Falling Down, Then Getting Back Up


People fall.

Sometimes people fall softly, and sometimes they fall hard. Falling down is a part of life, and when we fall, we’ve learned that you just have to get yourself back up, brush off the dirt, and keep movin’ forward.

You probably think I’m being metaphorical, but for once I’m not (mind you, if you’re like me, you probably metaphorically fall more often than literally – yuk yuk).

Yes, people fall down all the time, and if you’ve had a stroke, falling down is an even bigger issue. In fact average stroke survivors experience seven times as many falls as healthy adults do, and many of those falls can end them up in the hospital.

Generally, stroke rehabilitation focuses on improving balance, strength and range of motion. While this is certainly a sensible approach, research shows that standard workout and rehabilitation programs only reduce the average number of falls by half. Hmm, that’s still an awful lot of falling down.

So what else can stroke survivors do to keep their feet firmly planted on the ground? Well, there’s a ton of research out there indicating that practicing Taiji Quan regularly is doing a pretty good job of just that!

Whether you’ve read it as TaiJi Quan or TaiChi Chuan, everybody knows what it is by now, and most people have probably seen it in motion (if not, here’s a good clip). It emphasizes fluid, dynamic and circular movements, demands concentration and attention to detail, and it’s not nearly as easy as it looks. Most importantly though, it packs a big bag full of benefits if you keep it up.

Above and beyond increased strength, balance and range of motion, long term benefits of practicing TaiJi can include better posture, alleviation of depression and anxiety, improved cardiovascular health, better quality of life, increased immune function, reduction of high blood pressure, reduced spasticity, greater concentration, and better exercise tolerance. It’s also shown to be a beneficial therapeutic adjunct in brain injury, parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis rehabilitation programs.

The question most people have is, what makes TaiJi different? It’s a good question that often goes without a very satisfactory answer. In terms of rehabilitation, my experience is that TaiJi provides a self-directed, systematic way to master functional movement awareness. Translation: It teaches you how to understand and control your body really really well.

That’s something our clients, or anyone for that matter, could certainly benefit from. Especially if you fall a lot.

If you don’t already know, we’re in the process of expanding the clinic (more on that in later entries). One of the things we’re very excited about starting up in our new space are weekly movement classes! These classes won’t just be about TaiJi, they’ll also incorporate ideas from other traditional exercises like yoga, QiGong, meditation and boxing. It will be an opportunity for anyone experiencing movement challenges due to a neurological impairment to relearn how to use their body.

I’m working on a gimmicky name for this new class, but for now it’s just going to be called ‘Movement Therapy’ (cut me some slack, it was late when I wrote this and I’m not feeling very imaginative at the moment). Hopefully in a few months we’ll be able to post videos of these classes online.

So next time you fall, remember to just get back up, brush off, and keep on moving forward. As long as you’re persistent and keep learning, sooner or later those literal falls will be a thing of the past… and hopefully the metaphorical ones too.

– Jesse

Here are a couple links with research about TaiJi and Stroke rehabilitation.

My Left Foot – Daniel Day Lewis

My Left Foot – The Story of Christy Brownmy left foot

In February, Daniel Day Lewis became the first actor to ever win a 3rd Academy Award for Best Actor following his portrayal of Abraham Lincoln.   While he is known for his many great performances and inspiring roles over his career, his best performance may be one in which he transforms into Christy Brown, an author and painter with Spastic Quadriplegia Cerebral Palsy. The movie is My Left Foot – The Story of Christy Brown (1989) and is based on the true story of a man who overcame many obstacles to become a successful artist and author.

Because I had never heard of this film – it was, in fact, released when I was 8 years old – I wanted to say this movie is not well known.  Yet Daniel Day Lewis won his first Best Actor Academy Award for his role!  The movie sheds light on the (mis)perceptions people had, and to some extent still have, towards people with physical disabilities.  We are taken through the his story with details of how his family coped and of his personal struggles of living with cerebral palsy in an era when so little was known about the condition.

Christy Brown was born in Dublin, Ireland in 1932 to a working class Irish family.  Soon after his birth, when it was discovered that Christy had a severe neurological condition, his parents refused advice to have him admitted to a convalescent care hospital and decided to raise him, instead, at home with the rest of their large family.

An early scene in the movie shows Christy’s mom carrying him, at age 9, upstairs to bed, but labouring quite a bit afterwards. She subsequently fell down the stairs and lay unconscious at the bottom step.  This is where we first see the cognitive and physical potential of Christy, as he was able to climb out of bed, drag himself across the floor and then down the stairs, and proceed to bang on the front door with his left foot until a neighbour answered and called an ambulance.

As he grew, it became evident that Christy not only had the cognitive ability to understand spoken language, read, and even perform math problems, but also the physical ability to write and paint – all with his LEFT FOOT!

left foot2He went on to author an autobiography, titled My Left Foot, which was the inspiration for this film.

From a therapist’s perspective, this film had several interesting events and commentaries.

You get a glimpse into how a large family, at first barely tolerating Christy, was able to grow to not just accept him as an individual, but respect his abilities as an artist and writer. My favourite scene of the movie was of a teenage Christy playing soccer with his brothers against the neighbourhood boys. He plays goalie and makes an excellent save with his head, before also taking a penalty kick and, of course, scoring easily by surprising his opponent with a rocket-like left footer.

Remembering that the movie is set in Ireland during the 40’s and 50’s, it’s not surprising that Christy didn’t have access to a wheelchair. The family, instead, made him a wooden wagon.  We have come a long long way in seating and positioning technologies, but I was intrigued that the family totally made this wagon work.

As an adult, Christy was taken to what appeared to be a rehab hospital which, in movie time, he tolerated for about 3.5 seconds.  You could tell he was bored with the therapy and it looked pretty boring. The therapy looked like therapy probably occurred 40 or so years ago, but the sad reality is that this type of therapy still occurs.

The movie was able to demonstrate that individuals who may be considered physically and/or mentally disabled are people.  They might experience the world in a different way, but not necessarily just because of a physical or cognitive deficit, but because of how they are treated by society.

My Left Foot and Daniel Day Lewis are deserving of all the accolades received 23 years ago.  The acting was superb and the story inspiring, and I would recommend this to all of my clients and their families.


Cool Links – Healthy Food in the City

fruits_and_vegetablesLooking for foods that are certified organic, local, free from antibiotics and genetically modified organisms? It’s becoming easier to find these safe and healthy foods here in the city. Of course buying local is dependent on seasons and certain organic or antibiotic free foods can be a bit pricier. However if you know exactly where to look you can shop around.  In fact you can even have your food brought right to your door.

In the GTA there are several companies that will deliver a box of vegetables right to your door.

Check out this website for some great organic vegetable delivery services.  It’s easier then you think, you go on line, pick what size of basket you’d like to receive and voila you have fresh organic vegetables delivered right to your door. You don’t even have to leave the house ( although I wouldn’t recommend you becoming a hermit ). This is an easy way to be sure you can find healthy organic vegetables you want.
By the way be sure to check out the rest of this website ( the links on the right of the page ) for more great places to try Vegetarian choices from cafes and restaurants to festivals, events and healthy house products.

As many of you know, I am a vegetarian so i’m not as informed on the meat situation.  However although I choose not to eat animals I do believe if you choose to eat meat, be sure to eat grain fed and antibiotic free.  Here are a few butchers in the area where you can find healthy meat.lady-gaga-meat-dress-vma11_4c90be4d8fa25

Butcher by Nature
520 Annette Street

Cumbrae’s Meats
Various Locations

The Healthy Butcher
Various Locations

The Butchers
This webpage also has links to various other organic healthy foods, products and supplies. www.thebutchersorganic.com

The Village Butcher
2914 Lake shore Blvd West

Meat on the Beach
1860 Queen street East

Another great way to find local foods is at the many farmers markets around the city.
This Website show’s a list of many markets all around the city. Be sure to checkout the times and dates available so you can find a market open close to you.  Again this is seasonal but I have to admit, it’s starting to feel like spring so those markets are going to be opening soon!  Sounds like a lovely family outing.

When shopping for healthy foods be sure to read the labels and ask questions.  There are many words that may “trick” you into thinking the product your buying is “natural” or “organic” or “healthy”  be sure to make sure it is certified organic, antibiotic and genetically modified free. Local is always good as well so you know your food hasn’t travelled for days while on a ship or truck that has pumped large amounts of gas fumes into our air but i think that’s the start for another Blog posting.

Either way, be sure you know what your eating and enjoy it when you do!  Happy shopping!

Michelle, RMT