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Your physiotherapist has got your back!


As the year swings round towards summer, we sigh with relief: time to do outdoor things, to enjoy swimming, hiking, cycling, for the children to play sports and other activities.

Has anyone ever discussed the impact of heat on you and your health? Is your children’s school making contingency plans for hot days?

We’re moving into a ‘new normal’ in which we are much more likely to get extreme heatwaves, which, in the South African context, have been defined as occurrences when the daily maximum rises to equal or above 35°C on three or more consecutive days, or events where it rises to 30°C on five or more consecutive days (lower maximums but of a longer duration).


Some of the excessive heat health impacts include:

  • Muscle cramps – if you’ve been sweating heavily and not rehydrating with fluids that contain a balanced mix of electrolytes, you can have severe cramping.


  • Heat oedema (swelling in feet, ankles and fingers, for example) – the body tries to cope by dilating blood vessels and sending blood to your extremities to radiate heat outwards.


  • Confusion and dizziness caused by the alterations to the blood vessels – this can even lead to unconsciousness (remember the tennis player, Frank Dancevic, who passed out in record heat at the Australian Open in Melbourne, 2014?).


  • Heat exhaustion, which can be incredibly dangerous, accompanied by nausea, frequent cramping, palpitations and more nasty symptoms.


  • Over the long term, poor hydration while working or exercising during extreme weather can lead to kidney disease – it is likely one of the contributing factors to a killer epidemic of ‘chronic kidney disease of unknown aetiology’ that has taken the lives of many young men in Central America and Sri Lanka recently.


“There are simple and effective ways to cope with the effect of extreme heat on health,” says Prof Witness Mudzi, president of the South African Society of Physiotherapy. “Having plenty of cold water on hand, as well as rehydration salts, is a crucial intervention. Cooling the person down, with wet cloths and fans and the like, moving them to a cool area and so on – if you catch it before it gets too serious, fluid and coolness will do the trick.

“But as physiotherapists, we’d like our patients to avoid any kind of brush with heat stress. During spells of extreme heat, we’d advise that you avoid physical exertion in the hotter part of the day. Schools might want to rejig the schedule for sports with this in mind.” Children should not be playing outside between 10 am and 16 pm.


For physiotherapists who have taken an interest in a broad range of fields, from sports to occupational health to paediatrics, it is important to make use of some simple interventions that can make a huge difference to mitigate against extreme heat which include: shaded, cool spots for breaks, water on tap, hats and other protective gear. “If you’re concerned about the risk of extreme heat to your physical activities, whether on the job, on the sports field, in the gym or at school, ask a physiotherapist to come and assess the situation and give practical advice.”

From heatwaves to injuries to illness, whatever comes between you and a well, happy, functioning body, ask your physiotherapist – we’ve got your back!


Issued by The South African Society of Physiotherapy – (011) 615-3170 /

Falling is not fun

Overview of activity
This is more an education talk rather than an activity and is aimed at the elderly. You could get the elderly involved in identify possible risks in and around their immediate environment. If you choose to do this, you may want to stage some scenarios prior to the talk.

Some background information:
Each year, 1 in 3 adults aged 65 years and older falls
Falls cause moderate to severe injuries
A fall could reduce your mobility

What you will need
This will depend whether you are going to present this as an informative talk, or get the participants involved.

If you are just going to do a talk, you may want to develop a presentation that details the points below. You may also want to print up a leaflet with the information detailed below to leave behind.

If you intend to stage some scenarios and involved the participants, choose props to illustrate the points listed below, you will get a better idea after reading the information, but these might include:
Very high heel shoes, shoes that are too small or too big
Clutter is any shape or form including a loose floor rug

Most of this can be easily demonstrated by a walk about during which you point out areas that are well set up or areas where improvements could be made.

What you will do
Address these key points with the participants in an interactive and fun way

Choose your shoes carefully
Low heel
Slip resistant
Easy to get on and off

Clear Clutter
Tuck electrical cables away
Keep the floor clutter-free
Don’t have scatter rugs and bed frills around

Fall-proof your bathroom
Add a grip bar to your shower
Keep a non-slip mat or strip inside and outside your shower or bath

Reaching good lighting
Make sure you have a bedside light you can easily reach at night
Use night lights if this is easy

Fall-resistant furniture
Ensure that there is ample space around your chair
Use a sturdy chair that cannot move around easily
Make sure your chair has arm rests to help you get up
Make sure your chair is a comfortable height to get in and out of

Smart storage
Don’t store everyday items too high or too low
Store the items you use regularly in easy to get to places
Ask for help when getting items that are stored high up or low down – don’t ever stand on a chair or use a stepladder

Variations you can try
Not applicable

This activity is meant to educate and inform in a fun way.

For more information on falls visit



Stretch it out at the office

Stretch ideas to ensure you stay flexible and injury free at work! 


Shoulder stretch


Interlink your fingers in front of your body and turn your palms to face outwards. Slowly straighten your arms and stretch forward. Hold this position for 15 seconds.


Interlink your fingers behind your body and turn your palms to face outwards. Slowly straighten your arms and stretch back. Hold this position for 15 seconds.


Shoulder pull

Hold your upper arm just under your elbow and pull that arm at shoulder height across your chest. Repeat for both arms holding the stretch for 15 seconds on either side.


Triceps and shoulder stretch

Reach behind your head with your elbow bent. Using your other hand, push down on the bend elbow to get that arm to move further down your back. Hold for 15 second and be sure to stretch both arms.


Neck stretch

Reach with your right hand over your head, placing your hand over your left ear. Slowly pull your head away from your left shoulder, making sure that your left shoulder drops down and does not lift as you stretch. Do this one both sides, holding for 15 seconds each.


Knee to chest

This can be performed in a seated or standing position as long as your back is supported. Using your hands, slowly pull your knee up towards your chest and hold for 15 seconds. Repeat on the other side.


Back rotation

Sit in a chair with your left leg crossed over your right leg at the knee. Place your right hand on your left thigh just above your knee and pull your leg towards the right. At the same time turn your body towards the left and look over your left shoulder. Hold this stretch for 15 seconds and repeat on the other side.


Chest stretch

Raise your arms and bend your elbows at a 90 degree angle. Place your forearms and hands on the edge of a door frame. Keeping your feet shoulder distance apart, lean forward through the doorway, holding the stretch for 15 seconds.

Fun idea : Do this with your colleagues to keep motivation high!