3 things a physiotherapist would never do to their body — and 3 things they would

Physiotherapy can help reduce your risk of injury and keep your body in optimal shape.

Close up of unrecognisable Female Thai massage physiotherapist stretching hip of female client. Wellness and health care concept.
Physiotherapist Erica Brown shared her best tips for taking care of your body. (Photo via Getty Images) (Daniel de la Hoz via Getty Images)

This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Contact a qualified medical professional before engaging in any physical activity, or making any changes to your diet, medication or lifestyle.

People seek the help of a physiotherapist to restore or maintain their overall mobility, function and well-being.

Physiotherapy can help reduce your risk of injury, keep your body in optimal shape, and help to improve or eliminate pain and strain.

But when it comes to daily living, sometimes the things we do can actually have a negative effect on our health and wellness — without us even realizing it.

After years of treating every injury and strain under the sun, Toronto physiotherapist Erica Brown from Myodetox Toronto tells Yahoo Canada what she would — and wouldn't — do to her body.

Things a physiotherapist would never do

In addition to physiotherapy, it's equally important to take care of your body on your own, Brown said.

While we may think we're doing the right thing by stretching our muscles or sleeping in certain positions, there's three things Brown would never do to keep her body healthy and happy.

1. Sleep on your stomach

Sleeping on your stomach may seem comfortable, but in reality it's the cause of many people's pain by placing more pressure on the spine.

"In this position, the neck remains rotated throughout the night, which can contribute to compression through the vertebrae of the neck and nerves," Brown said. "Prolonged nerve compression during the night can contribute to symptoms associated with our arms 'falling asleep.'"

Young eastern man peacefully sleeping in his bed, panorama with copy space. Sleeping on your stomach is the cause of many people's pain by placing more pressure on the spine. (Getty)
Sleeping on your stomach is the cause of many people's pain by placing more pressure on the spine. (Getty) (Prostock-Studio via Getty Images)

Brown, who works at at Myodetox Liberty Village, added stomach sleepers can often wake up with a stiff and painful neck.

"A 'kink' in our neck can also be due to this position of prolonged and sustained rotation," she said.

2. Stretching a muscle right after straining it

When we strain a muscle, often due to common activities like running, Brown explained it's overstretched by contracting too forcefully or quickly.

"We often feel a sensation of tightness when this happens and most people's first instinct it to stretch it.

"However, immediately stretching a muscle that has been injured by overstretching could contribute to increased pain and prolonged symptoms," she said.

Stretching too soon after injury is a common mistake.Erica Brown

In the acute stage of this injury to help with recovery, Brown advised people perform light isometric contractions.

"Stretching can be re-introduced at a later stage but stretching too soon after injury is a common mistake."

3. Hold your breath while lifting weights

How we breathe also has a massive effect on our body.

When lifting weights, Brown said she often sees people holding their breath, which can create a sense of spinal stabilization called the "valsalva maneuver."

While this may create a sense of strength and stability, the physiotherapist said "it can also place undue strain on the pelvic floor when repeated and prolonged."

How we breathe while working out has a massive effect on our body, the expert says. (Getty)
How we breathe while working out has a massive effect on our body, the expert says. (Getty) (PeopleImages via Getty Images)

Additionally, new research suggests repetitive breath holding while lifting weights can contribute to pelvic floor disfunction in some physically active women.

"Pelvic floor dysfunction can lead to uncomfortable symptoms such as bladder leakage when performing strenuous activities," Brown explained.

Instead, exhaling during strenuous activities could be the better breathing pattern for women, because it may help protect the pelvic floor.

"For anyone who experiences pelvic floor dysfunction, seeking treatment from a pelvic floor physiotherapist can be very helpful," Brown added.

That said, the physiotherapist explained that not every person who uses the valsalva maneuver will develop pelvic floor issues.

"It may still be the better biomechanical option for those athletes that lift extremely heavy weights such as powerlifters to use the valsalva maneuver," she said. "But for the average person I would recommend focusing on exhaling during strength training instead of breath holding if they can properly execute the exercise, good form and spinal stability."

Things a physiotherapist would definitely do

On the other hand, Brown suggests three things to do to keep you feeling your best — and help prevent injury and body pain at the same time.

1. Invest in a standing desk

"Studies have shown that we experience more compression in our spine when we sit versus when we stand," Brown revealed.

As such, the physiotherapist recommends people invest in a standing desk to reduce the amount of pressure your back withstands.

Adjustable Height Desk Stand In Office Using Computer The physiotherapist recommends people invest in a standing desk to reduce the amount of pressure your back withstands. (Getty)
The physiotherapist recommends people invest in a standing desk to reduce the amount of pressure your back withstands. (Getty) (AndreyPopov via Getty Images)

In her practice, a common complaint Brown sees is back pain from sitting all day either at work or at home.

"Changing your posture at work by standing can help reduce compression and hopefully decrease irritability in the back," she said.

2. Chin Tucks

Texting and working at a desk all day are things the general population does. However, they can contribute to forward head posture.

As we age, Brown says forward head posture is a very common source of neck pain.

"One way to try and counter this forward head posture is to work on our upper back and neck strength. Chin tucks are a great exercise to try and counter this forward head posture by activating the deep neck flexors," she said.

Chin tucks are a great exercise.Erika Brown

The exercise can help people achieve a more neutral and natural head position which can alleviate neck strain, she explained

3. Dynamic Stretching Pre-Sports

Many people like to hit the court or field without warming up — which is a no-no according to Brown. Not warming up or stretching properly before moving your body can lead to injuries.

Additionally, Brown revealed that stretching pre-and-post activity should differ.

"Growing up, I was often told by coaches to do long static stretches holding for 30 seconds prior to sport, as we were told it warmed up our muscles to prep them for maximum performance," Brown recalled.

"However, new research has shown that static stretching prior to activity actually doesn’t have the intended effect we once thought it had for muscle preparation."

In reality, static stresses are actually meant to relax muscles. So, if we want to prepare our bodies to run, jump or climb — dynamic stretching is the way to go.

"Dynamic stretches are small repetitive movements that help activate our muscle by bringing blood to the area and preparing it for use," Brown explained.

Instead, static stretches are better after a workout or activity to help aid recovery and reduce tension.

Why is physiotherapy important?

Physiotherapy has many benefits, but it can essentially help our bodies feel better, stay mobile and recover quicker from injuries.

By addressing movement restrictions and areas to strengthen, our performance and life goals can be reached.

For example, if someone wants to improve their squat, Brown said there's more to it than simply strength.

"A thorough physiotherapy assessment can identify if there are any mobility restrictions throughout the body that could be affecting our squat mobility... like hip and ankle mobility," she explained.

Physiotherapists can also prescribe treatment programs that address restrictions and improve personal goals.

'Incorporate movement as part of your every day'

According to Brown, it is "important to incorporate movement as part of your every day."

Many of us spend our days working in one position, which can contribute to tightness, pain, discomfort and sometimes movement restrictions.

"We do regular maintenance on our cars to ensure they run smoothly, so why not invest in our bodies to improve longevity and live a pain free life," Brown said.

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