Friday, December 30, 2016

Your Health Checklist For The New Year

By:  Dr. John A. Papa, DC, FCCPOR(C)

The New Year is quickly approaching and it is time to start thinking about all the changes or "resolutions" we would like to commit to.  The purpose of this article is to give you a head start on planning to act on those resolutions that pertain to health and wellness.
GETTING MORE EXERCISE:  Always a popular promise many individuals make to themselves going into the New Year.  Unfortunately, many fail to engage in or sustain a meaningful exercise program.  Several keys to making exercise work for you include scheduling exercise into daily activities to make it as convenient as possible and choosing exercise activities that you enjoy.  Health benefits can be realized in as little as 45 minutes, three times per week.  Starting off slowly and easing into activity will help prevent injuries.  Be sure to incorporate components of aerobic, resistance, and flexibility training to ensure you are getting the full benefits of exercise.

NUTRITIONAL BALANCE:  Sensible eating should consist of nutritional balance with the correct proportion of quality carbohydrates, proteins, and healthy fats.  Significant and positive changes can be made to your eating habits by cutting down serving sizes, eliminating unhealthy snacking, and minimizing foods that can be detrimental to your health.  Your body only functions as well as the fuel you put into it.

STRESS MANAGEMENT:  Unresolved stresses can lead to many health problems if left unchecked.   Changing the way we think about stress can be the first step toward better health.  Some stresses can be avoided while others can be confronted and resolved.  There are certain stresses that we cannot do anything about, so don’t fret about things beyond your control.  Rely on close family and friends to help you through times of stress.  The New Year is a time of starting fresh, and letting go of things that prevent you from enjoying life.

SLEEP:  Important biological mechanisms function during sleep hours to help our bodies recharge, recover, and recuperate.  The average adult requires six to eight hours of restful sleep each night.  As little as three days of sleep deprivation has been shown to significantly compromise productivity, create problems in relationships, and contribute to numerous health problems.  Restful sleep is essential for good health and its importance should not be underestimated.

ELIMINATING BAD HABITS:  From a health perspective, some of these may include quitting smoking, limiting alcohol or caffeine intake, watching less TV, not brushing or flossing our teeth regularly, or being ornery towards others.  In reality, a list of bad health habits may be longer for some than others.  Commit to eliminating three of your worst health habits and see how much better this makes you feel.
For additional information on how you can improve your health and wellness, visit our website at   From all of us at the New Hamburg Wellness Centre, good luck and Season’s Greetings!

This article is a basic summary for educational purposes only.  It is not intended, and should not be considered, as a replacement for consultation, diagnosis or treatment by a duly licensed health practitioner.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

MSK Health Tips for the Holiday Season

Canadian Chiropractic Association

This is the season to enjoy time with family and friends, mingle at holiday parties, or to simply relax at home. It surely is a bustling time of year where we need to be mindful of our health and wellbeing. In particular, your musculoskeletal (MSK) health shouldn’t be ignored even when you’re enjoying the holiday festivities.
Whether you are sitting patiently, walking the streets, dancing into the night, or hauling gifts – don’t get carried away by the excitement; stay mindful of your activities. Here are some strategies to help you remain healthy over the holidays1:
  1. Exercise Regularly: Regular exercise, including strengthening, can help build muscular endurance of your back muscles, enhancing function and stability. Check with a healthcare provider before starting a new exercise program or routine.
  2. Eat Well: We make hundreds of decisions about how we feed our bodies every day. Instead of striving to meet ambitious goals over the holiday, try to focus on making better decisions each day. Nourishing your body will help support tissue repair. Moreover, making healthier decisions every day can lead to better long-term health by improving bone density, muscle strength and much more.
  3. Straighten Up: To reduce the risk of developing pain or injury, ensure that you change posture frequently when sitting or standing. Check out our free app Straighten Up Canada, which can help you improve posture through unique exercises that can be practised almost anywhere.
  4. Be Mobile: Exercise and moving is important to your MSK health. Ensure that you work regularly on your mobility and flexibility as well. Warm-up and try regular stretching
  5. Avoid Prolonged Sitting: Time flies by if you are surrounded by loved ones. Consider taking breaks in between courses or drinks to stand up and move about. Invite your friends to join along.
  6. Rest: Late nights and early mornings can take a toll on your mind and body. Commit to a sleep ritual, even during the Holidays, to make sure you get quality rest. Getting enough sleep promotes the body to repair from the stress of your day. Other strategies can help you sleep more soundly, while caring for your MSK system. For example, when sleeping on your side, place a pillow between knees which will reduce the rotation of the lower back.
  7. Lift Right: Between the snow, decorations, gifts and more, the heavy loads can take a toll on your body and your back. Using proper lifting techniques will reduce the risk of injury. Try to avoid twisting while lifting. Also, when possible try to push rather than pull objects.
Don’t let pain or injury put a damper on the holidays so make sure to care of yourself this Season!
1 Edward Benzel, George Dohrmann, et. al. “30 Tips for Better Spine Health,” The American Academy of Spine Physicians.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Protecting Your Back During The Winter Season

By Dr. John A. Papa, DC, FCCPOR(C)

The winter season is upon us and extra precaution must be taken as snow removal and icy walking surfaces can contribute to an increased risk of back injuries.  Included below are some useful tips that can be followed to help keep your back healthy and injury free this winter season.
1.    Warm up:  Prepare your body for physical activity by stimulating the joints and muscles, and increasing blood circulation.  Climbing stairs, marching on the spot, or going for a quick walk around the block can serve as excellent warm-up activities in five to ten minutes.  Follow this with some gentle stretches and exercises for the back.
2.    Push, don’t lift:  Push the snow to one side and avoid lifting.  If you must lift, keep the shovel close to your body and avoid twisting and turning by positioning yourself to lift and throw straight at the snow pile.  Be sure to lift slowly and smoothly and do not jerk with your lifts.
3.    Hinge the hips, bend the knees, keep the back straight and brace:  Use your hips, knees, legs and arm muscles to do the pushing and lifting while keeping your back straight.  Maintaining the natural and neutral curves of your back is important, as this is its strongest and most secure position.  Contracting and bracing your abdominal muscles during lifting improves spinal stability and decreases the chance of injury.
4.    Use the right shovel:  Use a lightweight, non-stick, push-style shovel.  Separate your hands as much as possible on the shovel handle for better leverage against the weight of the snow.
5.    Dress for the job:  Wear warm clothing to protect yourself against the elements.  Shoes and boots with solid treads and soles can help minimize the risk of awkward twisting, slips and falls.
6.    Don’t let the snow pile up:  Removing small amounts of snow on a frequent basis is less strenuous in the long run.
7.    Watch the ice:  Caution should be exercised around icy walkways and slippery surfaces.  Intermittent thaws and subsequent freezing can give way to ice build-up under foot increasing the risk of back twisting, slips and falls.  Coarse sand or ice salt can help give your walkways and driveways more traction.
8.    Take a break:  Know your physical limits.  If you feel tired or short of breath, stop and take a rest.  Make a habit to rest for a moment every 10 or 15 minutes during shoveling.  This is especially important if the snow is wet and heavy.  Stop shoveling immediately if you feel chest or back pain.
In the event that you suffer a back injury that does not subside, you should contact a licensed health professional who deals in the diagnosis and treatment of back pain.  For more information, visit

This article is a basic summary for educational purposes only.  It is not intended, and should not be considered, as a replacement for consultation, diagnosis or treatment by a duly licensed health practitioner.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Keeping a Healthy Spine During Holiday Travels

Canadian Chiropractic Association

With the holiday season nearly upon us, many people are gearing up for travels in the next few weeks to visit loved ones or to take a much needed vacation. While time with family and vacations are relaxing and a great way to regenerate energy and zest, the process of traveling itself can often take a toll on our bodies and MSK system.
We want you to travel safe, and keep your spine safe too! Take a look at these helpful tips before you jet off this season:
Taking Care of Your Posture When Traveling1
Carrying luggage, and long flights or road trips can place stress on the lower back which may result in back pain or other musculoskeletal (MSK) conditions. The following tips may assist in keeping your back safe from injury while traveling during the holidays and beyond.
  1. Supporting your lower back. Supporting the curve in the lower back is important. In some cases, airplane seats are worn out and no longer adequately support the lower back leading to the loss of curvature and additional tension on the structures. To avoid sitting for prolonged periods in an “unnatural” position, place a small rolled-up airline pillow, blanket or a towel or lumbar pillow to fit and support the curve of your lower back. Moreover, you may consider sitting in a slightly reclined position to relieve the stress on your spine.
  2. Sit Properly. While seated, your knees should be supported and bent at more or less a 90 degree angle. For example, if your seat is too high, consider placing your feet on something that can act as a firm footrest to keep your knees at a right angle.
  3. Move. Sitting in a static position for extended periods of time can stiffen the back muscles and cause creep in the spine. Movement is key to keeping the spine and MSK system healthy. Get up, stretch and move around every 20 to 30 minutes when possible.
  4. Use proper lifting technique. Use the entire body to turn when lifting heavy luggage. Pivot with your feet, not your back, so that your whole body moves, rather than only twisting your spine.
  5. Don’t make luggage or carry-ons too heavy. Manage what you pack to avoid being left with heavy luggage to carry and maneuver. Lifting excessive weight overhead, for example, can cause hyperextension injuries. Decrease your risk of injury by packing light .
If you’re going to be sitting on a long flight or waiting in airports on long layovers, remember to take time to move, stretch and relieve the stress from travel. Choose lightweight suitcases that are easy to wheel and a properly fitted backpack as your carry on. Making smart choices throughout your travels will help you to enjoy your vacation comfortably once you arrive.
1Katherine Teel, “Easy tips from Texas Back Institute to avoid Back Pain while Traveling this Holiday Season,”

Monday, December 12, 2016

Prepare To Avoid A Fall

By Dr. R. Greg Lusk, DC

As a father of 2 young children, aged 5 and 2, you can imagine that my house is always tidy and perfect.  Wait a second, that's only what it looked like in that magazine I was reading.  Instead, you will more realistically see dinky cars and dolls scattered across the floors and over furniture.  Often it feels like a mine field where I'm tip-toeing around items to avoid suddenly performing the splits after planting my foot on a car that blasts off as if in a drag race.  While I may, at least in my mind, still possess cat-like reflexes, the reality is that I'm getting a year older every year and my athletic prime is behind me.  With that in mind, I'm aware that falling is becoming a more likely possibility.
Particularly if you are over the age of 65, falling is common as one in three Canadians in this age group falls annually.  Often a serious injury results such as a wrist or hip fracture and these injuries can create a cascade of other health issues, in addition to a loss of independence.  Fortunately, there are a number of things you can do to reduce your risk.
Modifying your environment is a place to start, especially your home as that is where most falls occur.  Bathrooms, not surprisingly, pose risk due to wet surfaces and the transfers that occur in and out of the tub or on and off the toilet.  Investing in non-slip mats, grab bars, and a raised toilet seat can go a long way.  In the kitchen, swapping out loose mats for those with non-slip backing is helpful.  It is important to not use chairs or stools as an unstable ladder but instead have a footstool handy.  Better yet, keep everyday items in low cupboards and easily accessible so you don't need to use one at all.  Remember, your agility is likely not what it used to be.
The stairs are also a common problem area.  Keep them free of clutter, ensure there is no loose carpeting, and consider installing non-slip strips at the edge of each step.  Hand rails on either side are advisable and having ample lighting is important to increase awareness of any trip hazards.  Be careful when carrying items, such as full laundry baskets, as they reduce your visibility and steal at least one hand away from the handrails.  To make things easier, consider more trips with smaller loads.  It may take a little longer but if you change your mindset, you can become appreciative of the extra exercise.
An increased need to use the washroom, particularly at night, is another common reality of getting older.  Therefore, it is important that the path from your bedroom to the bathroom is clear and well lit with nightlights.  Finally, when outside the house, having salt or sand handy for dealing with ice and keeping paths clear of debris is recommended.
Taking care of yourself is also very important.  This can include improving your strength and balance with regular exercise, having eye and ear exams every 1-2 years, reviewing medications/supplements with your MD or pharmacist for potential side effects or interactions, eating and drinking regularly to minimize episodes of dizziness and weakness, and wearing good shoes and slippers with non-slip soles.
Having a fall doesn't need to be part of your aging experience.  Take action to improve your confidence.  This article is for general information purposes only and is not to be taken as professional medical advice.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Understanding Neck Pain

By Dr. John A. Papa, DC, FCCPOR(C)
Neck pain is a widespread experience among the general population, with 30-50% of adults reporting pain symptoms at any given time.  Once an episode of neck pain happens, most individuals will find it is a persistent or recurrent condition.  The purpose of this article is to outline our current scientific understanding of neck pain.
The cause of neck pain is usually multi-factorial, meaning that there is usually no single cause.  Factors such as overall physical and mental health, along with work and daily activities are just a few factors that can contribute to the development of neck pain.  Most causes are not the result of serious injury or disease.
Neck pain can affect people in different ways and is usually classified into the following categories:
GRADE 1: Neck pain with no signs or symptoms suggestive of major structural pathology, and little or no interference with daily activities.
GRADE 2:  Neck pain with no signs or symptoms suggestive of major structural pathology that limits daily activities.
GRADE 3:  Neck pain with no signs or symptoms suggestive of major structural pathology, with presence of neurologic signs of nerve compression (i.e. radiculopathy or "pinched nerve") and may include pain, weakness and/or numbness in the arm.
GRADE 4:  Neck pain with signs or symptoms suggestive of serious structural pathology (i.e. tumor, fracture, infection, systemic or visceral disease).
Evaluation of neck pain should include a proper medical history, along with a physical examination consisting of inspection, range of motion testing, and palpation for tenderness, along with strength, neurological, orthopaedic and functional testing.  Diagnostic tests such as x-rays, CT or MRI scans are only required in a minority of cases.
The majority of neck pain is classified as Grade 1 or 2.  There is scientific evidence to support the following treatments for Grades 1 and 2 neck pain: education, exercise, mobilization, manipulation, acupuncture, soft tissue therapy, and analgesics.  Conservative treatment of Grade 3 neck pain should proceed with caution.  The majority of Grade 4 neck pain will require specialty medical management.
Due to the persistent and recurring nature of neck pain, individuals need to have realistic expectations when addressing their symptoms as pain relief is often modest and short-lived.  The scientific literature does not identify any “best” treatment that is effective for everyone.  Trying a variety of therapies or combination of therapies may be required to find relief and help manage neck pain.  It is important that individuals play an active role in managing their symptoms by participating in their usual daily activities as tolerated, exercising, and reducing mental stress.
Most people can expect to experience some neck pain in their lifetime that may or may  not limit daily activities.  For those with neck pain that may be interfering with their activities of daily living, a qualified health professional can prescribe appropriate conservative therapy, rehabilitation and self-management strategies specifically for your circumstance.  For more information, visit
This article is a basic summary for educational purposes only.  It is not intended, and should not be considered, as a replacement for consultation, diagnosis or treatment by a duly licensed health practitioner.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

The Health Benefits Of Strength Training

By Dr. John A. Papa, DC, FCCPOR(C)
Strength training is exercise that uses weights or resistance to strengthen and enhance a muscle’s ability to contract and do work.  Below are some of the numerous health benefits of strength training.
1.    Strength training plays a key role in body composition and weight management.  Simply put, strength training burns calories, improves body composition by building lean muscle tissue, and thereby reduces fat stores in the body.
2.    Strength training reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease. 
Heart disease risk is lower when the body is leaner and less fat.  Other associated benefits include decreased cholesterol levels and lowered resting blood pressure.  Strength training will also help improve glucose metabolism.  Poor glucose metabolism is strongly associated with adult onset diabetes.
3.    Strength training stimulates bone mineral density development and reduces the rate of bone loss.  This is crucial at younger ages for maximizing bone density.  It is also important in older individuals looking to prevent or slow down the bone-thinning disease osteoporosis as it decreases the likelihood of fractures and morbidity related to fractures.
4.    Building muscle through strength training is helpful for recovering from and preventing injury as it helps improve overall strength, endurance, stamina, flexibility, balance and coordination.
5.    Strength training can be beneficial for those suffering from arthritis.  Studies in older men and women with moderate to severe arthritis have shown that a strength training program can help general physical performance with everyday activities, and improve clinical signs and symptoms of the disease resulting in decreased pain and disability.
Below are some useful tips that can help individuals get safely started on a strength training program:
·        Strength training exercises can be accomplished with conventional weight-training equipment, hand-held "free weights", and resistance bands/tubing.  An individual can also use their own body weight while performing push-ups, pull-ups, dips, stair climbing, lunges, and wall squats.
·        Modest benefits from strength training can be seen with two to three training sessions a week lasting just 15 to 20 minutes each.  A resistance level heavy enough to tire your muscles after about 8 to 12 repetitions is sufficient.  When you can easily do 12 or more repetitions of a certain exercise, increase the weight or resistance.  Rest at least one full day between exercising each specific muscle group.
·        Always perform strength training in a safe manner with proper technique and stop if you feel pain.  Although mild muscle soreness is normal, sharp pain and sore or swollen joints are signs that you’ve overdone it and that your program/activity needs to be modified.
A lifetime of regular strength training exercise is ideal, but it is never too late to start!  If you are over 35, have been sedentary for some time, or have a specific health condition or limitation, consult with a knowledgeable health care provider before beginning any new exercise program.  For more information, visit
This article is a basic summary for educational purposes only.  It is not intended, and should not be considered, as a replacement for consultation, diagnosis or treatment by a duly licensed health practitioner.