Before the year 2000, most medical approaches assumed that the adult brain continuously lost brain cells and was incapable of regeneration. We now know that the brain is incredibly plastic, meaning that it can adapt, grow, and heal. Up until 2 years ago, we believed that the brain was anatomically entirely separate from our immune system. However, the very recent discovery of lymphatic vessels that directly connect the brain to our immune system have incredible implications for our broader understanding of brain health. Add to this a growing body of compelling research linking aberrant immune function to mood disorders, and we finally have some serious tools to investigate alternatives to the traditional serotonin-promoting antidepressant pharmaceuticals that fail for so many people with depression.
Can Massage Therapy help with my headaches? Yes! Although Massage Therapy may not spring to mind as a typical intervention for ongoing headaches, I have had a lot of success over the years treating clients for head pain. There are a few ways Massage Therapy can address headaches, but the most common way is by addressing trigger points in the neck and upper back. A trigger point is a specific point in a muscle that, when stimulated, can cause referred pain. These pain patterns are remarkably consistent from one person to another and there are A LOT of trigger points that refer to the head, mimicking a headache. Some trigger points can even mimic migraines or cause some autonomic phenomena to occur, such as watery eyes, runny nose, and light sensitivity. So, by addressing the tension in the neck and associated trigger points, headaches will often disappear!
There are so many different types of headaches, how can you know if Massage Therapy will help you with your specific headache? There are some good clues to watch for that may indicate that your headache pain is associated with a pesky trigger point:
Most of us have experienced a minor headache before, but did you know that over half of us experience an excruciating headache at least once a year? Unfortunately for many of us, headaches happen a lot more frequently than once a year and can be quite debilitating. When treating patients who suffer from chronic headaches or migraines, it is important to understand the “root cause” of their head pain. I find most patients clearly know what triggers their headaches. I have heard explanations ranging from the weather to their mother-in-law, but a key starting point to treatment is always understanding what truly triggers the pain. For the sake of simplicity I will be using the term “headaches” to refer to both headaches and migraines. I completely appreciate that there is a difference as I too was once a migraine sufferer. Regardless of whether your headaches are occasional minor headaches or frequent migraines, the following information may help you feel better.
Before we dive into the “food-headache” connection, there a few common culprits to chronic head pain that should be ruled out first. The following is a list of things to focus on. After correcting for these factors, if the chronic headaches are still present, then it may be worthwhile exploring a food sensitivity connection.
5, 8, or 10 week options ● Ongoing one-on-one sessions
CogMedTM is a medically proven computer based solution for attention problems caused by poor working memory. Increased working memory allows you to experience better focus, resist distractions, control impulses, and engage in longer and more complex discussions.
Please read more about brain training options, here on our blog.
Some insurance providers may cover the entire cost of the program when facilitated by an Occupational Therapist.
What is neuroplasticity?
Neuroplasticity is the concept that your brain is a dynamic organ that changes and grows in response to a variety stimuli. It has largely replaced the older medical idea that the nervous system is an unchanging system that functions in a machine like manner. For example, people are now overcoming learning disabilities once thought insurmountable, making amazing recoveries from strokes and brain injuries, and much more.
What is your background in neuroplasticity as an occupational therapist?
My first real experience with neuroplasticity was when I worked with stroke patients in Calgary in the mid-2000’s. There, I had the extreme privilege to start one of the first constraint induced movement therapy (CIMT) programs in Canada.
Dr. Sonya Nobbe, ND
People often ask me for a supplement or herb that preserves brain health and treats changes in brain function, such as decreased word recall or concentration. However, well before an effective supplement support can be chosen, the following basic principles must be addressed, as changes in brain function are commonly a consequence of the body compensating for some other disturbance.
1. Eat fresh, local, organic produce, when possible. Organic vegetables produce their own pesticide chemicals that protect our bodies from inflammation and damage. Some of these chemicals, generally called phytochemicals, are directly linked to optimal brain function and nerve protection.
2. Figure out why you’re so tired all the time! Many of the underlying mechanisms of chronic fatigue also cause poor brain function. For example, thyroid hormones are also brain hormones
Phillip Wendt, MScOT, OT Reg. (Ont.)
An Acquired Brain Injury, or ABI for short, refers to any brain injury that has occurred after birth. This includes a large variety of diagnoses such as concussion, hypoxic brain injury, stroke, subdural hematoma, traumatic brain injury, and others. It does not include hereditary or congenital illnesses.
How does someone know they have one, particularly if it’s not severe enough to show up on a brain scan (MRI or CT)?
Most ABI’s will have a sudden onset of marked changes that can be seen on imaging or neurological examinations (MRI, CT, etc.). However, mild ABI’s such as concussion may not. Indeed, a person may not even be aware that they have sustained a concussion. In these instances immediately after one sustains an impact to their head, it is important to look for signs and symptoms such as confusion, disorientation, and irritability. Lingering symptoms can then included headaches, fatigue, changes in sleep patterns, dizziness, difficulty concentrating, light and sound sensitivity and nausea.
Why is it so important to treat a mild to moderate ABI such as concussion? Won’t it heal all by itself?
~ Graham Wiltshire, CAT(C), CSCS, DOMP (Thesis Writer)
I have been an Athletic Therapist for almost 17 years and treating osteopathically for 10 years. I have worked at all levels of sports from amateur to professional and have seen the trauma that causes concussions as well as treated people who have suffered from the effects of post-concussion syndrome.
While it has become common knowledge that concussions occur in sports, we are now recognizing that they occur, with increasing frequency, to the general public.
Please click here to view our entire online March e-newsletter, Brain Health.
Carol Belanger, BA, RM, BHS
Given the amount of information available to us these days, the plasticity of the brain is more interesting and useful than ever.
Plasticity refers to the how much we can change and influence our brain. It turns out we can change and influence our brain quite a bit potentially. It seems we can ‘teach an old dog a new trick!’ In his books on brain training, neuropsychologist Dr. Rick Hansen talks about how we can help sustain positive mental outlooks, heal negative emotions and memories, build resiliency and more. I like the simplicity of the concepts of his work and use them in my work.
For example, information is stored in our memory banks in several areas of the brain. New information enters the front part of the brain in the prefrontal cortex. When stored information comes up, bring to mind something positive to help that memory go back into storage with the positive. Gradually, you can help shift your interior landscape. There are some brain training techniques that involve tapping – EFT for example – on the front of the forehead while saying certain positive words to positively influence how we are thinking and influence our memories.
Please click here to view our entire online March e-newsletter, Brain Health.
by Luis Aguilar
When I was a young lad, I did not believe my elders when they explained to me how they were noticing that “they are losing their minds”, or “there is not enough time in the day to do more”. Now, I believe them!
I am also in search for mental sharpness
As I am now maturing, I have noticed the same decrease in cognitive function; I forget names, I can’t memorize my debit card numbers, 9×7= 63, 72? One thing is for sure: That I, like many individuals, am looking for ways to regain mental sharpness, increase memory, and have the mental stamina to work efficiently throughout the day.
I would like to share my tricks from my research and experience in the endless journey of improvement:
Dr. Sonya Nobbe, ND
Memory is one of our most precious assets and I meet many people seeking ways to protect this life-enhancing attribute. Unfortunately, many of these people address their concerns by taking a variety of natural health supplements that claim to improve memory, including CoQ10, B-vitamins, and ginkgo, without a clear understanding of whether they’re working. The effectiveness of these products lies in matching one of them to the underlying cause of the change in your memory, and many people are surprised to learn that “aging” is not one of these.
The components in the brain responsible for memory require a substantial number of nutrients, adequate blood flow, hormones, and other chemical messengers for optimal function. The key to improving memory lies in understanding the underlying cause of the decline, specific to the person. Is it decreased blood flow to the brain caused by impaired heart function or a motor vehicle accident? Nutrient deficiencies caused by poor digestion or by daily liver and kidney detoxification of prescription medication? Or perhaps it’s hormones –
Please see our entire May e-newsletter, Reversing Heart Disease, here.
Our heart can be both the strongest and the most tender organ in our body.
On the strong side of things, according to standard calculations the entire volume of blood within the circulatory system is pumped by the heart each minute (at rest). During vigorous exercise, the cardiac output can increase up to 7 fold (35 liters/minute). That means a healthy heart pumps about 4-5L of blood through approx. 97km of blood vessels in our body in about 1min. The heart is responsible for keeping activity happening in a crucial way and needs to be kept functional and tuned-up. The brain uses approximately twenty percent of the body’s blood and needs twenty-five percent of the body’s oxygen supply to function optimally. Rejuvenating activity helps keep blood oxygen levels up.
On the tender side of things, our heart is exposed to every strong to nuanced emotion that passes through our body, that changes our hormone levels, nervous system signals, influences how our organs are functioning, how tense our muscles are etc., and how our heart is responding to it all. The heart, and more accurately, the heart-mind, is the epicentre of us. It’s just that we give more of our attention to our minds, mistakenly believing that it alone is ‘running the show’.
Most patients associate having high cholesterol, high blood pressure and high blood sugars with their risk of having a heart attack, stroke or developing type 2 diabetes. A fascinating new look at some old data from the famous Framingham study has found that these risk factors also accurately predict the 10 year risk of developing cognitive decline and dementia. Some symptoms of cognitive decline could include forgetfulness, difficulty following instructions, trouble making decisions or irrational thoughts and emotions.
Another 2013 study in Sweden took these findings further by following approximately 500 women at high risk of a heart attack or stroke, as determined by the Framingham risk assessment. This assessment takes into account blood pressure, cholesterol levels, age and smoking. Some of the women in the study were treated with 81mg aspirin per day.
This program is based on leading research from the Baycrest Centre for Brain Fitness.
Wednesdays 9:30-11:30am for 5 weeks at KIHC
May 22-June 19 OR August 7-September 4
$150 for the 5-week series, registration includes a participant workbook
To register, call Megan Edgelow at 613-331-1449, or email email@example.com
Designed for people 50+, this 5-week program is intended to answer your questions about memory and aging:
By Megan Edgelow, BSc(OT), MSc(RHBS), OT Reg.(Ont.), Occupational Therapist
Memory and aging can be a source of worry for many people. Common questions include: What memory changes should I expect as I grow older? What is normal and when should I seek health expertise? If I sometimes forget, is something wrong with my brain? Can I improve my memory?
These are excellent questions to ask, and an interest in your memory shows that you are invested in your health and well-being as you age. The good news is, there are many things you can do to improve your memory and daily function. Difficulties with memory are not an inevitable outcome of aging.
When someone’s memory or daily function is obviously impaired, seeking medical assistance is a natural step; the healthcare system is equipped to manage conditions such as dementia. However, for people who notice their memory is changing with age, but don’t have a serious memory impairment, a gap is left. They are often too well to need typical medical treatment, but can be left concerned about their memory, and frustrated by changes they notice.
Typical age-related change:
Dr. Sonya Nobbe, ND
So you’ve been told that you have a deficiency of the “happy” brain chemical serotonin, and that a drug will help you feel better by increasing your body’s response to serotonin. But what caused that serotonin deficiency in the first place? And what will happen if you neglect to address this underlying cause by relying solely on the medication?
Research clearly demonstrates that chronic stress can cause serotonin deficiencies and depression. Many of us would agree that spiritual or emotional stress incurred during childhood or in our jobs and relationships, can lead to depression. But chronic ‘stress’ also applies to physiological (body) stress. Stress from chronic illness can stimulate biochemical processes (e.g. inflammation), in the body that “steal” nutrients otherwise used for serotonin production, thereby contributing to depression symptoms. This stress biochemistry is a survival strategy that our bodies have used theoretically since the caveman age, and we haven’t adapted yet to our fast-paced North American culture.
Our bodies are built to manage short bouts of high stress, such as what you might feel if suddenly attacked by a wild animal. Our bodies are not biochemically equipped to manage any amount of chronic stress, no matter how low grade, and no matter whether emotional, environmental, or physical. When “healthy” biochemical processes are put on hold in favour of those that support our stress response, nutrients are depleted, normal wear and tear on our bodies is not repaired, our bodies switch to inefficient energy production processes (i.e. we feel tired and ‘old’), and chronic disease progresses.
What common health conditions can cause this shift in our body’s biochemistry and drop in serotonin?