Wyndmoor Therapist Goes Virtual to Keep Patients Holding Steady

Stacia Friedman, for the Shuttle

Joanne Fagerstrom is keeping our community in balance — even during the pandemic. As the owner of Mindful Physical Therapy, LLC in Wyndmoor, she specializes in treating balance issues, bone health and reducing chronic pain for people suffering from osteoporosis and orthopedic problems.

“My classes are live streamed and recorded so participants can watch at any time,” she said.

Unlike ordinary exercise classes, which target building muscle strength, Fagerstrom’s are all about bone strength. She demonstrates how each exercise can be adapted, no matter your current range of movement.

As a licensed physical therapist trained in the Feldenkrais Method and Myofascial release approach, Joanne had a large following for her weekly Strong Bone classes before the pandemic. Now these same classes are available via Zoom. Each class includes back and core strengthening exercises, balance exercises for fall prevention, flexibility exercises, posture education and body awareness training. The focus is on improving bone strength, flexibility, posture, balance and body awareness.

Most online classes only consist of the therapist demonstrating each exercise. But Fagerstrom’s include a running commentary from her on the benefits of each movement, as well as suggestions for those who are experiencing discomfort.

Her agile body motivates her students, especially if they know that she was diagnosed with osteoporosis in 2009. Following her diagnosis, Fagerstrom began to research and develop her comprehensive bone health program.

Before the pandemic, Fagerstrom worked with her patients both on an individual basis and in her weekly exercise classes. In her annual workshop, “Taking Charge of Your Bone Health,” she presented the latest information on osteoporosis; she’s looking forward to resuming the workshop post-pandemic.

Fagerstrom places a strong emphasis on wellness in her treatment programs. Her training in the Feldenkrais Method helps her look at the whole person. “It’s about mindfully assessing all the many details of your current problem and designing a program that meets you where you are,” she said.

Her loyal following indicates her patients find her approach effective. After less than a year of doing Strong Bones classes, a participant discovered that the bone density of her spine and hip has improved. In addition, Fagerstrom’s suggestions for safe ways to increase core and upper body strength have reduced her back pain flare-ups.

Working from home can result in neck, shoulder or lower back pain. Fagerstrom recommends getting up and moving around for 10 minutes for every hour you are sitting.

“Stand up, support your lower back with your hands and do a gentle back bend,” she said. “Or just lie down on the floor to realign your spine and take some deep breaths for five minutes.”

In addition to classes, Fagerstrom emphasizes the importance of outdoor exercise. “I really encourage people to get outside and walk briskly. Being in green space is helpful for stress and cardiovascular well-being,” she said.

How much is enough? “The CDC recommends walking 30 minutes a day, five days a week,” she continued. “But anything is better than nothing. It keeps frailty at bay. If you are concerned about losing your balance, hiking poles add a measure of confidence.” Hint: Stretch after you walk, not before.

Give Your Bones What They Need

Contrary to popular belief, milk does not play a role in bone health, which Fagerstrom learned as part of a certificate program in nutrition she completed in 2019 through Cornell University. “Studies found no association between consuming milk and lowering the risk of fracture,” she said. “The countries with the highest intakes of milk and calcium also have the highest rates of hip fracture.”

What about yogurt? “A large, observational study of dairy intake and bone frailty in older adults found that greater yogurt consumption was associated with high hip bone density and a significantly lower risk of osteoporosis,” Fagerstrom said. “Evidence has emerged that yogurt may help dampen chronic inflammation, which has been linked to many chronic diseases.”

For overall better health, Fagerstrom recommends keeping up your daily water intake. “Every organ needs water to function properly,” she said. “Now that we’re into winter, we’re not feeling the thirst. Make sure you are getting five to eight glasses a day.”

Lastly, she encourages seniors to steer away from supplements. “I look at my kitchen as my pharmacy,” she said. “Kale, collard greens, broccoli, tofu, nuts, beans, are just some examples. Sardines (with bones), are also a great source.”

For more information on Fagerstrom and her classes, visit https://ourstrongbones.com/.