For The Love Of Physiotherapy

Physiotherapy is one of those well kept secrets to a well balanced lifestyle. It’s just one of those things that help you get that extra knowledge in to really perfecting your work out routine to be your best self. A couple of years ago I was left with chronic back pain after a health incident that rendered me miserable. And I mean, miserable. I could barely get out of bed each morning to get to work, had to completely give up any form of an ‘active’ lifestyle and was married to the bottle of painkillers on my bedside table (these ranged from T3’s to Oxy’s). The game changer for me was a miracle in the name of my physiotherapist.

After my injury, physiotherapy changed my life. My physiotherapist worked with me over multiple sessions, basically once a week till I stopped feeling jabbing pains from my feet up. However, I also walked away from each session with a deeper understanding of my body and my movements. Suddenly, every time a yoga instructor mentioned ‘generating your own heat through this movement’ or ‘expand through your ribs’ – I actually knew exactly how to activate the particular parts of my body to achieve this.

Healthy is Hot is about embracing your dedication to a healthy lifestyle doing what suits your goals. With a stronger focus on an active lifestyle from spin, to yoga, barre, boxing and more, the urge to share this piece of information was pulling at me.  I decided to dedicate this post and the next to interviewing two physiotherapists in Toronto and the GTA that can expand on the basics and benefits of physiotherapy in a non-sponsored post. Nam Do, takes in patients at a pilates clinic on Spadina and King and she is constantly in demand. Nam’s holistic approach saved my life and I’ve seen a range of age groups enter her office space. Claudia works in a clinic that offers physiotherapy at your house which is a novel concept for those of us that can’t get into the thick of the downtown core after a 9-5 weekday. Claudia’s knowledge and consistent walk-the-talk demeanor drew me to interview her for this piece.

Claudia, how often do you recommend women should visit a physiotherapist? 

Claudia: In our society, people primarily go to see a physiotherapist once they have an injury. Financial reasons such as no benefits or a limited health benefit plan also limits individuals. However, if someone does have access to benefits, I advise that they come in as soon as an injury occurs for a more positive prognosis and less chance of re-injury. Additionally, if a woman is pregnant, that is the perfect time to come in for a physiotherapy consult. During pregnancy, there are a lot of changes that occur to your body: increased ligament laxity and shifting of your pelvis making this an optimal time to be pre-emptive about your health and wellness.

What are ways you advise clients to keep up their flexibility - gymnastics, yoga, pilates?

Claudia: I recommend active stretching for most clients that I see, commonly those who have stiffness in their joints or tightness in their muscles. My treatment approach includes manual therapy techniques such as mobilizing stiff joints and passively stretching tight muscles. I compliment these treatments by prescribing home stretches that are to be performed three times a day and held for at least 30 seconds because that is typically how long it takes for a muscle to truly elongate. Additionally, I educate clients about the benefits of yoga or using a hot tub or a sauna to help muscles relax and develop extensibility. I try to encourage any type of exercise that my clients already engage in and enjoy, be it running, ultimate Frisbee, or yoga. I merely work with them to make sure they are doing these activities safely but the focus is always on patient-centred goals so they are more likely to engage in physical activity regularly. 

What prevents people from seeing a physiotherapist?

Claudia: A lack of knowledge about all that physiotherapy can offer (prevention of injuries through improving mobility and strength, relieving pain through rehabilitation of injuries, education about the human body and physical activity, and restoring physical function) and of course there are financial barriers in that not everyone has health benefits. Additionally, not all individuals realize that physiotherapy is actually an investment in your long term health, mobility, and well being.

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?

Claudia: The benefits are obvious when you do have an injury and subsequently go to receive rehabilitation. However, most individuals miss out on the notion that a physiotherapist is an expert in prescribing safe exercises to optimize body function (speed, endurance, balance, flexibility, power, etc.) For example, abdominal exercises are so popular and often are incorporated into most exercise programs that people participate in. However, there are risks such as lower back pain that are associated with traditional abdominal exercises. If an individual were to see a physiotherapist, they could demonstrate safe abdominal exercises as well as the correct technique in order to avoid injuries down the road. In my clinical practice, the two body parts that are most commonly injured are the low back and shoulder. Women are often very busy multitasking, doing a lot outside of and in the home. Let's be honest, as women, we take on a lot and trying to do too much too soon can lead to injury. Conversely, cumulative micro damage such as repeated bending, lifting, reaching tends to be a cause for injury as well. A Registered Physiotherapist is equipped to help in both of these cases.

Claudia Ehamparam MSc.PT, Hons.BSc.Kin, CAFCI, C/NDT - Registered Physiotherapist

Claudia obtained her Masters degree in Physiotherapy from McMaster University after completing an Honours Bachelors of Science degree in the Co-op Kinesiology program from the University of Waterloo. She has been in orthopaedic private practice since 2010 and is recognized as a specialist with The Running Clinic, has training in acupuncture, therapeutic taping, and neurodevelopmental treatment. Additionally, Claudia is an Assistant Clinical Professor (Adjunct) with McMaster University involved in admissions, examining, and teaching. Claudia is pursuing her Diploma of Advanced Manual and Manipulative Therapy through the Orthopaedic Division of the Canadian Physiotherapy Association having already completed Level 3 Manual Therapy. Claudia is also an avid Toronto Raptors & Blue Jays fan, enjoys travelling, dancing, working out, and playing Ultimate Frisbee.