Are you suffering from Persistent Back pain?

When Pain Persists – What is going on? And what can WE do to help?

When you move well, you feel good. The better you feel the more you move. Sounds simple enough, right? So often we find ourselves limited by our pain, which affects how we go about every day life.

As human beings, we need movement and exercise to feel good, for both the body and mind. So what happens when movement hurts? The more it hurts, the less you want to move. It’s very much a catch 22.

When you are injured or in pain (especially over a prolonged period of time), your body has limited choices in ways to move so to avoid pain in the easiest way possible, but as a result reduces your life activities. This might be playing your favourite game of sport, going for a run or just walking down to the shops to carry a carton of milk home. This lack of choice impacts you on how to move your body correctly to avoid further pain and discomfort.

When you compensate your everyday movement to avoid pain, this then has a negative flow on effect for the rest of your body. An example of this is when people are in pain from just trying to sit with the correct posture. Sitting may cause great discomfort, so they try to sit in a position that is less painful, resulting in bad posture.

As physios, we often see people using the same strategies and compensate for all movements to avoid further discomfort. For example, when asking a client to bend forward it causes the lumbar erector spinae to spasm. This is not a ‘normal’ reaction, but it’s the best one they have due to the lack of ‘choice’ in their movement.

At Barefoot Physiotherapy, we look at these patterns of movement and aim to provide treatment to the right areas so you can increase the availability of your movement choices. Your movement may not be predictable as your body has created its own strategies to still achieve certain movements. For example, a swimmer may have great overhead but cannot go through their full range to get there. It is important to remember that everyone is different, so overcoming ongoing pain may take more time for some and less for others.

It is important for you and your physiotherapist to set realistic goals if you are suffering from chronic or persistent pain. You may not even realise how much you have had to limit yourself in your movement, just to get through your day.

Simple motor control is lost when you are in a great deal of pain, and this can be extremely frustrating, especially when you go to a physio after being in pain for years and they try to teach you how to sit properly, but all you feel is pain. In my experience, the majority of my clients bodies do not have the ability to sit in a good position until we first settle their body down.
What can be confusing to both the client and their physio is that they may have much better strategies and patterns of movement at a higher level of activity, resulting in less pain during that motion, but can experience high levels of pain undertaking their day to day activities. For example, you may love to kayak, and you can kayak at a high level of intensity with your body working in the way it should, however when you are being treated by your physio they notice that you are unable to squat, which is an essential position for kayaking.

At Barefoot Physiotherapy, we aim to get you to your optimal health. We know how important it is to move well and to have multiple strategies to obtain this level of movement. Our treatment aims to decrease the old strategies that may be contributing to current pain or injuries and providing you with new strategies and support. These often include releasing irritated nerves and tight muscles/joints to assist in re-learning your bodies motor control patterns to increase your choice of movement.

Move well, feel great! To find out more about Barefoot Physiotherapy, or to book an appointment, click here.

A good nights sleep for you & your body

There is nothing better than a good nights sleep. It can set you up for a productive day, allows for our bodies to reset and helps our mind to clear and recharge. So what happens when your body is strained and tight throughout the night? A bad sleeping posture can lead to pain and joint stiffness – which doesn’t exactly allow for a refreshed state.

Finding the ideal sleep position for YOU is important to ensure that you don’t put any strain on your muscles and joints at night, especially if you already have a musculoskeletal condition. Some clients report to us that they feel stiff or painful first thing in the morning. This makes it extremely important for you to know if you are sleeping in the right position for your body.

One thing to note is that there is not one perfect pillow or mattress for everyone. We all have a different width of our shoulders and a different length of our spine. So how do you know what’s right?

It’s quite simple really…

Your muscles will tell you how happy your body is to be in the position you are in (this applies to other postures as well). The first thing to do is lay on your bed with your normal pillow in your usual sleep position. Place one or both of your hands on your neck muscles and move them around. Do the muscles feel squishy and relaxed, or do they feel tense and ropey? (Try to avoid pushing too hard with your fingers).

Assessing your neck in your sleeping position:

If your neck feels squishy and relaxed, then that pillow and that position is right for you.

If your neck feels tense and ropey, you may need to adjust a few things. First assess this; Is your head in line with your neck, or is it 1. Being pushed up too high, or 2.Hanging down onto the pillow.

  1. If your head is being pushed up high, the pillow may be too high for you. Try a different pillow, or if it is an orthopaedic pillow that has a high side and a low side, try the low side. Once you have changed this, re-assess the muscles for squishy-ness.
  1. If your head is hanging down onto the pillow it may be too low for you. You could try a different pillow at home that is higher, or build up the height of the one you have. An easy way to build up height is to fold a towel and place it under the pillow. You may have to try different amounts of fold to get the perfect height for you. To keep the towel in place, put it inside your pillow case on the bottom side of the pillow.  Then, re-assess your muscles for feeling soft & squishy.

  1. If neither of these works, it may be worth trying a new pillow altogether and do the same tests with a new/different pillow. You can usually do this in store if you are purchasing a new one.

It is often best to avoid sleeping on your tummy for long periods of time as this position often builds up strain in your neck and/or shoulders. Try to make a habit out of sleeping on your back or side.

Assessing your low back in your sleep position:

We will do a similar test on your low back muscles either side of your spine.

Get into your usual comfortable position. If this is on your side, feel the top side of your back muscles. Do they feel squishy and relaxed, or do they feel tense and ropey.

  1. If your low back muscles feel tense and ropey when you are on your side, try putting a pillow in between your knees and have your knees slightly bent. Re-assess your back muscles to see if that makes them more relaxed. Similar to finding the right height pillow for you neck, you may have to do the same test/re-test for the pillow in between your knees.

  1. If you sleep on your back, slide your fingers under your back and feel the muscles either side of your spine. If they are tense, try putting a pillow under your knees.
  2. If neither of these work, try pillows in different places on the bed to support yourself, especially if you are in pain.

If you would like further information, or to book in with one of our Physio’s click here.

Catherine’s Epic Adventure

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to walk the Camino de Santiage trail? We sat down with Barefooter Catherine to hear all about her incredible travels and adventures, and where she would like to hike next!

You walked the Camino Trail last year. Can you tell us a little about what this was like, what inspired you to do it, and why you want to do it again? 

The Camino de Santiago (route Frances) was an epic journey! In a month I walked a little over 500 km starting with 27 km straight up the Pyrenees. From there it was down into Spain through vineyards, farms, the unending golden meseta, meadows, mountains, villages, towns, cities and even eucalyptus plantations! The camaraderie and friendships are a really important part of the Camino and so is the spiritual and personal growth that comes from this adventure – definitely motivations to return for a second go. It’s also amazing to leave the concerns of everyday life and to spend a month with no more possessions than what you carry on your back. I went with a group of friends from home. We’re Catholic and it was amazing for us to consider the thousands and thousands of pilgrims who have also walked the way of St James over such a long time, to visit so many amazing churches and cathedrals along the way, and to finally arrive at the tomb of St James the Apostle.

What is your most favourite part about being a teacher? Have you got any funny stories for us?

Working with children! I love their joy, especially as they set and reach academic goals. I love laughing with them,  reading stories with them, chatting to them, and helping them develop strategies and skills to overcome challenges and have a growth mindset. I love how passionate they are about life and how this reflects in their work. A little guy in my year two class recently wrote a story about a family of cats who played video games all the day and how bad it was for them. How great is that? I also really enjoy working with parents and the intellectual challenge of planning and delivering lessons. Funny stories…hmm. I did show them a photo from a recent bushwalk where my hair was in double braids and I was wearing a fluro pink top. The girls were amazed that I had braids and one boy said, “You always wear black to school but on the weekend you wear colours!” NB: I don’t always wear black to school!

Where is your favourite walking trail in South East Queensland that is a MUST DO for any of our Barefooters out there who love bush walking?

The Coomera Circuit in Lamington National Park is spectacular. It’s about 17 km, not too arduous and the trail passes waterfall after waterfall. Keep your eyes peeled for blue crayfish! Other favourites are walking out to Hell’s Gates at Noosa, Mt Mitchell, and Flinder’s Peak. I haven’t done much interstate walking but for an experienced hiker, I would recommend the Warrumbungles (NSW) and the Heysen Trail (SA) in a heartbeat.

We love hearing about the incredible things our Barefooters get up to, here at Barefoot we call this living your “Barefoot Lifestyle”. We believe that your body should not hold you back from doing what you love. Rather than simply treating the symptoms of acute or persistent pain or injury, at Barefoot Physiotherapy we utilise our unique Treatment System to find the root cause of your problem, so you can get back to living your life to the full.

To find out more, or to book an appointment, click here.

To all our Baristas, we thank you!

A few of us here at Barefoot Physiotherapy are big coffee connoisseurs. Whether it is a strong flat white, soy latte, piccolo or a long black with a ‘dash of cold milk’, we know exactly what we want and how we want it. We love our local barista’s who know just how to make our morning coffee, so while they are looking after our coffee cravings, it’s important to also look after your well being while standing at the coffee machine.

I saw a funny sign the other day at our local coffee shop saying; “Relationship Status: Emotionally Dependant on my Barista”. So we thought we do a little shout out to all the amazing Barista’s out there that put a bounce, a smile and a little cup of happiness in to the lives of so many of us. We thought we would send out a little love to our Baristas as we know working day-in-day-out at those coffee machines can actually be quite taxing on your body.

At a lot of the really busy coffee shops, some Baristas could be smashing out over 100 coffees per hour. This seems like a huge number, but it is most definitely a reality for the buzzing cafes around Brisbane. Being on your feet all day is tiring and can be quite a strain on your body.

Be sure you are doing your best to maintain a good posture, keeping your shoulders down and your back as relaxed as possible. Try and alternate hands where possible, especially when there is jarring movements involved such as using the grinding chamber handle, or tapping the milk jug on the table to remove excess bubbles.

Be sure to avoid looking down for long periods of time. If at all possible, try and ensure the coffee grinder is at a level where you do not have to look down too far to avoid continual strain on your neck, and when pouring your milk, try not to crouch over the coffee cup, keen a straight back and keep your shoulders down.

The more relaxed you feel while you work hard to get coffees out to your customers, the better you will feel at the end of the shift. Be sure to do some shoulder, glute and calf releases, and maybe a roll on a foam roller to stretch your back out so you can be ready for another day of serving up delicious cups of coffee.

To all the Baristas out there, our days would not have quite the same hop, skip and a jump in them, so thank you!

If you would like to read more, or book an appointment with one of our physios, click here!