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Getting Active

I used to hate the gym. I used to have a negative reaction to lifting up a weight, or even the thought of taking a walk. Getting up the courage to work out was one of the hardest thing to do. When I finally realized that I needed to make a change, it was time to find a way to get active and learn how to use my body to do the things it was built to do.

I always had a preconceived notion about working out and that it involved some special talent that I did not have, or could ever gain. I tried the treadmill, the elliptical, weight lifting machines and even biking. Then, one day, a friend introduced me to the game of Squash and I immediately found my way in! I have now been playing squash for over 2 years, two to three times per week and have even started Crossfit to help increase my strength and weightlifting technique.

Transitioning from a lazy couch potato to someone who actively works out 4 days per week was not easy and required much discipline as well as a strong support system. I also realized that it is not as hard as I was making it out to be. One of my favourite images through my research was the hierarchy pyramid of movement by Mark Sisson of Mark’s Daily Apple and The Primal Blueprint: Reprogram your genes for effortless weight loss, vibrant health, and boundless energy.

Primal Pyramid

Step 1: Move Frequently at a Slow Pace

This step involves walking, hiking, cycling or performing easy, slow movements for between 2-5 hours per week – 30 minutes per day of going for a walk outside, riding a bike with a friend or loved one is all you really need.

This is the single most important step in starting to become more active and fit, especially for those people who are just starting out.

Step 2: Lift Heavy Things

Between 1 to 3 times per week, do some heavy lifting. Whether you choose to hit the gym once per week for 10-12 minutes (yes this is possible – see Body by Science: A Research Based Program to Get the Results You Want in 12 Minutes a Week) or simply do some squats, lunges, curls and shoulder presses at home a couple times per week, the important thing is to find a routine that works for you. Body weight exercise (30 Exercises To Do At Home. (Bodyweight Exercises to Lose Fat and Get Healthy)) is also a great option for people that are starting out and don’t want to blow their budget on gym memberships.

Step 3: Sprint

This step requires about 10 minutes of effort per week. Find something that you like to do at maximal effort for a total of 10 minutes per week and make it a routine. This can include running, sprinting or 1 rep max weight lifting for a new Personal Record in a Crossfit Class, this is the toughest but most fun thing to find once you reach this level.

If you are tired of being tired and lazy, and have let that New Year’s resolution pass you by, try getting active with some slow deliberate movements with someone you can be accountable with. Once you start and find the routine that works for you, I promise it will be hard to stop!

Happy Exercising! Get Active and have fun!

What is Functional and Lifestyle Medicine?

What is Functional and Lifestyle Medicine?

I am often asked this question and have decided that I will write about to help clarify what I do.

Functional Medicine is a holistic branch of health care which creates an objective view of all correctly and incorrectly functioning bodily processes. Functional medicine (FM) doctors use a comprehensive history taking and functional lab testing to determine specific lifestyle factors which are causing symptoms of chronic disease in our patients. We use these tools to timeline the important and stressful physical and emotional events in our patients lives and correlate them with triggers to health conditions.

This approach enables FM doctors to accurately find the single or multiple root causes of Chronic health conditions that are related to lifestyle choices that we all make.

Modern medicine and health care practice is spectacular and necessary in the treatment of acute onset and emergency issues. During the era of growth of our modern health care system, the mindset of patients went from being responsible for our own health, to placing the responsibility in the hands of our family doctors and specialists.

As the population grew, family doctors and specialists were under significant pressure to improve the health of a very high number of patients from largely varying backgrounds and living a vast variety of lifestyles. As acute care improved, so did our life expectancy. There are so many of us living longer and we all need to be given the best care. Pharmaceutical companies stepped in and created medications to help alleviate symptoms and manage conditions, and our family doctors happily obliged as this allowed them to help manage symptoms of many patients in a cost-effective and time-effective way.

This unfortunately led to an increase in medications prescribed for medical conditions where lifestyle issues are often the root cause. Type 2 Diabetes is not caused by a lack of Metformin. Hypothyroidism is not caused by a lack of Synthroid. These medications simply help manage our symptoms, but we have failed to find the root cause.

At the same time, modern agricultural methods changed and foods were increasingly processed. Our lifestyles became significantly faster paced and higher in daily stress levels. Our jobs and work became 9-5 days including 8 hours of sitting in front of a computer with increasingly sedentary lifestyles. Television and technology became readily available and affordable – enough that our normal lifestyles have become waking up, running to get breakfast, driving to work, sitting for 4 hours, buying processed food lunches and eating as quickly as possible at our desks, sitting for another 4 hours, driving home, eating processed foods at home for dinner, then sitting in front of the television watching 3 hours of sports or binge-watching shows on Netflix, then checking Facebook and Instagram on our phones while falling asleep for a short and rushed sleep, just to wake up and do it all again tomorrow. If reading this paragraph is exhausting, then imagine living this life on a daily basis.

Our bodies are exhausted and are not being used the way we have evolved to live. Thus our health is suffering and we are becoming increasingly overrun by our lifestyle issues leading to chronic diseases – and then we go to the doctor so they can give us a medication, just so we can function on a daily basis with minimal symptoms.

So Why Functional Medicine?

Functional and Lifestyle medicine allows doctors to look objectively at the potential triggers and lifestyle factors that are affecting the health of our patients. We put all the factors together to determine where patients have blind spots and can make small changes with significant results. We then work with our patients on a long term strategy to improve all aspects of their lifestyle, and thus improve their overall health.

My goal as a Functional Medicine Doctor is to help my patients bodies function correctly so that they can pursue and achieve their dreams. I do so by providing services in conjunction with your family doctor, spending the time necessary to determine what dietary, digestive, hormonal, emotional, environmental and biochemical processes are not functioning optimally.

I believe that a poor lifestyle – one in which any of the pillars of your health (more on this later) are not functioning optimally – can lead to any number of chronic health conditions, and as such, I want to use positive energy, education, accountability and a personalized plan to help my patients reach their life goals. Once my patients take responsibility for their health, the results are amazing!

Your health shouldn’t impede your pursuit to live.

Don’t let your lifestyle hold you back. Take responsibility for your health and live the life you have always wanted to live!

Treatment of Sciatica

I originally wrote this article for The Hearty Soul: The Hearty Soul – Sciatica Article

As a Chiropractor, one of the most common conditions that I see in my office is Sciatica. Lower back pain with radiation into the leg is very common in North America. In fact, just last week, I had a patient come in to my office in such excruciating pain that he actually had to crawl through the hallway on his hands and knees. What exactly causes Sciatica and how can we get rid of it? We must begin by understanding the meaning of the word Sciatica. 

Sciatica is a term given to describe symptoms of pain that begin in the lower back and extend down through the buttock, thigh and into the lower leg and foot. These symptoms can occur when a nerve or nerve root is compressed or pinched in the lower back leading to the sensation of pain, numbness and weakness into the leg.  There are multiple locations where the nerve or nerve root can be pinched.

The most common cause of sciatica is lumbar disc herniation. Repeated mechanical stress to a spinal disc can cause the outer layers (Annulus Fibrosus) of the disc to tear and allows the inner substance (Nucleus Pulposus) of that disc to herniate, or push its way out of its enclosed space. Lumbar disc herniations occur most commonly at the weakest point of the disc which is the area where the nerve root exits from the spinal canal. When a disc herniates in this location, it often directly contact the nerve root which is exiting through the space, thus activating the nerve and causing the feeling of numbness and pain radiating into the leg. There are other conditions which can mimic the effects of a lumbar disc herniation including degenerative disc disease and piriformis syndrome, a condition in which the piriformis muscle becomes tight and compresses the sciatic nerve as it passes through the gluteal region.

So how can we treat Sciatica?

All health care professionals agree that conservative care should be performed first and surgery is a last resort for this issue.  This is where health care professionals like Chiropractors and Physiotherapists come in.

HEAT/ICE Therapy

In the early stages of sciatica, using heat packs or ice packs may help to reduce pain and inflammation at the source of the problem. Heat helps to loosen muscles while ice helps to reduce inflammation and swelling.

Chiropractic Care and Physiotherapy

Both chiropractors and physiotherapists use a range of treatments to help relieve pain and promote proper motion. These can include electrotherapy, ultrasound and other modalities, soft tissue therapy, exercises, joint mobilization and manipulation. Speak to your health care provider about what treatment is right for you.

McKenzie Exercises

These are exercises prescribed by chiropractors and physiotherapists that are effective in decreasing leg pain and centralizing the pain (bringing it into the lower back). Speak to your therapist before starting this therapy.

Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine

I have successfully used acupuncture to significantly reduce the symptoms of sciatica for many of my patients. Acupuncture relies on the use of small needles inserted through the skin and into muscles at specific points along our meridian channels. These needles cause micro-trauma to the muscles leading to release of hormones called endorphins. Endorphins help to calm nerve and muscle pain and reduce symptoms of pain.

Lumbar Spine Traction and Decompression Therapy

Some therapists use manual and instrument assisted traction therapy to help spread the lumbar vertebrae and allow disc material to become re-absorbed into the outer disc material. This is a good option to consider if your pain is not improving with other treatment types

Pain Medications like NSAIDs

Talk to your physician about pain killers and anti-inflammatory medications to help reduce pain and inflammation. These medications can interact with other prescribed medications that you may be taking so make sure to consult with your physician and pharmacist before taking pain killers.

Dr. Navaz Habib

I originally wrote this article for The Hearty Soul: The Hearty Soul – Sciatica Article