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Taking a Multipronged Approach to Wellness

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Dr. Heather McLeod, Harvinder Dhillon and Said Mohamed, and Andrew Neufeld.

For Manitobans, March is the time of year when we’re most ready for winter to leave. Anyone who made new year’s commitments surrounding health may be feeling discouraged. The exceptional snowy weather has many of us feeling the winter blues, and pain issues have been acting up because of the intense cold.

And all of us could use some fresh ideas to keep us inspired toward wellness.

Stretch Before Shovelling

Dr. Heather McLeod leads the team at Niverville Family Chiropractic, focusing on spinal health and mobility. She has seen people struggling with soreness and injury from all the snow-shovelling demanded of us this year.

“Symptomatically, all this snow and shovelling—and needing to pile the snow higher and higher—has definitely caused a lot of lower back pain complaints,” says Dr. Leod. “This then prevents them from doing things they’d like to do.”

If you needed a professional to give you permission, Dr. McLeod says it’s okay to hire someone to do your driveway for you. If someone you know has a machine or is more able-bodied, don’t be shy to give them a call.

If you do have to dig yourself out, doing a good job is about more than just heaping snow as fast and as high as possible. Dr. McLeod says avoiding body pain after clearing your driveway starts before you pick up that shovel.

“Warming up the muscles and light stretching before shovelling is very helpful to avoid injury. Longer stretching after shovelling can be helpful as well,” says Dr. McLeod. “Using good mechanics—perhaps a scoop you can just push, rather than needing to lift and twist a shovel full of snow over a bank—is important.”

McLeod says stretching before shovelling can help avoid injury and strain. The two stretches she would recommend focus on the hamstring and lumbar.

Stretch your hamstrings by raising your leg straight out in front of you and placing it on top of an elevated surface. Lean slightly forward and reach toward your raised toe until you feel a stretch along the back of your leg.

For the lumbar stretch, raise one elbow to chest height and reach your arm across your body, twisting from the waist slightly toward the opposite shoulder. The stretch should happen across your core and lower back to loosen it up.

“There are many YouTube videos that show how to do these stretches and they can be very helpful for many people,” says Dr. McLeod.

Niverville Family Chiropractic conducts assessments and adjustments to help maintain spinal alignment, which positively influence how the nervous system can function, communicate, and coordinate the functions of the body.

“We help people with things they might expect such as headaches and back and neck pain,” she says, “but often people experience results beyond their initial complaints and choose to stick with regular care to maintain that sense of wellbeing.”

And it’s that regular self-care routine that many people still aren’t able to lock into. Many work environments are still flexing between in-office or work-from-home situations, and the weather has many experiencing unpredictability from one day to the next.

She also reminds us that self-care is about more than just eating right and exercise. She points out that chiropractors provide an essential service through touch.

“Just that alone is helpful for people,” she says. “Many people who have been isolated at home may not have been touched at all for long periods of time these days.”

While she’s not a mental health professional, Dr. McLeod sees that progress and relief from pain is one piece of the puzzle in our overall sense of wellbeing.

“I encourage people to explore meditation and breathing practices which can be very beneficial for mental health. I have a lending library in the office for people to borrow with many titles focused around these topics as well.”

Education Is Empowering

Andrew Neufeld is a lifelong resident of Niverville, a physiotherapist, and the owner of Niverville Physiotherapy. Specializing in muscle and joint issues, he says that physiotherapists are movement experts and part of a leading profession in pain relief.

At his clinic locations in Steinbach and Niverville, Neufeld treats issues involving the musculoskeletal system to restore function, reduce pain, and prevent injury. While the recent weather has contributed to an increase of cases, Neufeld says since the beginning of the pandemic they were already seeing a significant shift in their caseload.

“Neck and TMJ issues are now more prevalent,” says Neufeld. “Much of this is related to posture, whether people are working at home with poor ergonomics, spending more time on their devices, or just being more sedentary.”

Health and wellness look different for everyone and Neufeld incorporates an individual approach whether someone is reporting a first-time or long-time pain issue.

The first visit typically involves a detailed evaluation and discussion of the client’s lifestyle and description of the injured area, as this information is very important to crafting an effective plan to correct the problem.

“Listening to our clients is an important part of the exam. This gives us a chance to hear how our clients are being impacted by their condition,” says Neufeld. “This can range from not being able to go to work, playing with their children, or participating in recreational activities. Then the physical exam will identify the structures that are not functioning properly and require corrective treatment.”

Many clients see a benefit from the hands-on treatment and home exercise program Neufeld provides. The exercises are tailored to each specific muscle area where strengthening is needed.

Neufeld also says that physiotherapy is a collaborative effort between client and therapist, and one of the most important keys to success is for somebody to learn more about how their body works and how it can get better.

“Client education is so important. We need to empower our clients to understand what is happening and what can be done for it,” says Neufeld. “As an example, a client comes in with a sore back after shovelling snow. The exam indicates a disc herniation, and for many people they will believe they will now have a permanent issue with their back. With client education, they will understand that this is correctable, preventable, and that 85 percent of people will have had a disc issue and that the vast majority of cases will resolve.”

Seeing how discouraged some people can be when faced with a pain issue, Neufeld encourages people to consider that pain and tissue damage aren’t the same thing.

“Think of a paper cut,” he says. “It hurts a lot but is a very minor injury. We do a lot of work with chronic pain clients to educate them on what pain is, why it is there, and how to manage it using breathing, mindfulness, and cognitive exercises. Clients really benefit from all the education, as it gives them confidence on their prognosis, activities that are safe for them and things to avoid, and how to modify activity and take control of their impairment.”

Learning about pain—called “pain science education”—can be empowering and give us a sense of control.

What is beyond our control remains the weather—and as a true Manitoban, Neufeld knows winter may not be finished dumping the white stuff on us yet. His top tip when shovelling snow is to not rush, and focus on strengthening your form.

“To prevent injury, avoid filling the shovel fully,” he says. “Try not to twist when throwing the shovel. Use your feet. And take frequent breaks to extend your back. Bend backwards.”

Connection Improves Health

The Niverville Heritage Center is a multipurpose event centre that incorporating not-for-profits and businesses with intergenerational living, cultivating meaningful connections between families, children, and seniors. The organization provides many community services that enhance people’s lives.

The seniors living arrangements available at the Niverville Heritage Centre are organized into three separate yet interconnected options: the Niverville Credit Union Manor (a 36-suite assisted living and supportive care residence), Heritage Life Personal Care Home (an 80-resident personal care home), and Heritage Life Centre (a 46-suite life lease residence for those 65 years of age and older).

Many programs and resources are available to seniors living at the Heritage Centre and within the community at large. Service to Seniors offers recreation, workshops, and assistance with paperwork and appointments and available to seniors within an eight-kilometre radius of Niverville.

Congregate Dining is a community-based meal service that is intended to increase opportunities for nutritional and social support among older adults. An adult day program is also hosted nearby at the Golden Friendship Centre.

Within the immense complex, residents and community members alike can access Niverville Open Health, Niverville Heritage Dental Centre, the Red River Co-op Pharmacy, Growing Minds Child Care Centre, and Hespeler’s Cookhouse and Tavern.

The Niverville Heritage Centre is an example for the community, not only for its efforts to improve the health of older adults, but for the overall health and wellness benefits of its intergenerational approach.

Find Winter Relief

Harsimran Sandhu is one of the three partners who opened the Urban Flavours cannabis store in Niverville just over one month ago. Sandhu says people in the community have been very welcoming and have reached out to the business to access their products, many of which have substantial wellness properties.

“We see many people come into the shop with chronic pain or trouble sleeping,” says Sandhu. “We have a variety of different cannabis products that can definitely help alleviate both of these concerns.”

Sandhu finds it fulfilling to connect his customers with products that are going to bring them relief. He says cannabis is used to treat many medical conditions and symptoms including nausea, loss of appetite, pain, anxiety, insomnia, inflammation, and muscle spasms. He adds that some people experience fewer negative side effects when using cannabis to ease these symptoms compared to pharmaceutical drugs.

“As a cannabis retailer, we are not here to provide medical advice, but we do our best to guide customers to what we feel might be the best approach for them,” says Sandhu. “We always recommend consulting your personal healthcare professional before trying any cannabis products for medical use.”

Another use for cannabis, according to Sandhu, is facilitating a healthy spiritual wellbeing, which is becoming more accepted as an approach to overall health. Some say that the effects of cannabis can increase one’s understanding of meaning and enlightenment, which bring a sense of connection to both the natural world and people’s spiritual experience of it.

Whether people come in looking to ease symptoms or to support a healthy lifestyle, Sandhu says there are a few products he has noticed his customers select most often.

“Our edible gummies, CBD soft gels, topical creams, and bath bombs have been very well received in the community thus far,” says Sandhu.

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