It is Men’s Health Week in Australia which is an important time to bring awareness to some of the health issues specifically relating to men and their need for regular physical, and mental health checks. According to the 2018 report published by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW), less than one in thirty men eat the recommended daily portions of fruit and vegetables and more than half exceed the recommended alcohol consumption. Furthermore, a significant number of men will suffer from some form of chronic pain in their lifetime.
I recently met with Dana Brackley-Jones who is the Movement Solutions Manager at Balwyn Sports and Physiotherapy Centre. Dana has worked there for over 3 years and is both a Physiotherapist and a Clinical Pilates expert who is passionate about research and understanding how the body moves.
She explained to me that from a clinical perspective, movement is not only an important treatment for the body’s biomechanical issues and injuries, but is also a gateway for optimising a person’s overall health. Movement improves and affects all our bodily functions, including posture, our nervous state, our gastrointestinal region, endocrine function, breathing, and mental wellness. During movement solutions classes her team integrates their skills with their clients often complex needs alongside the intricacies and demands of their body.
Rob Rees, has been one of Dana’s clients for some time now. He is the CEO of Cultivating Community, a not for profit organisation that specialise in community food projects and he has worked in the food industry for over 25 years – including some of the UK’s leading Michelin-starred restaurants and hotels before moving to Melbourne.
“As a chef, you are always going to go home smelling of food so you can either go home smelling of fish and chips or you can go home smelling of lobster. I chose lobster”, says Rob.
Rob had suffered from back pain since he was a young man which he believed stemmed from being hunched over stoves and in a profession that meant you were on your feet for many hours at a time. He wasn’t a big drinker and he ate well, but admits he didn’t have the time nor the inclination to exercise, it just didn’t interest him. But it wasn’t until he experienced a medical issue whilst on holiday with his family, that he was suddenly propelled to make significant life changes.
On a trip to Fiji to celebrate his 50th birthday, Rob contracted what he thought was an eye infection. It soon worsened, leaving his eye very swollen, the lids firmly sealed and he was in a great deal of pain. They returned home and sought advice from an eye specialist who confirmed he had Uveitis and to Rob’s surprise, one of the first questions the doctors asked him was whether he suffered from back pain. He was given a DNA blood test that confirmed he had ankylosing spondylitis (AS), an inflammatory disease typically affecting men more than women and causing significant back and joint pain.
“A rheumatologist said to me, you do realise you have this for the rest of your life, don’t you? So, in the beginning, it was all a bit of doom and gloom. I tried Clinical Pilates and came away from the initial classes in even more pain, so I had to ask myself…were these exercises all worth it? It took about 6 months in with Dana for me to reach a stage where I ‘almost’ looked forward to going to her classes but now I go because I want to. I understand what the exercises are supposed to do and how it all works for my body. There is no judgement from any of the staff or team of specialists I see, and this makes the whole experience more comfortable for me”. Rob Rees, CEO, Cultivating Community
Three of the exercises that Dana focuses on during Rob’s sessions include;
- Spinal Axial elongation to help create optimal length throughout the spine and vertebra.
- Postural alignment especially through the head/neck and thoracic spine.
- Mobility throughout each of the joints in the lumbopelvic region.
Now, thankfully Rob is an avid Clinical Pilates fan and although there is no set cure for his disease and his back pain will remain, he does feel there have been significant improvements with his pain management. Rob believes that keeping pain at an acceptable level for as long as possible, is a good outcome for him.
Despite Rob’s diagnosis, his love of food and education continues to thrive. He is excited about his recent appointment as CEO for Cultivating Community, which develops and maintains community food projects including public housing and school gardens. He is also involved in initiatives such as the Kitchen Challenge and social enterprise, Moving Feast that can feed over 20,000 meals to people in Melbourne who are going hungry.
For more information about Rob’s organisation or if you can donate any amount (big or small) please visit www.cultivatingcommunity.org.au as every little bit helps towards supporting those in need.
For more information about Movement Solutions, Clinical Pilates classes, general rehabilitation or physiotherapy services, then please contact Dana on 03 9836 7000 or via their website at Balwyn Sports and Physiotherapy Centre.
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