Technology may be hurting your kids

My inspiration for this blog article comes from a recent visit I had this weekend at my sister in-law’s house. They are dealing with an issue that many North American families have to deal with….kids that spend way too much time using electronic devices. She was upset because on a sunny day, her son spent 6 straight hours playing X-box. In addition to that, he spent time on the computer on MSN, Youtube, Facebook, and numerous other websites. Don’t forget television as well. This trend is growing at a ridiculous rate, and as a physiotherapist I get to see the physical effects. RSI, or Repetitive Strain Injury, is a collective term for syndromes characterized by discomfort, impairment and loss of muscle strength and function. RSI often affects the neck, the back and particularly the arms and hands. It is found primarily in adults who perform repeated movements such as those involved in typing or playing musical instruments. It is commonly named according to the part of the body affected, e.g. tennis elbow, carpal tunnel syndrome, golfer’s elbow. We are starting to see RSI turn up in younger and younger patients which is rather alarming. In addition to computers and gaming devices, there has been a substantial increase in the amount of time teenagers spend on their cellular phones sending text messages, thereby potentially affecting the prevalence of RSI in this group (2). The increased frequency of texting is leading to a condition popularly termed “Blackberry Thumb”, or “teen texting tendonitis”. This occurs because these devices rely almost solely on the use of your thumbs (not all of your fingers) for typing. Any device that relies on the thumbs for typing can cause this type of injury because the thumbs simply weren’t designed for such use (1,3). Repetitive mechanical loading of the thumb, combined with inactivity, and prolonged slouched postures resulting in increased neural tension results in increased risk of developing RSI. Symptoms of “Blackberry thumb” include pain and numbness in the thumbs and joints of the hand (1). But there are also other bodily symptoms: Pain and numbness at the base of the thumb Tingling and numbness in hand, including joints Pain in elbow Shoulder, neck pain during computer use Tired, achy fingers and cramping It is estimated that teenagers sending and receiving an average of 80 text messages each day may be vulnerable to repetitive stress injuries of the thumb (4). If you think this is a high number and unlikely, consider these statistics: About 75 percent of 12-17 year-olds in America now own a cell phone (4). Half of those teenagers send 50 or more text messages a day (4). One-third of teens send more than 100 text messages daily (4). If you think my sister in-law’s son is a minority, then guess again. Here is another interesting statistic: Americans between ages 8 and 18 spend an...

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Curiosity killed the habit

Every hour you sit after the age of 25 takes 21.8 minutes off your life. That’s a pretty eye opening statistic considering the majority of us are sedentary workers and/or enjoy sitting back and watching our TV shows. Suddenly binge watching a Netflix series doesn’t sound so fun (4 seasons of Ray Donovan just took a toll on me). I feel a lot of this comes down to habit and routine. Most people go to work (sitting), drive home (sitting), eat supper (sitting), then relax (sitting). Sitting is a habit that is now blueprinted into our routine and according to this study is slowly taking time off our life. Breaking habits and routines is central to what physiotherapists do, and it is arguably the hardest part of the job. We need to educate on why it is important to break these habits and form new, healthier ones to not only combat and prevent pain, but to prolong life. So how do we get people to break them? I recently watched an interesting TEDtalk about how curiosity might be the key to breaking these bad habits. Although the main focus of this was on smoking and eating, their concept of curiosity, I felt could be translated quite well into time sitting. The gist of it is quite simple; you need to become curious to make you more aware of the impact of your habit. Could I feel better if did more in standing? Would I feel better if I went for a walk instead of watching TV? Do I hurt more after watching TV? Is this worth the 21.8 minutes? Their success rate was high for smoking, and I am curious to see if it would be similar across the board with most habits. I hope that the statistic alone intrigues your inner Curious George about what it would feel like to go for a walk, get back into the gym or do more work while standing. Life is too short to be subtracting...

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Walking: An Exercise or Activity?

I’m often asked “Is walking good for you?” In short, the answer is YES but the rewards and drawbacks of ‘walking for exercise’ depends heavily on the individual. For example, are you are free of injuries or impairments that would cause you to walk with a correction? Do you have a sore heel causing you to put more weight on one leg? Do you experience pain while walking or after? Do you have poor balance and at times worried you might fall? If you’ve answered yes to any of these questions, it’s important that you minimize risk. Injury will take the benefit out of any workout. What are the primary benefits of walking? For me, walking is an activity that can be fun (who doesn’t love a social walk with a friend on the waterfront.) Walking gets the body moving. Increases blood flow which contributes to a healthy heart and brings greater fluidity to lower body joints. Walking challenges your weight bearing bones to help fight osteoporosis. In general walking is a low-impact activity that has minimal “wear and tear” on your joints. Walking is free, can be done most anywhere and is one of the best things for your mind & body. The downside to walking: it won’t on its own build muscle. Walking gives you a great cardiovascular boost but offers little improvement in muscle strength. As we age (after the age of 25) we start to lose muscle mass, this is called “sarcopenia”. It becomes fairly critical that we continue to build muscle mass as we age. Walking alone will not give you everything you need to be fit for the long run. I like to think of walking as an “activity” rather than “exercise”. I think any type of sport or recreational movements are in the same column. Activity in my opinion still has many benefits (physical, as well as psychological and social) but if you really want to play or engage in an activity with less chances for injury or “wear and tear” on your joints, then you need to do the fundamental work called “exercise”. I highly suggest weight training using machines or free weights, yoga, pilates, and body-weight training movements (squats, push ups, planks). Exercise is the hard work, and activity is the fun! In summary, walking is great. It’s just not the “be all and end all” of a complete fitness program. If walking is the one thing you do, good for you. You are moving! That’s better than a lot of people! If you are keen to experience the benefits of true fitness try adding exercises that build muscle. You will soon discover an ability to enjoy all types of physical activity safely and with greater...

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Sleep, Exercise, Eat, and Relax Your Way to a Stronger Immune System

By Tara Patriquin, RMT Staying healthy is a balancing act between immune boosters and immunity drainers. After all, we’re surrounded by things that compromise our immune system on a daily basis, whether it’s pollution, questionable lifestyle choices, or viruses, to name a few. It seems that at no time do we hear more about “immune boosters” than in the winter. The common cold is one of the leading reasons for medical visits during the winter. But, building a healthy immune system is a year-round job. It is big business to sell products designed to strengthen your immune system. You can Google any number of lists offering the best immune boosters, with everything from the now mainstream Echinacea to the little known Graviola extract. But I’ve never been the most compliant with a supplement regimen, and I’m a simple girl after a simple approach. I keep my immune boosters old school: sleep, exercise, diet, and manual therapy. After all, these are the pillars of health and you always have them at your disposal; no hunting for rare ingredients required! Sleep The most basic and important thing to understand about sleep is that this is when many of our critical metabolic processes do their best work, like regulating body temperature, hormone levels, heart rate and other vital body functions. In other words, when we sleep we heal. In fact, a Chronobiology International publication as recent as August 2013 explores the link between the circadian clock and the body’s natural biological clock that regulates our immune cells and activity. The researchers discovered that the crosstalk between these clocks had potentially grave consequences on a person’s overall health in states of sleep deprivation. One of my favourite bedtime routines is to practice some Pranayama: the art of mindful breathing. The extra oxygen that you will take in will not only help to alleviate muscle tension, but it will relax the mind too. The rhythmic pattern of breathing can also be calming and meditative. And since stress can interfere with the immune system, a little meditation can go a long way. I’ve written more in-depth on the science of Pranayama. Exercise You don’t need to be a genius to know that exercise, particularly strength-training exercise, is the best support to our musculoskeletal health. Did you know that it is also an incredible immune-booster? However, the trick is in finding the amount of exercise that is right for you and your immune system. The biggest risk is in chronic overtraining. The idea that we need to sweat it out for an hour at the gym 5 days a week is rapidly falling by the wayside. Just as we heal in our sleep, we rebuild our exhausted muscles during our rest days. Remember that building tissue is a metabolic process that requires the right combination of stimulation, nutrients, and rest. The most beneficial exercise approach is...

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A Healthier Nova Scotia…Wellness!

By Nick Matheson, Owner It was eleven years ago; a birthday truly worth celebrating. My oldest daughter, Maryn, had reached a milestone. Three years old and she was cancer free. Born with a rare tumour in her liver, the disease had progressed to her lungs, reaching stage 4, before we had the good fortune of an accidental discovery. A fall on her belly a few months previous ruptured the tumour, threw her into shock, and propelled our family into a 4-month sprint to conquer this disease. On this particular day, she raced all over the playground, climbing, swinging, and jumping. Not a big deal for most three year olds, but quite a feat for a kid who was only three weeks post liver transplant! Having donated a significant chunk of my liver to the effort, I was quite the contrast as I winced with pain and hobbled lethargically around the park trying in vain to keep up. At only 31 I was already envious of the energy and recovery potential of youth! My family’s brush with cancer taught me that there are many things in life that I cannot control. It was in that moment, full of joy in Maryn’s victory and facing struggle in my recovery, that I vowed to control those things I could. Until that point, health was something I took for granted. It’s easy to do that until you start to lose it. So many people spend so much time and energy focused on things that do not matter at all when their own health or the health of those they love is at risk. Illness can be an important wake up call. I’m sure my family has claimed more than our share of Nova Scotia’s health care dollars. We are very grateful that the stress of coping with a kid facing a serious illness was not compounded by wondering how we would pay for her care. We are incredibly thankful for the exceptional care that was provided and, of course, for a miraculous outcome. I realize that it is not without problems; however, the system was there for us when we needed it. For the most part, health care in Nova Scotia works when you are sick. The challenge is that it does very little to keep us well. And, frankly, I don’t think there is much it can do. The population of Nova Scotia is aging rapidly, chronic disease continues to increase, and unhealthy lifestyle habits are among the highest in the country. Illness places a growing burden on health care budgets and personnel. I understand fully that there are many things we cannot control. I invite every Nova Scotian to accept responsibility for controlling those they can. Wellness is too often sacrificed to denial or lack of awareness. Every choice takes one closer to or farther from a state of good health. The scientific literature is...

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Beat the Heat!

By Joline Boudreau, PT It’s hard to believe that just a few short months ago we were chipping away at ice, and spent hours shoveling snow.  If anything, the winter that we had has maybe sparked something in all of us; to get out there and take advantage of our summer and warmer weather.  As someone who enjoys going for runs, cycling, and just being active outdoors I can certainly attest that the hot weather can bring about its own challenges. I decided that I would share some tips to help with these hot summer days.  Though they may seem basic, putting these into effect can make a difference.          Wear loosefitting, lightweight clothing          Protect against sunburn          Drink plenty of fluids          Take extra precautions with certain medications          Take is easy during the hottest parts of the day I’ve included a link to a short video that describes what happens when you have heat...

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