Osteopathy at the Heart of the matter

Valentines Day often paints many pictures of hearts. The heart is the seat of love. It is also a very important organ.

Heart health is not to be taken lightly. It is one of the leading causes of death claiming more than 33, 000 deaths in Canada each year and 1.4 million living with heart disease. Much of the focus for heart health largely ties into lifestyle. For many it means finding ways to be more active and having a closer look at diet. (My dear colleague Kathy Shackleton is great at setting your diet and lifestyle on the right track!) This is truly fundamental, however there are other ways to help the heart.

While often overlooked, or perhaps unknown, Osteopathic Manual Therapy can influence the heart. Osteopathy aims to improve function of structure my removing any restriction to the tissues or organs. This is also done by finding ways to improve the circulation to any afflicted area. One study by Henley et. al. found that osteopathy can influence the heart through direct manipulation of soft tissue and fascia of the neck. This had an affect on the vagal nerve, the autonomic nerve that affects the heart, by lowering heart rate.

This is one of the many ways that Osteopathy can affect the autonomic nervous system, the part of you that reacts to stress, causing physiological responses such as elevated blood pressure and heart rate. Any physical restrictions in the body have the potential to disrupt blood supply. Blood supply is so important because it is the source of nutrients, oxygen, and health to every tissue and cell in the body. Circulation is also a closed system, like a loop. This means that is there is a disruption anywhere in the path of circulation it is going to affect the entire circulation system. Kind of like how a traffic jam affects your overall commute.

When thinking of the heart, look at the big picture. Better circulation means better health.  Love yourself, and give osteopathy a try!

About the author ...

Stacey Ayres, Osteopath Manual Practitioner, Registered Massage Therapist, is the owner of Better Health Clinic, She is a member of the Canadian College of Massage Therapists of Ontario as well as the Ontario Association of Osteopathic Manual Practitioners. Stacey has a particular interest in pediatrics, chronic pain, post trauma and surgery rehabilitation, and fertility.

Sciatica, the original pain in the butt.

What does it mean to have a pain in the butt? Unfortunately, it is one of the most common complaints treated at our clinic. Medically speaking, we’re talking about sciatica. However sciatica is not a diagnosis in it self but merely a symptom of another problem.

Sciatica simply refers to an irritation of the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve begins from nerves of the lumbar spine (low back) and travels through the pelvis, down the back of the leg, and all the way to the foot.  It is, impressively, the longest and thickest nerve in the body. Nerve pain of its nature is typically sharp or tingly. Some might even describe it as an electric shock. It can also present as numbness or weakness. The sciatic nerve may be felt partially or entirely from the low back, to the buttocks and all the way down the back of the leg into the foot. Typically, sciatic pain only occurs on one side.

Any type of irritation to the nerve can cause it to flare. There may be a compression at the spine, such as a disc herniation, lumbar spinal stenosis (narrowing of the spinal canal), degenerative disc disease, or osteophytes (bony growth).  It could also be caused from a vertebrae being out of place or stuck. Another less severe cause could be what is called “piriformis syndrome” (AKA tight a** syndrome). The sciatic nerve passes through, or very close to, a muscle in the buttocks called the pirformis muscle. Sometimes this muscle can be so tight it may impinge the sciatic nerve.

Anyone that has experienced sciatic pain can attest to how annoying and potentially debilitating it can be. To prevent it much of the same advice pertains to back health, as that is often the cause for it.

  • Regular exercise is important, specifically core strengthening. Keeping the back muscles strong helps maintain better alignment of the spine. A personal trainer can be a great asset here to make sure exercises are done properly.
  • Avoid twisting and bending at the same time, this can lead to disc herniation if there is a weakness.
  • Try to avoid sitting all day, but if you must, ensure you have a firm chair with lumbar support. Also, don’t sit on your wallet or phone. This is a common cause for the pelvis to be put out of alignment.

If you do suspect that you have sciatic pain stretching, massage therapy, physical therapy and acupuncture can be great for pain relief. Usually if there is sciatic pain, there are other restrictions and compensations happening in the body that have lead to it. Osteopathy can do wonders in realigning the body and relieving the cause of the pain. If it is persistent (longer than 6 weeks), severe, or accompanies other symptoms, it is a good idea to follow up with your doctor, preferably with imaging (X-ray, or even better MRI). Pain medication and anti-inflammatory medication may be prescribed if your family doctor thinks it’s warranted. Surgery nowadays is largely reserved for the most severe cases and should be a last resort. Depending on the cause sometimes spinal injections may be considered (nerve block or cortisone) by neurologists.

So if you ever have a pain in the butt, just remember we treat the WHOLE body and we’re only a phone call away!

About the author ...

Stacey Ayres, Osteopath Manual Practitioner, Registered Massage Therapist, is the owner of Better Health Clinic, She is a member of the Canadian College of Massage Therapists of Ontario as well as the Ontario Association of Osteopathic Manual Practitioners. Stacey has a particular interest in pediatrics, chronic pain, post trauma and surgery rehabilitation, and fertility.

Why Fad Diets Don’t Work

Most people think of a diet as a temporary plan someone goes on to lose weight. Many times, these diets will have a certain gimmick or theme. Some are too restrictive or too hard to maintain as they eliminate certain foods, and drastically limit or eliminate entire food groups altogether, some involve only shakes and pills and some can be dangerous due to their lack of calories and essential nutrients.
 
These types of diets are popular as many people want that ‘magic pill,’ a quick fix solution to health and weight issues. Supplements and shakes that promote metabolic boosting or curbing hunger often sound very appealing but are unfortunately very short lived.
 
The main problem with fad diets is that many simply don’t work long-term. People often find that they can’t stick with a diet for a long period of time. This is likely due to the fact that many diets aren’t realistic, are too restrictive, too costly, too complicated, or too inconvenient to maintain. 
 
So many programs promote radical and extreme changes that are just not sustainable or family friendly. They can over-complicate how simple a healthy lifestyle can be.
 
We need to reconsider the way we think about food. Rather than thinking about temporarily going on some hot new diet to shed excess weight or achieve some other aspect of wellness, we should be thinking about making achievable, realistic changes that we can sustain for a lifetime. 
 
Knowing where to start is half the battle; realizing that you didn’t get there overnight is another point to consider. Taking back your health is going to take a little time and effort but we are here to help you.
 
Don’t worry about tomorrow. Just think about where you could start today. Perhaps it will be as simple as drinking more water or having one less cup of coffee or making an appointment with our Naturopathic Doctor to discuss hormonal issues or nutrient deficiencies.
 
Consider making conscious choices to incorporate more real foods into your diet rather than food-like products. We have 2 Nutritionists that can work with you to build a plan that is personalized and manageable for you.
 
Our team of Osteopaths and Massage Therapists can also help you achieve a healthier body by getting to the root of pain issues and bringing your body back into balance.
 
When you concentrate on diet and exercise alone, you may be neglecting the issues in your life that caused you to become overweight or sick in the first place. To lead the life you have always envisioned for yourself, you may need to look at why you gained the weight or developed health issues and deal with the emotional component. Our Social Worker, Jordan Smith is here to help guide you in this process.
 
Making changes to your lifestyle is not always easy, even making gradual changes can be overwhelming but the Better Health Team is here to help. ‘You don’t have to see the whole staircase just take the first step.’

About the author ...

Stacey Ayres, Osteopath Manual Practitioner, Registered Massage Therapist, is the owner of Better Health Clinic, She is a member of the Canadian College of Massage Therapists of Ontario as well as the Ontario Association of Osteopathic Manual Practitioners. Stacey has a particular interest in pediatrics, chronic pain, post trauma and surgery rehabilitation, and fertility.