Wednesday, December 30, 2015

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.

Monday, December 28, 2015

MSK Health Tips For The Holidays

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.

Monday, December 21, 2015

How To Make Exercise A Regular Habit

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

Regular exercise has long been identified as an essential element of good health.  Despite this fact, many struggle to make exercise a regular habit.  Below are some helpful tips that can help individuals stick with an exercise program.

Make Exercise Convenient:  Incorporating regular exercise into a busy life necessitates some planning and sacrifice so it becomes a priority.  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 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 a knowledgeable 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 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 satisfying.  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 also increases the likelihood that you will continue with the exercise activity.
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, seek advice from an experienced individual to make sure the exercise you are performing is appropriate and being done correctly.

Make Exercise Practical:  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.

Regular exercise leads to tremendous health benefits that can be initiated by individuals of any age or shape.  For more information on health, wellness, and exercise, 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.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Snow Shovelling Advice

By Dr. Greg Lusk, DC

Each year at this time the Ontario Chiropractic Association launches its "Lift Light, Shovel Right" campaign as shovelling snow becomes a more frequent part of our routines.  However, similar to gardening in the spring, soreness and pain in the body can result from resumption of these activities.  With respect to shovelling, commonly affected areas include the low back, neck, and shoulders.  Not surprising if you consider that each shovel load weighs on average 5-7 pounds and that many repetitions are required.  It all adds up!  Shovelling can be a pain, both figuratively and literally, but here are some tips to reduce the risk.

First off, taking care of a few preparatory items is important.  Wear good footwear to reduce the likelihood of a slip and fall as that can cause a multitude of other injuries.  Layering clothing is advisable to keep the body warm and dry so you don't get a chill.  Staying well hydrated is also necessary for optimal performance of an active body...even when it's cold outside and/or you don't "feel" thirsty.  Ensure that you have an appropriately sized shovel for your abilities and fitness level.  With a large shovel you may be able to complete the job quickly but you increase your risk of injury.  And finally, warm up for 5-10 minutes by doing a few sets of stairs or a short walk before you start.  A warmed up body, ready for activity, is one less likely to suffer pain and discomfort.

While shovelling, it is best to push snow as much as possible to limit both lifting and throwing actions, which are harder on the body.  When throwing onto or over a snow bank be sure to not twist and turn through the spine but pivot at your hips and ankles/feet.  With lifting, bend at your hips and knees, keep your back straight and your stomach tightened up (i.e. spine neutral and "braced").  Lower your bottom hand as close to the blade as possible which will keep the load close to your body, decreasing the effects of leverage and effectively making the load lighter.  Also, watch out for icy patches.  With thawing and re-freezing, ice can form which not only increases the slip and fall risk but it is much more difficult to remove.  You can have substantial jarring when you push into an ice ridge with those forces being absorbed by your body.  Depending on your level of physical fitness, purchasing an ice chipper may be a wise decision.

Other considerations to minimize your risk of experiencing pain with snow shovelling include attacking the job in small batches so you can recover between bouts.  Recruiting additional help from your spouse, partner, kid(s), or a friend makes the job smaller and possibly even enjoyable.  Maybe a snow ball fight breaks out, without ice chunks of course.  'Tis the season after all.  Just make sure you don't hit the cars!  Taking breaks, as necessary, can also help alleviate strains and fatigue.  Furthermore, maintaining a friendly relationship with a snow-blower owning neighbour is not a bad idea.  Paying for a tank of gas or some other simple, appreciative gesture can go a long way toward keeping your shovelling to a minimum!

Stop shovelling if you experience sudden or prolonged muscle or joint pain and consider seeing a health care professional if it persists longer than a few days.  If you experience severe chest pain contact a medical doctor immediately.  This article is for general information purposes only and is not to be taken as professional medical advice.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Preparation And Conditioning For Skiing And Hockey

Canadian Chiropractic Association
Winter can be a splendid and enjoyable time of year, especially if you love winter sports like
downhill skiing and hockey. These Canadian favourites are enjoyed by many during the winter months, but do pose some risks to your muscles and joints if you are not adequately prepared.
Commonly, muscles that work to internally rotate the hips are activated and engaged during skiing – key for maintaining balance and coordination1. A great way to condition the body and build muscle memory for skiing is to practice your technique with the use of balance boards, in-line skates, or sports that require quick movements and changes of direction. Another important aspect to skiing is the need for endurance and stamina. Interval training is a great tool to build endurance, where you maximize your input for short bouts of time. The gains made through interval training can translate into meaningful improvements to your overall endurance2; however, as with all activities, progression is key.
Another great winter activity is our beloved hockey. Hockey involves a combination of endurance and explosive activity, which requires the body to be conditioned aerobically and for muscular strength3. For example, skating for long durations can serve as great aerobic practice; whereas exercises such as short sprints, box jumps and TABATAs will help build anaerobic capacity, as well as your ability to do the aggressive bursts required for the sport.
If you are an avid skier or hockey player, now is the time to start preparing your body for the season. Here are some general tips to help prevent injury:

Maximize Joint and Muscle Function

With sports like skiing and hockey, maintaining good muscle and joint range of motion is important. Building mobility is key to preventing injuries. Your chiropractor can help you improve your joint and muscle function, as well as provide some guidance on how to best increase your mobility safely based on your individual goals and needs. The earlier you start, the better prepared you will be.

Warm-Up and Stretch

Prior to hitting the ice or the hills, it is always advisable to warm-up. Start with gentle activities such as walking or skating to increase the blood flow to your muscles. You may also want to do gentle stretches before you play to help prevent injuries. Better yet, consider working on your overall mobility before the season begins to enhance your athleticism and improve your performance. You can use the Straighten Up Canada app to help you move during the day, or you can try our hockey stretches, which you can also apply to skiing as well.

Check Your Equipment

You should always ensure that your equipment fits and is in good working condition before you begin the season. Your equipment supports and protects your body from injury while you enjoy your favorite activities. If you need to buy new equipment for the season, ask a professional to help you find the best equipment for your needs.

Brush Up on Your Technique – Take a Lesson if Necessary

Bad habits or poor technique in any sport can increase the risk of injury. Agility and technique can greatly enhance your performance in winter sports like hockey and skiing, so it’s extra important to spend time learning new skills. Even avid skiers and hockey players take the time to practice skills and drills before they start playing and competing. Consider lessons with a professional to refine, practice or even learn new technique before you begin the season.
Your healthcare team including your chiropractor, can also help you prepare for your winter sports. Meet with them to discuss the sports you’ll be participating in this winter to make sure your body is ready and for strategies to decrease the risk of injury.

1. The, Get ready for Skiing,
2.  Troy Flanagan, Base training and injury prevention for Skiing,
3. Sports Fitness Advisor,

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Key Components To Weight Loss Success

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

A healthy weight puts less stress on the muscles, joints and biological systems of the body.  It also provides an individual with increased self-esteem, confidence, energy, and everyday productivity.  This article helps identify key components that can be implemented for safe and effective weight loss.

1. Exercise helps keep you lean:  Regular physical exercise such as strength and aerobic training plays an important role in weight management.  Strength training burns calories, improves body composition by building lean muscle tissue, and thereby reduces fat stores in the body.   Aerobic training also burns calories and helps control blood sugar levels.    Current guidelines recommend 30 to 45 minutes of exercise, 3 to 5 times per week.  Be sure to incorporate components of strength and aerobic training to ensure you are getting the full benefits of exercise.

2. When it comes to diet, many things count:  The average individual should consume 1,400 to 2,000 calories per day to meet the body’s total energy needs for daily functioning.  Simply put, any extra calories consumed above what is required for daily functioning will contribute to an increase in weight gain.  Sensible eating should consist of nutritional balance with the correct proportion of quality carbohydrates, proteins, and healthy fats.  Individuals should avoid refined sugars and starches, along with trans-fats.  Refined sugars and starches adversely disrupt blood sugar and put your body into fat storage mode, while trans-fats pack many unnecessary calories.  Successful weight loss can be attained by planning your meals, cutting down serving sizes, eliminating unhealthy snacking, and minimizing foods that can be detrimental to your health.

3. Increase water intake:  Water contains zero calories and is a great fluid replacement for other high calorie drinks such as alcohol and sodas/carbonated drinks.  Drinking water before meals can help kick-start metabolism and act as an appetite suppressant.  Water also regulates metabolism by assisting with lubrication, digestion, and transportation of nutrients.

4. Get enough sleep and rest:  Research suggests that people who do not sleep for six to eight hours per night are more prone to weight gain.  Regular restful sleep allows for important biological systems to recover and recharge.  Without this rest, the additional stress on the body will activate the release of cortisol, a hormone that is linked to weight gain.  In addition, sleep deprivation is believed to affect appetite hormones which can contribute to food cravings and overeating.

5. Ask for help:  Achieving weight loss is not always simple.  Whether you are dealing with a medical condition, require help rehabilitating from a physical injury, or need advice on exercise, diet or nutrition, surround yourself with healthcare professionals who can help you reach your weight loss goal.

For additional information on diet, exercise, managing weight loss, and improving your physical health, 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 7, 2015

Repetitive Strain Injury

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

Repetitive strain injury (RSI) is a type of disorder that primarily affects muscles, nerves and joints.  This includes conditions such as rotator cuff and achilles tendonitis, carpel tunnel syndrome, neck tension syndrome, bursitis, golfer’s elbow, tennis elbow, and plantar fasciitis.  Symptoms of RSI may include restricted mobility, weakness, numbness, tingling, burning sensations, swelling, redness, sharp and/or aching pain.  In its severest form, RSI can significantly limit physical functioning and render people incapable of carrying out even simple tasks.

RSI can affect anyone involved in activities that require rapid and/or repetitive motion of muscles and joints in work, sport, or leisure activities.  It is more likely to happen if these movements are combined with awkward posture(s), excessive force, poor technique, and using the wrong equipment or tool.  Physical deconditioning can also make individual's susceptible to RSI.  As a result, RSI can affect a broad variety of people including:  trade workers such as electricians, painters, and carpenters; recreational athletes such as tennis players and golfers; and labourers such as cleaners and assembly line workers.  Video gaming, computer use, holding one's phone between the neck and shoulder, and even hobbies like knitting and playing a musical instrument are associated with RSI.

While most cases of RSI are treatable, it can recur and may become chronic without appropriate management.  Pain in one area of the body may also spread to other areas as the body tries to compensate.  For example, pain in the wrist can move to the forearm, shoulder joint and neck muscles as an individual attempts to avoid pain and symptoms while continuing to perform the offending activities.  Therefore, prevention is key to managing RSI.  This is accomplished through identifying and then altering or eliminating the situations that contribute to the cause of RSI.  This may include making changes to a work station, using the correct tools/equipment, taking breaks to relax overworked muscles and joints, and performing exercises to relieve stress and strengthen the affected parts of your body.

Chiropractors are healthcare professionals skilled in evaluating, maintaining and restoring physical function.  They can provide education to help prevent RSI and offer effective therapy to help relieve symptoms that have already developed.  This may include treatment options such as joint mobilizations, specialized soft tissue therapy, acupuncture, and electrotherapy.  In addition, a chiropractor can advise you on modifications to your work environment as well as assist you in improving work habits and postures.  Specific rehabilitative exercise prescription that includes strengthening and stretching exercises, combined with aerobic conditioning, may also be part of your treatment plan to prevent recurrence of RSI.

If RSI is affecting your ability to get through the day and keeping you away from your favourite activities, consider chiropractic care.  A chiropractor will assess your symptoms, diagnose your condition, and recommend a treatment plan to put you on the road to recovery.  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 2, 2015

Injury Prevention Tips For Hockey Players

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

Hockey is a popular recreational sport enjoyed by individual's of all ages and abilities.  Due to the high speed and aggressive play involved, hockey can put players at risk for injury.  Although sticks, pucks, and skate blades can do damage, most hockey-related injuries occur due to collisions with other players and the boards.  Fatigue and low energy of participants due to poor endurance, insufficient rest, or too much ice time can also make them more likely to get hurt.

Most hockey injuries involve the upper body, and can include fractures, sprains and strains of the collarbones, hands, arms, and shoulders.  Low back, groin, hip, knee, and ankle injuries also occur frequently.  Concussions are the most common type of head injury and are often accompanied by neck injury/pain.

Included below are some tips to help players avoid and/or minimize the chances of muscle and joint injuries.

1.    Proper training is important.  A good training program should involve cardiovascular, stretching, and strengthening exercises.

  • Cardiovascular training will increase endurance and decrease fatigue, which has been linked to injuries.
  • A comprehensive stretching program for the back, arms, shoulders, thighs, and legs should be performed both before and after games to keep muscles limber and prevent stiffness and soreness.
  • Strengthening programs improve a muscle’s ability to contract and perform joint movement.  Muscles also act as important shock absorbers and help prevent sprains and strains of vulnerable regions such as the back and neck, along with the shoulder, hip and groin regions.

2.    Get enough rest and hydration.  Since fatigue is one of the most common causes of injury, even the fittest players should often take breaks to rest.  Dehydration affects your energy level and your physical functioning.  Drink plenty of fluids before, during, and after play.

3.    Use the right equipment.  Properly fitting gear can make a world of difference when it comes to avoiding injury.  Replace worn out equipment.  Helmets have a life span of three to five years, depending on how often they are used.  Helmets with face shields have been proven to reduce the severity of concussions regardless of the player's experience level and position when compared to visors alone.

4.    Respect the rules.  Promote sportsmanship and fair play.  Support a zero tolerance rule for illegal checks and maneuvers.

5.    Take care of injuries before returning to play.  This will ensure top physical functioning and help prevent further injury and chronic pain.

Chiropractors are healthcare professionals skilled in the diagnosis and treatment of hockey-related injuries.  In the event that you suffer a muscle or joint injury while playing hockey that does not subside,  consider chiropractic care.  For more information, visit  The author credits the Ontario Chiropractic Association (OCA) in the preparation of this educational information for use by its members and the public.

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.