help for knee pain Archives

Well, how about that!  Western science has shown that Yoga helps reduce back pain better than medication! 

In fact, the new guidelines from the American College of Physicians, states that people with back pain should avoid pain medicines if possible, and instead opt for alternatives such as tai chi, yoga and massage. Halleluiah!  Now, if we can get insurance companies to pay for these useful, preventative modalities we’d all be healthier. But then, insurance companies would lose money, and they don’t want that.

Those of us who are committed to our Yoga practice understand that this has been true for thousands of years and new science is simply catching up!

My classes and private sessions have been filled for years with people who are tired of taking or have no wish to get on strong, addictive drugs for their back pain and every one of them has found relief with the Yoga or Pilates exercises that I give them. AND not just back pain – neck and shoulders, hips, knees, etc. These happy people are the reason I continue to teach. They are why I wrote my book, “STOP Back Pain,” which has been on the Amazon bestseller list for most of five years. The human body benefits greatly from Yoga, which is the original Physical Therapy!

I read one article that talked about the need for more testing so that they can figure out which exercises, and exactly how, Yoga reduces back pain. OK……. I think it would be simpler if they just asked a Yoga teacher to explain. “Yoga” is not simply a series of physical exercises. It is a mind, body, spirit practice. What that means is that when people begin doing yoga, they learn to breathe more deeply which helps circulation; they learn ways to improve posture when sitting, standing, walking, etc. This benefits our spine health, heart health, AND circulation. After a few classes (taught by someone who is certified in Hatha Yoga) people begin to understand their own body more – how it works, what it needs and doesn’t need. This mind body connection means that when you shovel snow, move your furniture around, or in some way strain a muscle, you understand exactly where you have injured yourself and you know which exercises to do and how to help yourself. It is the complete practice of Yoga that helps people HEAL their back pain, not simply mask it with drugs.

I make note, above, about taking classes from a trained teacher, because I have seen some places like YMCA’s or gyms where a personal trainer had taken a weekend course (not properly certified) and then began teaching Yoga or even Pilates! These people do not have enough training to make sure that you are doing the postures correctly and they don’t know how to give you modifications so that you can do them without injury. They also usually only teach the physical postures and skip over the breathing and meditation parts and don’t remind you concentrate on rotating your leg in the hip socket instead of throwing the leg around with your hip, etc. So, when you take a class from an untrained person, you do not get the benefit of actually knowing your own body and what it needs. Every body is different!

If you’d like to know more about how to find the cause of your back or hip pain and what you can do to heal yourself, please feel free to ask. I offer coaching specific to back pain!

Today, I have also included a video of one Yoga pose that helps with lower back pain. Try it, you’ll like it!

Best of Health,

Kathi

Pilates Proven To Relieve Back Pain!

So many people with back and or neck pain, and so many options for relief that they have not been told about...

It’s frustrating when you go your doctor, get an examination and a referral to a specialist, then go through more test and exams with that doc – sometimes after waiting months for your appointment, and then get yet another referral to a surgeon who then does more tests…

Well, many of you know the scenario. It happens all the time. STOP!

I have been saying for years “you DON”T have to live with back pain!”

My STOP Back Pain book, as well as my DVD and programs, have helped hundreds of people so far, and I’m aiming for thousands!

I have a good friend who suffered with back pain, went through months of docs, tests, etc., and then had surgery, but still has the same pain! She now says she would not have chosen to have the surgery if she’d known it would not heal her pain.

Unfortunately, her story is one I have heard over and over; but people are afraid of treatments that are not covered under their insurance. They have listened to their doctors tell them that there is no proof any of the complimentary modalities work. Notice I used the word “complimentary,” not alternative. There is so MUCH “anecdotal” proof for these complimentary therapies, in fact, that they cannot be called anecdotal any more, but because your doc did not learn about these modalities in medical school, in his or her mind, they do not exist. What a shame. I explain many of these therapies in my book. But some doctors are beginning to realize this, seeing the evidence, and some are even recommending things like acupuncture, chiropractic, Pilates or Yoga. Things are changing, just not very fast.

With that said, modern medical technology is amazing and can help a person get a definitive diagnosis, so don’t ditch your doc quite yet! Just remember that you are the head of your medical team and coordinating your care is part of the job you must do to get well.

I’ve had clients come into one of my Pilates classes so frightened of making their pain worse that they were literally shaking in their shoes. Chronic pain, especially back pain, is my specialty though, and I understand how to calm beginners and modify the exercises for them, so that they begin to feel better and eventually are not afraid and then we can begin to heal their pain.

As for the science behind what I do, here’s a study which showed improved core strength and stability, posture and balance, and fewer pain symptoms in people with chronic lower back pain, who took Pilates classes three times a week for 14 weeks. I have seen people’s back pain reduced with only one class a week, and one suggested exercise in between. It takes longer, maybe six months or so, but it can be done – WITHOUT SURGERY OR OPIODS!

Another study showed that a Pilates exercise program reduced back pain more than other interventions. This particular study looked at 128 scholarly articles on the topic, chose 29 to use in their analysis, and concluded “We found that there is a dearth of studies that clearly demonstrate the efficacy of a specific Pilates exercise program over another in the treatment of chronic pain.  However, the consensus in the field suggests that Pilates method is more effective than minimal physical exercise intervention in reducing pain.

I agree. Pilates does help.

I also use Yoga exercises for my clients with great success. All Yoga and Pilates exercises can be modified to help people who are stiff and sore, who haven’t worked out in a long time, who are in pain and/or scared of exacerbating their pain. Relief is possible!

Please don’t simply take any old Pilates class, however. There are some out there who have taken a weekend training course and then go forth and teach Pilates classes. These people are not really trained. ALWAYS check your instructor’s credentials. If you have questions about their certifications, drop me a note and I’ll happily check for you. There are some GREAT certification programs out there now, and I’ll be happy to look at your instructors and let you know if they have had sufficient training to help you.

If you’d like to work with me either in person, or via SKYPE, please contact me HERE.

Best of Health,

Kathi

Do You Know How To “Stand Tall?”

I am always so pleased when one of my students "finds" their Serratus Anterior muscles. This muscle wraps around your bottom ribs and it's one that we do not use in our regular day to day activities, but one that is so important for keeping our spines aligned and preventing back pain! I'm sure we used it more when we were hunters and gatherers, but in today's world, not so much!

Not that any of us look like Arnold in the day, but here he is showing off his!Arnold showing Serratus Anterior

I work this muscle hard in my beginners Pilates classes and I use it in my coaching, as well, due to the effect it has on our posture. When this muscle is strong, it's so much easier to stand up tall. And when you can stand and sit taller, you also begin using other muscles along the spine as they were designed to be used. You'll notice faster improvement when you work out, and you'll breathe easier and feel better.

Standing up tall does not mean sucking in your gut, pushing your shoulders back and your chest out. This is what I was taught in school, it's the way military personnel are taught. Yet, it's completely wrong according to what we now know about the health of our spine. How many of us gals were taught, as little tykes in dance lessons, to tuck in our pelvis? I know that back in the day, teachers believed that's what would protect our back, but we know better now. Sucking in that gut and tucking the pelvis causes us to lose that lovely little curve in our lower back and we need that curve for proper alignment! Standing or walking with a tucked pelvis on a regular basis can cause our lumbar disks to become damaged (bulging, herniation, etc.)

And how many have neck and shoulder issues right now? Check your shoulders when you are doing a routine task and see if you are tensing them or wearing them as earmuffs. I can't walk through a store or down a busy street without seeing a large percentage of people tensing their shoulders to walk, fold clothes, or ring up a purchase. Totally unnecessary. In fact, walking and working become easier when you can learn to relax your shoulders!

Good posture is much more important than most of us think. That pain in your back or neck can be caused by, or at the very least is exacerbated by, poor posture. So, what's a gal (or guy) to do?

  1. Stand in front of a mirror normally. Concentrate on raising your rib cage up toward your head as you inhale. (easier to do it on an inhale at first) Now, notice how your spine has lengthened, your stomach has reduced in size a bit and your shoulders have squared automatically.
  2. Turn sideways in the mirror and do it again. Notice the same things. But also notice that when you do this, your lower back curve remains, it's not forced backwards. 

Now you are truly "Standing Tall" as our bodies are designed to do. No tensing of shoulders, not harming the lower back, just plain old good posture. 

Practice this whenever you think about it, until it becomes second nature to you, to both inhale and exhale with a lovely long spine.

Best of health, 

Kathi

Do 30 Day Challenges Really Work?

It’s hard to believe that summer's nearly over. College kids are heading back or have already started, and the beach is much less crowded this week. Did I blink and miss summer?

Not only is the best time of year here in the Berkshires almost gone, but I have not exercised like I normally do during the summer months, and find I'm a bit flabby. No weight gain, but a bit of muscle loss - Yikes! This is a very different pattern for me and one I do not hope to repeat.

This past weekend, I attempted to make up for lost time. While visiting friends in the Adirondacks, we kayaked, swam, and biked - all in 1 day! Here's a photo of me out on my bike for the first time this summer...

How about you? Have you done any walking, biking, swimming or other aerobic exercise since the nice weather arrived? If so Way To Go! If not, want to join me in a 30 day challenge?

I've done them a few times and know many others who have also done them. It's a quick way to get back into shape after the holidays, or in my case, after a summer of not keeping up with the program! They work as long as you keep it up for the whole 30 days, so let's get started today!

Here's a video of my plan:

Best of Health,

Kathi

Help For Knee Pain

Another Article, this week, about knee injuries in Baby Boomers, and how exercise can help many of us avoid surgery.

I won't go on a rant about how Western medicine is all about the money generated for big pharma and unnecessary surgeries. Instead, I will tell you about a knee strengthening exercise that I have been teaching my clients and students for the last few years which has helped many of them avoid knee surgery. At the very least, it can reduce pain and strengthen your knees.

When I showed this exercise to my friend Dr. Carolyn Dean, several years back, she termed them, "Super Squats," and I've kept that name because the results are, "SUPER!"

As the above article says, meniscal tears affect many of us at some point in our lives. A meniscal tear happens when there is damage to the cushioning that surrounds the knee. Most orthopedic surgeons agree that the size of the tear matters, but for many of us Baby Boomers, this happens after many years of normal wear and tear, and not due to a football injury.

What I have found is that the exercises we are given, like normal squats, strengthen the muscles above or below your knee, but not many strengthen the muscles on the sides of the knee. This is the key problem; we need an exercise that does both. Voila, Super Squats to the rescue! In case you haven't figured that out yet, I love this exercise!!!! I think it should be taught to kids in school as part of the regular PE curriculum, for healthier knees as we age.

Everyone that does this exercise consistently improves the condition and strength of their knees. It takes only a few minutes to do and just about everyone can do it, with or without modifications.

Super Squats strengthen ALL the muscles surrounding your knee. This makes the knee more stable so that ordinary walking does not wear or tear as much; also, when you step off a curb or onto an uneven surface, the knee is more stable and less likely to twist out of alignment.

I recommend doing this at least three times a week. If you are currently in pain, try it daily for a couple of weeks, and then, after you feel better, go to three times a week.

Also, make sure to look at the photos in the description on Youtube to see placement of feet to prevent over extension of knees while doing a squat.

If you'd like to work with me privately, for this and other exercises, let's set up a time to chat about your personal health and wellness, what you'd like to achieve, and how to get there! Hit reply or send me an e-mail here.

Best of Health,

Kathi