Alternatives to Pain Management


When mind, body, and spirit are in harmony, happiness is the natural result.” 

— Deepak Chopra 
Man with back pain

We have all experienced pain at some point in our lives – scraping our knee, hitting our “funny” bone, or perhaps something more long-lasting, such as migraines. Pain is a useful way for our bodies to tell our brains when something is a threat to our overall well-being. Don’t touch the hot stove because it burns; don’t try and lift something too heavy because you could hurt your back. However, sometimes experiencing pain, such as chronic pain, stops being useful and is detrimental to daily living. 

The goal of a comprehensive, holistic pain management program is to promote consistent participation in activities, exercise, and education to enhance quality of life. A holistic pain management program merges traditional western medicine with eastern medicine. While western medicine tends to view the mind and body as separate entities, eastern medicine views the mind and body as one. There are many programs and approaches that help those with chronic conditions increase their engagement in meaningful activities and improve their overall well-being. 

Chi is “that which gives life” and is a strong life force making a person totally alive, alert, and present. It can be used to help overcome illness and become more vibrant and enhance mental capacity. Finding your “inner chi” can help promote one’s quality of life, especially if they are struggling with constant pain. 

Woman relaxing

“You must find the place inside yourself where nothing is impossible.”

Finding Your Chi can: 

  • Promote your highest quality of life 
  • Use relaxation, visual imagery, and breathing strategies to address anxiety and depression  
  • Improve strength and postural stability 

Do you suffer from chronic pain? If you are interested in learning more about Pathways to Chi and alternative approaches to pain reduction, reach out to the therapy team at Functional Pathways! 

Therapy Traffic: Green Means Go!

Traffic lights – whether you love them or hate them – help to control the flow of traffic. They tell you when it is your turn to GO, STOP, or use CAUTION. We all understand how they work, and they have been around since 1868! But what you may not be as familiar with is the Functional Pathways Traffic Lights!

What are they?

Functional Pathways has a plethora of traffic light handouts to facilitate and guide residents of typical signs of their health conditions, such as Heart Disease, COPD, Stroke, and even COVID. The star of today’s show is the traffic lights for therapy services! Staying well is everyone’s priority, so utilizing these helpful tools can assist residents, families and caregivers to thrive in place and avoid hospitalizations. 

All is well – therapy services most likely are not needed.

Therapy might be helpful to ensure you are able to participate in your favorite activities with ease and prevent risk of a decline in function.

New onset of these symptoms could result in a hospital admission if the issue is not addressed. Contact your therapy team immediately.

Interested in learning more about all our resources that encourage health and wellness? – reach out to the therapy team at Functional Pathways! Wishing you a very Happy and Healthy New Year!



Physical Therapy: Falling/unsteady or shuffling gait, Pain, Shortness of breath that does not resolve quickly, Unable to do stairs, Trouble with getting in/out of bed, chair, or car safely. 

Occupational Therapy: No longer bathing, cooking and/or cleaning, Incontinence, Not participating in social events, Not leaving your house or apartment.

Speech Language Pathology: Not eating/drinking due to choking or coughing, Forgetting important dates/people, Sudden onset of slurred speech/unable to communicate, Unable to pay bills/keep meds straight. 

Physical Therapy: Out of breath/less energy, Fear of alling/occasional loss of balance, Concerns about getting in/out of a bed, chair or car safely. 

Occupational Therapy: Occasional incontinence concerns, Trouble with grooming/basic hygiene, bathing and/or dressing, Trouble with light housekeeping/cooking, Less comfortable going to social events.

Speech Language Pathology: Some difficulty completing tasks you could previously do, Difficulty finding words or carrying on a conversation, Coughing when/after taking medications, eating or drinking. 

Physical Therapy: Balance is goo, Able to walk without concern/maintain usual activity level, Pain-free range of motion, Able to get in/out of a bed, chair or car safely, No shortness of breath. 

Occupational Therapy: No concerns with hand strength, No visual problems, No concerns with adaptive equipment, No concerns with grooming/basic hygiene, cooking, bathing, dressing, housekeeping.

Speech Language Pathology: Can remember to take medications/pay bills, No memory concerns, No difficulty finding words/carry on conversations, Able to keep appointments, No concerns with eating/swallowing.

Food for Thought

Vegetables and fruit

There are many benefits to healthy eating: stronger immune system, better sleep, more energy, improved mood, and a lower risk for disease. What you eat also has an important role in the health of your brain, your memory, as well as other aspects of mental and physical health. Higher levels of fatty acids and protein are associated with better memory and a healthier brain. 

For better brain health, try to add these foods into your regular diet: 

Nuts and Seeds – Protein is the second largest matter in the brain, second only to water, so it’s critical to nourish your brain with protein-rich foods; Amino acids are also found in protein, and they are packed with omega 3 and 6 fatty acids. Omega fatty acids aid in building cells to maintain normal brain function. Examples of brain healthy nuts include walnuts, almonds, peanuts, sunflower and/or pumpkin seeds. 

Salmon – Oily fishes, such as salmon, are high in omega 3! 

Beans – Rich in fiber, B vitamins, and omega fatty acids; fiber helps keep you fuller longer, and it also creates a slow release of sugar, which helps with concentration and memory. 

Blueberries – as well as other dark berries – Rich in antioxidants, which protect against free radicals (unstable molecules that attack cells within our body). 

Regularly consuming unhealthy foods, alcohol, and fish with mercury can negatively impact cognitive function. 

You don’t have to avoid them all together, but moderation is key! These foods include: 

Sugary Drinks – An excessive intake of sugary drinks increases the risk of dementia, obesity, high blood pressure, and arterial dysfunction. 

Alcohol – Chronic excessive alcohol use can result in a reduction in brain volume, metabolic changes, and disruption of neurotransmitters, which are chemicals the brain uses to communicate. 


Fish high in mercury – While oily fish has cognitive benefits, fish high in mercury can have the opposite effect. Mercury is a heavy metal contaminant and neurological poison that can be stored for a long time in animal tissues. After a person ingests mercury, it spreads all around their body, concentrating in the brain, liver, and kidneys. Examples include swordfish, tuna, and orange roughy. 

Your diet has a big impact on your brain health! For more information on nutrition and your brain health, contact the Functional Pathways Therapy Team! 

Finding Your Inner Chi

group doing yoga indoors

Health is a state of complete harmony of the body, mind and spirit”.

— B.K.S. Iyengar

Pain is something no one wants to endure. Any time we experience pain, we immediately look for ways to make it stop. But what if we worked to prevent pain from happening, and used those same techniques to manage pain when it does, inevitably, rear its ugly head?

The goal of a comprehensive, holistic pain management program is to promote consistent participation in activities, exercise, and education to enhance quality of life. This concept merges traditional western medicine with those of eastern medicine. Western medicine traditionally views the mind and body as separate entities. Eastern medicine is an art that views the mind and body as one. Many of us may have pain conditions that are not reversible. A comprehensive and holistic pain management program, such as Pathways to Chi, focuses on approaches which allows participants to increase their engagement in meaningful activities while managing their chronic conditions.

The secret of health or both mind and body is… live the present moment wisely and earnestly.

— Gautama Buddha

Chi is energy which provides human bodies with circulation, nutrition, and minerals needed to thrive. In traditional Chinese medicine, Chi is referred to as “life force” and a measurement of vitality. Integrating Chi into your routine can help you feel more alive, alert, and present. This, in turn, can help you overcome illness and pain, increase vibrancy, and enhance mental ability.

How to Find Your Inner Chi – massage, trigger point release, meditation, guided imagery, Yoga, Tai Chi, Ai Chi (water Tai Chi), are just a few of the ways to find your chi.

For more information on Pathways to Chi or how to use eastern medicine to help manage your pain and enhance vibrancy, contact the Functional Pathways Therapy Team! 

October is Physical Therapy Month

Physical Therapy is not just about treating the symptoms, but about restoring hope and improving quality of life!”

woman getting physical therapy with a nurse

Say hello to fall, pumpkin spice flavors, baseball playoffs, NFL, Hockey, and the holidays around the bend. It’s also a time to say hello to the art of physical therapy and everything PT can do for you! Afterall, October is PT month! 

So, what is physical therapy? Physical therapy is the art of improving or restoring function, reducing pain, preventing further injury, or decline in mobility. During therapy sessions, PT’s and PTA’s will work with patients on exercise, stretching, balance, mobility, walking, use of any assistive devices, and home exercise programs to improve safety, independence, functional mobility, and decrease/eliminate pain. 

Did you know? 

man lifting weights in physical therapy with nurse

Physical Therapy was first recognized in the United States during World War I. During the war, “reconstruction aides” were nurses tasked and trained to rehabilitate injured soldiers. 

Many of today’s physical therapy techniques date back as far as 400 B.C. Greek physicians, Hippocrates and Galen, are believed to be among the first advocates of massage and hydrotherapy. 

Physical therapy has been around for ages – and there are MANY benefits! Think you could benefit from therapy? Perhaps you are unsure or have questions. For more information on Physical Therapy and how it can benefit you, please contact your Functional Pathways Therapy Team! 

Hooray for Healthy Aging Month


It’s Health Aging Month! From the day we are born, we are aging. People all around the country celebrate and honor this month by incorporating habits like exercise, eating healthy foods, and getting adequate sleep into their daily routines. It is also an opportunity to encourage others to stay active and take positive steps towards improving both physical and mental health. If you are already participating in a healthy and active lifestyle – CONGRATULATIONS! Take this time to evaluate your activities and see if there is something additional you can do!

Pick an activity. Choose TODAY to make a change in your lifestyle. Choose something you enjoy – walking, gardening, or incorporating more water into your diet – and commit to it.

Did you know? Physical activity and exercise have TONS of benefits. Some of them include:

Playing with their granddaughter
  • Exercise stimulates the growth of new brain cells.
  • It can help slow down the aging process.
  • It can help make your skin healthier by clearing dead cells and debris from pores when you sweat during exercise.

Age is simply the number of years the world has been enjoying you!


Health Aging Month is a great time to remind ourselves (and others) to stay healthy. If you are unsure of where to start, consider a Functional Fitness Test. The assessment focuses on determining health and wellness strengths, as well as areas of opportunity. 

What’s Assessed?

Upper Body Strength
Examples: Carrying Grandchildren or Groceries

Lower Body Strength
Example: Climbing the Stairs

Examples: Reaching the Top Shelf, Fixing Your Hair

Examples: Walking Further, Playing with Grandchildren

Example: Fall Prevention

Examples: Problem Solving, Remembering Things

Celebrate your health and wellness and encourage others to do the same. If you are unsure of where to start for your own fitness journey, or if you are interested in learning some additional areas of opportunity, reach out to your Functional Pathways Therapy Team!

Welcoming Wellness Month

woman with exercise ball

It’s National Wellness Month! During the month of August, take time to prioritize your health through self-care, managing stress levels, and promoting healthy routines. We are past the half-way point of the year, and it’s a great opportunity to reflect on any resolutions we made, or goals we had for ourselves, and make sure we are still on track with our health and fitness. Remember when we discussed the seven dimensions of wellness in December/January? The key to embracing your greatest potential is through these seven dimensions. Keep these in mind as you prioritize your health this month!

As a reminder, the seven dimensions include: physical, social, spiritual, vocational, emotional, environmental, and intellectual. 

Physical: Strengthening and caring for the body 

Examples: self-care, water aerobics, group exercise, and regular doctor’s appointments

Social: Emphasizes the importance of social interactions

Examples: spending time with family, game play, bingo, Pinecone Painters

Spiritual: Finding purpose and meaning in life

Examples: meditation, Bible study, church service, worship service, singing

Vocational: Utilizing skills, passions, and strengths to help others

Examples: tutoring, mentoring, volunteering, caregiving, Hobby Pines Group 

doctor with patient

Emotional: The ability to cope with challenges and deal with feelings in a positive way

Examples: peer counseling, stress management, humor/laughter, support groups

Environmental: Respect for natural resources and/or a strong connection to the environment

Examples: recycling, taking walks outdoors, meditation, Garden Gro’ers

Intellectual: Activities that stimulate and challenge the brain

Examples: game play, bunko, mahjong, reading, puzzles, learning a new language or instrument

Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”

– World Health Organization
man reading a book

While it’s not a perfect recipe for success, utilizing the dimensions of wellness can help put your health and wellness needs first. This month, take time to focus on YOU. Are you taking time for yourself (emotional and physical wellness) to destress and unwind? Perhaps add some meditation to your routine, or a daily walk. If there is an area that is being neglected, think about how you might set goals and incorporate those missing dimensions into your routine to stay balanced. Reach out to your Functional Pathways Therapy Team to learn more about the dimensions of wellness and how to ensure you are putting your health and wellness needs first!

Celebrating Independence

woman exercising outdoors

“Life is not merely being alive, but being well.”
-Marcus Valerius Martialis

We all know July 4th is a federal holiday in the United States to commemorate the Declaration of Independence on July 4th, 1776. This holiday is typically filled with fireworks, BBQ, and family and friends gathering to celebrate our great country. It’s also a great opportunity to celebrate our personal independence and autonomy.

Ways to Celebrate and Promote Independence:

woman lifting weights

1. Functional Fitness Testing. Functional fitness testing is a great way to put a spotlight on your independence. Determining your baseline fitness level and making appropriate recommendations for exercise classes, programming, or additional support is a step towards continued independence. Not sure where to start? Contact the TherapyTeam!

people donating to charity

2. Look at Vocational Wellness. Vocational Wellness is one of the seven dimensions of wellness, and it is the ability to achieve personal satisfaction and fulfillment, maintain balance, and make a positive impact. Examples of vocational wellness can include mentoring or tutoring, volunteering, or even caregiving.

man using exercise machine

3. Exercise! Participate in wellness classes, walking programs, or aquatics. Keep your body moving! The more you move, the stronger and healthier your bones, muscles, and brain will be!Healthy minds and bodies promote independence!

As we celebrate our nation’s independence, take a moment, and celebrate your OWN independence – physically, mentally, spiritually. What things are you doing throughout the week, month, or even year, to spotlight your abilities and promote continued independence? Not sure where to start? The Functional Pathways Therapy Team can help!

If You Can Do More Than 8 Up the Weight!

woman holding a weight while exercising

When was the last time you lifted weights? Just like anything else, strength and your muscles have a “use it or lose it” policy. If you aren’t incorporating strength training into your fitness routine, now is the perfect time to start!

High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is a form of exercise that alternates short periods of intense anaerobic (without oxygen) exercise with brief recovery periods. Improvements in strength take place within a training zone of 5-9 repetitions. If you are unable to perform at least 8 repetitions of a specific movement (like a biceps curl), then lower the intensity (weight). If you can do more than 8 repetitions, increase the challenge for optimal outcomes.

You might do higher repetitions in an exercise class – and that’s ok! Combining HIIT into your existing exercise programs can result in the most success!

Example: You are doing a HIIT routine, and you are incorporating chair stands (standing up from a chair, from a seated position) to increase lower body strength.

Start seated in your chair, arms at your side, and stand up, completely straight.
If you can do this 10 times, advance to the next level.

Now cross your arms and try again – aim for 6-8 repetitions.
If you can do more than this, advance to the next level. 

Hold weights in your hands and try again – aim for 6-8 repetitions.
If/when this becomes easy, increase weight.

Muscles must experience stimuli higher than their current abilities to achieve improvements in muscle strength and function. Whatever level is challenging for and doable for 6-8 repetitions is your “sweet spot.”

But wait – How do we know if something is “too easy?” 
The Borg Rating of Perceived Exertion (PRE) is the preferred method to assess intensity. Also, a direct correlation between PRE and heart rate has been found with the use of this scale with exercise. It is often found that if you rate your PRE at an 11 (light) then their heart rate is likely around 110 bpm. While doing strength training in a HIIT routine, aim for a PRE of 12-17.

If you are unsure of where to get started, our therapy team at Kirby Pines can help you identify which strength training exercises and methods are best suited for you. For more information, please contact the Functional Pathways Therapy Team.

man exercising with weights

Celebrating Better Hearing & Speech

May is a special month for all of us who value the power of speech, the magic of hearing and the pleasure of eating and drinking. That’s right, folks, May is Better Hearing and Speech Month! A time when we can all come together and celebrate the importance of healthy communication, hearing, and swallowing. 

Did you know? Speech Therapists and Audiologists are the professionals who assist those who may be struggling with communication, cognition, eating safely, and hearing deficits. But why limit the festivities to just one month? After all, speech, hearing, and eating are important all year round! 

Here’s a list of fun ways to celebrate Better Hearing and Speech Month any time of year: 

Play a Game! A communication-themed game, such as Pictionary, Taboo, Headbanz, Boggle, Scrabble, or The Mind, are great for challenging your communications skills. They require you to express yourself clearly, actively listen, and problem solve to win! Not to mention, playing as a group incorporates an important social aspect as well! 

Host a Karaoke Party! Singing is a great way to exercise your vocal cords and improve your speech. Whether you are belting out your favorite tune or singing in the shower, make some time for music this month! Who knows – you may discover a hidden talent! 

Try New Foods! Believe it or not, trying new foods and drinks can improve your hearing! That’s right – eating can improve your HEARING! Certain nutrients, like omega-3 fatty acids, can help protect your ears from damage. So, challenge yourself to try new and healthy foods this month. FYI – National Lemonade and Apple Pie Day are also in May. There are TONS of different lemonade flavors to try – roasted peach, lavender thyme, blueberry, strawberry, blackberry mint – so this might be a great place to start! 

Communication is the essence of human life”. 

-Janice Light

Practice Mindful Listening At its most basic sense, mindful listening is taking time to experience what we are hearing in the moment. It’s about being present and patient. Put aside distractions and set your intentions to completely in the moment. Take a breath and take in the sounds around you – birds chirping, wind rustling the trees, laughter. Mindful listening supports being more present – listening is a discipline that takes time and practice. 

While Better Hearing and Speech Month is officially celebrated one month out of the year, we can celebrate our ability to speak and communicate, eat and enjoy the foods and drinks we love, cognition and brain health year-round. If you are struggling with any of these items, or have concerns about them, please contact the Functional Pathways Therapy Team for guidance. 

One of the hardest things in life is having words in your heart that you cannot utter”. 

-James Earl Jones