Sydney Physio Solutions in the media
The expert physiotherapists from Sydney Physio Solutions appear regularly in the media, both print & digital.
Following is a selection of items which have appeared recently …
Top Exercises for Runners
Brad appeared on Everyday Health to give some running tips. Here are his top 3 exercises to get you started.
The following articles appeared in Women's Fitness
IT’S SUDDENLY COOL, LOTS OF PEOPLE ARE TALKING ABOUT IT, it’s everywhere… but what is it, what does it do and how can you get one?
If you’re not sure what I’m going on about, don’t worry, you’re not alone. I asked 10 of my patients over a week what they knew about fascia, and apart from a builder telling me it was the bit that wraps around your house just below the roof line, no one had much of an idea! So, here we go with a quick 101 on this all-important body system that we’re just beginning to understand.
Fascia is everywhere throughout our bodies and to say it connects everything is not overstating things. It wraps around our muscles, bones and organs, it cushions our spine (discs are considered part of the fascial system), it holds our joints together (aka ligaments), and it connects our muscles to bones (tendons are part of it, too). Science pretty much ignored it for a long time as it appeared to just be the packing material and not that important to how our bodies function. We focused on the bones, the muscles, the tendons, the organs and the nerves, and sort of lost sight of the fact that they’re all connected.
Yep, we were wrong… big time. Researchers are now realising that because of its connectedness, the fascial system is able to provide our brains with an immense amount of information. Think of it like the world wide web of the body, constantly providing feedback about where our bodies are and how we’re moving. But it’s not only an information source, it’s also a ‘spring’, and when it works well it allows efficient and powerful transfer of forces throughout your body.
Want to jump higher, run faster, be more agile? Then a healthy fascial system should be high on your list of priorities. And when it’s not healthy and not working well, we can see all kinds of things go wrong. For example, have you ever wondered why you have more problems on one side of your body than the other? And for some reason your sore foot got better but then your hip started to hurt and then you got a stiff neck and felt like your whole body was falling apart? Fascia is a big part of the reason for this domino effect, as an injury to one part of your body will mean changes to other parts of the system. Follow these key principles that’ll prevent this from happening and lead to a healthy and happy fascial system…
■ CHOOSE FUNCTIONAL AND VARIED EXERCISE: Mix up your workout routines and pick exercises that use the whole body in natural patterns. This will work the built-in chains that exist in the body and ensure the fascial system is being strengthened. Think dancing, CrossFit or martial arts.
■ GET ADEQUATE REST: The fascial system is like a sponge. It draws water in when it’s resting and then squeezes water out when it’s working. Without rest, the tissue becomes dry and brittle and is more likely to ‘break’.
■ MYOFASCIAL RELEASE: Bad posture at work, too much sitting and too much stress can all lead to ‘knots’ or tight spots in the fascia. A good manual therapist will use techniques like dry needling and active release therapy to rid you of these little gremlins, or a good dose of self-mobilisation with a foam roller or massage ball can also be effective.
■ GOOD HYDRATION: Like resting, maintaining adequate hydration is an important part of keeping your fascia moist, malleable and out of trouble. Most Australians drink less than the recommended daily water intake of about two litres, so boost your H2O.
■ RELAXATION: Bad stress can have the impact of increasing tone or activation in your muscles and fascia. When this activity is maintained for long periods, the important rest and rehydration cycle is disrupted. Take the stress down with relaxation strategies, breathe easy and give your fascia a break!
Five Simple Ways to Relieve Neck Pain
We all know that basic workplace ergonomics can support a healthy neck. If we keep our desk at elbow height, our computer screen at eye-level and our feet flat on the floor we should be fine, right? Unfortunately, it’s not always the case. In fact, Australians suffer from high levels of neck pain and it’s consistently rated as one of the top five causes of disability. So what can be done to reduce work-related neck issues?
- Get up and move
Research shows that a sedentary lifestyle is bad for your health. Even when you have the correct posture, sitting for prolonged periods of time can increase your risk of heart disease, diabetes and even mortality. It should come as no surprise that it can also be detrimental to your neck.
Sit-to-stand desks encourage movement and are a great place to start if the option is available. Try to alternate between sitting and standing every hour throughout the day. If you don’t have access to a sit-to-stand desk, set a reminder to stand up every 45 minutes and have a short stretch or walk.
- Stay fit
Engaging in regular exercise and physical activities outside of the office has been shown to decrease neck pain and headaches. You don’t need to spend hours exercising. If you’re short on time, high intensity interval training is a great way to get results quickly.
- Manage work stress
Many of us are aware that stress can lead to neck pain and tension headaches. When we stress our shoulder and neck muscles tighten, resulting in discomfort. Everyone gets stressed from time to time, but if it’s causing problems it’s important to resolve it before it gets out of control. Exercise, meditation and breathing are all great techniques for reducing stress.
Take two minutes and try this… as you sit there reading, feel how much tension there is in your neck and shoulder muscles. Now concentrate on breathing deep down into your stomach so it moves in and out with each breath. How’s the tension in your neck and shoulder muscles now? Can you feel the difference?
These muscles aren’t meant to work all day to do your breathing for you, but we get stuck in a negative pattern and forget what’s actually meant to happen. Practice diaphragmatic breathing and you’ll find that a lot of your neck tension will disappear.
- Don’t look down
Research suggests that looking down for extended periods of time increases the forces passing through your neck by 600%. The more you look down, the more likely you are to have neck problems. Keep this in mind when you’re reading a book or looking at your smartphone and aim to keep your ears in line with your shoulders.
THEY’RE USUALLY EASY-GOING AND FUN TO BE WITH, keeping you on the move and looking good. No, we don’t mean your personal trainer, we’re talking about your muscles. The same ones you hit hard with tough workouts, hot yoga and Friday night dance-offs. So it’s no wonder they sometimes repay you with odd (and ouchy) behaviour: quivers, cramps, aches and pains are all weird ways your muscles like to tell you how they’re doing. But what exactly is going on when they chuck a wobbly – literally, mid-workout – or seize up afterwards, leaving you walking like you’ve aged 50 years? Most of the time, they’re checking in with good news or a reminder to put your feet up. Read on to find out how to decipher your muscles’ chat.
MUSCLE STRAINS Muscles don’t like surprises! Strains or tears usually happen when your muscle is stretched one way and you suddenly contract it to go in a different direction… but not all the fibres got the memo. Some or lots of the fibres can strain or even break, leaving you with a painful injury. Cue quality time with your couch and a bag of frozen peas for the RICE routine (that’s the rest, ice, compression and elevation scenario).
SORT IT: Muscles might not like surprises but they do love being warmed up before you ask them to perform to their max. Dr Sharon Hetherington, exercise physiologist from Exercise & Sports Science Australia, says a warm-up is important because it means your heart pumps harder, sending more blood and oxygen through your muscles, actually making them warmer for when you really need them. Build up to your exercise goals slowly and you’ll face less time on the couch nursing a strain and more where you want to be – out there working up a sweat.
NEXT-DAY ACHES How can an hour of Pilates one day mean hobbling down stairs the next? Those sore quads are caused by your old friend DOMS – that’s delayed onset muscle soreness – and while it can make you feel 100 years old, it’s a positive sign that you’ve been working hard. “When you exercise your muscles, you break them down, and get these micro tears,” explains Dr Hetherington. “In a way you’re damaging them for a good reason. You’re overloading the muscles and exerting them so they grow stronger, and that’s good!” Your body sends chemicals to try to repair the muscles, causing swelling and soreness the next day and beyond. It’s these products that your body uses to heal itself that cause you to walk like a cowgirl, post-exercise.
SORT IT: Collapsing onto the couch for a restorative sesh of Married at First Sight might seem the perfect way to wrap up a hard workout, but it’s also a good way to sign up for extra aches the next day. Instead, keep moving after your workout, and drink lots of water to help flush out the inflammation. “Do some active recovery like swimming or walking to help rid your body of the products that are broken down when you have been exercising the muscle,” says Dr Hetherington.
STITCHED UP One minute you’re powering through a 5km run, next you’re holding your side because of a weird stabbing pain. A stitch is a great way to kill a good exercise vibe, and – sorry to be the bearer of bad news – scientists don’t really know why we get them, but they tend to happen when you’re tired or dehydrated.
SORT IT: A good warm-up, drinking enough water (without overdoing it) and skipping that heavy meal half an hour before exercising are all worth a try to avoid a stitch. If it does strike, take the intensity down a notch and try to walk it off. Happily, the fitter you get, the less stitches you’re likely to get!
SUDDEN CRAMPS There’s nothing quite like the pain of a cramp to pull you up mid-workout. It’s a sudden, strong contraction of a muscle, usually in the foot, calf, quad or hamstring. We know how they feel, but what causes cramps is a bit of a mystery. Possible culprits include shallow breathing, tiny tears in muscles, dehydration, exhaustion or an electrolyte imbalance, says WF physiotherapist Brad McIntosh.
SORT IT: “They’re hard to prevent, but ensuring that you get adequate rest, remain hydrated, eat a balanced diet and stay fit will help,” he tips. When a cramp strikes, try to gently stretch it out and hold for 30 seconds, says McIntosh. If the pain comes straight back, hold the stretch for another 30 seconds. When you’re ready to get back to work, take it easy – your muscle could be vulnerable. “A cramp does make the muscle more susceptible to strain immediately after and for the next 24-48 hours,” McIntosh adds.
JELLY LEGS We’ve all been there – you’re killing it in the weights room and you’re about to smash a PB. You load up the bar and go for a squat and… suddenly, you’re dealing with major butt quivers and embarrassing leg shakes. Your trembling body is a sign your muscles are getting really tired, which means the contractions that hold you in the move have become a bit patchy. “When you send a message to a muscle to contract, chemicals are released and one part of the muscle slides past another, causing it to shorten,” says McIntosh. “When the muscle fatigues, or the intensity of the exercise is too great, the contraction falters and the muscle quivers.”
SORT IT: It might look strange, but it’s normal for your muscles to wobble when you put them under enough stress. The good news is, the more you train them, the less they’ll shake. “Quivering is a signal that you’re challenging a muscle and this will ultimately make it stronger,” says McIntosh. “However, be aware that you’re ‘near the limit’, and if you push the muscle too much you can cause damage.” Your new rule for leg day? When the shakes start, it’s time to call it.
WHEN YOU CRASH INTO BED at the end of a long day, you probably don't waste any time curling into the position that's guaranteed to send you drifting off to La-La Land. You might throw yourself onto your back, flop on your tummy, curl up into a ball, or throw your own unique shape involving a precise configuration of pillows and well-positioned limbs. Although you won't stay that way till sunrise - studies show the average person switches positions a dozen times a night - your favoured sleeping style can have both positive and negative effects on your body.
Before you start to panic that your signature pretzel pose has done irreparable damage, rest assured that it's never too late to make adjustments or teach your bod to adopt a new sleep position. “You can't change it overnight, but it can be done,” says WF physiotherapist Brad McIntosh. Want to know what your nocturnal posture has been doing to your bod? We spoke to the experts to find out…
Back to basics Back sleeping is often touted as the Holy Grail of healthy slumber, and it certainly does have its benefits. “In terms of the positioning of the spine, head, neck and shoulders, this is a good choice for many people, especially if they can prop up their knees a bit to normalise the curve in the low back,” says McIntosh. “That said, some people with specific conditions such as osteoarthritis in the neck will find sleeping on their back uncomfortable.” You might also want to avoid snoozing supine if you're known for sawing logs all night. “You're more likely to snore if you sleep on your back, which can be quite disconcerting for your bed partner,” says Dr Delwyn Bartlett, health psychologist and sleep specialist at the University of Sydney's Woolcock Institute. It can even be downright dangerous for those who suffer from sleep apnoea, a disorder affecting five per cent of Australians that causes the walls of the throat to constrict and breathing to stop up to several hundred times a night. “If you have sleep apnoea and you sleep on your back, your airway is more likely to partially or completely close,” explains Dr Bartlett. “This is particularly true when you go into dream sleep, or REM sleep, because your body is semi-paralysed. So the combination of back sleeping and dream sleep increases your risk of episodes of stopped breathing and heart problems.”
Tummy time: Sleeping face-down might be super-comfy, but it can add up to an achy body. “Stomach sleeping places the lower back in an unnatural position by flattening out the curve and it can aggravate many low-back conditions,” explains McIntosh. “Keeping your head in a rotated position for extended periods can also worsen neck problems and pain. And stomach sleepers who put one or both arms above their head often end up with pain in their shoulder as well as the muscles and joints around it.” Those face-down dozes could also kibosh all your beauty-sleep efforts by creating a particularly nasty type of wrinkle known as “sleep lines”. “When the skin is repeatedly folded due to pressure from a pillow, it can eventually lead to a crease,” says specialist dermatologist Dr Chris Kearney. “The most common sites are the sides of the face and the forehead, and the lines are usually vertical as opposed to the usual horizontal expression lines.” To avoid them, sleep in a position that doesn't put pressure on your face, such as on your back. “Alternatively, using a low-friction pillowcase material [such as satin] may reduce traction on the skin and stop the skin folding,” suggests Dr Kearney. Hey, it's not all bad news: sleeping on your stomach can diminish snoring and a small study conducted in Turkey found that it might also help reduce the symptoms of sleep apnoea.
Side angles: Love snoozing on your side? You're in luck. A study conducted in South Australia found that side sleeping resulted in less neck, shoulder and arm pain, as well as higher sleep quality, than any other sleep position. And researchers in South Korea also found that it significantly decreased the number of airway obstructions in sleep apnoea sufferers. “I'm generally happy for my clients to sleep on their sides, particularly with a pillow or a specially designed bolster placed between their knees to even up the position of their hips and pelvis,” says McIntosh. “I do try to get people out of the habit of tucking one leg up and over the other because that causes an unnatural rotation through the lower back.” What about those who prefer to curl up in the soothing foetal position? “While it isn't exactly the natural contour of the spine, it's not a bad position,” McIntosh adds. “But if you have a problem with a spinal disc, this position could aggravate it. Your best bet is to consult a professional who will identify your specific issues and figure out the best sleep position for you.” If you're not particularly attached to one side, there's evidence that sleeping on your left has benefits. A study at Stanford University in the US found that it can improve heartburn caused by acid reflux, and it's the preferred sleeping position when you're pregnant. “As the baby grows, lying on your back can put a lot of pressure on a major vein and make you feel quite faint,” says Dr Bartlett. “Lying on your left side is generally best because it improves blood flow to the baby,” adds McIntosh.
Brad McIntosh shares his top tips:
1. PILLOW PROP “Allow four weeks to retrain your sleep position, using pillows around your body to encourage the right pose.”
2. ON THE BALL “If you're a stomach sleeper who wants to flip over, tape a ping-pong ball to your sternum. You'll be amazed how quickly you change that habit!”
3. SWAP SIDES “ Every three or six months, change sides of the bed. It will alter your sleeping position, which is good for you.”