Movement 101 Workshop – Richmond

Physiotherapist Sarah Stroh is one of my nearest and dearest friends. We have a long history of having conversations about our passion for teaching people (children and adults alike) how to properly move their bodies to prevent and rehabilitate injuries. After coming to a realization that we were delivering the same messages to our clients day in and day out (how important it is to breathe, what exactly your ‘true core’ is, benefits of squatting and crawling and hanging, etc), we thought, hey – why don’t we offer a workshop where we can deliver our message to lots of people all at once BEFORE they come into the clinic for pain and dysfunction?

After many weekly meetings, exciting discussions, play dates, and coffees, here it is: Movement 101.

Sarah’s incredibly detailed observation skills for movement patterns, yoga and pilates training, plenty of research on breath and core, and a continuing passion for helping adults move better

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Andrea’s knowledge of neurodevelopment and children’s physical abilities, and high level of creativity for fun movement games, and also a continuing passion for helping kiddos move better

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Our various experiences and education from courses and physio mentors combined

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The most effective and fun ‘exercise-less’ movement morning happily delivered by two enthusiastic and smiling physiotherapists 🙂

Movement 101 Poster C

 

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Real Role Models Do Monkey Bars

(Originally published on OrthoCanada’s blog, Sept 3, 2014 – here)

Throughout my life thus far, I’ve been fortunate to be surrounded by incredible people that have been my role models and have shaped me into the person that I am today. My parents, senior members of my childhood church, passionate school teachers, caring employers, and countless wise and witty friends have all inspired me, and are continually pushing me to become a better person in all aspects of my life.

In my quiet time reflecting on how each person has influenced me, I came to a realization about what the above groups of people have in common: they are all older than me. But that makes sense, doesn’t it? People who have been in the game longer know it better. Right?

Andrea's image

This may be true for certain aspects of life; previous generations are more experienced in their careers, marriages, and child-rearing, and therefore society often looks to these people for knowledge and advice.

But there are two crucial facets of life that perhaps these older groups are not well-versed in: authenticity and movement.

I’ve been to several networking events since graduation, and one thing I notice is how generally “uniform” these events are. Everyone dresses similarly, moves at a certain similar slow pace, and everyone is speaking at a general 4/10 volume level. Of course this is the accepted professional level of conduct but I can’t help but think about how many of these people are also like this in their day-to-day lives.

Over the past three years working with children, they’ve shown me something marvellous: they are SO true to their emotions. They say what they mean, and wear their hearts on their sleeves.

Even though the expression of these emotions is often still raw and unrefined (I often have to remind kids to use their ‘inside voice’, and just the other day I witnessed one of the most epic meltdowns by a 3-year-old who wanted to take one of our toys home and couldn’t), they still are important role models of self-expression. We need to remember how to accurately display how we feel (minus the meltdowns) and stop stifling our emotions to save face. Say something when you don’t agree, rather than nodding your head to please people. Cry freely when you’re upset, or actually jump for joy.  LOL and even ROTFL, and hug reeeal tight. Be authentic, be genuine, be real.

As a pediatric physiotherapist, I’m lucky to have the opportunity to observe how children move on a daily basis. Parents will often sit in on sessions and I encourage them to actively participate in some games. One day, I was playing a game of crab soccer with a 6-year-old (supporting yourself on your hands and feet with your belly button face up and bum off the ground, kicking a soccer ball around). This young boy asked to face-off with his observing grandmother, who simply dismissed the invitation, stating “Oh honey, Grandma is too old to get on the ground”.  As people get older, many of them have lost the ability to move the way nature intended and this is wreaking havoc on their bodies.

As toddlers, we all learned how to develop strength, maintain mobility, and participate in functional daily activities. Our western society then introduced sitting in chairs, stagnant forms of entertainment through technology and media, and convenient methods of transportation that have actually limited our need to move. The loss of this regular movement can lead to issues such as bulged spinal discs, hip osteoarthritis, and eventual knee replacements.

The obvious role models in the world of fitness are professional athletes: Venus and Serena Williams, Michael Phelps, and Lionel Messi all push the envelope in their separate sports and we admire their talent, dedication, and skill. But let’s not forget the little beings around us that can sprint, crawl, squat, jump, swing, hang, duck, dip, dive and dodge! Look to the playground to our real movement role models, and admire the physical abilities we all used to have but have been lost over the years.

Life is all about learning and growing in cognitive abilities, personal interactions, and work-related skill. Surrounding ourselves with inspiring individuals is what motivates us to be better. We shouldn’t forget about this special group of little beings in our population nor can we underestimate the lessons these kids can teach us. Next time you spend time with a child, take note of their ability to be authentic and observe how they move their bodies to express that authenticity.

Who inspires you?

The Puzzle of Pediatric Physiotherapy

(Originally published on OrthoCanada’s blog, July 29, 2014 – here)

Physiotherapy is a never-ending puzzle. That’s the challenge of this profession – we are constantly being driven to expand our anatomical and functional knowledge, amp up our kinaesthetic abilities for assessment and treatment techniques, and cultivate our movement creativity.

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In 2011, I completed the Master of Physical Therapy program at the University of British Columbia, and graduated with similar knowledge and experience to the other 66 students in my class. I was given the opportunity to work at Kids Physio Group, the first private paediatric clinic created to serve the greater Vancouver area. Entering the world of pediatrics right after graduation was daunting, as I was concerned that I didn’t possess enough pieces of the puzzle to enter this realm. I felt I hadn’t learned sufficient anatomical or functional knowledge regarding a kiddo’s growing body, nor was I prepared with any specialized treatment techniques for the plethora of pathologies that might present in the pediatric world. I also didn’t think I was very creative (as I believed I was always more “left-brained” and factual). Needless to say, I was hesitant to start a career in such a specialized field. Now, after three years of working at this unique facility, I realize that the physiotherapy aspect of this job is only a small piece of what makes paediatric physiotherapy such a puzzle.

The complexity of cases in paediatrics never ceases to amaze me. This past spring, I met an amazing 4-year-old girl who was born to a substance-abusing mother. She and her twin sister were adopted into a phenomenal and passionate family who goes to great lengths to give them all they need and more. This young girl was diagnosed with diplegic cerebral palsy, has an array of serious gastric issues and associated surgeries, and is completely hearing impaired (which has led me to late-night googling of physio- and play-related sign language and using my NetFlix account to access “Signing Time”). I’ve learned to quickly set up a puzzle, stabilize this squirmy child’s pelvis to help her step up onto a box, and simultaneously sign “Great job! Again!” ten times in a row while wiping my glistening brow in between reps. And despite all of the challenges she faces on a daily basis, this girl is a determined and strong-willed child whose cheerfulness is infectious, and I look forward to problem-solving all aspects of her treatment and learning from her every week.

It’s slowly becoming clear to me that family structures and social dynamics are complex and can strongly contribute to a child’s success in a rehabilitation setting. As a late-twenties young professional who has very few friends with children, I had to dig deep into the memory bank to empathize how it might feel to be in highschool at 15-years-old, living under my parents roof, and worrying that if I might not be a part of the popular crowd if I didn’t make the cut for the volleyball team because my physio told me to rest my knee. I’m understanding that kids are pressured from all directions – school, peers, sports, and home – and these puzzle pieces need to be taken into account as I create my overall treatment plan.

Many therapists may agree that perhaps the largest puzzle piece in paediatrics is solidifying a child’s buy-in and compliance to complete an activity that causes discomfort in the form of pain or difficulty. We see many children and youth of all ages that require a regular stretching program, but as many of us know, stretching is uncomfortable and boring. Similarly, some children present with lower muscular tone than average which limits them from participating to the same level as their peers. A regular strengthening program is the typical course of action however the trick is to devise a series of games or activities that encourage the child to complete the recommended sets and reps despite ‘feeling the burn’.

Additionally, I’ve learned that it’s crucial to establish authority within the first few sessions to maximize the therapeutic relationship between myself and the child. Building a solid sense of trust through exciting games, meaningful conversation, and fulfilled promises for rewards and end-of-session “Thomas The Train” stickers leads the child to happily participate throughout the intense 45-minute treatment session.

Pathologies and conditions certainly differ between the adult and child populations, but paediatric physiotherapy is so much more than the anatomical and physiological side. It is an art that combines mastering behavioural strategies, possessing continual ingenuity for games and obstacle courses, and having an ability to relate to any child regardless of their age, cognitive ability, or physical state. Nothing in school could have prepared me for this extensive puzzle, as I’ve found that much of this can only be learned through on-the-job successes and even greater failures. I still get a bit nervous when a new assessment walks through the door, but get excited as I start to unfold various pieces of that puzzle. After all, it is fascinating to witness the progress that evolves when those puzzle pieces come together and overall picture of a child becomes apparent.