Monday, December 29, 2014

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.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Starting An Exercise Program And Sticking To It

By:  Dr. John A. Papa, DC, FCCPOR(C)

The Christmas season is upon us and this means that New Years resolutions are not far behind.  Starting an exercise program will likely be on many people’s resolution lists.  Below are some helpful tips to help you stick with an exercise program.
Make Exercise Safe:  An exercise that may be considered safe for one individual may not be safe for another due to age, physical limitations, and other health concerns.  If you are not sure where to start, consult with an experienced and knowledgeable individual such as a personal trainer or health care provider who can assist in choosing activities that are appropriate for you.  If you have been inactive for a period of time, gradually ease into activity and take it slow.

Make Exercise Feel Good:  Not only does exercise make you physically stronger; it also has the benefits of releasing excess tension, building self-esteem, and stimulating the body’s natural “feel good” chemicals called endorphins.  Although there may be some initial physical discomfort when beginning a new exercise program, this may be your body’s normal response when starting a new activity and should not last more than one to two weeks.  If discomfort or pain persists beyond this point, consult with an experienced individual to make sure the exercise you are performing is appropriate and being done correctly.

Make Exercise Convenient:  Although incorporating regular exercise into a busy life necessitates some planning and sacrifice, the health benefits can be significant.  Regular exercise must be prioritized.  This may require scheduling exercise into everyday routines and/or making regular exercise as convenient as possible, thereby increasing the likelihood that it remains a priority.  Exercise does not need to be time consuming.  Regular bouts of exercise for as little as 30 minutes a day can have a positive impact on health.

Make Exercise Fun:  Individuals should choose a range of exercise activities that they enjoy.  Performing these activities with a workout buddy, friend, or family member also results in the exercise being more pleasurable.  Those individuals who choose fitness and recreational activities they enjoy are more likely to be consistent with those activities.  Having another individual to share this with will also increase the likelihood that you will stay with the exercise activity.

Individuals beginning an exercise program need to have realistic expectations about the amount of time they can invest, the activities they will enjoy engaging in, and the physical and psychological benefits they expect to experience.  Exercise leads to tremendous health benefits that can be initiated by individuals of any age or shape.  Hopefully we have inspired you to invest in the health of your future.  From all of us at the New Hamburg Wellness Centre, good luck and Seasons 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.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Muscle & Joint Injury First Aid

By:  Dr. John A. Papa, DC, FCCPOR(C)
Physical injury to your muscles and joints can occur with workplace, household, sporting, and recreational activities.  This can cause pain, stiffness, and swelling in a joint or muscle, leading to injuries known as sprains, strains, and contusions.  Initial conservative management and first aid of such injuries should follow the P.R.I.C.E. principle (Protection, Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) outlined below.
PROTECTION:  Immobilize the injured area to protect from further injury.  This can be accomplished with the use of an elastic wrap, brace, splint or sling.  Walking aids such as crutches or a cane can be useful to help you get around.
REST:  To ensure proper healing, rest the injured area and avoid activities that cause pain.  Do not restrict all activities completely.  Other regions of your body can still be used.  This will help prevent physical de-conditioning.  An attempt should be made to return to regular or modified activities as soon as possible provided it does not put you at risk for further injury.
ICE:  Crushed ice, ice cubes, or snow should be molded or applied to an injury site immediately.  Icing will help to reduce pain, swelling, and inflammation in the injured tissues.  Ice application should not exceed 10 to 30 minutes at a time.  Allow for skin temperature to return to normal before ice is reapplied.  This cycle can be repeated as often as necessary within the first 48 to 72 hours.  Ice should not be applied directly to the skin.  Instead, a damp towel should be used to serve as a barrier between the ice and skin and act as a conductor of cold.  Do not apply ice to blisters, open cuts or sores.  Individuals hypersensitive to cold and those who have a circulation problem should avoid ice.
COMPRESSION:  Compress the injured area with an elastic tensor bandage.  This will help decrease swelling.  Do not wrap the bandage too tightly as to cut off circulation.  You should not feel an increase in pain with compression.
ELEVATION:  Elevate the injured area (whenever possible) above the level of the heart, especially at night.  Gravity helps reduce swelling by draining excess fluid.  You should seek immediate medical care under the following circumstances:  a popping sound heard during the injury accompanied by a feeling of joint instability or inability to weight bear; obvious evidence or suspicion of a broken bone, fracture or joint dislocation; or injuries at risk for infection.
By using the P.R.I.C.E. principle after an injury, you can significantly reduce swelling, tissue damage, inflammation, muscle spasms, pain, and recovery time.  In the event that you suffer from ongoing muscle and joint pain following an injury, you should contact a licensed health professional who can diagnose your condition and prescribe appropriate therapy, exercises, and rehabilitation 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.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Holiday Health Tips: Ensure Your Holiday Isn’t A Pain In The Neck

Alberta College and Association of Chiropractors

Enjoying your holiday can easily become a painful experience. Here are some helpful tips from Alberta’s chiropractors to ensure your holiday season is full of joy and pain free: 
  • If you have to drive more than two hours to visit friends and relatives, take a break - get out of your vehicle and stretch. This temporarily restores normal posture, which will help prevent a recurrence of neck or lower back pain or conditions. 
  • When loading your vehicle for the trip, organize your luggage and packages into smaller loads instead of one large suitcase, cardboard box or carrying case. 
  • Wear your seatbelt and adjust vehicle headrests so that they are no more than two inches behind the centre of the back of the head. Many of the estimated 20 million car accident victims suffering whiplash injuries in North America could have prevented much of the injury had their vehicle seat headrests been adjusted properly.  
  • It’s OK to be a couch potato, but don’t slouch on the sofa and don’t fall asleep on the recliner, as two or three vertebrae in the spine can assume a sharp angle. When you sit up, the normal movement is not restored. Chiropractors often see patients walking into their offices with their heads held sideways, because slouching irritates the nerves and blood vessels, causing muscle spasm.
  • Avoid bending directly over the oven door to lift out the turkey. Crouch down, pull out the oven shelf and use your legs for better balance. This helps reduce the potential of unnecessary strain on the lower spine. 
If you experience back, muscle or joint pain, consult a chiropractor. Chiropractors are specialists in back and neck disorders and are specifically trained to diagnose and correct spinal dysfunction.
For more information on chiropractic, visit

Saturday, December 13, 2014

The Benefits Of Strength Training

By:  Dr. John A. Papa, DC, FCCPOR(C)

In our last article we introduced the concept of strength training.  Strength training can play a crucial role in preventing and reducing the signs and symptoms of several diseases and chronic conditions.  Let’s take a closer look at how strength training is specifically related to numerous health benefits.

1.    Strength training plays a key role in body composition and weight management.  Strength training builds lean muscle tissue.  Lean muscle tissue burns more calories at rest than fat.  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 is safe and beneficial for reducing 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.    There is strong scientific evidence that supports resistance training for reducing the rate of bone loss.  Progressive resistance exercise helps stimulate bone mineral density development, which is desired for individuals of all ages, especially the elderly.  Strength training is crucial at younger ages for maximizing bone density, and also for those looking to prevent or slow-down the bone-thinning disease osteoporosis.  Strength training should be implemented as a standard component of any osteoporosis treatment or prevention program, 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.  Well-conditioned muscles help our bodies withstand occupational, recreational, and everyday stresses.  This enables us to interact with our environment in a more efficient manner.  Strength training helps improve overall strength, endurance, stamina, flexibility, balance and coordination.  This can be especially 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.

5.    Strength training may also have a positive effect for those suffering from mild depression.  The reason for this is most likely two-fold.  Physiologically, the body releases “feel good” chemicals called endorphins with physical activity.  Psychologically, strength training exercise may help to increase self-esteem and confidence.  These benefits are further reinforced when an individual attains improved body composition and appearance, and enhanced health and fitness.

There are numerous health benefits associated with strength training exercise.  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 personal trainer or health care provider before beginning any new exercise program.

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 8, 2014

An Introduction To Strength Training

By:  Dr. John A. Papa, DC, FCCPOR(C)

Strength training is used as a general phrase synonymous with other common terms such as “weightlifting” and “resistance training”.  Strength training is exercise that uses resistance or weights to strengthen and enhance a muscle’s ability to contract and do work.

There are numerous health benefits to regular strength training.  Strength training can assist in preventing and/or reducing the signs and symptoms of numerous diseases and chronic conditions such as obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, arthritis, and mild depression.  Strength training can also help individuals recover from injury, prevent injury, and improve endurance, stamina, flexibility, balance and coordination.

Well-conditioned muscles help support our bodies to withstand occupational, recreational, and everyday physical stresses.  This enables us to interact with our environment in a more efficient manner.  Unless an individual strength trains regularly, they will lose 0.5 pounds of muscle every year of their lives after the age of 25.  This physiological fact of human aging can have a significant impact on health and well-being.

Strength training exercises can be accomplished many different ways.  Individuals may choose to join a health club where they can have access to conventional weight-training equipment.  Strength training can also be performed at home with the use of hand-held "free weights" or homemade weights.  Resistance bands and tubing are another inexpensive option.  These elastic cords offer weight-like resistance when you pull on them.  An individual can also use their own body weight while performing push-ups, pull-ups, dips, abdominal crunches, 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.  With regular strength training, the average individual can increase strength by 50% or more within six months.  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.

Strength training exercises should be appropriately geared toward the physical capabilities of the individual.  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.  Those unsure of where to start should consult with a knowledgeable health professional.

There are numerous health benefits associated with regular strength training exercise for people of all ages.  Join us next time when we take a closer look at how strength training is intricately related to health.

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.

Friday, December 5, 2014

A Good Pillow

Ontario Chiropractic Association

A good pillow for sleeping should be comfortable to lay your head upon, but most importantly it must support your neck keeping it in alignment with the rest of your spine. There are many different pillows on the market today from traditional feather and fiber ones to shaped pillows, memory foam and buckwheat pillows. It can be difficult to know what to choose.
There is no one “best” pillow for everyone. Try these tips to pick the pillow that’s right for you.
  • Choose a size of pillow suitable for your body size or frame. The pillow should cover the entire back of your neck to avoid putting pressure on your spine.
  • Try out the pillow. Most pillows are packaged in a plastic wrapper so you can lay it on a display bed in the store and put your head on it. This is the best way to find out if you are on the right track.
  • A hypoallergenic pillow is a must if you suffer from allergies, but it is also a good choice for anyone.
  • Buckwheat filled pillows have become increasingly popular. Buckwheat is hypoallergenic, it will mold to the contours of your head and neck providing good support, but it will also change shape when you move.
A good quality, supportive pillow provides many benefits including a better night’s sleep, improved circulation, fewer aches and pains and even reduced snoring. Take your time and choose carefully. Your neck and back will thank you for it!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Understanding Sciatica

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

The sciatic nerve is the longest nerve in the human body.  It is made up of five separate nerve roots originating from the low back region on each side, and runs from your pelvis through your buttock and hip area and down the back of each leg.  It controls many of the muscles in your legs and provides feeling to your thighs, lower legs and feet.

"Sciatica" is a common term used to describe any type of pain/symptom that radiates into the leg.  "True sciatica" occurs when there is a mechanical and/or inflammatory irritation directly affecting any component of the sciatic nerve.  This differs from “referred” pain/symptoms which can arise from a bone, joint or muscle that can send pain/symptoms into the leg.

True sciatic symptoms may be felt almost anywhere along the nerve pathway.  These symptoms can radiate from the low back region, into the hip or buttock, and down the leg, into the calf, and even the toes.  The symptoms can vary widely and may include:  a cramping or achy feeling, tightness, burning or a sharp electric shock sensation, numbness, tingling, and leg muscle weakness.  The symptoms may start gradually and intensify over time.  Activities such as bending forward or to the side, walking, prolonged sitting or standing, and even coughing or sneezing may aggravate sciatica.

Below is a brief summary of three common causes of true sciatica:

1.    Spinal disc herniation/bulge – Spinal discs separate and cushion lumbar vertebra.  Repetitive and cumulative loads or a single heavy load has the potential to cause a disc bulge or herniation, thereby causing a mechanical and/or inflammatory irritation of the nerve root(s).  This most commonly occurs in adults aged 20-50.

2.   Degeneration and Osteoarthritis – The normal aging process causes lumbar disc degeneration, osteoarthritis of lumbar joints, and occasionally vertebral slippage.  The consequence of these processes is that mechanical irritation from bony spurs and vertebrae along with inflammation can cause symptoms of sciatica.  This most commonly occurs in adults over 50.

3.   Lumbar spinal stenosis – This condition causes sciatica due to narrowing of the spinal canal and/or nerve pathways.  This puts pressure on the spinal cord or nerve roots and causes neurovascular irritation.  This most commonly occurs in adults over 60.  It is usually secondary to degeneration and osteoarthritis.

Other causes of "true sciatica" include: direct irritation of the sciatic nerve by the piriformis muscle; direct trauma or injury to the sciatic nerve or nerve roots; and postural and mechanical changes associated with pregnancy.  Some common causes of sciatic-like symptoms or "referred" pain include: muscular trigger points and ligament sprains from the low back, hip, gluteal and pelvic regions; sacroiliac joint dysfunction; and arthritic low back, hip and knee joints.

Sciatica is a set of symptoms of a problem, rather than a diagnosis for what is irritating the nerve and causing the pain.  This is an important point to consider because the treatment for sciatica will often be different depending on the underlying cause of the symptoms.  Therefore, it is important to obtain an accurate diagnosis.  A proper medical history, along with physical examination consisting of range of motion, strength, neurological and orhopaedic testing, along with diagnostic imaging (if necessary) should be performed to aid in the diagnosis.  It is extremely important to rule out rare causes of sciatic symptoms such as spinal tumors and infections.  Individuals with a loss of bowel or bladder control may be experiencing cauda equina syndrome and should be referred immediately for emergency care.

When sciatica strikes, there are conservative treatment options available.  These may include: mechanical traction, spinal manipulation and mobilization, soft tissue techniques, acupuncture, ice/heat application, electrotherapy, and rehabilitative exercise. A qualified health professional can determine the cause of your sciatica and prescribe appropriate therapy, exercises, and rehabilitation 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.