Needles = pain?! Nope. Acupuncture = treatment for chronic pain!

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For those who are skeptical, acupuncture might conjure up anxieties about needles or an image of Pinhead from Hellraiser. For those who have found relief from chronic pain, acupuncture is a miracle. From your father’s ever-sore back to your bum right knee, many of us have struggled with the effects of chronic pain. From depression to sleeplessness to loss of mobility, it often goes far beyond the pain itself. Unable to ease the pain, people often try to learn to live with it, but there’s no need: acupuncture can effectively treat chronic pain.

What makes pain chronic? It lasts longer than 12 weeks, and can persist for months or more. While it is often the result of a known injury or trauma (ie. why you should come in and see us as soon as you get injured), sometimes illness or undiagnosed problems are the cause.

You might think “Aches and pains are a part of aging!”, and decide to just tough it out, but the localized pain itself isn’t the only problem. Pain has an effect on the nervous system that can cause you to become more sensitive to other pain, known as “central sensitization.” Even things that wouldn’t normally hurt can become painful, and it can persist far longer than in a pain-free individual. There’s also an emotional burden attached to constant pain, leading to anxiety, anger or fatigue. If that wasn’t bad enough, those emotions can decrease the body’s natural pain defenses, creating a vicious cycle. Oh, and long-term chronic pain has been shown to suppress the immune system. Bad on all counts.

Acupuncture may not be the treatment you think of, but you should really reconsider. It is currently being used to treat everything from headaches to cramps, back pain to asthma, and with good reason: a large scale study with data from over 18,000 people showed acupuncture to be an effective treatment for chronic back, neck and should pain, osteoarthritis and headaches. These were clinical studies, meaning it’s been proven to work.

If you or a loved one is dealing with chronic pain, any of our physiotherapists can help you figure out if acupuncture is the right way to go. No horror movies necessary.

How to get rid of neck pain? Back pain? Put down your phone, and straighten up Canada!

Your mother always told you not to stare at a screen for too long because it’d ruin your eyes. Turns out it’s doing a lot more than that. As people are using more screen-based technology (computers, smart phones, tablets, etc.), health professionals are seeing an increase in problems like headaches, neck pain, back pain, and even pain felt the face. Not good.

Why exactly are these gadgets causing a problem? People’s posture is often horrible while they use them. Heads forward, eyes cast down, shoulders forward – these can all spell bad news. Staring at a screen often takes your head off the vertical, bending it forward up to 45° – moving your head forward just an inch increases the pressure on your neck by 10 pounds. Sitting with your shoulders forward causes tightness in both the pectoral and back muscles – it can also compress the veins and nerves of the arms which increases the chances of problems like carpal tunnel syndrome.

Getting rid of technology isn’t going to happen, so what can you do? Seeing a massage therapist can help with tightness and pain. To really fix the problem though, you’ll need to actively work on your posture. Stretches and exercises to strengthen your muscles are essential and here’s a great video series to get you started.

If you’re looking for solutions specific to your posture and mobility, give us a call and any of our physiotherapists can help find the exercises that will work best for you.

Get “back” into “action” (wink, wink)

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While lower back pain means you get to avoid helping your brother move for the 133rd time, that’s probably the only benefit. It can keep you home from work, stop you from playing sports, and even make a mess of your looooove life.

Wait, what does back pain have to do with, uh, relations? Well, studies indicate 84% of men and 73% of women have seen their sexy times decrease on account of lower back pain. That may seem shocking, but back pain is one of the most common things we see in the clinic. It affects 8 out of 10 people at some point in their lives, and that point could very well be while you’re with your sweetie in the bedroom.

However, a set of papers from the University of Waterloo is providing suffers with some hope: there are certain positions that could help to keep back pain at bay between the sheets. By tracking the spine movements of 10 heterosexual couples while they did the deed, the researchers gained some insight on how to lessen spinal motion and potentially prevent back pain caused by flexion (forward bending) through intercourse:

  • The gentleman uses hips & knees to control movement instead of his back, while his partner maintains a neutral spine position (eg. missionary position supported on your elbows)
  • The gentleman kneels behind his partner to prevent flexion of the back

Hopefully those tips will help you experience bliss back pain free, but remember there are many different triggers for back pain. If your back pain is putting intimacy in the bedroom on the back burner: CALL US! Solving your back pain problems is going to make EVERY aspect of your life better.

Old or recurring injuries? Stop ’em now!

If you’ve been injured in the past or exercise regularly, and haven’t fixed the aches, pains, or sore spots that keep nagging at you, we hear you. Whether you’ve just tweaked a little something that keeps aching or have an injury that keeps on coming back for more, it’s time to get them straightened out so you can be in tip top shape come the sunshine!

Injuries happen, and an ache or pain that dissipates in a few days is usually nothing to worry about. If it’s lasting for weeks or months, or happens to reoccur, that’s a sign that something isn’t quite right, so it’s time to stop ignoring it! Even if the pain is mild, don’t try to be macho – pain can cause your body to alter it’s mechanics which leads to unnecessary stress on joints, ligaments, muscles and tendons.

These pains are likely due to overuse or a small injury to a tendon or muscle. While taking something like ibuprofen can make you feel right as rain, it doesn’t take care of the problem. Exercising through the masked pain and swelling can leads to chronic inflammation, causing weakness, tissue breakdown, more pain, more swelling and BAM! You’re got yourself a nagging injury.

So what do you do? The first step is to apply heat before exercising, and use RICE (Rest Ice Compression Elevation) after training to help control the pain and swelling. It will help you control the symptoms best without having to slow down too much, but again, it’s not going to fix the problem. It’s time to see the physio, be evaluated and figure out what the issue is so you can say buh-bye to that pain-in-the-whatever.

Instead of quitting exercise because something hurts, your physiotherapist will set you up with a personalized treatment plan, including exercise options that won’t aggravate your injury. The plan will also include advice on how to modify your training techniques so you can keep doing the activities you want, but pain free.

Once your physiotherapist helps make that pain a distant memory,  be sure to start ramping up your normal activity slowly. Again, most of these sorts of injuries are due to over training, so getting back at it too hard or too fast will land you right back in injury land!

Don’t get snowed in! How to Shovel Snow and Prevent Snow Removal Injuries

With all the snow we had this past weekend (and all that’s surely still to come), many of you are probably best friends with your shovel. If you’re lucky enough to have teenagers to do it for you, pass this on to some of your less fortunate friends. Those of us who are stuck  shovelling, huffing, and anticipating a hot cuppa afterwards often think of snow removal as just another of the joys winter brings, but in all seriousness, it can actually be dangerous! Every winter people are injured while shovelling or using a snow blower, so heed these tips to make sure you aren’t one of them:

Look out: watch out for icy patches or uneven ground, since a fall could be worse than just having to shovel a bit of snow. Make sure to keep scarves and hats from blocking your vision, you need to watch where your shovel or blower is going too.

Warm-up: warm up with some light exercise inside for 10 minutes before you go exercise by moving snow outside. Once you’re back inside warm up again with a nice hot drink.

Pace yourself: just like any other exercise, be sure to take breaks when you need them, and don’t get dehydrated. You don’t feel as thirsty when it’s cold, but you need to stay hydrated all the same. If you’ve gone at it too hard and experience chest pain, shortness of breath of other signs that  indicate a heart attack be sure to stop immediately and call 9-1-1.

Pace your blower: snowblowers can help make quick work out of clearing a driveway, but if used improperly could leave you with a back injury. They are designed to move at a particular speed, so don’t be trying to force your blower to go faster – it’s already doing the work for you!

Pick your weapon wisely: if using a shovel make sure to pick one that is comfortable for your height and strength. Using a shovel that is too heavy, too long, or even too short is not only asking for injury but also makes shovelling less efficient.

Just don’t do it: if you have a medical condition or do not exercise regularly, make sure to check in with your doctor before braving all that white stuff. Snow removal places high stress on the heart, and you might be better off hiring someone to remove the snow for you.

How to shovel snow without injury:

  1. Push the snow, instead of lifting it, as much as possible
  2. If you need to lift the snow, lift with your legs by squatting with your back straight; don’t bend at the waist
  3. Only scoop small amounts of snow at a time, and remove deep snow in pieces: holding a heavy shovel of snow with your arms outstretched puts strain on your spine
  4. Walk the snow over to where you want it, do not throw it over your shoulder to avoid twisting your back.
That’s it! We might not be able to make it fun, but with these tips and snow removal should be easy and injury free. If you’ve already hurt yourself dealing with snow this winter, be sure to give any of our clinics a call. Our physiotherapists would be happy to assess the injury and help get you back to pain free!

Back to the Grind: Posture Tips

Yes folks, summer vacation is over. The weather is cooling down, the leaves are starting to change colour, and we’re once again chained to our computers to work, work, work. It’s likely most of your have experienced back pain at some point or another in your life, since it’s one of the most common reasons people come in for physio. If you’ve got back pain getting into see a physio ASAP is the first thing you should do, but what about preventing it to begin with? Check out these 4 tips to help keep your spine in line:

  1. Don’t sit still: if you’re sitting at a desk all day there’s increased pressure on your spine. Make sure to vary your position by getting up for a walk about every 30 minutes. It’s a good excuse to fill your water bottle or grab a quick breath of fresh air, and the mini break might help you focus on your work as well. There are also lots of office stretches you can do, and any of our physios would be happy to show ’em to you.
  2. Flexibility is key: Most people don’t realize that a flexible spine is a healthy spine. How do you know where your flexibility is at? You can check it: sit up straight on a chair with your arms crossed over your stomach. It should be easy to turn both ways and see behind you. If both sides aren’t even or your range or motion is limited (maybe you can only see to the side), you might want to give us a call. Our physiotherapists can assign the specific exercises to help get your mobility back to where it should be.
  3. Core is the core: Weak core muscles can be the culprit when it comes to back pain or injuries. If you’ve hurt your back doing sports or raking leaves, it could be because your core muscles aren’t pulling their weight. How do you strengthen them up? There are a variety of exercises, and they aren’t about 8-minute abs. Once your injury has been treated, our physiotherapists can assign exercises that will actually help strengthen your “core” core muscles (and might help tighten your abs up as an added bonus).
  4. Stop slouching!: alright, that seems obvious, but hear me out. We’ve all been told to stand up straight, but there are other postural habits that you should be working to avoid. Always leaning to one side, carrying your bag on one side, sitting cross legged, or slouching with your feet up are poor postures that might also indicate muscle weaknesses or stiffness in your body. Correcting them now is the first step to avoiding injury later.

Questions? Feel free to give any of the clinics a call. Now, get back to work!

Mathew is now an FCAMPT! Holla!

You may have noticed it’s been pretty quiet around these parts recently. Despite being known as a time for vacations, we’ve been reeeeeaaaaallllllly busy! Mathew especially, and we’re proud to let you know he’s now a Fellow of the Canadian Academy of Manipulative Physiotherapy(FCAMPT). Congratulations Matthew!

FCAMPT is the highest orthopaedic designation possible for a physiotherapist (ie. it’s kind of a big deal). Physiotherapists with the FCAMPT designation are all about the highest level of quality, patient-centred care combining clinical experience with evidence-based practice. Exactly what you’d expect from OPTSC. The designation requires extensive post-graduate education in the area of orthopaedics, including internationally-recognized qualifications in hands-on manual and manipulative therapy.
Orthopaedics doesn’t refer to shoe inserts, but muscle, nerve and joint problems. This means a CAMPT physiotherapist is going to do more than just look at your sore back and treat the area between L4-L5. You can expect an assessment that may measure many things: function, strength testing, analysis of your walking patterns, posture, balance, and joint movement to get a full picture of your condition. It’s about the WHOLE picture, not just localized treatment.
When it comes to treating your issue, a CAMPT physiotherapist will use a combination of common physiotherapy techniques like acupuncture, tailored exercises and ultrasound in addition to manual and manipulative therapy. That might sound a little bit daunting, but it’s nothing of the sort. Manual and manipulative therapy refers to how your physiotherapist uses their hands to diagnose places where your movement is being restricted, and the gentle, hands-on techniques they use to treat you.
Struggling with headaches? Low-back pain? Knee arthritis? Ankle pain? Any muscle, joint or nerve condition: give us a call and Mathew, or any of our physiotherapists, would be more than happy to help get you back to pain-free!