spinal stenosis definition

What Is Spinal Stenosis?

Referring in frustration, to a “pain in the neck” is a figurative way of calling someone annoying. However, it’s also an apt descriptor for cervical spinal stenosis, an ailment that literally can cause a pain in your neck – and other places, as well.

Definition

Spinal stenosis refers to the narrowing of the spinal canal, which houses the spinal cord, and the openings in it that provide passage for peripheral nerves that thread their way to other parts of the body. This narrowing can choke the spinal cord and/or the roots of your nerves.

There are two types: cervical spinal stenosis, which affects the spinal column in the neck region, and lumbar spinal stenosis, which narrows the spinal column in the lower back.

What Causes Spinal Stenosis?

Aging is the most prevalent cause of spinal stenosis. As you age, your spine gradually degenerates. The discs between your vertebrae lose height through dehydration; your bones and joints may enlarge due to increased stress on them and destruction of cartilage, potentially leading to bone spurs that occupy space in the spinal canal; and your ligaments may thicken and calcify, encroaching on the space in the nearby canal.

Middle-aged and elderly people are also subject to osteoarthritis of the spine, or spondylosis, which is chronic and the result of wear and tear on the spine. It can also lead to the formation of bone spurs that constrict the spinal canal and cause spinal stenosis.

Although people over the age of 50 are the most likely to suffer from it, younger people who suffer a spinal injury or are born with a narrow spinal canal are also subject to spinal stenosis.

spinal stenosis

What Are the Symptoms of Spinal Stenosis?

Spinal stenosis may be present without your being aware of it. The spinal canals of many people over 50 narrow, but it only becomes apparent when the nerves are squeezed and they feel the resulting symptoms. It may take time for the symptoms to develop.

Your family physician will generally be able to diagnose spinal stenosis based on your symptoms and your medical history, using appropriate tests to confirm the diagnosis. The doctor may order a magnetic resonance imaging test (MRI), X-rays or computed tomography (CT) scans to rule out other possible causes of the pain.

What Is Cervical Spinal Stenosis?

With cervical spinal stenosis, you may feel some stiffness, pain, numbness or weakening in your hands, shoulders, neck or legs. You may find that you have problems with co-ordination and balance, causing you to stumble when moving or shuffle as you walk. There may be problems with fine-motor skills, such as typing or buttoning a shirt. You may also experience some incontinence.

What Is Lumbar Spinal Stenosis?

If you have lumbar spinal stenosis, leg pain when you’re in motion will usually be your primary symptom, since the nerves in the lower spine extend into the legs. It is often more severe when your spine is extended: for instance, when you are standing straight or leaning backward. The pain generally eases when your spine is flexed: whenever you are sitting, riding a bicycle or bending over your shopping cart.

Lumbar stenosis also manifests itself through additional symptoms, including low back pain; cramping, weakness or numbness in the legs, feet or buttocks; thigh and leg stiffness; and possible loss of bowel or bladder control.

What Is the Best Treatment for Spinal Stenosis?

Once a diagnosis is made, your physician will probably suggest physiotherapy as a treatment option that will ease the symptoms. In extreme cases, surgery is warranted to relieve pressure on the spinal cord and nerves, but, usually, you can address the symptoms through other means.

At home, you can use non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to ease the pain and reduce the inflammation. Your physiotherapist will do the same for you, using methods that may include ice, unloading taping techniques, electrotherapy, soft tissue massage and acupuncture.

Spinal Stenosis Exercises

Once the inflammation settles, your physiotherapist will help you focus on range-of-motion and alignment exercises, as well as muscle strengthening.

Exercises will usually take the form of lower abdominal and core stability exercises, since you want to strengthen the muscles that control and stabilize the movement of your spine.

Cervical spinal stenosis exercises will aim to maintain flexibility and strength and improve posture.

Prevention

There are some basic things you can do in order to prevent symptoms to manifest themselves or recur:

  • Maintain a healthy body weight.
  • Develop or maintain good posture.
  • Exercise regularly, including stretching exercises, such as yoga.
  • Don’t smoke, since smoking decreases bone density and increases risks of fracture and bone deterioration. It has also been linked to disc problems.

Spinal stenosis should be taken seriously; if you follow the guidance and treatment plan you receive, you usually should be able to make your pain disappear within a reasonable timeframe.

Let’s Get You Some Relief!


what is sciatica

What is Sciatica?

Do you have pain radiating from your buttock to your calf? Perhaps you have discomfort running from groin to knee. Interestingly, both of these diverse problems may fall under the rubric of sciatica. So, what is sciatica and what causes sciatic nerve pain?

Sciatica Pain

Sciatica is not actually a medical diagnosis; it is a term that refers to any type of pain or weakness that is caused by irritation or injury to your sciatic nerve. Sciatica pain is most prevalent among people 30- to 50-years old.

The sciatic nerve is the longest nerve in the body. It comprises a number of nerves that exit your lower spine and meet up. The sciatic nerve runs from your lower back through the buttocks and hamstrings into your lower leg.

Sciatica Symptoms

Sciatica manifests itself in a number of ways, usually occurring only on one side of the lower body. Some of the most common sciatica symptoms are:

  • Weakness or numbness in moving your foot or leg.
  • Constant pain in the rear calf.
  • A tingling or burning sensation in the leg.
  • A “pins and needles” sensation in the leg.
  • Shooting pain in the leg, making walking or standing up a challenge.
  • Constant pain in the buttock that may radiate down the leg.
  • Pain that decreases when walking or lying down, but ramps us while sitting or standing.

Your sciatica symptoms may intensify when you sneeze, cough or make other sudden movements or when you change positions.

Sciatica Causes

There are six injuries that are most often implicated in sciatica:

  1. Degenerative disc disease. Although our discs normally degenerate a bit with age, the weakened discs in some bodies irritate the nerve root, causing sciatica. Disc degeneration may also lead to bone spurs, which may press against a nerve and result in sciatica.
  2. Lumbar spinal stenosis. A narrowing of the spinal canal is relatively common in adults older than 60 and can cause pressure on the sciatic nerve through one or more factors, including bulging discs, overgrown soft tissue and enlarged facet joints. Spinal arthritis often accompanies spinal stenosis and can contribute to sciatica.
  3. Herniated lumbar disc. Herniated discs result when the fluid inside the disc leaks out beyond the core and irritates the nearby nerves, causing sciatica.
  4. Sacroiliac joint dysfunction. The sacroiliac joint is located at the base of the spine, and anytime it is irritated, the nerve that lies on top of it is also subject to irritation, causing leg pain similar to sciatic pain.
  5. Piriformis syndrome. The sciatic nerve runs under the piriformis muscle in the buttocks and may be subject to irritation or pinching by the muscle, causing sciatica-like pain.
  6. Isthmic spondylolisthesis. A small stress fracture in a vertebra can cause the vertebra to slip forward onto another, collapsing disc space and pinching the sciatic nerve.

sciatic nerve

Sciatic Nerve Pain Treatment

In order to treat sciatic nerve pain, your physician or physiotherapist must determine the underlying problem that is causing it. This can be a challenge, since two cases of sciatica can easily have the same symptoms but different causes. You may need an X-ray, a CT scan or an MRI to assess potential problems with your vertebrae.

Once this is accomplished, the focus can shift to relieving pain and pressure on the sciatic nerve and restoring the range of motion:

  • Ice. Icing the affected area can help to reduce inflammation. Ice should be wrapped in a towel and applied for 20 minutes at a time.
  • NSAIDs. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen help to reduce the inflammation that may be a source of irritation for the sciatic nerve and surrounding tissues.
  • Physiotherapy. Your physiotherapist will prescribe a course of stretching exercises to loosen any muscles that may be placing pressure on the sciatic nerve, as well as joints and tendons, plus strengthening exercises to help prevent a recurrence of the pain. Physiotherapy treatment for sciatic nerve pain may also include:
  • Acupuncture. Long recognized for its effectiveness in relieving back pain.

How to Prevent Sciatic Nerve Pain

Unfortunately, sciatica has a tendency to re-occur, and bouts of sciatica can last as long as six weeks. You can play a part in preventing an episode of sciatica by playing an active role in your own physical health:

  • Regular exercise. Make exercise part of your routine, focusing on activities or routines that strengthen the back and abdominal muscles. Swimming and Pilates are ideal; ask your physiotherapist about individual exercises.
  • Posture. Keep an eye on your posture when sitting and standing. You may want to request an ergonomic assessment at work to ensure your chair, computer and desk are arranged to minimize inappropriate stresses.
  • Sleep posture. Consider sleeping with a pillow between your knees or at your side so that your back is supported.
  • Movement. If you have a desk job, make sure to get up and move every 20 to 30 minutes. Walk to the photocopier, the coffee pot or just up and down the hall.
  • Lifting. Be sure that you lift heavy objects by using your leg and hip strength.

Sciatica is unpleasant, but the pain can be addressed. Treatment that occurs during the first 48 hours of onset will shorten the time you are indisposed.

Let’s Get You Some Relief!


tmj disorder

What is Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMJ)?

Here’s a topic worth jawing about: temporomandibular joint disorder, or TMJ disorder (TMD), a facial joint disorder that is painful, rather than fatal; however, it can be uncomfortable.

When people who suffer from TMD open their jaws, the movement may provide “musical” accompaniment in the form of clicks or popping sounds that they are unable to prevent. But what is TMJ?

TMJ Disorder (TMD)

The temporomandibular joints are the joints connecting the temporal bones of the skull to the mandible, or jaw bone, hence the name. It is commonly referred to as the TMJ. There is one on each side of our heads.

These joints, which are lined by cartilage and contain a fibrogelatinous disc between the bones, open and close like hinges. They allow the jaw to move both up and down and side to side, making them among the most complicated of the body’s joints.

A TMJ disorder refers to problems with the jaw joints, muscles or fibrous tissues that connect them. TMJ disorders are most prevalent among women in their early 20s or during their 40s and 50s, while undergoing menopause. Men are affected by TMD less frequently.

TMJ Symptoms

Common TMJ symptoms include:

  • Pain. Pain while moving the jaw is an obvious symptom of TMJ disorder, but the disorder may also cause headaches or migraines, earaches, neck aches and back aches. The earaches may be accompanied by ringing or buzzing your ears. Your chewing muscles will generally be tender and painful when touched.
  • Minimal movement. Limited movement may prevent you from fully opening your mouth or from moving your jaw in particular directions. For example, non-sufferers can generally hold their index, middle and ring fingers horizontally and insert them easily between the upper and lower teeth. People with TMJ disorders will generally find it difficult to open their mouths so wide.
  • Noise pollution. TMJ disorders are often accompanied by sounds that occur when you talk, eat or open your mouth. The noises may be clicking, popping or grinding sounds and will be present concurrently with the pain or restricted movement. If the noises are not linked to one of the other symptoms, they are generally harmless.

tmj pain

Diagnosis

A TMJ disorder will generally be diagnosed by a doctor or a dentist based on a physical examination in combination with a review of the patient’s medical history. Depending on the outcome, a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) test for your disc, an X-Ray of your teeth or a Computed Tomography (CT) scan of your bones may be required.

What Is the Best Treatment for TMJ?

You may be able to treat mild or moderate TMJ disorder at home by making lifestyle changes. TMJ home treatment may involve a reduction in joint movements and more rest for the jaw by avoiding chewing gum and tensing the jaw and by eating only soft foods. The application of ice or moist heat may also be useful, along with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.

Reducing stress in your life may also be helpful; yoga and meditation are often good ways to alleviate stress, and counselling (therapy) can be useful, too. You may also wish to try biofeedback or acupuncture to help relieve pain.

Is There Physical Therapy for TMJ?

A visit to your physiotherapist is recommended if symptoms are not relieved with home treatment and are related to muscle tension. Your physiotherapist can prescribe a program for you that includes learning and practicing techniques for regaining normal jaw movement.

TMJ exercises may relieve pain, reduce tension and strengthen the jaw area in order to prevent future flare-ups. Your physiotherapist will be able to recommend an appropriate series of exercises that begins with massaging the area to reduce tension and pain. You’ll move on to relaxation, strengthening and stretching exercises. They may also use ultrasound treatments.

If none of these approaches proves effective, your physician or dentist may suggest a corticosteroid injection, arthroscopy or open joint surgery.

Remember: pain is your body’s signal that something isn’t right. If your jaw begins to ache regularly, don’t ignore the feeling. The sooner you obtain treatment, the sooner you’ll feel like yourself again.

Let’s Get You Some Relief!


carpal tunnel wrist

What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

On a daily basis, we don’t give much thought to our wrists, unless we are putting on a bracelet, affixing cufflinks or buttoning a sleeve. They are simply connectors, bringing more important body parts – hands and arms – together so they can do their work.

We do sit up and take notice, however, if those wrists begin to hurt. It’s only then that we realize how important they are to the smooth functioning of our upper extremities and how frustrating it can be when they aren’t working properly. Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is a common reason for wrist pain, so it’s worth examining in more detail.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Explained

Carpal tunnel syndrome results from the compression of the meridian nerve, a nerve on the palm side of the wrist. The meridian nerve is located in a “tunnel” created by a wrist ligament and the carpal, or wrist, bones. The tunnel, which is about the width of a thumb, is also crowded with the tendons that allow us to bend our fingers. Compression is generally caused by pressure on the nerve due to crowding or irritation.

What Causes Carpal Tunnel?

A frequent culprit is continued finger use, especially in situations that include vibration, and extreme wrist positions can contribute to CTS, as can repetitive motion. In today’s technology-focused world, we tend to associate CTS with working at a keyboard all day, but people working on assembly lines are three times more likely to develop it.

Other conditions that may lead to carpal tunnel syndrome, include:

  • Wrist injuries, such a sprains and fractures;
  • Swelling and inflammation of the wrist tendons;
  • Metabolic or hormonal changes, including pregnancy, menopause and thyroid imbalance;
  • Scar tissue from repeated traumas;
  • Degenerative or rheumatoid arthritis: and
  • Diabetes.

carpal tunnel wrist

Prevention: Minimizing Stress to Hands and Wrists

There is no surefire way to prevent carpal tunnel syndrome, but there are actions you can take to minimize the stress to which you subject your hands and wrists as an attempt to keep it from developing:

  • May the force NOT be with you. Reduce the amount of force you use when doing work with your hands; most of us apply more than is necessary. For writing, use soft-grip implements.
  • Ergo, it’s ergonomic. Have your work station assessed from an ergonomic point of view to ensure that is suited to your height, posture and work you do.
  • Wrist readjustment. At a keyboard, keep your wrists extended, rather than flexed upward or downward to ensure that you don’t put undue strain on your nerves and tendons.
  • Perfect your posture. Keeping your torso, neck and shoulders aligned can help ensure that you position your hands and wrists properly.
  • Create warmth. Hand pain and stiffness happen more easily in the cold, so keep your work environment warm. If you can’t adjust the temperature, wear gloves to warm your hands and wrists.
  • To your health. Overall good health is important to keeping diseases that may lead to carpal tunnel syndrome at bay, so take good care of yourself.

Signs and Symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

So, what does carpal tunnel feel like? If you experience any of the following, they may be signs that you are suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome:

  • Pins and needles that affect the thumb and first two fingers;
  • Numbness in the wrists or fingers;
  • A clumsy feeling in the affected hand; or
  • Weakness of the hand or in grip strength.

You may notice the feelings more clearly at night and may be awakened by the pain.

Diagnosing Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Oftentimes, your physician or your physiotherapist can diagnose CTS without much trouble if you have the standard carpal tunnel symptoms, but there are also some tests that can be used to confirm its presence, including:

  • Finger and thumb grip strength testing;
  • Wrist and hand range of motion testing;
  • Reflex hammer testing; and
  • Electrical studies showing nerve transmission.

wrist brace

How to Treat Carpal Tunnel

Carpal tunnel syndrome doesn’t require surgery, except in the most extreme cases. Initially, your physician will suggest physiotherapy as a carpal tunnel treatment. There are a number of simple carpal tunnel exercises that can relieve the pain and strengthen the wrist to prevent a recurrence of CTS.

Depending on the severity of the compression and inflammation, your physician may suggest wearing a resting wrist brace at night to prevent your wrist from assuming an injurious position and/or a working wrist splint to wear during the day. A steroid injection may reduce inflammation and its effects may last for weeks or longer.

Carpal tunnel syndrome is a minor injury with major consequences for our daily routines. It’s wise to take action as soon as symptoms appear so that the injury doesn’t progress. Ice the affected area and take frequent work breaks, and seek treatment if it continues.

Let's get you some relief!


laser therapy

Laser Therapy for Pain

“No pain, no gain,” says the common saying, but those who are victims of physical pain would undoubtedly agree that this aphorism refers to growth and emotional pain. Physical pain, by contrast, is a hindrance to growth.

When you are hemmed in by pain, your options become more limited; you are unable or unwilling to use your body in many of the ways you once took for granted. It’s a frustrating feeling and you are keen to explore all options for banishing that pain and expanding your opportunities. And that’s where laser therapy enters the picture.

What is Laser Therapy?

Laser therapy is a non-invasive method of treatment that relies on light beams of various wavelengths delivered by a laser to reduce pain. It helps to heal soft tissue and provides pain relief.

Laser therapy relies on the laser, a device based on a theory first proposed by Albert Einstein in 1916, the Theory of Light Amplification through Stimulated Emission of Radiation (LASER).

Hungarian physicist Andre Mester was the pioneer in using a low-powered laser for medical treatment, beginning in 1967, only a few years after the first working laser was produced.

How Does It Work?

Laser light on the infrared spectrum interacts with the body’s tissues, generally absorbed by the skin through a handheld laser device that targets a specific area. The light emitted by the laser creates physical changes in the cells in a process called photobiomodulation.

It passes through the layers of skin and interacts with the light-sensitive elements in a cell, increasing internal metabolic activity and increasing the flow of nutrients across the cell’s membrane.

In other words, the laser brings light to living tissues and its energy increases circulation, which in turn brings nutrients and water to the cells to create an ideal healing environment for pain and inflammation reduction, stiffness and muscle spasms.

What Are the Benefits of Laser Therapy?

The benefits of laser therapy are many and varied, extending beyond pain relief:

  • Acceleration in tissue repair and healing.
  • Analgesia (reduction of pain).
  • Angiogenesis (new vascular supply formation).
  • Improved nerve function Inflammation reduction.
  • Increased cellular metabolic activity.
  • Reduction in fibrous tissue (scar tissue) formation.
  • Stimulation of acupuncture points and meridians.
  • Stimulation of immune cell activity.

In addition, there are clinical benefits. Laser therapy can offer an alternative to surgery in many cases: it’s non-invasive, it can be effective for conditions that are difficult to treat using more traditional methods, it’s easy and, it is backed by scientific proof of its effectiveness. Numerous research studies have been undertaken to illustrate the success of laser therapy.

laser therapy for pain

Conditions That Benefit From Laser Therapy

Laser therapy can have a beneficial effect on a variety of conditions that involve muscles, tendons and ligaments, including:

Laser therapy can reduce healing time, thanks to an increase in intercellular metabolism. Generally, the sooner it is employed after injury or after pain becomes intolerable, the better the healing and the more quickly the pain dissipates and the healing takes place.

The more chronic the condition, the slower it may be to respond to laser therapy. The treatment is cumulative, so the patient generally needs a series of treatments to eliminate pain and promote healing.

Undergoing Laser Therapy for Pain

When you decide upon laser therapy for pain, you’ll have an initial consultation with the clinician who delivers the therapy, whether a physician, physiotherapist or other healthcare professional, to determine the extent of your injury or condition.

Treatment will follow. There is no reason to be fearful of the experience. It is painless. Treatments usually last for 5 to 20 minutes, depending on the acuteness of the injury and the size and depth of the affected area, since these high-powered lasers can deliver energy quickly.

You can expect the practitioner to use a handheld device about the size of a flashlight that he or she will run over the skin above the affected area. The laser often has changeable heads that are geared toward effectiveness in various areas of the body.

Often, you will feel a soothing, warming sensation as the photons of light pass through the skin. When the practitioner attaches a massage ball head to the laser, patients often compare the experience to a massage.

In Conclusion

In a number of provinces, including British Columbia and Ontario, laser therapy is covered by provincial healthcare plans, making it easy to choose. Given the ease of treatment and its beneficial effects, why not give Laser Therapy a try?

Let’s Ease Your Pain!


IMS intramuscular stimulation

What is Intramuscular Stimulation (IMS)?

You’re in pain and the sensation just won’t go away. You may have had an X-ray or an MRI that has not discovered any problem, but the pain continues to linger. You are at your wits’ end, worrying that your quality of life will never improve, when someone recommends that you explore intramuscular stimulation (IMS). What, you wonder, is that?

What Is IMS Therapy?

IMS, or intramuscular stimulation, is a treatment for acute or chronic pain with a neuropathic (nerve) origin. It relies on the insertion of acupuncture needles, either into tender muscles or at sites near the spine where a nerve root may have become extremely sensitive.

It targets muscles that have become shortened (distressed). These spots can be problem points in the body, because contracted muscles don’t always heal properly and they press on the nerves and irritate them.

IMS therapy helps the muscles to relax and the healing process to begin. In other words, it treats the root causes of the pain you are experiencing.

Why the Pain?

Pain that occurs when there isn’t any obvious sign of tissue damage or inflammation can be perplexing and frustrating. If you can’t identify a cause, how can you obtain treatment?

Neuropathic pain generally occurs when nerves malfunction after a minor irritation. They become very sensitive and their innocent signals are misinterpreted by the brain as pain.

IMS Treatment Explained

During your IMS treatment, a physiotherapist or other trained practitioner will insert acupuncture needles into the affected muscles. Insertion of an ultra-fine acupuncture needle into a healthy muscle is painless. However, when a needle enters a shortened muscle, it grasps the needle, and this can result in a cramping sensation. This action has a threefold impact:

  • It stimulates a stretch receptor in the muscle, causing it to lengthen (relax).
  • It causes a tiny injury that draws blood to the area, stimulating the natural healing process; the blood contains a Platelet Derived Growth Factor to promote healing.
  • The stimulation causes electrical potential in the muscle, allowing it to return to functioning normally.

An IMS treatment has very few side effects and the relief is lasting.

intramuscular stimulation

When Is Intramuscular Stimulation Used?

Intramuscular Stimulation is generally used for soft tissue pain when there is no sign of tissue damage or inflammation, but the pain persists. It is employed for various types of neck and back pain, frozen shoulder, tennis elbow and fibromyalgia, as well as other complaints.

It is useful in cases where the injury is too deep for other types of treatment to reach, such as pain in the pelvic area.

How Often Do You Need IMS Therapy?

The impact of IMS therapy is cumulative. After each IMS therapy session with your physiotherapist, the muscle heals a bit. Eventually, the muscle shortens and the pain dissolves. Most patients have IMS sessions weekly, but some prefer to come every other week to provide a longer recovery period.

The number of IMS treatments required is based on:

  • The type of injury.
  • The duration and extent of the pain.
  • Whether the injury is recent.
  • The amount of scar tissue that has accumulated.

What Are the Origins of Intramuscular Stimulation?

Intramuscular Stimulation originated in Vancouver in the 1970s, developed by Dr. Chan Gunn, a physician who was then working at the Workers Compensation Board. Dr. Gunn saw numerous patients whose conditions refused to respond to traditional treatment and began investigating the reasons for unresponsiveness and the potential solutions.

Intramuscular stimulation and is an anatomy specific form of acupuncture performed by specially trained physiotherapists. Although it is similar to acupuncture, IMS practitioners don’t insert needles into meridians of the body. Instead, after a medical examination, the patient visits an IMS practitioner who inserts needles based on the diagnosis.

Post-Therapy

Once your IMS treatments have dealt with your pain, you may want to talk with your physiotherapist about ways to ensure that you don’t injure your muscles and nerves again in the same way. Movement retraining can help you learn to erase any bad movement habits you have developed. Poor habits can be the result of:

  • Asymmetry in movement developed at work or during recreational activities; or
  • Previous injuries.

Your physiotherapist can help you assess which muscles you tighten unnecessarily and which movements you make poorly. Once you are able to recognize these weaknesses, you can practise not tightening these muscles automatically and learn to activate other muscles to balance your responses.

Movement retraining of this nature can help your body accomplish various tasks better, including sitting in a chair, squatting to retrieve something from the floor or unleashing your golf swing.

There’s No Need to Suffer Endlessly With Chronic Pain. Explore the Possibilities of IMS Therapy.


stiff neck causes

Stiff Neck Remedies

Anyone who has ever had a stiff neck knows that they’re painful and awkward. The inability to turn your head sideways without pain makes everyday tasks challenging and driving a car impossible. It’s an inconvenience that no one wants, but trying to find a stiff neck remedy is a step in the right direction.

How to Get Rid of a Stiff Neck

A stiff neck usually refers to soreness and difficulty in moving the neck side to side. In fact, it may require that you turn your entire body to look over your shoulder. The pain may be accompanied by a headache, shoulder pain or arm pain.

If a stiff neck is bothering you, try simple remedies to start your stiff neck treatment:

  • Ice is nice. Apply ice to the affected area for the first 48 to 72 hours; afterward, substitute heat in the form of hot showers, compresses or a heating pad. Don’t place ice packs or heating pads next to bare skin.
  • The bottle. Of over-the-counter pain relievers, that is. Acetaminophen or ibuprofen should banish the pain.
  • Move it. Motion will help keep inflammation at bay, but no jerky movements allowed.
  • Rub-a-dub-dub. Ask a partner or a friend to gently massage the area.
  • Stiff neck exercises. Range of motion exercises gently stretch neck muscles. You may wish to consult a physiotherapist for additional suggestions.
  • Chuck the cushion. Try sleeping pillowless or with a special neck pillow.
    Depending on the cause of your stiff neck, some lifestyle adjustments may be in order:
  • Redecorate. Be sure that your work station is set up ergonomically to keep your head, neck and back in a natural position. You may need a different chair or an adjustment to the height of your computer monitor.
  • Stare at the ceiling. If your sleep position is causing a stiff neck, you’ll need to modify it. Sleeping on your back or your side are best for the neck. If you sleep on your stomach, your head generally twists in one direction for hours at a time.
  • Pillow talk. Buy a pillow that isn’t too high for you or too firm.
  • S-t-r-e-t-c-h. You may need to stretch regularly to prevent your neck muscles from injury. A physiotherapist can design a targeted exercise program for you.

stiff neck remedy

Stiff Neck Causes

To figure out how to get rid of your stiff neck, you need to look into what causes a stiff neck. The most common cause is a muscle or soft tissue sprain. The cervical spine housed in the neck comprises seven vertebrae that protect the spinal cord while connecting the skull to the upper back and its thoracic vertebrae.

To the back and side of the neck is the levator scapulae muscle that connects the neck to the shoulder, and it is this muscle that is most susceptible to sprains.

A levator scapulae strain has a variety of potential causes:

  • A fall or sudden impact that moves the head side to side.
  • Sleeping with the neck in an unusual position.
  • Holding the head at an unnatural angle for long periods of time – for example, by cradling a phone between ear and shoulder or by looking down at a computer monitor.
  • Poor posture.
  • Stress or anxiety.
  • An activity that requires you to repeatedly move your head from side to side, such as swimming the crawl stroke.

If the pain appears shortly after a fall, the cause will be obvious. Otherwise, you may not be able to pinpoint the exact cause; misusing your muscles over time can have a cumulative effect.

In addition, there are spine disorders that can result in a stiff neck, including:

  • Cervical osteoarthritis. The breakdown of joints between the bones of the vertebrae.
  • Cervical herniated disc. Breakdown of a disc’s outer layer causes fluid to leak out and cause inflammation and compression in surrounding tissues.
  • Cervical degenerative disc disease. Discs lose height and hydration over time, potentially exerting pressure on nearby soft tissues, joints and nerves.

Generally, a stiff neck resulting from muscle strain should clear up on its own within a week. If the pain and stiffness remain, however, it’s time to consult a physician to determine if a spinal disorder is the underlying cause.

If your neck pain persists longer than a week, it’s possible that you have an underlying condition that is causing the stiff neck, such as those mentioned above. You should check with your physician to be sure that any serious problem is identified quickly so you can seek additional treatment. Meanwhile, heads up!

Wondering How to Fix a Stiff Neck?


health insurance policy

Extended Health Benefits Explained

Canadians are fortunate, compared to their neighbours south of the border, in having most of our basic medical needs taken care of by the government. Of course, we do pay for health insurance in taxes – and through monthly payments for residents of British Columbia and Alberta – but we don’t panic or hesitate due to cost when we need to see the doctor. It’s a sound long-term government strategy for keeping us healthier overall.

Unfortunately, the government doesn’t fully cover all of our medical needs. Provincial health insurance generally pays 70 per cent of hospitalization costs, for example, and we need to ante up the other 30 per cent. That’s where extended health benefits enter the picture. If you’re lucky enough to work for an employer with an extended health care plan – a plan that pays for services not covered by the government – your additional benefits help close this gap.

Extended Health Insurance BC

Extended health care plans offer a variety of benefits, generally including dental care, eyeglasses, physiotherapy and massage therapy. The benefits vary from province to province: extended health insurance BC includes reimbursement for visits to naturopathic doctors, for example.

Plan members may be assigned a set dollar amount annually for each of these services; extended health benefits BC may pay a percentage of the cost of an individual service; or they may be provided with a health care savings account and allowed to allocate the annual dollars as they see fit. Depending on the service, the funds may not kick in until the plan member has spent a set amount, or deductible, on additional healthcare services.

extended health benefits
As an employee, you may not realize the worth of extended health benefits – unless you have worked in a field where the employer doesn’t offer them. Self-employed people, too, must pay for extended health insurance out of their own pockets or pay for the entire cost of such services. These plans are a valuable part of your overall compensation package, along with sick days and vacation time. Don’t disparage their significance – and make sure to use them!

Understanding your Extended Health Care plan

Are you even aware of the scope of your extended health care? Make it a ritual to review your extended health benefits annually to see what is available. If you don’t know, you certainly can’t take advantage of them. Note each benefit, the dollar limit available and the percentage you’ll need to pay out of pocket. Some plans cover only a percentage of certain services; others may cover more once your deductible is reached.

You may also need a prescription from your physician to take advantages of some of the services. If so, you can plan ahead; when you go for an annual checkup with your family doctor, you can request prescriptions for services you plan to use sooner, rather than later.

Using your Extended Health Benefits before they expire

Extended health benefits, like coupons, have an expiration date. They generally run for a year, whether a calendar year or a fiscal year. Once the year is over, the slate of available benefits is wiped clean and the next year’s benefits are made available. Even though you may not have used all of the benefits, you can’t carry them over from year to year.

If you had a voucher for a free flight to Hawaii that was only valid until the end of the year, would you let it expire? Unlikely! Or a coupon that gives you half-price admission to Grouse Mountain and a day of skiing? Of course not. So, why would you pass up the chance to take advantage of the full range of health benefits offered to you, especially if they can improve your health?

extended health care

Physiotherapy and your Extended Health Care Plan

Many of the benefits covered by extended health care plans are also preventive services, such as physiotherapy and massage. They may not be items that immediately spring to mind, unless you are in pain. However, they aren’t tailored solely for people who are suffering, and it makes sense to take advantage of them to improve your health.

Will you fall apart if you don’t go to see a physiotherapist or get a massage? Perhaps not, but why wouldn’t you access a massage or physiotherapy that will undoubtedly improve your health and prevent problems from stress or poor posture? Many extended health insurance plan providers even allow for direct billing, which means that your physiotherapist can bill them for your services directly! So, don’t procrastinate.

After reading this column, ascertain the best-before date of your annual extended health insurance plan and list your benefits. Even if they are available on a calendar-year basis, you still have more than a month until year’s end. Why not enjoy the opportunity to tune up your body and make sure it’s operating at its peak?

Ready to review your Extended Health Benefits?


What Is Kinesiology

What Is Kinesiology?

Many people get referred to a Kinesiologist for rehabilitation and recovery, after a motor vehicle accident or work related injury, or as part of a return to work program. Most people know what to expect from a Physiotherapist and Massage Therapist, however, many are unfamiliar with Kinesiologists and are wondering “What is Kinesiology?”.

Kinesiology Definition

Kinesiology is the multi-disciplinary scientific study of human movement, performance and function that explores the physiological, biomechanical and psychological mechanisms of movement. It considers the impact physical activity has on health, society and the quality of life.

What Is a Kinesiologist?

Kinesiologists are university-educated health professionals who seek to enhance the quality of life for patients by applying principles of anatomy, physiology, biomechanics and psychomotor behaviour to improve their functioning, performance and health. They evaluate physical issues and recommend solutions, helping patients to achieve health and wellness goals.

Practically speaking, kinesiologists employ evidence-based research in combination with assessment to assist human performance and prevent or rehabilitate injuries and other physiological problems.

Kinesiologists work in a variety of settings, including clinics and industry, and serve a wide range of clients, including professional or amateur athletes and senior citizens. They can help you with injury prevention, assessment and rehabilitation; treatment of chronic diseases; and preventative maintenance of your body.

What Can a Kinesiologists Do for Me?

What Can a Kinesiologists Do For Me

Let’s take a closer look at the various services that Kinesiologist offer:

  • Assessment and Active Rehabilitation. Whether you are injured in a car crash, at work or while playing soccer, a kinesiologist can help you through active rehabilitation. He or she will assess your physical function and craft a structured exercise program tailored to your individual situation that will allow you to return safely to your usual activities. People who have experienced heart attacks, strokes or traumatic brain injuries are ideal candidates for working with a kinesiologist.
  • Ergonomics and Workplace Design. In the workplace, kinesiologists analyze the physical demands of specific jobs, evaluating the risk for musculoskeletal injury. They assess risk factors and adapt workplace conditions to minimize injury potential, including modifying or designing equipment and tools. They also help companies whose employees perform physical labour, kinesiologists often conduct education sessions discussing the proper postures for lifting, carrying and similar tasks as a way of preventing workplace injuries. They also design on-the-job warmup and stretching routines and may serve as coaches/supervisors for employees returning to work after injury or illness, ensuring they are properly integrated back into the workplace.
  • Exercise Therapy. Their keen understanding of the mechanics of the human body makes kinesiologists ideal for helping design exercise regimens for people living with chronic diseases such as diabetes, arthritis and multiple sclerosis.
  • Sport Conditioning/High Performance Training. Who better to help athletes reach their peak performance than professionals who study the intricacies of motion? Kinesiologists can assist athletes of all stripes in improving their performance, whether they are Olympic swimmers trying to shave seconds off their best times or teenage hoping for a spot on the school team. Look to them to develop well-rounded programs that encompass sport-specific skills and overall fitness. With their help, athletes can expect to improve speed, power and agility.

Kinesiology in Canada: Colleges and Associations

Twenty-three of the 38 Canadian universities from coast to coast incorporate the term kinesiology into their faculty/department names or degree designations. Provinces have professional associations that represent and advocate for their members and develop scopes of practice for their members. In BC, the British Columbia Association of Kinesiologists or “BCAK” was incorporated in 1991.

What is a Kinesiologist

Practising Kinesiologists: Requirements in BC

Practising Kinesiologists in BC are required to have a minimum 4-year degree in specialized kinesiology or human kinetics program from a recognized post-secondary institution. They are required to commit to ongoing yearly professional development and continuing education. Here are some of the skills kinesiologists bring to the table in assessing patients:

  • A thorough knowledge of the indications and contraindications to exercise;
  • A thorough knowledge regarding the design and implementation of safe and effective exercise prescriptions for healthy individuals;
  • A comprehensive knowledge regarding the design and implementation of safe and effective exercise prescriptions for patients with chronic disease, functional limitations, and disabilities;
  • A clear understanding of the influence of commonly used medications on the response to exercise;
  • In-depth knowledge of acute and chronic responses and adaptations to exercise in healthy and clinical populations;
  • An ability to determine when to terminate exercise testing or training; and
  • A critical understanding of diagnostic stress testing protocols and procedures.

Now that you have a better understanding of this emerging discipline, don’t hesitate to call upon a practising kinesiologist to assist you in evaluating your current fitness, helping you to reach your athletic potential or restoring your mobility after injury or disease strike.

Meet Our Kinesiologist


high ankle sprain recovery time

What Is a High Ankle Sprain?

If you’re a professional basketball fan you’ve undoubtedly seen one of the players on your favourite team hobbling off the court in pain, often supported by teammates or the trainer. If the player is suffering from a high ankle sprain, he could be off the court for as little as a week for a mild sprain, but the more serious version could keep him out for months. When a star player gets injured in this fashion, he may not break the ankle, but he breaks many fans’ hearts.

How Does a High Ankle Sprain Occur?

A high ankle sprain differs from the mild sprain that occurs when you roll your ankle. The ankle joint is a complex one, because it is the location where the two lower leg bones, the tibia (shin bone) and the fibula (outer leg bone), come together and join to the foot.

A high ankle sprain is an injury

  • to the ligaments (connective tissue that joins two bones),
  • of your sydesmosis (a fibrous joint at the juncture of the two leg bones just above the ankle bone that includes Interosseous Membrane between the two bones), and
  • the anterior (front) and posterior (back) Tibio-Fibular ligaments.

It generally results from force reverberating through the ankle (e.g., when you slam it into the ground) combined with the rotational stress of turning the foot outward in relation to the leg.

Imagine two basketball players leaping for a rebound and colliding as they hit the ground, with one player’s knee knocking into the other’s. The two lower leg bones may be forced apart, the force causing the ligaments to stretch too far or tear.

It can also happen during side-to-side running, turning while in motion or stopping and starting your feet repetitively.

bones of the foot

How Do You Know if You Have High Ankle Sprain?

Symptoms of a high ankle sprain may include:

  • Minor swelling.
  • Significant bruising to the inside, outside and higher portion of the ankle.
  • Inability to walk.
  • Severe pain.
  • Pain when you try to rotate the ankle outward.
  • Pain when the ankle is touched.

How Long Does It Take to Recover From a High Ankle Sprain?

When a high ankle sprain occurs, it is with one of three degrees of severity. The recommended treatment for a high ankle sprain depends on the degree of severity involved. They are slower to heal than the more common low ankle sprains. While they heal, your physician may suggest a brace, splint or cast to immobilize the ankle as it heals.

  • Grade 1 sprain: This is the mildest variety of sprain with minimal damage to the ligaments, usually accompanied by pain and swelling. These milder sprains are generally treated with rest, ice, elevation and compression. Healing usually takes about six weeks, although you may not be ready to return to action immediately. You may experience joint stiffness and muscle weakness or tightness.
  • Grade 2 sprain: These sprains involve extreme stretching of the ligament and may include a partial tear. There is usually significant bruising and swelling under the skin and the ankle is unstable. It generally takes 6 to 12 weeks for recovery.
  • Grade 3 sprain: The most severe sprain involves a complete rupture of the ligament and walking is usually difficult. It may require surgery, especially if there is a lot of instability: your surgeon can insert a “syndesmotic screw” between the tibia and fibula to hold the bones in place while the ligament heals and is able to hold the bones in their proper positions. High ankle sprain rehab following surgery generally takes 3 to 6 months.

high ankle sprain treatment

High Ankle Sprain Rehab

Proper recovery from a high ankle sprain includes three phases, no matter how severe the injury:

  • Rest, swelling reduction and protecting the ankle.
  • Restoring range of motion, flexibility and strength.
  • Returning to normal activities.

Your physiotherapist will be instrumental in the recovery process, providing you with exercises and treatment that will assist you in returning to regular activities. Your physician may also suggest that you wear an ankle brace when you participate in sports.

Prevention

Unfortunately, once you experience a Grade 3 sprain, you are more prone to high ankle sprains. You can attempt to prevent further sprains by:

  • Stretching properly before you exercise.
  • Warming up beforehand and cooling down afterward.
  • Discussing any planned new physical activities with your physiotherapist.
  • When participating in high-impact sports, be conscious of your footwork.
  • Stay hydrated, especially during the activity.

A high ankle sprain may put you out of action for a while, but with patience and effort, you’ll soon be back in the game.

Suffering From a High Ankle Sprain?


rotator cuff injury symptoms

What is a Rotator Cuff Injury?

As the Major League Baseball season heads toward the World Series, its dramatic conclusion, commentators can be heard chattering about the pitchers whose arms are giving them trouble after a long campaign. Often, the words rotator cuff injury are bandied about, drawing moans and groans from the fans. To them, it raises the fear of potential surgery and the possibility that their favourite player won’t be healthy for the following season.

Should you be concerned when you hear those three words, rotator cuff injury? Let’s define the rotator cuff, discuss exactly what a rotator cuff injury is and consider how it can be treated.

The Rotator Cuff Explained

The rotator cuff comprises a group of four small muscles that stabilize and control your shoulder movement. The shoulder is a ball and socket joint, and the muscles come together to form a covering for the ball at the top of the arm bone (humerus) where it fits into your shoulder blade, or scapula.

The rotator cuff is connected to the bone with tendons. To allow the arm bone to glide easily, a lubricating sac called a bursa, separates the rotator cuff from your acromion, the bone at the top of your shoulder.

rotator cuff muscles

What Is the Best Treatment for Rotator Cuff Injury?

Impingement injuries resulting from overuse respond well to rest and anti-inflammatory medications. Your physiotherapist may also prescribe exercises to help you heal, restore range of motion and strengthen the muscles. Basic exercises for rotator cuff injury that are often used include:

  • doorway stretch;
  • side-lying external rotation;
  • high-to-low rows;
  • reverse fly; and
  • lawn mower pull.

Rotator cuff tears can be either partial or full. Partial tears result when a part of the rotator cuff pulls away from its attachment to the bone. They rarely require surgery and respond well to rest, ice, physiotherapy, medication and, perhaps, an occasional cortisone injection.

If the tear isn’t healing despite these treatments, there is now the option of having a bioinductive patch applied to the area using minimally invasive arthroscopic surgery. The patch induces the rotator cuff to regenerate and heal itself.

A full tear means the rotator cuff and its tendon are pulled completely away from the bone. If non-surgical means don’t work in treating your injury, or if your job depends on using your rotator cuff, your physician may suggest surgery to repair it. Generally, a surgeon will reattach the tendon to the humerus bone.

The most common surgical options are open repair, which requires a surgical incision; arthroscopy, which requires a tiny incision and uses a microscopic camera to guide the surgeon; and mini-open repair, which combines the two techniques.

Common Rotator Cuff Injuries

Your rotator cuff is protected from minor bumps and knocks by the bones and the ligaments that create an arch over your shoulder. However, injuries can happen, both acute and degenerative.

rotator cuff injury

Acute rotator cuff injuries result from a single incident, such as falling down onto an outstretched arm or using a jerking motion to lift something too heavy.

Degenerative rotator cuff injuries result from wear over time; they can occur naturally as we age. The blood supply to our rotator cuff muscles and tendons lessens, impairing the body’s ability to repair itself.

Rotator cuff injuries can result from the strain of repetitive motion, making tennis players and baseball pitchers susceptible, as well as painters, carpenters and anyone else who does work overhead.

Common rotator cuff injuries include impingements and tears:

  • Impingements result when rotator cuff muscles become irritated, swell and obstruct the space between the arm and shoulder bones, causing pinching and irritation to the tendons and bursa.
  • Tears and rips – either partial or full – in the rotator cuff muscles or tendons that attach the muscles to the bones.

What Are the Symptoms of Rotator Cuff Tear?

The symptoms for different types of rotator cuff injuries are varied, but common indicators include:

  • an arc of shoulder pain or clicking when you lift your arm to shoulder height or overhead;
  • shoulder pain that can extend from the top of your shoulder to your elbow;
  • shoulder pain when your arm is at rest (usually seen in more severe rotator cuff injuries);
  • shoulder pain when you are lying on your sore shoulder;
  • shoulder muscle weakness when attempting to reach or lift something;
  • shoulder pain when reaching for a seatbelt; or
  • shoulder pain when putting your hand behind your back or head.

A rotator cuff injury is best diagnosed using a diagnostic ultrasound scan. Although MRIs are often used to assess the injury, they have been known to miss rotator cuff problems.

If you are experiencing shoulder pain, don’t hesitate to talk to your physician or your physiotherapist. The sooner a rotator cuff injury is diagnosed and treated, the more likely that you’ll have a complete recovery.

Get Relief for Your Rotator Cuff Pain


shoulder bursitis

What is Shoulder Bursitis?

You’ve caught that high fly ball winging its way toward left field with a leap and a grab. As you throw it to third base for the out, you feel pain in your shoulder. Oh, no! Is this the beginning of the end of your career as an amateur outfielder? Will you have to give up a game you so enjoy?

Let’s hope not. What you may be experiencing is bursitis of the shoulder, also known as subacromial bursitis, because it occurs in the bursa beneath your acromion, the bone that forms the roof of your shoulder joint. Very well, you say, but whatever is a bursa?

What Causes Bursitis of the Shoulder?

A bursa (plural, bursae) is a fluid-filled sac that helps to reduce the friction between the bones in a joint and the soft tissues, such as tendons. The bursae lubricate and cushion the areas where these structures rub against each other. Inflammation to these sacs is called bursitis and it may occur in the shoulder, knees, elbows or wrists. Bursitis, while painful, isn’t life-threatening and usually responds well to treatment.

Common causes for shoulder bursitis are:

  • Overuse and repetitive movement.
  • Sudden injury, such as a blow to the area.
  • Aging; formation of calcium deposits on collarbone that interfere with bursa.
  • Sudden trauma, e.g., falling so that the shoulder absorbs the blow.
  • Lifting items overhead.
  • Underlying weakness of the rotator cuff or shoulder blade stabilizers that impinges upon the bursa.

Athletes who use an overhand throwing motion are susceptible to shoulder bursitis, such as swimmers, tennis players and volleyball players. Non-athletes who may experience shoulder bursitis include people involved in chores such as hanging the laundry or painting the house. Shoulder bursitis often occurs as the result of another injury, such as a torn rotator cuff, that begins to impact the bursa.

What Does Bursitis in the Shoulder Feel Like?

Shoulder-Bursitis-Symptoms

The main indicators of the onset of shoulder bursitis are pain and restricted movement:

  • Tenderness or stiffness in the affected area.
  • Gradual onset of pain that progressively worsens in intensity following or during repetitive activity.
  • Rapid onset of pain if caused by trauma.
  • Skin may swell and be warm to the touch.
  • Pain located at the outside of the shoulder and it may radiate to the mid-arm; it can spread as far as the wrist.
  • At rest, shoulder feels more comfortable when held across the body, as if in a sling.
  • Pain increases when you lie on the injured side, but it can also hurt when lying on your unaffected side with your arm slung across the body.
  • A tightening sensation in the upper arm.
  • Pain intensifies when you use your arm for actions that require you to lift it above shoulder height, such as reaching for an object on a high shelf.
  • Inability to lift arm away from body, because pain causes a feeling of weakness.

What Is the Best Treatment for Bursitis in the Shoulder?

If you are experiencing shoulder pain that you think might be bursitis, a visit to your physician is indicated. Once he or she diagnoses it, a course of rest and home treatment will generally be successful, but physiotherapy may also help you by strengthening the muscles around your joints; it will certainly be useful in preventing a recurrence.
To heal properly:

  • Rest is best. Avoid engaging in any activity that puts pressure on the shoulder or may cause pain.
  • Freeze it. As soon as you feel muscle pain or pain near a joint, apply ice for 10 or 15 minutes, as often as twice an hour, if needed. Continue for 72 hours (three days).
  • Dull the pain. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen help reduce inflammation and cut the pain.
  • Move it. Gently move the affected joint through its full range of motion daily to avoid stiffness. Work with your physiotherapist to add exercises that strengthen the surrounding muscles.

If the swelling is severe, your physician may decide to remove some of the fluid using a needle. He or she might also suggest a pressure bandage for the affected area.

Can Shoulder Bursitis Be Prevented?

Keep your shoulder healthy by:

  • Staying the course. Continue with your treatment and exercise regimen.
  • Slow but steady. Slowly re-start the activity that aggravated your shoulder, warming up beforehand and stretching afterward. Do the activity for short periods of time to give your body a chance to adjust.
  • Improve technique. If a certain activity has caused bursitis, make sure you are doing it with proper technique to avoid further injury. If equipment is necessary, check it to make sure it is doing its job in protecting you.
  • Look for alternatives. If the activity that led to injury is a sport you play for fun, consider looking for an alternative that doesn’t require overhead motion.

Remember: shoulder bursitis may be painful, but it can be healed. Be patient and follow the advice of your healthcare professionals and you should soon be feeling fine.

Our Physiotherapists Can Get You Some Relief!


Registered-massage-therapy

What is Massage Therapy?

Are your neck and shoulders tense from hunching over a computer for eight hours a day? Are you in pain from a sports injury? Perhaps you’re anxious about a big moment in your life, such as a wedding. It’s time to consider a visit to a massage therapist. But what is massage therapy, and who can benefit from it?

Massage Therapy Definition and Applications

The Registered Massage Therapy Association of BC defines massage therapy as the treatment and prevention of dysfunction, injury, pain and physical disorders of the soft tissues and joints by manual and physical methods to develop, maintain, rehabilitate or augment physical function to relieve pain and promote health.

Massage therapists manipulate the body’s soft tissues – muscles, tendons, connective tissues, joints and ligaments – to achieve results. Using touch, therapists:

  • relieve pain,
  • help heal injuries,
  • improve circulation,
  • increase relaxation,
  • relieve stress,
  • reduce muscular tension,
  • improve lymphatic drainage, and
  • help improve the general wellness of clients.

Massage therapy’s beneficial effect on the body and its ability to optimize health and well-being derives from its acting on the muscular, nervous and circulatory systems.

Massage therapy can be used to develop, maintain and improve physical function and it can relieve or prevent physical dysfunction and pain and the impact of stress on the body. It can be employed to treat both acute and chronic conditions, and it is also effective as a preventive strategy.

Therapeutic Massage Techniques: Types of Massage Therapy

therapeutic-massage-techniques
When it comes to therapeutic massage techniques, there are four common types of massage therapy:

  • Swedish massage. A gentle form of massage that uses long strokes, kneading, deep circular movements, vibration and tapping to help relax and energize you.
  • Deep massage. A massage technique that uses slower, more-forceful strokes to target the deeper layers of muscle and connective tissue, commonly to help with muscle damage from injuries.
  • Sports massage. Similar to Swedish massage, this approach is geared toward people involved in sport activities to help prevent or treat injuries.
  • Trigger point massage. An approach that focuses on areas of tight muscle fibers that can form in your muscles after injuries or overuse.

Massage Therapists use these massage techniques and others to provide relief for people with a variety of conditions, including:

  • Lower back pain,
  • Stress,
  • Sports injuries,
  • Pregnancy,
  • Arthritis,
  • Fibromyalgia,
  • Osteoporosis; and
  • Cancer.

However, massage therapy isn’t appropriate in all cases. Avoid it if you have any of the following conditions:

  • Bleeding disorders or take blood-thinning medication,
  • Burns or healing wounds,
  • Deep vein thrombosis,
  • Fractures,
  • Severe osteoporosis,
  • Severe thrombocytopenia.

Massage Therapy Canada – How to Become a Registered Massage Therapist in Canada

Four Canadian provinces regulate massage therapy, just as they do any other healthcare profession. British Columbia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Ontario require massage therapists to obtain certification in order to practise as Registered Massage Therapists (RMTs). Many other provinces have professional associations for their massage therapists, and membership is often a sign of appropriate training. The 2011 National Household Survey indicated that there are about 26,000 massage therapists in Canada.

RMTs undergo a rigorous course of education and training to achieve their professional designation – don’t confuse them with employees of massage parlours! Although massage therapy training varies among provinces, it requires comprehensive studies in health sciences such as anatomy, physiology, pathology, kinesiology, orthopedics and neuroanatomy, as well as an understanding of ethics and clinical practice.

How long does it take to become a Registered Massage Therapist in Canada?

Massage therapy programs are generally offered at colleges and last two or three years. In the provinces where registration is required, students must take a certification exam at the conclusion of the course to earn the designation Registered Massage Therapist.

Other provinces also offer massage therapy courses at the college level, but the graduates are not provincially certified or regulated.

Finding a Registered Massage Therapist in Vancouver, BC

Registered massage therapists may practise in a massage therapy clinic, set up in private practice or work as part of a team of healthcare professionals, including physiotherapists, physicians, nurses and social workers.

If you need to find a registered massage therapist in Vancouver, BC, you can ask your physician or physiotherapist to recommend an RMT, or you can contact a professional association, such as the Registered Massage Therapists of British Columbia, for a recommendation. In provinces where the profession isn’t regulated, there are also professional associations for massage therapists and they have a roster of members to suggest.

Visiting a Massage Therapist

If you haven’t visited a massage therapist in the past, you may be a bit anxious at the thought of someone you don’t know touching you. Relax. Massage therapists are healthcare professionals and they are trained to be sensitive to your concerns. They are also bound by professional ethics to treat you professionally and with appropriate care.

Your first appointment will undoubtedly remind you of a visit to your doctor. The RMT will ask about your medical history, your current health, your reasons for coming and any medications you are taking. They will assess your needs and suggest the therapeutic massage technique that they feel will best address your issues. You always have the right to disagree or refuse specific types of treatment.

Once you’ve enjoyed the health benefits of a therapeutic massage, you’ll be ready to return as often as you can. The relaxation and muscle relief are extremely satisfying and effective.

Looking for Vancouver's top Massage therapist?


pinched nerve

How to Treat a Pinched Nerve

As a child growing up, you, like most of us, were probably victimized on occasion by a sibling who pinched you for effect: the resulting screeches tend to be dramatic. A pinched nerve may not cause you to howl with the same pain and indignation, but it is unpleasant and requires tending. Unfortunately, calling for your mother to punish the offender isn’t an acceptable solution in this case!

What Is a Pinched Nerve?

Nerves are the highways and roads extending throughout our body to carry signals to and from the brain. When the surrounding tissues – cartilage, bones, muscles or tendons – place too much pressure on a nerve and pain and/or other symptoms result, it is called a pinched nerve.

You can experience pinched nerves at a variety of places throughout the body. For example, you may have a pinched nerve in your wrist, causing carpal tunnel syndrome, or a herniated disc that results in a pinched nerve somewhere in your spine. Many people experience a pinched nerve in their neck, shoulder, lower back, arm and feet.

What Causes a Pinched Nerve?

Some of us are more prone to pinched nerves than others. Your susceptibility is increased if you exhibit any of the following characteristics:

  • Female sex. Women are more likely to develop carpal tunnel syndrome.
  • Bone spurs. If trauma or injury causes a bone spur, it can narrow the passage for nerves to travel, leading to a pinched nerve.
  • Thyroid disease. If you have thyroid problems, you are more prone to carpal tunnel syndrome.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis. Arthritis often causes inflammation, which puts pressure on your joints.
  • Diabetes. People with diabetes have a higher risk of pinched nerves.
  • Overuse. If you participate in sports or hobbies that require repetitive motion, you stand at risk of a pinched nerve.
  • Prolonged bed rest. Lying down for long periods can lead to compression of your nerves.
  • Pregnancy. Pregnant women are susceptible to pinched nerves due to the pressure put on nerves by weight gain and water retention.
  • Obesity. Carrying excess weight can place pressure on your nerves.

Pinched Nerve Symptoms

If you have a pinched nerve somewhere in your body, you may experience one or more of these sensations:

  • Numbness or decreased sensation in the area supplied by the nerve.
  • Frequent feeling that a foot or hand has “fallen asleep”.
  • Muscle weakness in the affected area.
  • Sharp, aching or burning pain, which may radiate outward.
  • Tingling, pins and needles sensations (paresthesia).
  • Burning or hot and cold sensations.

pinched nerve symptoms

How Is a Pinched Nerve Diagnosed?

The connection between a pinched nerve and its symptoms may not be obvious, because the pain may not appear at the source; it may be felt further down the path from the affected nerve. Your spine, however, is a very intricate structure, so any changes to the surrounding muscles or tendons may have an impact.

If your physician suspects a pinched nerve, you may be asked to undergo one or more tests to determine whether your nerve is pinched and/or damaged:

  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). A magnetic field and radio waves produce images of your body on multiple planes.
  • Electromyography (EMG). EMG evaluates the electrical activity of your muscles when they’re active and when they are at rest.
  • High-resolution ultrasound. Sound waves produce images of your body’s structures, allowing assessment of damage.
  • Nerve conduction study. Electrodes measure electrical nerve impulses and muscle function.

How Do You Relieve a Pinched Nerve?

No matter whether the pain you are experiencing is minor or strong, it’s important to address it quickly so that you don’t sustain permanent nerve damage. Your physician will discuss options of how to treat a pinched nerve with you based on your condition.

In most cases your physician will turn first to non-invasive treatment options:

  • Rest. The first remedy your physician may suggest is rest of the affected area to allow healing. This may include wearing a splint to keep it immobile, depending on the location of the nerve.
  • Hot and Cold Therapy. Treating the affected area with heating pads and ice packs, used alternately according to instructions, may relieve mild pain.
  • Posture. Aligning the spine properly to distribute your body weight across it evenly can relieve pressure.
  • Physiotherapy. Physiotherapists can perform spinal traction (decompression), and teach you proper stretching and strengthening exercises to support the spine. They can help you increase the endurance and flexibility of the surrounding muscles, especially in the target area, to relieve pressure on the nerve and ease pain. They can also suggest ways to modify movements that aggravate the affected nerve.
  • Massage. A registered massage therapist can use deep therapeutic massage to increase blood flow and promote healing, while relieving pain.

After a few weeks or months, if these non-invasive treatments aren’t bearing fruit, your physician may suggest surgery to relieve the pressure on the nerve. The good news is that, in most cases, you can treat the injury yourself with help from the aforementioned professionals.

Get Relief for Your Pinched Nerve!


herniated disc

Herniated Disc vs. Bulging Disc

We don’t usually give our spines much thought – they are simply part of our anatomy. We know they help keep us upright, but that’s about all the attention they get – unless we have back pain. All of a sudden, there’s a spotlight on the spine, and its component parts – vertebrae and discs – are examined. The older we get, the more likely we are to suffer from common spinal issues: bulging or herniated discs.

The Spinal Column: Vertebrae and Discs

In addition to being part of the foundation that supports our bodies’ soft tissues, the spine plays a critical role: it protects the spinal cord, that rope of nervous tissue connecting the brain to other parts of the body, allowing messages to travel throughout our physical structures.

The spinal column has two component parts: vertebrae, the individual, articulated rings of bone that encase the spinal cord; and discs, the cushions that separate the vertebrae and protect them from grinding against each other.

Discs are made up of a fibrous outer layer of tough cartilage surrounding a gel-like centre of soft cartilage. Over time, these discs show evidence of wear and tear. They dehydrate and the cartilage becomes stiff, which can lead to both bulging discs and herniated discs – and potential pain.

Herniated Disc vs. Bulging Disc: Differentiating Disc Difficulties

Often, people assume a disc is a disc is a disc, but there is a difference between a bulging disc and a herniated disc.

A bulging disc results when stiffening causes the outer layer of cartilage to bulge out around its circumference, looking, as the Mayo Clinic describes like “like a hamburger that’s too big for its bun.” The bulge generally affects a quarter or more of the outer layer of tough cartilage.

A herniated disc occurs when a crack in the outer layer of tough cartilage allows some of the softer, gel-like layer to protrude out of the disc. It is also known as a slipped disc or a ruptured disc. The problem is confined to the area around the crack.

bulging disk

Causes of Disc Problems

As noted, discs lose water as we age, becoming less flexible and more prone to dislocating or tearing from bending or twisting. Bad posture can lead to disc issues, as can work that requires repetitive lifting, bending, driving or standing. If you habitually use your back and arms to pick up heavy objects, rather than relying on the power of your lower body, you are at risk.

Risk factors for disc problems include:

  • Genetics. Some people are pre-disposed to disc weakness.
  • Weight. Additional body weight puts pressure on the discs in your lower back.
  • Occupation. People who have physically demanding jobs are at greater risk of disc injury than others.

Symptoms of Disc Issues: Herniated Disc Symptoms

A bulging or herniated disc may produce no symptoms at all – you may never know that you have one. Symptoms generally arise when the problem disc places pressure on nearby nerves or inflames the nerves, causing pain. Common herniated disc symptoms include:

  • Pain at the site of the nerve compression.
  • Arm or leg pain; when you sneeze or cough, pain may also shoot through these appendages.
  • Tingling or numbness in related parts of the body.
  • Muscle weakness in the arms or legs, causing stumbling or an inability to hold objects; or
  • Muscle spasms.

Treating Disc Problems: Bulging and Herniated Disc Treatment

By avoiding painful positions, following a prescribed exercise regimen and taking pain medication, you should feel better within a few days. When it comes to bulging or herniated disc treatment, your doctor may prescribe physiotherapy as a way of relieving pain and strengthening your body to prevent further injury.

Physiotherapy treatment for bulging or herniated disc may include:

  • Active treatment. Active treatment addresses flexibility, posture, strength, core stability, and joint movement and often includes
    • Spinal traction. Spinal traction gently separates the spinal bones or vertebrae of the neck and back.
    • Flexibility exercises. Ward off stiffness and prepare you for more vigorous movement.
    • Hydrotherapy. Water aerobics are preferable to passive treatment, conditioning your body without undue stress.
    • Core strengthening. Core muscles assist your back muscles in supporting your spine; if they are weak, there is extra pressure on your back.
    • Muscle strengthening. Strong muscles help support your spine and allow you to cope with pain more easily.
  • Deep tissue massage. Relieves deep muscle tension and spasms that prevent movement of the muscles in the affected area.
  • Hot and cold therapies. Your physiotherapist may alternate these complementary treatments. Heat increases blood flow to the area to help healing and to remove waste by-products. Cold slows circulation to reduce muscle inflammation and pain.

If rest, medication and physical therapy aren’t relieving your herniated disc symptoms, your physician may prescribe surgery to remove the herniated portion of the disc, but this is only necessary in a small minority of cases. He or she may also suggest alternative treatments such as acupuncture, yoga or chiropractic spinal manipulation to relieve ongoing pain.

Let's get you some relief from your pain!


tennis elbow

Tennis Elbow and Golfer’s Elbow

“Summertime, and the livin’ is easy,” says the old song. School is out, vacations are on the calendar and the weather is conducive to all sorts of outdoor activities. For summer sports enthusiasts, it’s a treat to be able to leave the gym behind and head out to the tennis court or the golf course – unless, of course, injury makes that impossible. For avid tennis players and dedicated golfers, there’s always the danger of an overuse injury such as tennis elbow or golfer’s elbow.

What is Tennis Elbow?

With tennis elbow pain results from repeated contraction of the forearm muscles that you use to straighten and raise your hand and wrist. How do you get tennis elbow? When playing tennis, you may grip the racquet too tightly or use poor technique, putting stress on the tendons connecting your muscles to your elbow bone. Other activities can also lead to overuse and injury, including:

  • Cutting up ingredients for cooking, particularly meat
  • Repetitive computer mouse use
  • Using plumbing tools
  • Painting
  • Driving screws

What are some of the tennis elbow symptoms? With tennis elbow, pain generally radiates from the outside of your elbow to your forearm and wrist. It may make it challenging for you to hold a coffee cup, shake hands or turn a doorknob.

What is Golfer’s Elbow?

Golfer’s elbow generally results from overusing the muscles in the forearm that allow you to grip, rotate your arm and flex your wrist. The repetition required by gripping and swinging can injure the tendons in your forearm that attach to your elbow. Other athletes, such as pitchers and bowlers are also prone to golfer’s elbow, and it can result from regular hammering, raking and painting, too.

Golfer’s elbow results in tenderness and pain on the inside of your forearm. You may also feel stiffness in your elbow, making it difficult to curl your fingers into a fist. Your hands and fingers may feel weak and there may be a tingling sensation that radiates into your fingers. You may find it challenging to pick up something with your palm facing down or to flex your wrist.

golfers elbow

How do you treat Elbow Pain?

Let’s discuss how to treat tennis elbow and golfers elbow. Both usually respond to self care. Most commonly the treatment for tennis elbow and golfer’s elbow is as follows:

  • Take a break. Give your golf or tennis game a rest until the pain disappears. It may be frustrating, but returning to action too soon may cause the injury to recur.
  • Cold comfort. Ice the injured area for a few days to provide relief and reduce any inflammation. Try icing the elbow a few times a day for 15 to 20 minutes, using a pack wrapped in a dishtowel so the ice doesn’t injure your skin. The injured tendons lie close to the skin, so they don’t need long icing sessions.
  • Brace yourself. Wearing a specialized elbow brace can provide support that reduces the strain on the tendon, allowing it to heal.
  • Rub a dub dub. You may want to massage the affected area for five minutes at a time once the inflammation has disappeared.
  • Mouth to hand relief. You may want to use an over-the-counter pain reliever to alleviate some of the pain.

If the injury doesn’t seem to be healing, you may want to consult further with your physician. He or she will probably suggest:

  • Physiotherapy. Stretching and strengthening the affected area will promote healing while preventing further injury. Eccentric exercises, which lengthen the tendons, have proved to be effective. Your physiotherapist may also use ultrasound or electrotherapy to reduce pain and assist with healing.
  • Injections. A new therapy involves injecting platelet-rich plasma into the affected area to hasten healing.
  • Surgery. If there is no improvement within six months to a year, it is possible to have the damaged tissue surgically removed.

What is the main cause of Tennis Elbow and Golfer’s Elbow?

Both tennis elbow and golfer’s elbow are repetitive stress injuries caused by overuse that result in inflammation and small tears to tendons in the arm. Tendons connect muscle to bone. Tennis elbow – lateral epicondylitis – refers to injury to tendons on the front of the arm, while golfer’s elbow – medial epicondylitis – is the name given to injury to a forearm tendons.

How log does it take to recover from Tennis Elbow or Golfer’s Elbow?

You shouldn’t return to tennis or golf – or the other activities that led to the injury – until you can perform the challenging motions without pain. Don’t rush yourself, or you will simply re-injure the tendons.

Return to activity gradually. You may want to wear an elbow brace to start, and it is wise to consult with a professional to ensure that you are using the proper motion. If you feel pain during or after exercise, back off for a while. The goal is to stay healthy.

We offer Physiotherapy for Tennis and Golfer's Elbow!


ankle sprains

Ankle Sprain and Instability

You’ve undoubtedly seen it happen while watching a basketball game: a player jumps to grab a rebound and turns his foot as he lands awkwardly on his ankle. The player limps from the court, seeking help from the trainer. Ouch!

What the player has suffered is a sprained ankle. Everyone is familiar with the term, but what does it actually mean?

Ankle Sprains Explained

An ankle sprain is one of the most common injuries to the soft tissue of the ankle. It is estimated that approximately 100,000 Canadians suffer ankle sprains annually. In college and university sports, it is one of the most common injuries among both men and women.

An ankle sprain occurs when the ligaments, the bands of fibrous tissue that keep the ankle in place, are stretched or torn. It generally happens when the ankle is twisted, which can happen during an intense activity, such as a sport, or by simply losing your balance or stepping onto an uneven surface while walking.

A mild sprain results when the ligaments are simply stretched, a severe sprain occurs when the ligaments actually tear.

Sprained Ankle Symptoms

If you sprain your ankle, you can expect one or more of these symptoms:

  • Pain.
  • Bruising, resulting from ruptured blood vessels leaking into the tissue.
  • Swelling, resulting as fluid continues to leak into the tissue for 24 hours after the injury.
  • Tenderness when touched.
  • Joint instability, especially if the ligament is torn through.
  • A possible popping sound.

A severe sprain will exhibit symptoms similar to those of a broken bone and should receive immediate medical evaluation.

Diagnosis

During a physician’s physical examination of your ankle she or he will:

  • Palpate. Gently press the area around the ankle to determine which ligaments are affected.
  • Test range of motion. Move the foot in various directions to see which movements are possible.
  • Use imaging. Images of your ankle may assist in diagnosis. X-rays can determine whether any bones are broken, while an ultrasound allows for observation as the ankle moves to see how much stability the ligament offers. Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) may be used once swelling recedes to determine the extent of the injury.

ankle sprain diagnosis

Classification

Sprains are graded based on their severity – the amount of damage done to the ligaments. Grading is helpful to physiotherapists when they treat patients with sprains.

Grade 1 ankle sprain – mild

  • Ligaments are stretched slightly and there may be microscopic tears.
  • There is mild swelling, bruising and tenderness around the ankle.

Grade 2 ankle sprain – moderate

  • The ligament is partially torn.
  • Tenderness, bruising and swelling around the ankle are moderate.
  • Ankle is abnormally loose if moved in certain directions.

Grade 3 ankle sprain – severe

  • The ligament is torn through.
  • Swelling, bruising and tenderness around the ankle are severe.
  • With certain motions, there is substantial instability; unable to bear weight.

How to Heal a Sprained Ankle

Luckily for the injured, almost all sprained ankles can heal without surgery. However, healing will take time.

It is important not to treat a sprain lightly, because once an ankle has been sprained, it is more prone to further sprains. You may also experience stiffness and pain. Without proper rehabilitation, you may experience instability, which can lead other muscles to compensate. As a result, your gait may change, placing undue stress on your legs, knees or hips and making them more prone to injury.

Just as there are three grades of sprains, there are three basic steps to any ankle sprain treatment:

  • Step 1: Rest, protection of the ankle and swelling reduction.
  • Step 2: Restoring strength, flexibility and range of motion.
  • Step 3: Maintenance exercises and a gradual return to sports.

ankle sprains treatment

Physiotherapy for Ankle Spain

Initially, any sprained ankle can be treated using the RICE method: rest, ice, compression and elevation. However, once the initial swelling has receded, it’s time to turn to a physiotherapist for a rehabilitation program that focusing on rebuilding strength, restoring flexibility and range of motion and promoting stability.

In addition to a series of targeted exercises, your physiotherapist may employ a hands-on treatment called joint mobilization to restore the gliding motion to the ankle bones. Your exercises may also home in on your sense of position or proprioception. Nerve sensors inside your ligaments may be affected during a sprain and they may not give your brain an accurate reading of how your ankle is positioned. You may need to retrain your sense of position as you heal.

How Long Does it Take a Sprained Ankle to Heal?

Sprains generally heal in three to eight weeks if given proper treatment, so handle with care!

Take proper care of your Ankle Sprain!


achilles tendinitis

Achilles Tendon Problems

In Greek mythology, Achilles was the son of King Peleus, a mortal, and a sea nymph, Thetis, and the greatest warrior of the Trojan War. His mother attempted to render him invulnerable by dipping him in the River Styx, protecting his body except for the heel by which she held him for the dipping: his Achilles heel.

Our own Achilles tendons are the strong bands of fibres that connect our calf muscles to the heel. As legend implies, they are, indeed, vulnerable to injury. These injuries generally happen when you begin moving suddenly, pushing off with your foot. Achilles tendinitis (or tendonitis) and a ruptured Achilles tendon are the most common injuries to this tendon.

What is Achilles Tendinitis?

Achilles Tendinitis is an overuse injury due to repetitive motion that can cause pain, inflammation or degeneration of the tendon. It is common among runners and jumpers.

Achilles tendinitis can result from:

  • Increasing the duration or intensity of your runs.
  • Playing sports only on the weekends in middle age.
  • Sudden change in your training surface (e.g., asphalt to grass).
  • Flat feet that over-pronate.
  • Feet with high arches and tight Achilles tendons.
  • Tight hamstrings and calf muscles.
  • Shoes without enough support.

Signs and symptoms

  • Achilles tendinitis usually starts with mild pain after exercise that requires repetitive motion. You’ll generally feel a mild ache in the back of the leg or heel afterward.
  • During the night or when you awaken in the morning, you may feel more pain and stiffness.
  • If inflammation is involved, the area may be red, swollen, tender or warm.
  • Use of the tendon may result in a crunchy feeling.

Diagnosis: Your physician will examine your ankle and your foot and assess the range of motion and the condition of the tendon. X-rays or other types of imaging may be used.

Achilles Tendinitis Treatment

Once your achilles tendinitis is diagnosed by a doctor, a visit to the physiotherapist is generally in order. Here’s what to expect for your Achilles tendinitis treatment:

  • Your pain threshold will be assessed and any movements that cause increase pain identified.
  • If there is inflammation involved, your physiotherapist may use ultrasound to reduce it and stimulate blood flow, which promotes healing.
  • Deep massage to improve flexibility and further increase blood flow.
  • Stretching and flexibility exercises that can assist in healing without shortening the tendon.
  • Strengthening exercises to protect against further injury while helping your regain any strength that has been lost.
  • Additional support: Your physician may suggest orthotics to elevate your heel, relieve strain on the tendon and lessen the amount of force it absorbs during exercise.

achilles tendon

Recognizing an Achilles Tendon Rupture

What is an Achilles tendon rupture? A rupture is a tear in the Achilles tendon when an abrupt movement is too much for the tendon to handle. It can occur spontaneously, without warning, or you may have experienced tendinitis previously.

Achilles Tendon Rupture Symptoms

  • You may feel a sudden, sharp pain above your heel as the tendon releases the calf muscle.
  • There may be a popping or snapping sensation.
  • The back of the leg between heel and calf may swell.
  • You’ll have difficulty walking, especially up stairs or uphill.

Diagnosis: A physician or surgeon will ask about your history and the circumstances surrounding the injury. A physical exam will include an evaluation of range of motion and muscle strength, comparing it to the uninjured foot. The diagnosis is usually straightforward, but imaging tests may be required.

Treatment

Immediately after the injury, use the RICE method of treating your achilles: rest, ice, compression and elevation.

Non-surgical option for a ruptured achilles tendon:

  • Minor or partial ruptures.
  • Less active patients.
  • Patients with medical conditions that prevent surgery.
  • Employs a cast, walking boot or brace with a heal lift to support the tendon and allow it to heal.

Archilles rupture surgery:

  • Decreases likelihood of another rupture.
  • May improve push-off strength.
  • Generally improves muscle function and ankle movement.
  • Requires an incision and stitching the tendon back together.

Achilles Rupture Recovery

Healing from surgery usually takes four to six months. Effort is required to restore your heel to health. Your physician will generally recommend physiotherapy to:

  • Strengthen the tendon.
  • Regain flexibility.
  • Improve agility.

Post-Recovery

Take things slowly. Don’t return to your previous level of physical activity until:

  • Your healed leg feels as strong as your other leg.
  • You can move your healed leg as freely and easily as your other leg.
  • You feel no leg pain when you walk, run and sprint.

An Achilles tendon injury is treatable, so don’t despair.

Are you experiencing problems with your Achilles?


Plantar Fasciitis Treatment

Plantar Fasciitis – Heel Pain

We all have our metaphorical Achilles heels, but for people suffering from plantar fasciitis, the heel itself is actually their weak spot.

What is Plantar Fasciitis?

Plantar fasciitis is the inflammation of the tough, fibrous band of tissue that runs across the bottom of your foot, connecting your toes to your heel. If you took Latin in school, you’ll recognize the terms: plantar refers to the bottom of the foot; fascia means bandage or band; and it means inflammation. It all adds up to an unpleasant injury.

What is the best treatment for Plantar Fasciitis?

Ninety per cent of plantar fasciitis cases can be treated successfully without surgery. There are a variety of techniques that your physiotherapist and physician may recommend, and it may take some time to find the combination that helps you heal and alleviates your pain. The non-invasive possibilities include:

  • Ultrasound, soft tissue massage and/or icing. These remedies help decrease pain and inflammation.
  • Iontophoresis. Using a mild electric current to push the anti-inflammatory medication that your doctor prescribes into the painful area.
  • Exercises. Stretches designed to improve the flexibility in your calves, plantar fascia and Achilles’ tendon.
  • Orthotics. These customized arch supports help cushion your heel and support your arch.
  • Heel cup. This shoe insert adds support to a heel that has lost some of its fat pad through degeneration.
  • Night splint. A splint that you wear while you sleep that prevents your foot from moving into an improper position while you sleep and stretches your calf muscles a bit.
  • Taping. You’ll see athletes using this method to provide temporary relief to sore parts.

If your pain isn’t lessening after a few months, a professional may suggest one of these measures:

  • Injections. Injecting steroid medication into the sore area may provide temporary pain relief. However, this shouldn’t become an ongoing solution because it can weaken the fascia.
  • Extracorporeal shockwave therapy. Sound waves target the painful area to relieve pain. This is used largely for chronic cases and may cause side-effects, such as swelling, numbness and tingling.
  • Surgery. As a last resort, surgery can detach the fascia from the heel bone, but it does weaken the arch in the foot.

Plantar Fasciitis

What is the main cause of Plantar Fasciitis?

The plantar fascia is made up of collagen fibres. When you put your foot on the ground, you are placing a great deal of force on these fibres as your foot tries to flatten. The force stretches the fibres and it can lead to tears and bleeding on the band where it attaches to the heel bone.

Plantar fasciitis affects men and women of all ages, athletic or not. Factors that influence susceptibility include:

  • The calendar. It is most common between the ages of 40 and 60.
  • Change of pace. A rapid increase in the length or difficulty of activity (e.g., a new job that requires you to be on your feet much more than you were previously).
  • Foot mechanics. Flat feet, high arches or an unusual walking pattern can affect the way your weight is distributed when you’re standing.
  • Heavy hitters. Increased body weight with a body mass index greater than 30; extra pounds place additional stress on your feet.
  • On your feet. A job, hobby or sport that requires prolonged standing or other weight-bearing activity – think of teachers and factory workers, for example.
  • Tightening. A decrease in the flexibility of your calf muscles.
  • Flimsy flats. Wearing shoes with inadequate support.

Plantar Fasciitis – Heel Pain

Plantar Fasciitis Symptoms

If you experience any of the following symptoms, there’s a chance you’re suffering from plantar fasciitis and it’s time for a visit to your physiotherapist:

  • Pain on the bottom of your heel or along the inside edge near the arch.
  • Heel pain that increases over a period of months.
  • Pain that returns after you spend a long period of time on your feet.
  • Pain that radiates into your arch, the side of your heel or up the back of your leg.
  • Pain that is worse when you get out of bed in the morning; the first few steps may be agonizing.
  • Your heel may feel better after you exercise, but it usually returns by the end of the day.
  • Pressing on the heel causes tenderness, while pulling your toes back toward your face can be very painful.
  • Heel pain when climbing stairs or walking barefoot.

Don’t become one of the victims of plantar fasciitis. Preventive measures include stretching before and after running or walking; maintaining a healthy body weight; and wearing shoes with good arch support. However, if you do experience heel pain, it’s important to know that relief is possible.

Is Plantar Fasciitis causing you Heel Pain?


Why-Do-Muscles-Feel-Tight

Why Do Muscles Feel Tight?

We’ve all experienced the unpleasantness of stiff or sore muscles, whether they feel tight when we get out of bed in the morning or after a long walk or run. Even if the pain isn’t excruciating, the stiffness can be frustrating. In fact, it may tempt us to forego our exercise sessions, which isn’t healthy in the long run.

Why do we feel these sensations, and what are our bodies trying to tell us?

Why tightness?

Our muscles expand and contract as we exercise, and we feel stiff when the muscle fibres contract, seize up and find it difficult to expand. Here are some situations where that may occur:

  • Missing minerals. Muscles need magnesium to relax and calcium to tighten. If the two aren’t in balance, muscles can contract or have spasms.
  • High and dry. Muscles, which are active tissues, require water to function properly. Water contains the electrolytes that send messages between the nervous system and the muscles. When the proper amount of water is lacking this communication ability is impaired and muscles don’t work smoothly.
  • Genetics. Muscles have both slow twitch and fast twitch fibres. Fast twitch fibres don’t consume oxygen and are most likely to stiffen. Most people have the same amount of each type of fibre, but if you have an excess of fast twitch fibres, you may be more prone to stiffness.
  • Inactivity and imbalance. During prolonged periods of inactivity, muscles may tighten due to their restricted movement. For example, when you sit too long, the hip flexors (front hip muscles) tighten and the gluteal muscles (rear hip muscles) lengthen, causing an imbalance. The tightened muscles may feel stiff, while the lengthened muscles may weaken. Balance is the key for the long term.
  • Short, but not sweet. Your muscles may tighten – i.e., cramp – while you are exercising. When your muscles contract, the fibres shorten and tension in the muscle increases. When the contraction finishes, the fibres decrease the tension and lengthen. A cramp occurs when the fibres are unable to lengthen. The ongoing shortened muscles may be due to fatigue, poor hydration or inadequate nutrition.
  • Home and cooled out. Tightness, which is experienced as soreness, may be felt for 24 to 72 hours after exercise as a result of small ruptures in your muscles. It is most common after doing exercises that involve contractions where a weight is lowered.

What Relieves Muscle Tightness?

Relieve Muscle Tightness
Using non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs reduce inflammation and pain, but they may actually slow the healing process. A post-exercise massage may be more beneficial.

Vigorous exercise causes tiny tears in muscle fibres and inflammation is the immune reaction signalling that the body is working to repair these tears. Compounds called cytokines are involved in inflammation, and they are reduced by massage. Massage also stimulates the mitochondria inside the muscle cells; these mini-machines turn glucose into the energy necessary for cell repair and functioning.

Massage is also a good remedy for muscle tightness for other reasons:

  • Blood flow. Massage improves circulation and blood flow is important in healing muscle tears, because it carries nutrients necessary for muscle repair.
  • Sleep therapy. Sleep is part of the recovery process, and massage can improve the quality and quantity of the athlete’s sleep.

Preventing Muscle Tightness from Occurring

Preventing Muscle Tightness from Occurring

  • Watch your posture. Be aware of positioning when you are seated and when you sleep, ensuring that you’re not overloading particular muscles, leading to tightness.
  • Strengthen muscles prone to tightness. Strong muscles take longer to tighten, since they are able to handle the work they are given. Weak muscles are more likely to get tight.
  • Don’t neglect adjacent muscles. One muscle may get tight because it is required to do the work of a weak muscle next door. Don’t allow that to happen.
  • Get moving. Staying in one position for any length of time, even if it’s a proper one, isn’t good for you. Moving around every so often will prevent muscles from getting tight.

The message in a nutshell? Stay loose, folks, but if you can’t, consider a massage from a Registered massage therapist!

Experiencing MUSCLE TIGHTNESS or TENSION?


neck pain and headaches

Coping With Neck Pain and Headaches

How many times have you thought of somebody to be “a pain in the neck”? Interestingly, however, a number of physical issues that affect the neck actually manifest themselves as “a pain in the head” – or a headache. There are many causes of neck pain and of headaches, so make sure you are informed before you decide upon a course of treatment – get a diagnosis from your physician or physiotherapist.

How to Relieve Neck Pain

Physiotherapists are trained to diagnose and treat neck joint dysfunctions and muscle imbalances. Your physiotherapist may employ some or all of the following techniques, depending on the individual diagnosis of your neck pain:

  • Gentle join mobilization and manipulation to loosen or unlock stiff neck joints.
  • Strengthening exercises for weak muscles, focusing on neck muscles and postural shoulder blades.
  • Stretching, massage, acupuncture, dry needling or other relaxation techniques to provide relief to tight or overactive muscles.
  • Deep neck muscle strengthening exercises for control, stabilization and limiting the joint movement of unstable joints.
  • Exercise, awareness, taping or a brace to correct poor posture.
  • Prevention advice regarding awkward postures to avoid in future.

In addition, if you have any type of nerve dysfunction, it will be addressed with special care. Depending upon the severity of your problem and its underlying causes, it should be resolved within a few days or a few weeks. Rehabilitation will be based on both treatment and prevention.

Why Does my Neck Hurt?

Although the physical problem originates in the neck, the pain radiates to the head, causing discomfort; the pain signals travel from your neck to the trigeminocervical nucleus in your brainstem and a headache results. Research has shown that neck headaches account for anywhere from 4% to 22% of all headaches treated clinically.

Various musculoskeletal or neurovascular structures in your cervical spine (neck) can be at the root of cervicogenic neck headaches when they are out of balance or malfunctioning. Your neck joints, neck muscles and nerves are the most likely culprits of your neck pain.

  • Your joints may be too stiff or too wobbly – unsupported because surrounding muscles are weak.
  • The joints may also be locked in an abnormal joint position, likely due to poor posture. Given the number of us who sit in front of computer terminals all day, this shouldn’t be surprising.
  • Problems with your cervical disks may also result in pain that radiates from neck to head.

Your neck muscles may work too hard if they are trying to protect injured joints. Over time the balance in your neck muscles changes, causing your head to feel heavy because some of the muscles that should be supporting your head have weakened, while the others have tried to compensate. Neck muscles work best when they have normal resting tension, length, strength, power and endurance.

why does my neck hurt

Common Neck Headache Symptoms

If you are experiencing one or more of these symptoms, you likely have a neck headache:

  • Tenderness at the base of the skull and top of the neck.
  • Neck stiffness or mild loss of movement.
  • Your headache pain radiates from the back of the head to the front.
  • Your headache is centred on one side of your head or the other and stays there.
  • When you apply pressure or massage the base of your skull or your neck, the pain eases.
  • Your headache is lessened or heightened by a sustained posture, neck movement, or sleeping on your stomach or with your head turned to one side.

Given that there are more than 300 known causes for headaches, your physiotherapist may determine that the neck isn’t the cause of your headache. If your symptoms indicate a different cause, they will direct you toward the proper source of treatment.

Is your neck causing you headaches?


muscle knot

What is a Muscle Knot?

During the centuries when tall ships adorned with sails dominated the seas, any skilled sailor knew how to tie dozens of knots with intriguing names such as the anchor bend, the bowline and the half-hitch.

The knots we get in our muscles aren’t nearly so exotic or desirable; they’re painful. In addition, they’re not actually knots. So, what are they?

The Knot That’s Not

We have approximately 3-400 pairs of muscles in our bodies; as one muscle pulls in a certain direction, the other pulls in the opposite direction. Given all the work done by these muscle pairs, it shouldn’t be surprising to learn that when we work muscles hard, we may create an imbalance within the pairings. There isn’t enough distance between the muscle fibres, so the muscles can no longer glide freely and get stuck together.

This tight, painful spot that we call a muscle knot can be referred to as an adhesion – fibres sticking to each other – or a myofascial trigger point (MTP). Trigger points may only hurt when you put pressure on them or they can regularly send pain signals along your neural pathway.

Tying Those Knots or How do Knots Form?

how do knots form

There are three common causes for muscle knots:

  • Accidents: Acute trauma to your body, such as a fall or a sports injury can strain your muscles and joints.
  • Postural stress: Regularly carrying heavy objects (e.g., purses) on one shoulder, sitting too long with poor posture, sitting without support – bleachers, anyone? – or lifting heavy objects improperly.
  • Overstimulation: Strenuous sporting pursuits or exercise; lifting weights.

Preventing Muscle Knots

Now that you understand a bit about the causes and the mechanics of muscle knots, you’d undoubtedly prefer to avoid them! There are steps you can take to prevent a muscle knot from developing:

  • Hydration and Diet: Drink plenty of water and maintain a healthy diet. Water helps to lubricate your muscles, while caffeinated drinks, alcohol and fast foods loaded with salt help dehydrate you. Ensure that you get enough of foods that contain B vitamins, potassium and calcium, such as bananas and yogurt. If you are mindful of what you put into your body and eat and drink healthily, you are less likely to get injured.
  • Lifestyle: Lack of sleep and ongoing stress makes you more vulnerable to injury. Get proper rest and don’t abuse your body. Even a short period of daily meditation or yoga can be useful for relaxation.
  • Massage: It’s not just for spa days – think of professional athletes. Massage therapy is a useful tool for keeping muscles oxygenated, flexible and healthy.
  • Regular Breaks: Many of us today spend our lives seated at a desk and tied to our computers. Our bodies are designed to move, and it’s unhealthy for them to remain in one position for too long. At work or at home, get up each hour and walk around a bit – fill up your water bottle, for example. While sitting at your desk, stretch your neck, uncross your legs and straighten your shoulders. Movement is good.
  • Exercise Regularly: As noted above, our bodies are designed for motion. Build regular exercise into your weekly schedule so that you remain flexible and strong. A physiotherapist can assist you in determining which exercises are best for your lifestyle and physical strengths and abilities.
  • Stretch: When you finish exercising and your muscles are warm, do a series of stretches to help them remain flexible.

How to Get Rid of a Muscle Knot

how to get rid of a muscle knot

As much as we’d all love to avoid muscle knots altogether, they may occur. When you feel a knot and experience pain, your body is sending a signal that it needs help. Consider these possibilities to get rid of a muscle knot:

  • Rest: It’s time to take a break from whatever is causing the pain, whether it’s sitting at your computer or lifting weights at the gym. Give your body some time to heal.
  • Massage: While it’s great for prevention, massage therapy is also very useful as a treatment for knots. A registered massage therapist can break up your adhesions, relieve muscle pain and suggest appropriate self-care that may include foam rollers or other tools.
  • Physiotherapy: If you have been bothered by pain for a while, a physiotherapist will help identify the underlying causes and will provide relief with the most appropriate techniques.
  • Stretch: Gentle range-of-motion activities are usually helpful, but it is best to discuss your proposed routine with a physiotherapist, massage therapist or athletic trainer before embarking on it. Be sure that your movements are pain free.

Muscle knots are NOT insurmountable. With the proper attention, you should be able to resume your usual activities and prevent them from recurring regularly.

Bothered by muscle knots?


shin splint

What are Shin Splints?

What do runners, ballet dancers and military recruits have in common? One trait they all share is a susceptibility to shin splints.

What are shin splints? A shin splint is  actually an inflammation of the tendons, muscles and bones surrounding your tibia, or shin bone. Generally, the pain occurs on the inside edge of your shin bone where your muscles attach to the bone. While any vigorous sporting activity can lead to shin splints, most people associate them with running.

Shin Splits Causes

Shin splints are caused when the leg’s muscles and bone tissue are overworked by repetitive physical activity. There are a number of physical reasons that can turn overwork into inflammation:

  • Excessive pronation of the foot;
  • Increase in strain on a muscle;
  • Overstriding;
  • Local fatigue of the surrounding structures, decreasing their ability to absorb shock and transferring it to the shin bone;
  • Inflexible calf muscles, lessening ankle flexibility;
  • Increasing intensity in training.

People who have flat feet or unusually rigid arches are susceptible to shin splints. In addition, running in worn-out shoes can bring on this unwanted inflammation.

Discuss your symptoms with your doctor. He or she may want to conduct some tests to rule out other shin problems, such as stress fractures and tendinitis.

Shin Splits Treatment

what are shin splints
Unfortunately, the treatment for shin splint requires rest from the activity that caused the inflammation – and that means no running for a while. Recovery can take three to six months.

For anyone working toward a goal, it can be frustrating, but you can substitute other aerobic activity such as swimming or using a stationary bike, to maintain your fitness while you recover. A physiotherapist can help prescribe a course of exercises that will keep you in shape without aggravating your injury.

You shouldn’t return to the activity that caused your shin splint until you are pain free for two weeks.

In the meantime, you should find these aids helpful in treating shin splints:

  • Flexibility exercises: Your physiotherapist can assist you in choosing exercises to stretch your lower legs and ease some of the pain.
  • Range of motion exercises: By exercising your ankles, knees, feet and hips, you can relieve pain, reduce inflammation and improve circulation, which aids healing. Ask your physiotherapist to suggest a course of exercise.
  • Ice: Apply ice packs to your shins for 20 minutes at a time a few times a day.
  • Compression: If you have swelling, a compression bandage may help keep it under control.
  • NSAIDs: Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen or Aspirin help reduce pain.

How to Prevent Shin Splints

prevent shin splints
In addition to the discomfort they cause, shin splints put a cramp on your training schedule. If you’re preparing for a big race, there’s nothing more frustrating than delays or obstacles that could keep you from meeting your goal. With that in mind, here are some helpful hints on how to prevent shin splints:

  • Slow and steady. As you train, build up to longer distances gradually. Don’t expect to run five kilometres one week and be ready to do 10 the next.
  • Mix it up. Don’t make running your only activity, given the strain it puts on your joints. Combine it with other activities, such as swimming, cycling or rowing, that give you the same cardiovascular boost without the joint stress.
  • Short and sweet. A short stride length is better for your body and helps prevent shin splint. It also helps you increase speed, since quicker leg turnover leads to speed. Two benefits for the price of one!
  • Make it the middle. Landing flat on the middle of your foot prevents stress and injury. If you run on your toes, your calf muscles may become strained, while striking the ground heel first stretches your shin muscles.
  • Shoe cues. Give your feet the extra support they need by selecting neutral shoes or those that are designed for stability or motion control. Ask your physiotherapist for a gait analysis. If you are striking with your heel or overpronating (turning your foot outward), orthotics in your shoes may help keep you aligned properly by providing arch support. It’s an inexpensive way to keep other conditions, such as plantar fasciitis, at bay, too. In addition, make sure to replace your shoes every 500 kilometres. Worn out shoes are a major cause of shin splints, since the wear and tear erodes their support.

Prevent shin splints, but if you can’t avoid them, follow the proper course of treatment so you don’t do yourself permanent harm.

Are Shin Splints causing you discomfort?


restless leg syndrome

Restless Legs Syndrome

restless leg syndrome
People who work at desk jobs try to remind themselves to get up regularly and stretch, since research has shown it is better for their general health. Those suffering from Restless Legs Syndrome, however, wish they had the choice of sitting still for as long as they wished, rather than being compelled to move.

What is Restless Leg Syndrome?

Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) is a disorder that causes an uncontrollable urge to move your legs, generally because of discomfort. Between five and 15 per cent of Canadians suffer from RLS and describe the discomfort as a pins and needles sensation under the skin, tingling, crawling or prickling.

It is also called Willis-Ekbom Disease after two physicians, centuries apart, who described the disorder: Sir Thomas Willis, a 17th-century British physician, and Karl-Axel Ekbom, a Swedish physician writing in the 1940s.

Restless Legs Syndrome can begin at any time of life and usually worsens with age. It generally makes itself felt in the evenings and can interfere with sleep. About 80 per cent of people who suffer from RLS experience a related condition, periodic limb movements, twitches and kicks that happen at while you sleep.

what causes rls
Movement provides temporary relief to RLS sufferers, so travel can be difficult, because sitting in a confined space for long periods of time is uncomfortable.

What Causes Restless Leg Syndrome?

Although researchers are still exploring the cause for RLS, it may result from an imbalance of the chemical, dopamine, in the brain, because its messages help control muscle movement.

Often, Restless Leg Syndrome is hereditary, especially cases that begin before age 50. It may appear during pregnancy, especially in the last trimester, but RLS usually disappears after delivery.

Low levels of iron may bring on RLS, but it usually disappears with treatment. It is also often associated with diabetes and Parkinson’s disease.

Diagnosing the Disease

There is no test to diagnose RLS. The Mayo Clinic notes that a diagnosis is based on the following criteria, established by the International Restless Legs Syndrome Study Group:

  • You have an often irresistible urge to move your legs, usually accompanied by uncomfortable sensations typically described as crawling, creeping, cramping, tingling or pulling.
  • Your symptoms worsen during periods of inactivity, such as sitting or lying down.
  • Your symptoms are partially or temporarily relieved by activity, such as walking or stretching.
  • Your symptoms are worse at night.
  • Your symptoms can't be explained solely by another medical or behavioral condition.

Your physician may order other tests, such as a blood test to check iron levels or a test for nerve damage, in order to rule out other potential causes for your discomfort. You may also undergo a sleep study to determine whether you are afflicted by periodic limb movements.

Restless Leg Syndrome Treatment

restless leg syndrome treatment
You may be able to control Restless Leg Syndrome with lifestyle changes. Try the following suggestions for relief of symptoms:

  • Get regular exercise. Your physiotherapist can devise an exercise therapy that will help alleviate symptoms. Avoid working out too late in the day, however, or the symptoms may intensify.
  • Warm and cozy. Soak in a warm bath and massage your legs to relax the muscles. A physiotherapist can offer a massage that provides relief.
  • Cut the coffee. Sometimes, avoiding caffeine alleviates symptoms, so try staying away from chocolate, coffee, tea and soft drinks for a few weeks and see if there is any improvement.
  • Say om. Try relaxation techniques such as yoga or meditation. Stress aggravates RLS, so the more relaxed you are, the better.
  • Sleep smartly. Fatigue worsens RLS. Develop good sleep habits. Make sure your bedroom is cool, quiet and dark. Go to bed and arise at the same time daily, whether or not it is a workday. These routines should allow for good sleep.

If non-medical remedies don’t make a difference in your discomfort, your physician may recommend medication. However, there is no perfect solution, since each of the available medications comes with its own caveats and/or side effects, including increased drowsiness and susceptibility to falling down.

RLS treatment is highly individual – there is no “one size fits all.” With the help of medical professionals, including physicians and physiotherapists, you should be able to create a relief program that works best for you.
[divider style="empty" margin_top="40px" margin_bottom="0px"]

Experiencing symptoms of Restless Legs Syndrome?

Our experienced physiotherapists are here to help you.

[button size="large" color="orange" link="https://southvanphysio.janeapp.com/"]Book Appointment Now[/button]

[divider style="empty" margin_top="60px" margin_bottom="0px"]


injury prevention

How to Exercise Without Injuries

It may be winter and cold or snowy, but exercise still figures prominently in many people’s schedules. If you’ve just started an exercise regimen or tend to just do what you’ve always done without giving it much thought, it’s time to pay closer attention to how you prepare for exercise and how you execute.

The older you get, the easier it is to get injured by doing too much, not being warmed up or making an awkward movement, so why not get into the good habits that help prevent exercise injuries?

Hydration

You wouldn’t start your car without gasoline, so don’t start your body without proper hydration. Water lubricates your system and helps prevent injuries while working out. Ideally, start drinking water 20 minutes before your workout to allow it time to percolate through your system. Drink throughout your activities and afterward to replace fluids lost through sweating.

Nutrition

Exercise requires energy, and you want to make sure your body is ready to take on the challenges you impose on it. It needs access to glycogen for muscles to work properly; otherwise, they are subject to tears that may take time to heal. Don’t put yourself out of action unnecessarily.

Eating carbohydrates prior to working out is helpful in improving performance and may allow you to exercise for a longer period or at a higher intensity. Consuming protein after a workout helps to repair damage done to muscle fibres.

Circulation and Muscles

exercise without injuries
Start any workout, including a run, with a bit of light cardiovascular movement to get your blood moving through your system easily and to loosen your muscles. Jump rope, jog in place or ride an exercise bike for 5 or 10 minutes.

Flexibility

Give your flexibility a boost by doing some stretches after your warm-up. They will help your body handle the stress of exercise without injury.

Best Before Date

Overextending yourself isn’t the best way to demonstrate just how youthful, macho or cool you are. Be realistic as you assess your capabilities and plan an exercise program. Don’t simply assume you can do whatever routine it was you last tried, since that may have actually been years ago. It’s easy to do too much exercise for too long with too much intensity, resulting in injury. So, be realistic and aware.

Sex Matters

We’re talking about gender here. Men and women have different physical susceptibilities that may make certain injuries more likely. It doesn’t mean that men or women should refrain from specific activities; it’s just a reminder to be aware of the dangers before jumping into the fray.

prevent exercise injuries
Generally speaking, men are better at activities that use a rigid plane of motion: Nautilus machines and push-ups, for example. Women usually excel at activities that use multiple or diagonal planes of motion: yoga, Pilates, cycling and stair climbers, for instance.

Variety is the Spice of Life

Triathlons have gained in popularity for a good reason: they require athletes to cross-train, using different muscles for the swimming, biking and running portions of the competition, which helps prevent overuse and injury. Take a leaf from their workout notebooks and vary your routine. If you focus on cardio one day, try strength the following day and put your energies into stretching the next.

Relax

Rest should also be part of any exercise routine. Remember, your body, like any machine, can break down if not maintained properly. Take at least one day a week off from exercising to allow your body to heal itself. In addition, if you’re feeling tired or sore, there’s no shame in skipping a workout. It’s more likely that you’ll be injured during exercise when you’re exhausted and not using proper form. A hot bath with Epsom salts works wonders for sore muscles.

Chill Out

A cool down is especially important if you are engaged in a high-intensity exercise that increases your heart rate and puts a heavy strain on muscles. It allows you to reduce your heart rate gradually and resume normal breathing. It also prevents muscle soreness.

So, get moving – but keep all of these suggestions in mind so you can continue moving injury free!

Experiencing PAIN from your exercise routine?


back pain

Does Back Pain Go Away on its Own?

Your back is probably one part of your body that doesn’t require much thought – unless it’s hurting. Unfortunately, according to Statistics Canada, four out of five Canadians, or 80 per cent, will experience back pain during their lifetimes.

In all likelihood, back pain will strike between the ages of 30 and 50. Even more disconcerting, in 80 to 90 per cent of cases, it won’t be possible to identify the cause of this pain and the pain is likely to recur.

Standard Back Pain

The spine, muscles and ligaments are the building blocks of your back. It actually should come as no surprise that back pain is nearly universal; after all, the spine is a complex structure, itself comprising both cartilage disks and bone, that allows the body to accomplish a variety of disparate tasks, such as walking, bending and twisting.

Injury to any of these components can result in back pain. Usually, the pain is acute and will eventually subside. However, some people suffer long-term or chronic pain and require ongoing treatment and/or exercise.

The following conditions are common causes for back injury and the resulting pain:

  • Obesity
  • Improper warm-up before exercise
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Deformities
  • Degenerative diseases, such as osteoarthritis
  • Poor posture
  • Weak abdominal muscles

lower back pain
If you assume that your back pain will simply go away, you may cause additional damage. Your first reaction may be bed rest, but that can lead to stiffness and make movement more challenging.

How to Treat Back Pain

When you first experience back pain, it’s important to treat yourself gently. Most back pain is related to muscle strain and will ease within a few days. Take these initial measures to aid recovery:

  • Easy does it. Ease up on your activities and refrain from putting extra pressure on your back.
  • Chill out, then heat things up. Ice your back for the first 48 hours after the injury makes itself known. The cold initially slows swelling and inflammation while numbing the pain. After 48 hours, however, it’s important to get blood flowing into the area to promote healing and relax spasms.
  • Over-the-counter help. Unless you are taking prescription drugs that would interfere, use an over-the-counter medication to relieve pain and promote healing. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) drugs are effective for pain relief and reduction of inflammation, but they are only intended for short-term use. Don’t continue to rely on them for more than a week. If NSAIDs aren’t permitted, try acetaminophen, although be aware of its potential side effects.
  • Rub-a-dub-dub. Take advantage of a gentle massage by your partner to help stretch tight ligaments and muscles, which, in turn, may offer some relief.
  • Keep moving. Restrict your activities, but don’t stop moving altogether. Motion is more effective than bed rest in treating basic back pain.

back pain physiotherapy
If your pain persists, it’s time to check in with a healthcare professional. In fact, it may be worth considering preventive measures before back pain strikes unexpectedly. Your family physician may refer you to a physiotherapist who can provide a course of rehabilitation or preventive exercises.

Good Back Health

Meanwhile, lend yourself a helping hand by following these tips to good back health as you move through the day:

Sitting

  • Don’t stay seated for more than 10-15 minutes t a time. Get up and stretch or walk around.
  • Sit in a high back chair with arm supports to prevent you from rounding your spine.
  • To rise, move to the front of your chair and straighten your legs, rather than bending at the waist.
  • Don’t lean over your work or hunch your back. Adjust your workstation accordingly.

Standing

  • Stand properly with your shoulders straight, chest forward, head up and hips tucked in. Balance your weight evenly on both feet.
  • Avoid standing in the same position for too long.

Even if you experience back pain, it can be addressed and managed. Don’t ignore it.

Experiencing BACK PAIN?


maintain good posture

How to Maintain Good Posture as You Age

Many of you have childhood memories of your parents saying, “Stand up straight” and “Don’t slouch.” At the time, it seemed like just one more rule or annoyance that made you roll our eyes. Little did you know that their admonitions were not empty instructions, but a prescription for better health as you age.

What is Proper Posture?

It varies, depending on whether you are sitting or standing. When sitting at a desk, your knees should be level with your hips and your feet should be flat on the floor. Crossing your legs can impair circulation. If you are standing, try to stand with weight distributed equally on both legs. Your shoulders should be back and your chest slightly out with the ears positioned over the shoulders.

Why is Good Posture so Important?

It can keep you looking younger and staying healthier as you age. Proper posture helps prevent a myriad of health issues, including:

  • Decreased range of motion. Your muscles and ligaments can tighten or stretch if you regularly sit in a slumped position. Once this happens, these muscles and ligaments don’t function properly.
  • Decreased lung capacity. Good posture allows the appropriate amount of air to flow through your lungs. Otherwise, your chest cavity may decrease in size and prevent your lungs from functioning properly.
  • Low back pain. A major consequence of poor posture.
  • Increased discomfort. Poor posture can lead to headaches and pain in your shoulders, arms and hands.
  • Jaw pain. If your head is thrust forward, it can result in temporomandibular joint disease, once considered solely a dental problem.
  • Spine misalignment and rounding. Poor posture can result in a spine that is out of position and may lead to interference in nerve function. Osteoporosis can cause compression or destruction of vertebrae.

How to Maintain Good Posture?

Now that you have incentive to stand tall, how can you make sure you maintain good posture? It’s not as difficult as you may fear; it just requires a bit of time and effort.

posture and aging
Try these approaches:

  • Stay limber. If you spend most of your day sitting at a desk or in front of a computer, it’s important to maintain a good range of motion. Get up for a few minutes each hour and stretch your arms overhead with fingers interlaced or walk around a bit to keep the body moving.
  • Stay flexible. Each morning, lie on the floor and make snow angels for a few minutes to stretch your muscles. You can challenge yourself by placing a foam roller or a rolled up towel under your spine for an extra stretch. Go slowly and stop if you feel anything other than mild discomfort.
  • Sit up straight. Good posture while sitting is a habit worth cultivating. It requires strong core muscles, so consider some strengthening exercises, yoga or Pilates; the abdomen is the heart of good posture and helps improve everything from urinary incontinence to sex.
  • Correct your computer. If you work at a computer, be sure that your eyes are level with the screen and that your arms and wrists are straight and parallel to the floor.
  • Strengthen your spine. Women have weakening around the spine after menopause so it’s crucial to keep the surrounding muscles strong. Strong spine and trunk muscles are especially important when you need to stand for long periods of time. Inquire at your gym about exercises or machines that strengthen the back extensors, neck flexors, pelvic muscles, and side muscles.
  • Add some weight. Build some weight-bearing exercises into your routine. Osteoporosis, the disease that thins your bones, can cause vertical compression fractures that make us shorter as we age and even lead to dowager’s hump. Weight-bearing exercises help prevent a loss of bone density, so consider lifting weights, walking or climbing stairs to keep you tall and strong.
  • Check your calcium intake. Calcium is important for building strong bones. Women between the ages of 19 and 50 need 1,000 milligrams daily; after 50, the recommended dose increases to 1,200 mg. Usually, a healthy diet provides the necessary amount, but there are supplements available, although they may make you more susceptible to other health problems.

Monitoring your Posture

It’s never too early or too late in life to improve posture. Before you undertake an exercise regimen, document your current posture to establish a baseline for future comparison.

monitor posture
Put on your exercise gear or wear comfortable clothes and ask someone to take full-length photos of you from the front, the side and the back. If you do this once a year, you can see if changes are taking place and work to correct them. In addition, monitor your posture as you walk past mirrors to ensure that you are standing tall.

Remember, although everyone ages, numerical age can also be a state of mind – and body. If you have good posture, you’ll look younger and feel younger, too.

Experiencing PAIN from POOR POSTURE?


physiotherapy exercises

Physiotherapy Exercises: Balance, Range of Motion and Strengthening

Whether you are seeing a physiotherapist for help in regaining leg strength after a hip replacement or to build up some aerobic capacity after heart surgery, your visit will have one commonality: physiotherapy exercises will be involved. After all, physiotherapy can be defined as a treatment method that focuses on the science of movement and helps people to restore, maintain and maximize their physical strength, function, motion and overall well-being. It’s all about learning to make the proper moves.

The Most Common Physiotherapy Exercises Explained

Although each patient’s physiotherapy program is unique and tailored to the nature of their physical issues, there are three types of physiotherapy exercises commonly included in rehabilitation programs:

  • Balance
  • Range of Motion
  • Strengthening

Balance Exercises

Physiotherapy can explore both static and dynamic balance. Static balance refers to control of your stationary body, while dynamic balance refers to the control you have over your body while it’s moving. Deep core stability and hip and leg muscle control are essential for good balance.

Without good static balance, you may be prone to falls and their unpleasant consequences: fractures. As people age, their bones are more fragile and hips and pelvises are more vulnerable.

When your dynamic balance is impaired, you end up with poor muscle and joint control that can lead to instability-related conditions such as back pain, sciatica, hip pain, bursitis or knee pain. Poor dynamic balance also affects your sporting pursuits, because you are not working from a stable platform.

Balance exercises work to improve both balance and proprioception, or awareness of joint position. They help you to adjust and maintain as your centre of gravity shifts. Five minutes a day of balance exercises is a good start, and your exercises should not cause symptoms or increase them.

Possible balance exercises include:

  • Single Leg Balance: Stand on one leg with arms extended and attempt to maintain your balance for a minute.
  • Single Leg Pillow Balance: Stand on one leg on a pillow with arms extended, maintaining your balance for a minute.
  • Heel-Toe Walk: Slowly walk in a straight line, carefully placing one foot down and bringing the other foot in front, touching the heel of the front foot to the toe of the rear foot.

Range of Motion Exercises

Range of motion refers to the movement of a joint from its fully flexed position to its fully extended position. Although each joint has a normal range of motion, the amount of joint movement varies from person to person.

There are three types of range of motion exercises: passive, active-assistive and active.

  • Passive range of motion exercises: As you remain still, the physiotherapist will move your limb along the joint range; it is often done if you are unable to move a limb yourself.
  • Active-assistance exercises: Although the patient can move the limb, the physiotherapist helps complete the motion along the joint range or until the point that pain kicks in.
  • Active exercises: The patient performs the movement without any assistance from the physiotherapist.

Here is a sample of range of motion exercises for various body parts:

  • Neck: Head tilts, forward and back: Bow your head gently and try to touch your chin to your chest. Now, move your head back to the starting position. Next, tilt your head back as far as possible so you are looking at the ceiling; return your head to the starting position.
  • Shoulder: Shoulder rotation: Raise your shoulders up toward your ears, as if you were shrugging. Lower them to the starting position, and relax. Pull your shoulders back. Then relax them again. Roll your shoulders forward in a smooth circle; reverse direction and roll your shoulders smoothly backward.
  • Legs: Leg lifts: Lie on your back and raise your leg so that it is 15 to 31 centimetres off the floor. Hold for 30 seconds. Return to the floor. Repeat.

Strengthening Exercises

Strengthening exercises are done to ensure that your muscles have normal strength, in order to prevent future injury. In situations where your muscles have not moved for a while due to injury, strengthening is essential.

Exercises to increase muscle strength fall somewhere in type between the high repetitions and low resistance of endurance training programs and the fewer repetitions and high weight load of the programs designed to increase muscle size.

Here is a sample of strengthening exercises for core stability:

  • Transverse Abdominus: This muscle is a key stabilizing muscle in the abdomen. Lie on your back and slowly draw the section of your abdomen situated below your belly button upwards and inwards away from the line of your belt and breathe normally. Keep your rib cage relaxed and not elevated. Practise holding this muscle at 20 to 30 per cent of a maximum contraction for 10 seconds; repeat 10 times.
  • Plank or Prone Hold: Lie down on your stomach. Prop yourself up on your elbows and toes and hold for as long as possible.

Ideally, you should see a physiotherapist for an exercise program that is tailored to your needs. Remember, physiotherapy exercises can be preventive as well as rehabilitative.

Looking for a TAILORED exercise program?