Easing the pain

August 6, 2014

Alberta Healthy Living Program helps Athabasca woman be more active and healthy

Story by Mark Evans

The Alberta Healthy Living Program offered right in Joyce Handfield’s hometown of Athabasca was what she needed to ease some of her chronic back pain.

Handfield was referred to a chronic pain clinic in Edmonton two years ago for the constant pain she experienced for years. That was where she learned about the close-to-home program that offers Education Sessions, Better Choices, Better Health™ workshops as well as an Exercise Program in communities across the province.

“The constant back pain was becoming unbearable,” said Handfield. “I was willing to try anything, if it worked, I’d be happy.”

Andrew Holosney Exercise Therapist with Joyce Handfield and Exercise Assistant Susan McGhee.Since then she’s participated in all three parts of the program and even enrolled in the Exercise Program for the second time this January to refresh her memory and to stay motivated.

“I found that to be really helpful, it limbered things up. It lessened the pain and made things better,” said Handfield. “I was more flexible and it didn’t hurt as much to do things I did before. I was generally better.”

Along with having participated in the Education sessions Handfield most recently completed the Better Choices, Better Health™ workshop and she is now more aware of her food choices and portion sizes. It’s making those small sustainable changes in her life that Handfield knows will make a long-term difference in her life.

“They give you different ideas on how to make the changes. Everything doesn’t work for everybody,” says Handfield. “They don’t encourage you to set goals you aren’t going realize. That’s one of the best things about it. They don’t tell you to expect big changes and then not have them last or have you not achieve it.”

The Alberta Healthy Living Programs are free of charge and available to anyone at least 18 years of age who has any type of chronic condition, says Andrew Holosney, the exercise therapist with the Exercise Program who led the classes with Handfield.
Participants include people with asthma, arthritis, back pain, cancer, chronic pain, COPD, depression, diabetes, fibromyalgia, headaches/migraines, heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, joint pain, mental health concerns, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, stress, stroke, weight concerns, or other conditions.

“The Exercise Program begins with an individual assessment which is used by the exercise therapist to design a safe and effective program for each individual that can often be done anywhere,” explains Holosney.

The Alberta Healthy Living Program offers several Education sessions that cover topics such as Type 2 Diabetes, Cardiac Health (managing blood pressure and cholesterol), Managing your Emotional Eating, and the Weight Wise program.

The Alberta Healthy Living Program also includes the Better Choices, Better Health™ program. Better Choices, Better Health™ is a 6-week self-management program that helps people to take a more active role in their health management. Participants can take any or all of the Alberta Healthy Living Programs they feel are applicable to them and the level of support they are looking for, says Holosney

“I really think they are good programs. They give you a lot of good information so you can put it to work for yourself,” said Handfield. “More people should be taking it and hearing what they have to say. I’d be in a lot more pain if I hadn’t taken them.”

Interested individuals can be referred to any of the programs by their physician, physiotherapist, nurse, pharmacist or any other member of their healthcare team. They can also self-register by phoning the toll-free registration line at: 1-877-349-5711.