Officer Down.

And it’s not from what you might think.

Data suggest law enforcement officers such as police are at greater risk of certain diseases (e.g. diabetes, cardiovascular disease) and premature death, at a rate higher than the general public.

In fact, a Virginia Municipal Group Self Insurance Association (VMGSIA) study found that officers lived, on average, only 2-5 years past their retirement.

manage stress to avoid untimely death

Not an exciting prospect, is it?

All those years of service and only a few years to enjoy the fruits of your labor.

This exceedingly high illness, injury and death rate was attributed to a lack of personal and agency fitness and wellness programs. Many of the injuries and illnesses were considered to have “modifiable risk factors” where the health conditions and related costs could be controlled and minimized.

At this point, you’re probably thinking “what can I do about it?

The short answer: take a proactive approach and modify your risk factors.

While it would be impossible to remove all the risk factors (e.g. shift work, exposure to various environments, and on-the-job stress like chasing armed bandits) you can definitely put yourself in the best position to manage the ones you do face.

This would make it less likely that your retirement will be cut so tragically short.

Photo Credit: Joshua Sherurcij

What does that mean for you?

That means you’ll need to not only get in, but stay in, the best physical shape possible. You’ll need to improve your endurance, strength, power and athleticism. You’ll need to learn how to bend, twist, and move efficiently. You’ll need to manage your daily stresses so that your body can recover. You’ll need to prevent injuries before they happen and resolve the ones you currently have so they don’t get worse or put you at risk.

You will need to become the one in charge of your body, so it does what you need it to do, when you need it to do it.

If you’re not sure where to begin, we can help you!

As a high performance sports medicine and physiotherapy clinic in Woodbridge, we have significant experience working with emergency service personnel such as members of the Toronto Police Service and the Toronto Fire Service. We understand the specific physical job requirements that ensures you make it home safely at the end of your shift.

If you’re interested in finding out how our specialized programs for emergency service personnel can help you, contact us today!

Yours in movement,

Team Primal





No Gym? No problem…with 8 minute fitness!

The following is a eight-minute routine using only body weight that can get you started back on your fitness journey. While this type of program won’t get you contest ready or into the upper echelons of sport, it’s a great way to safely introduce a basic level of physical fitness back into your daily routine.

And that’s what we’re all about: the habit of exercise and the behaviour of movement.

The Pros:

  • You don’t need a specialized gym or fancy equipment – this can be done anywhere, anytime
  • You can vary the intensity as required – you control of how hard you push yourself, or how easy you go)
  • It’s a gateway into introducing more activity without being overwhelmed – you only have to invest eight minutes!

The Cons:

  • Unless you’re quite sedentary, 8 minutes of activity may not be enough to change your physique or fitness levels
  • If you’ve been very sedentary or you’re really out of shape, this eight minutes is going to feel very tough

Prior to going through the exercise circuit, take a few minutes to warm your body up with movement. A dynamic warm-up is more effective for preparing you for activity than the “old” version of just stretching prior to exercise. This should only take about three minutes (yes, this is part of the eight minutes) and you should break a light sweat.

You can do any activity that you enjoy as long as it keeps your body moving continuously (upper and lower body). Some examples include:

  • Jogging on the spot
  • Jumping jacks
  • Skips, hops, jumps
  • Crab walks
  • Bear crawls
  • Variations of lunges, leg swings, kicks

Now for the actual exercises. Do each exercise one after the other without any breaks between each exercise in a circuit format. Aim for 3 cycles of the circuit. Use only a short 20-second rest break between each cycle. Done in this manner, this will give you a total of five minutes of exercise.

  • Burpees (no push ups): 20 seconds
  • Side Plank: 2 per side x 10 seconds
  • Air Squats: 20 seconds
  • Push Ups: 20 seconds

Give the above 8 minute workout a try and let us know how if felt.

Yours in movement,

Team Primal


23 and a half: a visual lecture that will make you think.


At Primal this is our type of medicine.


What should I do when I get injured?

While the answer to the above question depends on the type and severity of the injury, for most simple, uncomplicated musculoskeletal traumas such as slight sprains and strains, R.I.C.E will come to the rescue. For all others, seek the assessment and advice of a qualified expert.

Rest: To reduce risk of further injury, trauma, pain, or compensation patterns. This can include stopping the painful activity or using supports such as slings/crutches to offload the injured area for a short period of time, and as appropriate. Rest should NOT usually entail complete sedentary behaviour but rather should be directed towards avoidance of pain-provoking activity. For example, if you’ve hurt your shoulder playing golf and it hurts every time you swing a club, might be a good idea to take a break from golfing.  It doesn’t mean you should stop walking and set up shop on your couch, feeding your feelings of woe with chips and ice cream.

Ice: To control swelling and pain. Commercial gel ice packs work really well, with frozen peas coming in a close second. Ideally you want a cold pack that will conform to the injured area. When using any form of icing, be wary of putting the cold pack directly against the skin as this can potentially lead to frostbite. A safer option is to cover your ice pack in a moistened towel and place the covered pack over the injury site. Typically aim for 20 minutes on followed by an hour off. Repeat once or twice.

Too much compression?

Compression: To help with swelling, to brace/support the injured area, and to remind yourself that the area is injured. Tensor bandages, various commercial sleeves (e.g. elbow, knee, ankle), athletic tape can all help with creating compression in the injured area. Compression should be strong but should not be so intense as to cut off circulation. Also, to make sure that you aren’t overly compressed, remove your support/brace/tape every so often to let circulation flow unimpeded. You should never develop numbness, tingling or loss of sensation from using a compressive device.

Elevation: To help control swelling, which in turn will often decrease pain. Gravity is not just a good idea, but a law. Use this to your advantage to help drain extra fluids from injured areas. Try to get your injured site above heart level. The longer you can keep the area higher up, the less likely that fluid will pool at the injured area. Elevation works really well when coupled with R.I.C from above. For example, if you’ve sprained your ankle, you could lie on your back with your foot supported above you (pillows, stool etc), ankle wrapped in a tensor and covered in a cold gel pack for 20 minutes.

These four action steps, held in high regard by physiotherapists, chiropractors and personal trainers globally, have helped numerous individuals manage and mitigate the negative fallout from a sudden minor traumas for years.

They are, and will continue to be, one of the best first responses for these types of acute injuries.

Yours in movement.

Team Primal


The Three Worst Abdominal Exercises for People with Low Back Pain

The internet has reshaped our world.

It has the ability to transfer information and knowledge across the globe in real time.

You have a problem, Google your signs or symptoms, and more than likely you’ll find thousands and thousands of pages of solutions with Dr. Google coming to the rescue!

So what’s wrong with that?

As a physiotherapist in Vaughan, these are the questions I ask myself: How good is the information? What’s the source? Can it be trusted? Will it help? Or will it harm? What are the risks? The benefits?

This becomes even more important when dealing with various injuries or illness where the potential for making things worse may be higher, where the risk of aggravating already irritated tissues may compound or where delaying appropriate treatment may lengthen the course of recovery.

It’s no different with relieving low back pain. Plug in those search terms and instantly you’ll have at your disposal more information than you could possibly even use.

Often, a good portion of the information that shows up discusses strengthening your abs to fix your back problems. This may sound quite similar to the advice many people are given by their medical or fitness professionals:

“Strengthen your core to protect your back”.

Unfortunately, over the years, abdominal training has become popularized as the foundation of core training. In reality, abdominal training accounts for only a small part of the bigger core training picture.

To make matters worse, poorly designed or applied abdominal training can make you worse and keep you in pain.

So in keeping with the spirit of this post, here’s my list of the three worst abdominal exercises for people with low back pain:

  1. The traditional crunch or sit-up: These staples of most back rehab programs should be eliminated due of the incredible compressive loading forces created through the spinal discs. Dr. Stuart McGill, one of the foremost spine researchers in the world, has measured compressive forces of approximately 3300N (730 lbs) in the spine with these types of exercises. The scary part: this is equal to the amount of force listed by certain government health agencies as the amount of force needed to cause injury!
  2. Abdominal twist machines: So if crunches or sit-ups can cause as much damage to your spine, imagine what happens when you take a similar exercise, restrict movement at certain joints, isolate movement at others, twist and then add a load? By taking a flexion movement and adding a loaded rotation component on these machines, you’re well on your way to sending yourself off to the disabled list. In fact, we’ve  dubbed these types of exercises “disc herniators” and inform our clients that they should only continue to do these if they wish to help us finance our latest facility expansion.
  3. Back Extension Machines: As described by Dr. McGill, the repeated spine flexion/extension movements (forward/backward bending) used by these devices create the same conditions that were necessary in his lab to produce disc herniations in his spine models. Enough said. Why would you want to do the same to your back at the gym when you’re trying to help it heal?

So there you have it…The 3 worst core exercises for people with low back pain. If you love your back, you should probably stop doing them.

In our next post, we’ll discuss 3 spine sparing core exercises that are appropriate for people with low back pain.

Yours in movement.

Dev Chengkalath

The importance of the everyday

Through our professional careers and even our own personal experiences, our team has been privy to a gamut of injuries from sprains and strains, to broken bones and “slipped discs”, among many others.

Over the last few years working in the sports performance, fitness and injury rehabilitation industries, we’ve noticed something quite different than what we would have expected: the vast majority of the people that come through our clinic doors don’t have a sudden acute injury.

It’s true.

Most of these people didn’t have an immediate trauma that started their pain and problems: no one took them down in a crushing tackle; they didn’t fall down the stairs.

That’s not to say that there wasn’t an event that set it off.

In fact, quite a few of these individuals do recall a specific incident where things started to go downhill fast. However,  their injury history actually tells quite a different story. If probed enough, most of them can remember multiple episodes of low back pain or multiple occurrences of spraining their ankles before the “noted injury”, the tipping point, if you will.

And that’s what brings us to the importance of the everyday.

This is probably the most valuable lesson we attempt to impart on our clients. It’s the one major piece of knowledge we try to pass along to them with every visit, and truly make sure that they understand why it has such a huge impact on their health, fitness, and ultimately happiness.

It’s quite often your repeated everyday activities that injure you over time or that will keep you in pain.

Restated, the above simply means that there’s something that you do as part of your daily activities that continues to irritate or injure your tissues or body structures, leading to pain and loss of function.

If you could remove or modify that specific irritation, your body would be given the opportunity to do what it does best, heal.

If you’re eating well, getting enough rest, and exercising properly, your body has all the tools and resources it needs to start fixing what is broken.

The challenge now is to figure out what is causing you the problem in the first place. And then remove it.

Yours in movement.

Team Primal

Your Primal Self

For most of us, we know what we need to do.

We know we need to eat better. We know we should exercise more. We know that we don’t get enough sleep. We know our stress levels are too high. And the list goes on.

We sure do know a lot…and if we don’t know it, we can easily find it. We’re are in the midst of an incredible information age.

So what’s the problem?

It’s in the doing.

The more we know, the less we do. We’re paralyzed. Frozen. The mythical ostrich with its head in the sand.

We know we need to eat better, but we don’t. We know we should exercise more, but we don’t. We stay up later each night watching meaningless TV. We know we don’t have any more free time, but we agree to put more on our plates, unable to say no.

We don’t act on the things we know. We ignore them. We rationalize them away. We put them off for another day. We deny them. We justify them. We’re shamed by them. Embarrassed. Guilty. Feeling sorry for ourselves. This vicious cycle is then perpetuated ad nauseam.

To truly experience your best, you will have to make your stand and focus on you. Prioritize you. Rediscover you.

It’s time to put your Primal Self first.

Team Primal





The most dangerous thing you do all day?

Based on the work we do at Primal Human Performance, we see a lot of people come in with all sorts of aches and pains to be treated by our physiotherapists, chiropractors, and registered massage therapists.

That’s not surprising.

What would be considered surprising to most people is that a majority of these injuries would not be considered acute injuries. Sure they may have acute onset such as the bending-down-to-play-with-the-kids back pain, the direct-contact sports injuries, the post-surgical rehab, and the fall-related ouchies.

However, most of these have underlying causes that have built up over time through repetitive strain or overuse.

The biggest culprit?

Through our assessments we’ve noticed that for a vast majority of people, the one fairly constant dangerous (in)activity that they do on a regular basis for prolonged periods of time is…


And unfortunately, most people unknowingly considered this a fairly benign part of their daily life.

We typically start our sitting in the morning at the breakfast table, then continue with our sitting during the commute to work or school, then we sit at our desks until lunch where we just shift our sitting from the office chair to the lunchroom chair.

Then, after lunch, most of us will return to our desks to carry on with the same form of sitting that we did all morning. At the end of the workday, we have our seated and sedentary commute home to look forward to.

Finally we arrive at home,  the television is switched on for some well deserved post-work relaxation before supper, which will take place while seated on the soft, comfy couch. Post-supper, the same posteriors are plunked back down on those plush cushions for some more relaxing reality-TV.

Then we do the same thing the next day. And the next day after that. And the day after that.

While the above may not apply to everyone, there are a significant number of people who would have no difficulty in seeing their daily routine played out as noted.

Here’s the rub…

This pattern of inactivity which plays out in millions of lives every day has fairly serious health consequences.

A recent editorial press release for the British Journal of Sports Medicine entitled: “Are we facing a new paradigm of inactivity physiology?” nicely sums up some of these dangers.

The authors discuss how recent studies suggest that long periods of sitting and “whole-body” inactivity (what we term sedentary behaviour) are “strongly associated with obesity, abnormal glucose metabolism, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk and cancer, as well as total mortality.”

We don’t know about you, but we think that those are some pretty serious consequences from the simple act of sitting for too long.

The authors propose their new paradigm which consists of the following four tenets:

  1. Sitting and limiting non-exercise activity may independently increase disease risk
  2. Sedentary behaviour is a distinct class of behaviour with specific determinants and effects on disease risk, separate from the behaviour of leisure-time exercise.
  3. The molecular and physiological responses in the human body of too much sitting are not always the same as the responses that follow a bout of additional physical exercise.
  4. People already insufficiently physically active will increase their risk even further by prolonged sitting time.

The authors conclude that there are actually two behaviours (and their resulting effects) that we need to address:

  1. The benefits of regular moderate to vigorous intensity physical exercise
  2. The risks of too much sitting and limited non-exercise everyday life activity

So what can you do about it and how can you avoid these serious dangers of sitting for too long?

First, make it a priority to get a dose of moderate to vigorous intensity physical exercise. Moderate and vigorous here means moderate and vigorous for you, in your current state. If you are currently inactive, sedentary, or out of shape, you don’t need to start doing an hour of Ironman training a day. Just get started with five or ten minutes of physical activity and build from there. And it really doesn’t matter what you do as long as you do it and you enjoy it. This takes care of behaviour 1.

Second, be aware of how much time you actually spend sitting in a day and make a concerted effort to minimize it. Instead of hanging out in the cafeteria for your whole lunch hour, take a brisk walk for 30 minutes. Instead of fighting for that seat on the bus or subway, stand for half the commute. When watching TV, get up and walk around during the commercials instead of flipping from channel to channel. These are just a few of the easy strategies you can implement to reduce your risk and improve your health. In the end, don’t over think it: sit less, and move more. And this takes care of behaviour 2.

Do you agree? Disagree? Let us know with your comments!

Yours in optimal health and ultimate performance.

Team Primal.

Congratulate yourself, you’ve earned it!

"Strive for progress, not perfection" - Unknown


When it comes to physical therapy, injury rehabilitation, general health, or sports performance, we often take the route of focusing on the end-result rather than the process that’s required to get there. We often overlook the hard-earned intermediate steps we’ve accomplished that have enabled us to move forward, the little victories.

How many people do you know who’ve lost a few inches with their new healthy habits in just a few short weeks but haven’t dropped to their “ideal” target weight just yet and are frustrated with the results?

Or people who have started a health or fitness program after a completely sedentary lifestyle but are discouraged by what they believe to be agonizingly “slow” progress?

Or people who have made significant postural corrections, range of motion improvements and substantial increases in strength during their post-surgical recovery but haven’t quite achieved their pre-injury level of function in the “standard” 12 week time-frame?

How many of the above have celebrated their little victories? Oftentimes, too few.

How many of these people have been so focused on the end result that they’ve let their acknowledgement of their progress pass them by? Oftentimes, too many.

And it’s time to change that!

If we’re always looking for the “perfect” end-results: the perfect body, the perfect fitness level, the perfect recovery, we’ll miss out on all the progress we’ve made…

So take a moment and appreciate all that you’ve already accomplished. You’ve earned it.

Team Primal

What’s your excuse?