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Aging and muscular dystrophy – why you should consider physiatry

STOCK_physical therapyMost people are familiar with the terms “physiotherapist” and “chiropractor.” But a physiatrist is a particular type of specialist that you may have not heard of before.

A physiatrist is a physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist, who treats conditions involving muscle and nerves, with a goal of helping to maintain and restore abilities and function, says Dr. Rajiv Reebye, a physiatrist and staff physician with G.F. Strong Rehabilitation Centre in Vancouver. Dr Reebye was one of the presenters at Muscular Dystrophy Canada’s Empowerment in Action (EIA) Conference, held recently in Richmond BC.

According to Dr. Reebye, a physiatrist can be a very important part of your healthcare team — especially as you age — along with other types of specialists such as occupational therapists, dieticians, social workers and pharmacists.

A physiatrist can help you with a targeted exercise program, designed to strengthen, increase flexibility, reduce pain, and decrease muscle atrophy.  Dr. Reebye says that high-resistance training is not usually recommended because of the risk of muscle fibre injuries, but aerobic and light-resistance training can be very helpful. Beneficial exercises include swimming, walking and cycling, depending on your abilities – and proper stretching is also very important.

Of the aerobic exercises listed above, swimming is most highly recommended. It can be done right from early ambulatory to early non-ambulatory phases, and can be continued as long as it is deemed medically safe.  It is particularly beneficial because it can be considered both aerobic conditioning and respiratory exercise, he says.

A proper exercise plan can help with so many things, including bone health, respiratory conditioning, prevention of contractures, increased general wellbeing, and decreased disuse atrophy of muscles. A physiatrist can help ensure you are doing the right form of exercises that will benefit you specifically, and can teach you how to modify activities if you experience pain or other difficulties.

For example, significant muscle pain/cramping/breathing difficulties up to 24 hours after a specific activity is a sign of overexertion and contraction-induced injury. If this occurs, the activity should be modified, Dr. Reebye says. Pain often results from positioning problems in wheelchair/contractures, and can often be managed conservatively, such as with enhancing seating, topical creams or aqua-therapy.

Proper stretching is also an important part of any ongoing program. Stretching should be performed at least 4-6 times a week as part of family’s daily routine, and effective stretching may require a range of techniques including stretching, splinting and standing devices.

Regular ankle, knee and hip stretching are particularly important early on, Dr. Reebye says. Later, regular stretching at the arms becomes necessary – especially fingers, wrist, elbow and shoulder. Additional adaptations in late ambulatory and non-ambulatory stages may be needed to help with getting upstairs, transferring, eating/drinking, turning in bed, and bathing, he says.

In order to have the best quality of life possible, Dr. Reebye stresses, it’s important to know your team, understand your body, keep exploring equipment options that may help you, and don’t be afraid to ask for help early.

 

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Day In The Life: #EIArichmond Youth Lounge

EIA2014-01828 year-old Keith Martin, Muscular Dystrophy Canada National Ambassador, lets us in on his experiences at Empowerment In Action. Read ahead as Keith shares a snapshot of his weekend in the Youth Lounge!

 Friday, August 22, 2014:

12:19pm – Rushing onto the Canada Line Skytrain from downtown to get out to Empowerment-In-Action. Can’t wait to spend the weekend with everyone in Richmond!

9:00-11:00pm – It has been a long first day. Many people have arrived from across the country, and have spent their time at the Richmond Olympic Oval dancing up a storm or playing wheelchair Power Soccer!

After dinner, the Youth Advisors team encourages people to head to the Youth Lounge. The activity for the evening is Mingle Bingo, where all participants go around the room with a sheet of personal traits (eg. ‘Has traveled outside of Canada), hoping to meet and talk with someone who fits each of them. It is a great way to meet other people at the conference and connect with them for the first time – a total success!

After Mingle Bingo, delegates play cards on the tables and game on the Nintendo Wii set up in the corner, while groups socialize throughout the room. There is a little something for everyone.

Mark Felling, keynote speaker, makes an appearance and entertains people with stories of his life and experiences, as well as his business – Broadened Horizons. Thank you, Mark, for your involvement!

When the doors finally close on the first day of the Youth Lounge, a large group of people have come through and have made the lounge a welcoming place to be!

Saturday, August 23, 2014:

4:00-7:00pm – Many people are out for ‘Richmond, Here We Come’, but that doesn’t mean the lounge isn’t staffed and stocked with snacks and drinks! Thank you Canada Safeway for your support!

8:00-11:00pm – After another fun day, the lounge is open after dinner. Many people – and rightfully so! – head to watch Luca Patuelli open up the dance floor and get the party started. Those who need a break had to the Youth Lounge to cool off and get some refreshment. Delegates sit in groups and talk amongst each other about the weekend and their involvement, as well as their own lives. We are so fortunate to have such a wonderful group of youth delegates for the Empowerment In Action conference.

Sunday, August 24, 2014:

11:30am – 2:00pm – The conference winds down and delegates stream in and out of the Youth Lounge, saying last goodbyes. How fortunate was EIA to have such a wonderful Youth Committee to put this space together. Thank you to everyone on the team!

The Youth Committee was formed early on in the planning for Empowerment In Action 2014, and met regularly throughout the year to plan the Youth Lounge and also ensure that the needs of youth delegates would be considered and met. The dedication of everyone on the Committee cannot be understated, as they met on weekends outside of their normal school and working hours to get things done.

Thank you to:

  • Keith Martin – Committee Chair
  • Nate Schwartz – BC/Yukon Bridges to the Future Coordinator
  • Micaela Evans – BC/Yukon
  • Luke Galvani – BC/Yukon
  • Dana Arafeh – Ontario
  • Jessica Dell’Unto – Ontario
  • Marie-Pier Cliché – Quebec
  • Scott Batten – Atlantic
  • Alexander Peeler – Atlantic

EIA Panelist Maayan Ziv on Living Life to the Fullest

Maayan

Maayan Ziv

Among the many sessions, workshops, and panels at Empowerment In Action are many inspiring and knowledgeable people who are looking forward to sharing and connecting with attendees. Maayan Ziv is one such speaker. She will be participating in the ‘Living Life to the Fullest’ panel. Maayan is an accomplished photographer, recipient of a Queen’s Diamond Jubilee medal, and is looking forward to traveling to Vancouver, BC to share experiences.

So what can you except from her participation in the panel? “I would say that I will be giving a truthful, and raw perspective of my life, along with its challenges and successes,” states Maayan.  “I’m going to tell it as it is – answer any questions as honestly as possible and share my life’s story that’s brought me to where I am today.” (more…)

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