- Back and neck pain are among the most widespread reasons patients seek treatments such as physiotherapy, massage therapy and chiropractic care.
- Back pain in particular is one of the most common medical problems, affecting 80% of people at some point during their lives.
Physical therapy for back and neck conditions focuses on the structures that support the spine and its joints including muscles, tendons, and ligaments.
VARY YOUR POSITION: Sitting at computers all day puts increased pressure on your spine. After 30 minutes of sitting make sure you walk around to keep the flow of blood and fluids to your spine. If you work primarily at a desk, make sure your work station is set up properly to encourage optimal posture. Your physiotherapist will prescribe suitable and safe stretches and provide tips on how to correctly position yourself in front of your computer.
STAY FLEXIBLE: Optimal spinal health means having flexibility in all directions. If your thorax (upper-mid back and ribcage) has limited rotation movement, more load and stress can be transferred to your low back, neck or other body parts. Check your rotations by sitting in a chair with your arms crossed across your stomach; you should be able to run equally to the right and left and see behind you easily. If you have an asymmetry between the right and left directions, or reduced motion, your physiotherapist can assess the reason why, mobilize your spinal joint, and give you exercises to maintain your thoracic mobility – essential for a healthy low back and neck.
CHECK YOUR CORE: You need to have optimal control of your deep spinal muscles (core). If you’ve had an episode and are experiencing neck or back pain, your therapist will provide a thorough examination of your spine, provide manual therapy and other treatment techniques to help you regain any lost mobility and relieve your pain. They will instruct you on how to achieve ideal postural alignment and prescribe exercises that will support your spine.
CORRECT YOUR POSTURE: Be aware of habitual postures and positions (such as always sitting on one side of the couch, slouching with your feet on the coffee table, carrying your bag/purse always over the same shoulder, sitting cross legged, or with one foot underneath your bum, and leaning usually on the same elbow et.) Habitually poor postures may indicate weaknesses in certain muscle groups or stiffness with the body. Your therapist can assess reasons why you may adopt these positions and how to correct them.
Here are some Ergonomic tips to help keep your back & neck healthy!
- Chest out, chin in, stomach tight with standing, walking, lifting and bending
- Standing: Keep one foot in front of and more elevated than the other
- Sitting: Use lumbar support – and sit up straight.
- Sleeping: while lying on side: keep the bottom leg straight; top leg can be bent or rested on a pillow
- Bending: use a ½ kneeling position when putting dishes in dishwasher, getting laundry out of washer and/or putting items into trunk/cart etc.
- Lifting: Keep the object being lifted close to you; get down under it
If you are suffering from neck or back pain, schedule a visit with one of our therapists to assist in your recovery. Early attention to mobility issues, injury prevention, and injury treatment will help ensure long term physical health.
Although we’ve been experiencing milder winters with less snow and ice, it’s still important to be cautious of the changing weather conditions in order to avoid slips and trips.
Here are some physiotherapy tips for reducing the risk of slipping or falling at any time of year.
- Wear the right shoes.We see plenty of broken or sprained ankles from women walking in heels on a warm summer day, so in the winter heels would probably be your worst option. Men are not off the hook here either. Men’s dress shoes typically have flat bottoms with no tread. You might as well be walking on sleds. The right footwear should, and is, your best defense against slipping and falling. Try to find something with rubber bottoms with a good thick tread that will grip the snow and ice better.
- Walk like a penguin.When walking on snow and ice take shorter slower steps. You want as much surface area of your feet to be in contact with the ground as possible. If you come across a patch of solid ice, shuffling your feet can be your best option as it will give you the most stability.
- Know how to fall.When carrying a briefcase, lunch bag, or your children you are just asking for trouble. If you were to fall this now eliminates one or both arms from helping absorb the impact. Most deaths from falling on ice occur when the person hits their head on the ice. This also means keep your hands out of your pockets and gloves on. While you may injure your arm or shoulder you will protect your head.
- Be cautious everywhere.Walk near something you can hold on to like handrails or a fence. Grab sturdy objects when possible… and your friend or child IS NOT a sturdy object. You will likely pull them down with you. When getting out of a car, hold on to the door until you find out just how icy it is. Test the ground before you hop right out.
- Stay to the right. When you’re in the mall, or in office hallways, or on the sidewalks – stay to the right, same as you would in vehicular traffic. You may be able to avoid collisions with other people who are talking, texting or any other unforeseen distractions.
- Keep an eye on the floor. Carpet and floor mats can help create a slip-resistant surface. However, marble or tile floors can be extremely slippery, especially when wet. Be careful!
- Let there be light. Be certain stairwells both inside and out, are well-lit and equipped with anti-skid strips and handrails.
- Beware of pets! Your feet can get caught in leashes, dogs can knock you down or you can trip over a sleeping pet.
Even if you follow all these tips and precautions we still cannot guarantee that you won’t have an encounter with the ground! However, the better you prepare and the more cautious you are, the less likely you are to slip and fall.
For those of you with balance issues, your job is harder still. If you have not yet had physiotherapy to help you with your balance concerns, or if you’d like a therapist to assess your balance, please call to book an evaluation.
If you have already taken a hard fall, let one of our therapists help you recover and get you back on solid ground.
The risk of falling can be reduced dramatically when specific exercises are prescribed by a physiotherapist. An individualized treatment program can help regain strength, flexibility and endurance in a way that still feels safe and secure.
To make an appointment or for a physio assessment, give us a call. We can help.
Movember is Men’s Health Month
The state of men’s health is in crisis. Men experience worse long-term health than women and die on average six years earlier.
- 1 in 6 men may be diagnosed with prostate cancer, and 1 in 2 men may be diagnosed with some form of cancer by the age of 85.
- Prostate cancer rates will double in the next 15 years.
- Testicular cancer rates have already doubled in the last 50 years.
- Obesity has taken centre stage as a major risk factor for chronic disease and almost 2/3 of Canadians are considered to be overweight or obese.
- 1 in 8 men experience depression and three quarters of suicides are men.
- Poor mental health leads to half a million men taking their own life every year. That’s one every minute.
Why is men’s health in such bad shape?
- Most men do not like to openly discuss their health and how they are feeling.
- Men can be reluctant to take-action when they don’t feel physically or mentally well.
- Men engage in risky activities that threaten their health.
- Stigmas surrounding mental health.
- Men are less likely than women to seek help for health concerns.
5 ways exercise can help men live longer and better.
- Have a healthier heart. Regular exercise can lower unhealthy cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar levels.
- Keep your brain sharp. Exercise helps keep blood vessels throughout the body healthy and helps reduce the risk of stroke. Several studies suggest that exercise may also help ward off Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.
- Control blood sugar levels. Regular exercise helps to maintain a healthy weight, and boosts sensitivity to insulin, reducing blood sugar levels. One study found that only 2 ½ hours of brisk walking a week cut the risk of diabetes by 30%.
- Possibly lower cancer risks. Evidence suggests that regular physical activity reduces risk for colon cancer by 24% in men. There is no proof that exercise lowers the risk of developing prostate cancer, but once a man is diagnosed, physical activity can reduce the chances that it will spread.
- Beat depression. 1 in 8 men can experience depression. Not just a rough patch, or bad mood – but an emotional disturbance that affects overall health. Regular exercise such as walking, weight training, swimming, or any form of exercise moving both arms and legs can help with depression for men.
Pelvic Health for Men
Being a guy with pelvic health problems can be a challenge. As men age there can be a number of different issues that can result in pain and dysfunction.
Although the prostate is often blamed for many male pelvic problems, there can be many other reasons for bladder, bowel and sexual problems. Pelvic floor muscles, connective tissue and lower lumbar nerves can all be potential culprits in male pelvic pain. In addition, joint and muscle problems such as chronic groin strains, un-resolving hip and low back problems can all contribute to chronic pelvic pain.
Although hidden from view, your pelvic floor muscles can be consciously controlled and therefore trained, much like your arm, leg or abdominal muscles. Strengthening your pelvic floor muscles will help you to actively support your bladder and bowel. Like other muscles in your body, your pelvic floor will become stronger with a regular exercise program. This is important for both men and women.
With so many different potential sources of pelvic pain, it’s important to work with a health professional that understands the pelvis. Contact our clinic and we can connect you with a pelvic floor health specialist.
Let’s help the men we know to talk about their health, and take action when needed.
September is Arthritis Awareness Month.
- 4.6 million Canadian adults (aged 15 and older) report suffering from arthritis
- By the year 2036 that 4.6 million is expected to grow to an estimated 7.5 million
- 2/3 Canadians affected by arthritis are female
- 2/3 of people with arthritis are under the age of 65 – including an estimated 300,000 children
Everyone’s heard about arthritis, but what’s not as common is what causes it, who can get it, and what are the best ways to manage and treat it. There are many over the counter medications that are beneficial in treating arthritis, but when those meds are coupled with physical therapy it can be just as effective as surgery. Bracing and injections are also great methods of fast relief from arthritis. The two main forms of arthritis are osteoarthritis (OA) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA). They can attack any joint, but typically the hands, knees, spine, and hips, are most common which can make daily activities very difficult and painful.
Causes of Arthritis:
Normal wear and tear causes osteoarthritis, but your risk of developing it may be higher if the disease is a common thread in your family history. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder. It develops when your body’s immune system attacks the tissue in your body. This prevents the synovium from producing the fluid which lubricates and nourishes your cartilage and joints.
- Family history (genetics)
- Previous Joint Injury/Infection
Managing your pain:
Medications help, but a physiotherapist can tell you about other methods of pain relief that work alongside with your medications.
- Changing your activity level/sleep
- Weight loss
- Pain Relievers
- Physical Therapy
- Bracing/Custom Bracing
- Corticosteroid injections
- Viscosupplementation injections
In the early stages; arthritis of the knee is treated with nonsurgical methods. Your doctor may recommend treatments including; changing your activity level, weight loss, pain relievers, physical therapy and corticosteroid injections. If pain and mobility is still unmanageable, an effective treatment option such as a viscosupplementation injection may be recommended. Injections such as MultiVisc™, Cingal™, Durolane®, Synvisc-One®, Monovisc®, and Orthovisc® are designed to relieve pain in your joints like the knees, ankles, fingers, and toes. Some injections, including MultiVisk®, contain an anesthetic to lessen the pain. Cingal™ is a single-injection treatment that relieves pain, and provides anti-inflammatory benefits. In these procedures a gel like fluid is injected in the knee joint. It acts as a lubricant to enable bones to move smoothly over each other and as a shock absorber for joint load. Your physiotherapist or doctor can recommend this highly effective treatment and which type of injection is best suited for you.
Braces can help to treat and ease the pain of an arthritic knee. Specialized braces apply pressure on your knee joint, creating a space between the two bones providing relief and preventing harsh rubbing. The GenuTrain® knee brace is often recommended for mild to moderate cases of arthritis. And the Össur® custom brace is often recommended for more severe cases.Your physiotherapist can recommend a brace that best meets your needs.
- Avoid carrying more than 5% of your body weight
- Distribute weight as equally as possible between both shoulders
No matter what your age or profession, most people carry some sort of bag, whether it be a school backpack, a purse, a diaper bag, shoulder bag or even a lap top carrier. Although this is a convenient way to tote a lot of things around, or even make a fashion statement, most people overlook the fact that these bags may often be the source of serious neck and back pains. These muscle pains are very common and are often linked back to an over loaded or improperly fitted bag.
What happens when you carry an over loaded bag:
When all the weight of your purse or bag is put onto one shoulder, it forces your body to carry an asymmetric load, and this changes your natural posture. Most people tend to wear their purse or bag on their dominant side which enlarges the muscles on that shoulder, particularly the trapezius muscle (a muscle on top of your shoulder). Over time, this can result in one shoulder being higher than the other, putting your whole body out of alignment. All that extra pressure on one side of your body can result in a lot of tension in your neck and shoulder, and in some cases, it can become more serious and cause muscle spasms.
Throws off natural gait and posture:
When you constantly wear a purse or bag on the dominant side of your body, it can throw off your natural gait. The arm on the side carrying the bag is unable to swing properly, forcing the other side to compensate. Holding bags in the crook of your arm or in one hand can build tension, and damage your posture.
Carrying over loaded bags can cause a lot of pain and may even develop into tension headaches. The additional weight and pressure put on the trapezius muscle, can force it to tighten and spasm. When the muscles in the neck and shoulder area spasm, it can cause pain in the back of the head that radiates towards the front of the skull.
Things to avoid:
- Carrying too many items in your purse or shoulder bag.
- Holding bags in the crook of your arm or in one hand.
- Hanging backpacks off of one shoulder, as it strains your neck and puts all of the weight on one side.
Things that can help:
- Pack light and swap shoulders.
- Make sure to regularly empty large bags to prevent carrying around unnecessary items.
- When carrying a big bag, wear the long body strap to balance weight between both sides of the body.
- Keep bag within 5% of your body weight.
- When wearing a backpack, adjust straps so bag sits high and fits snug to your back.
For more information, or if you have any concerns, please contact our clinic to book an appointment and consult with one of our therapists.
Adams, Rebecca. “Why Your Purse Is Giving You Back Pain…and 11 Ways to Fix It”. The Huffington Post. Web, 12/09/13. <www.huffingtonpost.ca/entry/purse-back-pain-n-4397727>
Armstrong, Rebecca. “How to Carry your Bag to Avoid Shoulder Pain”. Myodetox Web, 13/01/17