Physiotherapist helping man to balance

What is Vestibular Rehabilitation Therapy?

Feeling Dizzy? That’s your Vestibular System at work!

Although we all rely on it extensively, most people have never heard of the vestibular system..

The Vestibular system

In simple words, the vestibular system is a sensory system. It consists of the inner ear organ that detects motion and the parts of the brain that process this information. In addition, this system plays a role in motor activities such as balance, head and body stabilization during movement, and maintaining our posture. As a result, the vestibular system is crucial for proper movement and balance and to see clearly when the head is in motion.

Vestibular disorders

Man suffering with vestibular disorder

The vestibular system consists of parts of the inner ear and the brain components that interpret sensory information for balance and eye movement control. If these processing parts get damaged by disease or an injury, dizziness and balance problems might occur.

Vestibular disorders can also be caused by or made worse by genetic or environmental factors, or they might happen for no apparent reason.

Common Vestibular Disorders include:

  • Vestibular Migraine
  • Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV)
  • Mal de Debarquement (MDD)
  • Labyrinthitis or vestibular neuritis
  • Cervicogenic Dizziness
  • Recurrent Vestibulopathy
  • Unilateral Vestibular Hypofunction (UVH)
  • Head injury concussion or TBI
  • Persistent Postural Perceptual Dizziness (PPPD)
  • Post Concussion Syndrome (PCS)
  • Age-related dizziness and imbalance

The best way to resolve issues with the vestibular system is through Vestibular Rehabilitation.

Vestibular Rehab Therapy

When the vestibular system is injured, the brain can compensate for the loss of inner ear function. It learns to depend on alternate signals from other systems in the body to cope with the disorienting signals coming from the vestibular system. This can be achieved through Vestibular rehabilitation therapy.

Vestibular rehabilitation therapy (VRT) is a research-based therapy that uses customized approaches to help the brain adjust for vestibular system abnormalities. It is an exercise-based programme to reduce visual disturbance, vertigo and dizziness, imbalance, and falls.

There are many possible causes for dizziness, vertigo, and balance issues, and VRT is an effective treatment for many of them. It is a non-invasive and painless solution, as it usually involves a custom exercise program to retrain your body’s balance systems.

VRT can treat dizziness and balance issues caused by:

  • Ageing
  • Neck dysfunction
  • Head injury
  • Central nervous system issues
  • Neuropathy (numbness in feet)
  • Vestibular hypofunction or loss
  • Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV)

A physiotherapist creates a treatment plan for vestibular rehabilitation therapy. It includes balance training exercises, gait training, head movement sequences, gaze stabilization exercises, functional training, and more.

Physiotherapist helping man to balance

Otoconia or Bio-crystals, which are a natural element of your balancing system, can sometimes create balance issues. For example, these crystals might throw off your balance if they land in the incorrect part of your inner ear. A physiotherapist can help you dislodge the crystals by guiding you through head movement sequences.

A complete vestibular rehabilitation examination is lengthy. You can expect the following at your visit to the physiotherapist:

  • A discussion of the history and nature of your symptoms.
  • Checking for more severe reasons of vertigo or unsteadiness
  • Balance assessment (both stationary and moving)
  • Checking for sensitivity to motion or changes in position
  • Infrared video analysis aids in the evaluation of eye movements
  • Checking for other issues that might be causing problems, such as neck pain or high blood pressure.

Following the evaluation, the healthcare practitioner may recommend several therapies. Eye exercise, sensitivity training, balance challenges, and techniques for dealing with cognitive and psychological effects are a few examples.

Canalith repositioning techniques are most effective in treating Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV) (the most frequent cause of vertigo).

Apart from patients suffering from vestibular problems, vestibular rehab can also help patients with orthopedic, sensory, or other brain-related diseases that impair balance.

How long does treatment take?

Some balance issues can be addressed in a single session or only a few days after beginning therapy, while others can take longer. Keep in mind, however, that the longer you wait to seek therapy, the more your brain adapts to the unfavourable changes in your balance. This makes retraining your body much more difficult.

How to get started

Numerous studies have proved VRT to effectively treat symptoms, including unilateral vestibular hypofunction, chronic dizziness, concussion, vestibular migraine, and other vestibular disorders.

With over 20 years of service in helping patients become pain-free, Activa Clinics is dedicated to providing excellence in vestibular rehabilitation. Visit our services page for more information, if you or someone you love is in need of vestibular rehab therapy, and find an Activa Clinics location in Toronto near you!

Doctor examining focus of young female patient

Traumatic Brain Injury and Concussion Rehab

Each year, nearly 150,000 Ontarians suffer a concussion, according to the Ontario Neurotrauma Foundation. However, despite the rising frequency of concussions, only 15% of Canadians can accurately identify the best ways to manage them. In addition, slow-recovering individuals are at risk for secondary concerns such as physical deconditioning and mental health difficulties. A concussion can put your life on a hold.

Infographic on concussion

About concussion

A mild traumatic brain injury is known as a concussion (also known as mild TBI). It occurs when a bump, blow, or jolt to the head or by a hit to the body causes the head and brain to move violently back and forth. The brain might bounce about or twist in the skull due to this rapid movement, causing chemical changes in the brain and, in some cases, straining and destroying brain cells.

Signs and symptoms of a concussion

The following are some of the signs and symptoms of a concussion:

  • headache
  • memory problems
  • double or blurred vision
  • balance problems or trouble walking
  • dizziness
  • nausea or vomiting
  • confusion
  • being slow responding to questions
  • light sensitivity
  • slurred speech
  • drowsiness
  • slowed response to stimuli

Children and concussion

If you’re wondering if children can suffer concussions, then the answer is yes. The majority of concussions in children and teenagers occur when they are participating in sports. Especially, young people playing sports like football, ice hockey, lacrosse, soccer, and field hockey are at the most risk. It can also be caused by accidents involving motor vehicles or bicycles, falls, or a brawl.

A child who has suffered a concussion may show the following symptoms:

  • have issues with memory or learning
  • have a headache that gets worse
  • feel depressed, quickly irritated or enraged, or anxious
  • be unable to concentrate
  • have problem sleeping

Concussion treatment

If you have sustained a concussion, it is essential to rest for the first 24-48 hours after the concussion and limit physical and other activities that require a lot of focus before you can resume participating in these activities. You don’t have to wait until your symptoms are completely gone to start participating in activities. However, if symptoms prevent you, you should stop for a few minutes before participating in an activity and attempt it again after some time or try a less extreme version of the exercise.

Concussion rehab

If your symptoms haven’t improved in 7 days, physical therapy can assist with balance, stability, attention, gait, and mood. In addition, studies suggest that early intervention of various treatments and supervised physical exercise can also help in concussion recovery to enhance brain function, resolve blood flow problems, and heal wounded tissue. So, the goal of your therapy will be to reduce symptoms while also figuring out what’s causing them.

Doctor checking focus of patient

Concussion rehab involves both assessment and treatment of concussion patients. The healthcare practitioners will start by assessing you and your injury and the symptoms. Then they may conduct neurological and cognitive tests to check your vision, memory, concentration, reflexes, and coordination. As concussions do not appear on MRI or CAT scans, a brain scan may not be necessary for mild concussions. But the healthcare practitioner may order those scans to investigate additional issues if someone was knocked unconscious, keeps vomiting, has a severe headache that gets worse, or was wounded in a serious accident.

Based on the tests and diagnostics, the healthcare practitioners will develop a personalized concussion management strategy for you which will include a wide range of therapies and treatments, such as:

Looking forward

If you’ve had a concussion previously, you’re very much likely to have one again. Therefore, you must avoid concussions after a head injury. To prevent another concussion, you need to make sure to decrease the risk of concussion by avoiding sports activities such as tackling or heading the ball in soccer.

In addition, if you’re riding a bike, or involved in any other sports activity, make sure to wear a helmet where possible. So, even if you have a concussion while wearing a helmet, it will protect you from a skull fracture or significant brain harm. A child who has sustained a second concussion should not ignore the symptoms or attempt to wait it out. Instead, they must immediately stop participating in activities or sports and should seek medical attention.

If you or someone you know has suffered a concussion and is looking for a rehabilitation clinic in Toronto, book an appointment now to get evidence-based treatment. At Activa Clinics, our team is up to speed on the most recent concussion research and rehabilitation procedures to provide the finest possible care for concussion and post-concussion syndrome.

how to clean custom orthotics

How to clean your custom orthotics

Custom orthotics are designed to provide support for your feet, reduce pain in your lower body and correct any misalignment in your foot structure. Because they are made specifically for your feet it is important that your orthotics maintain their shape and integrity.
That’s why regular maintenance is necessary to keep your orthotics functioning well. If you’re wondering how to clean your custom orthotics so that they last longer and support your feet effectively – here are some tips that will help:

General care tips

  • At the end of each day remove your orthotics from your shoes and let them dry naturally. This is done to get rid of any moisture that may have been absorbed from your feet while you were wearing them.
  • Do not expose your orthotics to extreme temperatures. This could affect the physical structure of the orthotics. For instance, exposure to extreme heat sources can cause the orthotics to lose their shape while exposure to extreme cold can result in cracking.
  • Never machine wash your orthotics or place them in a dryer.
  • Stay away from environments that may cause them to become wet.
  • Keep away from your pets. They can damage the material by chewing them.

How to clean custom orthotics

  • Mix a mild soap and water solution to clean the orthotics. Use lukewarm water to make the mixture. Avoid using detergent or other cleaning agents.
  • Dampen a cloth with the mixture.
  • Gently rub the orthotics with the dampened cloth. Be careful not to apply too much pressure because you could damage the material and compromise its integrity.
  • Always allow your orthotics to dry naturally at room temperature. Do not expose to a direct heat source (hair dryer or direct sunlight) to speed up the process.

If you need help taking care of your custom orthotics or would like to find out how you can grab yourself a pair, book an appointment today to talk to a foot care specialist.

coping with stress

How to cope with stress this holiday season

The holidays usually represent a time of happiness and appreciation, However,  it’s easy to feel overwhelmed or stressed when you look at your lengthy to-do list or turn on the news.
This year might be a little bit different but you can make the most of the holidays by changing your approach to the way you handle difficult situations. Here are some techniques to help you cope with stress and have a fulfilling experience:

Take care of yourself

You do your best when you feel your best. Taking care of your mind and body is important for increasing your energy, staying positive and keeping healthy. 

Meditation

Meditation brings more patience, calmness and clarity to your life. It helps you observe and  understand your thoughts and feelings without judgement. This allows you to respond to situations instead of reacting based on your emotions. Here are a few techniques that can help you get started.

4-7-8 Breathing Technique 

  • Close your eyes – breathe in slowly through your nose for a count of 4 seconds. 
  • Hold your breath for 7 seconds and slowly exhale through your mouth for a count of 8 seconds.This is one cycle of breathing. Keep repeating the process for as long as you need.

Simple Meditation Practice

  • Find a comfortable space where you won’t be bothered for a few minutes. 
  • Set a timer for the length of time you would like to meditate for. This can allow your mind to relax and be present with the process so you won’t have to worry about the length of time you’re meditating for.
  • You can sit cross legged on the ground, or in a chair with your feet planted to the floor with your back straight. 
  • Begin by taking a few deep breaths. Inhale through the nose and exhale through the mouth.
  • Gradually lower your gaze and close your eyes. 
  • Focus your attention on the sensations of your body. Starting with the point of contact between your body and the chair or your body and the floor. Notice the sensations – tingling, vibrations, pressure.
  • Slowly scan your body from your head down to your toe.
  • Gradually become aware of your breath. This may be the feeling of air entering and leaving your nostrils or the rising and falling of your chest. There is no need to try to control your breath – simply pay attention to the sensation.
  • When doing this you will notice your mind begin to wander. You may notice thoughts and emotions start to pop up. This is totally normal and part of the meditation experience. Whenever you notice your mind wandering let go of the thought or emotions and gently return to the sensation of breathing. 
  • Continue doing this until the end of your practice.

 

Although meditation can provide immediate relief from stress, in order to experience the lasting effects that meditation is known for – it’s best to set aside some time everyday to meditate.

 

Exercising

One of the most proven ways to relieve stress and improve your mood is to get your body moving. Although the gyms may be closed and the weather is getting colder, there are still many exercises that you can do from the comfort of your living room. Some of these include, bodyweight exercises (pushups, squats, lunges etc.), dancing, yoga, and Pilates.

 

Here are some other fun practical ways that you can cope with stress and have a more fulfilling experience:

 

Connect with friends and family – Although we might not all be able to be in the same physical space this year – you can use video chat to make the experience feel like you’re all in the same room. Video chat platforms now allow up to 8 people to be on the same call.  Set a time with your family to have a group call. You can all cook a special meal and pretend you’re dining together. Whether you’re sharing jokes, or reflecting on your memories, talking to others can help to take the edge off.  Make the most of your resources!

 

Show Gratitude – Thank the people that have been there for you when you need them. You can give them a call, send a text, write a card, or surprise them with a meal. Showing others you care and appreciate them can bring you closer together no matter how far apart you are. Showing gratitude will make you happier because you shift from focusing on what you don’t have to appreciating all that you do have.

 

Journal – Set aside some time to introspect and write down your thoughts. Journaling allows you to express your emotions in a safe space (without judgement from others) that you may be bottling up which can lead to stress and anxiety. 

 

Donate to charity or friends in need – It’s no secret that the act of giving and helping others makes us feel good. Instead of accumulating more this season, try giving what you no longer need to the less fortunate. Also, when we declutter our environment  the added space gives us a feeling of calm and clarity.

 

Get dressed up even if you’re staying home – You don’t have to go to a fancy restaurant or event to get dressed up. Wearing our favourite clothes naturally makes us feel good. It can also make any activity feel like a special occasion. So even if you’re having dinner at home – play some music, set the mood with lighting, and get dressed up.  Give yourself permission to be silly and have fun.

 

Talk to a professional


When you’re going through a rough patch sometimes you might need a fresh perspective from someone outside of your family or friends group. Talking to a professional can help you release pent up emotions, discuss issues that you don’t feel comfortable sharing with your loved ones, and heal from traumatic experiences.

Seeking help from a therapist doesn’t mean you’re weak. It means that you’re brave enough to step outside of your comfort zone and be vulnerable in order to grow.  When you’re ready to open up, we have virtual psychotherapy sessions that can help you cope with stress and improve your mental health.

shutterstock_662507023

What is Osteopathy Treatment

What is Osteopathy Treatment?

Osteopathy treatment is a non-invasive therapy that aims to improve the patient’s overall health instead of treating a specific illness or group of symptoms. This is because symptoms occurring in one area of your body can be linked to a problem occurring elsewhere. It is based on the principle that your physical and mental well-being relies on your nervous, circulatory, and lymphatic systems working well together.

Osteopaths use manual therapy such as massaging, stretching, and manipulating the musculoskeletal system to diagnose, treat, and prevent injury or illness. It can also be used to complement traditional medicine.

Benefits

Whether you’re injured, have unexplained pains and stiffness, or suffer from health conditions associated with aging – our osteopaths can help to restore your overall health so you can feel like yourself again.

When it comes to your wellbeing a one-size-fits-all approach will not work. Our osteopaths will assess your condition and provide a personalized treatment plan after determining the health of your joints, ligaments, and tissues. This is often done by examining your body’s structure, mobility, and the areas you are experiencing pain or stiffness.

Osteopathy helps to reduce pain, improve mobility and blood circulation as well as increase lymphatic fluid drainage.

Osteopathy is often used to treat chronic pains (neck, back, and shoulder), headaches, migraines, arthritis, digestive issues, sports injuries, and other musculoskeletal conditions.

 Some other ways Osteopathy can help you improve your health are:

  • Reducing muscle tension
  • Correcting poor posture
  • Relieving stress
  • Promoting better sleep
  • Managing hormonal changes during pregnancy

Most patients start seeing results from our treatment after the first session. However, depending on the severity of your condition, it can take 3 to 4 sessions to feel the benefits of the therapy. Osteopathy treatment isn’t an instant cure but a gradual process where your symptoms are reduced over time until you return to full health.

At Activa Clinics our team of multidisciplinary health care providers collaborate together to provide our patients with the better outcomes through physical care as well as availability of mental health solutions.

Our osteopaths are also trained to check for signs of serious health conditions and will advise you if you need to see your physician.

Some work place health plans cover Osteopathic treatment. Call us to book your appointment.

self massage techniques

Self Massage Tips for Tension Relief

Take Care of Yourself with These Self Massage Techniques

You probably know that massage therapy offers many benefits. It can help relieve stress, improve circulation, reduce pain, restore flexibility, improve sleep, and more.

The best way to take advantage of these benefits is by visiting a registered massage therapist. They have the expertise to identify your health issues and the best types of massage to treat you. 

However, between your visits to a professional, there are some simple self-massage techniques you can use whenever you need them.

Face

Massaging certain areas of the face can help when you feel a tension headache coming on. Using your fingertips, apply gentle pressure and make small circles along your hairline, at your temples, above your eyebrows, around your cheekbones, and the sides of your jawbone.

Another technique for releasing tension from the muscles in your head is to apply pressure to the bridge of your nose. When sitting, rest your elbows on a desk or table and interlace your fingers. Then lean forward and rest the bridge of your nose on your thumbs, so that your thumbs are holding the weight of your head. Hold that position for between 30 seconds and one minute. These techniques should leave you feeling relaxed and refreshed. 

Feet

This technique is great for dealing with foot pain due to overuse. Sit in a chair and put a tennis ball (or another round object like a water bottle) on the floor. Place a foot on top of the ball so it’s under the arch of your foot. Then start rolling your foot around to apply pressure and stretch different areas of the foot, including the arch, heel, and toes. Keep going for a few minutes before switching to the other foot.

This technique stimulates and stretches the foot muscles and improves circulation.

Lower Back

This self-massage for treating lower back pain is another technique where your trusty tennis ball will come in handy. Stand with your back to a wall and place the ball in between the wall and your lower back. Start moving your body from side to side and up and down until you find tense muscles. 

Once you locate a tender area, push your back into the ball to massage those muscles with stronger pressure. The pressure should be strong enough to squish the ball a bit, but not so strong that you feel pain. Also, avoid massaging the spine because that has the chance of causing an injury.

Neck and Shoulders

Tension in the neck and shoulders can contribute to headaches and make it difficult to perform even simple tasks. It is often the result of poor posture. To overcome neck and shoulder issues, start by using one hand to squeeze the base of your neck from behind. Then slowly work your way upwards, squeezing and releasing along the way. Next, rub the base of your skull with both hands, moving your fingers in a circular motion. Continue that motion while moving back down the neck and along both shoulders.

Wrists

Pain, tension, and injuries in the wrists are common because they can be caused by simple repetitive motions that you probably perform regularly, like typing at a computer. To avoid these issues, you should take regular breaks and do some quick stretches and massages.

Start by laying one hand, palm side up, on top of your thigh. Then use your other palm to apply pressure to your forearm and slide it towards your wrist. You should use enough pressure that you feel some heat from the friction, but not enough to feel pain. Do the same motion starting at your palm and moving over the mound of your thumb, and then again from your palm to your fingertips.

Next, grasp your wrist with your thumb on the inside, as if you were taking your pulse. Then apply pressure side to side across your wrist. This will release the tension and can help prevent serious wrist issues before they start. 

Some Final Tips

While these techniques can provide some immediate relief, to get the full benefit of massage, it’s good to make it part of your regular routine. That’s because solving muscle tension and injuries takes time.

And remember that the best solution is to get some help from a professional. Whether that’s getting treatment from a massage therapist or creating a fitness plan with the help of a physiotherapist, these specialists can help choose the right treatments for your unique issues and needs.

good posture for working from home

Ergonomics: Working from home tips

Is working from home bad for your body?

Contrary to popular belief working from home can be just as challenging as working at your office. You can develop bad posture if your workspace isn’t set up ergonomically to accommodate sitting for long periods of time in front of a computer. For instance, using your laptop in bed or sitting hunched over at a coffee table can cause curvature of your spine and neck. This can result in neck, back, wrist pain, or worse – long term injury.

There are many factors that contribute to creating a comfortable workspace including, correct chair height, proper lumbar support, sufficient equipment spacing and good desk posture. All of these elements work together to keep your body correctly aligned.

Pain relief tips

Here are some tips that can help you reduce your pain if you’re unable to modify your workspace:

Use good posture: The image above is an ideal guideline of what good posture looks like at your workspace. The key to good posture is ensuring that you maintain the natural curvature of your spine. Your neck, shoulders, and hips should be aligned in a vertical line with your feet resting flat on the floor.

Take breaks regularly: When you’re sitting in one position for too long your body can become tense and strained. Therefore it’s important to take regular breaks that involve stretching and moving around at least every hour. This will help you reduce eyestrain and muscle tension.

Use a back brace: A back brace can be used to prevent back pain and improve your posture by keeping your spine and neck aligned. This is useful if your chair doesn’t provide adequate support.

Chiropractic Care: Chiropractic care is used to reduce back pain, correct the body’s alignment, restore range of motion, and improve flexibility. Chiropractors use spinal adjustments, manual therapy, and other treatments to keep your body’s systems working the way they should. 

Acupuncture: Acupuncture is used to reduce chronic and acute pain. This is done by inserting very thin needles through a person’s skin at specific points on the body. Besides pain relief, it is also used to treat a variety of conditions such as high blood pressure, insomnia, and anxiety.

TENS treatment: TENS is a non-invasive treatment that reduces the pain signals being transmitted to your brain and spine. It works by sending small electrical impulses through your nervous system via adhesive pads attached to your skin. It is suitable for persons suffering from back-pain, neck-pain, and sports injuries.

man with rotator cuff injury

What to do if you get a rotator cuff injury

The rotator cuff is a group of four muscles that help to keep your arm in your shoulder socket. It’s core function is to help you lift and rotate your arm. Therefore a tear or injury to this muscle can severely limit your movement and your ability to perform daily activities. Not to mention, you might feel severe pain whenever you try to raise your arm.

Before we dive into what remedies you can use to treat a rotator cuff injury, lets examine the common causes.

Common Causes

There are many reasons why someone may experience a rotator cuff injury. It can develop overtime from repeatedly performing overhead motions. This is why it is common among athletes and construction workers. Some other common reasons may include:

  • Falling on your shoulder
  • Sleeping on your shoulder
  • Using poor technique to lift objects over your head
  • Wear and tear
  • Repetitive slouching 

Treatment

First Steps

Reducing pain and swelling will be your main priority following a rotator cuff injury. Some of the methods you can use to gain relief are:

  • Using the R.I.C.E method (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation). All you need to do is immediately stop any activities that may aggravate the shoulder and apply an ice pack to the affected area.
  • Taking over-the-counter NSAIDs (Non steroid anti inflammatory drug) These drugs also help to reduce pain and swelling. However, you should consult with your doctor first because they can be addictive.

Other treatment options for rotator cuff injuries include:

  • Surgery – This can be a viable option for recovery depending on the severity of the injury and the ligaments that were damaged. If you’re experiencing prolonged or excruciating pain You should consult your doctor immediately. Some injuries can be an indication of more serious issues.
  • Physiotherapy – When your mobility improves you will want to start a physiotherapy program. Physiotherapy is important for recovery even if you’ve had surgery or you’re using the R.I.C.E method. This will help you strengthen your muscles and develop your range of motion in a safe controlled environment. You will be able to track your progress and make any changes needed to avoid further injury. In a matter of weeks to months (depending on the severity) you will be able do your daily activities free of pain.

Although you may be anxious to get back to your regular routine you should give yourself enough time to recover. At Activa Clinics, our physiotherapists will create a program for you consisting of various exercises and movements to help restore your physical health.

man wondering what are the causes of depression

The Hidden Causes of Depression

The causes of depression are complex. They can involve your genetics, brain chemistry, hormones, life experiences, and more. Many of the risk factors for depression are things you’d probably expect, such as drug abuse, low self-esteem, and traumatic events.

However, there are some possible causes for depression that you may not know about. And getting to the bottom of what triggered your depression is a good first step towards overcoming it. So if you or someone you care about is struggling with depression, here are some of the lesser-known causes.

Chronic Pains

It may surprise you to learn that depression and pain are closely related. Firstly, depression can cause physical symptoms like back pain or headaches, or make an existing pain feel more intense. 

But pain can also contribute to depression. For example, if you’re dealing with a chronic pain that just won’t go away, it can wear you down and affect your mood over time. Also, pain can contribute to depression indirectly, such as by causing sleep problems or by preventing you from working.

Depression and pains can also feed into each other in a vicious cycle; The pain makes your depression worse, and then your worsened depression makes your pain more intense.

So if you have a nagging injury or unexplained chronic pain, you should speak to your doctor. They can help you get to the root cause of the pain and stop it from contributing to depression.

Summer Weather

You may be familiar with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a form of depression that’s triggered by changes in seasons. For most people affected by SAD, it strikes at the beginning of winter. And that makes sense intuitively; As the weather gets colder and the days get shorter, some people come down with the “winter blues”.

But what you might not know is that, for some people, summer can also bring on SAD. That’s because what really causes SAD is the change in seasons, as that can throw off your body’s internal clock.

In the summer, the increased sunlight can affect your sleeping patterns and reduce the production of mood-regulating hormones. This can cause insomnia, loss of appetite, and depression.

In addition, it’s been shown that the summer heat can further impact the mood of people with depression by increasing their anxiety and agitation. If you think you’re experiencing summer-onset SAD, you can try limiting your exposure to bright light and cranking up the air conditioning.

Too Much Social Media

There are many studies that suggest spending too much time on social media can be associated with depression. And experts say this is especially true for teenagers and children.

One of the suspected reasons is that “social media addicts” tend to struggle more with face-to-face interactions and have a lack of companionship in real life. 

Another issue that experts point to is “downward social comparison.” That means that when you see social media posts that depict other people’s lives as perfect, it can lead you to develop an unrealistic view of the world and think your life sucks in comparison. 

While there have been many studies showing that a connection between depression and social media exists, most of those studies were unable to show a causal link. That means the findings didn’t show whether social media actually makes people develop depression, or if depressed people just tend to use social media more frequently.

However, one recent study did establish that causal link. It showed that people who cut back drastically on their use of social media tend to see a significant improvement in their mood and how they feel about their lives.

Medications

There are a wide variety of drugs that can contribute to depression. With some drugs, this side effect is well known and probably won’t surprise you. That includes alcohol or birth control pills. However, there are many other drugs on the list that you might not expect. Just some examples include:

Anticonvulsants: A type of drug used to control epileptic seizures.

Beta-blockers: A group of medicines used to treat high blood pressure, heart problems, and migraines.

Opioids: A type of painkiller that includes Percodan, Demerol, and OxyContin.

Chantix: A medication used to aid in smoking cessation.

All of the drugs above alter your brain chemicals in some way as part of the desired effect, but they can also carry the risk of side effects like depression.

If you think one of your medications may be causing you to experience depression, don’t stop taking it. Instead, speak to your doctor. They can help you weigh the risk vs. the benefit of each of your medications, or offer you alternative options. 

Your Thyroid 

Your thyroid is a gland in your neck that secretes hormones. These hormones are used to regulate your metabolism and energy levels, and it affects a variety of vital systems throughout the body.

When the thyroid isn’t functioning normally and it doesn’t produce enough hormones, that’s called hypothyroidism. This condition makes your body’s internal systems to slow down, leading to a variety of symptoms that are similar to depression.  That includes:

  • Depressed mood
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Fatigue
  • Weight gain
  • Lowered sexual desire

However, there are some differences in the symptoms that may give you a clue that you’re dealing with hypothyroidism and not depression.

Some symptoms that are more likely in hypothyroidism include:

  • Sensitivity to cold
  • Constipation
  • Dry skin and hair
  • Hair loss
  • Slowed heart rate

So if you think you may have hypothyroidism, talk to your doctor. They can take a blood test that can confirm it or rule it out.

Don’t Wait to Get Help

People suffering from depression often put off seeking treatment, for a number of reasons. One survey of people with depression found that one of the most common reasons is the belief that treatment won’t help.

However, getting help through a mental health program can be very effective at treating depression. It can help you get to the root of your issues, provide emotional support, improve your outlook, provide medication to solve chemical imbalances and change the thought patterns and behaviors that contribute to depression.

So don’t hesitate to seek help! At Activa Clinics, we have a team of psychologists, psychotherapists, counsellors, and social workers who can provide a variety of mental health services. Contact us to learn more and take the first step towards beating your depression.

girl needs treatment for dizziness

Restore your balance with treatment for dizziness

If you experience dizzy spells from time to time, it’s something you should address. If the dizziness gets bad enough or happens at the wrong time, it could cause you to injure yourself in a fall. There are many effective options available if you need treatment for dizziness, but the first step is finding out the reason behind it. And to understand the causes of dizziness, you should know the basics about how your sense of balance works.

Your Body’s Balance System

Your inner ear has three fluid-filled canals that are arranged at right angles to each other. Each canal is responsible for sensing movement on a different axis, so by working together they let you sense movement in all three dimensions. This is how you stay balanced and keep from tipping over.

Whenever you move, the fluid in these canals sloshes around, and your body senses the movement through tiny strands of hair that line the canals. This is why spinning can make you dizzy.

When your body spins, the fluid in your inner ear starts spinning too. Right after you stop spinning, the fluid in your ears continues to spin, giving you a false sense of movement and throwing off balance.

This is also what causes motion sickness. It occurs when your inner ear senses movement, but the visual information from your eyes doesn’t match up, such as when you’re riding in the backseat of a car.

But if you haven’t been doing much spinning and are still experiencing dizziness, there are a few different possible causes.

What Causes Dizziness?

Inner Ear Dysfunctions

There are several inner ear issues that can cause dizziness, such as Meniere’s disease. This condition causes an excessive buildup of fluid in your inner ear, which can cause dizzy spells that last up to several hours. One sign that you may have this condition is the feeling of a plugged ear.

One of the most common causes for dizziness is called Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV). It can occur when crystals in your inner ear become dislodged and move into the canals responsible for balance. This causes sudden dizzy spells that are triggered by a head movement, and they usually last less than a minute.

Circulation Issues

Dizziness can also be caused by poor circulation. When there’s a drop in blood pressure and not enough blood is getting pumped to your brain, it can make you feel dizzy, off balance, or faint. One sign that poor blood flow is the cause of your dizziness is if it occurs right after you stand or sit up quickly.

Medications

Be sure to double-check the listed side effects on all your medications, because there are several types of drugs that can cause dizziness. That includes antidepressants, sedatives, anti-seizure drugs, blood pressure medications.

Treatments for Dizziness

There are a number of treatment options for the different causes of dizziness.

If an inner ear issue is the cause, it can often be solved through vestibular rehabilitation. That’s a treatment that involves exercises to retrain your body’s balance system.

If the cause is BPPV, treatment may involve a physiotherapist guiding you through a series of head movements that can dislodge the problematic crystals from your inner ear. In other cases, such as with Meniere’s disease, certain lifestyle changes can help such as switching to a low-salt diet.

And in some cases, medications and/or ear surgery may be the best course of action. So speak with your healthcare provider about your dizziness, and they can help you find the right treatment for you.