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Preventive Measures
Paramedical services help keep employees healthy, on the job, and productive

The interest in corporate wellness programs continues to grow, with Extended Health Care programs paying for services by naturopathic doctors, chiropractors and massage therapists alike.

There should be little surprise that a growing number of employers are asking about such support. Healthy employees who fundamentally "feel good" are more productive and engaged, and can lessen the strain on everything from overstretched drug plans to the public healthcare system.

Dr. Nicole Sandilands, ND – a naturopathic doctor with the Durham Natural Health Centre – just wishes people wouldn't call such services "alternative" medicine. A better term is "supportive", she says. "We all have our own strengths and areas that we're really good at."

A recent study by the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine (CCNM), in conjunction with Canada Post Corporation and the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, offers one example that supports her point. It found that combining naturopathic and "usual" care may reduce cardiovascular disease among employees who face a high risk of such conditions.  "This study demonstrates that personal healthcare counseling, involving targeted dietary and lifestyle interventions as provided by naturopathic doctors, can be effective in reducing the risk of strokes and heart attacks," said college president and CEO Bob Bernhardt.

Naturopathic medicine practitioners such as Sandilands guide clients in decisions that can avoid or reduce the impact of chronic illness which would threaten productivity in any workplace. "We have the ability to spend a lot of time with our patients, to educate them on their health and what's going on with their bodies," says Sandilands. "And just because you don't have a headache doesn't mean you are living as healthy as you could."

Her expertise involves far more than treating a symptom, exploring everything from diet to exercise, stress management and natural therapies. The treatments themselves can involve a combination of dietary strategies, vitamins, herbs, IV treatments, lifestyle strategies and more.

Of course, paramedical services are not limited to naturopaths. There is a broad list of paramedical services available to covered employees, typically with a cap of $500 per practitioner per year.

Chiropractors

Chiropractors adjust spinal vertebrae and other joints to relieve pain, restore joint function, and support muscles and ligaments, according to the Canadian Chiropractic Association. This is no small benefit considering that Health Canada estimates musculoskeletal disorders cost our country $16.4 billion in treatments and lost productivity every year.

Those who care for their spine are going to be more productive, less fatigued and tire less easily, says Dr. Clay Kosinko, DC, of Health First Family Chiropractic in Ajax. This is as important to the heavy lifters in a warehouse as it is to office workers who sit in front of a computer all day. The added flexibility which emerges through regular adjustments will also help to prevent workplace injuries and compensation claims, he says.

"Chiropractors don't just deal with back pain," Kosinko adds, referring to the way the nerves play a role in everything from the immune system to organ functions.

Massage therapists

Massage therapists, meanwhile, can help to relieve everything from stress and headaches to muscle spasms and repetitive strain injuries, and can also improve circulation.

Massage therapy is particularly helpful for office workers who build tension in their necks and shoulders while sitting in front of a computer, adds Terry Dyer-Morrison, RMT, who offers his services through Spa Sedona in Pickering Village. Those involved in more manual activities may need added support in their lower backs and thigh. As a hot stone therapist, he can also combine deep tissue massage and warm basalt stones to penetrate and relax muscles.

"We recommend people come in at least once a month to decrease any stress levels built up through daily activity," he says. "A happy employee is a successful employee."

Even Thomas Edison saw the value in such preventive medicine. "The doctor of the future will give no medicine," he predicted, "but will instruct his patient in the care of the human frame, in diet, and the cause and prevention of disease."

His prediction may be closer to reality than ever before.

 Top Tips:

  • Support a preventive healthcare strategy that looks to prevent disease and injury rather than providing treatment alone. Healthy employees lessen the strain on drug plans and compensation claims.
  • Remember that chiropractors, registered massage therapists, naturopathic practitioners and other paramedical services play an important role in preventive healthcare strategies.
  • Study the limits on any Extended Health Care program. Financial caps tend to be based on calendar years, and some services require a recommendation from a medical doctor.

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The Buzz Bits
Miscellaneous links to interesting benefits information

Treatment by naturopathic doctors may reduce cardiovascular risk, study shows: Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine

6 new routines to start this fall: GoodLife blog

10 tips to live better: GoodLife blog

Five tips to decide if you need a deep tissue massage or Swedish relaxation massage: Spa Sedona

Reduce costs, keep benefits: RBC Insurance

The Durham Natural Health Centre blog

The Health First Family Chiropractic blog

Community Ethics, Big City Expertise

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