Why Deep Squats can Actually Improve Knee Stability

Deep squats are the best squats– they recruit more muscle, burn more calories, and really help to build a strong butt. It used to be thought that doing deep squats is harmful for the front of your knees, but research has shown that isn’t the case. In fact, deeps squats could actually increase knee stability. Studies have shown that the anterior and posterior cruciate ligaments– which really help to stabilize the knee joint– have less force through them when the knee is bent more fully.

It is also much more efficient strengthening, in that parallel squats with more weight are less effective than deeper squats with a lighter weight to build up your booty and thighs. Your gluteus maximus is over 25% more engaged with a deep squat than a parallel squat.

That said, if you have a history of knee issues, there is nothing wrong with parallel squats, and speak with your physiotherapist to safely progress to deep squats as your mobility or strength allows.

Check out this video and others on our YouTube Channel, Elevation Physiotherapy & Wellness, for our One Minute Wellness tips on strength, mobility and balance.

One Minute Wellness: Sitting Posture

During this crazy time of COVID-19, Elevation Physiotherapy & Wellness is closed with so many other businesses, and people are at home. Since it is not normal life, many people are probably sitting even more than normally. Research shows that it’s best to keep moving around when you’re sitting and change up your position regularly, but here is a tip to get you out of the slouching position we spend so much time in:

Is Carrying a Backpack Hurting Your Neck?

Backpacks can be an excellent way to carry books, binders, lunch, running shoes and other items for school or recreation, but they can be a source of temporary discomfort or eventually serious soreness. Very heavy or improperly worn backpacks can lead to poor posture, cause stress on the soft tissue in your neck and back and put an extra load on your muscles and joints.

Backpacks are designed to distribute the load evenly.   Worn correctly and not overloaded, a backpack is supported by the back and abdominal muscles.   These muscles work together to stabilize the trunk and hold the body in proper balance and postural alignment.

Is My Backpack a Problem?

You may need to put less in your pack or carry it differently if:

  • you have to struggle to get your backpack on or off
  • you have to lean forward to carry your pack
  • you have neck pain or tingling in your arms
  • you have red marks on your shoulders

Tips for Choosing and Using Backpacks

Here are a few tips that will help make your backpack work for you, not against you:

  • Make sure it is not oversized. Getting one just to “carry more” can mean you’ll be hauling too much weight around too often. Neither your neck nor your back will thank you for it.
  • The shoulder straps should fit comfortably and not dig in to the shoulder. This will allow the arms to move freely. The straps should be padded and adjust so the pack sits close against your back. The wider the straps, the better—or at least more comfortable!
  • The bottom of the pack should rest in the contour of the lower back.  
  • Use a waist belt: this is important to “unweight” the pack and carry some of the load through your hips; this will directly take pressure from your neck
  • Always pack your backpack with the heaviest items closest to your back. Don’t drop all your stuff in the main compartment (using the side pockets will distribute the weight more evenly).
  • To wear a backpack properly, wear both shoulder straps to distribute the weight evenly—don’t sling it over one shoulder. Using only one strap loads the entire weight of the pack on one side, causing you to lean. Over time, this abnormal posture can create lower and upper back pain as well as neck and shoulder strain.
  • Limit your load. It is recommended that people carry no more than 10% to 15% of their body weight in their packs. This means that if you weigh 120 pounds, your backpack should weigh no more than 12 to 18 pounds. Choosing a lightweight backpack can get you off to a good start. Use your bathroom scale to weigh your backpack and get an idea of what the proper weight for you feels like.
  • Pick it up properly. As with any heavy weight, you should bend at the knees when lifting a backpack to your shoulders.
  •  When wearing a backpack, stand tall with your head and neck in line with your shoulders and use both shoulder straps to help evenly distribute the weight of the pack.
  • Consider a pack with wheels as an alternative to backpacks

If you’re having neck or back pain when carrying your bag or backpack, and adjusting it does not alleviate the pain, see your physiotherapist to help get to the source of the pain and get you better, faster.

The McKenzie System is Comprehensive for People with Spinal Pain

I’ve spoken about the McKenzie system before– see here.  It is one of the most researched areas within physiotherapy, and I have summarized a great article by Stephen May and Richard Rosedale, where over 50 clinicians from 15 different countries assessed and treated over 750 patients who had spinal pain.

Data was analyzed for several variables:

  1. Spinal area- lumbar, thoracic, cervical
  2. Syndrome Classification- Derangement, Dysfunction, Postural or OTHER subgroups
  3. Stability of classification from initial assessment to discharge- Yes/ No
  4. Number of treatment sessions
  5. Loading strategy, if appropriate- extension, flexion, lateral

Main Results:  Over 64% of patients had lumbar pain and were classified predominantly as having a derangement (75.3%).  The predominant directional preference was extension (82.5%), followed by the lateral principle at 12.9%. The stability of the classification to remain the same from initial assessment through discharge was 85%.  In the 15% who altered their classification, no details were given on how the classification changed. Almost 23% of patients were classified as one of the McKenzie OTHER subgroups, with Mechanically Inconclusive (6.7%) or Mechanically Unresponsive Radicular Syndrome (6.0%) being most common, and the rest representing seven OTHER subgroups.  Fifty-five percent of patients were seen in four sessions or less; with a mean number of sessions of 4.9.

Conclusions: This might sound confusing, but for those clinicians who treat people with back pain, it confirms previous studies’ results in classifying patients with a derangement about 75% of the time, and establishes that the majority are extension responders. Once people can be classified into a group of similar responders, there is a clear path on how to treat this pain effectively and efficiently.

If you have been struggling with back pain, have a thorough assessment from a clinician who is Credentialed in the McKenzie System of Mechanical Diagnosis and Therapy (MDT).  You can find one in your area here.

Are You Set to Ski this Winter? START NOW!

The season is fast approaching, and whether your interest is downhill or cross-country skiing, you should put in some preparation to ensure that your body is ready when the snow falls.  Injury prevention when skiing involves more than just physical strength:  one has to be mentally prepared and of course, ensure that the equipment is well-maintained.

Physical components of ski fitness involve cardiovascular endurance, flexibility, strength training and balance skills.  If your legs get tired quickly, you increase the risk of falling after skiing only a few runs.  Evidence has shown that ski injuries are most likely to occur in the late morning or late afternoon after people have been on the hills/trails for a few hours.  The most common injuries are to the knees (20-32%) or thumbs (17-25%).

Here are 3 tips: Continue reading

How Do I Work my Pelvic Floor Muscles?

The pelvic floor group of muscles act like any other muscle in your body, and they take consistent work to make them stronger and get them flexible.  It is important that they get regular use, and you have to train your brain to know how to contract the pelvic floor muscles properly and build endurance and control.

A proper pelvic floor contraction, or a Kegel, is a lift:  imagine a marble sitting outside your vagina and you want to just bring it inside.


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Back Pain Stinks!

A back problem can be a literal pain in the butt.  There is much that can be done to fix it, and your first stop should be an experienced physiotherapist who can assess your individual issue and help determine what positions and movements will be helpful to guide you back to a pain-free self!

Who Can Benefit from Meditation?

Maybe a better question would be who CAN’T benefit?  No, really… with life’s ever-moving flow and the list of “to-do’s” growing, how do you have time to catch your breath, or at least appreciate the little things?  It’s hard to live in the moment when there is limited time and a million things to do.

Research shows that meditation techniques can calm your nervous system by connecting your brain with your breath and your body.  It isn’t the absence of thinking– that isn’t possible.  But it is trying to train your brain to let go– let go of doubting thoughts and self-critique and learn to accept just being. When your brain wanders, just come back to the breath.

Many people don’t start meditating because they fear that they will be bad at it. The main focus of meditation is breathing.  If you can breathe, you can meditate.

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