Blog Archives

A step by step guide to addressing your pain and creating long term change in your body

Step by step against the sky

Pain can come in many forms and for a variety of reasons, but most of the time there is something that you can and should do about it other than take medications.  Suffering from chronic pain can be a defeating place to find yourself, but if you become part of the solution by assertively educating yourself, seeking the right help and being open to change, you can usually win the battle.  This post outlines the steps I recommend you follow to take control of your health both physically and mentally and get the help you need.

Step 1: Don’t Panic
Step 2: Learn
Step 3: Network & Ask for Help
Step 4: Treatment
Step 5: Maintenance & Prevention

Step 1: Don’t Panic

It is really hard to think logically and objectively when you have been in pain for an extended period of time.  Irrational fears can cloud your judgement and Googling your symptoms can create fear and confusion.  Try to become mindful of the fact that you may be getting pulled down a rabbit hole of misleading information and mind fogging medications.  As best you can, try to zoom out from the pain and try to look at yourself in the context of where you are and where you want to be.  Create a physical and mental goal to anchor your purpose and then start learning what it will take to get you there.

You are the only person that has to live with your pain on a moment to moment basis and you are the only person that has the control to change it.  You will likely have to change some of your behaviors, step outside of your comfort zone and ask for help from people you don’t know.  It is journey that may take longer than you expect and won’t be a linear path, but is something you need to assertively embark on to control your future.  Read More

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Your Invincible Years are Over: how to stay strong, fit and pain free as you age

Old Superman #famousoldies

I used to beat the hell out of my body when I was in high school.  I played soccer, basketball, rugby and a variety of other sports on almost a daily basis.  I would bang and crash and hurt myself, but it never really slowed me down because I just took it for granted that within a few days or a few weeks my body would heal up and be ready for more.  In University I tested my body with little sleep, more sports and a lot more alcohol, but I still always bounced back and kept going.  Around my mid-twenties to early thirties a few things happened that started changing my perspective on life.

By the age of twenty four, I had completed two university degrees and was officially a registered physiotherapist.  I’d like to think I was a lot smarter after six years of university, but I learned much more in the following six to ten years than I ever did in school.  It was a time when my body seemed to start getting less and less invincible and I started gaining more and more perspective on the importance of physical health.  I still played soccer, hockey and squash, but my body started taking longer and longer to recover; things that used to take days to feel better, starting taking weeks and I was forced to consider the physical consequences of my activity choices more than ever.

As a physiotherapist, working with clients from nine to ninety years old, I started recognizing that I was not alone in the weakening of my invincibility around age thirty.  I would hear an average of ten ‘getting old sucks’ complaints a week, equally spread amongst the thirty, forty and fifty year-olds.  The sixty and seventy year-olds tended to phrase it more around ‘this old body is falling apart,’ and the eighty to ninety year-olds just seemed to be happy if something actually didn’t hurt.  Read More

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Allied Healthcare: your options outside of the medical model

Physiotherapist
photo: Beta Klinik
The medical model is one that most people are familiar with.  You get hurt or sick and you go check in with your family doctor, walk in clinic or even hospital to see what a doctor thinks about what you have done.  When it comes to illness and major trauma a physician is definitely the one you want looking after you, but when it comes to pain, injury and preventive health, both physical and cognitive, doctors are not your best choice.  The fact that you even have a choice comes as a surprise to many people; most are under the assumption that their doctors know best.  If you live in a moderate sized city, the chances are you have a choice of a variety of allied health workers that have exceedingly more specialized training in physical health and rehabilitation than any doctor you will visit.

The following post is a brief summary of some of your healthcare choices and the treatment options they can provide that don’t involve medications or surgeries (scroll down to read details about each bullet).

–    Physiotherapist
–    Massage Therapist
–    Chiropractor
–    Naturopath
–    Osteopath
–    Kinesiologist/Personal Trainer
–    Yoga/Pilates instructors
–    Counselor/psychologist
–    Occupational Therapist
–    Traditional Chinese Medicine/Acupuncturist

Full disclosure: if you were not already aware, I am a physiotherapist and am moderately biased towards my own profession, but I do work closely and share clients with almost all of the different disciplines listed above.

Physiotherapy aka Physical Therapy

Physiotherapists (in Canada) are considered primary care givers, which means you don’t require a doctor’s referral to see them.  They now have a minimum of 6 years of university education and typically extensive post graduate training in various specialties.  Physiotherapy is a profession with a broad scope of practice which allows its’ therapists to take the best techniques from many other healthcare disciplines and make them their own. 

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Pain & Function: What doctors don’t understand & what people don’t understand about doctors

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I have an immense respect for doctors and their knowledge base.  They go through rigorous training in medical school to learn how the body works, how to fix it when it is broken and how to keep it alive when it is dying.  On a daily basis doctors help their patients with a wide variety of medical issues from diabetes to cancer and from pregnancy to Parkinson’s.  We need them in our lives because our society just cannot function properly without them.  That being said, I would like to share my experience and stories in dealing with doctors from the perspective of a physiotherapist that has:

  • 10 years’ experience working with injured clients (including many doctors) that have battled through public and private medical systems, specialists, tests, etc
  • 5 years’ experience working as a physiotherapist within a large family practice doctors’ office in a building with the UBC Medical School and every different medical specialty available in British Columbia
  • 2 opportunities to help teach 4th year UBC medical students how to do proper back assessments
  • A personal history of numerous injuries, trips to the doctor and hospital

The purpose of this post is not to make doctors look bad, it is to help the general public understand what they should and should not expect from their doctors and the medical system as a whole.  Doctors are very smart people, but they don’t know everything, and most of the time they work in a model that doesn’t allow them to help you in a thorough or timely manner; we should not be mad at doctors for this, we should just adjust our expectations and understand that a doctor might not always be the one with the best advice or treatment for your ailment.

When something hurts and doesn’t go away after a couple of days or weeks most people will search the internet for their symptoms and then likely visit their doctor to try and figure out what is going on.  Read More

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Creating & Managing Your Own Health Record: A Crucial Ingredient to Preventative Health

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When was the last time you went to your doctor?  Your dentist?  Your physio?

Why did you go?  What was wrong with you?

What did your health professional tell you?

What did you learn from the experience?  Anything?  Do you remember?

Your body is a complex structure with all sorts of things happening in it that you likely don’t understand.  It is easy to leave the care of your body to others that ‘know what they are talking about’ and just do as you are told, but it is a dangerous habit to fall into.  Too much dependence on busy healthcare practitioners can result in you getting lost in the shuffle of a strained medical system.  Your doctor or physio may be a very compassionate and diligent professional with your best interests at heart, but you have to remember that he/she likely sees ten to twenty other people every day too and it is easy for things to fall through the cracks.

The best way to make sure you are taken care of is to become the leader of your own healthcare team and try to learn something about your body with every interaction with your doctor, physio, trainer, etc., and then keep track of your health related experiences over the years.  Write down every time you have an injury or pain.  Write down every time you see your doctor and what you learned from the appointment.  Write down the advice your naturopath gave you so you can refer to it again in the future.

You should create your own health record, in your own words of what you understand to be wrong with you and what you might be able to do to get better and prevent the problem from surfacing again.  Your health is a product of everything you have done up to this point and it is a very helpful tool if you have a record of the past that has helped you learn along the way. 

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