Living Well With Chronic Pain

As this fantastic reflection demonstrates, being more empowered to manage pain and promote better health does not necessarily mean cure. The often elusive search to be “fixed” or even labelled with a diagnosis, can be a surrender of your ability to live well in spite of limitations you experience. We generally see that some improvement in symptoms and/or function is almost always possible; however, it always begins with accepting where you are and working from there. Nothing “works” except to the degree that you work...

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Chair Ergonomics

In industrialized countries, many people sit for most of the time that they are awake. They sit while having breakfast, while going to work in cars or buses, in school classrooms, in meetings, in offices, during dinner, and at home while watching television. Many people also sit at work operating machines which new technology has developed to replace manual work. Although sitting requires less physical effort than standing or walking, it puts a lot of stress on lumbar area. Combined effects of a sedentary lifestyle, and a job that requires sitting can lead to many health problems. The selection of a suitable chair is a critical step in preventing health problems in people who work in a sitting position. However, you do not have to spend a lot of money to find a proper ergonomic chair. A good ergonomic chair will have basic adjustability features. The features that should be considered include: Seat height adjustability: Adjustability is a must – feet should rest comfortably on the floor without pressure on the back of the thighs. When seated, your hips should be slightly higher than your knees. To achieve proper height with respect to your desk or keyboard tray height, you may need a foot rest. Seat depth adjustability: The depth of the seat is important in order to reduce pressure on the back of your thighs or calves. If the seat puts pressure on the back of the knee, or mid posterior thigh, this will reduce circulation and cause a pooling of blood in the extremities. This can lead to varicose veins, painful conditions, and also blood pressure issues over time. Proper seat depth will allow for a 2-3 finger width distance from the back of the knee to the edge of the chair. Armrests (height adjustable): To reduce strain on your neck and upper extremities, your armrest height should be as follows: with the arm relaxed and bent while seated, the arm rest should be a 2 finger width higher than the bottom of the bent elbow. Armrests set too high will cause compression of your thoracic outlet. Armrests set too low will cause traction on your neck. The length of the armrests may need to be considered as well so they do not prevent you from pulling in close to your desk or keyboard tray. Armrests set approximately 15cm back from the edge of the chair should be adequate. Back rest height: A mid back or high back chair offers more support and will reduce lumbar strain. A low back chair is not recommended if you spend a fair amount of time sitting. Regarding shape of the back rest, do not get hung up on molded forms and fancy adjustable parts. The most important factor in reducing back discomfort while sitting is the ability to move around frequently. A chair should not lock you into a position...

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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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Does what you eat affect how you feel?

By Dave Lee, Physiotherapist   Is there a connection between what you eat and your pain? Well here is a potential answer. An in depth look at gut bacteria and its anatomical/physiological connection to the nervous system and the brain. A “Gut” Feeling: How What You Eat May Affect Your Perception of...

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Fear and Pain

By Nick Matheson Once again, the world is reeling from tragic circumstances. Once again, we are faced with the fear brought on by random and senseless attacks. Once again, the world is on high alert. The goal of terrorism is to terrorize and make us change the way we live. It just so happens that Lori and I are traveling to Paris this week. I cannot say that I have not had second thoughts, though I am inspired by Parisians insisting that they will not be afraid and continuing to celebrate liberty. After all, #parisisaboutlife. Though there will be mourning, I am inspired to bring whatever love I can to and from this great city. Reading countless news articles and travel advisories over the last couple of days, I was reminded of the counsel I’ve often offered to those struggling to overcome pain: benign vigilance. In other words, pay attention and notice what the body is communicating; however, do not be overwhelmed and immobilized by fear. Ignoring a problem does not make it go away. Facing challenges with awareness, compassion, and intelligence is, in my experience, the best response. This week I will travel with a new vigilance, but I refuse to be afraid. The world is full of pain. At its best, pain is a means of elevating awareness. My heart goes out to those personally touched by hateful acts, including those that perpetrate them. Once again, the world needs all that la ville de l’amour represents. Love and...

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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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