Although the majority of our work is based on rehabilitative therapy, we can’t stress enough the importance of implementing preventative care to achieve optimal health. This page is meant to serve as a purposeful tool with information on injury prevention for common ailments. If you currently have an injury or would like advice on how to improve your physical well-being, make an appointment with Courtenay’s David Da Silva Physiotherapy.
Backpack Weighing You Down
Physiotherapists advise the following tips when selecting and using backpacks to avoid back and arm injury.
Backpacks should have the following features:
Fitting the Backpack
Centre the backpack between the shoulder blades using both shoulder straps.
The backpack should be the right size for the person using it. A backpack should not be chosen for size to carry more.
The shoulder straps should fit comfortably and not dig in to the shoulders, allowing the arms to move freely; the bottom of the pack should rest in the contour of the lower back; and the pack should "sit" evenly in the middle of the back, not "sag down" toward the buttocks.
Wear both shoulder straps to help distribute the weight of the pack evenly and to promote a good posture. Using only one strap loads the entire weight of the bag over one shoulder, resulting in back pain and strain to the neck and shoulders. Leaning forward may affect the natural curve in the lower back, and increase the curve of the upper back and shoulders.
Keep the weight manageable. A full backpack should never weigh more than 15 percent of the carriers’ body weight. For example, someone weighing 115 lbs. (52 kg) should not carry more than 17 lbs. (7.8 kg), with the heaviest items stored closest to the back. Remember, carrying heavy loads incorrectly can lead to back strain or even chronic problems. These risks can be greatly increased in children and adolescents.
Maintain a good posture at all times, standing tall with your head and neck aligned with your shoulders. Keeping your shoulders pulled gently back and down will help. As an exercise try utilizing this posture, gently squeezing your shoulder blades together and then rotate your palms to face outwards. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat five times.
Don’t Sit out This Soccer Season
Soccer players young and old are heading out to the field for another action packed and fun-filled season.
Reduce major injuries by following several of these physiotherapy tips:
Soft tissue, overuse injuries, as well as knee and ankle injuries are a common problem among young players. Consider using arch supports for comfort and for relief of minor heel or foot pain.
Don’t play with severe or persistent pain - minor aches and pains lasting up to 48 hours are acceptable, but severe pain or difficulty walking may signal a more serious problem. Consult your physiotherapist immediately.
A reminder to athletes that chronic pain around the hip or knee joints or the lower back may be signs of more serious problems and should be checked by your physiotherapist.
Healthy Computer Habits
Physiotherapists are seeing an increase in electronic injuries, and the aches and pains that come from sitting at a computer for long periods of time.
Physiotherapists offer these guidelines for computer:
As described below, adjust your chair to support your back and minimize awkward postures that can lead to muscle tension, fatigue and soreness. Avoid slouching and ensure that the small of your back is supported.
Talk to a physiotherapist if you are experiencing regular or increasing discomfort while sitting at your computer, take early corrective action.
Forecast Calls for Snow Shoveling
Back injuries and pulled muscles are among the most common health threats from using poor technique when shoveling snow. While most people recognize that shoveling snow is very hard work, that can put severe stress on your heart, fewer people recognize the stress and strain that it places on the low back.
Take time to stretch and prepare your body for activity with a simple warm up of marching on the spot and a few shoulder circles to help tackle the snow.
Tips to Help Get a Handle of Safe Shoveling
Choose a shovel that’s right for you. A shovel with an appropriate length handle is correct when you can slightly bend your knees, bend forward 10 degrees or less, and hold the shovel comfortably in your hands at the start of the shovel stroke. A plastic shovel blade is lighter than a metal one, putting less strain on your spine; and sometimes, a smaller blade is better than a larger one. This avoids the risk of trying to pick up a pile of snow that is too heavy for your body to carry. Ergonomic shovels with a bent shaft require less bending and your heart doesn’t need to work as hard.
When you grip the shovel, make sure your hands are at least 12 inches apart. This will increase your leverage and reduce strain on your body. Always keep one hand close to the base of the shovel to balance weight of the lift and lessen the lower back strain.
Lift the snow properly. Squat with your legs apart, knees bent and back straight. Lift with your legs. Do not bend at the waist. Scoop small amounts of snow into the shovel and walk to where you want to dump it. Holding a shovel of snow with your arms outstretched puts too much weight on your spine.
Spray your shovel with a lubricant or silicon spray so the snow does not cling.
Step in the direction in which you are throwing the snow. This will help prevent the low back from twisting and next-day back fatigue experienced by many who shovel.
Tackle heavy snow in two stages. Begin by skimming off the snow from the top and then remove the bottom layer. Avoid overloading the shovel. You are working too hard if you cannot say a long sentence in one breath. If this is the case, take a short rest or decrease the intensity of effort slightly.
Take frequent breaks when shoveling. Stand up straight and walk around periodically to extend the low back. Do standing extension exercises by placing your hands on the back of your hips and bend backwards slightly for several seconds. Because you bend forward so much when shoveling, you need to reverse this by straightening up and bending backwards slightly.
Wear proper footwear with good tread to help avoid slipping or falling. Shoveling snow is a rigorous physical activity, if you don’t exercise regularly or if you have a medical condition consult a Physiotherapist.
Fit to a Tee
A game of golf is a healthy activity to help gain and maintain flexibility and range of motion. It’s a physical activity that includes walking, lifting and repetitive arm movements, providing the benefits of cardiovascular and strengthening exercise programs.
However, returning to action after being on hiatus for several months puts enthusiasts at high risk of injury. The golf swing is a complex, explosive and physically stressful movement that requires the full rotational capacity of 127 joints and the dynamic activation and coordination of 400 pairs of muscles.
To avoid injury, physiotherapists recommend:
Oh My Aching Back
Almost everyone experiences some type of back pain during the course of their life. More than 70% of back problems begin during routine daily activities. Accidents and other forms of trauma account for only 30% of back problems.
Back pain can be due simply to a lack of exercise or a result of poor posture or body mechanics.
Poor posture or twisting movements during such routine activities as gardening, housework, picking up a child, reaching for an object or even coughing can cause acute back pain – pain that can last for hours, days or even years if ignored. The pain can be felt in the back or may be “referred pain” that is felt in the low abdomen, groin leg or foot. Specific sensations can include pins and needles, numbness or a burning feeling. These should not be left untreated.
Normally, pain resulting from muscle or ligament strains will fix itself in the first 24 to 48 hours. If the pain does not subside after 24 hours and is happening regularly, is severe, or is getting worse, you should see your physiotherapist.
The physiotherapist’s focus is to treat the problem quickly, reduce pain and return you to normal activity as soon as possible. Since so many factors can be the cause of back pain, physiotherapists offer a range of comprehensive treatment programs designed specifically for your individual case.
These include hands-on treatment such as; exercise prescriptions to strengthen and condition the back and stomach muscles that support the spine, mobilization involving small movements, of one or more joints in the spine and manipulation which improves spine mechanics.
Physical modalities which can include the use of heat, ice, or various types of electrical stimulation, posture correction advice and education to prevent future back pain, as well as back protection strategies.
Stages of Healing After Injury
Your body will go through 3 stages of healing after every injury, and your Physiotherapist will help you through each stage.
Regular aerobic exercise, such as walking and swimming will help prevent injury and provide the condition a healthy back needs. A Physiotherapist will help you maintain your strength and fitness to minimize injuries and prevent re-injury.
Clinical research shows that early treatment of back pain prevents chronic back pain and sufferers can return to work and other activity, enhancing their quality of life and general well-being.
30 Minutes of walking each day has health benefits. Walking is the simplest and easiest form of exercise.
To avoid injury, physiotherapists recommend the following:
A warm up and cool down is vital to every walking program. Keep muscles flexible and relaxed, joints mobile, and relieve tension and strain by doing a few gentle stretches before and after your walk. Important areas to stretch are the neck, shoulders, arms, low back and spine, hip flexors, buttocks, quads, hamstrings, shins, calves and ankles. Stretch and hold until you feel tension but not pain. Do not bounce as his can tear the muscle fibers.
While walking focus on:
Starting a walking program:
What to wear:
Also rotate your walking routes from incline to flat, sidewalk to grass, to keep it interesting and listen to your body and watch for recurring or persisting pain. If concerned, seek early professional attention from your physiotherapist.
Safe Skiing and Snowboarding
Winter enthusiasts look forward to this time of year when there’s an abundance of winter activities to enjoy, like skiing and snowboarding.
Before heading out to the slopes, you need to remember that winter activities often pose a high risk of injury if time isn’t taken in advance for proper body conditioning.
Physiotherapists see an increase in “impact” injuries in winter. They recommend good conditioning program prior to hitting the slopes. Workouts to stretch and strengthen thighs, hamstrings, buttock muscles and abdominal muscles can also help.
The “ABC’s of Winter Conditioning”
A is for Alignment: people spend a lot of time in seated or contorted postures, which can affect postural alignment. This may limit the body’s ability to achieve and maintain peak capacity and may lead to pain or injury. A physiotherapist can tailor a program of stretching and strengthening exercises to promote optimal postural alignment.
B is for Balance: balance is a fundamental component of any sport, especially skiing. If you have a sedentary lifestyle, you may need to “train” your balance reactions for sport related activity. Most gyms have balance equipment available. Use them to improve balance and ultimately enjoyment on the slopes.
C is for Core Training: skiers and boarders need a strong core or torso as an “anchor” for the legs. These are the muscle groups that work together to stabilize the trunk. Exercises that have a rotational component and work the core areas in three dimensions are best. While many sports such as cycling, or weight training are one-dimensional, life and sports, like skiing, are 3-D so you must train for them.
D is for Deceleration Control: skiing and boarding are all about controlling the gravitational pull on frozen water. A typical ski turn usually lasts 2-3 seconds. Skiers must be able to control their deceleration speed to slow the forces of gravity and finish their run safely.
Exercises that work the quadriceps in a slow controlled manner such as step ups, split squats and lunges are excellent ways to train for this. They mimic the forces of skiing and allow you to improve strength in a hip-extended position, the functional position for all sports.
Running to the Finish Line
Running is an activity that many enjoy and can be extremely beneficial to one’s health. A 30 to 40 minute run, three or four times a week can help to maintain flexibility, increase mobility and build strength and endurance.
Proper posture and body mechanics will help lessen the strain on your body.
Because of the repetitive nature and impact running has on your body, runners tend to be more susceptible to injuries. One or two days a week, at least, should be devoted to rest or non-running activities and runners should:
Physiotherapists tips for reducing the risk of falling:
Be physically active every day to improve posture, muscle strength and balance. Enroll in Tai Chi or an exercise program to improve flexibility.
The risk of falling in older adults can be reduced dramatically when specific exercises, activities and interventions are prescribed by a physiotherapist. A targeted physiotherapy treatment program can help maintain or regain strength, flexibility and endurance in a way that still feels safe and secure.
For example, a physiotherapist will assess a senior’s physical status and provide appropriate recommendations or treatment. As part of the assessment, the physiotherapist will review medical history and determine general physical condition, strength, flexibility, balance and gait (the way each person walks). After determining the primary limitation, a program of exercises and activities will be prescribed that focus on that area but with an overall goal of improving physical mobility.
Physiotherapists are reminding older Canadians that it’s never too late to take the first step towards a longer and healthier life through regular exercise.
They recommend 30-60 minutes of moderate activity most days of the week. Walking is an easy, low-risk mode of incorporating physical activity into daily life.
Physical inactivity increases the risk of heart disease, diabetes, colon cancer, high blood pressure, obesity, osteoporosis, muscle and joint disorders, and symptoms of anxiety and depression.
It’s Never too Late to Start Exercising
Exercise isn’t just for older adults who live independently and are still very active. Researchers have found that exercise and physical activity can also improve the health of people who are 90 or older, who are frail, or who have the diseases that seem to accompany aging. For some, that can mean the difference between getting up from a chair by themselves, or depending on someone to help them.
Older adults who begin to participate in regular physical activity can improve their quality of life. Regular physical activity helps maintain independence and reduce the risk of falls and fractures.
A Physiotherapist Can Help
Older adults should consult a physiotherapist regarding their overall fitness status before they begin an exercise program. This will confirm the level of exercise program that is right for them, but also discuss the potential health benefits to be gained.
Physiotherapists are highly skilled healthcare professionals, qualified in developing exercise programs to suit the needs of seniors, especially those who have chronic conditions affecting their overall physical function. A physiotherapist can tailor a program to optimize physical function and fitness, and help gain and maintain mobility.
Save Your Back When Chopping Wood
So you have a logging truck load of timber to cut and split - firewood for the next 2 winters. You enjoy the exercise and fresh air afforded by this activity. However, the constant bending to pick the wood off the ground after splitting can be very hard on your back. Even with a splitting block you still have to bend over to pick up the wood that has been split, and which inevitably falls onto the ground.
Well, here is a tip that will eliminate at least 90% of the bending you will have to do, thereby saving the mechanical stress on your back and as a result, making your wood splitting less of a chore.
Get yourself a large splitting block approximately 20" in diameter and approximately 14 - 16 inches high; on top of the block place a tire - a light truck tire would suffice nicely. Then, place the small logs that you have cut to split for the firewood into the middle of the tire. Once split, the pieces don't fall off the block, but just lean against the side of the tire (the inside rim). This eliminates all the bending.
From there, you can put the firewood into the wheelbarrow and wheel it off to wherever you are going to stack it.
Whatever the mode of travel, sitting immobile for prolonged periods of time can put considerable stress on muscles and joints. This can lead to feeling stiff, cramped and sore with a sense of fatigue after the journey.
Good posture plays a key role in the prevention of back pain and excessive strain on the joints, ligaments and veins. However, even good posture can become uncomfortable over an extended period of time. Frequent posture changes help minimize discomfort.
Physiotherapists recommend these posture tips:
Physiotherapists recommend doing one exercise from each of the following groups before, during and after the journey, to maintain good general circulation and decrease stiffness by moving the joints. Slowly stretch until a gentle tension is felt in the muscle (this should not be painful). Take relaxed breaths and do each exercise slowly, repeating twice on both sides.
Head and neck:
Foot and ankle:
For all seated stretches and exercises, sit tall in the seat with your ear, shoulder and hip roughly in line with each other, and feet slightly apart. Arms should be resting comfortably with your hands in your lap. Exercises should be performed on both sides of the body.
It is especially important to remember to exercise if using a laptop computer or doing other work while traveling.
People are often surprised to learn that their shoulder and neck pain might be related to their phone use. A new syndrome, aptly named “cellular phone neck,” is now recognized as a disorder caused by cradling the telephone between your head and a hunched shoulder in order to use your hands to type, drink coffee, or turn a steering wheel. This is a proven path to shoulder pain.
Poor usage habits can lead to discomfort but simple tips, like alternating ears for each call, or storing commonly used numbers in your phone's memory, can help.
The best solution is to use a hands-free headset that will free up your hands and let you keep your neck in an upright and neutral position. Studies show that upper back, neck and shoulder discomfort can be reduced up to 41% with the use of headsets.
Canada has seen a 300% increase in text messaging in the past two years, and with over one million text messages expected to be sent this year, some see a potential strain on thumb muscles and tendons.
According to HealthyComputing.com, as the popularity of text messaging continues to soar, a new form of RSI has been identified as Text Message Injury, or TMI, caused by excessive use of the thumb to type text messages into a cellphone or PDA.
This can happen when users are making hundreds of tiny repeated movements as they use the cellphone keypad.
With any type of repetitive activity like gaming or texting, the risk of injury to the tendons is increased. Physiotherapists advise to be aware of your posture, limit text time to short bouts of less than 15 minutes and keep muscles long and strong. Maintaining good alignment in the head, neck, and arms while texting, along with stretching before and afterwards can go a long way to reducing the risk of injury.