by Linda Walker, Peninsula Physiotherapy and Massage –
I am often inspired to look for common links to ill health performance. I look for common denominators to great performance, and filter down to the essence of what creates the most impactful treatment effects. It helps to use the “think outside the box” method, which is a blend of the most up to date health care research, years of clinical experience, then adding outside health philosophies. In other words: combine as much knowledge from as many sources as possible.
An example of this is the importance of body and joint alignment. When attending a conference in Vancouver by the top surgeons at UBC they spoke about the importance of joint alignment for the health and longevity of your joints. A month later I heard the same teachings at an Iyengar yoga course given by the revered yoga teacher Jawahar Bangara from Pune, India. The message was clear: learn to use your joints in a neutral, optimally aligned position and they simply last longer over time. So how is this achieved?
The solution starts with an assessment of the position of your joints now, and educating you so you’re aware of your alignment tendencies. Treatment is then a combination of manual mobilizations to allow freedom of joint movement, and a home program to back it up. Home exercises usually consist of lengthening short muscles, which pull the joints out of neutral alignment, then adding “alignment strengthening” so you can use the joint in a more neutral position during your daily activities and sporting activities. If done regularly, injuries will not occur as frequently, or can be avoided completely, and performance improves!
Once pain in a joint is resolved, your ongoing stretch and strength program is designed to prevent the pain from recurring. Once you’re feeling better, clients often ask me: “How long do I have to keep doing these exercises?” My cheeky answer? “Until you die, or you don’t need to use that joint anymore!” With a little daily practise, you can happily keep your body tuned up and enjoy the activities you like.
The other question I am often asked is: “How hard should I stretch?” The answer is not as simple as you might think, so I will explain.
Studies show that a “mild stretch sensation” is all that’s necessary to safely elongate a muscle over time. If you try to impatiently get the job done too quickly, it can backfire. When you stretch into the “moderate to severe” stretch sensation realm, your protective autonomic nervous system (ANS) kicks in and tightens the muscle you’re trying to lengthen! Your ANS thinks you might tear the muscle and it protects against this. So you must be aware of your “nature” and if you tend to push too hard and do too much, it’s time to back off a little. A gentle, frequent approach will get the results you want and will sustain you over time. So enjoy getting active again as the weather improves and as always, we are here to help along the way.
For more information, visit www.peninsulaphysio.ca.