Stay healthy this winter

The Winter season can be busy and exciting. We might not have thanks giving and a fairy tale white Christmas in winter time down here, but we still have plenty of distractions to keep us from focusing on our health and taking care of ourselves as we would normally.

Furthermore, once the April holiday season is over, many people experience a lull in their motivation to stay active. Some people begin to experience depression or feelings of anxiousness over expenses that accumulated throughout the holidays. Others let diet and healthy eating habits fall by the wayside. Often, given the weather, exercise is sacrificed for warm nights spent indoors on the couch.

With shorter days and colder weather, finding the motivation to stay healthy and fit can be difficult. And that can lay the foundation for a weakened immune system, posing a greater risk of developing illness or injury. No wonder they call it the winter blues. What’s more, the colder weather creates several safety risks to us and to those around us, and some of these we may not even be aware of.

Recognizing safety risks and patterns of illness or low energy ahead of time is key to preventing them — or at least to dealing with them as they arise. There are countless winter wellness tips and ideas available to ensure you have lots of ways to stay healthy, fit and safe this holiday season and beyond. These healthy winter habits will help you to recognize where your health falls short and what you can do to boost it during this time of year.

Diet and Exercise Tips

While the winter season might increase the risk for weather-related injury, the biggest risk to our overall health is a lack of attention to diet and exercise routines, the chilly and unpleasant weather can also make it very difficult to find the motivation to get to the gym or head outdoors for exercises. In tandem with this, the additional time spent indoors means many of us snack more than we would typically at other times of the year. This combination that can quickly add on the pounds and reduce our happiness and self-esteem over time.

  1. Calm Your Carb Cravings

The cold season tends to ignite our cravings for more carbs and comfort foods. Why? After you consume these delicious treats, your serotonin levels rise, making your brain think you are happier. And as the day wears on, your carb cravings get stronger and stronger.

To counter this, try eating a protein-packed breakfast to keep your energy levels up throughout the day. If by the time the afternoon rolls around you’re still craving sweets or carbs, be sure to have low-fat and healthy snacks on hand. However, if you can, finding a way to increase your serotonin levels without food is the best way to beat the carb cravings.

  1. Add Omega 3 Fatty Acids

Omega 3 fatty acids are a healthy type of fat that are naturally found in many food types including fish, plant seeds and nuts. Omega 3 fatty acids are great for reducing joint pain and stiffness as they are a natural anti-inflammatory. Studies have also shown that omega 3 fatty acids help lower levels of depression, which people commonly feel during the shorter days of winter.

Mushrooms Immune Benefits

  1. Cook with Mushrooms

There are several species of mushrooms that have immune-boosting health benefits. That’s because mushrooms have naturally-occurring antibiotics. This gives them medicinal properties, which helps us to fight off many types of illnesses. Next time you’re at the grocery store, be sure to stock up on varieties like white button or shitake mushrooms and add them to your meals this winter.

  1. Eat More Fiber

Soluble fiber found in apples, oats and nuts is an important way to decrease inflammation and boost immune system function. Soluble fiber also helps reduce cholesterol levels in the body and aids in weight loss and protection against diabetes. This is an especially important winter health tip for seniors who require a high-fiber diet to protect their digestive systems.

  1. Eat Greener and Orange Vegetables

Sticking primarily to vegetables and fruits that are dark green and orange is important in ensuring you’re getting healthy nutrients, sugars and fats. Spinach, kale, Swiss chard, squash, carrots and oranges are all delicious during the winter. There are plenty of recipes available to incorporate these items into your regular winter diet.

  1. Cook with Spices

Onions, garlic, ginger and cilantro are the perfect items to add flavour to your dishes. Not only do they make food taste great, but they’re also shown to help improve immune function. Turmeric is a spice traditionally used in Chinese and Indian medicine. Its main active ingredient is called curcumin, which gives curry its yellow colour. This spice helps to combat several conditions including inflammation and heart disease, and it acts as a powerful antioxidant.

  1. Plan Your Exercises a Week in Advance

Try to stick to a weekly exercise plan so you don’t put off your regular exercise activities. On Sunday night, write down your exercise schedule for the next seven days. Choose your exact workout routines, activities or exercises for each day and how long they will be. Knowing what you’re scheduled to do each day ahead of time makes it easier to stick to. If you can, line up your workout schedule with a friend to encourage each other to stick with it and stay motivated.

  1. Workout at Home

If you have no desire to head outdoors for your workout, then never fear. There are plenty of resources online that supply fun workout videos and exercises. These resources offer a variety of workouts including yoga, strength training, aerobics and other body-weight exercises. Check out Pinterest for tons of great resources so you can get fit in the comfort of your own living room.

These diet and exercises tips are great, specifically in the winter, but they can also be used year-round. By reminding yourself that spring will be here before you know it, you’ll stay motivated to provide proper attention to your body and health habits during the winter.

Mental Health and General Wellness Tips

Above and beyond the potential for personal injury and the decline in fitness and diet routines, winter time presents another threat to our health. This time of year, can cause an increase in depression, which may lead to a decline in overall mental health. Though many people may experience mild forms of depression or sadness due to lower levels of sunlight, there are an estimated nine million Americans chronically affected by the change in season. This is known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), and it is significantly more common in women than men.


When our mental well-being isn’t where it should be, we become even more susceptible to stress and illness. It is as important as ever in the winter to take a holistic approach to wellness, not only for our diets and physical exercise, but for our mental well-being, too.

Here are some mental health and general wellness tips for winter so you can stay healthy during the colder, darker season:

  1. Frequent Hand Washing

Though it sounds like a broken record, frequent handwashing throughout the day is an absolute must in maintaining your health during the winter. It not only helps protect your immune system and prevent you from developing flu and cold, but it protects others around you.

  1. Head to a Sauna or Steam Room

If you begin to feel yourself experiencing depression or higher levels of stress, steam rooms and saunas can help. They help tense muscles to relax which can alleviate feelings of stress. The high temperatures also get you working up a sweat, which is a great way to detoxify your body and your skin.

  1. Take Vitamin Supplements

Consuming lots of vitamin C during the winter will help your body to battle cold and flu symptoms if you do experience them. Vitamin D helps to supplement the lack of light experienced during winter, but it’s still important to get out in the sun whenever it does appear. Vitamin D helps to absorb other important vitamins like vitamin A, iron and calcium.

  1. Drink Herbal Teas

There are many types of herbal teas that can help you stay healthy. Herbal teas like lemon and chamomile can ease depression and anxiety by calming nerves and relaxing your body. They can also help you sleep better. Some herbal teas like green and Rooibos are great as antioxidants. For the most benefit, be sure to look for organic teas made from high-quality ingredients.

  1. Sleep Longer and Better

When the days get shorter, your body will naturally want to sleep longer and will adjust its rhythm to the hours of daylight. Use the longer evenings to wind down and begin relaxing before bed. Try to go to bed as early as possible to give your body enough rest during the times it craves it the most.

Many people choose to use light boxes that operate on a timer and turn on gradually when it’s time to wake up. This helps your body feel like it is morning. Using this method means that over time, it will be easier to wake up, even if it’s dark outside.

  1. Practice Meditation and Relaxation

When you start to feel the winter blues, anxiety and stress, it’s important to know how to manage it in a healthy way. Going for a walk outdoors whenever weather permits will drastically improve your stress levels, even if it’s just once around the block. You may also want to develop the habit of deep breathing whenever you feel anxiety mounting.

  1. Plan a Vacation

A winter vacation is a great way to shake off the winter blues and recharge yourself in a healthy way. Planning a getaway to a warmer climate will help lift your spirits and give you something to look forward to.




Back pain beyond the odd muscle spasm or two

Back pain beyond the odd muscle spasm or two.                    (By Hans de Wit – StretchingSA)


Back painIn some rare cases, we have found patients complaining about back pain, but it seems that the signs and symptoms are simply not adding up as a normal musculoskeletal problem. Muscle spasms and possible associated degenerative and musculoskeletal disorders are simply not just the only answer. Therefore, it is very important to have a specialist do a proper diagnosis on your back condition when you have one of those “chronic ailments” “no one” seems to be able to fix.

In this article I will attempt to bring you some alternative reasons for back pain, what can cause them, and what is the most likely outcome.  Also having said that, I will attempt to tell you which conditions CANNOT BE FIXED BY ANY FORM OF PHYSICAL THERAPY.  At StretchingSA we are very aware of this, and will not hesitate to send a patient to the right medical expert when it becomes clear that the outcome is not favourable for stretch therapy. We’ll call this CONTRAINDICATIONS to stretch therapy. In medicine, a contraindication is a condition or factor that serves as a reason to withhold a certain medical treatment due to the harm that it would cause the patient. Contraindication is the opposite of indication, which is a reason to use a certain treatment.

Possible contraindications are:

  1. Cauda Equina lesions

Low back pain is very common. It affects millions of people. In most cases, you don’t need surgery for low back pain. But in rare cases, severe back pain can be a sign of cauda equina syndrome (CES), a condition that usually requires urgent surgical treatment. People with cauda equina syndrome often are admitted to a hospital as a medical emergency. Here’s what you need to know about cauda equina syndrome.

What Is Cauda Equina Syndrome?

Cauda equina syndrome is a rare disorder that usually is a surgical emergency. In patients with cauda equina syndrome, something compresses on the spinal nerve roots. You may need fast treatment to prevent lasting damage leading to incontinence and possibly permanent paralysis of the legs.

CES affects a bundle of nerve roots called cauda equina (Latin for horse’s tail). These nerves are located at the lower end of the spinal cord in the lumbosacral spine. They send and receive messages to and from your legs, feet, and pelvic organs.


It may be hard to diagnose cauda equina syndrome. Symptoms vary and may come on slowly. They also mimic other conditions. If you have any of these symptoms, see your doctor right away:

  • Severe low back pain.
  • Pain, numbness, or weakness in one or both legs that causes you to stumble or have trouble getting up from a chair.
  • Loss of or altered sensations in your legs, buttocks, inner thighs, backs of your legs, or feet that is severe or gets worse and worse. You may experience this as trouble feeling anything in the areas of your body that would sit in a saddle (called saddle anasthesia).
  • Recent problem with bladder or bowel function, such as trouble eliminating urine or waste (retention) or trouble holding it (incontinence).
  • Sexual dysfunction that has come on suddenly.


  1. Meningitis

The meninges are membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord. Meningitis is a condition involving the inflammation of these membranes. Meningitis can be caused by a virus or bacteria, with bacterial meningitis being much more severe. Symptoms of bacterial meningitis include high fever, headache, spinal stiffness, nausea, vomiting and even back pain, according to the Mayo Clinic. It is important to diagnose meningitis properly to ensure the appropriate treatment. For bacterial meningitis, antibiotics are an effective treatment and can help prevent the spread of the infection to others, according to the centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

  1. Bacterial Endocarditis

Bacterial endocarditis, also known as infective endocarditis, is an infection that attacks the inner lining of the heart, called the endocardium, and the heart valves. This infection is rare in people with normal hearts, but is a very real concern for anyone who has damaged heart valves or heart tissue. Bacteria that manage to enter the bloodstream lodges on damaged heart tissue and can further destroy the heart. Quick diagnosis and treatment are necessary to prevent severe damage. According to a 1977 study published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine, bacterial endocarditis may manifest many musculoskeletal symptoms, including back pain.

  1. Tuberculosis

Tuberculosis is an infection that can attack any part of the body, but usually resides in the lungs. Once the infection lodges in the lungs, explains the British charity TB Alert, it causes symptoms of a pervasive cough that lasts for many weeks and gets worse over time, weight loss for no apparent reason, loss of appetite, night sweats, fatigue and fever. According to, all forms of tuberculosis are curable without lasting effects if they are diagnosed and treated early enough. Only tuberculosis of the lungs and throat are potentially infectious. A tuberculosis infection can travel to other parts of the body and can cause a variety of symptoms, including back pain.

  1. Urinary Tract Infection

The urinary tract includes structures such as the kidney, bladder, the ureters and the urethra. The function of the urinary tract is to eliminate waste. According to the National Kidney and Urological Disease Information Clearinghouse, or NKUDIC, urinary tract infections are the most common infection in human body. The NKUDIC also reports that when the infection reaches the kidneys, symptoms may include frequent urination, painful or burning urination, a feeling of fullness, a general feeling of weakness, back pain, nausea and vomiting.

  1. Bacterial infection

Antibiotics are being investigated as a new way to treat chronic lower back pain. It’s thought that up to one in four cases may actually be caused by infection and not by mechanical problems such as poor posture or improper lifting.

In a Danish study, more than half the patients were either cured or much improved after 90 days of daily antibiotics. A much larger trial is now under way, with results expected later this year.

Many patients improve within three months of this initial visit, but up to 50 per cent continue to suffer pain and disability. Carrying heavy items and sleeping on soft mattresses are common causes, but in many cases the problem is a herniated or slipped disc. The discs, which are slotted between each of the vertebrae, are made up of a hard, fibrous outer ring with a soft inner part called the nucleus. The discs can degenerate with wear and tear; the outer part then cracks, forcing the pulpy centre to bulge into the spinal canal. This can irritate the nerves running from the spinal cord down the leg, causing back pain and pins and needles down the leg. Conventional treatments range from lifestyle changes and physiotherapy to painkillers and surgery.

However, it’s thought bacteria may be implicated, after MRI scans of patients with herniated discs have shown key changes in the vertebrae – the bone itself around the affected area swells. The scans showed that this occurs in up to seven out of ten patients with a herniated disc. Patients with normal healthy discs do not develop these changes. In the pilot study, 29 patients with lower back pain and these bone changes were given the antibiotic amoxicillin-clavulanate for three months. Following treatment, 52 per cent of the patients reported that they were much better or cured and 24 per cent were moderately better. Nobody’s symptoms worsened, although symptoms had been getting more severe in the months before treatment. Researchers believe that when a disc becomes herniated, bacteria can enter and cause an infection. That results in an immune system response – the visible bone changes

  1. Neoplasms

Neoplasms commonly invades the spine. In addition to metastatic solid tumors, such as breast and prostate cancer, lymphomas and myeloma often involve vertebral bodies and produce back pain. Tumors arising from the spinal cord, nerve roots, or surrounding tissues are much less common. Some benign tumors, such as spinal meningioma’s and neurofibromas, also cause pain when they occur.

  1. Infections

Back pain can be caused by numerous types of infections. Bacteria can invade the vertebral bodies (osteomyelitis) or causes abscesses inside the spine. Chronic infections, such as Lyme disease, can involve the structures inside the spine. Viruses, such as the zoster virus causing shingles, can attach specific levels of the spine and cause back pain.





What is active isolated stretching?

Active Isolated Stretching


The Mattes Method:

What is Active Isolated Stretching?

Over the past two decades, many experts have advocated prolonged stretching up to 60 seconds. A prolonged stretch up to 60 seconds means that a person would move into a stretching position and keep it there for a longer period.

Read More