Take Care of Your Body

This blog features a few articles by Bay Ridge Center's exercise instructor Mary Ann Coughlin. Mary Ann is a Physical Therapist and Certified Exercise Expert for Aging Adults. Each of these articles appeared in our Chatterbox newsletter.

Have an ache? An exercise that needs explaining? A problem with your walking? An adjustment to your assistive device? Stop in at Bay Ridge Connects, 7609 Third Avenue, on Wednesday mornings from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. to ask Mary Ann Coughlin, our resident physical therapist, any health care questions you may have.


January 2022

I am often asked about the difference between a strain and a sprain. A strain usually involves a quick tear, twist or pull of the muscle or tendon. Tendons are dense bands that attach the muscle to bone. Pain, weakness and muscle spasms are common symptoms associated with a strain. A sudden motion that causes your muscle to overstretch then contract quickly can lead to mild or severe tearing of the muscle tissue leading to a strain.

Sprains, on the other hand, affect the ligaments which are thick bands of cartilage made up of collagen that attach and stabilize the bone to a bone.

Sprains can range from a stretch to the ligament to a complete tear.

Bruising is a common symptom to differentiate a strain and a sprain. Also, swelling, instability and painful movement can occur. Sprains are usually associated with a fall or a twisting of a joint. We have all stepped on an uneven surface and felt a “wrench” in our ankle leading to a sprain.

Initially, RICE (rest, ice, elevation, compression) is recommended. If symptoms are worsening or swelling and bruising persist, you should see a healthcare provider.


December 2021

I love music! I love to sing (only when alone) and I love to listen to music. I love to hear new artists and I love to learn new songs. I can’t remember all the words most of the time and I rarely know the artist but that doesn’t stop me from smiling when I turn the radio on, put on a CD or listen to my playlist. Why does music make me happy?

Music floods our brains with a chemical called dopamine. Dopamine is the chemical in the brain that is associated with pleasure, motivation and reward. It is the neurochemical that makes us feel good.

Dopamine isn’t the only hormone affected during playing or listening to music. Cortisol, a stress hormone, may be lowered; serotonin and other hormones related to immunity and oxytocin, a chemical that allows us to connect to others are also released. These neurochemicals play a key role in brain function and mental health.

Music helps to unite us as we sing together at sporting events, join in the hymns at our places of worship, listen to love songs as we are building and maintaining relationships or hum lullabies bonding parents and their infants. Our first memories of music come from the rhythmic breathing patterns and the vibrations of our mothers voice heard in the womb.

Music memory is one of the brain functions that is most resistant to dementia. While it doesn’t reverse the memory loss experienced by people with Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia, it has been found to slow cognitive decline.

The influence music has on human beings is powerful. It can lift your mood, reduce anxiety and depression, improve your response to pain, and boost your memory.

And my favorite? Music encourages us to move. It increases our heart rate, deepens our breath and loosens up our joints. So, turn up the music and let’s dance!!


Why did the ghost ride the elevator? To lift its spirit! Ha! Ha!

November 2021

Laughter is truly the best medicine. The connection between laughter and our spiritual and emotional health has come to the forefront in recent years.

Norman Cousins wrote Anatomy of an Illness back in the 1970s. He laughed himself back to health. He was diagnosed with an incurable disease and given only months to live, but decided to laugh his way through his remaining time and ended up living another 20 years. Norman stated that 10 minutes of belly laughing gave him 2 hours of pain free sleep.

According to the Mayo Clinic laughter has many short term benefits. Laughter enhances your oxygen intake, stimulates your heart, lungs, muscles and increases the endorphins (“feel good hormones”) that are released by your brain. It helps to relieve your stress. When you laugh, your heart rate and blood pressure increase and then decrease resulting in a nice relaxed feeling. Circulation is increased which helps with muscle relaxation and reducing your stress.

Long term, laughter can improve your immune system. Positive thoughts increase the neuropeptides that help fight stress and more serious issues. Pain can be eased by allowing the body to release its natural painkillers. Your mood is always improved with a good chuckle. Laughter can help lessen your stress, depression and anxiety, make you feel happier and improve your self-esteem.

So, turn your frown upside down, smile, start chuckling and hopefully it will lead into a full-bellied laugh. Feel better?


Have you exercised today?

October 2021

For those of you who know me, you know how important I think exercise is to your health and emotional well-being. You can often hear me asking, “Have you exercised today?” One of the reasons that I became a physical therapist is because I love movement. I love to swim, bicycle, dance, do yoga and walk. Plus I love to help people.

Physical therapists are movement experts who improve quality of life through prescribed exercises, hands on care and patient education. We treat people of all ages and abilities and empower them to take an active role in their care.

Physical therapy assistants work with patients under the direction of a physical therapist and teach and demonstrate exercises to help improve mobility, strength and coordination.

PT’s will set up a personalized plan of care after they evaluate you that can assist you in improving your mobility and function, manage pain and chronic conditions, avoid surgery, reduce the use of opioids and other prescription drugs, recover from an injury and prevent future injury and chronic disease.

Many therapists specialize in a variety of areas such as oncology, women’s health, orthopedics, pediatrics, neurology. Finding the PT that is the right fit for you is important in the success of your treatment. You do not need a physician’s referral for a physical therapy evaluation.

Movement is crucial to a person’s health, quality of life and independence. Most of us don’t move enough despite proven benefits, such as the reduced risk of some cancers and chronic diseases, improved bone health and cognitive function, weight control and overall quality of life.

The key is to start slowly and gradual build up your movement endurance over time. Having someone to guide you through the process, such as a PT, can make it a bit easier.


If you have a question or comments for Mary Ann, email her at MCoughlin@BayRidgeCenter.org.

27 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All