne Simpson, DPT, Seattle
I bike all year, rain or shine. When the weather gets better, I love riding through the smells of springtime and having cherry petals getting stuck in my hair! This summer I also plan on getting in a few surf days. There’s nothing better than sitting on a sunny PNW beach! I also look forward to being barefoot as much as I can in the nice weather.

Kendall Wisehart, DPT, ATC, Seattle
Literally anything! Walking, hiking, sking. Once the weather starts to get nice again it reminds me of just how wonderful the PNW can be. Nicer weather also means longer days and increased energy to go out and enjoy all the sights and sounds.

Lexi Pearce, Front Office Coordinator, Seattle
I just love walking around outside and walking to places that I’d normally drive to when the weathers not great. My partner and I usually try to go to the park so we can be in nature, and it’s always a bonus to walk down to the dog park to watch the puppies playing in the water at Magnuson.

Roxanne Lewellyn, Front Office Coordinator, Seattle
I started playing Ultimate Frisbee this year and love playing, especially while the weather is nice. The community is very welcoming and fun, and I love the social aspect of it in addition to the game itself, being part of a team really helps me stick to it. I never thought that I would play a team sport for the first time in my adult life, but it is a blast, a great cardio work out, and I’m so glad I started!

Terri Sullivan, PT, DPT, OCS, Seattle and Gig Harbor
I love to bike and run outside most of the year for a variety of reasons.  I feel like the change in terrain and inclines/declines provide more of a challenge and variety for the musculoskeletal system, causing adaptations mentally and physically during the activity to make it more fun and stimulating.  But what I really love doing in the outdoors is hiking on a secluded trail in the mountains, being surrounded by nature and taking in all the pleasures for the senses.

Why Physical Therapy is About More Than ‘Getting Better’

Why Physical Therapy is About More Than ‘Getting Better’

By Carrie Hall, PT, MHS

When you make an appointment with a physical therapist (PT) to rehabilitate after a shoulder injury, for example, it’s because you want to get better, right? Well, yes, but what exactly does that mean? As it turns out, “getting better” means different things to different people. To some, proper recovery from a shoulder injury means being able to carry a golf bag and swing a club while to others, it means being able to lift their child in and out of their car seat.

Here’s the thing – helping your PT know and understand your own personal goals is the key to success. As a patient, that means speaking up early and often about how the injury is limiting the everyday activities that are most important to you. With this knowledge, your PT can adapt your approach and individualize aspects of the treatment plan to ensure that you meet your goals. At Movement Systems Physical Therapy, we call this “person-centered care.”

It is part of a physical therapist’s job description to work with individuals to reduce pain and to improve strength, range of motion, balance and mobility. Your PT will address these aspects of your treatment regardless, but if you return home to unload the dishwasher and realize that you still can’t reach to place the coffee mugs on the shelf, then that’s a problem.

Your PT can’t possibly know everything that’s important to you—or the obstacles that you face—unless you share that information.  One way around this is to develop a list of the activities you cannot participate in at your preferred level. This list can include household chores, work-related activities, recreational or athletic activities, or hobbies. Bring this list to your first appointment and share this with your PT.  To take it a step farther, try to narrow that list down to ONE main GOAL – the thing that you want to be able to do better.  This ONE GOAL can give you something to focus on during your course of treatment—and motivate you to keep showing up and following the exercise program that your PT prescribes.  Communicate, Engage, Achieve – that is a successful formula.

With a little effort on both sides, you and your PT can work together to customize your care to get you back to doing what gives you joy. The Doctors of Physical Therapy at Movement Systems will guide you to be forever better!


Why you should be deadlifting

Why You Should Be Deadlifting

By Corley McBeth, DPT


There seems to be no exercise more effective than the deadlift in instilling fear in the hearts of patients. I cannot tell you the number of excuses, hesitations, and outright refusals I have heard regarding its performance. It would seem that we still mistakenly believe that the squat is the safest and most optimal way of lifting and moving load (thanks WebMD), but I am here to tell you that just is not the case. Mechanically speaking, the deadlift, when performed correctly, is the proper way to lift – whether it be a case of wine, a heavy moving box, or a piece of furniture. It is the ultimate functional movement.

So why are we so terrified of it? Usually it’s something along the lines of “my back is weak/sore/painful” or “that’s how I hurt myself” or “but I might hurt my back”. However none of those are a good reason to avoid it – in fact, those are all reasons you should be doing it! There are many contributing causes to back pain. Back pain can stem from weak glutes and hamstrings making it difficult to effectively move the load you required of the task. It can also come from weak spinal erectors and/or weak abdominal and pelvic floor muscles. A properly performed deadlift challenges your body to maintain a specific spinal position thereby training it to remain stable when exposed to high shear forces. You will get more benefit from a properly performed deadlift than you will from hundreds of crunches or a 3-minute plank hold.

This is because deadlifts are a total body exercise. Not only does the deadlift help facilitate strong and powerful glute and hamstring muscles and effectively challenge your core, it also places greater demand on the upper body than a squat. Squats don’t have the same effect on your scapula and rotator cuff in terms of stability, nor do they require the same muscle activity from your biceps and latissimus dorsi muscles. Deadlifts are also one of the safest weight lifting exercises to perform – you aren’t going to get pinned under weight or risk getting pulled over backward. They don’t require a spotter, you simply drop the weight if you get into trouble.

That being said, deadlifts, when performed correctly, are not bad for your back. Poorly performed deadlifts, regardless of weight, can place you at risk of injury. One must first have the required mobility as well as the appropriate stability, in order to perform a deadlift with proper form. And no, it’s not just for powerlifters. Deadlifts can be and should be performed by just about everybody.  Sure, you may need instruction and supervision during the learning process. There are many variations and modifications to allow for a safe and appropriate progression to lifting and moving heavy loads with the deadlift. Your physical therapist or other trained fitness professional can help to properly assess and instruct you in the correct performance of this movement (see video below for an example, but please use feedback for practice). Keep doing your squats, but don’t neglect the deadlift – your glutes, hamstrings and core will thank you.


Weight Lifting for Women with Breast Cancer-Related Lymphedema

Weight Lifting for Women with Breast Cancer-Related Lymphedema

By Corley McBeth, DPT

The development of breast cancer-related lymphedema (BCRL) is a troublesome consequence of breast cancer treatment. The onset often occurs after lymph node biopsy and radiation affecting the armpit area. BCRL is characterized by the accumulation of fluid in the interstitial tissues in the arm, shoulder, neck or torso. It may be associated with varying levels of pain and discomfort, as well as heaviness and weakness in the arm. There is also a heighted susceptibility to infection in the associated arm. Breast cancer-related lymphedema can result in decreased function and impact self-care abilities, and also have a negative influence on overall quality of life.

Prior advice to women struggling with breast cancer-related lymphedema involved minimizing stress to the affected arm, which may lead to physical activity avoidance. However, more recent research is demonstrating that carefully progressed strength training routines do not increase the risk or severity of BCRL. In addition, in breast cancer survivors at risk for lymphedema, modest weight lifting does not increase the risk of developing lymphedema. There are other positive effects of strength training with this population including increased muscle strength, decreased pain, and improved quality of life.

It should be noted, however, that caution should be taken when initiating a weight training program. Lymphedema should be stable prior to starting weight lifting. Compression garments should be worn on the involved upper extremity during upper body activities. An appropriate program will begin in a supervised setting, at low resistance levels. Resistance exercises performed with dumbbells should be started with 1 to 3lbs and progressed only if there are no changes in lymphedema symptoms after 2-4 sessions. Women should be aware of what to look for and how to respond if there is a change in swelling or symptoms. The involved arm should be closely monitored for increases in size, heaviness, stiffness, fatigue, or compromised mobility. Any exacerbation in symptoms should be addressed with a certified lymphedema therapist.

As with any type of exercise routine, consistency is key. An ideal program would involve 2 days per week of upper and lower body weight lifting. This should be performed on a regular basis, with care taken to minimize breaks or irregularity. It has been hypothesized that irregular attendance could lead to injury and/or exacerbation of lymphedema symptoms.

If you are interested in beginning an exercise program, “Strength and Courage” offers exercises for breast cancer survivors at You can also speak with a physical therapist about developing an appropriate weight training routine in order to gain strength and function.


  1. Schmitz K, Ahmed R, Troxel A, et al. Weight Lifting in women with breast-cancer related lymphedema. N Eng J Med. 2009;361(7):664-673.
  2. Schmitz K, Troxel A, Cheville A, et al. Physical activity and lymphedema (the PAL trial): assessing the safety of progressive strength training in breast cancer survivors. Contemp Clin Trials. 2009;30:233-245.

Functional Fitness Training

Functional Fitness Training

by Corley McBeth, DPT

The terms “functional fitness” and “functional strength training” are popular buzzwords in the fitness industry. But what do they mean? The answer is open to wide interpretation. To put it simply, functional training is the idea of building strength that matters for daily life by doing exercises that stem from natural, every day activities like bending, pushing, rotating. For example, squatting mimics getting into and out of a chair, while deadlifting is used to lift heavy boxes off the floor. This is achieved by focusing on multi-joint movements that exercise several muscle groups together, rather than isolating single muscles or a single group of muscles. The desired result is that the individual is able to perform daily activities with greater ease. Continue reading “Functional Fitness Training”