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Healthcare 2.0 

High-tech health systems are here in Halifax. Feel the (painless laser) burn.

In the last few years, Halifax has been beamed into a sci-fi world of lasers, vibrating platforms designed for astronauts and infrared domes that are pushing the boundaries of healthcare. Though the awareness for this technology is growing, many local athletes and medical professionals aren't yet fully informed on the range of benefits.

The good news: Haligonians who may not necessarily be headed to the Olympics can now seek therapeutic options (or modalities, as they're called) used by the pros on the Montreal Canadiens and the Toronto Raptors, as well as by Maria Sharapova---who had to pull out of the 2008 Olympics due to a rotator cuff injury. And while there's plenty of evidence these modalities improve our health, well-being and performance, even better news is that many are covered by health insurance or are fairly affordable.

Although low-level lasers have been used for decades in Ontario, they're relatively new to HRM. Maritime Chiropractic is now one of only two locations in Halifax with the Bioflex Laser. This modality is so new that many doctors don't even know about it, although those who do highly recommend it, says owner and doctor Monique Aucoin. Citing a 95 percent success rate, Aucoin has used the Bioflex Laser to treat complaints including strains, sprains, breaks, inflammation, arthritis, tendonitis and carpal tunnel. It's non-invasive and painless, speeding up recovery by stimulating regeneration at the cellular level. As part of chiropractic care, it's also covered under most health plans.

As for why it's taken so long for the laser to get to Halifax, Aucoin says it's a huge financial risk for clinic owners. Some local clinics offering other modalities have had to close because they just didn't have the business coming in to pay for the equipment.

Dave Green is a sports therapist who has worked with the Montreal Canadiens and Canadian Lacrosse Team and owns the T-zone Whole Body Vibration location in Dartmouth (with other HRM locations in Sackville and Clayton Park). He thinks our athletes may suffer with respect to treatment options when compared to provinces like Ontario and BC. Because we're a smaller market, companies don't promote their products as actively here.

"But we're trying to bridge the gap," he says. Each WBV studio offers modalities that are new to the Maritimes, including an infrared sauna, detoxing foot baths, infrared dome and "chi" vibration machine. They also feature vibration platforms---a technology originally developed by the Russian space program that was adopted by NASA. Ten minutes on a platform is supposedly equivalent to a one-hour resistance workout and can help burn fat, increase muscle strength, tone and firm specific areas, increase flexibility and more. The machines are also often used in rehabilitation programs. WBV sells monthly memberships ($50 a month; the January promo is 100 sessions for $100).

A former member of the Canadian National Trampoline and Tumbling team and Cirque du Soleil physiotherapist, Martha Purdy sees health therapy going through an evolution right now. "We're moving from a strictly medical approach to more of a multidisciplinary, individualized one," she says. She's now on staff at the Halifax Osteopathic Centre and Medicine in Motion, while also working with athletes from the Canada Games gymnastics team. Purdy teaches physio pilates---another new arrival to HRM. By tailoring the classes to each individual's needs based on assessment, Physio Pilates can help with injury prevention and rehabilitation, enhance athletic performance and promote post-surgery recovery.

Along with traditional physiotherapy, Purdy utilizes the InterX500---a neurostimulation device that she has used to treat everything from acute and chronic injuries to pain and inflammation. Because it's considered physiotherapy, the modality is also covered under most health plans although Purdy has not yet had doctors recommend the InterX500 specifically---most likely because it's not yet well known, she says.

Now that these modalities are here, "it's all about getting the word out there they are available to everyone," says Aucoin.


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