Not sure what to do about your niggles? Read on!

Everyone at some point experiences some kind of injury. Injury can be the result of a traumatic event (e.g. sporting injury) or from repetitive stress on a particular structure/body part (e.g. tennis elbow or postural strain). Generally speaking, the time it takes for an injury to heal can be dependent on the nature and the extent of the injury. If the injury is severe it may take longer to heal, compared to a minor injury which might take less time to resolve.  Other factors like age, activity and systemic health may also hinder healing times.

Nonetheless, it is important to address an injury sooner rather than later. BUT WHY?!

Well, the human body is equipped with mechanisms that switch on in the presence of an injury. In the case of a musculoskeletal injury, we may typically see:

  • Pain inhibition of deep stabilising muscles
  • Reflex inhibition of postural muscles
  • Protective global muscle spasm
  • Reduced local joint protection & sense of joint awareness/balance
  • Muscle wasting due to disuse
  • Altered movement

If an injury is not seen to, it can lead to long term muscular imbalances and altered joint mechanics of not only the injured body part, but also body parts nearby. We call these secondary compensations or compensatory patterns. This is why it is important to follow a consistent exercise rehabilitation program that is specific to your injury. Not only does this ensure that you strengthen the affected areas appropriately and safely, but it also ensures that secondary compensations to the original injury do not become an issue later on! In other words, the sooner you address your injury, the better. And the more consistent you are with your exercise, the better the results will be!

Written By Dr. Jena Chang (osteopath)

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Creaking and cracking like an unoiled machine this winter?

Some of us aren’t in the luxurious position of escaping winter for months on end each year, and have to shiver through the cold mornings and nights as we wait out what seems like a longer, darker and colder winter each year. Some of us suffer more than others, as we move like Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz in the mornings until our joints eventually loosen up a bit. But there is constant stiffness there, not to mention the creaking and cracking joints, especially when we climb the stairs. Although there are much colder climates than Melbourne, it is still not fun for those of us with joint and muscle pain.

So why in the world are we worse in winter, and what can we do about it?

  1. Decreased activity – With the shorter days, there is less chance for us to be out and about. And we are also less likely to be outside because it is colder and wetter. Admit it, you’d rather stay home and watch Dr. Phil with a big bowl of soup and rustic sour dough bread. With less movement overall (doesn’t even have to be exercise), we have less circulation, and become more stiff.
  2. Change in diet – When we are cold, we shiver more, which makes our muscles tense up, and our blood vessels constrict, which burns more calories. Hallelujah! You say. Sorry, not that easy. Because of this, we are hungrier, and turn more towards comfort foods. So you subconsciously eat more to compensate, going for the hot chocolate, the yummy bread, that extra bowl of rice, those hot chips. Yum. But not good for the joints or your general health. If you gain weight, it’s extra pressure on the joints, and your muscles and joints aren’t getting the nutrition they need.
  3. Change in mood – have you noticed that when it’s gloomy and cold outside, everyone seems grumpier? And when the sun is out, we all just feel happier, and more willing to smile? There is no scientific reason for this, it is purely an emotional thing. This affects our joints because if we feel depressed, we want to move even less.
  4. Lack of vitamin D – studies show that 30% of the population have a vitamin D deficiency. I think that if they tested everyone, it would be more that 50%, especially in winter. Our bodies require a lot more vitamin D than we think. Vitamin D deficiency can lead to bone pain and muscle weakness, among other things. It doesn’t hurt to take a supplement. And I would recommend everyone to take it especially in winter when there is less sunlight.
  5. Dehydration – with us being around heaters all day, and feeling overall less thirsty because we aren’t sweating, we are drinking a lot less water, which leads to dehydration. Dehydration leads to a reduction of minerals in muscles and joints, which then leads to stiffness and pain. Water is the best medicine, and best of all, it’s free! Please try and drink at least 2 litres per day!

So what can we do about it? My best advice would be to move to a tropical resort. Failing that, then, consciously think of ways to move more (you could even just do stretches on your foam roller as you watch TV at the end of the day, or have more breaks at work to walk around), prepare your food so you don’t reach for junk, think about how cold Iceland would be in comparison and be grateful for our mild winters, take a vitamin D supplement, and drink water! I promise you, after a couple of weeks of doing this, you will notice a huge difference in how you feel. And of course, you are always welcome to book an appointment at the clinic with one of our amazing practitioners. The heaters are always on, with the teapot waiting for you on the warmer. We embrace winter here, and love it!

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Arthritis … the be all and end all?

A lot of my patients say “my back/neck pain is caused by arthritis”, or “I got an x-ray and my doctor said it’s arthritis that is causing all my symptoms, and there is nothing I can do about it”, so I thought I’d explain what I would normally tell them in a consultation.

So you have arthritis, what should you do? There are many different types of arthritis, but the most common one, osteoarthritis, is actually caused by wear and tear of the joints (mainly age related), and news flash for you, actually starts in your 30’s. If we X-Rayed everyone over 30, I’m sure most people will have some sort of wear and tear somewhere in their bodies. To some extent, osteoarthritis is NORMAL.

So question is, what can we do about it? Well, young or old, I recommend EXERCISE. If you keep all your muscles and joints strong and mobile, you can slow the progression or prevent it from affecting you. The key, though, is to do enough exercise, but not too much. Too much will wear down the joints even further. I recommend you choose a full body exercise you love… swimming, yoga, pilates, gym, weights, dance etc… there are so many options out there these days, there’s really no excuse. And then make sure you go REGULARLY.

Some medical practitioners love to take x-rays and tell you that your degenerative joints are causing your new back pain, even though the degeneration has been there for years and your back pain only 2 weeks. Arthritis can predispose you to injury, but it is usually not the primary cause of your symptoms, especially if you have an episode that caused it (i.e. twisting your back, lifting something incorrectly, etc). So once your symptoms subside, you can go on like you were before (with a few tweaks so that you don’t hurt yourself again!).

For more specific tips and home care advice about your particular case, please book in for a consultation with Debbie or Camille. As always, you can BOOK ONLINE HERE.

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