Athlete's Care Ottawa Blog 

Tips for Safe Snow Shoveling

By Athlete's Care on February 16, 2017

Tips for Safe Snow Shoveling

Winter is often a busy time in our Ottawa physiotherapy and sports medicine clinics. In general, people may be more active outdoors during the rest of the year for obvious reasons, but those reasons – namely, the weather conditions – create their own set of hazards. Going out in your car can mean 20 minutes of scraping off ice and snow.

Getting down the sidewalk means shoveling snow,  an activity that can cause a number of strains, sprains, and other stresses and injuries. Here's a look at how to get the job done safely.

Are You Fit?

Your first consideration should Are you in good shape, and able to perform the repetitive, back straining actions that shoveling snow requires? If you're not sure, the best idea is to book a consultation with one of our Ottawa physiotherapy or chiropractic specialists for an assessment. You should definitely get a medical assessment if:

  • You've had a recent injury, especially to the back or spine;
  • You have a chronic condition like high blood pressure or lipidemia;
  • You have heart disease;
  • You haven't exercised very much lately.

Before You Start

  • The best time to begin shoveling is about 1 or 2 hours after you've eaten.
  • Warm up first, just as you would before a workout. That can mean something as simple as walking for 10 to 15 minutes before you begin.
  • Stretching before you head outside is also a good idea.
  • A lightweight shovel is better than a heavier one, and look for one with an ergonomically designed handle with a curve that accommodates your grip
  • Wear multiple layers. As you warm up, you can remove one or two.
  • Be sure to wear boots with non-slip soles.


Using proper technique is just as important shoveling snow as it is when you are exercising or practicing your sport. Making the wrong moves can mean injury.

  • Begin slowly and work in intervals. Shovel for about 10 minutes at first, and then rest for another 2 or 3 minutes. Continue as you build up stamina.
  • Remember to stay hydrated by drinking enough water.
  • Shovel early, soon after the snow starts, even if it seems like it will be a long haul. It's better to shovel a lighter load two or three times separated by intervals of rest, than to try and leave it as long as you can and then struggle with heavy shovelfuls of snow.
  • Push the snow rather than trying to lift it onto the shovel.

Your Stance:

  • Try to stand with your feet slightly apart for balance and stability and hold the shovel close to your body to avoid back strain.
  • Bend from the knees and avoid using your back to lift.
  • Use your abdominal muscles when lifting rather than your back.
  • Try shovel with a straight up and down motion, and avoid twisting.
  • If you're feeling muscle pain and fatigue, you should stop, and if you have any symptoms such as dizziness, excessive sweating, or shortness of breath, stop immediately and call 911.

If you have any questions or concerns about shoveling snow or any other physical activity, or you've been injured by shoveling snow, then don't hesitate to contact our Ottawa physiotherapy clinics for an appointment with a specialist.



Keep joints moving during the cold winter months

By Athlete's Care on February 02, 2017

Keep joints moving during the cold winter months

Even the fittest among us can be intimidated by winter weather, and the temptation to hunker down indoors can be strong. The research isn't conclusive, but anecdotal evidence tells us that arthritis patients report a direct relationship between levels of pain and the cold, wet weather, with hip and knee pain a common complaint at many of our Ottawa physiotherapy clinics.

The evidence isn't entirely clear why. One study found that arthritis knee pain flared up in many patients in response to changes in barometric pressure. Cold temperatures can cause the fluid that lubricates joints to thicken. Other studies, however, have not been able to confirm those links.

But, reducing your activity levels, however daunting the weather may be, will actually add to any issues you may have, such as stiffness or pain. It's important to keep your joints moving to maintain mobility.

Your Body in the Cold

As you spend time outdoors, your body adjusts to the cold. Your nerve endings become more sensitive, lowering your pain threshold. Your body is focused on keeping your internal organs warm, and so circulation in the rest of your body can suffer. All of those elements can make sore joints even more painful. Exercise improves blood flow to your limbs, an effect that continues even after you stop.

Staying active keeps the synovial (joint) fluids flowing and your joints lubricated. Your Ottawa physiotherapist or chiropractor will help you plan an exercise regimen that takes your current conditions and specific needs into account. Here are some ideas on how to stay active even if you have arthritis or other issues.

  • Work out indoors, even if you prefer the great outdoors. Pick a sunny room in your home or join a gym where you can see daylight and it can help with motivation.
  • Low impact exercises include walking/treadmill, yoga, and T'ai Chi, all of which will help to improve your general conditioning and make good options for arthritis patients.
  • Your Ottawa physiotherapy specialist can recommend weight routines and exercises that will help strengthen the muscles around joints to help protect them from injury.

Nutrition is important too when you're looking to maintain joint health and mobility. Ask your Ottawa chiropractor or other healthcare practitioner for a referral to a nutritionist if you need recommendations for healthy eating during the winter. Remember to stay well hydrated. Along with the many other benefits, it helps keep your joints lubricated and reduces painful friction.

Braces and other supports can help you maintain mobility even as you heal from an injury. If you are experiencing joint pain, your Ottawa chiropractor or physiotherapy specialist can help to recommend appropriate devices.

Call one of our Ottawa physiotherapy clinics today or drop by to make an appointment for a consultation to get you on the road to joint health and mobility.




The benefits of Fascial Stretch Therapy (FST)

By Athlete's Care on October 25, 2016

The benefits of Fascial Stretch Therapy (FST)

Fascial Stretch Therapy or FST is still a relatively new technique. Our Ottawa physiotherapy professionals use it to successfully treat a variety of conditions, and the most promising aspect about FST is that it has been known to work on chronic, longstanding or treatment resistant conditions where little else has provided relief.

What are fascia?

Fascia refers to the connective tissue that runs between muscles and internal organs. It's made primarily of collagen and it serves, basically, to keep all those internal structures in place, enclosing the different tissues and separating them from each other. You can think of it as something like a flexible spider's web that links and holds the different bodily structures together.

When those tissues are injured or stretched, it can result in scarring. Fascia at joints can become compressed over time, which can result in overcompensation by muscle groups, along with aches, pains, strain and other symptoms. Fascial adhesions occur when the collagen fibres bond together and form harder – and less flexible – areas. It can result in decreased movement, pain and soreness.

How does FST work?

FST does just that – stretch the fascial tissue. While traditional massage techniques work to manipulate and stretch one muscle or group at a time, FST looks to stretch multiple fascia at a time by combining  stretching with traction. FST helps to loosen up the fascia and joints, creating space where the lubricating synovial fluid can flow and ease movement. It works on the joint capsule and the fascia become more flexible, pliable and hydrated.

FST is a pain-free and often enjoyable therapy and while therapeutic results are highly individualized and depend on each case, it has been known to help people with chronic conditions that didn't respond to other treatments. What you should experience are improvements in mobility and flexibility,

  • improved posture;
  • increased strength;
  • improved blood flow.

Our Ottawa chiropractor and physiotherapy specialists have found that FST has proven useful in treating a number of conditions, including:

  • carpal tunnel syndrome
  • chronic headaches
  • chronic pain
  • disc herniation
  • facet joint dysfunctions (faulty articulation of two discs of the vertebra)
  • fibromyalgia
  • mobility issues
  • recent injury to soft tissues
  • osteoarthritis
  • pinched nerves
  • plantar fasciitis
  • thoracic outlet syndrome (compression of nerves and/or blood vessels around your collarbone and first rib)

Call one of our Ottawa physiotherapy and chiropractic clinics today for a consultation and assessment to see if FST can be help with your condition.



Ten Tips for Summer Running: Staying Safe in the Heat

By Athlete's Care on July 05, 2016

Ten Tips for Summer Running: Staying Safe in the Heat

The cold winter (and spring!) is over and summer is here. The sunny weather is perfect for running but with the wild swings in our climate, your body needs a little help to adjust. Successful summer running means being cognizant of the temperature and of your own limits. A little common sense goes a long way towards making sure summer running stays enjoyable.

Here are some tips to make the most of summer running and avoid the problems:

  1. Take it easy and ramp your way up into the heat. Acclimatizing yourself to the heat safely can take 10 days to two weeks. When the hot weather first hits, give yourself that two week period where you keep your exposure to midday heat to 30 minutes or less and slow down the pace a little.

  2. Start your run slower and ramp it up after about the first ten minutes.  Our Ottawa physiotherapy and sports medicine specialists are available to give you advice on how to switch up your training for hot weather conditions.

  3. Run early in the day – early morning is usually the coolest time, when the air is freshest.

  4. Running near water can also give you cooler temperatures and pleasant breezes even when it's muggy elsewhere.

  5. Hydrate more than you think you will need – 8 ounces of water an hour is a good guideline to begin with. Add more as the mercury climbs higher. If you are running more than 4 km then you should plan on either bringing something to drink with you or organizing a pit stop along the way. Remember to drink before and after your run as well as during.

  6. Dehydration can cause feelings of faintness or lightheadedness, nausea and vomiting. Luckily it's easy to fix. The best drinks to hydrate include water and herbal teas – not caffeinated beverages that can actually help you dehydrate faster. After the first hour, you will start to lose electrolytes (salts) as well as hydration, so you should switch from plain water to a sports drink.

  7. Gear – keep your running gear lightweight, light coloured and loose. There are many newer fabrics designed for sports that will give you sun protection and help keep you drier. Your head cover should also be light and loose fitting.

  8. Wear plenty of sunscreen. It can even help keep your skin temperature cooler as it protects from the sun's damaging rays.

  9. Know the signs of heat stroke and STOP running when you begin to feel them. Cool down immediately – ducking into an air conditioned area can help a great deal. Symptoms include:

◦     Headache or intense heat buildup in the head.

◦     Confusion, inability to concentrate.

◦     Sweating profusely, followed by clammy skin and then sweating abruptly stops.

◦     Hot and cold flashes.

◦     Upset stomach, muscle cramps, vomiting, dizziness.

10. Check the air quality index and any heat warnings. If the air quality index is code orange (5-6,) it's an indication to be cautious, especially if you have respiratory issues. If it is code red (7 or higher,) you should not be running outside. Ask your Ottawa sports medicine specialist about how the air quality index can affect your condition.

The Good News

Heat training can actually end up benefiting your whole running game. Studies with professional athletes have found up to a 5% increase in performance levels after less than two weeks of hot weather training.

Our Ottawa physiotherapy specialists and other sports medicine professionals can give you customized advice for your summer running routine and other helpful information. Give us a call today. 


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