When we book in to see a physical therapist, we all know our specific reason why. There is usually something we want to fix – a pain syndrome, a restriction in movement, a stiff back or that nagging chronic headache that just won’t go away. And there’s nothing wrong with that! But have you ever thought about the many ways you can help relieve the distress of painful symptoms, after you leave the treatment room? Or how you can prevent them from recurring? Well, there are enormous positive affects that ongoing self-maintenance can have if implemented along side your physical therapy treatments, and I’m going to share my tips with you…
Corrective Exercises & Stretching –
This is not a gimmick, if you are advised to complete corrective exercises, you must do this in order to increase your ability to get better. Corrective exercises are used to strengthen and retrain muscles that are causing imbalance or instability in an area of the body. Listen to your therapist (they’re on your side, I promise) and stick to your treatment plan in order to get better results.
One of the most important and easiest things that you can do to improve your health is MOVE!! Australia’s Physical Activity Guidelines recommends adults are to accumulate 150 to 300 minutes (2½ to 5 hours) of moderate intensity physical activity or 75 to 150 minutes (1¼ to 2½ hours) of vigorous intensity physical activity, each week. And to do muscle strength work on at least 2 days per week. It sounds like a lot, but every bit counts, so take the stairs, get off one train stop earlier, and smash out 20 squats after you read this.
We know the saying ‘you are what you eat’? Well it is mostly true. If we fill our bodies with inflammatory foods, our body will become inflamed. If we skip a meal and don’t replenish our energy stores with nutrient rich foods, we don’t have energy. Starting to make sense? It is very important to eat highly nutritious foods that YOU can digest well and help YOU feel the best you can. Supplements are also important if you’re not getting enough nutrients from food. Certain vitamins like Vitamin D12 and C, Calcium aid in muscle recovery, and certain minerals like magnesium and zinc help to relax the muscles and enrich their energy stores. It is recommended you seek assistance from a nutritionist before making any big changes to your diet.
Not only is it essential following a treatment, hydration is important on a day-to-day basis to keep you feeling your best. Drinking enough water can help regulate body temperature, assist muscles and joints to work better, keep skin supple, cleanse your body of toxins, and in the longer term, help prevent cardiovascular disease.
We all know that horrible feeling of sleep deprivation – achy joints, feelings of fatigue and fogginess, decreased motivation and energy, and the inability to perform at your best. To allow your body time to naturally heal and replenish it’s energy stores, it is recommended we get 7-9 hours of sleep EVERY night.
Stress Relief –
Stress, both mental and physical can inhibit our body’s natural ability to heal its self. Whether it is a weekly yoga session, a 10-minute daily mindfulness practice, or simply immersing yourself in something creative (cooking, gardening, drawing…), it is essential we find ways to de-stress and unwind on a daily basis.
So whilst seeing your preferred therapist for your tune up treatment is great, it is also important to introduce some positive changes to your lifestyle and everyday routine. Whether it is a focus on getting stronger for better posture, changing your diet to reduce inflammation, or even taking some time for meditation to relieve built up stress, we can all add a few things here and there to ensure we get the absolute most out of our therapeutic treatments, and most importantly, keep our bodies and mind feeling good.
Hydration as we know, is a fundamental part of leading a healthy life. I have no doubt you have been told how important it is to drink plenty of water and that staying hydrated is essential for good health. Whilst that is all true, do you really know the reasons why hydration is so important? Well, let me tell you…
Water accounts for more than 60% of our body make-up and plays an integral role in the way our body functions, both physiologically and biomechanically. Water plays a vital role in regulating body temperature, blood pressure, pH levels and glucose concentration within the body. A study in 2004 from The Institute of Medicine of the National Academies (IOM) stated:
“The largest single constituent of the human body, water, is
essential for cellular homeostasis and life. It provides the
solvent for biochemical reactions, is the medium for mate-
rial transport, and has unique physical properties (high
specific heat) to absorb metabolic heat. Water is essential to
maintain vascular volume, to support the supply of nutrients
to tissues, and to remove waste via the cardiovascular sys-
tem and renal and hepatic clearance. Body water deficits
challenge the ability of the body to maintain homeostasis
during perturbations (e.g., sickness, physical exercise, or
climatic stress) and can impact function and health. Total
water intake includes drinking water, water in other bever-
ages, and water (moisture) in food.”
Good hydration has been shown to reduce the risk of constipation, exercise induced asthma hyperglycemia in diabetics, and is associated with a reduction in urinary tract infections, hypertension and fatal coronary heart disease, to name a few.
How much water do I need?
There are many factors which can dictate an individuals recommended water intake, such as gender, age, activity output, social environment, genetic background, cultural backgrounds etc. however the estimated average requirements for men is 3.5L a day, and for women is 2.5L a day. Now this may seem like a LOT of water to get through each and every day, so it is a good idea to see what this amount looks like in terms of bottles/ cups. Make sure you have a cup or bottle on hand throughout the day and try to get close to that intake.
How does exercise affect my hydration?
The more physical activity we engage in, the more water we need to effectively hydrate our body. Insufficient water intake whilst participating in an endurance based, strenuous sport or exercise can lead to dehydration. Dehydration has a negative impact on exercise performance and can cause an increased strain on the cardiovascular system (circulation), increase heat strain (core body temperature), and alter central nervous system function and metabolic function. Indicating that dehydration will have adverse effects on exercise performance when associated with higher core temperatures, heart rates, and increased physical exertion. So if you want to put yourself in the best position to get the most out of your exercise, keep hydrated!
How do I stay hydrated?
Hydrate. We easily mistake thirst for hunger, that is, we think we're hungry, but our body is actually dehydrated, so ensure you have a drink bottle on your desk or at hand, and make sure you are drinking from it. Aim to fill up at lunch time and again before leaving work. A glass is another great drinking tool, just be sure to head to the water cooler at regular intervals throughout the day. If drinking water is a bit of a struggle for you, try flavouring your water. Certain fruits and herbs can help keep things interesting, mint and lemon is a great combination with many great health benefits. Coconut water is also another great way to incease hydration along with increasing essential electroltyes in the body.
Whether you’re a competing athlete, a social sports person or someone who simply likes to keep fit, keeping your body well maintained and in good shape is super important for daily activity and injury prevention. We have all experienced the aches, pains and injuries that comes with physical activity at some stage or another, and thus we usually know what it feels like when we really need physical therapy, however do we know how to read the signs our bodies are telling us BEFORE the inevitable injury sets in!?
Well there’s a few ways to help you read these signs. Injuries often have precursors that can present themselves in different ways, some of these include physical and mental exhaustion, tired and aching muscles, loss of flexibility and mobility, muscle fatigue, poor posture and previous history of injuries. It’s sometimes easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of completing workout after workout, run after run, yoga session after yoga session, however we sometimes forget to press pause and recognize what our body is telling us. And when or if any of these signs present, it is so important to schedule your body some time for R&R (rest and recreation recovery!). All bodies are different and therefore require different amounts of time and different approaches to fully recover. The recovery time from bouts of physical exertion depends on factors such as nutrition, sleep, daily activity and therapy. For example, if you eat a well balanced and healthy diet, get enough sleep, spend time unloading the muscles and joints (stretching, mobility, swimming etc.) and get myotherapy regularly for muscle maintenance, you are going to recover much quicker than let’s say, a junk food loving couch potato, that doesn’t sleep a wink nor understands what physical therapy is.
The benefits of using Myotherapy for muscle maintenance and recovery is to flush the muscle of lactic acid and waste products as well as increasing circulation to heal the micro damage in the tissues caused by activity. A myotherapist will restore the muscle to its normal resting length, allowing it to function at its optimal best. Along with the physical changes, you will also be given training and advice on how to self-maintain your body so that you are feeling better for longer.
It is also helpful to know that we are creatures of habit. If you make exercise, rest and recovery a part of your weekly routine, you will find it much easier to schedule in those days to get your regular maintenance and check up. This also works the other way, where we can often try to squeeze too much exercise in succession, ignoring our bodies that are screaming for rest and end up pulling a muscle or rolling an ankle.
So to keep your body well maintained, get in a good habit of listening to your body, recognising early signs of injury and getting physical therapy.