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Archive for category: Sports and Leisure

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The Benefits of Hydrotherapy

Guest Blogger: Carolyn Rocca, Occupational Therapist

Water has long been associated with health and healing, making it an excellent tool for rehabilitation. Hydrotherapyalso referred to as pool therapy or aquatic therapy, is one way in which water can be used for therapeutic purposes following injury or illness.

Hydrotherapy refers to water-based treatments or exercises aimed to enable physical rehabilitation, fitness, and relaxation for therapeutic purposes. Treatments and exercises are performed while floating, partially submerged, or fully submerged in water, usually in specialized temperature-controlled pools. The key difference between this form of therapy and land therapy is that movement is facilitated by the physical properties of water, particularly it’s density and specific gravity, hydrostatic pressure, buoyancy, viscosity, and thermodynamics (Becker, 2009).

Due to the specific facilitating properties of water, hydrotherapy can have several benefits for people who have loss or restriction of joint motion, strength, mobility, or function as a result of a specific disease or injury. Aquatic therapies are beneficial in the management of musculoskeletal issues, neurological conditions, and cardiopulmonary problems. More specifically, there is evidence to support that people with fibromyalgia, arthritis, multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, stroke, and chronic pain, as well as people who have undergone surgeries such as total knee and total hip replacements, can significantly benefit from aquatic therapy (CARI, 2014).

The benefits of hydrotherapy will depend on the purpose of why it is being used in your rehabilitation plan, what it is aiming to target, and the type of exercise being completed in the water. In general, there is evidence to support that within a wide range of ages and abilities, hydrotherapy may help people to increase their endurance and strength, improve balance and postural control, reduce perceived pain and muscle spasms, reduce joint pain and stiffness, aid in gait retraining, and improve functional mobility. Additional benefits can include the facilitation of relaxation, improved quality of life, as well as providing opportunities for socialization (CARI, 2014).

A key to the success of many hydrotherapy procedures is the constant attendance and guidance provided by a trained therapist. This can be any rehabilitation professional, such as a physical therapist, occupational therapist, PTA/OTA, etc., who has taken additional and specific training in basic or advanced aquatic physical therapy. The rehab professional’s expertise will be able to match your abilities with the appropriate properties of water to achieve an optimum balance between facilitation and challenge. By adjusting the immersion temperature, type, and intensity of activity, level of resistance, use of equipment, and treatment duration the therapist will be able to assist your recovery by gradually increasing the amount of challenge to eventually help you to transition to land exercises.

An added bonus to the therapeutic benefits of aquatic therapy is that it can help to introduce or re-connect you to a leisure interest, and can offer a social outlet. For example, a current client of mine has recently begun pool therapy following injuries sustained in a motor-vehicle collision. Not only will this help in her recovery while she begins to regain strength and function in her legs, but will also re-connect her to her passion for swimming, as this was something she loved to do with friends prior to her accident. Additionally, there is evidence to support that infants and toddlers with mobility impairments that engaged in aquatic therapy can experience significant functional gains in mobility compared to children who solely received land therapy, and that their parents noticed an increase in their socialization and enjoyment while in the pool. In this particular study, the children’s parents then reported an increased willingness and comfort in bringing their children to community pools following aquatic therapy (McManus, & Kotelchuck, 2007), therefore further increasing their future leisure and social opportunities.

Thus, hydrotherapy has the potential to improve physical function, as well as increase community involvement, socialization opportunities, and participation in physical activities. Additionally, this form of therapy can be appropriate and beneficial for all ages and abilities. If you feel that hydrotherapy may be a great addition to your rehabilitation and recovery, speak to your rehabilitation professional about some of the opportunities available in your community.

References & Resources

Becker, B. E. (2009). Aquatic therapy: scientific foundations and clinical rehabilitation applications. PM&R, 1(9), 859-872.

Canadian Aquatic Rehab Instructors (CARI) website: http://www.aquaticrehab.ca/

Canadian Aquatic Rehab Instructors (CARI) website link to research (2014). Retrieved from http://www.aquaticrehab.ca/research

McManus, B. M., & Kotelchuck, M. (2007). The effect of aquatic therapy on functional mobility of infants and toddlers in early intervention. Pediatric Physical Therapy, 19(4), 275-282.

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Try Yoga for Improved Focus and Self-Regulation in Children

Guest Blogger Jana Maich, Occupational Therapist

Working as an occupational therapist in pediatrics, I am always on the lookout for simple strategies I can offer to parents and classroom teachers that can be easily be implemented. One of the main difficulties expressed to me by concerned parents or teachers is that a child is having difficulty controlling their activity level, focusing or attending, or controlling emotional outbursts. In other words, a child is having difficulty self-regulating.

What does this mean? Self-regulation is our ability to monitor and control our body’s arousal level (in other words, our level of alertness) in order to remain in an optimal state that is appropriate for the current situation. Self-regulation is critical to being able to attend, focus, and learn (1). When our body’s arousal level gets too “high,” we may feel anxious, nervous, or stressed. When our body’s arousal level gets too “low,” we may feel lethargic, sluggish, or tired. Often unconsciously, adults participate in a variety of self-regulation strategies to remain in an optimum state throughout our day. For example, in a boring meeting where your level of alertness may be “low,” you may tap your pencil, shift in your chair, apply pressure to your mouth or chin with your hands, or drink water in order to bring your arousal level up. After an intense day of work when you may be feeling too “high,” you may take a bath, read a book, or participate in some other sort of relaxation promoting activity (1). There are many ways to regulate ourselves, and just as adults require self-regulation strategies, children do too. Yet, in today’s changing and fast-passed society, children are more stressed than ever before. School demands have increased, daily schedules are jam-packed, and they don’t have as much play or “down” time as kids once did. Unfortunately, unstructured play activities that are critical to a child’s innate self-regulation needs have been replaced by TV and electronics. All of this has ultimately stressed our young generations, resulting in disrupted self-regulation.

Yoga is one activity that has become recognized as a suitable and helpful regulation activity – for people of all ages. (2). For children, yoga offers many potential benefits – both physically and emotionally. Benefits include improved postural control, immune functioning, body awareness, strength and flexibility, emotional control, attention, sleep, and a decrease in stress and anxiety. Yoga is a simple strategy with a variety of exercises that can be completed anywhere including at home, when on vacation, while lying in bed, or as a group in the classroom. Depending on the current needs of the child, there are various poses and breathing exercises designed to bring arousal levels up or down as appropriate. Over time, children begin to develop an enhanced mind-body connection and an improved ability to monitor and manage their own levels of arousal (2).

In my personal experience, using simple breathing strategies and poses in my practice, has demonstrated firsthand how yoga can positively affect children with both physical and mental disabilities including autism, ADHD, emotional difficulties, mental health conditions, and motor coordination difficulties. In older children, learning how to control their own emotions and arousal levels empowers them and creates both self-esteem and self-control.

So what are you waiting for? Search out local yoga programs for you or your child. Try these links: www.yoga4classrooms.com or www.childlightyoga.com. Consider that many places will let you try a class without a commitment, or offer great starter incentives. Or, buy a CD or DVD, or check out some poses and breathing exercises via online videos to see if this might work for you or your family.

Originally posted July 2014

(1) Williams, M., & Shellenberger, S. (2012). “How does your engine run?” A leader’s guide to the Alert Program for self-regulation.” Albuquerque, NM: Therapy Works

(2) Flynn, L. (2010). Yoga 4 classrooms. Tools for learning, lessons for life. Dover, NH: Yoga 4 Classrooms.

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So I Guess Your Kid Doesn’t Wear a Seat Belt Either?

Julie Entwistle, MBA, BHSc (OT), BSc (Health / Gerontology)

I get very confused when I see children riding bikes without helmets.  Over the last many years the safety benefits of a helmet for biking, skiing, skateboarding, ice skating (and many other sports) has been well studied.  Research shows that helmets can be extremely effective in preventing head injuries and ¾ of all cycling fatalities are the result of head trauma.  You don’t even have to hit a car or tree to sustain a head injury – the ground or even your handlebars are often enough.

The laws in Ontario are clear:  since October 1, 1995 anyone under the age of 18 is required to ride a helmet on a road or sidewalk (http://www.toronto.ca/cycling/safety/helmet/helmet_law.htm).  Based on an increasing number of adult cycling deaths by head injury, it is likely that this law will soon be extended to adults as it is in other provinces.

So, considering the laws and the well-publicized risks, why are children (including young children) still seen riding bikes without helmets?

As adults, I recognize that we were not raised to wear helmets.  Adopting this practice has been difficult as we find it unnatural, maybe uncomfortable, and probably uncool.  However, most of us likely wear seat belts when in a vehicle.  Why?  BECAUSE WE WERE RAISED THAT WAY.  Seat belt laws in Ontario were passed in 1976 and so many of us were raised in the era of this as mandatory.  Many of us probably don’t even have to think about our seat belt anymore as it is part of our regular “get-in-the-car” routine and we feel naked and exposed without it.  We need to apply the same concept of “normal” to our children regarding helmets. 

There are two main reasons why children need to wear helmets. 

1. They are safe and have been shown to save lives and reduce disability.

2.  IT IS THE LAW.

As a parent, by not requiring that your child wear a helmet on their bike you are not only putting them at risk, but are also teaching them that laws don’t matter.  And I am not talking about the diligent parents whose children leave the house with a helmet on, to later have this on their handlebars or undone on their head.   I am mostly talking about the young kids in my neighbourhood who are out on their bikes without helmets, often under the supervision of their parents, and are thus not being taught that helmets are law, mandatory, and safe.

I am going to hazard a guess that no parent would put their child in a car without a seat belt.  Heck, child seats are also law and until a certain age, these are five-point and offer more protection than the adult restraint.  So, for the same reasons you put your child in a seat belt (protection and law) you need to ensure they are wearing a helmet for biking (skating, skiing, skateboarding).  And lead by example – get a helmet for yourself and model the appropriate behavior.  And be firm: no helmet should equal no bike.  No discussion.

 

Previously posted June 2016

 

Summer Programming Note:

Summer vacation is here and we will be taking a break from our regular schedule.  We will be posting some of our popular seasonal blogs just once a week throughout the summer but will resume our regular three weekly posts in September, filled with new and exciting content including our popular O-Tip of Week series.

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Accessible Travel Destinations Across Canada

Summer vacation is here!  For those looking to get away or those looking for fun day trips as part of a staycation, the possibilities may seem endless, however, for someone with a disability they may be limited.  The good news is that there are many fully accessible destinations, activities, and adventures across Canada!  Take a look at the following care of the Rick Hansen Foundation to explore ideas for fun in the sun experiences that are available to all.

Rick Hansen Foundation:  Vacation Ideas for Travelers with Disabilities

Learn more about accessible travel in our previous post, Vacation Plans? Consult our Accessible Travel Guide.

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Ergonomic and Safety Tips for Pain-Free Gardening

Do you have, or are aspiring to have, a “green thumb?”  Or do you simply enjoy beautifying your home or spending time connecting with nature?  Whether you garden for pleasure or purpose you may be reaping many of the health benefits, however, you may also from time to time suffer from a sore back and achy muscles brought on by the hard work and bending involved.  Take a look at the following article from Sunnybrook which discusses simple ways to prevent aches, pains, and injury when gardening so you can enjoy your garden all season long. 

Sunnybrook– Your Health Matters:    How to avoid pain or injury while gardening

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Kick off Cottage Season Safely

The Victoria Day long weekend in Canada is known as the kick off to summer and the official beginning of cottage season.  Whether you own, rent or visit friends and family with cottages make sure you do so safely, as cottages have dangers you may not need to think of at home.  Make yourself familiar with some these safety tips care of the Federation of Ontario Cottager’s Associations (FOCA) and the Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC). 

Heading to the cottage this long weekend? IBC and FOCA partner up to offer Top 10 Tips

 

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The Relationship Between Physical Activity and Depression

We have talked a lot on our blog about the benefits of regular physical activity for your physical, cognitive and mental health.  Why?  Because quite simply, other than laughter, physical activity is the best medicine!  A study recently published in The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Psychiatry looks at the relationship between regular exercise and depression.  Learn more about this study here care of the New York Times.

The New York Times:  Exercise May Help to Fend Off Depression

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Organization O-Tip of the Week: Think Vertical to Maximize Space

Our O-Tip of the week series we will be providing valuable “OT-Approved Life Hacks” to provide you with simple and helpful solutions for living. 

Did you know that being organized can help you to reduce stress?  Spring is around the corner, and with it comes Spring Cleaning!  Therefore, for the month of April, our O-Tip of the week series will share some of the best tips to help you get organized–  because an organized space is a healthier space!

If your garage is anything like mine it is used for more than simply storing your vehicles.  Sports equipment, garbage and recycling bins, lawnmowers, snowblowers and more share this space and without some strategic organization it can get quite crowded.  The best solution for an organized garage is to take advantage of vertical space.  Use wall shelves and peg boards for smaller items, and install hooks and shelves on the ceiling and walls to allow for increased space around the perimeter.

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Adaptive Physical Activity Guidelines for Children with Disabilities

Participaction and the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology, have created a fantastic resource for parents of children with disabilities.  The Ability Toolkit’s purpose is to ensure that all children are meeting daily movement requirements.  The toolkit helps to break down what a healthy day should look like for children and youth and provides ways to modify and adapt activities for many physical disabilities.  Take a look at the Ability Toolkit here and if you’re struggling to find adapted physical activities for your child consult an Occupational Therapist who are experts in providing solutions for living.

The Ability Toolkit

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O-Tip of the Week: Pack a Clothespin for Cleanliness

Our O-Tip of the week series we will be providing valuable “OT-Approved Life Hacks” to provide you with simple and helpful solutions for living. 

Spring Break is upon us so for the month of March, our O-Tip of the Week series will provide tips for traveling like a pro!

Clothespins come in handy for more than just hanging laundry!  Pack a clothespin in your toiletry bag and use it to prop up your toothbrush to keep it from touching hotel sinks and counters.  Because you don’t want someone else’s germs to ruin your vacation!