A Brief Overview of Chronic Pain

As the chronic pain epidemic continues to pour over into the opioid epidemic, new research continues to break down the complexity of chronic pain. Just a few years ago, chronic pain was viewed completely from a biomechanical perspective. When the medical community realized that treating only the injury was not only not working, but the epidemic of chronic pain continued to worsen they realized they needed to take a step back and look at the whole person. What has been discovered has been an eye-opening look at how chronic pain involves factors beyond what is happening within the body tissue. Now, we take a broader look at the whole person and understand chronic pain has a multitude of origins.

The Actual Risk Factors for Chronic Pain

Over time, physicians and other professionals realized the amount of tissue damage being seen on an MRI and the amount of pain a person was experiencing just were not matching up. Beyond that, those who underwent surgical procedures were showing...

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Movement Tips to Avoid Back Pain During Pregnancy

More than two-thirds of pregnant women report low back pain and up to one-fifth report pelvic pain during pregnancy. Reports of pain tend to increase later in pregnancy and interfere with daily activities, sleep, and work (3). About 20% of women who experience low back or pelvic pain during pregnancy report persistent pain for up to 3 years following pregnancy (2).

Chronic pain is complicated and much research has revolved around the term “pain catastrophizing”. Catastrophizing is a process of becoming fixated on pain, magnifying the effects of it, feeling helpless, and expecting negative outcomes associated with pain. Research shows that those who catastrophize are more likely to develop persistent chronic pain and disability. Women who demonstrated pain catastrophizing during their pregnancy were found to be less likely to have been active throughout their pregnancy and more likely to develop persistent pain after (2).

The recommendation of daily physical activity...

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When Body Alignment Does Matter: A Discussion of Chronic Pain and Function

Chronic pain is the leading cause of disability in the United States, with an annual cost estimated to be about $100 billion. These costs are associated with healthcare expenses, lost income, and lost productivity. A majority of adults experience acute pain at least once in their lives with about 28% later developing chronic pain (3).

With the nation’s growing opioid epidemic, there has been considerable emphasis on understanding the sources of chronic pain. Many mistakenly believe that tissue damage is directly correlated with a person’s risk of developing chronic pain. Statements from medical professionals to their patients which include “Your MRI shows that you have the spine of an 80 year old and you can expect to be in pain for the rest of your life” or “just avoid stairs or squatting entirely if it your knees are hurting” just further exacerbate the myths surrounding chronic pain.

There is much confusion regarding body alignment, movement,...

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For Better Health, Focus on Habits Rather Than Goals

“Losers have goals, winners have systems” -Scott Adams

Be honest with yourself... do you have a health goal-setting system that is actually working for you? 

Most of us fall into the trap of setting goals based on outcomes rather than focusing on the habits that help us achieve outcomes, particularly when it comes to our health.

We focus on the results rather than the processes.

An important component of my interactions with people as a physical therapist is to discuss and agree upon goals for the course of care. By goals, I mean what they are hoping to be able to do with the help of physical therapy. When I ask people what they want as an end result, most will tell me to be able to participate in hobbies like travel, dancing, or fishing without pain or having the energy to keep up with their grandchildren. These focus on quality of life rather than health metrics, such as pounds lost, blood sugar levels, or blood pressure readings.

However, when most people write...

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Your Worst Health Habit Is Likely... Your Shoes

One of the most detrimental health habits humans tend to have is something most of us probably never give much thought to, at least in terms of health impact.

It's your shoes. 

For every 1 degree of heel your shoe has, 1 degree of spine, hip, and knee joint reaction is required to compensate…. meaning for every 1 inch of heel your shoe has, it causes 20 degrees of change throughout the joints of the legs and spine!

Think even a modest heel is not a detriment to your health? Think again.

Your footwear choices have a major negative impact on your joint, bone, and muscle health. The amount of joint reaction caused by wearing heels can be contributing to knee and hip osteoarthritis, lumbar disc compression, and even pelvic floor dysfunction (new moms... please avoid heels!). Improper footwear choices are also a common culprit of falls in older adults.

So, believe it or not... one of the biggest impact steps you can take toward improving your health is...

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Your Mindset About Aging is Impacting How You Age

What's the first thing that comes to mind when you think about aging?

Do you imagine a life of limiting what you enjoy because of medical conditions? A time of decline? A life full of doctor's appointments?

Or do you imagine a life full of vitality? Feeling amazing so you can continue to do all the things you love well into your golden years?

We hope imagine the latter, but unfortunately most only picture the first scenario.

How We View Aging 

It's an understatement to say that our society holds tightly to a negative view of aging. It's pervasive in the ways we talk about older adults and also very apparent in advertising. It seems we are on a never-ending quest for “anti-aging” everything.

We often make the mistake of associating aging with decline, and these views impact the way in which older adults view their health. We make assumptions we'll decline both mentally and physically as we age.

But are we really declining because of age itself or because our views...

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Your Feet Are Your Foundation

Did you know that 25% of your bones and muscles are located below the ankle?

Our feet were designed to be versatile with an infinite number of movements due to the number of joints and intrinsic foot muscles, yet most of us hardly spend time thinking about our feet.

They are the foundation of our body, however the care and maintenance of the muscles of our feet is almost unheard of. We tend to cram our feet into whatever shoe we like the looks of, with no regard to how that shoe might be impacting the health of our feet (and by proxy our overall health).

Today’s epidemic of foot damage including bunions, hammer toes, collapsed arches, foot pain, and secondary effects of diabetes including neuropathy, poor circulation, and even amputation are all considered par for the course. We blame genetics, not our lifestyles. What if the answer was as simple as mobilizing our feet and changing our footwear? There is a solution, but not the passive solutions many of us have...

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Have You Sat on the Floor Yet Today?

 

One of our favorite questions to ask new clients is, “When is the last time you sat on the floor ON PURPOSE?”

So be honest... when is the last time you intentionally got yourself on and off the floor?

If you aren't doing this daily basis, you are actually missing out on a huge opportunity to maintain your strength and range of motion as you age. Getting yourself safely onto the floor takes your knees and hips through a greater range of motion than sitting in a chair. 

Beyond the act of getting on and off the floor, sitting on the floor has strengthening benefits as well. Floor sitting forces you to use of the muscles of your trunk for support rather than sinking into the back of a chair or couch. And as another side benefit, you're much more likely to keep moving and changing positions while sitting on the floor.

Get stronger and more mobile without even being aware of it?! Yes, with floor sitting this is possible! The options are endless...

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The Problem We Should All Be Talking About

What comes to mind when you think of aging?

Due to the stereotypes perpetuated by rampant ageism in our society, most of us don't associate aging with positive images. 

But aging doesn't have to be negative. 

Here at ABC, our mission is to change the way people think of aging. When we have clients come in, initially we only hear about the downsides of aging. The difficulty walking. The loss of strength. The chronic pain. And one of the topics no one walks to talk about... balance issues and falls. 

The first point we want to highlight is that none of the above have to be a normal part of aging! And if you are experiencing balance problems or falls, start talking to someone about them right this minute. With our aging population, this is an issue that has a major impact on the health trajectory of the country in multiple ways.

The Real Cost of Not Talking About Falls

In 2015, the costs directly related to fall injuries in older adults totaled over $31...

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5 Lessons Learned From Studying My Own Movement

Last month I attended a Move Your DNA weekend workshop at Boomerang Pilates in Toronto hosted by a Nutritious Movement Certified RES. If you aren't familiar, this workshop is for anyone who has read Move Your DNA by Katy Bowman, MS to refine the exercises covered in the book.

The book uses biomechanics as a lens to explore how our environment has shaped our movement and vice versa, encouraging the reader to take ownership of their health. We spent the weekend exploring the use of corrective exercise and body alignment work to move toward more natural movement. 

For me, this weekend was a small part of a 2 year long process to become a certified RES, which involves nearly 350 hours of movement training. The program heavily emphasizes understanding of your own movement in order to help others improve theirs... which makes a lot of sense. 

My background is in physical therapy, meaning I spent the better part of the last 10 years extensively studying the human body,...

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