The Key To Flexibility - Physiotherapy
As I mentioned in Part 1 of this two-part series, Physiotherapy is a well-kept secret by athletes and fitness instructors worldwide. The second physiotherapist I’ve interviewed is Nam Do, currently located on Hayden St (Yonge/Bloor). A self-professed lover of sports, she knows hands-on all of those movements you engage in from yoga, to cross fit to running and more.
Healthy is Hot is about embracing your dedication to a healthy lifestyle doing what suits your goals. And so, I continue with part two of my interview series to guide you through the benefits and knowledge around physiotherapy so you can make an informed decision.
Nam, how often do you recommend women should visit a physiotherapist?
Depends on the type of injury if you are injured, or if you just want preventative treatment. There are too many variables for those who are injured to answer easily, so I will answer the latter. For preventative measures whether you are a man, woman or child I'd recommend at least once every 6months, however, if you are more active, do a lot of repetitive activities or concentrate on one particular sport, then I would recommend maybe once every 4 months as these individuals are more likely to develop muscle imbalances. For pregnant women, I would recommend seeing a Physiotherapist once during the second and third trimesters and once after giving birth, about 3-4 months’ postpartum.
Pregnancy results in significant changes in several factors:
1) alignment from baby altering weight distribution
2) structure due to ligaments/joints laxity from hormonal changes
3) core/pelvic floor muscles strength, which is paramount in stabilization during all movements. I equate seeing a Physiotherapist to tuning up a bike yearly or oil change for a car or seeing a dentist for check-ups.
What are ways you advise clients to keep up their flexibility - gymnastics, yoga, pilates?
It’s about being active really, and doing anything that you enjoy and keeps you moving as long as you move properly (i.e. ABC of movements – Alignment, Breathing and Core). If you do any exercise properly you can get a core workout, stretching and strengthening in 1 movement or type of exercise (i.e. Yoga, Pilates or weight training).
If you apply the ABC of movement, anything you do will work your core, strengthen your muscles and stretch the antagonist muscle (i.e. if your pelvis is neutral and your core is working to keep it fixed/stable then your hip flexors work to swing the leg forward while the hamstring gets stretched and the reverse happens when you swing your leg back).
However, if the core does not work to fix the pelvis then both bones move so the muscles attached to them only work but never gets reciprocally stretched. People get tighter or stiffer as they age not because of age but rather they have had more time sustaining bad postures or to perform bad movement patterns. How many times have you been to a health professional and it's noted that you have bad posture and shown what good posture should be yet how many times have you been shown how to attain this good posture? It's a lot harder then it looks and we cheat way more then we realize.
What prevents people from seeing a physiotherapist?
They don't have private health insurance/can't afford to pay out of pocket and they are not aware exactly what it is physiotherapists do/the scope of our practice. However, in the long run a visit once or twice a year could save you on multiple sessions required after an injury. A common misconception is age and that you would only go to a physiotherapist at a later age (whatever that may be). But as you age, you are giving yourself more time to build bad habits and the healing time closes down the gap for bodily repair as our bodies are not as unrestricted as when we are young. With physiotherapy, the body can heal if we place it into the right positions.
How would you explain the benefits of physiotherapy to someone who has never gone to physiotherapy before, seeing as most people wait for an injury to happen before they make their first appointment?
I'd like to think of physiotherapists as the biomechanical engineers, movement specialists and mechanics for the body. Physiotherapists need to focus on educating the public, insurance companies and policymakers about our role especially in preventative care. And we need to start the preventative care at a young age so we stop the bad habits from forming.
Age has been blamed for a lot of physical ailments but it's not age but the greater length of time for bad habits and movement patterns to occur is the culprit. Clients often come in saying I've been doing this all my life and never had a problem until now or it suddenly occurred. Unfortunately, it didn't just happen. As I said before you don't expect a bike or car to function properly or optimally if it's not aligned so why would you expect your body? Unlike a car or bike with a fixed frame and few moving parts, the human body is much more intricate and has a very dynamic frame, which makes it that much easier to get out of alignment and also easier to cheat or borrow movement from another part of our body. Often time we don't realize the harm we're doing until we feel pain. By then we are so accustomed to our bad habits and ingrained movement patterns that it is much harder to change them. Learning how to move properly, breath properly and recruit your core properly can help to decrease the long-term health costs, and improve quality of life.
About Nam Do
My love of sports and the desire to help people led me to pursue a career in physiotherapy, but I realized that there was so much more that physiotherapy can help with besides acute sports injuries. With over ten years’ clinical experience, I have had the opportunity to deal with a variety of conditions from acute injuries to chronic conditions and a patient population ranging from infants to adults. In my opinion, physiotherapy treatment is a team effort that requires both the Physiotherapist and the patient working together. Outside of actual physiotherapy sessions, home exercises, ergonomics or postural awareness during activities of daily living or any other recommended self-management strategies are of the utmost importance and are dependent upon your commitment.