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Archive for the ‘Prevention’ Category

The Foam Roller: If my mom can use it, so can you

Posted on: March 7th, 2016 by Laurie Plouffe No Comments

Foam RollerAbout a year ago my mom, an active semi-retired grandma in her mid-60s was suffering from daily back pain which was preventing her from enjoying some of her hobbies and even making it difficult to complete chores and work around the yard. Living in a small rural community in northern Alberta with no direct access to physio my mom sought advice from my brother Arri and I, both of whom are physiotherapists.

Our advice was simple: “Mama, you gotta use your foam roller.”

Like many people, mom was skeptical. She had heard some myths about foam rollers that I would like to clear up.

MYTH: Foam rolling is just for athletes.

FACT: A foam roller can be used by almost everybody regardless of your fitness, age or body composition.

MYTH: Foam rolling is just for tight IT bands.

FACT: Using a foam roller can not only improve muscle mobility, it can help improve posture, core stability, joint stiffness and balance.

MYTH: Foam rolling MUST be painful in order to be effective.

FACT: Don’t get me wrong, rolling some areas can be downright nasty, but there are also a tonne of ways you can use a foam roller which are equally as effective and completely pain-free.

So with some encouragement from her sons, Mama McWatt began doing her 2 very simple foam roller exercises every day. In total the exercises would take her between 5-10 minutes. Today her back is completely pain-free, she has better posture, range of motion and balance. Most importantly, she is once again able to do all the hobbies that she enjoys.

For useful tips on how to use your foam roller and a chance to win a brand new foam roller of your own check out our Facebook page or Instagram account @propelsportsphysio . 

4 Ways to keep you steady on ice this winter!

Posted on: February 20th, 2016 by Moni Taron No Comments

lake-huron-554910_960_720-pixabayAlberta’s winters bring all kinds of weather. With all the melting and freezing, it can be treacherous to get outside. Rather than sit inside all winter, we can be proactive – A few simple exercises can decrease your risk of injury!

Whether you’re skating, skiing, snowboarding, running, or walking on an icy sidewalk, everyone can benefit from a few simple exercises that train balance and proprioception.

What’s the difference between balance and proprioception?
Balance is our ability to distribute weight in order to stay upright. Proprioception is, simply, the ability to know your body position without looking. It allows you to walk without looking at your feet by sending information to your brain, giving you a sense of the position of your limb in space.

Balance and proprioception walk hand in hand. Proprioception is essential in balance control. Ice and snow add a bit of extra challenge since the surfaces are always uneven and somewhat unpredictable. Our proprioceptors, especially the ones in our ankles and feet, have to constantly work to allow our body to adapt to the changing surface and stay steady.

So now the question is, how do we train for proprioception and balance?

We can start with a few basics. Everyone can benefit from balance training, and the good news is that you will notice improvements in no time, even with the most simple exercises. Keep in mind there are always ways to make them more challenging!

BEFORE YOU START: Take off your shoes and socks!

Your toes (especially the big toe) and the little muscles in your feet play a HUGE role in balance. If you are used to a rigid shoe, chances are if you take the shoe off, a) your balance is a lot worse, and b) the muscles in your feet are used to relying on stability from the shoe and are not doing their job very well. Let your toes move!

#1 – Single leg static balance

The most basic of balance exercises is still an important one to do. Start with 10-15 second holds on each leg, keeping your hips level and standing knee slightly bent. Increase the time until 1 minute feels easy. If you need extra challenge, close your eyes – taking away visual feedback really puts your proprioceptors to the test! Try it while you brush your teeth or wash dishes. Exercise doesn’t have to steal your free time!

#2 – Single leg Deadlift

Single Leg Deadlift - startSingle Leg Deadlift - end

Single leg balance is great, but it’s not often you are standing still while enjoying a winter sport! Start without weights, and add some in if you need more of a challenge. Balance on one leg, knee slightly bent, and slowly reach down to the floor, keeping your back straight. Reach your back leg out behind you at the same time. Start with 5-10 on each side and increase to 3 sets of 10.


#3 – Arch Lift

Arch Lift - startArch Lift - end

This tiny movement will help strengthen muscles that make up the arch of your foot. Keep the balls of your feet and your heel on the ground. Slowly push your toes into the ground so you create a larger space between your foot and the ground. It should feel like your toes are gripping the floor. Relax and repeat, holding 1-2 seconds each time. Repeat for 3 sets of 5-10. You can do this ANYWHERE, even moving your foot inside your shoes.

#4 – Toe Mobility (aka Toe Yoga)

Toe Yoga - startToe Yoga - endKeep your heels and the balls of your feet on the ground. Lift your big toes off the ground while your little toes stay down, then switch (big toes down, little toes up). Switch back and forth, 20-30 times. If you find this difficult, you’re not alone. Try using the other foot to hold down the big toe while you lift the other toes and vice versa. It takes a while for your brain to remember they can move separately! Once you master this, your toes can grip the ground better and improve balance.

You’re set with some basic exercises! Get outside and get active – no need to wait until summer!

Movement check-ups to PREVENT problems

Posted on: October 28th, 2015 by Laurie Plouffe No Comments

kettle-bellEvery aspect of your health is monitored to see signs of problems before you have symptoms; always looking for signs of heart disease or diabetes BEFORE they happen. Every aspect except your musculoskeletal self – your muscles and bones. We only pay attention to that area and seek professional help when we are having pain or problems moving.

What if we could have a peek to see if there is any part of your movement system that isn’t performing optimally, BEFORE you notice a problem? We could then implement some preventative measures to keep you going and offset the impact of an injury.

Like a car you put miles on your body with daily activities of living plus added sport or physical activity. Checking the system (your body) at regular intervals, like a tune up for a car, can help make sure that performance is optimal at all times. Especially at times you want to try something new. Maybe you want to try crossfit, running, snowboarding, spinning, HIIT classes or something else into your activities. Before you go ahead spending money on equipment and training we should make sure that body is capable of handling those demands without setting it up for injury.

A functional movement assessment can quickly show us how your body moves in sequence. Muscle activation and timing of movement sequence is important for efficient movement. If something in the pattern or timing is off compensation to get the movement done will happen.

Compensation with movement and muscles leads to overuse and pain, and decreased ability to be efficient because you are using muscles for jobs they aren’t equipped to do. This means not being as strong, fast or able as you should be. Some simple corrective “resets” or exercises given for those specific compensations done regularly could help improve the movement patterns. This leads to increased efficiency, thus more speed, strength and ability.

We all want to be faster, stronger and better at what we do. And we all hate being injured and taking time off from our activities. Being proactive with a movement checkup can ensure your body is always operating at its best.

Sex, drugs and rock n’ roll – Oh! And tension headaches.
5 ways to relieve/alleviate tension headaches

Posted on: September 30th, 2015 by Laurie Plouffe No Comments

Tension HeadachesFun fact; all of the above can help relieve tension headaches (well maybe not rock n’ roll, but that all depends on your taste in music). We’ve all heard the rumor that sex can relieve a headache – obviously there is little credible research available to reference but no one is judging if it’s your first go to option, it is physical activity after all! Many common over the counter analgesics are available for the treatment of headaches, and music (whatever your favorite is) can also relieve headaches owing to the fact that it promotes relaxation.

Take a step back though. What even is a tension headache?! Well, your friendly neighborhood Physiotherapist may refer to it as cervicogenic headache. This means that it originates in the muscles around the neck that support our head. Our heads are heavy people, we need to support them, but like everything, there is a right and a wrong way to achieve this.

What can I guarantee will relieve or completely alleviate your headaches? MOVEMENT – the right type of movement.

5 easy steps to being headache free at work or on the go

  • Posture; make sure that your shoulder blades are flat on your back and tuck your chin – if your nose is in the air your neck is in despair! Plus this helps you breathe better – more oxygen to the brain cannot be a bad thing!
  • Stability training; training your deep neck flexor muscles can significantly decrease the incidence of tension headaches. These are the muscles hat hold your head without you thinking about it. Many times we stop using them and use bigger muscles in their place. Your physiotherapist can discuss these exercises with you in more detail.
  • Stretch;
    1. gently tilt your ear towards your shoulder. Hold for 20-30seconds
    2. turn your head and tilt your nose so you’re effectively smelling your arm pit. Hold for 20-30seconds.
  • Breaks; take regular breaks from work tasks, especially if your work requires you to be in a static posture for an extended period of time. Get
    up and walk to the water cooler!
  • Hydrate; Drink. Fill. Repeat. Too often we forget to drink enough water or drink too much coffee! Coffee is a diuretic, which means it promotes the excretion of water from the body. So drink up to replace the fluids your morning “pick-me-up” may be depriving you of!

If headaches have been affecting you for too long check in with your physiotherapist to determine what your particular needs are. Remember that pain is often the last link in the chain of a chronic injury – it’s paramount to address the underlying dysfunction. This will ensure success in treating what ails you.

5 Reasons Core Training Should Involve Your Butt

Posted on: September 18th, 2015 by Laurie Plouffe No Comments

When people think of their core they primarily think of their abs (Thank you Channing Tatum…), what most don’t realize is that their butt (glutes) also plays a critical role. Here are some reasons why activating your glutes is extremely important for functional strength, performance and injury prevention.

1. The glutes are part of your core group of muscles
The glutes play a huge role in core stability, as do other muscles in the mid section of your body such as the back, quads, hamstrings, obliques, and of course abdominals. The main function of these core muscles is to stabilize the body and make movement of the arms, legs and body more efficient. Training this area is crucial because all movement originates from our core.

2. The body has to provide stability to allow for mobility
The core muscles work together to stabilize the mid-section of the body and to allow for simultaneous movement in the arms and legs as well as the body. The goal is maximum stability and mobility so that energy can be transferred and utilized for the desired movement. When there is uncontrolled movement (or poor stability), valuable energy is lost and the activity becomes very inefficient while putting you at risk of injury. Whether your goal is kicking, running, jumping, skating, swinging or throwing, or any other functional movement, the goal is the same – to have sufficient core stability to allow our movements to be more powerful and efficient, and to ultimately improve performance.

3. If the glutes are weak, other muscles have to compensate for them
In addition to being one of the primary stabilizers of the pelvis, the glutes are a large producer of power in the lower body. Weak glutes are often a missing link in many functional movements which can lead to muscle imbalances. Essentially, if one muscle or muscle group is not fulfilling its role (weak or not working correctly), the body has to make up for this somewhere else. When other muscles, such as the back extensors or hamstrings, have to compensate for this, they become overworked causing fatigue. This often leads to poor performance and injury.

4. Quality of movement is always more important than quantity
Glute activity is strongest during high power activities such as sprinting and jumping, followed by running and climbing, and finally walking. However, if one muscle is not fulfilling its role, another will try to compensate and do the work for both of them. So, if you start with a high skill level or high resistance activity without activating the correct muscles, you are basically doing repetitions to strengthen muscles the wrong muscles. Try exercises which specifically activate the glute muscles, such as bridging and clamshells, to ensure you are activating your glutes before doing higher intensity activities (ie, jumping, sprinting). This movement prep can help reassure you are using your glutes when you train.

5. You don’t have to lift heavy to get strong glutes
The more you activate your glutes during daily activities the stronger the brain-muscle connection will become. This increased number of repetitions, or high volume training, can be very effective in building muscle size and endurance. It is also important to consider the effectiveness of the exercise, regardless of how much weight someone is using to complete a squat or deadlift, if the glutes are inactive, they are not getting stronger (the quads on the other hand, that’s a whole other story). If you’re unsure where to start with your glute or core training, consult with a physiotherapist. We’d love to help you build a better butt!

5 Reasons Why Everyone Should Squat

Posted on: August 18th, 2015 by Kayla Clarke No Comments

man-squat-clouds-src-unsplash“But isn’t squatting bad for me knees?! Don’t they damage the joint?!”

… Nope.

Surprise! In fact … squatting is a fundamental exercise that no matter what age, gender, or even fitness level – EVERYBODY should be doing.

1. Squats do NOT do damage to the structures in your knees
When a squat is performed with proper technique * (see bottom of article), it does not “wear away” the cartilage or meniscus. In fact, performing squats helps to encourage natural movement, and has even been shown to INCREASE the integrity of the ligaments and joint lining. Think of it as keeping the tires on your bike oiled. You wouldn’t hop on a bike that has been locked away all winter and zoom right off

2. They help strengthen MULTIPLE muscles
Your glutes, quads, hamstrings, abdominals and low back muscles will thank you for doing squats. You want to get stronger? Do a squat. You want fantastic trunk control? Do a squat. You want awesome quads? Do a squat.
The beauty of this, is that a squat is an amazing bang-for-your-buck exercise that can be performed virtually EVERYwhere –  from the gym using barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells; or at home with your body weight, bands, even bottles of water!

3. They actually DECREASE knee pain
Recent research shows that incorporating squats into a regular exercise regime helped to decrease chronic inflammation that occurs with osetoarthritic knees. Not only that, but the participants in the study reported less perceived pain, and were even able to walk faster

4. They enhance movement AND athletic performance
Multiple research studies have shown that when athletes of a wide range of sports incorporated squats into their training programs, they improved upon their sprint time, strength /  weight lifted, and their vertical jump. This is mainly due to the nature of the exercise targeting multiple muscle groups, and the ability to constantly progress and vary the exercise

5. We were BORN to squat!
Every time you sit down on a chair, or the toilet, or bend down to get something off the floor – guess what you’re doing? A squat! There is a reason why our hips, knees, and ankles are all joints that have a large range of motion

Now … Go Squat!

*If you want to make sure you are using good technique, or if you DO have any knee pain or complications – make sure to get it checked out by a physiotherapist

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