"I’m already exercising, why is my physiotherapist giving me more exercises to do?" Guest Post by Brad Lafortune, PT
Even though you may have heard the term “physio-terrorist” used before, I promise you, we physiotherapists do not derive any joy from giving you work. We do, however, prescribe just what we believe it’ll take to get you feeling better and moving more, free from pain and hesitation.
But why do we have to prescribe specific exercises if you’re already moving and keeping active? In a nutshell, we’re trying to get to the source of the issue to avoid the formation of compensations.
A physiotherapist is trained to find and treat problems in muscles, joints, and the nervous system throughout the body. During an assessment, your therapist is looking for areas of weakness, points of tension, joints with decreased range of motion, and asymmetries in the way your body moves. The results from these evaluations guide your therapist as they prescribe the right treatment for you. This treatment plan should almost always include personalized exercises, tailored to your condition and your goals.
With these exercises, you and your therapist are working to resolve elements that were found to be lacking during the assessment. These exercises are specifically chosen in order to target the proper element in question, whether it’s strength, flexibility, range of motion, or balance. What’s more, specific parameters will be specified for your exercises, including intensity, frequency, and number of repetitions. These parameters play a vital role in getting the desired results from the exercises your given.
The law of parsimony states that things are usually connected or behave in the simplest or most efficient way. This law applies to our bodies and to the way we move. Muscles work in groups and chains, each with their own role, movements, and proper time to work. With that and the law of parsimony in mind, a weak or damaged muscle in a chain or group will continue to be weak, while the stronger muscles will be recruited to perform the majority of the work. This leads to muscles imbalances as well as strains of overstressed muscles if not addressed.
By creating and following a tailored exercise plan with specifically chosen exercises, these compensations can be fixed or avoided entirely.
I assure you, your “physio-terrorist” is not trying to overwhelm you with exercises. Rather, your therapist is trying to help your muscles work in harmony, sharing the workload correctly to avoid compensations and further harm.
If ever it’s too much to do or too hard to perform, just let your physiotherapist know! Your home exercise plan is meant for YOU! It can be adjusted, modified, or tweaked to suit not only your problem, but also your way of life and abilities.
Right exercises = right healing so you can move more and do more.
About the author: Brad Lafortune is a registered physiotherapist with the College of Physiotherapists of Ontario and the founder of Function Physiotherapy. Brad is committed to providing quality care through an active, hands-on approach to better health.
Many times, with stress, you don’t know you're over capacity. You're a strong, competent, capable person who has coped with many demands and endured difficult situations over the course of your life.
Then suddenly, you find yourself overwhelmed by the smallest thing. You say to yourself, “What the heck is the matter with me?” and blame yourself for breaking down.
The truth is: there’s nothing wrong with you.
"How can that be?" you wonder.
When it comes to stress, humans are like elevators. An elevator is designed to carry a certain maximum weight. At any one time, it may be able to carry more than it’s designed to, but if it carries that excessive amount consistently, it begins to break down. The engine starts to smoke. The cable starts to fray. But all this is taking place outside of your awareness. It’s outside the elevator car. You might notice a funny smell. Maybe the doors stick sometimes. Occasionally the ride might be less smooth than usual. But you don’t really think much of it. Then suddenly, you find yourself plummeting down the elevator shaft, wondering what’s happening.
Stress works the same way.
Stress activates what is known as the fight-freeze-flight response. Without cultivating an even flow between fight-freeze-flight and its opposite (known as rest-digest-tend-befriend) the effects of stress accumulate. Eventually you burn out. You feel like you’re in a kind of free-fall, with emotional, physical and cognitive symptoms out of control.
Humans are not designed to withstand ongoing stress without recovery time. At a certain point, you feel the effects.
This is completely normal.
It’s also good news.
Stress symptoms are like the check engine light on your car dashboard. They’re telling you it’s time to take a look at what’s happening, and address it, before you break down. If you’re experiencing stress symptoms, you might consider having a heart-to-heart with a trusted friend, your doctor, your clergy person or a mental health therapist.
With support, you can look under the hood, see what’s working, and do more of that. You can also see what isn’t working and decide what you want to do about it, so you can feel good and respond effectively when the crap hits the fan.
Three easy keys to reduce your stress
Under stress, your brain literally thinks like a rabbit facing a bear, and the fight-freeze-flight response is activated. But you’re not a rabbit and there’s no bear from which you can run. So what to do? You can think of stress reduction in terms of these three key principles: discharge, soothe and nourish.
Discharge: like the bunny, your body-mind has been mobilized to run, and this “running” energy needs to be discharged. Stressful emotions also build up from being in the alarm state, and they need to be discharged.
Soothe: Stress-inducing phenomena are everywhere (including in your thoughts), so your body-mind is constantly barraged by alarm messages. To de-activate the alarm state, the body-mind needs to be soothed.
Nourish: The body-mind’s constantly-on stress reaction has depleted it. It has used all its resources to keep sounding the alarm and mobilizing itself to respond, so the nervous system, and your mind, need to be nourished.
Movement can help
Did you know that sitting still for long periods of time exacerbates the freeze response? This is like when a rabbit sees the bear and freezes. It’s immobile because it’s afraid, and its body-mind is flooded with the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol.
When humans stay immobile (like sitting at a desk all day), the brain thinks like the rabbit in freeze response, and the body gets stuck in a stress loop. This is where Amanda’s work comes in. Small “movement snacks” (as opposed to intense workouts) remind the body-mind that it isn’t stuck, and interrupts the stress cycle, allowing the body-mind to relax and recover.
For more information and tips for transforming stress and trauma, sign up for Shulamit’s newsletter here: https://www.shula.ca/newsletter/
Some Signs of Stress
Emotional: short fuse; anxious feelings; a sense of being alone; feeling bad about yourself
Physical: low energy; headaches; muscle tension and aches; digestive problems; difficulty sleeping; loss of sexual desire/ability; frequent colds or infections
Cognitive: worrying; racing thoughts; problems with concentration or focus; negative thinking; forgetfulness; disorganization
About the Author:
Shulamit Ber Levtov, MA, RSW, RYT is a social worker and Yoga teacher who works with business women and busy women to transform the effects of stress and trauma so they can feel good about themselves *and* respond effectively when the crap hits the fan. She is also the founder and director of Kemptville's holistic stress and trauma clinic, Compassionate Support for Stressful Times. In her 18+ years as a mental health and personal growth professional, Shulamit has logged thousands of hours helping hundreds of women and men recover from the effects of stress and trauma in a variety of agency, corporate and government settings. She also speaks and teaches locally, internationally and online.
Exercise, physical activity, movement: whatever you call it, your body needs it - every single day of your life. Exercise makes you feel better, both physically and mentally. It can prevent injury, disease and premature death. Sometimes, though, exercise isn’t enough. Like if you break a toe. In cases where help is needed, I’ve got a few recommendations for you in the Glebe, Old Ottawa East, Old Ottawa South area.
People with chronic low back pain are often looking high and low for “cures” or remedies in order to rid themselves of symptoms. Finding short term relief often comes in many different forms, but long term success can be a mystery.
Unfortunately, practitioners who treat low back pain are often excellent at the treatment portion, but they are less effective at helping clients create strategies to avoid painful movements and positions or find positions of relief. Without these strategies, low back patients are often reaggravating the injury and delaying the healing process between treatments.
The secret to long term success when managing low back pain lies in the ability to move in ways that do not “pick the scab”. We must think of a healing low back as we would a scab: if we constantly pick a scab it will not heal. The same can be said for a low back: if we constantly move in ways that cause pain, our back is telling us that it is not able to heal. What really matters to the patient is, how do you know if you are picking your low back scab? Luckily, your body has been telling you the answers!
The biggest clue involves what you are doing when your low back hurts. Think back or observe over a few days when you feel pain or increased pain. Was it after a long day of bending forwards, or does pain increase when rolling over in bed or transitioning from sit to stand? After collecting some information, look at the positions that are on list. Is there a pattern? Does your back not like bending forwards, or reaching backwards? Does it not tolerate carrying heavy loads?
If you notice a pattern, you now know what you need to avoid in order to properly let your back heal. This may require rethinking how you move during your day-to-day activities. You might have to learn to use your core as a brace in order to properly stabilize the low back when transitioning positions. Or you might have to learn to use the hip joint to bend forward and keep the spine in a neutral position when picking things up off the floor. You might also have to learn to keep the head from bending forwards, especially for extended periods, as this causes increased activity and tension in the low back musculature.
While this article should not be interpreted to belittle the role of the practitioner, it should highlight the fact that you can help yourself. How you move is an integral part of low back symptom management. Learn to move well, then move often!
About the author: With a Doctorate in Chiropractic, Luc founded The Movement Co. with the aim of providing individuals a one-stop-shop for all of their training and rehabilitation needs. Eager to treat all ranges of individuals, from the office worker, to the elite athlete, Luc uses a vast range of treatments customized to his patient's and athlete's needs.
Ask yourself this: what makes any fitness plan truly successful? Two words: realistic goals. Without them, you find yourself trying to attain the unattainable. One of the tools available in today’s modern world that can help you monitor and record your progress is social media.
Fitness Magazine explains that through online channels you can make yourself a part of a dynamic community that offers many benefits. In the hunt for trustworthy food sources? Quickly go online and ask your friends on Facebook for recommendations. Crushed a workout you didn’t think you could handle? Mark this milestone and tweet about it.
Social media is perfect for meeting people with similar fitness goals who you can inspire. However, you should also post social media content with caution and responsibility. Real Simple points out there is such a thing as social media etiquette, so be self-aware, don’t over share, and refrain from flooding your friends’ feeds.
When it comes to social media, you mustn’t be swayed too easily with what you see and read. As far as your self-confidence goes, keep your idea of body image in check. Along with social media, traditional media platforms such as television and movies can persuade you to think twice. Just take a look at the current fitness obsession in Hollywood. More than just beauty, brawn has become both a sought-after quality and a bankable asset that stars are expected to have. Examine the modern day leading man. Men’s Journal points out that a chiselled chest, coupled with shredded abs and super-sized arms are the standard requirement. With films like Pain and Gain and Baywatch, buff and big seems to be the norm for what looks good on movie screens.
Unsurprisingly, this ripped-and-ready trend has found its way to many entertainment media, including non-traditional visual platforms such as online gaming. Entertainment outlet Slingo features thematic games that focus on mythical gods with solid, muscular physiques. Two of their slot games, Kronos and Thunderstruck, used mythical gods that have become famous in the media in recent years through the video game series God of War and Marvel’s version of Thor. The two are testaments to the fact that popping pecs are now more prevalent in popular culture than ever before. Even in aspects of life that have nothing to do with exercise, the public is bombarded with a body shape they should be aspiring to achieve.
But, does this mean we should surrender to this current global fitness obsession? The answer is no. It is best to be inspired by fitness sites and social media channels that don’t push unrealistic goals. There are many sites that promote more accessible methods of training. Very Well advises that using S.M.A.R.T. - Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely - as a guiding acronym will help you stay on top of things and allow you to monitor how much you’ve achieved. After all, Improving your health and fitness is a process that takes a lot of time and effort. Your takeaway: use your social media channels wisely to keep on pursuing your personal health and fitness goals and maybe even inspire others with your own journey.
About the author: Jannette is a 22-year old barista who has recently jumped into the world of freelance writing. She enjoys a good warm cup of latte, maintains a regular week workout schedule to keep fit, and loves playing video games from time to time.
Hi! My name is Milissa Rush and I live in Grande Prairie, AB. I have been a full time Massage Therapist for seven years and I love it. I've been a body nerd since I was a little girl so I consider myself blessed to have a career that excites and challenges me and also allows me to help other feel better in their bodies.
About a year ago I stumbled upon a PBS special featuring Miranda Esmonde-White and her new book, Aging Backwards. She spoke of the Essentrics and Classical Stretch programs and immediately caught my attention with her thoughts on mobility and functional movement being central to slowing the aging process. Her words piqued my interest not only as a RMT but also for my own health and wellness. I immediately popped over to Essentrics.com and within minutes I was ordering the Level 1 instructor package. I knew I had found something special.
Over the past year I have earned my Level 1 Instructor certification and am now teaching four classes a week. It has been amazing to me to see the myriad of ways Essentrics has changed not only my body, but also my massage career.
For starters, I had been developing my own muscle imbalances after years of a full time practice. My right shoulder girdle, in particular, had become very imbalanced leading to local ache, two to three headaches a week and the occasional acute flare up that would painfully limit my range of motion. My shoulder is now symptom free, I rarely suffer from a headache (and when I do it is usually due to something unrelated to muscle tension) and my body feels stronger than it ever has. In addition, all the active stretching in Essentrics has been powerful in preventing any new fascial adhesions and muscle imbalances. The increased strength and range that I have gained from a regular Essentrics practice allows me to continue to massage as much as I do. Not so long ago I feared I would have to cut back my hours because of the toll it was taking on my body.
So clearly, Essentrics has personally impacted me, but it has also drastically changed me as a practitioner as well. When I was completing my Essentrics apprentice hours I drew upon some of my regular massage clientele to come out and let me practice on them. This was the first time I was seeing these people really move their bodies (typically I would only see them move when they were walking into my treatment room or when conducting specific range of motion tests) and was caught off guard by how stiff, unbalanced and unacquainted with their bodies many of them were. I obviously needed to incorporate more active movement into my massage practice, as well as being aware of how much I had been assuming about my clients and their abilities. As these same massage clients continued practicing Essentrics with me we began to see aches and pains that I had been treating diligently were now finally resolving. I had, of course, studied the importance of stretching and strengthening as part of my clients’ home care when I was in school, and I regularly gave people exercises to do at home but never before had I seen these kind of results. I attribute this partly to the fact that clients typically aren't overly compliant with home care, whereas these clients were attending at least one, sometimes two, classes a week. I also give credit to the “full body” approach of Essentrics as opposed to the body part specific style of exercise prescription that I had previously been using. It really shouldn't come as any surprise to us that we need to stop treating body parts in isolation. Our bodies don't move in isolation nor do they heal and repair in isolation.
So, being that I have seen such great results by having my massage clients do Essentrics, should I quit my day job? Does massage therapy still have a valid role in health care? I believe it does, but my reasons why have evolved. Sadly, I feel the relaxation component of Massage Therapy is underrated if not completely disregarded. During times of relaxation our bodies heal and restore, our parasympathetic nervous system takes over decreasing our heart rate and blood pressure and our mind-body awareness is heightened. As our lives get busier it has become more important for us to carve out these moments in time to focus on our bodies in a still, accepting and loving manner allowing the body to enact its own healing and restoration processes. Additionally, Massage Therapy has been shown to be useful in increasing local circulation, decreasing pain responses, decreasing muscle tension and adhesion and reducing stress in general. Human beings are social creatures with an innate desire for touch. It just down right feels good! I do however wish I could require my massage clients practice Essentrics regularly as it would seem that MOVEMENT is the real healer.
Milissa Rush, RMT, & pixabay.com
In Essentrics, we sculpt the muscles and stress the bones but also condition the joints. One distinctive feature about Essentrics is the large, continuous, circular movements throughout the routine. They have roots in tai chi, ballet, and physiotherapy. We feel natural, pleasant, and incredibly good doing them because they work our joints the way the joints should work.
Our bones are connected through movable and immovable joints. The joints in our skull, for example, are rigid and immovable. In Essentrics, we are concerned with movable, synovial joints. These joints are filled with fluid to reduce friction, much like oiled engine parts, and defined for specific motions. A typical example is the ball-and-socket joint. It is the most important and powerful type of joint because of its range of motion. Try making a fist with one hand and cup it with the other. The fisted hand can rotate with a great degree of mobility.
Our arms and legs connect to the skeleton through ball-and-socket joints, and therefore enjoy a greater range of motion. The top end of the arm bone or humerus, for example, is a ball shape that inserts into the cavity in the scapula, or shoulder blade. We can swing our arms and legs in circles. If we don’t use these ball-and-socket joints to their full capability, if we don’t rotate them sufficiently, deposits will build up and the joints will become rigid. The muscles around the joints work together to make those large, circular motions and will also become stiff from fascia build up. Fascia is the film-like connective tissue that can harden from lack of movement. Joints and mobility are a classic case of “use it or lose it.
This explains why those circular movements in Essentrics feel so natural and pleasant. We are moving those joints and the surrounding muscles the way they can and should move. In one of our popular trademark movements “Caribbean Spine,” we rotate the arms and the entire shoulder joint. When we lift our elbows to shoulder height and pull forward we are also stretching and lengthening the upper back muscles such as the trapezius and the rhomboids. When we open and rotate the shoulder backwards we work the pectorals. The motion therefore not only conditions the joints but also improves our posture by increasing flexibility in the upper back and chest. This is the beauty of Essentrics’ economy and efficiency.
When we do the “Clock Kicks” with our legs, we keep the body steady, then isolate, kick and travel one leg around from front to back and vice versa. This is also a simple, powerful, and effective move. Many people find this circular motion challenging because they can’t isolate and lift their legs at all angles. While most have no trouble lifting the leg forward and up, for example, doing so on the side and to the back can cause many to wobble and lose balance. The motion reveals the weakest muscles in the hip and leg areas as well as rebalances them. When we unclog this ball-and-socket joint connecting the legs, we are also improving mobility and enhancing our balance.
This is why static stretches and holding poses do relatively little to condition our joints, which need movement. Traditional weight lifting, involving rigid, mechanical motion, stresses bones but doesn’t work the ball-and-socket joints to their full range. Pushups and tricep dips can build and tone muscles quickly but can overload the wrists. Similarly, holding poses such as the downward dog position in yoga can stretch the latissimus dorsi in the lower back as well as the hamstrings in the legs, but can put too much pressure on the compressed wrists.
Then there is the question of impact. Certain sports such as tennis and volleyball involve full rotation of the one arm, but not both. Yet the movements also involve hitting a target which impacts the joint.
What's a FOX 980 Laser? Guest Post by Lisa Garland, RPN FCN Ed, Owner/Operator of TiredSole Foot Care Clinic
"As I hear my name being screamed down the hall, I jump into action and assist as I know I can. Injuries like a muscle tear can be debilitating and can stop a human for weeks. Sick time, decreased income, and at times, even more loss. When Amanda ripped her calf muscle, I’m sure the pain she felt was one she will not soon forget, let alone the weeks of downtime and physiotherapy to help this muscle get to a place where she can walk and most importantly do what she does best!
What is LLLT?
Low Level Laser Therapy (LLLT) is the application of a laser over injuries or lesions to improve wound and soft tissue healing, reduce inflammation, and give relief for both acute and chronic pain. LLLT is used to increase the speed, quality, and tensile strength of tissue repair, as well as resolve inflammation and relieve pain (analgesia).
The red and near infrared light (600mn-1000nm) commonly used in LLLT can be produced by a laser. The effects of LLLT are PHOTOCHEMICAL - like photosynthesis in plants. When the correct intensity and treatment times are used, red and near infrared light reduces oxidative stress and increases ATP, which improves cell metabolism and reduces inflammation. These effects can be enhanced with pulses.
Tired Sole is the only medical office in Ottawa that uses the FOX 980 Laser to treat foot conditions. It’s a revolutionary podiatry tool and has been proven more effective than drug therapy. As well as providing pain relief, the laser can get rid of warts and skin tags, and is used regularly to solve fungal nail issues. I am so proud to say the laser has had very positive results to all that have had treatment. What a great way to get back on your feet!"
About TiredSole (www.tiredsole.com)
TiredSole is a state-of-the-art nursing foot care clinic with Certified Compression and Lymphedema Fitters, foot care nurses, and the ability to perform an ABPI reading without the long wait times of the acute care hospitals. Foot care is performed by registered and insured nurses with over 20 years of experience. The clinic uses a state-of-the art autoclave machine to ensure proper sterilization of all tools and to diminish the risk of infection.
“Like most young girls I did dancing (tap and jazz) at an early age. I completed the exams as far as I could. In New Zealand at that time, there was not much you could do with dancing, so I decided to become an aerobics instructor. I became a certified aerobics instructor at the age of 19. Although it was not dancing, it gave me the chance to be creative with warm up routines. I ended up teaching at Club Physical Gym, where I still am today. As an aerobics instructor, I learnt anything new that came about. I taught Step, Circuit classes, Tai Bo (kickboxing), did full-on Boxing as well (fully trained), New Body (movement with small hand weights), Flex or Pump (weight class with barbells), Sculpt (toning with hand weights), Slide (like step but using a slippery surface where you slide from side to side), Spin (on bikes), Pilates – pretty much everything that was available, I learnt it.
I taught at the Gym part time and taught all types of classes, right up till my first child, at the age of 39. I had a bit of a break to look after my baby and started to get back into teaching about 6 months after giving birth. I noticed that I was getting more injuries from weight-bearing classes. Even though my form was good, my body was telling me that it didn’t like it. I didn’t listen to my body and continued with most of these classes. I did start to cut down on more high impact classes, but stuck with the weight-bearing ones, until my second child, at the age of 42.
After teaching Essentrics for 3 months, people would come up to me and say ‘you have lost so much weight’. I was shocked as I still weighed the same, BUT what had changed was the shape of my body. Yes, I was still the typical pear-shaped Kiwi, but I was standing taller and gave the illusion of lost weight. Plus, the type of eccentric training means the muscles are elongated, again making you appear thinner.
I continued to teach Essentrics, along with a few barbell classes, when in 2013, I started to have major issues with my knee. I was diagnosed with osteoarthritis - from many years of doing weight-bearing exercises. Osteoarthritis is a degenerative disease, so it’s from ‘wear and tear’. I was told from the specialist to stop all weight-bearing classes and that I would be certainly looking at a knee replacement within the next few years. This led me to give up all classes apart from Essentrics. I was and still am determined NOT to have a knee replacement.
The more I taught Essentrics, the more levels I did, the more exams I passed, the more I wanted to learn. In all my years of instructing, and previous examinations, I have learnt more about the anatomy through Essentrics. To this day, 4 years later, I still find myself learning more about the muscles in movement. I have learnt the more you move, the less pain your body is in. I have learnt that even when my knee is painful with the osteoarthritis, if I don’t keep moving and using it, it gets worse. So many people, as soon as they have a diagnosis, give up, they stop moving, when this is the worst thing they could do.
I understand that my knee is likely to get worse, but I believe that through Essentrics I can avoid this operation.
Last fall, I was fortunate enough to meet Angela Sutcliffe when she registered for the fall session of Essentrics classes. After one month of classes, she posted the following status update on Facebook:
"Today I stubbed my toe ... and it hurt, oh how it hurt ... and after I finished hopping around the house screaming words they didn't teach me at the convent I paused and realized OMG, IT HURT.
What you don't know about me (although you may now) is that I can be the Queen of Denial, so for the past three years or so I hadn't wanted to admit to myself or anyone else (especially NOT a medical professional) was that I couldn't actually feel my feet ... they were sort of numb-ish with a bit of tingling. Oh my GP had sent me for all the typical tests ... for diabetes etc. and they had always come out negative ... but still I had a nagging little question about why don't my feet feel right ... why do they feel like they're in a very tight plastic bag?
So today, when I felt pain in my foot, it confirmed what I had thought was happening, that feeling was coming back to my feet ...I noticed they were no longer freezing but they were actually warm to the touch. And when I went to my Essentrics with Amanda - Ottawa class and we were doing our stretching I finally understood... the problem with my feet wasn't "organic" in the sense of diabetes, it was tight beyond belief muscles right down to the tips of my toes, and thanks to stretching, moving, lengthening my muscles, my tendons, my fascia ... everything is coming alive again and, for today anyhow, that pain was my body saying "I'm waking up".
The reason I'm telling you this is that for a long time I thought health was about diet alone ... about "when I get to a certain weight" ... if I eat right ... but now I have incontrovertible evidence that health is about eating but it is also about moving because no matter how much - or how little - you weigh, tight muscles will slowly take away your quality of life.
Whoohoo. Sometimes pain is a good thing! Feelings ... (I'm on the right track!)"
Thanks Angela! I'm so glad you've discovered the power of Essentrics.
Amanda Sterczyk is a Certified Personal Trainer (ACSM), an Exercise is Medicine Canada (EIMC) Fitness Professional, and a Certified Essentrics® Instructor. She offers in-home personal training in central Ottawa. Amanda specializes in helping older adults maintain and increase strength, flexibility, and mobility. No fitness goal is too small, in her opinion.