Our greatest asset – movement!
Happy New Year readers! We have our fingers and toes crossed for an enjoyable and positive 2021. We all know that the turn of the year is an opportunity for many to wipe the slate clean and start over. It doesn’t matter if you are a resolution-setting type person or not, have you thought about what you could do to improve your health this year? If you need some help to decide this, we are here for you. If you’re going to jump on the movement train and try to increase your exercise this year, that’s a great aim, and we applaud you for it. Movement is key to everything we do, and as humans we need to move often in order to stay healthy. Moving often is very important, but we must also move WELL in order to get the most out of our bodies and be truly healthy.
Why is movement so important?
Our bodies are designed to move. Not only do we need to be able to physically move from place to place to carry out our daily tasks, but the insides of our bodies also rely on our movement to function properly. We’ll explain more, but first have a think about what it would be like to be unable to move. Without movement, we cannot reach for the box of tissues, kick a ball, blink or swallow. It’s easy to take it for granted, until you no longer have it. For some people in this world, having a lack of, or inability to move is a reality. There are conditions which change the way we move, or stop it altogether. Neurological conditions such as motor neurone disease, Parkinson’s disease and progressive supranuclear palsy are examples of progressive conditions that alter a person’s ability to move. As conditions progress, a person eventually requires help with daily activities, including toileting, dressing and eating, to name but a few. Hopefully this puts into perspective how important movement is, and how those of us fortunate enough to be able to move should make it our duty to move often, move well and make the most of life.
Benefits of moving
The benefits of regular movement include:
- Improved muscle and joint function: Movement is pivotal for our muscles and joints (and other body tissues) to remain fully functioning. If we want our muscles to get stronger, we have to contract and relax them over and over. Movement also helps to keep a steady production of fluid that nourishes the insides of our joints.
- Reduced pain: This is where moving well plays a big role. Our body systems have to work in unison in order for our movements to stay efficient. As soon as something in the chain begins to fail (e.g. muscle injury, joint restriction), our movement becomes inefficient and this paves the way for pain to develop. Following injury, we need to retrain our movements to a more efficient level in order for pain to disappear for good.
- Improved mental health: Movement in the form of exercise is a great way to keep your mental health in check. When we move, our body releases hormones that make us feel good. Endorphins (known as the happy hormones) are hormones that are released when we exercise. Regular movement equals regular release of hormones, and if you feel good, your mind remains clear, your motivation levels increase and your concentration levels improve. You become a more productive person, and you feel great for it. The world becomes your oyster!
- Improved circulation of fluids around the body: Our body relies on movement to help with the flow of different fluids around the body. Our lymphatic system (our bodies defence and waste disposal system) relies almost completely on our movements and muscular contraction in order to pump lymphatic fluid around the body. We also need to move to help pump blood from our limbs back up to the heart.
- Improved digestion and regulation of bowel movements: Moving helps our digestive system function more efficiently, by aiding with passage of food along the digestive tract and out again when we need to open our bowels. Movement is one form of treatment for constipation!
- Improved sleep: Regularly pushing our bodies during exercise can help increase the amount of deep sleep we get each night. Our bodies need this to repair and rejuvenate for the next day.
- It helps us to remain independent beings: As we have already mentioned, when we lose the ability to move, we become dependent on others around us to help us get through each day. Working on your body every day, ensuring you are moving well and often, will help you to maintain independence into your latter years.
What happens when we don’t move?
It seems pretty straight forward that if we don’t move regularly, we are leaving ourselves open to a poorer functioning body. Essentially, the reversal of all the good things mentioned above:
- A weak body: If you don’t use it, you lose it! Lack of movement leads to weakened muscles and bones, stiff joints, and an increased risk of injury.
- Increased pain and swelling: Poor movement patterns lead to injury and pain. Lack of movement can also cause fluids in the body to pool in the extremities, leading to swollen limbs.
- Increased rates of depression and low mood: No movement means we don’t get that regular boost of the happy stuff. Over time this can lead to low mood and an increased risk of developing depression.
- Increased weight gain: Lack of exercise is a big risk factor for becoming overweight and developing many other related conditions including diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease. People who move less and are overweight also at higher risk of becoming constipated.
Looking to make some changes? We’d love to help you get where you want to be. Come and see us today, and we can look at you move, pick out what needs working on, and set you the task of putting it right. Don’t take movement for granted, it is a gift. Let us help you move well each day so you can keep your body functioning, your mind stimulated, and life good!
Taping for treatment
Have you ever been to the physio for a treatment and left all wrapped up like a mummy? Tape. It’s one of the various tools in our arsenal that we sometimes call upon to help a person in their recovery from injury. But we joke of course – no-one ever leaves us with that much sticky stuff on, that they resemble an Egyptian from the afterlife. Although tape can be a life-saver!
Tape has been used as a treatment tool for decades. There are many different types, each designed to aid the body in some way during the recovery period of an injury (anywhere from the onset of injury to return to sport training or match play). It can be used before, during and after activity. It is widely available, relatively cheap and is an excellent tool to use alongside other forms of treatment, including massage, joint mobilisation, needling and exercise therapy. A physiotherapist may even use it on your body even if you are not injured, in order to reduce the risk of one happening.
The reasons a physio may use tape are:
- To reduce pain
- To stabilise / support a joint
- To correct posture and increase awareness of a particular body part
- To aid in achieving efficient movement of a body part
- To prevent a joint from moving
- To reduce the risk of injury or re-injury
- To increase feedback to the brain of a particular body part
- To increase confidence in a person looking to return to sport / activity
- To reduce swelling of a particular body part
There are several different types of tape. Some of the more commonly used types here at Physiotherapy for Women include rigid and kinesiology tape (aka K-tape). Read on to find out a bit more on these types.
Rigid tape (aka sports or athletic tape) is an inelastic type of tape primarily used to provide stability at a joint. Joints that require stability may be those that move excessively, or where the integrity of the joint has been compromise. Like when you seriously sprain your ankle chasing your children playing tag or when enjoying a social netball match with your girlfriends. In the ankle sprain a ligament can be overstretched or torn, making basic weight bearing activity such as walking very painful. To assist the ligament to heal correctly, tape can be applied in a special pattern which provides a rigid barrier to specific movement which could further damage the ligament. The taping may be soon after the ankle injury (this depends on severity) or when your return to moving quickly and/or when you return to quick movements in a family situation or when back on the court. Rigid tape can provide support to the joint and give a person confidence to start using the joint as it should be, without fear of re-injury. This is usually a temporary treatment though as the aim of the physio and the injured person should always be to return to a pre-injury state, if it’s possible. In the unfortunate event that a person’s injury means they cannot return to a 100% pre-injured state and perform at a high level, tape is a cost-effective way of providing support needed to play, even if at a reduced intensity or level.
Here at Physiotherapy for Women, we are super conscious of what effect tape can have on a person’s skin. Some people are sensitive to the adhesive or glue that is used on the sticky side. And sometimes tape needs to be in place for many days at a time. For this reason, under-wrap was designed. Under-wrap is applied to the skin first to provide a barrier against the glue of the tape. The rigid tape is then placed over the top where its full effects can still be experienced. Your skin care is a priority of ours, so we always use under-wrap before applying rigid tape to an injured body part. We’ve got your back (or you knee)!
Other examples of injury where rigid tape may be used include knee sprains, pregnancy sacroiliac sprain, shoulder dislocations or ligament sprains, or in the treatment of plantar fasciopathy or a dropped foot arch.
Kinesiology tape (K-tape)
K-tape is an elastic type of tape that has several proposed uses. It molds to the counters of the body well and is designed to promote movement, rather than restrict it. K-tape may be applied to a body part to:
- Reduce pain and/or delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) following exercise
- Increase blood flow to, and drainage of fluid away from the body part
- Increase awareness of the body part to the patient
- To guide effective and efficient movement with minimal to no restriction
The increase of awareness of the affected body part is a particularly useful tool for us as physiotherapists when planning our treatments. After an injury, the intimate connection of the body part and the brain can become foggy. The brain may slightly lose its ability to know exactly where the joint is and what it should be doing. It sounds scarier than it is, but with exercise and rehabilitative treatment, this connection can be regained. K-tape is a great way of assisting with this, as the covering of the skin over the injured area provides extra input to the brain about what is going on at the joint(s). It’s complicated, but pretty cool huh?!
Another fantastic quality of K-tape following injury is its ability to assist the body in ridding fluid or swelling around an injury joint or muscle. The tape is applied in a special way which lifts the top layers of skin away from the underlying muscle to allow for greater flow of fluid… It can speed up the whole process considerably!
Ready for your dressing now?!
It depends completely on the type of injury and where you are in the recovery process as to which type of tape we choose to use on you. We will always discuss with you the benefits of tape so you can make an informed decision with us for your treatment and plan going forward. And don’t worry, we will avoid turning you into a mummy (often less is more with taping). If you are worried about skin reactions we can trial small patches of several different tapes on your skin before doing a big taping of a body area.
If you’re keen to learn more, or find out if tape can benefit your recovery, just ask next time you are in for a treatment with us.
Women living with diabetes
Diabetes mellitus (DM) is a chronic condition that affects the body’s ability to breakdown (or metabolise) the food we eat into energy, for use by the trillions of cells that make up the human form. Diabetes is a global problem, and while it affects both men and women, there is one type that affects women only – gestational diabetes. Last year, over 460 million people were living with a DM diagnosis worldwide. In the next decade, this figure is expected to rise to approximately 580 million people. The disease comes at a great cost to healthcare services, and to life. In 2019 alone, global healthcare costs for DM reached $760 billion, and a total of 4.2 million people died from complications of this disease. The key to living with this disease, as with all diseases, is to understand the disease and how it affects the body.
The main characteristic of DM is high blood sugar (aka hyperglycaemia). Sugar in the form of glucose is the body’s primary source of energy. The body gets glucose by breaking down carbohydrates from foods we eat (i.e. breads, grains, fruits and vegetables). Glucose is then distributed to all of the cells around the body via the blood. In order for our cells to reap the benefit of glucose, they require the help of a hormone called insulin to grab the glucose and take it into the cell. We get insulin from the pancreas, an organ found tucked away behind our stomach. In DM, there is a problem with the production of insulin in the pancreas. It either is not produced at all, or not enough good quality, usable insulin is produced. Without insulin, glucose in the bloodstream builds up and up, the body is not able to get the energy it needs, and this is a huge problem.
Types of DM
There are three main types of DM:
- DM type 1: This form of the disease is caused by an autoimmune response of the body. In simple terms, the body’s defence system sends in the cavalry and destroys the insulin producing cells in the pancreas. People with DM1 are required to inject a synthetic form of insulin regularly throughout the day using either a needle or pump mechanism.
- DM type 2: By far the most common form of DM. One of three mechanisms exist… 1) The pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin. 2) The insulin produced is ineffective. 3) The cells of the body do not respond to insulin in the correct way. In many cases, DM2 can be managed effectively by making lifestyle changes and without the need to have to inject synthetic insulin. However, some people require medication and may eventually need the help of insulin injections to effectively manage the condition.
- Gestational DM: Ladies… this one is just for us! Gestational DM may develop during pregnancy. The good news is that most cases will automatically resolve once your little bub is born. In this form, the blame doesn’t lie with the pancreas not producing insulin. Instead, hormones produced by the placenta during pregnancy block the effect of insulin, and the cells are not able to take up glucose. The pancreas will try to produce more insulin to fight the effect of these hormones, but as pregnancy progresses, hormone production ramps up and your poor little pancreas is sometimes unable to keep up. The result is gestational DM.
Signs and symptoms
Uncontrolled blood sugar levels can lead to the development of immediate symptoms including:
- Excessive thirst and hunger
- Increased urination
- Tiredness and fatigue
Over a prolonged period, if blood sugar levels are poorly managed, it can result in damage to blood vessels throughout the body. Common long-term effects of uncontrolled diabetes include:
- Damage to nerves that affect the limbs, including the hands and feet
- Kidney disease and failure
- Heart attack
- Ulceration of the skin that take a long time (or are unable) to heal
- Skin infections
- Weight and mood changes
During pregnancy, the mothers blood sugar levels are closely monitored, especially if the mother is at high risk of developing gestational DM. Those at greater risk include overweight, older women, and those with a family history of DM. Uncontrolled gestational diabetes can lead to a baby with a high birth weight, and needing help to stabilise their own blood sugar levels immediately following birth.
Although much of the diagnosis and medical management of DM will be handled by your doctor, we as physiotherapists have a very important role to play. Exercise is a key player in the management of type 2 diabetics especially. Exercise helps to improve how efficient your insulin works, which helps you to control your blood sugar levels. Exercise will also help with weight management, reducing the risk of cardiovascular problems such as heart attack and stroke. If implemented in a controlled way, there is good evidence suggesting exercise, as well as a super clean and controlled diet, can reduce the impact, delay and even prevent the onset of DM type 2. As well as helping you implement a healthier lifestyle overall, we can also help in the following ways:
- Screening your body for signs of nerve and blood vessel related problems
- Educating you on what to look out for regarding skin issues
- Screening you for associated conditions, including frozen shoulder, carpal tunnel syndrome and other musculoskeletal problems
- Reminding you to get your eyes tested
- Screening and monitoring for signs of depression (which is strongly associated with DM)
Our main goal, whether you are pregnant or otherwise, is to encourage you to be active on a daily basis and provide education on what is important to you from an individual perspective. If you need some help to get your head around diabetes, and especially the role of exercise for its management, then please get in touch today.
An urgent (bladder) matter
Do you have a problem with your bladder and feel you need to speak to someone about it? To talk about bladder issues is a big deal for many people because it feels very private. But, did you know that 1 in 3 women in Australia have a bladder control problem? Yes, it really is THAT common. This month’s blog aims to release the fear of speaking out about a condition known as bladder urgency, and to show you that help is at hand.
What is bladder urgency?
Bladder urgency is a sudden, desperate and uncomfortable need to empty your bladder. Imagine walking down the street doing your weekly window shopping and instantly feeling like you have to wee. At this point it’s a frantic scramble to try and find the nearest toilet to avoid having an accident there and then. The feeling can be described as a “busting need to go to the toilet”. This can occur several times a day, and if it does, this need to urinate over and over is known as frequency.
Types of bladder urgency
There are two types of bladder urgency:
- Dry urgency: You have the sudden urge to urinate and are able to reach the toilet without leaking any urine
- Wet urgency: You have the sudden urge to urinate and leak urine on the way to, or as you reach the toilet
Dry urgency will commonly go undiagnosed because women who experience it think it is their normal bladder habit, and do not seek the help of a professional. It is those women who have accidents before reaching the toilet (a distressing and often embarrassing experience) who tend to speak up and ask for help.
Causes of bladder urgency
There are many causes of bladder urgency, including:
- An overactive bladder that contracts when it should not
- Overactive, weak, or damaged pelvic floor muscles
- An overly sensitive nervous system (triggered by stress, anxiety, poor sleep and even winter chills)
- Low oestrogen levels (commonly associated with breast feeding and menopause)
- Poor toileting habits
- Trained family habits extending through generations
A common picture we see in clinic is that of someone experiencing urgency due to an over-sensitive nervous system. A normal bladder can store anywhere between 500-700mls of urine before the brain tells you to go for a wee. In a normal setting, this occurs without the sudden, urgent feeling. With an over-sensitive nervous system, only small amounts of urine collected stimulate nerve endings in the bladder wall, sending messages to the brain to tell the woman to find a toilet… and quick. The bladder (said to be overactive) is unable to fill to its normal levels, and many people will start to develop a pattern of lots of toilet visits, combined with only eliminating small amounts of wee each time. Unfortunately for many women, this can run through the day and night, leading to disturbed sleep patterns, which increases stress and anxiety levels.
Now throw COVID-19 into the equation. The current pandemic is creating a lot of added stress and anxiety for many of us. Here at Physiotherapy for Women, our therapists have noticed a marked increase in cases of bladder urgency presenting to the clinic over the last four months. The pandemic has forced many of us to work from home, providing the convenience of a comfortable toilet nearby whenever needed, leading to poor bladder habits. As you can see, there are many factors at play here with lots to consider for the therapist and patient when implementing treatment.
Assessment and treatment of every woman’s bladder issue requires a Physiotherapist who has completed the required post-graduate training in women’s health. The aim is to help each woman develop her own skills in reducing the bladder urge, frequency of urination, and any leakage she may experience. Everyone’s circumstances are different and requires a unique approach for the individual. We have treated many women with bladder control conditions, meaning we know how to work with you to find out what works for you.
Treatment techniques may include:
- Release of overactive pelvic floor muscles
- Strengthening and re-training of weak or damaged pelvic floor muscles
- Stress management
- Advice on training your bladder habits
Do not let your bladder be the boss of your life. We encourage you to speak up now and side-step the negativity surrounding bladder problems. Call us on 08 8443 3355 to get help from our experienced, highly trained Physiotherapists.
Staying sane during isolation
Hello readers! We hope everyone is staying safe at this very crazy and uncertain time. We realise for a lot of our clients that life has changed drastically over the past weeks and months since COVID-19 has made its entrance to the world. Here at Physio For Women we have also been adjusting to some changes that have been instilled upon us in the healthcare world. We want you to know that we are still here and continue to work hard every day to ensure we uphold our high standard of care for all our patients.
This month we thought a focus on self-help advice during isolation was warranted. Trying to juggle working from home whilst looking after children and adjusting to being around partners and other family members 24/7 is a big task for anyone. We’ve highlighted a few key areas that are worth considering to keep on top of your health (and sanity) during isolation.
Home office set-up
If you are used to working in an airy and spacious office or other workplace, then being plunged into the world of working from home can come as quite a shock. Many of you won’t necessarily have the space or equipment at home to match your workplace, so taking some time to set up a space that works for you is worth it, to reduce the impact on your body. We suggest the following:
- If you can make it work, set yourself up in a separate room like a study and designate the space for work only. If this is not possible, choose a corner of any room and make it your own. This will allow you the best chance to concentrate on work when you are there.
- If you don’t have a desktop set-up and are working on a laptop, ensure it is on a table and avoid working on your lap. A table with a supportive chair is best, and try to break it up with periods of standing at the breakfast bar or kitchen work top. Boom… You have your very own sit-to-stand desk!
For a desktop set-up, follow these pointers to reduce stress on your body whilst working:
- Ensure the top of your computer screen is level with your eyes, or just under
- Sit upright with feet planted on the floor, arms relaxed by your side, and elbows bent at 90 degrees
- Avoid cocking your wrists back during and between typing. Keep them relaxed.
This is a must if you have children and other family members at home who you will be interacting with more than usual. Have some set times during the day when you try to focus on work. We realise this is not always possible with children, but have the routine in place and use it loosely. Children need attention and interaction (now we realise how much they get at school!), so set your expectations low and be fluid. Have the colouring pencils, craft box, toys and games at the ready and set the kids some tasks for when you are working. And if you really need to get some work done and it’s just not happening, it is OK to allow the kids to watch TV or a movie for a few hours. Unusual circumstances may mean unusual routines for a while. Children are resilient and will bounce back from these changes… Everything in moderation.
Ensure you give yourself regular breaks from screen time to have a stretch, move the body, and give the brain a rest. We recommend getting up from your workstation every 30 minutes.
You might be finding it tough being around the family 24/7. This is natural and don’t feel bad about it. It’s a good idea to set out some ground rules, particularly if you have to work on a daily basis. Everyone has a role to play to make sure the household cogs keep moving smoothly. One family member can do the washing, another can stack the dishwasher, etc… On top of this, allow time to get out and exercise and make sure you have alone time as well. Being around family can be challenging, especially when you are used to being at work for eight hours a day normally.
Seek out physio when needed
This is an important one. We realise it has not been as simple with booking appointments and getting that face-to-face time with us. But if you have any aches or pains that are not responding to exercise, stretching and other self-help remedies, then please get in touch. We are still open but are working to limited hours. We also have strict screening and hygiene protocols in place, and this is to ensure the safety of both you and us. Call us today on 08 8443 3355.
We wish all our clients the very best during this difficult time. Please practice social distancing, good coughing and sneezing etiquette, and wash your hands regularly with soap or alcohol hand sanitiser. These are still the best measures in preventing the spread of COVID-19.
We will get through this!
How important are you to yourself?
Hello readers! We trust everyone had a superb festive season. Now that the fun and frolics are over for another year, it’s back to the routine of everyday life… This may mean many of life’s stresses that disappeared temporarily during the Christmas carnage will rear their head again. This can be a bit of a shock to the system and before you know it, you’re immersed in work, family, keeping your home clean and slaving over the hob. But what about you? Where do YOU fit in to all of this? It’s easy to get caught up in life and forget about number one. Here at Physiotherapy for Women, we always ask the question ‘How important are you to yourself?’. Let’s discuss why this is important and what you can do to ensure you make 2020 more about you.
Self-care is a vital part of life. We know it’s a bit of a cliché, but if you don’t look after yourself first, how can you look after others, or work, or do anything? You’d be surprised how little time many of our patients spend looking after themselves. It often takes being in pain for someone to realise that something has to give, and change is needed. It’s also regularly the case that someone is stressed, exhausted and moving poorly (and not enough too!), which all play a role in why they have pain. And this is where we ask the questions about self-awareness and attitudes towards themselves.
Let’s give you an example… A working mum comes to us for help with neck and shoulder pain. She has two children, one at school, one at daycare, and her and her partner work a job each. The week is full of running around organising the kid’s drop-offs and pick-ups, working, cooking, cleaning and washing. Weekends are full of kids sports and visiting relatives. Sound familiar? Where is the time for anything else? For many it’s a source of stress in itself. Being time poor is a huge factor in why people fail to look after themselves and end up in pain (and stay there). For this working mum, her pain is now affecting her ability to ‘do’ life. The really hard thing is, something has to give if the cycle is to be broken and for her pain to become a thing of the past. She needs to prioritise self-care and learn that it is OK to spend time on herself. It is pivotal that she does, so she can get back on track ‘doing’ life.
As her physiotherapist, our primary goal is to get her out of pain. Our second goal is to keep her out of pain. And this is where advice on lifestyle, exercise and moving well (and often) comes into play. One of the hardest jobs we have as a physio is educating people on how to change their lives, so they can work towards preventing injury rather than waiting for it to happen and then seeking help. In the case of the working mum, it involves helping her change her attitude towards self-care to ensure she is running at 100%, so she can give everything she needs to her family and work. Some of the topics we might discuss with her and suggest changes to may include:
- Exercise — a must for all humans. Our important bodily functions rely on us moving regularly. Try taking a walk in the evening once the kids are in bed (get your partner/family member/friend to watch over them). It will allow you to unwind from the days’ events whilst giving your body some valuable movement. Alternatively, reserve one evening in the week or weekend to attend a yoga or pilates class. Or think about what you can do at home (incidental exercise while doing mundane tasks, or a nightly 20 minutes of exercise in the lounge room or on the deck!)
- Diet — a sticking point for time-poor people, but eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and other nutritious foods will keep your energy levels pumping and ready for everything. Diets high in fast or nutrient poor food will leave you sluggish and tired. Try packing your own healthy lunch and snacks, when you pack your child’s lunchbox!
- Meditation or mindfulness — a great way to have you time. It only requires 10-15 minutes a day and is a fantastic way to unwind and clear the mind. It takes practice but can be very beneficial to easing stress. We can advise on where to get started.
- Keep a gratitude diary — every morning when you wake up, immediately write down 5 things you are grateful for. While you can pop it in the ‘notes’ section on your phone, try opting for a pad and paper on your bedside table. It helps give you focus on what’s important to you. This is great motivation for keeping yourself healthy, happy and grateful.
There are many other areas we may discuss with you. We won’t pretend it’s easy to make these changes, but we are here to help guide you through all of it one bit at a time. Our main message here is that whilst we appreciate you have many responsibilities and important things in your life, we would like you to make YOU a high priority. Yes, this is us telling you to read that book, take that bath and take up that hobby you’ve always wanted to! Be important to yourself and make 2020 a year for self-care.