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Back to school backpacks: Protect your kids from back pain

By | Back Pain | No Comments

With back to school in full swing, your kids are back to carrying their backpacks filled with books, items and learning materials. As many children and adolescents walk to and from school, parents should be aware that a heavy backpack can cause back pain and other strains.

Activa recommends 3 tips to help your children stay safe and avoid back problems this school year and onwards.

How Carrying Heavy Backpacks Affects Children

While a backpack is a practical way to carry schoolbooks and items distributing weight across your child’s back and shoulders, the risk of overload can strain their back, neck and shoulders.

As your child’s back compensates for weight carried over long periods of time, heavy backpacks pose several risks:

  • Distort natural curves in your child’s middle and lower back, causing muscle strain and discomfort to their spine joints and rib cage
  • Lead to rounding of your child’s shoulders
  • Cause your child to lean forward, reducing their balance and making it easy to fall

What’s more, the habit of carrying backpacks over one shoulder causes muscle strain to compensate for uneven weight. When your child’s spine leans to the opposite side it stresses their middle back, ribs and lower back more on one side. Muscle imbalance can cause muscle strain, muscle spasm and back pain in the short term with accelerated development of back problems later on if not corrected.

Your child’s heavy backpack can also pull on their neck muscles, contributing to headache, shoulder pain, lower back pain, neck pain and arm pain.

3 Tips for Safely Carrying Backpacks

1. Consider backpack design features that reduce back pain:

  • Lightweight material (canvas rather than leather)
  • Two padded, wide (2-inches) adjustable shoulder straps
  • Padded back and individualized compartments
  • Hip strap, waist belt or frame redistributes weight of backpack from shoulders and back to pelvis
  • Wheels allow backpack to be pulled rather than carried
  • Separate bag for your child’s laptop and heavy electronics

2. Teach your child how to properly load and wear their backpack to avoid back pain:

  • Always use both shoulder straps and wear backpack on the back rather than over one shoulder
  • Pack heaviest objects into backpack first so they are carried lower and closest to your child’s body
  • Fill compartments so that load is evenly distributed throughout the backpack and items do not shift while your child in walking
  • Adjust straps to fit backpack snugly to your child’s body, holding the bottom of backpack 2 inches above their waist and keeping the top just below the base of skull. Do not carry backpack low near the buttocks
  • Lift backpack by using leg muscles and keep it close to their body, not by bending over with arms extended

3. Watch weight carried in their backpack to reduce back pain:

  • If your child complains of discomfort, immediately reduce weight in their backpack
  • Teach your child to carry only books needed for the day in their backpack with frequent trips to their locker for needed items
  • Train your child to clean out their backpack once a week

Get Involved with Protecting Your Kids from Back Pain

  • Talk to teachers about minimizing the need for kids to carry heavy books back and forth in their backpacks. Keep one set of books in the classroom for daily work and leave heavy books at home. Photocopies of homework chapters and assignments are ideal for lighter transport
  • Attend PTA meetings and be aware of policies by school administrators for removing lockers or reducing time between classes, which makes it difficult for kids to carry heavy books throughout the school day
  • Consider alternatives to traditional backpacks: saddle bags, rollerbags, backpacks with inflatable lumbar support and straps, inflatable and moulded backpacks

Contact Activa if you have any questions about helping your child prevent back pain this school year.

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Relieving Low Back Pain from Golf

By | Exercise, Sports | No Comments

Preventing Low Back Pain from Golf

With golf season in effect, Activa recommends that you take care in gentle exercises and stretching to prevent golf injury. If you are experiencing low back pain from a recent round of golf, it is not advisable to stress inflamed muscles by continuing to play golf. Taking some time off from golf will allow your muscles to heal faster, as will applying heat or ice to your lower back and ibuprofen to decrease inflammation and help with your recovery.

Gentle Exercise for Low Back Pain 

Stretching between golf rounds is advisable, alongside low-impact aerobic exercise such as walking for 30-40 minutes every second day. After your low back pain has resolved, slowly return to playing golf and practice prevention tips to help avoid future episodes. A routine of stretching and low-impact exercise is important for maintaining your ability to play golf.

Stretching and maintaining flexibility is especially important among individuals who experience low back pain to prevent further injury or muscle strain from golf. Those who experience chronic low back pain tend to lose flexibility, therefore a daily stretching program is crucial to maintain flexibility and prevent low back pain.

Maintaining good aerobic condition helps to reduce discomfort so you can continually enjoy golf. Walking and stationary biking are both low-impact aerobic conditioning exercises three times a week at 30-40 minute intervals are gentle on your back therefore recommended for golfers with low back pain.

Low Back Pain from Golf Among Elder Golfers

As golfers continue to play as they age, most expect to be able to continue to play throughout their retirement years. Some elderly golfers develop conditions which make it difficult to walk long distances on the golf course. For individuals who have difficulty walking around the golf course due to pain, a golf cart can provide needed support. An alternative for aerobic conditioning to walking the golf course is stationary biking.

Elder golfers are generally less likely to develop low back pain from their golf swing as they are usually not in the stage of developing their swing. Sometimes, a modification of the golf swing is necessary for the injured or elderly golfer, comprised of a relaxed posture, shorter back swing, increased hand action and a shorter finish.

Contact Activa if you need relief from a golf injury or would like to review stretches to prevent low back pain on the golf course.

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Golf season is here! 3 tips to prevent low back pain

By | Exercise, Sports, Stretches | No Comments

Summer is here! For many, the favourite sport of the season is golf. Like any sport, golf can trigger low back pain with muscle strains and sprains combined with injuries to the spine.

Individuals who suffer from chronic or recurring episodes of low back pain can be frustrated when pain hinders their time on the green.

Activa recommends 3 simple ways to prevent back injury and low back pain on the golf course: warm-up before playing golf, practice your swing, and safely carry your golf bag.

1. Prevent low back pain: Warm-up before playing golf
Going directly to the tee as the sun rises then pulling out your driver and proceeding full swing to hit your golf ball off the tee is a sure way to sprain your back muscles and trigger low back pain.

Try a thorough warm-up before playing your next round of golf, including stretches and light swings to warm up. These small movements will prepare your muscles for the golf game.

When stretching before hitting the golf ball, focus on your shoulder, torso and hip regions along with your hamstring muscles.

• Stretch your shoulder and torso by holding a golf club behind your neck and shoulders, then rotate your torso
• Stretch your hips by pulling your knee to your chest
• Stretch your hamstrings by bending over and reaching to touch your toes
• Gently swing your golf club to warm up muscle groups and prepare for the force and twisting that your golf swing produces.

If you have time to hit the driving range before your golf game, begin with smaller irons and progress to larger woods. This will allow your muscles to warm up gradually. Muscles that have been stretched and progressively loaded are much less prone to injury while playing golf and can handle more stress before becoming strained or sprained.

2. Practice swinging before golf to prevent low back pain
As you develop your golf swing and club head speed, be mindful of force and twisting applied to your low back. Golfers should focus on a smooth and rhythmic swing to produce less stress and low back pain by minimizing muscular effort alongside disc and facet joint loading.

A proper golf swing allows your shoulder, hip, chest and lower spine to distribute the load of your swing. Your shoulder and hip turn, along with a wrist snap produces more club head velocity than a stiff arm swing.

Be mindful of your weight distribution when swinging! Weight should be distributed evenly on the balls of your feet and maintain good balance by slightly bending your knees and keeping your feet approximately shoulder-width apart. Your spine should be straight and you should bend forward from your hips.

While developing an easy, fluid swing is desirable by golfers, it takes proper technique and practice to reduce stress to the low back and prevent low back pain. To avoid a low back injury when learning to play golf, beginners are advised to receive training advice from a golf pro a most aspects of a golf swing are not necessarily intuitive. Golf lessons may also be useful for senior golfers who may have decreased flexibility and strength.

3. Carry your golf bag safely to prevent low back pain
Bending over repeatedly to pick up your golf bag can stress your low back and lead to muscle strain. An integrated golf bag stand that opens when your golf bag is set on the ground will eliminate the need to bend over. While some people enjoy carrying their own golf bag to get more exercise, bag straps that place pressure on one shoulder can be hard on your back. If you would like to carry your golf bag, Activa recommends dual straps on your golf bag to evenly divide the weight across your back and reduce the risk of developing low back pain from an uneven load.

The good news: most acute low back injuries resulting from a golf game will get better over a few days to weeks.

Try these modifications to reduce the chances of common injuries including:
• Muscle strains: result of rough or forceful golf swings or a sudden shift during your downswing
• Muscle and tendon attachment: occurs due to excessive use, accidents or swing misalignment when playing golf
• Disc injuries: occurs from swinging abnormalities and usually associated with a pre-existing disc lesion aggravated by golf

Contact Activa if you need relief from a recent golf injury or would like to review your stretches to prevent future muscle strains and sprains on the green.

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Cycling Season Is Here – 4 Ways to Prevent Knee Pain

By | Exercise, Sports | No Comments

Cycling season is here! While biking is considered a low-impact sport, the repetitive mechanics of cycling combined with high reactive forces between your foot and bike pedal create high pressure on your lower extremity and can predispose you to knee pain.

Knee pain is the most common lower-body issue among cyclists with as many as 65 per cent experiencing it. Most knee pain is a result of overdoing it when you ride for longer periods and harder than your condition permits. This tends to strain and inflame your connective tissues.

Activa encourages you to consider safety when biking to prevent reduced training capacity or limited performance with these 4 cycling safety tips.

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Activa Physiotherapy Ottawa’s Approach to Healing and Relieving Pain

By | Physiotherapy | No Comments

The origins of physiotherapy (physical therapy) as a profession date back to the 19th century when Per Henrik Ling, “Father of Swedish Gymnastics” founded the Royal Central Institute of Gymnastics (RCIG) in 1813 for massage, manipulation, and exercise.

Modern physiotherapy (physical therapy) was established in Britain towards the end of the 19th century. In Canada, the Canadian Association of Massage and Remedial Gymnastics (CAMRG) was incorporated in 1935 by the Dominion Charter and renamed the Canadian Physiotherapy Association (CPA), which works to advance the profession of physiotherapy in order to improve the health of Canadians.

Treatment through the 1940s primarily consisted of exercise, massage and traction. Manipulative procedures to the spine and extremity joints were also practiced in the British Commonwealth countries during the early 1950s. Later that decade, physiotherapists started to move beyond hospital-based practice to outpatient orthopedic clinics, public schools, colleges/universities, geriatric settings, rehabilitation and medical centres.

Today, physiotherapy (physical therapy) consists of Manual Therapy, Modern Electrotherapy and Modalities. Activa Physiotherapy Ottawa’s approach to physical therapy combines healing and long-term injury prevention.

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5 Ways to Reduce Risk of New Year’s Resolution Injuries

By | Exercise | No Comments

Happy New Year from Activa Physiotherapy Ottawa! It’s that time for New Year’s resolutions so we encourage you to be careful and reduce risk of injury if you’re pursuing an ambitious fitness plan after time away from regular exercise.

A rapid increase in physical activity and intensity often causes common injuries including achilles and gluteal, calf and hamstring strains, lower back and neck strains, and rotator cuff injury.

Consider these 5 ways to reduce risk of injury so you can follow through on your New Year’s resolutions to improve your health and fitness while sustaining wellness throughout 2017 and beyond.
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Happy Holidays from Activa Physiotherapy Ottawa

By | Massage Therapy, Physiotherapy | No Comments

Activa Physiotherapy Ottawa staff wishes you and your family all the best during this Holiday season, a time to enjoy with loved ones and reflect on the year that has passed.

Please be advised that physiotherapy treatment will not be available from December 23, 2016 until January 3, 2017. Massage therapy is available as per regular scheduling — if you would like to book your appointment, please call 613-744-4188.

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Are Intense Workouts Harming Your Immune System?

By | Sports | No Comments

Do you exercise rigorously on a regular basis? Consider a healthy recovery training program, just like a competitive athlete.

For your muscles the be strong, you need to exercise to the point of tearing muscle fibres, as exercise increases your ability to take in oxygen. Studies show that if your intense workouts aren’t followed by easy workouts, you may be suppressing your immune system to colds and increased chances of injury.

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Piriformis syndrome: More than a pain in the butt?

By | Physiotherapy | No Comments

Piriformis syndrome, also know as “pain in the butt,” is commonly seen in individuals who spend long hours sitting. People who work at their desk all day, drive long distances and ride motorcycles can experience this discomfort. Long-distance runners, cyclists and skiers are also at high-risk.

Piriformis muscle is deep under gluteal muscles, running across the pelvis area outwards and attaching to the thigh bone. When the hip is extended, it’s an external rotator. When the hip is flexed, it’s an internal rotator. Any injury, irritation or tightness to the Piriformis muscle may lead to neurogenic symptoms down the limb.

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Spring Gardening: 7 Tips to Prevent Back Injury and Muscle Strain

By | Physical Therapy, Stretches | No Comments

Spring gardening season is here! Before you start planting your favourite flowers, make sure you keep safety in mind to avoid muscle strain or back injury. Small changes to your movements and gardening habits will allow you to enjoy spring gardening and the beauty it brings.

Gardening is a physical activity so think of it as one that requires training, similar to preparing for running a marathon. Consider gardening as hiking — your first time out for the season shouldn’t exceed a few hours. Lifting and digging can put stress on your back and other muscles and the morning after a day filled with planting will activate muscles you likely haven’t used all winter.

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