Trust Me, I'm a Physio

Recently we brought home two new pet beds as treats for our much loved and overly spoilt dog and cat.  Our beautiful black Labrador, Millie, was overjoyed at the prospect of something new to lie on and immediately began to make herself comfortable.  As she lay there with a big smile on her face and tail wagging I couldn’t help but compare her reaction to that of our cat, Moo.  Having suspiciously sniffed the new bed that was put on her favourite chair, she leapt vertically in the air with a weird, half strangled growl and beat a hasty retreat to the safety of our bedroom.  Later, Bec tried to coax her onto the bed with some fresh chicken laid invitingly on it.  It was a sight to see, but somehow Moo managed to eat all the chicken while still maintaining all four of her legs off the offending piece of furniture!

This is a common pattern in our house.  The dog has learnt that we are so trustworthy that anything to do with us is seen as also being trustworthy and she will do almost all things immediately upon being asked.  The cat, on the other hand, needs to experience things, even if they are coming from a trustworthy source, at her own pace and develop an understanding that new things are trustworthy.    

This got me thinking about Physique.  For our clients, we are a very trusted part of their lives.  It is a very privileged position for us to be in and we take the responsibility of that position very seriously.   Having the inquisitive and searching mind that I have, I started to wonder why.  Why do people trust us?  Why do people believe that we are trying our hardest to come up with the best and most long lasting health solution for them?

Now me being me, I tried to work this out for myself.  I trotted off to our waiting room and looked up at all our degrees on the wall.  I counted them.  Ten!  Ten degrees we have between the five physiotherapists.  We have Bachelor degrees and Masters degrees, Honours degrees and Post Graduate Diplomas.  Next up I totaled up our years of experience.  And guess what?  We have been doing physiotherapy now for a combined total of 73 years!  Now, I don’t know about you, but to me, lots of degrees and a heap of experience probably won’t make me trust you.  It certainly shows clinical expertise and indicates a high level of technical skills, but you don’t trust someone just purely because they are good at their job, do you?

Maybe.  When I asked one of my patients why she trusted me, she replied: “Because I know that you make my pain go away.” Ok, I thought, maybe results and being good at your job does help someone to trust you.  But I still wasn’t satisfied I had got the full answer, so I asked another patient.  And she nailed it.

I put the question to her: “why do you trust me?”  She replied after thinking for a moment: “Well, it’s obvious.”  “What do you mean, what’s obvious?” I replied.  “It’s obvious that you actually, truly care.”

Ah Ha!  And then I could see it.  I could hear it in the way the patients are greeted by Elaine, I could tell by the way the physios talk to their patients and how they asked about the things that are happening in their lives.  It is obvious, we do care.  And what’s more, it is obvious that our patients not just trust us, but they care about us as well.  Coming to this realization has made me even more thankful for the blessing of living and working in this Mountain community.  Thank you for trusting us and allowing us to try to make a difference in your lives.    

Are My Hands Better Than Tramadol?

A few days ago, one of our regular patients slowly shuffled into our waiting room and gingerly took a seat.  As our wonderful receptionist, Elaine, ran to make her comfortable, get her a hotpack and make sure she was feeling okay, I overheard her explain that she had slipped on some wooden floors and landed on her buttocks and low back!  Ouch! Sounded painful and it was!  She could barely move and she had been on heavy painkillers since it had happened 10 days ago.

As I slowly and gently worked on her back she sighed, visibly relaxed and said “Oh finally, there is some relief from the pain.  I have been in agony and the Tramadol just wasn’t helping.  This is the first time I have felt a little bit better.”

“Wow,” she said after a pause. “That means that your hands are even better pain relief than Tramadol!”

Now, I wouldn’t go quite as far to say that hands-on physiotherapy is better than taking opioids to help manage someone’s pain, but, it has been my experience that physiotherapists can make significant and quick changes to people’s pain by using our hands. 

When I first graduated, physiotherapy tended to be heavily reliant on machines as a treatment modality to help provide some temporary pain relief.  Unfortunately, this means that old school physiotherapists that continue to be reliant on ultrasound and interferential will be stuck treating the symptoms of the complaint, rather than the cause. 

However, as I became more experienced as a physiotherapist, I discovered that hands-on therapy does much more that provide temporary pain relief.  It helps to completely resolve painful symptoms by addressing and treating the underlying cause of the symptoms.  I also soon learnt that the hands of a skilled therapist could tell much more about the patient’s body and movement issues than any feedback system on a machine.   That is why when I started Physique six years ago, I set a strict no machines policy for all our therapists to adhere to. 

Over the years, I have come to firmly believe that the best way to take away pain is to correct poor movement patterns and resolve the joint and soft tissue issues that are causing the symptoms.  The only way to achieve is through a combination of gentle, hands-on manual therapy techniques and specific exercise prescription.   

At Physique, we spend hours every week honing our therapeutic techniques through inservices and treatment sessions on each other.  We regularly attend professional development courses and we have become experts at not only diagnosing the reason for your pain and suffering, but also at addressing these issues using manual therapy.  We love the amount of positive feedback we receive from our community members about the real results they have achieved through Physique and all of us are committed to providing personalised, caring and effective treatment.

I am extremely proud of our therapists at Physique.  We have all worked very hard to improve our hands-on treatment skills and our patients agree on how effective it is.  It might be time to give us call and see if we can help your pain as well.  While I can’t guarantee that everyone will think our hands-on treatment is better than taking opioids; I can safely say that at Physique, we will make a difference.      

Hi, I'm Batman

I like to pretend that I am Batman.  Often, over breakfast I tell my kids that I am a bit tired due to all the crime fighting I was doing last night.  When we stay at my parent’s place at Palm Beach I tell them I was extra busy the night before because “down the coast” is not like “up the mountain”, and there are more crimes to fight down there.  My son even proudly wears a shirt that says: “Like Father, Like Son – Yes, My Dad’s Batman!”  Of course, the kids always laugh at me and I just thought it was a little running family joke I was having.

However, about 2 months ago, Owen, my 7-year-old son, looked at my very seriously and asked in all earnestness: “Dad, are you REALLY batman?”  We all had a laugh, but he wasn’t joking.  He needed the clarification just to be totally sure.  It was a difficult thing for me, but I had to admit outright that, no, I wasn’t in fact Batman.

You see, Owen had been told the same thing often enough from someone that he trusted that he had even begun to kinda, slightly, remotely believe what I was saying.  Once a person starts to sort of believe something and they keep getting told it by a trustworthy source it isn’t long until it becomes a fact.

And so it can sometimes be with our health.  We can be told all sorts of things about our bodies and our health.  Some things we choose to believe, some things we dismiss outright and immediately, while others we go and research to find out what works best for us. 

Unfortunately, I occasionally have patients that have been told things about their body by healthcare professionals that result in these patients being  overly fearful, overly protective and downright afraid.  They have been told: “Your arthritis is so bad, you shouldn’t do anything otherwise it will get much worse”; or, “You have an unstable back that could go any minute, you should never do any gardening again”; or, “There is no way that Physio can help with the problem that you have.”    

I have had many people cry tears of relief during an appointment simply because I have taken the time to correctly explain their “disease” or their “condition” or their joint “problem”.  Once the fear and apprehension is tackled head on, I often find that together we can then work out a plan for them to move towards better health.    

At Physique, like most physios, we love working together with our patients to come up with best outcomes possible.  We have seen unbelievable turn arounds in people’s lives simply because they have been given the confidence to move and to exercise.      

Never accept that you can do nothing to improve your musculoskeletal health.  Always challenge someone who tells you that there is nothing that can be done to change your pain or weakness or stiffness or discomfort.  Ultimately, you are the expect on your own body.  If something doesn’t feel or sound correct it is possible that it isn’t.  Make sure you gather as much information as you can from a variety of sources and talk over your misgivings openly with a health care professional that you trust. 

It is time for us as a society to stop just believing things just because we are told them over and over.  Get out there, get some expert advice and start getting healthier.    

Prescare Should Be Ashamed of Themselves

As I sat down to write my Physio Talk column this week I was going through the things that have happened over the past month or so and was just starting to formulate some ideas to write about.  The next thing I know I was interrupted by Elaine.  She wanted to tell me that one of my awesome physios was in the staff room and probably needed me.  When I opened the door to the staff room I found our physio in a highly emotional state with tears streaming down her face.  She had just come from a meeting at Roslyn Lodge where she had witnessed firsthand the devastating effect the unusual and cruel way in which PresCare announced their plans to close. 

The family members of Roslyn Lodge residents were given just 48 hours notice to attend a meeting.  PresCare then delivered the news to a room full of people, a lot of them deaf, many of them suffering from dementia and some without any family support what so ever.  Imagine, sitting there in some confusion, surrounded by a heap of people, not being able to hear properly and being told that you were having your home ripped from underneath you.  The place that is close to your friends and family.   The place that you felt that were going to be safe and secure, well cared for and loved, right up until your last breath.  And then worse still, told that no matter what, the doors are going to be closed in just 7 weeks! 

I am appalled that PresCare call themselves a Christian organization.  The way that they have hidden behind their corporate culture and used terms like “the board has decided” and cited “lack of financial viability” to essentially show a complete disregard for the welfare and care of human beings who are our most vulnerable members of our community is the furtherest away from the compassion, love and grace that Christ demonstrates.

I am a business owner, I understand financial issues.  However, what I cannot comprehend is the complete disregard for humanity and an unfathomable lack of appreciation of the impact of their actions on individuals and the wider community. 

Right, enough anger, time for planning.

We have a powerful, creative and motivated community.  We are a group of problem-solvers who in the past have come up with fantastic solutions to community wide problems.  It is time for Our Mountain to stand up as a community to protect the vulnerable.  To demonstrate love, care and commitment to the residents at Roslyn Lodge.  Initially, we need to petition our members of parliament and the PresCare CEO to extend the ridiculous timeframe attached to the closure.  Give the community more time to come up with a solution to this bombshell.  Or, at the very least, ways for the community to help the residents transition safely and with respect and with dignity.   

The next step is to look at alternative solutions.  The local chamber of commerce president, our local councilors and our state and federal members of parliament are already starting to look into this.  I also know that the church ministers on the mountain have had meetings to discuss ways forward.  Please, if you have good, constructive ideas, make them known.  Email.  Phone.  Stop the politicians in the street.  Let’s use our greatest resource on this mountain – our people.  Failing alternative solutions, we will need a great number of the community to volunteer to help the residents and their families sort this mess out.  Keep an ear out.  I am sure that soon there will be a town hall meeting and from that we will all have some more practical ways of helping. 

In the meantime, make you displeasure known. 

We Need to Get a Good Sleep

We love being in our new home.  The kids love running around the wide-open spaces and climbing the avocado trees.  The dog has a constant smile on her big dopey face and can’t stop rolling around on the ground.  Bec and I love sitting out under the trees and even the cat seems more relaxed!  I can’t believe how blessed our family are to be able to call our little bit of land home. 

Unfortunately, we had to leave our piece of heaven on earth and headed to Sydney for Christmas and the New Year break.  Now, while I love my brother and his family and I do think that Sydney Harbour is the most beautiful harbour anywhere in the world, it is just mad down there.  So many people who are all so busy and all so stressed.

We were very happy to get back to “Our Mountain” and take it easy.  The reason I am writing this article is because two of the things we missed the most was our bed and our awesome memory foam pillows.  Two of the first questions I ask my patients when they tell me that they are waking up with stiffness and pain are: “How old is your mattress,” and, “What kind of pillow do you have?” 

As Bec and I discovered, poor beds and pillows play a massive part in spinal health.  For the last five days that we were in Sydney we woke up every morning with back and neck pain and an inability to straighten up for the first few steps.  It didn’t take long to settle after we got up and with the help of some stretches and gentle treatment we would be right for the rest of the day.  However, the next morning it would start off all over again.  After being back home and back in our own bed for two days these symptoms completely resolved.    

Think about how long we spend in our beds.  If we are dedicating 6-8 hours of our day to being in a prolonged posture that is not good for our body, we are going to be causing joint irritation.  Our body responds to this irritation with inflammation and a small amount of swelling in our spinal joints.  Each of these joints are enclosed in a tight capsule.  These capsules do not have much space, so a small amount of swelling will lead to a lot of poor joint mobility causing stiffness.  In some cases, this stiffness doesn’t settle well and results in pain and dysfunction. 

It is relatively easy for us at Physique to get joints moving well that have been a bit stirred up by sleeping in beds while travelling.  This is because once we “unlock” the joints and they are back in their own beds the irritation will settle down nicely. 

However, think about those of you who wake every morning with a stiff neck and sore back from sleeping in your own beds.  Physiotherapy, exercise, stretching and doing all the right things will help tremendously with your back.  But, as soon as you go to sleep every night you are just re-irritating your spine. 

If you do regularly wake with a sore back or neck you will often need some treatment at Physique to get the joints moving first.  But it is quite probable that it is also time to look for a new bed or a new pillow.  Why not try something new, think about replacing your old bed or pillow and get a fresh start for the new year?        

 

What An Amazing Year

Sometimes the honesty of children is extremely hilarious to behold.  Most of the time their observations are usually quite correct.  I was reminded of this recently.  Our little family have moved into our new home and we have been working out where to put all our furniture.  We have a nice little side table with 2 drawers in it.  It was decided that this would go in our entrance way and the drawers could be used to put mum and dad’s bits and pieces in.

“Ok Dad, I think that looks great,” says Sarah.  “Now Mum can put her stuff in the drawer on the right and yours can go in the left one.” “Why do I have to take the one on the left”, I asked in innocence.  “Well Dad,” she said, “Mum is ALWAYS right and, well, Dad, you’re……….” She started giggling and finished off in laughter, “Well Dad, you’re kind of wrong a lot.”  Ha!  Well, what could I say to that?  And she is right, of course – her Mum IS always right, and I do get things wrong quite often. Especially when it comes to what is happening at school on any given day.

But there is one thing I do know I am right about: this has been an amazing year for us at Physique.

As a clinic, we have continued to grow and grow and are even busier than we could have imagined.  We are so grateful to you, our Mountain community for your support.  Bec and I still can’t believe what Physique has grown into.  Who knew that this was going to happen when I started treating people out of the back of my Pajero 5 years ago?! 

The professional highlight of this year for me was completing my Level 2 Watson Headache Treatment course in which I received one-on-one training from Dean Watson himself!  Personally, Bec and I have had our most enjoyable and relaxing year since starting our own business.  This is because we have a fantastic team of physios and now have the best front desk staff of any business on the mountain.    

Our team of physios have had big years individually.  Steve continued to expand his chronic pain treatment knowledge this year by attending advanced courses run by leading pain expert David Butler.  He has also discovered the joy of trail running around his property with his two dogs and, of course, continues to ride his road bike whenever he gets time to do so.  Andrew has welcomed his little baby girl, Abbey, into the world and is absolutely loving having Wednesdays off to try to be the best Dad in the world.   This year he has really been able to utilize his strong exercise science background by spending many hours rehabilitating patients from Physique in the local gym.  Taryn continues to be this amazing person who juggles being a mum to two kids, lecturing physiotherapy and exercise science students at Griffith Uni, and helping patients at Physique.  I really don’t know how she does it all so successfully.  Her Lymphoedema Specialist service that she is now providing at Physique is already starting to change people’s lives.

And Bec, well she is the most fantastic person that I know.  She is a great physiotherapist, the best Mum I have ever seen and my lifesaver. 

Bec and I thank you, our mountain community for this year.  We can’t wait to make a difference in all of your lives again next year.  Have a very Merry Christmas and God Bless.  

Make Sure You Listen To The Warning Signs

My little family has been very busy and also so very excited.  You see, four weeks ago Bec and I had a contract accepted on a beautiful six-acre avocado property up on the mountain.   The kids can’t wait to move.  Owen is adamant that half the shed is going to be his new workshop and the other half will house his science table.  Anyway, the contract was accepted on Friday morning. 

Friday night we decided that we had better start getting our house ready to put on the market.  I started by clearing out my shed under the house.  By late Friday night, I had a trailer load of stuff ready to take to the dump and a car full of other things to take to the bargain centre.  Saturday morning, I got up early and finished cleaning out the shed.  Then I went to the dump and unloaded everything I had decided to get rid of.  After that I used my pressure cleaner to clean up our three decks and then I mowed the lawn.  Saturday night I changed over our toilet cistern.

On Sunday, I got up early and dug up our vege garden.  Then I made my debut for the mighty over 40’s Tamborine Mountain Bushrats Cricket Team.  I spent the whole day running around after the little red ball and then came home and put the first coat of timber oil on the decks.  Monday morning before work I applied a second coat of oil to the decks and then spent the rest of the day helping fix other people’s bodies.  Monday night we moved around the furniture and decided we needed to declutter the house a little.

Tuesday morning, I loaded up the trailer with all the furniture that we had decided was superfluous to our needs and then headed off to work.  Before picking up the kids in the afternoon I unloaded the trailer full of furniture at our friend’s storage container and then went home and cooked dinner.  That night I did a final coat of oil on our top deck.

The next morning, I was unpacking the dishwasher as usual and I felt my back give a little twinge.  It had been getting a little stiffer since cricket, but hadn’t been sore.  As I bent down to finish off the dishwasher my back protested with a very painful and prolonged muscle spasm.  The pain caused me to take some Panadol, grab a hot pack and go lie down. 

I could have drawn two different conclusions from what happened to me.  I could have said that my back was giving out on me and I’m getting too old and unpacking the dishwasher was a terrible thing to be doing as that is what caused my back to spasm.  If my back “goes” just with unpacking the dishwasher, then how will I be able to cope with my job and everything else I do in life?  Alternatively, I could have looked at my past five days and realised that I had kind of been over doing things.  Of course, this is what I knew was the truth.  My back had been giving me warning signs like stiffness and a bit of an ache after oiling the deck.  The muscle spasm was quite simply my body’s way of saying “Enough is enough, if you continue like this, you are going to overload me and cause some serious damage.”

I learned my lesson.  After getting the physio treatment that I needed, doing the exercises Steve told me to do and taking it a little bit easy, the pain went away.  In future, I will listen to the early warning signs, get some early treatment, stop overloading my body and hopefully stop myself from having to go through the pain.  My challenge to you is, will you please do the same?      

Mobile Devices Cause Pain

Last week I trotted out to our packed waiting room and was astonished to see that every single person was on a mobile device.  All six of them, young and old, had their noses buried in a phone!  They had their chins down, their heads tilted forwards, lower backs slumped, shoulder blades hunched and shoulders held up around their ears.  “Aaaahhhhhhhh!” I thought to myself, “Those darn phones, (I actually used a much worser word than darn, but didn’t think I should put it in print) they are the bane of my existence!”

I seriously can’t stand the way we all sit when we are using our phones or tablet devices.  The pressure that we put on our spinal system when we hold such a bad posture for an extended period of time is incredible.  When we are hunched forwards the joints in our spine get compressed and stressed in ways that they weren’t designed to be.  If this happens repetitively or for prolonged periods it will cause pinching between the joints resulting in pain, muscle tightness and inflammation.  Keep on doing it and you will soon end up at Physique needing some hands-on treatment to get moving again.  If we are particularly blessed we will just get a bit of an ache in a muscle.  But, more often than not it is a massive and very painful muscle spasm which stops us from being able to function until we get some effective treatment.

I so regularly see patients that have caused neck, shoulder blade and lower back pain from spending too long in a bad posture looking at their devices that I now routinely ask my new patients if they watch TV shows or movies, read or play games on their phones or tablets.  Often I get the reply, “Yes, but what does that have to do with my neck pain?” I am astonished how frequently people are unaware of how poorly they are holding themselves when they are spending time in front of a small screen.  Sometimes, I even take a photo to show my patients how they are sitting or lying just to explain that this posture is the likely cause of their pain.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that we need to cease doing these things on our phones.  I love watching my favourite TV show, whilst tucked up in bed with my wife just as much as the next person.  But, what we need to make sure is that we maintain a posture that keeps the natural curves in our spine and allows us to be in one position without causing muscle aches and pains.

Here are some tips to maintaining a good posture while on the mobile devices.  Please make sure that you always have your chin tucked in and your shoulder blades down and in together.  In addition, if possible try to have a cushion stuffed behind the small of your back and attempt to keep a nice curve in your Lumbar spine.  And finally, the most simple and effective thing you can do when lying in bed is to always have a pillow under your knees so that they are kept in a flexed position the whole time.

Try these tips and above all else just be aware of how you are sitting or lying.  Enjoy using your technology but please watch your posture and correct it before it starts to cause you some serious pain.

It's ALL About The Preparation

One month ago my beautiful little Sarah turned 9-years old.  Bec and I had decided that for her birthday we were going to let her get her ears pierced.  She had wanted to do it for a few years and we had finally concluded that she was mature enough to have them done.  She was very excited that we thought that she was ready and she couldn’t wait to get them done. 

There was just one problem.  Sarah had heard that it hurts quite a lot.  The fact that it was her mother who had told her this based on her own childhood experience, meant that Sarah was quite worried about how painful it was going to be.  So we set about preparing her for the big day.  We spent a long time explaining the process, we prayed about it and we answered any questions that she had honestly and openly.  Bec organized for both of the ears to be done at once and on the morning of her birthday we applied some local numbing cream to her ear lobes. 

Now this seems like a lot of preparation to do just for an ear piercing, but we wanted Sarah to have a good experience and remember the day fondly.  The big moment came and ……. it was a breeze!  Yeah, it still hurt, but she handled it amazingly.  No tears, just lots of excitement over how beautiful she looked.  It was all about the preparation. 

And so it is with the upcoming Hinterland Sports Festival (formerly known as the Tour De Tamborine).  If you want to have a good experience on the day it’s all about getting your preparation right.  We have about 8-weeks to go until the festival all kicks off which is plenty of time to get our training regime sorted and to get all of our niggly injuries under control. 

For those of you planning to do the bigger rides and the longer runs, you should now be starting to taper off your training a bit.  The occasional long training session over the next 2 months is important to maintain your aerobic base, but pushing yourself too much in the last few weeks leading up to the festival could actually lead to fatigue and possibly injury on the day. 

For the rest of us, there is actually plenty of time left to increase our fitness to a level that we can make it through the 5 km run or the 5 km scenic mountain top walk.  Remember, start off slowly and gradually build up as you feel that you are getting stronger.  This is so important, I treat so many people that just start too hard and this then leads to overuse, fatigue and then injury. 

Physique has been the physiotherapy provider at this festival now for the past 5 years and I can’t tell you how many people I have had to treat on the day as a result of bringing an untreated, niggly injury into the event.  If you are suffering from any niggly aches and pains, now is the time to get them sorted.  8-weeks is usually enough time to get the muscles and joints moving correctly, thereby decreasing stress on our tissues, improving performance and reducing the risk of injury.

Between now and November 20th get stuck in!  Enjoy your exercise, get your preparation right and make sure that you really have an unforgettable time on our amazing mountain.

Time to Try Something New

The other day I got a phone call from a Doctor wanting to discuss one of his patients.  Now there is nothing unusual about that, I get phone calls every day from other health care providers looking for advice on how to best manage one of their patients.  But this doctor seemed overly chatty.  I didn’t catch his name when Elaine, our amazing receptionist, handed the phone over and he started in very quickly with the explanation of why he was calling.  “I have a 15 month old patient whose knee cap keeps dislocating,” he said.  “I don’t want to operate and was wondering if some strapping techniques and exercises might be helpful.” Again, nothing unusual there, this was a perfectly valid request and I told the doctor so. 

“That’s great,” he said, “It is really starting to make her life hard.  She doesn’t want to walk on that leg and it is hard for her to stand up from sitting.”  I was very sympathetic and said that it sounded like Macey, the patient, was having a very hard time.  “Yes,” he replied, “she is even finding it hard to eat out of her food bowl when it is on the ground.”

Whoa, what?  Hang on a minute, what did he just say?  “Pardon?” I said.  “Yep,” he said, “can you imagine a Bull Mastiff dog not wanting to eat?”  “What did you say your name was again?” I enquired. “Steve, Doctor Steve, one of the vets just off the mountain.”

Suddenly, now the whole conversation made sense.  I had only ever given animal physiotherapy treatment to my own black Labrador and I had certainly never performed any taping techniques on a dog before, but what could I do?  I had already agreed to have a go.

And so, the next day there we were all standing around the car park at Physique analyzing the gait pattern of this absolutely beautiful and humungous canine.  I thought about how I would tape the leg if she was a human and set about doing it on Macey’s leg.  We held her down on her side in the foyer of our clinic and I proceeded to apply the tape.  It was a rather ridiculous scene I must admit.  In fact,  one of my regular patients opened the door, looked in, stepped over me lying on the ground and sat down in his usual seat in the waiting room without so much as a second glance.  As he walked past I heard him mutter to himself “I’m not even going to ask about this one!” 

The tape definitely seemed to help Macey.  She was immediately able to weight bear a bit more and she seemed in less pain.  I am not sure how successful the taping will be in the long term, but I have got to hand it to the vet and to Macey’s owner – at least they were willing to try something new and different. 

I often treat patients that wish they had come to see me sooner.  Regularly they say they didn’t know I could help and had been told that physio wasn’t worth giving a try.  If your neighbor or your doctor or your specialist or your gardener or the taxi driver has told you that you just have to live with the pain, I beg you to find out for yourself.  If you have tried physio in the past and been unsuccessful, try another physio this time.  Don’t give up.  I firmly believe that almost all pain can be helped.  Take the next step, have the courage to try something new and see if physiotherapy can help you. 

Ignoring the Problem Just Does Not Help

For the past few months our family has been battling against an insurgency of flying moths and crawling larvae.  My Mum has always describe these pests as Weevils.  However, some quick online research led me find out that they are actually called Indian Pantry Moths.  I realise of course that the title of this article is incorrect, but “Attack of the Evil Indian Pantry Moths” just didn’t sound anywhere near as scary.

Anyway, we had been killing the occasional flying moth for the past seven years without ever cleaning out the cupboard and getting to the bottom of the problem.  Suddenly, a few months ago there was a population explosion and we had flying moths and crawling larvae everywhere.  Owen in particular was a bit freaked out by all the larvae crawling around the kitchen.  He has only just started eating rice again.  I suppose you shouldn’t joke to a 6 year-old that cooked rice looks a lot like those little creepy crawlies we keep finding on the benchtops.

As a result of this major Indian Pantry Moth party happening in our pantry, we have been waging a full scale war ever since.  We emptied the cupboard, found the major source of the larvae, cleaned every container out and squished multiple little squirmy maggoty looking things.  We swatted pantry moths for weeks, put out little sticky bait traps and laid Bay Leaves in all the shelves.  It appears that we have won the war and completely beaten the little blighters.  However, to achieve this it took a lot of effort and a lot of time.  It is obvious to me that if we had started to address the problem when we had first noticed the occasional moth, than this outbreak could have been avoided and a whole heap of time saved. 

And so it is with our bodies.  Very few significant pains will just go away by us ignoring the problem.  At Physique we often treat people who have been putting up with pain and limitations on their lives for great lengths of time.  Even though we can still get these pains under control, it requires a lot more time and a lot more effort from both the physio and the patient than if we had addressed the problem from the early stages. 

I have been thinking about why we put off doing things that are actually good for us.  Well, for Bec and I, we didn’t want to have to deal with yet ANOTHER thing in our lives.  However, ignoring the problem was not actually helpful – in fact it was just the opposite.  I think there are many different reasons why we don’t always seek help when we first start to get pains.  One of my patients recently said that she just didn’t want to admit that her leg pains weren’t getting better, because then she would have to admit that she was getting a little older.  Often, my patients tell me that they put off getting treatment because they feel that there are many other people worse off than them.    

It doesn’t matter the reasons why, but if you are putting off getting treatment for your aches and pains I encourage you to seek some help.  The sooner, the better.  Don’t be like Bec and I.  Deal with the problem now.  A good physiotherapist can make a world of difference and can help you to stop living with the pain and start living your life again.  

Your Age Is Just a Number

A few weeks ago I turned Forty.  The day before my birthday, I was treating a 13-year-old boy and I told him I was turning Forty.  “Forty!” he said.  “You don’t look Forty.”  I smiled to myself as I thought, “Well, Neil, not bad for your age, you do have a bit of a baby face.” 

“Nah,” he continued, “you look heaps older than that!”  That really got me smiling.  And then when I looked over at his Mum to see her giggling behind her hands in embarrassment, I couldn’t help but burst out laughing also.  

I’ve never been one to hide my age or to think about what it means to have another birthday.  To me, my age is just a number.  Hopefully, the bigger the number, the more I have learnt.  A bigger number doesn’t have to mean more pain, and less ability to do the things that I love.  I see this time and time again with my patients.  I regularly treat Seventy year-olds who play tennis 3 times a week, Eighty year-olds who swim every day and even Ninety year-olds who still do gym workouts!

So, as I went to bed the night before my birthday I thought to myself: “Forty, hey?  Well, they reckon all the aches start after Forty.  Still, never mind, it’s only another number.”  Well, I kid you not, at 4am on the day of my birthday I woke up with all sorts of aches and pains – my neck ached, my hands were sore and my shoulder blades were stiff and tight!  I did everything I always tell my patients to do.  I worked on my posture, I heated my neck regularly, I did my exercises and I got the regular physiotherapy treatment.

All that helped.  It helped a lot.  But, I was still waking up with a sore neck.  So, I stopped chopping firewood and I stopped jumping on the trampoline with the kids.  That helped too, but I was still sore in the mornings.  “Wow,” I thought, “maybe Forty isn’t JUST another number.  Maybe, this is it.  Maybe I need to just start putting up with my aches and pains now that I am over Forty.”

This was hard for me to take.  I have always advocated to my patients that getting older doesn’t have to mean that they have to live with pain.  I had truly believed that, no matter their age, if they get regular physiotherapy treatment, do the correct exercise and keep themselves generally moving well, most of my patients can be relatively pain free.  And, over the years, I have had thousands of patients who have taught me that this is true.  

And yet, here I was, in pain and discomfort for the past 2 weeks since turning Forty.  “I don’t know,” I said to Bec, “since turning Forty, I’ve been achy and sore.  I don’t know why.”  “Hey,” she said, “I’ve been sore since your birthday as well.  I wonder what’s going on?” 

It turns out that we had somehow switched our pillows over.  I had her pillow, which was too small for me and she had my pillow, which was too big for her!  We switched them back and now I am back to being pain free again.

 

So, it turns out I was correct: Forty IS just a number.  The same as Fifty or Sixty, or even Eighty.  Don’t accept pain as a natural consequence of ageing.  Find out what’s causing the pain and change that.  Maybe, like me, a simple change and the correct treatment can make a huge difference.       

Our Body Needs Rest

We recently headed up to Mooloolaba for a quick family get away.  Gee, it’s nice up there.  After a hectic rush to get on the road Friday night, a two hour drive with tired kids and a late night, we woke up to views out over the Pacific, sunshine and a beautiful beach.  I immediately felt myself start to relax, unwind and slow down.

Maybe it was the fact that I was so relaxed, but I found that I was acutely aware of how many times Sarah was pressing the pedestrian crossing button at the lights.  When I mentioned to her that maybe she could stop repeatedly hitting the poor button she replied that Uncle Geoffrey had told her that the more times she pressed the button the quicker the lights changed.  I had to smile at that: her Uncle Geoffrey, my big brother, had told me exactly the same thing at the same age.  Sarah is so similar to me.  We don’t like wasting our time waiting.  In fact, if I am not relaxed, I have to actually clasp my hands behind my back after pressing the pedestrian button to stop myself from doing exactly what Sarah was doing!

Later, as we waited for the lift doors to close to take us back up to our apartment, Sarah asked us which button she could press to make the doors close quicker.  She couldn’t even feel like she was wasting the 2-3 seconds it took for the door to close!  However, the thing that got my attention was that while the writing on the “open door” button was still crystal clear, the “close door” button had been pressed so many times that the writing had been rubbed off.  Obviously, Sarah and I are not the only ones who don’t like wasting time!

This is something I am seeing more and more.  People seem to be unable to unwind, incapable of slowing down and downright opposed to the idea of stopping.  I often find that my patients are so impatient that they can’t even relax when they are lying down for 10 minutes with a hot pack on and acupuncture needles in.  One such patient explained to me that it wasn’t the fact that she was doing nothing, it was the fact that she wasn’t doing anything productive.

And therein lies the problem.  You see, rest is productive.  Our bodies need rest.  Without rest our body doesn’t get a chance to heal.  It doesn’t get a chance to settle those little niggles and to repair the everyday wear and tear.  As humans we are wonderfully designed and our ability to self-heal is quite remarkable.  However, just like any mechanical system, little problems in our bodies that are not rectified will eventually become big problems. 

In my patient’s lives, physiotherapy at Physique plays a major part in helping to rectify these little problems.  Physio also helps to keep the little issues at bay so that the big issues and the big problems are avoided.  However, I believe there is nothing more important to help us heal ourselves than regular rest. 

Schedule it in, it is much more important than you realise.  Take some time off and do nothing.  It is hard to do at first, but, trust me, your body will thank you for it. 

 

Getting Expert Advice is Important

I remember when I was Thirteen, my big brother, who was Sixteen came into my room and asked me out of the blue: “Are my ears REALLY big?”  Now, being a sensitive soul, even at that young age, I replied with a very certain, “Yep!”  “They are aren’t they?” Geoff continued.  “And do you reckon they stick out at 90 degrees?” “I dunno,” I replied, casually looking up from my Archie and Jughead comic, “let’s measure it.”  So we found a set square and I put it against the side of my brother’s head.  Now, I don’t know if any of you have ever done this, but it is very easy to come up with the conclusion that: “Wow, yes indeed, your ears do stick out at 90 degrees.”  As my brother beat a hasty retreat to his room with his hands over his ears, I casually returned to my comic and thought: “Man, he’s really messed up.”

Now the reason I am sharing this story is to demonstrate the fact that taking advice from people who aren’t experts is fraught with danger.  Instead of asking his little brother these questions, Geoff should have sought out a higher authority - one with more expertise and training in dealing with these issues.  Obviously, in this case, he should have consulted Mum.  

I have had countless patients tell me that they have been living in pain; even though this pain is stopping them from picking up their grand kids or doing the gardening.  They have just been putting up with these restrictions in their lives because their neighbour has told them that their friend had the same thing and there’s nothing that can be done to help them.   It’s not until they come into Physique or ask their GP that they get some correct information and realise that something can be done to change the pain.

I recently had a patient who I was treating for her headaches.  Treatment was extremely effective and she rapidly got to the point where her headaches had resolved.  Just as I was about to discharge her from my care she mentioned that she had a sore shoulder, but she didn’t think I could help her with that.  It turns out she had “just put up with” her extremely sore shoulder for the past 3 years.  What started off as an occasional niggle had progressed to the point that she was no longer able to lie on that side and couldn’t lift her hand over her head without pain.  I quickly diagnosed what was wrong, reassured her that physio could indeed help and started treating her straight away.   Six weeks later, her pain was gone.  Her parting words to me were: “Thank you so much for all your help, I only wish I had come to see you sooner.”   

I hear those words so often – “I didn’t know you could help, I really wish I had seen you sooner.”

Please, if you have pain, stop just putting up with it; stop listening to backyard experts and get some help sooner rather than later. I guarantee that getting the right advice and expert support will make a huge difference in your life.  Who knows, you may even get completely pain free again.

How to Find Time to Exercise

A few weeks ago, I was woken up by a very animated 5 year-old boy who had a very important question to ask.  “Dad,” said Owen excitedly, “can we PLEASE do Boxing Day this year?”  Ok, I thought to myself, this should be interesting.  “Aaahhhh, yeah buddy,” I said as I tried to open my weary eyes.  “Boxing Day?  We’ll totally do it this year,” I followed on, hoping to go straight back to sleep.  Not to be put off by my eyes closing again, Owen happily punched the air and exclaimed “Yes!”  Then after a pause he asked, “So do we all just wake up and start punching each other or what?”

This got me thinking about how our perceptions influence our actions and our beliefs greatly.  Owen was excited about Boxing Day when he thought he could go to town on his big sister’s head while she was still asleep.  He was far less enthusiastic about it when he found out it meant a day of lazing around while Dad and Grandad watched the cricket!

It is the same way with things that are good for us.  How often have we said “that drink MUST be good for me, it tasted horrible!”  A lot of us seem to think that the things that help us with our health are hard work, unpleasant and impossible to find the time to fit in.  Consequently, our perceptions shape our actions and often lead us to never follow through on our New Year resolutions to eat healthier and exercise more.    

It is becoming more and more accepted in the medical community that exercise is the magic pill that we are all looking for.  Sure, it doesn’t cure everything, or completely negate the need for medication, but health professionals with an interest in preventative medicine would much rather be prescribing exercise as a way to improve our health than a pill. 

If a doctor said to you, there is a treatment that has been shown to:  decrease the effects of knee arthritis by 47%; reduce progression of dementia and Alzheimer’s by 50%; decrease the progression of people at risk of diabetes by 50%; reduce the risk of hip fracture in post-menopausal women by 41%; reduce anxiety by 48%; relieve depression 30-47% of the time; lower the risk of death by 23%; and generally improve your quality of life.  What would you say?  Most of us would be asking to start treatment immediately.  Well, the treatment is exercise.  To be precise, it is walking 30 minutes a day.    

What if, instead of asking how could I possibly find the time to fit 30 minutes of exercise into my daily routine, we asked a much more serious question?  A question that would help us alter our perception of how hard it is to fit in some exercise?  And by altering our perception, make it easier for us to do something that will actually change our lives for the better?  What if, instead, we asked ourselves: “Is it possible for me to just limit my sitting, sleeping and working to 23 and ½ hours a day?”

Please check out the You Tube video titled: 23 and ½ hours: What is the single best thing we can do for our health?  It is fantastic.

The Importance of Rest

By the end of the week, if I haven’t had a break, my hands hurt.  My wrists ache and my thumbs are sore.  If it has been a very busy week they’ll start to ache by Thursday night. 

Now, I’m not telling you this to have a whinge.  I am extremely proud of the fact that at Physique we are manual therapists.  We believe strongly in providing the most effective health solutions for all of our patients and that’s why we have a no machines policy.  I use my hands to loosen off tight structures, decrease inflammation, increase movement and correct muscle dysfunction.  My experience tells me and my patients constantly remind me, that using my hands, rather than Ultrasound or Interferential machines, is a very effective way of treating pain and stiffness.  Rather than just alleviating symptoms for a short period of time, hands-on therapy treats the underlying cause of the symptoms and my hands can tell much more about your body and movement issues than any feedback system on a machine.  

And I get good results.  Often, my patients can’t believe how much better they feel with the regular hands-on physiotherapy input.  But, like I said, by the end of the week, if I haven’t had a break, my hands hurt.  The reason I am telling you about my hands is to point out the absolute necessity for us to have a break.  To take a rest, recuperate and give our bodies time to heal themselves.

One of our physios, Emily, has just got back from 5 weeks in Portugal.  While she was away the remaining 4 physios here at Physique had an increased workload.  As a result my hands did not get the rest that they needed.  I found that not having a break resulted in an increasing accumulation of inflammation and aches and pains.  This is a pattern I have seen so often with my patients.  An inability to take a breath, step back and rest, leads to niggly aches becoming episodes of pain and injury.

One of the first things I ask my patients to do is to rest.  I am always amazed at how hard that is for some people.  Believe me I do get it.  I am busy. The kids need me to do things, my wife can’t do everything, the business is always flat out and unfortunately they haven’t invented self-cutting grass yet.  But when did it become so bad to just stop for a period?  To just relax and let our body do what it was designed to do.  To deal with the inflammation, the stress hormones and the niggling injuries we all have. 

When we just stop, we stop overloading our body and give it a chance to get out of the inflammatory cycle.  By doing this we are actually allowing ourselves to heal.  To replenish and rejuvenate.

So this weekend, instead of spending all day working in the yard why not take some time to rest?  See what happens – maybe you might even see the benefit and decide to make it a regular thing.  Happy resting everyone – you deserve it!

Injured? Ask Yourself These Questions.

Last month was my daughter’s birthday.  Bec and I thought that it was appropriate to acknowledge that she was getting a little older, and so for her present we got her a pet to care for.  As a result, on the morning of her birthday the whole family was sitting on her bed and marvelling at this beautiful little 6-week-old, hand-raised budgie snuggle in close to Sarah.  We all sat quietly marvelling at how cool this little creation of God was, when all of a sudden my 5-year-old boy asked in a deadly serious voice: “Dad, do birds do fluffs?” (Actually he used an entirely more vulgar word that starts with F and rhymes with billycart – you get the picture.)

After all the laughter died down Owen still wanted to know the answer.  I don’t know about all the bird lovers out there, but this was a tough question for me, one that I had never been asked before. 

It got me thinking about all the questions I often ask my patients.  The three main questions I ask are: “How did this injury happen?”; “How long has this been going on for?” and “What did you change about the same time that the pain began?”  Now for me, the answers to these questions are helpful in getting a correct diagnosis and in working out how to best stop this pain from recurring.   However, what I have found is that most of the time, people find these questions to be tough questions, difficult to answer with any accuracy.  It’s not that they don’t know the answers, it is more the fact that they haven’t even thought about it. 

As my patient and I discuss what is going on we can generally work out accurate mechanisms of injuries, correct timelines and the things that are contributing to their pain.  Often all it takes is a moment to think about it and then I see the light bulb come on and we can work out why the pain began or why it isn’t going away.  

In contrast, my regular patients come in and tell me exactly how the pain began, how long it has been going for and what they have changed in their lives which may have caused it.  They are used to me asking these questions and have thought hard about the things that have contributed to their pain.  Consequently, they have already modified their activity and started to change the things that they need to change in order to get their lives pain-free.

If you are suffering pain, it is very important that you work out the answers to the 3 questions above.  It gives you an opportunity to get control over your pain and to start to change the things that are contributing to it.  I encourage you all think about why, when and how your pain began and then to modify immediately the things that you can.  Of course, if you can’t get on top of the pain, come in and let us at Physique make a difference.      

Oh, by the way, according to the research I did: No, birds do not do fluffs.  Huh, it seems we do learn something new every day!

Helping Dad's to Exercise

I know I am very biased, but my little girl is the most beautiful girl on Mount Tamborine.  In fact, I recall walking down Main Street when she was about 2 years old and being stopped by a sweet little old lady.  I remember her looking at Sarah, then squinting up at me, looking back at Sarah and then squinting back up at me again.  She looked a little confused and then finally she blurted out: “Wow, her Mum must be VERY good looking.” 

I am a very proud Dad.  I love being a Dad.  There is nothing better and I am truly blessed to have my two wonderful children.  Being a Dad is the best thing I have ever been in my life.  It is also the most important thing I have ever done.  However, being a good Dad requires a lot of time and energy.  Finding the time to fit in the long hours at work, the yard work, the household chores, time with the kids and supporting our wives doesn’t leave us with a lot of time left over to stay fit and healthy.

I know for me that it is hard to make exercise a priority.  It feels like I am taking precious time away from my family and on the surface it seems to be quite a selfish thing to be doing.  However, I am realising how important it is to my role as a Dad.  Not only is it essential that I set an example for my children, but the more physically capable I am the easier it is for me to have some energy left over after a busy day at work to bounce on the tramp, play footy, win those wrestling matches and run behind my little boy as he learns to ride his bike.

With that in mind here are a few tips to help us men find time to exercise:

1. Schedule It:  We schedule meetings at work.  We schedule date nights with our wives.  We schedule physio appointments.  To be serious and make our fitness a priority, we need to schedule it and treat it as if it's an appointment that cannot be changed.

2. Start Small:  Finding time to exercise is challenging.  Try to carve out only a small amount of time at first.  For instance, I have started to build one hour a week into my schedule.  As I progress in my workouts, I will likely want to do more and will be more motivated to find more time to exercise.

3. Make It Fun:  I don’t like lifting weights.  I spent a lot of time in the gym when I was playing footy, and for me, it feels like a job.   I do like walking and circuit training.  So I am building my workouts around these.  Stop and ask yourself what kind of exercise do you enjoy?  Is it running?  Pilates? Tennis?  Figure out what you like to do and start doing it.

4. Make it a Family Affair:  Try to encourage your wife and kids to join you.  They will not only keep you company; they will also help to motivate you to continue.

Come on guys, we can do this!

Happy Father’s Day.  You are so important.

My Headaches

I clearly remember my first migraine.  I was 14 and was on the school bus on the way home.  I was talking with some friends and started to notice that slowly my lips and gums were getting numb.  This was something over the next 2 decades I came to recognise as my “migraine starting symptom”.  But back when I was 14 I had no idea what was happening.  By the time I had gotten off the bus, my left arm and left side of my face was numb and I could only just see to get myself home.  When my parents walked in the door I was lying in bed with a pillow shoved firmly over my head trying desperately to work out what was going on.  

I can’t remember being too scared after it all settled down, but now having had children, I guess my parents would have been terrified as we waited to get the MRI scan.  When the tests all came back clear the doctors diagnosed me with suffering migraines. 

Over the next 20 years or so these migraines became a regular occurrence for me:   when I got stressed; when I got a head knock at footy; when I slept awkwardly; or any other number of triggers.  I was able to stop them from developing if, at the moment I started to get the numb lips and gums I took some codeine.  If I didn’t, pretty soon my left side would be numb, I would only be able to see in the periphery of my vision and I would be in pain – most inconvenient in the middle of uni exams or just before kick-off for the Grand Final or while travelling in Eastern Bulgaria. 

It got to the point that I would be taking large doses of codeine as a “just in case” line of defence against these migraines.  It wasn’t that I always had a migraine; in fact, as I got older (and retired from footy) I seemed to be getting less of them.  It was more the fact that the possibility of a migraine was constantly there.  They were horrible and I didn’t want them in my life.  

The amazing news is that I also clearly remember my last ever migraine too.  It was February 10th, 2012.  I had just flown to Sydney to attend a four day training course on how to target treatment to the upper neck to help headache and migraine sufferers.  As per usual, with the stress of travel and the awkward position of sitting on the plane I noticed my lips and gums start to go numb.  “Aha,” I thought to myself, “here’s a chance to see if this stuff actually works!”  You know what?  It did! And it does.

I haven’t had a migraine since.  If I ever feel like my neck is a bit “out”, I ask one of the other physios here at Physique to give it a loosen up, and the regular treatment to my neck keeps the migraines gone.

At physique, we are so passionate about our patients not living with headache and migraine.  We can help.  If your symptoms are coming from your upper neck, who knows, we may even be able to give you back a headache free life.  

Why is my Body Letting me Down?

We have recently been on holidays.  We really did have a great time catching up with my family and the kids just loved hanging out with their cousins.  Sarah enjoyed having a bit of freedom and even was allowed to head off on a walk along the beach with just her older cousins in charge – no Mum and Dad in sight.  You should have seen the look of delight on her face when we said she could go.  She felt so grown up. 

Unfortunately, Owen was a different story.  His little face dropped and big tears came rolling down his face when we said that he wasn’t allowed to go without Mum and Dad.  It’s hard explaining to a six-year old boy that he is too young to do something.  Through his tears he shouted, “You’re not a very good Daddy!”  He eventually settled down and as he sat on my lap having a cuddle I explained that Mummy and Daddy were actually being good parents when we said he wasn’t allowed to go.  I told him that part of our job was to protect him and to keep him safe and that we take that job seriously.  “That’s Ok Dad”, he said after a while, “I think that you are a good Daddy.”  Then, with a cheeky grin, he said, “Can I have a lolly now seeing as I missed out on going for the walk?”   

As weird as it sounds this little episode got me thinking about our bodies.  Our body is constantly reacting to the environment around it and responding to the stresses we place on it.  We may not like it, but part of its function is to protect us.  We may get angry and chuck a tantrum when our back spasms in response to us lifting something too heavy, but it is our body’s way of forcing us to rest.  It is protecting us from doing greater injury than has already happened.

I often have patients in tears of frustration during a treatment session because they feel like their body is letting them down.  “Why now?” they ask.  “I have so much to do; I don’t have time for this pain.” Besides settling down the patient’s pain and getting them moving again, I spend a long time discussing why this pain has begun, the underlying causes and why our body has responded the way it has.   Almost always, our body acts in the way in which it was designed.  Its in-built default mechanism is to protect us.  To respond to the loads placed upon it and keep us from harm.  

My advice: Listen to your body.

When you start feeling stiff and get a few twinges, that is the time to change your lifestyle.  Work on your posture, get fitter, go to the gym, see the physio regularly and do your daily exercises. 

If you do have an episode of pain, acknowledge that your body is doing its job.  Accept that it is time to rest, get some help and work with the body’s design to get over your pain.  Remember that most of the time it is not our body letting us down.  Usually, it is us overloading ourselves and our body taking its job of protecting us seriously.