7 EXERCISES TO HELP A STIFF BACK

Does your back feel stiff? Read on to find out how you can improve your thoracic mobility…

Our daily habits make us very prone to stiffness in the thoracic spine, which often makes it hard to stretch, bend or flex your spine, and can lead to back pain and tension. We spend a great deal of time through the day in thoracic flexion (forward bending) e.g. when showering, sitting at a desk, looking at our phone, preparing food, eating, doing housework, etc. 

Unfortunately, our usual daily routines rarely require us to extend our thoracic spine so, unless we go out of our way to do otherwise, we are often stuck in a forward position. Over time this leads to a fixed flexion posture and can be hard to reverse. It becomes especially hard to reverse as we age and, if not addressed, often leads to a great deal of debilitation in later life. 

Poor thoracic mobility can also have flow-on affects into the neck, shoulders and lower back. With our thoracic spine in a flexed position, we are more likely to overload the neck muscles, impinge the shoulder joints and place more pressure on our lower back, especially when sitting through the day. Natural movement, combined with joint mobilising exercises for the thoracic spine can help offset poor habits and help us to improve overall posture and prevent movement restriction later in life.

The following exercises can almost all be done with no equipment, with a couple of exercises only requiring a foam roller and a broomstick.

1. Cobra pose

Start lying face down with toes pointed and hands on the floor underneath your shoulders. Push up through your arms and extend spine as far as you can, ensuring you also lift your head and look straight ahead. You can lock out your elbows if able, otherwise if this feels too extreme you can rest on your forearms. Hold this position for 10 seconds before returning to the starting position. The aim here is to get as much extension through the spine as possible. Repeat 5 times and remember to keep breathing as you stretch.

 

2. Archer stretch 

Lie on your side with your hips and knees bent to 90 degrees, keep your knees together as you arc your top arm up towards the ceiling and continue all the way around onto the floor. Hold for 10 seconds and repeat 5 times. The aim here is to get as much rotation through the spine as possible. Do the same lying on the other side. 

 

3. Child’s pose 

Get on your hands and knees, drop your bottom back onto your heels while keeping your palms firmly planted on the floor. Let your head drop between your arms and push your chest to the floor. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat 3 times. You can get a wider stretch by pushing your knees out to the sides so your legs form a V.

 

 

4. Cat cow stretch

Get on all-fours with your hands directly below your shoulders and knees directly below your hips. Alternate between arching and curling the spine. The aim here is to move your spine through its full range of motion in each direction. Repeat 10 times in each direction.

 

 

 

 

 

 

5. Roller Thoracic extension 

Lying down on a foam roller, with the roller sideways underneath your body, extend back over the roller as far as your feel comfortable. Roll up and down trying to extend the spinal segment above the roller as much as possible. If this feels too intense or uncomfortable you may want to work on the cobra stretch more until you gain more mobility. 

 

6. Thoracic rotation with stick 

Rest broomstick on shoulders and place hands on top of stick at each end. Rotate the spine to the side as far as possible, trying to point the stick to 12 o’clock if able, hold for 5 seconds. Repeat 10 times in each direction.

 

 

7. Thoracic side bends with stick 

Rest broomstick on shoulders and place hands on top of stick at each end. Bent to the side through the spine, trying to point the stick down towards the floor as far as possible, hold for 5 seconds. Repeat 10 times in each direction.

If you’re struggling with back pain, stiffness or just want to help your body grow stronger and healthier, call or book online to have an appointment with a member of our team today.

 

This post was written by Greg Holmes, Physiotherapist at Stafford Physiotherapy and Pilates. 

Conditions we love (Ally): Headaches

We should start with a disclaimer… We don’t love these conditions themselves; we love treating them!

Headaches a

nd migraines can be a very debilitating condition suffered by a large percentage of the population (1 in 20 people!). They can range from mild pain, lasting just a few hours, to severe throbbing pain causing the sufferer to be unable to leave their house for days.

I have been fortunate enough to learn how to diagnose and treat headaches from Dean Watson, the founder of the Watson Headache Approach. I have found it to be a very rewarding method of treatment with the main aim of treatment being to identify the cervical (neck) joint that reproduces your area of headache pain.

Typically, people come into the clinic with a headache and through the assessment of the upper cervical spine segments we usually find the joint that intensifies the exact head pain they get. They are then so relieved when maintaining pressure on that joint referring to their headache pain that their head pain resolves. It is this ‘reproduction and resolution’ of head pain that is so powerful in desensitising the brainstem, which is the underlying disorder of headache and migraine sufferers. 

I love that it is a drug free intervention that is successful in reducing headaches in 80% of headache or migraine sufferers. I especially love it when I can relieve the headache of someone who has been suffering for years and thought that they just have to put up with it forever. I find it to be a very systematic and reproducible method of treatment that does actually work, with results starting from the very first session. 

EXERCISE

Here is my favorite headache exercise. It is best done when you are just feeling the onset of head pain or any associated symptoms that precede your headache.

Hold this for 20seconds or until the headache subsides.

Repeat up to 5 times in a row.

If you’d like a to see Ally or one of our other physios regarding your headaches (or any other issues!), please call or book online.


This post was written by Allyson Flanagan, Physiotherapist and Clinical Pilates Instructor at Stafford Physiotherapy and 
Pilates. 

SANDRA’S 8 FAVOURITE KNEE EXERCISES

To help knee osteoarthritis + other knee conditions

Did you catch our recent blog post on knee osteoarthritis? It can be a real pain in the backside, preventing you from moving as much as you’d like or doing the things you love. Surgery is very much avoidable if we commit to strengthening exercises. So, to get you started, Sandra has shared her favourite knee exercises.

The important muscles to strengthen for a healthy knee are:

  • Quadriceps at the front of the thigh
  • Gluteus medius in the buttock that help control hip rotation and knee alignment.
  • Hamstrings (back of the thigh),
  • Gluteus maximus (buttocks)
  • Calf muscles
  • Foot muscles in the arch

SANDRA’S 8 FAVOURITE KNEE EXERCISES

  1. Wall squat (for quadriceps) OR
  2. Mini squat with band OR
  3. Knee extensions over a towel
  4. Wall stand (standing clam) for gluteus medius
  5. Sit to stand with slow lowering back to sit
  6. Step up and step down
  7. Single leg calf raises
  8. Foot doming

 

< Wall squat

Can be done against the wall or with a ball behind your back. Feet should be about 30cm out from the wall and about 10 cm apart. Slide down to 60 degrees with your knees going over the second toe (you don’t have to go down to 90 degrees). Hold for 6-10 seconds and slide back up. If there is pain in the knee joint, you are too low. If you can’t do this one, try the knee extensions over a towel.

Mini squat with band >

Put an exercise band around your instep on both feet and take your feet slightly wide so that there is tension. Perform a small mini squat short of pain, keeping the knees in good alignment over the second toe.

< Knee extensions over a towel

Place a towel or foam roller under the knee. Keep the knee on the towel and raise your foot until your knee is straight. Hold for 6-10 seconds and slowly lower.

Wall stand >

Face side on to the wall and push your knee to the wall, while taking your weight on the other leg. Hold 6 seconds. To progress, push into the wall with your knee, then lift your foot. You can place a small, soft ball between your knee and the wall. For an advanced exercise, add a bend in the supporting knee. Keep your shoulders and hips facing forward and don’t lean on the wall.

Sit to stand

Choose a higher chair for beginners. Sit and then slowly stand, making sure your knee goes over the second toe and doesn’t sway inward. Lower slowly and you can pause just before your bottom goes onto the seat. To progress, try doing it one legged, but your knee must remain in good alignment over the second toe. You can also try it on a lower chair for an additional challenge.

^ Step up and step down

Choose a small step to begin and slowly step up and lower (knee over second toe)

Calf raises >

Beginners start with 2 legs – go up for 3 seconds, hold, then lower for 3 seconds. Progress to single leg and increase the number gradually. You should aim for 25-30 single leg calf raises. Avoid very hard surfaces like the tiles in the bathroom. Don’t rock forward as you raise up.

< Foot doming

This can be done standing or sitting. Put your foot flat on the ground and then lift your arch, keeping your toes down straight.

 

Things to note:

All exercises should be done in a slow, controlled manner; don’t build up momentum, rock forward, turn your body.

Keep the knee in good alignment – if the knee swings inwards, the exercise needs to be modified.

Keep the head and neck in good alignment too!

During the wall stand and wall squat, make sure the arch of your foot does not collapse inwards – lift your arch.

 

If you’d like one of our physiotherapists to help you with some personalised knee exercises, please call or book online.

 

All about knee osteoarthritis + how we can help (part one)

Knee osteoarthritis (OA) is a common chronic joint disease that causes pain, stops you doing certain activities and can cause you a lot of stress and distress. The symptoms can be pain, stiffness (especially after rest), swelling and tenderness. Often people find it harder to squat, kneel, walk up stairs, get up from a low chair and some have pain that stops them from sleeping.

Research shows that strengthening exercises improve pain and function. Surgery is not inevitable if we look after our knees by supervised exercise that progresses within limits.

Physiotherapists are the best heath and exercise professional to advise you about your knee exercises, where to start, how to adjust the exercises if your pain flares and how to progress your exercises safely to prevent further damage. We have studied the anatomy, the pathology (disease), the latest effective evidence based exercise regimes and we know how to treat the symptoms.

 

Physiotherapy can help in a number of ways:
  • We can conduct a thorough assessment of your knees and provide you with an accurate diagnosis as well as education to help explain why you are experiencing your pain and stiffness
  • We can mobilise (move) the joints of the knee. This can be for pain relief, to increase circulation to the area or to stretch tight structures.
  • We can teach specific strengthening exercises for the hips, knees, ankles and feet; especially the quadriceps and gluteals. This can improve joint alignment and correct muscle imbalances
  • We can strap the knee to improve movement, reduce pain and decrease swelling
  • We can use dry needling and western acupuncture to help release tight muscles around the area and relieve pain
  • We can use cupping to help release the ITB (iliotibial band) and other tight muscles
  • We can advise you on what activities that you can do that you enjoy (even if it is modified)
  • We can give you strategies to cope with the pain (like relaxation and distraction, local heat or ice).
STAY TUNED FOR PART 2: SANDRA’S FAVOURITE KNEE EXERCISES, TO HELP KNEE OSTEOARTHRITIS + OTHER KNEE CONDITIONS
Definitions:

Osteo = Bone Arthro = joint Itis = inflammation
Chronic = pain that persists for over 12 weeks
Femur = thigh bone
Hamstrings = Thigh muscle at the back that bends the knee
ITB (iliotibial band) = fascia at the side of the thigh that goes from the top of the thigh to below the knee.
Muscle imbalance = Often the inner (medial) thigh quadriceps weakens and the outer (lateral) quad pulls the knee cap towards it. This can happen for people who don’t exercise and for people who do a lot of fast exercises and no slow weight bearing exercise
Patella = knee cap
Quads (quadriceps muscle) = front thigh muscle that straightens the knee
Tibia = shin bone
Total Knee Replacement = a surgical procedure to replace the weight-bearing surfaces of the knee joint to relieve pain and disability Parts the tibia and femur are replaced to create an artificial joint.
Knee Reconstruction = surgical procedure to replace the torn ACL (anterior cruciate ligament). This is not done for Knee OA.
VMO (vastus medialis obliquus) = the inner part of the quadriceps (front thigh muscle) that helps stabilise the knee cap

Matthew Reed physiotherapist at Stafford Physio and Pilates

Meet Our Team: Matt

We’ve recently welcomed Matthew Reed to the Stafford Physiotherapy and Pilates team. Matt’s claim to fame is that he has treated members of the royal family! Now he’s joined our team and is ready to give you the royal treatment! 


What motivates you?
Keeping up to date with the latest research and trends in physiotherapy. This motivates me because the more I continue to learn, the more my patients benefit in the long term.

What’s your favourite 3pm snack? Peanut butter straight from the jar.

What do you enjoy most about your job? Making a difference to people’s lives by optimising their body to move pain free and efficiently.

What’s your favourite part of the day? Getting in an early morning surf (pic for inspo).

If you weren’t a physio, what would you be? A skipper on a charter boat in the Mentawaiis.

What’s your favourite restaurant/ cafe? The Yiros shop.

Would you rather dance, or do karaoke? Karaoke with some daggy dance moves to spice up the performance. Suspicious minds, Elvis.

Read more about Matt here. 

Meet Our Team: Greg

We’re very excited to welcome Greg Holmes to Stafford Physiotherapy and Pilates. Greg is a skilled physiotherapist with broad experience, including treating spinal injuries and sports teams. 


What motivates you? 
I’m motivated by working in a friendly and energetic environment.

What’s your favourite 3pm snack? If I could eat anything at 3pm it would be dark chocolate TimTams and an iced coffee.

What do you enjoy most about your job? I get a lot of satisfaction from problem solving and helping people feel their best.

What’s your favourite part of the day? My favourite part of the day is taking my rescue greyhound Honey for a walk along the river.

If you weren’t a physio, what would you be? If I could do anything, I’d start my own pizzeria or do something else related to food.

What’s your favourite restaurant/ cafe? Choosing my favourite restaurant is really hard, but if I had to pick one I’d say Sum Yung Guys at Sunshine Beach.

Would you rather dance, or do karaoke? I would dance to Mr Brightside by The Killers while obnoxiously singing along.

Read more about Greg here. 

Returning to running after pregnancy

When is it safe to return to running after pregnancy? You ran before you got pregnant. You might have continued running during pregnancy. And now you’ve had the baby and you’re keen to get your joggers back on and hit the pavement once again. So when is it safe to do so?

There is a general lack of evidence-based research around returning to running in the postnatal period. Running is a high impact activity which places a significant load on the entire body, especially the pelvic floor muscles. The most recent guidelines* are from 2019 and suggest waiting a minimum 12 weeks after birth. The guidelines also suggest that women meet a series of criteria for adequate strength of the pelvic floor and lower body muscles before hitting the pavement again.

The first 12 weeks after birth is commonly referred to as the 4th trimester. There is still a large amount of relaxin in your body, which means the connective tissue, such as ligaments, is still more stretchy than normal. Your body is still recovering from birth during this period, especially if you had perineal tears, episiotomies, a caesarian section or any other complications. The pelvic floor muscles are weak after pregnancy and birth and you may have symptoms that indicate these muscles need strengthening.

Symptoms of pelvic floor weakness can include:

  • Incontinence – leaking, inability to control bladder and/or bowel
  • Heaviness in the vagina
  • Dragging sensation in the vagina and perineal region
  • Pelvic pain

There is strong evidence to support an individualised assessment and structured exercise program for pelvic floor rehabilitation in the management of these conditions. Sandra is qualified to undertake pelvic floor assessments and can refer you to a specialised pelvic floor physiotherapist if needed.

It is also important to be assessed by a physiotherapist if you had a rectus diastasis (abdominal muscle separation). Our physiotherapists can screen for this.

Low impact exercise such as walking is encouraged in the first 3 months (12 weeks) of the postnatal period. Following this a graded return to a running program should be implemented to build lower limb strength and gradually introduce loading again to the pelvic floor muscles.

Call us today to get started!

* Reference: Returning to Running Postnatal – guidelines for medial, health and fitness professionals managing this population. Tom Goom, Grainne Donnelly and Emma Brockwell. March 2019

 

If you’d like one of our physiotherapists to help you get running again post-pregnancy, please call or book online.

 

This post was written by Lucy Beumer, Sports and Exercise Physiotherapist and Clinical Pilates Instructor at Stafford Physiotherapy and Pilates. 

Lucy’s back!

We’re very excited to share that Lucy will be back working at the practice shortly! She is looking forward to returning and to working with both current and new patients.

Physiotherapist applying rocktape | Stafford Physiotherapy CentreLucy has an impressive skillset with a Bachelor of Physiotherapy, a Masters of Sports Physiotherapy and further study in dry needling, muscle energy techniques, running biomechanics, kinesiology, taping, diagnostic ultrasound, strength and conditioning coaching, and sports rehabilitation. Read more about Lucy here.

Lucy will be working Wednesdays and Saturdays from July. Her hours are limited so bookings are essential!

 

To book in with Lucy please call or book online.

How to safely return to the gym post COVID

Now restrictions are easing and the gyms are back open, it’s really important that we transition our home workouts back into our gym routines safely, without overloading and injuring ourselves. It’s important that we restrain our excitement, for the moment, take an honest account of our loading in the past few months and plan before we return to lifting with heavier and regular weight again. Our strength will be reduced, so reduce your weight!

Warm up and cool down

Make sure you reintroduce a good 5-10 minute warm up before you commence your sessions. Try to target the area you will be training, if you are training an upper body resistance session for example, you should include some light weight or body weighted exercises targeting that area before loading up! It’s a good idea to have a dynamic stretch or use a foam roller if you have been static and sitting at work all day!

Cool downs are often neglected, however also very important now you are training again. Be sure to stretch after your sessions and grab the foam roller for a few minutes for your legs or upper back to reduce the extra tone that will build up in your muscles, just remember to wipe down after! #COVIDsafe.

Loading

If you haven’t been lifting during the past two months, your body loses strength far faster than you want to believe! Start conservative, reduce your weight to start and aim for higher reps.

Prioritise good movement patterns again first. It’s important to allow some time over the first few weeks for your stabilising muscles to remember how to lift again. If you load up too quickly these muscles can become tight leading to breakdown in movement patterns which can result in injury.

Contain your excitement; you can’t get back two months of minimal training in two weeks, so be patient! Aim for around 10-15% increase in load each week.

If you are unsure of your technique, book in a few sessions with one of our physiotherapists, or an exercise physiologist at the gym, for guidance around movement patterns. This can be much more cost effective than future dealings with an orthopaedic surgeon.

Rest

Rest is very important for any training, particularly if you are changing the loading (weight, frequency or type of training). Your body needs time to adapt and change. You most likely will experience some serious DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) during the first few weeks returning to gym. Listen to your body, it’s ok to experience these DOMS however, if you are feeling pain greater than 2 days post exercise, you should reign it in!

Space out your sessions, make sure you give the worked muscle group a solid 1-2 days recovery before loading up again. If you are training whole body workouts, have rest days between sessions, take time on these days to focus on cardio, stretching, trigger pointing and foam rolling.

It’s important to allow this rest for your muscles to recover and continue to build strength without being overloaded. It might be worthwhile booking in a few regular remedial massages in the next few months.

The biggest risk to injury is this period of load change and building up again. Listen to your body and make sure you follow up with your physio early if you are experiencing altered movement patterns and developing niggles greater than just DOMS. If you can extinguish these niggles early, it’s likely you can continue training and avoid any further time out of the gym.

 

If you’d like one of our physiotherapists to help your injury-free return to the gym, please call or book online.

 

This post was written by Mitch Esdale, Physiotherapist at Stafford Physiotherapy and Pilates. 

COME WORK WITH US!

We have a part time physiotherapy position available from June/July 2020. The hours will be 15-20 hours per week and may include 3 afternoons until 7pm and some Saturday mornings. This will turn into a 3/4 (25-30 hours per week) or full time position in September 2020.

We are located in Stafford, on Brisbane’s northside, just 8kms (or 15 mins drive) from Brisbane CBD. We have a lovely clientele of recreational sports people, workers, school aged children and retired people. We’re close to cafes, restaurants, shopping, Kedron Brook Bikeway and Airport Link tunnel M7.

The case load is predominantly musculoskeletal and Pilates-inspired exercise. Experience in these fields is preferred. Mentoring, in-services and case discussions will be provided. Graduate physiotherapists are welcome to apply. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, in house Pilates training will be given until a practical course is available. We will help you feel confident in your assessment, treatment and ongoing care of patients with manual therapy and exercise prescription.

Send your resume to Sandra Day, sandra@staffordphysio.com.au.

Check out our practice on Facebook and Instagram. This a wonderful opportunity to work in a small and friendly practice where the hours are flexible.