first aid for heart attack

Heart attack symptoms and first aid

Believe it or not, there are about 2.4 million Canadian adults living with diagnosed heart disease. That means they have a buildup of plaque in their arteries that makes them more likely to suffer a heart attack.

With that kind of prevalence, it’s a good idea to learn how to spot the signs of a heart attack, what to do when one strikes, and how to prevent heart attacks before they happen.

How to spot a heart attack

A man having heart attack

If you’re in an emergency situation where you think someone is having a heart attack, it’s tough not to panic. In those hectic moments, one way to know what heart attack symptoms to look for is to remember “the four P’s”:

Pain

  • Squeezing chest pain
  • Pain that spreads to the jaw, neck, or arms
  • Back pain (happens more commonly in women)

Paleness

  • The skin may be paler than normal and may even go bluish

Pulse

  • The pulse can be both rapid and weak

Perspiration

  • The skin may be cold and sweaty

Other possible symptoms

While the four P’s are a good starting point, the possible signs of a heart attack don’t end there. They can also include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Shortness of breath
  • Light-headedness 

Soft signs

To make matters even more complicated, some people only experience “soft signs” of a heart attack. These soft signs are more common in the elderly, women, and people with diabetes.

  • Mild chest discomfort (it may come and go, lessen with rest, or gradually get worse)
  • Fatigue
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Gastric discomfort

What to do

If you or someone you’re with is having a heart attack, here are the steps you should take:

Call 911

A Phone Calling 911

When calling 911, you should try to stay calm, speak clearly, and listen carefully. Also, be ready to provide any necessary location information like the address and nearest intersection. Also, stay on the line until the call taker says it’s ok to hang up.

If you need to ask someone to call 911 for you, ask them to let you know once the ambulance is on the way. This ensures you’re not left wondering whether help is coming.

Here are a few more helpful tips for making a 911 call

Position

Have the person sit on the floor with their back leaning against a wall with their knees bent. This is the best position because it can relieve pressure on the heart, and also helps prevent injury in case the person collapses.

Give them an aspirin

Something you can do for first aid, in some cases, giving the person having a heart attack an aspirin can stop a heart attack in its tracks. It does that by dissolving blood clots in the arteries. You can use a plain, normal-strength aspirin and ask the person to chew it, as that’s the quickest way to get it into the bloodstream.

If possible, you should avoid aspirins that are enteric-coated (those are the smooth, colored ones often labeled as “safety coated”) because they take longer for the body to absorb. Also, make sure the person is not allergic to aspirin.

Perform CPR

If the person collapses and becomes unresponsive, you should begin CPR until help can arrive.

According to the Canadian Red Cross, if you don’t have any CPR training, a compression-only method is acceptable. That’s because unless you’re dealing with a child, or an adult who’s suffering a respiratory issue (like drowning or an asthma attack), there’s already enough oxygen in their blood.

That means you don’t have to remember the ratio of breaths to chest compressions, you can simply start pushing hard and fast in the center of the chest. To get the right speed (about 100 compressions a minute) you can do it to the beat of the song Stayin’ Alive.

Use an AED

Many buildings now have automatic external defibrillators (AED) that offer the best chance of saving someone from cardiac arrest (which means the heart stops beating). And with their automated voice directions, you don’t have to remember anything, just follow the instructions.

What causes heart attacks?

Now that you know some ways to spot a heart attack and what to do about it, let’s look at what causes them and how to prevent them before they happen.

A heart attack occurs when blood flow to one section of the heart gets cut off (usually by a blood clot) and that section of the heart begins to die.

Having a buildup of plaque in the heart’s arteries makes these blockages much more likely. But there are many things you can do to improve heart health and reduce your risks.

Maintain a healthy weight

There are some weight loss programs that make it easier to lose weight. They do that by solving imbalances such as hormonal issues that contribute to unhealthy eating and weight gain. When combined with regular exercise, these programs can help you achieve a healthy weight and keep the excess pounds off.

Quit smoking

A pair of hands breaking a cigarette in half.
Our Smoking Cessation Programs make quitting easier by combining a range of therapies.

It may seem like an insurmountable challenge if you’re a long-time smoker. But people tend to be more successful when they seek out some help to drop the habit. So consider looking into a smoking cessation program or talking to your doctor about the prescription options.

Get cardiac rehab

If you have a number of risk factors for heart attack, or have already been diagnosed with some form of heart disease, a cardiac rehabilitation program can help. These are customized programs that can involve an exercise plan, nutritional consultation, education, and more. Because they are tailored to patients with heart issues, they ensure that the exercise is always kept at a safe level of intensity, and is designed to help you get the most out of your efforts.

Can aspirin help in heart attacks?

If you are having a heart attack, taking an aspirin can help. But you need to be certain that you are having a heart attack and not a stroke that is caused by a bleed. If you are bleeding, taking aspirin could make things worse. So, you must learn what the symptoms of both medical events are so that you can properly identify what the issue is. If you have previously had a heart attack, ask your doctor about regularly taking a low dose of aspirin, which can reduce your risk.

What is compression-only CPR?

Compression-only CPR is when you administer the chest compressions without pausing to breathe into the person´s lungs. It is an alternative that those who are not trained in full CPR can use to keep someone alive for a short while until proper medical help arrives. However, if someone does not have enough oxygen in their blood, for example, someone who has drowned, chocked on something, had a respiratory event or an asthma attack, this form of CPR will not be sufficient.

How do I go about getting a cardiac rehab program?

Your doctor will be able to help you to get on a cardiac rehab program. If for some reason, they refuse to do that, you can always get a second opinion. In some cases, that may mean paying to see a private doctor. But it is worth doing because there is a growing body of research that shows that cardiac rehab will help you to stay healthy for longer.

Man Experiencing Neck Pain

Relieve your Neck Pain with these Techniques

Neck pain is a common issue. That’s not surprising when you consider how much time most people spend hunched over a desk, a smartphone, or a steering wheel.

It’s often caused by a strain in the neck muscles due to poor posture. However, there are many types of pain that can affect your neck, and there are even more possible causes.

Sometimes it’s a sign of an injury or serious condition and will need medical attention. Other times it’s normal, such as a dull pain at the end of a long workday. This guide will help you tell the difference between the two, and teach you some simple techniques to get neck pain relief.

When to see a pro

Woman Seeing a Neck Pain Specialist

When you’re wondering if you need professional help for your neck pain, here are some signs to look out for.

  • The pain started after an injury
  • The pain lasts more than a week
  • The pain is severe
  • The pain prevents you from performing your normal activities
  • The pain is accompanied by other symptoms like headache, weakness, and pain spreading to other areas

These symptoms show that your neck pain might be caused by more serious conditions like a pinched nerve, herniated disc, or arthritis—and that you should seek help. There are many options when it comes to getting treatment from a medical professional. Physiotherapists, chiropractors, and massage therapists are just some examples of the healthcare providers who are experts at dealing with neck pain.

On the other hand, if it seems like your dealing with a run-of-the-mill muscle strain, here are some simple neck pain remedies that you can do yourself.

Stretch it out

Here are a few simple stretches you can do pretty much anywhere, including while seated at your desk or in the car. When stretching, keep your moves slow and smooth, and stop once you start to feel the stretch. In other words, avoid pushing it too far!

  • Touch your ear to your shoulder ten times on each side.
  • Roll your shoulders in a circular motion, six times forward, then six times backward.
  • Lower your chin towards your chest, and hold for about 20-30 seconds, then slowly raise it back up.
  • Tilt your chin up towards the ceiling and hold for about 10 seconds, then slowly lower it back down.

Cool it off, heat it up

Applying ice to your sore neck can act as an anti-inflammatory. It reduces both pain and swelling. On the other hand, heat is useful for relaxing stiff muscles.

One thing to keep in mind is you shouldn’t use heat continuously, as that can increase swelling. So if you’re using heat, apply it for 20 minutes at a time and take breaks, or alternate between heat and ice.

Sleep well

Woman Sleeping With A Support Pillow

Getting enough sleep is important for so many aspects of your health, and neck pain is no different. Proper sleep is an essential part of the healing process, and when you don’t get enough sleep it can actually make your neck pain worse. This can lead to a vicious cycle where your painful neck prevents you from sleeping, and your lack of sleep makes your neck worse.

One way to break the cycle is to get yourself a cervical neck pillow. These pillows are specially designed to properly support your neck. They keep your neck and spine in a neutral position which will help with healing. Having your neck properly supported is also very comfortable, so a good cervical pillow will help you get to sleep.

And one more tip when it comes to sleep is to avoid sleeping on your stomach. This is the worst sleeping position for your neck as it causes you to have your head turned to the side for hours at a time. If you’re a long-time stomach sleeper, it can be difficult to change that habit, but you should give it a shot. Try sleeping on your back or side, because either one is better than stomach sleeping.

When in doubt, get checked out

If you’re not sure if your pain is caused by normal strain or an injury, its best to play it safe and get it checked out. That’s because even minor injuries can become more serious if they’re left untreated.

On top of that, the neck is particularly vulnerable to injuries. That’s because it has to be flexible to allow a wide range of motion, but it also has to support the weight of your head. It’s all held up by seven small bones stacked from the top of your shoulders to the base of your skull. Those bones also act as a housing for the spinal cord and arteries that carry blood to your brain.

It is arguably one of the body’s most complicated areas, with the many important nerves, blood vessels, and joints all together in one small space. So you should take good care of it. If you have any suspicion that you’ve been injured, have a professional take a look.

neck pain from computer

Avoiding Repetitive Strain Injuries

When you hear the term “workplace injury”, what probably comes to mind is a job that involves some obvious safety hazards like working with heavy equipment. It’s easy to forget that simply using a computer can put you at a real risk of injury.

Repetitive strain injuries (RSI) such as carpal tunnel syndrome are common among workers who use computers. These injuries typically involve pain in your hands, wrists, arms, shoulders, or neck. 

They’re the result of repetitive motions and overuse that gradually damage your muscles, nerves, and tendons. Once you get an RSI, it can be very painful to perform even simple actions like clicking a mouse.

One way to prevent an RSI is to avoid repetitive tasks. But when you have to use a computer to perform your job, avoiding those tasks is not an option. So here are some ways you can reduce your risk of injury:

Take Regular Breaks

A man running.
We help our patients achieve healthier and more active lifestyles.

Taking regular breaks is one of the simplest and easiest ways to reduce your risk of suffering an injury from repetitive strain. Frequent short breaks are better than one long one, so you may be able to split up your existing breaks into smaller chunks. That means you won’t have to reduce your workflow.

If possible, you should stand up and walk around during your breaks. Remember that the important part is taking a break from using your computer, so there’s nothing stopping you from performing other tasks. For example, getting up to go to the printer or photocopier can count as a break.

Improve Your Posture

Remember the advice your parents gave you about not slouching? They were right. Having proper posture will reduce your risk and make you more comfortable as you work.

Besides avoiding slouching, you should avoid bending the wrists. So adjust your chair so you can use your keyboard while keeping your arms and wrists straight and level with the floor.

To avoid straining your neck, ensure your computer screen is straight in front of you and the top of the screen is at eye-level. Your keyboard should also be directly in front of you with enough space at the front (about six inches) to rest your wrists when you’re not typing.

Another tip is to keep your mouse as close to you as possible. This will help you avoid leaning forward and reaching as you work.

Use Ergonomic Equipment

a man having wrist pain

There is a range of ergonomically-designed equipment that can reduce your risk when using a computer. That includes keyboard and mouse wrist mats that help you keep your wrists straight. Headsets can also be a big help if you need to talk on the phone while typing, as they eliminate the need to squeeze a phone between your head and shoulder.

There is also software to help you work more comfortably. For example, speech-to-text software can help by minimizing the need to type. And there’s free software that allows you to use your mouse without clicking. It works by automatically clicking for you when you hover the cursor for a set amount of time.

Get Help From a Physiotherapist

Physiotherapists are experts at preventing these types of injuries. They can use manual therapy, exercise programs, and other treatments that will improve your flexibility, endurance, and resilience to RSI. 

With their understanding of biomechanics, physiotherapists can also analyze your posture and the way you perform repetitive tasks to make recommendations on how to improve. And if you are suffering from an RSI, physiotherapy is one of the best ways to relieve pain, restore your range of motion, and speed up the healing process.

Woman with Plantar Fasciitis

Don’t Let Plantar Fasciitis Stop You in Your Tracks

If you follow sports news, you probably know that plantar fasciitis is a common injury. Often there are stories about professional athletes being sidelined for weeks because of it. For some, the injury causes pain that lasts for months or even years.

So if you live an active lifestyle and want to keep it that way, it’s a good idea to take some preventative measures.

What is Plantar Fasciitis?

Plantar Fasciitis

This injury affects the plantar fascia. That’s the tissue that runs along the bottom of your foot from your toes to your heel bone. Normally, that tissue behaves like a shock absorber and supports the arch of your foot.

The injury is caused by too much tension and stress leading to small tears in that tissue. Because it’s related to stress and overuse, it’s common among runners and athletes in high-impact sports.

But you don’t have to be running marathons to get plantar fasciitis. Sometimes, just wearing shoes that don’t provide proper support can be enough to cause it. In fact, plantar fasciitis is among the most common causes of heel pain.

What Does it Feel Like?

The symptoms typically involve stabbing pain near the heel, which is at its worst with your first steps in the morning. And the pain tends to intensify after exercise rather than during it.

How to Prevent or Heal It

Whether you’re being proactive to avoid an injury, or have already felt the pain of plantar fasciitis, here are a few things that can help:

Stretch it Out

  • Toe stretches: Sit in a chair and cross one leg over the other. Then grab hold of all your toes and gently pull them up towards you.
  • Calf stretches: Stand near a wall with one foot in front of the other, then lean towards the wall while keeping your back knee straight and your heel on the ground.
  • Towel curls: Lay a hand towel on a smooth floor, then sit in a chair and put one foot on it. Then, using only your toes, scrunch the towel towards you bit by bit.

Go Low Impact

High-impact activities like running and jumping put stress on the plantar fascia. So, focusing more on low-impact exercise is a great way to stay active while avoiding heel pain. Some good examples include swimming, cycling, rowing, and elliptical.

Get a Foot Massage

Foot Massage

Some runners swear by massage as a way to relieve the pain of plantar fasciitis. There are methods that make it easy to do yourself, such as sitting in a chair and using your foot to roll a hard, round object (like a bottle or a ball) back and forth.

But a massage therapist can do a better job. Through treatments like deep tissue massage, they can relieve soft tissue strains, improve circulation to the injury, and help you heal quicker.

Get Some Support

Getting some good orthotic inserts or orthotic shoes can make a world of difference. Firstly, by providing proper support and cushioning, they can provide some immediate relief from pain. Secondly, orthotics will take the stress off your plantar fascia, helping you to heal quicker.

In addition, when you’re suffering from heel pain, it can cause you to change your walking style as you try to accommodate it. This can lead to issues in other areas of the body, by putting added stress on your knees and hips for example. But orthotics avoid this problem by accommodating for your pain while keeping you moving naturally.

The most important thing is to make sure you get your orthotics custom made because the ones you can buy off-the-shelf can actually make matters worse. That’s because they’re a one-size-fits-all solution, in contrast to custom orthotics which take into account your unique issues and needs.

To design custom orthotics, a specialist will assess your injury, the shape of your feet, and the way you move. They’ll also take an impression of your feet to ensure your orthotics are perfectly tailored to you.

Start Living Pain Free

Now that you know some of the ways to prevent plantar fasciitis and relieve foot pain, it’s time to put them into action. Try out the methods above and you’ll see how easy it can be to leave foot pain behind you.

self massage

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

self foot massage

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. It’s a little harder to self-massage these areas, but it can be done. 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

a man having wrist pain

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.