All Posts tagged exercise therapy

Motion is lotion

Motion is lotion

Understanding the “Why” behind Movement & Exercise

How do our mindset and beliefs around exercise affect the decisions we make? This blog explores the nitty-gritty of the “why” movement and exercise are beneficial to you in order to help you make the change you are seeking.

As Physiotherapists, one part of our job is to provide evidence-based education to our patients about the importance of movement and exercise. Movement can be active (something you do) or passive (something that is done to you such as joint mobilisation or muscle/nerve/fascia release as common examples). Saanich Physiotherapy  and Sports Clinic prides itself in providing an engaging holistic approach to your health & wellbeing. Movement and exercise are but one part of that approach.

We are each of us unique. We come with complexities and intricacies that make us who we are. In order to delve deeper to understand the “why”, it is important to highlight that all injuries are not the same, even if they are the same injury. Equally so, all pain is not the same, despite the pain seeming to originate from a particular region. Confused? It’s ok, it’s a little bit complex, but I promise to break it down for you so it’s easy to digest. No-one likes pain and our brains are wired to take short cut’s. It’s part of being human. We all want a quick fix. We don’t have time for this pain or injury. It’s stressing us out. Sometimes a quick fix can work to provide some temporary relief, and that’s ok. However, there is usually more to the story and so I will tell you about what we’ve learnt from the many 1000’s of patients we have had the pleasure of helping by getting to know their stories around exercise and movement.

If you’ve tried quick fixes and you haven’t solved the issue your internal voice may speak up and tell you to “do exercises to fix the issue”. That seems logical. Then you probably google it.

Movement and exercise to fix an issue

If logic has taken you on a bypass route straight to a Dr Google search or an Instagram video providing a generic or formulaic approach to exercise as a “fix”, the bypass route will not provide all the answers you need and may even steer you in the wrong direction. There is nothing wrong with information however, which information is critical. Which exercises? When to do them? How many to do? How often to do? When to increase? When to decrease? When to change? What if I get worse? Do I persist? Do I modify? How should I modify? These and many more questions will not be answered by trying to skip the longer scenic route with your physiotherapist as your co-driver and guide to improving your skill. Heading straight to the bypass route either solo or with only partial information that applies to you specifically will often lead to an aggravation of your pain and a delay in the healing process.

Please don’t stop reading here as there is so much more to share with you. Your Physiotherapists job is to know people and people are like complex ecosystems. Bodies – brains, hormones, muscles, bones, tendons, ligaments, nerves, fascia, neural networks, chemicals transmitting signals everywhere, emotions, expectations, histories, unconscious and conscious biases and everything that makes you tick, it’s all interacting with your environment, with other people, constantly re-evaluating. How amazing is that? People are awesome. You are awesome and that is why you need a multifaceted and complex problem-solving approach to your treatment. That is what we do. There are no exceptions. None of us can say we are exempt, we don’t get to opt-out, as we are all made up of the same pieces, it’s just that our jigsaw puzzle, once completed, like our neural networks and their interconnectedness, looks different to anyone else’s. And that is the beauty of people and everything each of us brings with us.

Mindset and Beliefs

Before we look at the “why” exercise is important, it is imperative to understand the mindset and beliefs we each carry within us in relation to movement and exercise. Simply hearing the word “exercise” can invoke a range of varying emotions and responses in each of us. These responses are based on our subconscious and conscious biases, our way of thinking, our past and recent experiences.

We all know exercise is supposed to be good for us – but “knowing” is simply often not enough to make the leap to effect a change in our behaviour, specifically around learning and developing new patterns of behaviour. In order to learn and lay down new habits, we must “do”, we need to act and we must “repeat”. Another vital link to laying down new patterns of behaviour is attributing a positive meaning to our new “doing”, in this case, exercise. Here we explore a range of common responses to exercise prescription or even the thought of doing exercises and the likely mindset linked to each.

This could be anything from:
*a closed mindset response – I am not doing that
*a negative mindset response- I don’t want to do that
*a stress response – I don’t have time
*a fear response – I can’t do that
*an avoidance response – that doesn’t apply to me
*an unsure response – I didn’t know that could help
*an angry response – I don’t want exercises. I just want someone to fix me
*a curious mindset response– how will that help me, can you tell me more so I can understand?
*an open mindset response – I will do my best to execute that
*an eager response – what can I do to help myself
*an overeager response – If I just do a lot of these this should fix my issue
*an honest response – I may not have the time, nor energy, but I understand that this can help me so I’ll give it a try
* a mindful response ­ I will tell myself I’ve done a good job when I do my exercises, even if it’s not as often as it could be, I am doing the best I can at this moment.
*a non-judgemental response – I will not tell myself off if I don’t do my exercises as this is not helpful to me learning new patterns of movement and exercises.

Exercise prescription – Finally the nitty-gritty of why exercise and movement are good for us

Exercise prescription can be given for a range of reasons too. The majority of the physiotherapy patient population are prescribed exercises for improving the functionality of a muscle – it may be weak, lacking endurance capacity or overactive and tight. A muscle can also be slow at responding to input from our immediate surroundings which can affect our sense of balance and lead to issues such as falling over.

However, exercise can be given for other reasons too, such as pain modulation, down-regulating an overactive and sensitized nervous system, improvement in bone density, decreasing stress hormones (ie cortisol ) and substance p ( a neurotransmitter & neuromodulating chemical responsible for providing information back to our central nervous system about pain sensations in the body), to minimise and manage the inflammatory chemical response to acute injury or chronic stress on the immune system ( there are many inflammatory mediating chemicals that are produced inside our bodies such as histamines, prostaglandins and bradykinin – this one increases the bodies sensitivity to pain).

Exercise and diet may also assist in the management of overproduction of pro-inflammatory hormones (such as insulin and eicosanoids). An overproduction of these hormones can lead to chronic hyperactivity of our immune system and the development of immune system disorders (including but not limited to rheumatoid arthritis, Crohns’s disease, asthma, ulcers, cancer, atherosclerosis {heart disease}, sinusitis and more ).

Exercise decreases the levels of TNF (tumour necrosis factor) and CRP (C-reactive protein), which are both involved in systemic inflammation. In order to maximise the benefits of exercise and avoid chronic inflammation, we need to ensure we allow sufficient time for your body to recover after each strenuous exercise session.

Foods that increase the inflammatory response in our body are sugars, refined carbohydrates, saturated fats, trans fats, omega 6 fatty acids, MSG, gluten and casein (arthritis.org ).

Exercise can help us to get to sleep (when we get into a regular morning exercise routine our brain produces a sleep chemical called melatonin and exercise also stimulate the brain to produce a chemical called adenosine which makes us feel sleepy). Your circadian rhythm (your natural sleep/wake cycle) is maintained with regular exercise and therefore your sleep patterns are maintained consistently. This is very important in the management of pain and mental health stability.
Exercise regulates our mental health by reducing the body’s arousal, anxiety and depressive symptoms (after exercise our brain produces endorphins, dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin and these chemicals make us feel happy and improves our sense of wellbeing ).

Exercise helps our brains remain engaged. As we age, our brain needs to keep learning new things to keep it active and exercise can play a major role in keeping neural circuits in our brain open or creating new neural circuits. By engaging in exercise, we effectively slow down the process of ageing. Working on proprioception, which is your brains understanding of where you are in the world, you can improve your balance reactions, allowing you to do more for yourself and prevent falls.

So that is my condensed version of the nitty-gritty of why exercise is good for us. For me, I enjoyed sharing with you my passion for moving and I hope you learned a few new things too; and now both you, who has most likely sat for a length of time to read this article and me, as I have sat for a lengthier time to write this article, need to get up and move.

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Running and Osteoarthritis

Running and Osteoarthritis

Does running accelerate the development of osteoarthritis?

There are so many misconceptions about running and how bad it can be for your joints. You may have heard many friends and family members comment on this and they may have even tried to convince you to stop running and go swimming instead. Here is what the scientific research tells us so far:

Osteoarthritis (OA) is a musculoskeletal condition that involves degeneration of the joints and impact during weightbearing exercise such as running and may contribute to joint loads. There is very little evidence however, that running causes OA in the knees or hips. One study reported in 1985 by Sohn and Micheli compared incidence of hip and knee pain and surgery over 25 years in 504 former cross-country runners. Only 0.8% of the runners needed surgery for OA in this time and the researchers concluded that moderate running (25.4 miles/week on average) was not associated with increased incidence of OA.

In another smaller study of 35 older runners and 38 controls with a mean age of 63 years, researchers looked at progression of OA over 5 years in the hands, lumbar spine and knees (Lane et al. 1993) . They used questionnaires and x-rays as measurement tools. In a span of 5 years, both groups had some participants who developed OA- but found that running did not increase the rate of OA in the knees. They reported that the 12% risk of developing knee OA in their group could be attributed to aging and not to running. In 2008, a group of researchers reported results from a longitudinal study in which 45 long distance runners and 53 non-runners were followed for 21 years. Assessment of their knee X-Rays, revealed that runners did not have a higher risk of developing OA than the non-running control group. They did note however, that the subjects with worse OA on x-ray also had higher BMI (Body Mass Index) and some early arthritic change in their knees at the outset of the study.

Is it better to walk than to run?

It is a common belief that it must be better to walk than to run to protect your joints. In a recent study comparing the effects of running and walking on the development of OA and hip replacement risk, the incidence of hip OA was 2.6% in the running group, compared with 4.7% in the walking group (Williams et al 2013). The percentage of walkers who eventually required a hip replacement was 0.7%, while in the running group, it was lower at 0.3%. Although the incidence is small, the authors suggest the chance of runners developing OA of the hip is less than walkers.
In the same study, Williams and colleagues reinforced that running actually helped keep middle-age weight gain down. As excess weight may correlate with increased risk of developing OA, running may reduce the risks of OA. The relationship between bodyweight and knee OA has been well-established in scientific studies, so running for fitness and keeping your weight under control is much less likely to wear out your knees than being inactive and carrying excess weight.

Is there a limit?

Recent studies have shown that we should be doing 30 minutes of moderate exercise daily to prevent cardiovascular disease and diabetes. But with running, researchers still have not established the exact dosage of runners that has optimal health effects. Hansen and colleagues’ review of the evidence to date reported that the current literature is inconclusive about the possible relationship about running volume and development of OA but suggested that physiotherapists can help runners by correcting gait abnormalities, treating injuries appropriately and encouraging them to keep the BMI down.

We still do not know how much is “too much” for our joints. However, we do know that with age, we expect degenerative changes to occur in the joints whether we run or not. Osteoarthritis is just as common as getting grey hair. The important thing is that we keep the joints as happy and healthy as possible.

How do you start running?

If you are not a runner and would like to start running, walking would be a good way to start and then work your way up to short running intervals and then longer intervals as you improve your fitness and allow time for your body to adapt. Therefore, running in general is not bad for the joints. It does not seem to increase our risk of developing OA in the hips and knees. But the way you run, the way you train and how fast you change your running frequency and distance may play a role in future injuries of the joints.

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Physiotherapy For Back Pain

Physiotherapy For Back Pain

Physiotherapy For Back Pain


Back problems are the third most common reasons for taking time off work behind the common headaches and colds and are also the second most common reason people go and see their GP. It is believed that approximately 8 in 10 people in western countries suffer from some form of back pain at least occasionally.

Back pain or back ache is a symptom that can arise from many causes including arthritis, muscle and ligament strains, disc lesions, osteoporosis, sciatica and stress. Many cases of upper and low back pain and sore backs in general are caused by stresses on the muscles and ligaments that support the spine. Back pain affects patients of in the neck (cervical spine), mid back (thoracic spine) and lower back (lumbar spine).

At Saanich Physio we deal with a high volume of cases of back pain/injuries and have a proven track record to providing good relief! Our staff here are specially trained in dealing with back related issues whereby digital spinal analysis, X-rays and a comprehensive physical exam are utilized to determine the exact cause of the back pain. We know that everyone is different and therefore we tailor a management program that best suits you! A ‘generic’ treatment formula simply won’t work if you want to stop your pain from coming back.

Here at Saanich Physio we also take a research based ‘holistic’ approach to one’s back problems; as such we also consider and give advice on lifestyle factors that can contribute to back pain. Majority of cases of back pain are aggravated by lifestyle factors, including lack of exercise, schoolbags, being overweight/obese, sedentary lifestyles, poor posture, stress and bad work practices. In relation to obesity – we can also provide superior quality weight loss supplements to assist in this area. We address all of the contributing factors to prevent the pain in your back from coming back for good. Many back pain ailments can be addressed easily and quickly but those with serious and chronic back pain often benefit from an ongoing maintenance program.

Physiotherapy to prevent relapses and worsening of symptoms

Simply, our Back Program is a tailored treatment program to address the exact cause of your problems and to get you back to your favourite activities fast! So if your back is holding you back from sport, occupation and other activities or you just simply have pain whilst sitting or getting in/out of your car then our Better Back Program may be the answer for you!

Our Back Program involves an initial assessment with one of our highly skilled physiotherapists. You will also receive a detailed report at the beginning and conclusion of your back therapy to show your progress and your family doctor and relevant specialists will receive a copy also so that everyone in your medical team helps you move towards being fit and painfree.

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Knee Pain: Meniscus

Knee Pain: Meniscus

Knee pain can affect a large range of age groups, ranging from ‘growing’ pains experienced by young people to ‘arthritic’ pain in older persons, and everything in-between. In this Blog we will examine knee meniscus injuries, what causes them and how to treat these injuries.

What is the Meniscus of the Knee?

The meniscus are C-shaped structures in your knee joint which sit between your femur (or thigh bone) and your tibia (or shin bone). They are made of a type of cartilage called fibrocartilage, which is a little bit different to other form of cartilage in your knee called articular cartilage. Articular cartilage is often more affected with arthritis. Your knee has two menisci, the medial meniscus and lateral meniscus. The medial meniscus is located on the inside while the lateral meniscus is on the outside of your knee.

The menisci have a limited blood supply which rely on movement of the knee to keep it strong and healthy. The best thing you can do to prevent your meniscus from injury, is to keep active and keep the knee moving.

What does the Meniscus do?

The main role of the menisci is to help with absorbing and distributing forces through the knee joint. They work together with knee and hip muscles to act as a shock absorber when the knee is active. The menisci also increases the surface area of the knee joint, so it adds some extra stability to the knee.

How do you injure your meniscus?

The majority of meniscus injuries occur as people age (over 50 years). As you get older the limited blood supply to the meniscus becomes further reduced. As people age they develop wrinkles and grey hair. The aging process also occurs in the knee, the menisci begin to degenerate, lose some of their strength and become more prone to injury.

As the menisci become more susceptible to injury with age, the range and types of movements which can damage it become more prevalent. The majority of meniscus injuries occur when you twist your knee over a planted foot. – Sometimes it can be as simple, as turning to look over your shoulder or stepping off a ladder and putting weight on your foot and twisting your knee. You might notice the knee to slowly swell up.

Meniscus injuries in the younger ager group (under 30) are not as prevalent. Simple twisting movements to the knee are unlikely to cause menisci injury in younger persons. You are more likely to see menisci injuries occur with other knee injuries such as ligament damage caused through sport.

What should I do if I damage my meniscus?

So you have injured your knee and you are thinking, what to do next? Alternatively, you have had a scan on your knee and been diagnosed with a meniscus tear and wanting to know what is the best way to treat it?

A 2002 study involving people who had ‘degenerative’ menisci tears, compared the rehabilitation recovery rates of three groups. The first group had meniscus removal surgery (i.e. arthroscopic meniscectomy), the second experienced joint ‘wash-out’ (lavage) and third underwent ‘placebo’ surgery where the surgeon made skin incisions only. All groups undertook the same rehabilitation program. Amazingly they found no difference in between the 3 groups. All groups had the same levels of pain and function, and all improved at the same rate.

Since the initial 2002 study, further published studies have compared meniscus surgery with placebo surgery and physiotherapy treatment. These studies continue to confirm the same result, that is, there is no differences between all of the groups in terms of rehabilitation other than the surgery group having a higher cost of treatment!

The treatment for meniscus tears in the active, younger population (under 30) is more complex with some individuals needing surgery as soon as possible, while others can manage with physiotherapy and exercise.

What does this all mean?

Degenerative meniscus tears are more common as people age. In some cases people who not have any knee pain may have degenerative menisci and not be in any pain. In other words having a degenerative meniscus correlates poorly pain. The good news is, you might not need to have surgery at all if you are able to undertake a comprehensive physiotherapy rehabilitation program.

Will surgery provide you any benefits? Yes it will in the short term. However, arthroscopic meniscus surgery is associated with a ten-fold increase the risk of knee osteoarthritis.

Although most degenerative meniscus tears don’t need surgery, there are always some cases where surgery is going to be more effective than physiotherapy. Some menisci tears can either ‘stick-up’ into the joint or ‘break-off.’ In cases like these the tear can cause the knee to lock when trying to bend or straighten, and surgery is recommended to remove the tear.

What will my physiotherapist work on during my rehabilitation?

The first thing your physiotherapist will undertake is a full assessment of not only your knee, but your legs and even your back to see if you pain is coming from your meniscus or from somewhere else.

If you have hurt your meniscus recently your physiotherapist will start treatment aiming to reduce the swelling and begin to return it to its full range of movement.
If you have full range of movement and no swelling in your knee joint your physiotherapist will begin an exercise program focused on strengthening the muscles around your knee, and from around your hip. Weak quadriceps muscle has been found to place a greater load on your knee joint and your meniscus. Strengthening these muscle groups can reduce the pressure on the meniscus during movement. Weakness in your bottom (gluteal) muscles can also affect your knee function. Weakness in the gluteal muscles is known to place more load through the inside of the knee, which is where the majority of medial injuries occur. Strengthening the quadriceps and gluteal muscles will contribute to reducing the pressure on the knee.

To Summarize:

Degenerative meniscus tears areas common as wrinkles and grey hair as you grow older. Although surgery is sometimes required for some knee injuries it often is not the only or best option in most cases. For most knee injuries involving the menisci the best anti-aging medicine is physical activity and exercise.

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