Community Meeting Recap: Osteopathy with Osteopathic Manual Practitioner Riki Richter

May’s Community Meeting featured Osteopathic Manual Practitioner Ricki Richter who came to talk to us about mild Traumatic Brain Injury (mTBI) through an osteopathic and movement lens.

About Riki Richter

  • Riki is an Osteopathic Manual Practitioner and Movement Based Rehabilitation Instructor at Synergy Sports Medicine in Toronto.
  • She has been a Pilates and Yoga instructor for over 20 years!
  • She sustained a brain injury when she was seven years old and was at SickKids for a week.
  • She lives with two cats and two lovebirds.
  • To learn more, you can visit Riki’s website: https://www.rikirichter.com/
Riki
Riki Richter

What is Osteopathy?

  • Osteopathy is a form of manual therapy with the goal of maximizing health by treating the source of dysfunction in the body.
  • Osteopathic practitioners combine their extensive knowledge of anatomy and the inter-relationships between body systems, while utilizing gentle hands-on techniques to improve health.

How Osteopathy may help mTBI symptoms

Following mTBI, it’s common to experience headaches, neck and shoulder pain and muscle weakness, among many other symptoms. There are a few simple and non-invasive osteopathic techniques which may make these symptoms more bearable.

First, let’s jump into the physiology behind the techniques. If you want to skip the science, scroll to the bottom of the post for five simple exercises.

Breathing & Its Effect on the Body

Blood Flow and the Brain

  • Breathing affects blood flow throughout the body.
  • Using the diaphragm (the primary muscle that controls breathing) with a directed inhalation is the most efficient way to breathe.
  • During a directed inhalation, cerebrospinal fluid (CSF, fluid that bathes the brain and spinal cord) moves up to the brain, bringing nutrients and clearing waste.
  • Maximizing this flow of CSF can decrease headache severity!
Image via: Medicine Plus

The Lymphatic System

  • The lymphatic system functions to maintain fluid balance within the body and also plays a role in immune system function.
  • During shallow breathing, there is less movement of the lymphatic fluid.
  • The heart and pelvis have the deepest lymphatic systems within the body and they are completely dependent on breathing and movement to flow.
  • We know sleep is important, but did you know that the lymphatic system is responsible for 60 per cent of increased drainage during sleep? This means that the body is clearing out more waste while you are (hopefully)sleeping!
body
Image via hartfordhealthrehabnetwork.org 

5 Simple Exercises

 1. 3D Breathing Exercise

Purpose:

Generally, most people breathe into their chest or maybe breathe into their belly. While belly breathing is seen as more ideal compared to simply breathing into the chest, 3D breathing helps with posture and improves body system flow. With practice, this will become second nature and may even minimize the severity of headaches!

Method: 

  1. Sitting tall in a chair or standing with good posture, bring awareness to how you breathe by holding a stretching band or towel placed around your ribcage just below the sternum.
  2. Inhale and feel the strap expand as the ribcage moves out to the sides and back.
  3. Exhale, keeping the strap tight while breathing all the way out.
  4. Focus on keeping the breath slow and silent.
2. Tight Neck/Poor Sleep Exercise

Purpose:

To improve poor sleep or tight upper two vertebrae.

Method:

  1. Sit at a table placing the right elbow on the tabletop.
  2. Place the right thumb under the right cheekbone.
  3. Lean head into thumb and allow the thumb to slide up the side of your face to the ear.
  4. Repeat on left side.
3. Shoulder Exercise:

Purpose:

To loosen tight shoulders.

Method:

  1. Place fingers up and under collarbone (see picture below to help locate the collarbone).
  2. Add some pressure by placing the opposite hand on the wrist.
collarbone
Photo Via Healthlinkbc.ca  

Neck Exercise

Purpose:

To strengthen neck muscles to prevent the feeling of the head falling backwards.  

Method:

  1. Sit with good posture, looking down so the nose is down and base of the skull is up.
  2. Maintaining the position of the head, move the neck so the head moves lightly back, giving the appearance of a double chin.

Posture Exercise

desk
PHOTO VIA absolutehealthcentre.com

Purpose:

To improve circulation to and from the brain.

Method:

  1. Sit straight and allow the head to float over the ribcage and the ribcage to float over the pelvis.
  2. Inhale slowly through the nose using the 3D breathing technique (Simple Exercise 1) and exhale allowing the ribcage to recoil.
  3. Continuing to breathe, shift body weight forward so sit bones almost come off the chair.

Osteopathic College Student Clinic

Are you interested in seeing an Osteopathic Manual Practitioner but have a tighter budget?  The Canadian College of Osteopathy holds a student clinic where you can be treated by a student overseen by an Osteopathic Manual Practitioner. Find more information about the student clinic, HERE


Julia Renaud is a ABI survivor with a passion for learning new things, trying new activities, and meeting new people – all of which have led her to writing this column. She is an advocate within the health care community and has been featured in the coffee table book, A Caged Mind by May Mutter, which exposes the nature of concussions through body painting.

 

 

August 2018 Community Meeting Recap: Brain Health with Paul Hyman

BY: JULIA RENAUD

Brain Health

As a brain injury survivor, these two enchanting words instantly grab my attention and get me craving to learn more. Lucky for me, this was the topic of BIST’s August Community Meeting, and guest speaker, Paul Hyman, had my full attention. Paul is a wonderfully accomplished champion for the brain injury community and he comes with a very impressive resume (check out his website if you don’t believe me). Among all of his accomplishments, he is most well known for being the president and founder of Brain Fitness International, an organization that helps those living with a brain injury to maximize their potential and live better lives.

Picture of Paul Hyman
Paul Hyman, Creator and CEO of Brain Fitness International

Paul began the evening with a quick one liner to explain what ‘brain health’ means to him: movement-based, multi-sensory brain stimulation. Put simply, this means that through movement and engaging your senses you are actually helping your brain. To elaborate upon this concept, Paul used the example of a student who was taking a class and, to the professor’s dismay, knitted throughout every lecture rather than taking notes. To the professor’s astonishment, this student ended up far exceeding the professor’s expectations come the completion of the course. Because knitting utilizes both sides of the body, and therefore, both hemispheres of the brain, the student was able to better absorb the information. For this reason, a pipe cleaner (the craft supply) was handed out to each community meeting attendee to fiddle with, using both hands, throughout the presentation. I have been using this pipe cleaner trick for about a week now and, when I do, I feel like I’m better at absorbing and recalling information; so, if it tickles your fancy give it a try!

PipeCleaners
PHOTO VIA RAINBOW CREATIONS

The point that Paul chose to emphasize was that movement stimulates the brain. If you don’t believe me, lift your arms high in the air and shake your hands around. Just by moving, you are improving your capacity to learn, memorize, and recall information. If you’re currently struggling with brain injury and some sticky symptoms, this may be exhausting; but, as Paul says, movement is great for the brain – try it out and see how you feel.

Further to movement being a brain stimulant, a principle that has been known for many years now was also highlighted, ‘Neurons that fire together, wire together.’ This speaks to the neuroplasticity of the brain,  how the brain is capable of forming new connections.

Using both body and breath to stimulate the brain is a fantastic way to facilitate recovery and also leaves you feeling great. We went through several activities over the course of the evening, and below I will share some of my favourites. I’ve included some fun names for each exercise to hopefully make them easier to recall.

Activities

Paul used to be a professional trombone player, to which he credits learning the importance of the breath. This first exercise is intended to help you become accustomed to taking slower and deeper breaths. All you need is a tissue! I call this one, the tissue trap:

The Tissue Trap:

  • Take a tissue and hold it up against a wall.
  • Exhale slowly and deeply onto the tissue so that it stays stuck to the wall without you needing to hold it in place. Do this as slowly as possible.
  • For added fun, you can time yourself or challenge others to see who can hold it the longest. (New party trick, maybe?)
  • Vary this exercise by blowing puffs of air instead of a steady stream. If you don’t have a wall handy, use another surface like a book, or hold the tissue between your fingers and watch the tissue fly as you control it using your breath.

This next exercise utilizes both hemispheres of the brain and helps them to work together. It is commonly referred to as eye tracking or lazy 8’s. For a more detailed explanation, click here, otherwise follow the steps below:

Eye Tracking Lazy 8

Eye Tracking/Lazy 8’s:

  • Outstretch your arm in front of you so it’s perpendicular to the floor.
  • Make the thumbs up sign with the hand of your outstretched arm.
  • Move your arm to draw a big, imaginary infinity sign (an 8 on its side, see above). Continue to do this motion.
  • While keeping your head still and facing forward, move your eyes to keep your gaze on your thumb as it moves around.
  • Try this out with your other arm and/or with your fingers interlaced.
  • Vary the direction of your figure 8. For example, instead of going up the middle every time, try going down the middle.

If you prefer, you may like to draw your lazy 8 on a piece of paper or white board. This can be particularly handy if you get dizzy from drawing them in the air.

Brain Gym PACE

PACE is a Brain Gym mnemonic for Positive, Active, Clear, and Energetic, which together, form a technique for warming up both your brain and your body to maximize your capacity to learn. Now, I’ve been trying to figure out how to describe this practice using only words for a while, but lucky for me, and let’s be honest, you too, I stumbled on this handy video that captures PACE in a straightforward way.

pace brain Gympace brain Gym

The BIST community meeting attendees really enjoyed Paul’s presentation as he was an excellent speaker with a very engaging presentation. I’ve been told that he will likely return for more presentations in the future so stay tuned!

In the mean time, don’t forget to check out the BIST calendar or all types of events.

October Community Meeting: Join us for our Halloween Party on October 31st!

November Community Meeting: Essential Oils & & ABI with Rose-Ann Partridge – November 28th, 6 – 8 pm 

 

 

June 2018 Community Meeting Recap: Face Mapping with Amee Le

BY: JULIA RENAUD

I’m pretty sure I know what you’re thinking right about now:  what on earth is face mapping? Those were my thoughts exactly, and to put this question at bay, Amee Le, occupational therapist and founder of Mindful Occupational Therapy Services came to this month’s BIST community meeting to explain what face mapping is all about.

Face mapping with Amee Le
Amee Le

Amee shared that she first learned about the enjoyable and artistic activity from seeing a face map made by information designer, Anna Vital. Amee liked the way that the visual representation, encompassing a picture and short bits of text, enabled her clients to reflect on their experiences. She also thought it was a great way for her to learn about her clients and the experiences that helped to shape them.

Face map of Anna Vital, co-founder of Adioma.
Face map of Anna Vital, co-founder of Adioma.
Source: http://anna.vc/post/89097409207/life-surfaced

Making a face map is simple enough to do, and also fun. If you couldn’t make it to the community meeting, I encourage you to give face mapping a try on your own. I’ll do my best to take you through the process so you too can make a face map of your own.

What you’ll need:

  • A blank piece of paper
  • A picture of your face (bigger is better in this case)
  • Glue or tape (or if you’re tech savvy, like the fine employees at BIST, you can print the picture directly onto the sheet of paper)
  • Plenty of colourful writing utensils (pens, pencil crayons, markers, etc.)

Four easy steps for making your face map:

  • Glue or tape the picture of your face onto the middle the blank piece of paper.
  • Above your picture, write the year that you were born and/or a goal that you have for your future.
  • Starting at whatever age you’d like, chronologically write down some milestones in your life around the picture with your corresponding age for each.
  • Draw a line from each milestone to a point on your face that you feel represents that milestone.

For example, I was very happy about buying my first car, so I linked that milestone up with the corner of my smile.

The milestones that you choose to highlight can all be related or have no theme whatsoever, it’s entirely up to you. Maybe you need to do a rough draft like I did to get your events in order – picking out milestones is a lot harder than I thought! Be creative and have fun with it.

Julia's face map

Above, you’ll find a picture of my own face map that I made at the community meeting. I decided that my goal is to find a new hobby, so I wrote that at the top. My milestones don’t have any particular theme although I tried to include a variety of big moments, starting from age 12 through to 28. For me these big moments mostly revolved around my numerous concussions, as well as my academic and career achievements. Since my most recent concussion, my milestones revolve around perseverance, and celebrating the small victories that come with brain injury recovery. I also chose to write each milestone in a different colour to make my face map more visually interesting.

Amee was absolutely right in saying that face maps are an excellent way to get to know others. As much fun as I had making my face map, my absolute favourite part was meeting and learning about other members of the BIST community. Those sitting alongside me making their own face maps had a breadth of life experiences, some of which we had in common, others that we didn’t. I had the opportunity to learn about many of the triumphs and tribulations that shaped the present of those sitting around me. Most of all, I took with me the compassion that everyone shared with one another while putting our stories down on paper. We are all so fortunate to have such a wonderful community and support network through BIST, its staff, and its members.

Lastly, I’d like to point out that our face mapping meeting leader, Amee, is also blogger and creative mastermind! You can check out her wonderful blog here for more art project ideas.

Next Community Meeting: Wednesday, August 29th, 6-8 p.m.

TOPIC: Brain Fitness with Paul Hyman of Brain Fitness International 


 Julia Renaud is a very talkative ABI survivor with a passion for learning new things, trying new activities, and meeting new people – all of which have led her to writing this column. When not chatting someone’s ear off, Julia can be found outside walking her dog while occasionally talking to him, of course!   

 

 

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April 2018 Community Meeting Recap: Alternative Treatments to Heal a Brain Injury

BY: JULIA RENAUD

Spring has finally sprung which has hopefully brought you some pep in your step or zeal in your wheels to feel better during this chilly year! Bringing some extra encouragement to April’s BIST Community Meeting and to shed some light on alternative treatments that he used to heal his brain and body, was teacher, author, motivational speaker, and brain injury survivor, Anthony Aquan-Assee.

Anthony Aquan-Assee holds his book Rethink, Redo, Rewired in front of the BIST Office

Anthony’s Story

Anthony began by telling the harrowing story of his first brain injury. In 1997, Anthony was a middle school teacher and coach of the school football team. He was excited about his team qualifying for the city finals and was anxious to get to football practice to prepare them for their upcoming big game. On his ride to practice, Anthony, an avid motorcycle rider, was struck by a car, sending him and his motorcycle flying. This landed Anthony at the beginning of a long road to recovery.

The paramedics arrived at the scene of the accident to find Anthony unconscious and in a very grave state. He was then airlifted to St. Michael’s Hospital, where he would require numerous extensive surgeries, including: neurosurgery, heart, lung, general, vascular, knee, throat, and plastic surgery.

It was an emotional and trying time for his family and friends who were uncertain if Anthony would ever wake up from the coma that had kept him unresponsive for two weeks, and if he did, what his quality of life would be post-injury. His doctors were worried that Anthony could remain in a vegetative state for the rest of his life.

 Start doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.
Quote included in Anthony’s latest book, Rethink Redo Rewired

He started with opening his eyelids, and progressed from there, giving himself and his family hope with every gain, no matter how small. Anthony graduated to a rehabilitation centre where he worked tirelessly to regain control of his body and mind. Eventually, Anthony was able to return to work as a school teacher, but his brush with brain injury didn’t end there.

Sixteen years later, Anthony was struck in the head by a malfunctioning automatic gate which left him with a concussion. Fatigue, dizziness, brain fog, memory loss, and sleep problems were only a few of the symptoms that he dealt with on a daily basis. Unfortunately, these symptoms persisted bringing with them anxiety and frustration. When his doctors prescribed “drugs, drugs, and more drugs” to help, Anthony began to question whether there was a better method to spur his recovery.

Alternative Treatments Anthony Found Effective

*From the top, Anthony stressed that while these treatments worked for him, each person is different; therefore, everyone’s experience is different. Prior to trying any of the following alternative modalities, he encourages you to discuss any treatments that you are considering with your doctor.*

These techniques are described in more detail in Anthony’s fourth book, Rethink, Redo, Rewired: Using Alternative Treatments to Heal a Brain Injury

Anthony realized over the course of his recovery that, for him, the prescribed medications were only acting as a bandage solution rather than getting to the root cause of the problem. He disliked being on the same medications as he had been on previously, after his first brain injury, and felt that there must be a better way.

This is when he turned his attention to alternative strategies and treatments, which, as he would learn, had the power to get to the root cause of the problem rather than masking it. Furthermore, alternative strategies “provided the necessary conditions for the body to heal itself”, and, as an added bonus, they came with no side effects!

The following is a list of techniques that Anthony found effective in his recovery that he thought might be helpful to share:

  • Neurofeedback
  • Laser Therapy
  • Kangen Water

Fun, Brain-Training Resources

For those of you dealing with a brain injury and looking for a way to train your brain, Anthony has included links to a bunch of online activities and games ranging from math, to art, to optical illusions on his website.

Next Community Meeting:
Wednesday, May 30th 6 – 8 p.m.
TOPIC: Chair Yoga with Occupational Therapist & Yoga Instructor, Kristina Borho 

Everyone is welcome!


 Julia Renaud is a very talkative ABI survivor with a passion for learning new things, trying new activities, and meeting new people – all of which have led her to writing this column. When not chatting someone’s ear off, Julia can be found outside walking her dog while occasionally talking to him, of course!   

January Community Meeting: Art Therapy

BIST members expressed their creativity in a big way at our January community meeting, where clinical social worker Lynne Harford, MSW, RSW showed us the benefits of art therapy post-brain injury.

pictures from our art therapy community meeting
Rob shows off his art work, entitled ‘Release the Qi’ (top left); Some art supplies we used at the meeting (top right); a BIST member creates ‘Magic Beads’ (bottom left); Our presenter Lynne Harford (bottom right)

Lynne shared that she works with many clients who have brain injuries.

“I recognize that [living with the effects of brain injury] is a journey,” Lynne said. “I am honoured to hear and bear witness to the stories of my clients.”

Engaging in art can change a person’s physiology, reduce stress and lead to deep relaxation. Lynne said that these changes can be seen on a person’s brain wave patterns. Art can alter our perception of the world, change how we perceive pain and cope with various challenges. This is why art therapy can be so beneficial.

Lynne Harford shows off BIST members' art work
Lynne Harford shows off BIST members’ art work

There are certain myths about art and creativity, including that creativity can not be learned, and that art should only be created by ‘real’ artists. But Lynne stressed that creativity is for all of us. As kids, most of us thought we were great, creative artists, but we lose that confidence as we age.

Tips for getting your creativity on

  • Let go of any negative judgments you have about your own creativity
  • Jump into the process – forget about the final product
  • Don’t over-think your art
  • Don’t compare your work with your neighbour’s – this is about expressing something within yourself
  • Remember, you are your own unique and creative being
Sara shows her clay masterpiece (top); Sara working on her art (bottom left); Some more art supplies
Sara shows her clay masterpiece (top); Sara working on her art (bottom left); Some more art supplies

BIST members had the opportunity to work with pencil crayons, clay, paint, beads and pastels. After, Lynne held up everyone’s work, and asked members to describe their piece. As can be seen by some of these samples, we created a diversity of amazing art in a very short time!

BIST member shows off her work, 'We Are One' (left); 'Blob' (top right); ''York University Student Excited to Learn the Patois Curriculum (bottom left)
BIST member shows off her work, ‘We Are One’ (left); ‘Blob’ (top right); ”York University Student Excited to Learn the Patois Curriculum (bottom left)

Art Therapy Community MeetingArt Therapy Community Meeting

Our next community meeting will be on February 22nd, 6-8 p.m.
TOPIC: How to get better sleep and boost your energy with naturopathic doctor, Dr. Anne Hussaine, ND.

September community meeting: positive psychology

At our September community meeting, Amanda Muise and Roby Miller from Community Head Injury Resource Services (CHIRS) gave a presentation about positive psychology.

We also had the opportunity to hear our long-time member Frank Bruno talk about running the Pan Am Relay this past June, and many of us posed with his relay torch (see below.)

BIST Members
Community meeting attendees pose with Frank Bruno’s Pan Am Relay torch (Amanda Muise and Roby Miller from CHIRS are with Frank in the large photo.)

Positive psychology is a relatively new field of psychology, developed by Martin Seligman , the former president of the American Psychological Association. Seligman was motivated by wanting to know what makes people happier on a daily basis.

Seligman found that the roots of happiness are:

  • having positive emotions
  • being engaged in an activity or profession you love and can ‘get lost’ in
  • being in positive relationships
  • having meaning in your life (giving of yourself to others)
  • having a sense of achievement in your activities

And while it is kind of obvious, but also worthwhile mentioning, happiness is important because it’s good for you. People who are happy have fewer heart attacks, strokes and tend to live longer.

The three benefits of happiness

Other keys to finding happiness include:

  • the ability to savour – not chugging your coffee, but enjoying it
  • gratitude – being grateful for everything you have
  • having a positive attitude
  • mindfulness

Amanda and Roby gave us some exercises to help increase happiness.

Write a letter:

Take a moment to think of someone who made a big impact on your life. This person could be a teacher who helped you pass a difficult class, or an important friend in your life. Write a short letter to that person and explain the impact they had on you. You don’t have to share the letter, or even tell the person about it, though research shows that sharing this with the person increases your happiness.

‘Trick’ your brain into being happy

Body language can have a big impact on your brain. As social psychologist Amy Cuddy discusses in her Ted Talk, standing like Super Man in front of the mirror actually boosts your self-confidence. Chewing on a clean pencil uses the same muscles as smiling, and can actually make you feel happier, because your brain thinks you’re actually smiling.

Practise mindfulness

It’s easier said than done, but learning how to pay attention to the present moment or purposely slowing things down can increase your happiness. Even taking just one minute to meditate can be very helpful.

Take a moment to think about your day

This daily practise can help with gratitude and mindfulness:

Take a moment to think about  your day.

Record something that went well: what was the event? What had to happen for it go well? Why did it go well? What role did you play? Why is it important?

Find your 24 strengths

Learning about your strengths and how to use them is crucial to leading a happy life. You can take about 10 minutes and learn about your 24 top strengths at the VIA Institute on Character, a non-profit psychology organization. You’ll need to sign into the site, but it’s free. Another great resource is authentichappiness.org

infographic about strengths
PHOTO: VIA INSTITUTE ON CHARACTER

You can find out more about positive psychology by reading Sophia Voumvakis’ post on Finding Happiness after ABI, here. And we wrote about Frank’s Pan Am Relay experience this summer, right here.

There are a lot of meditation apps you can use, including some which are specific for brain injury. We’ve also discussed mindfulness at other community meetings, which you can read about here.

NEXT COMMUNITY MEETING:  MONDAY, OCTOBER 26th

TOPIC: TECHNOLOGY AND ABI