What Can You Do In Your Office Chair? Plenty!
In today's video I demonstrate an exercise that stretches all those muscles around your hip. In fact, they’re same ones we stretched a few weeks ago in the video that talked about the piriformis. The best thing about today's exercise is that you don't even have to get out of your chair to do it!
Our bodies have not evolved to be sitting all day long at a desk, yet many of us spend 8-10 hours a day, or more, sitting – at a desk, at a table for meals, talking on the phone, reading a book or watching TV. When you take a moment to think about it, I’ll bet you’ll find that you actually spend a lot more time sitting than you thought. And all that sitting plays havoc with your back.
Getting up and walking around is highly recommended, but what if you can’t do that as often as you’d like? Those who work in a cubicle or an office where there isn’t room to get up and walk around can still get up and walk to the rest room a few times a day, and maybe stretch a bit while you’re in there…
Additionally, there are a couple of simple exercises that can help you stretch without leaving your chair. The first one we’ll be doing together this week is “Sitting Pigeon.” When you’re doing this exercise, you’ll surely feel those muscles stretching, and your hips will thank you!
Enjoy the video!
Best of Health,
Today, I'd like to get back to my series of videos on how unevenness in our pelvic area can cause some pretty nasty back pain, and what you can do about it.
Our previous discussions revolved around having one hip higher than the other and a simple exercise that you can do to remedy that; and also, a tight piriformis muscle (across your butt) and an exercise for that.
If you don’t know much about your psoas muscle, it’s similar to the piriformis, but on the front of the body. It connects the top of your leg to the front of the spine, crossing over the hip.
Sitting for long periods can cause this muscle to tighten up. When the front of your pelvic area is tighter than the back, you have more of that unevenness that your back doesn’t like. Sooooooo, now that we all spend so much time sitting in front of our computers, we are seeing more back pain caused by a tight psoas.
Fortunately, there is a simple stretch that can help lengthen that psoas for relief, and, when done regularly, prevent that pain in your hip/low back from becoming a regular visitor.
The lunge in the video, below, is the crème de la crème of psoas exercises. If yours is tight, you will not be able to stretch very far at first, but, no worries! Just keep at it and you will gain more and more flexibility as the days go by.
AND, if you have had that tightness and the accompanying pain for a while, don’t forget to relax your back first. This relaxation technique is the best one, but if you can’t get down on the floor, you can stack some pillows under your lower legs and lie on your bed to relax.
Notice, in the second photo, a small pillow under the head. This is to make sure that your neck is not arched. If your chin is pointing toward the ceiling, use a pillow, or a rolled hand towel, to support the head.
If you need additional modifications, or have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask.
Meanwhile, take care of your back and it will take care of you!
Best of Health,
Is there such a thing as a “too tight butt”? I couldn't resist asking that one, but the answer is, YES; especially when one cheek is tighter than the other. Perhaps you have a diagnosis of Piriformis Syndrome? Well, that's what this diagnosis means. Your piriformis muscle on one side is tighter than on the other side, and when that happens, your whole pelvic area is out of sync. The piriformis is a thick muscle that runs very close to your sciatic nerve. So, when it tenses up, it sometimes presses on your sciatic nerve, causing pain that radiates down your whole leg. YIKES!
My uncle Stanley got sciatica sometime during his retirement and his doctor told him there was nothing he could do except to take pain pills. Sciatic pain can be debilitating. I watched an active, vital man shrivel up and die in about 18 months. Uncle Stanley’s experience is one of the reasons I started coaching people with back pain. He could have been helped through exercise but both he and his doctor were older and set in their ways…
Today's exercise will help you stretch the piriformis muscle and take the pressure right off that sciatic nerve!
As always, don’t hesitate to ask any questions, or about more modifications. I am happy to respond.
And think about getting someone on your holiday gift list a gift certificate for personalized coaching for their chronic pain, or Reiki healing sessions. Contact me for more information.
Best of Health,
Is your doctor still handing out pain meds like they're the only solution that works for back pain? Well, I’m here to tell you that you have other options that are safer! Today, I'll be starting a conversation about how your hip/pelvic area becomes uneven, and what you can do about it. Over the next few weeks, I’ll share more information and different exercises with you. A few simple exercises can get you back on track and make that pain in your back go away. More importantly, once you know what caused your back or hip pain, you can prevent it from coming back again!
I have been coaching people with back pain for several years now and what I have seen is that a large majority of back pain is caused by something off balance in your body posture/movements. That could mean that you have one hip that’s higher than the other, perhaps due to a broken ankle from years ago, or a knee replacement surgery more recently. Or, perhaps, you have a tight piriformis muscle from biking, driving a lot, or some other activity, which is causing the back side of your pelvic area to be uneven. Your psoas muscle can do the same thing around the front of your body, and sitting at your computer all day can cause that to tighten. And don’t get me talking about those tight quads! The good news is that there are some simple exercises that can stretch and then strengthen those muscles so that your unevenness not only goes away, but doesn’t come back again! Pain meds can’t do that.
We’ll start with hips. If you have one hip that’s higher than the other, you’ll be standing and walking off balance, and because it’s subtle, you won’t even realize it. This makes your lower back suffer the consequences – OUCH! If you have not seen a physical therapist for your back pain, ask your doctor for a referral and set up an appointment as soon as possible. A PT has the tools to measure your body in many ways, will let you know exactly what your imbalance is, and will get you started on exercises to get you back into alignment. This is something I recommend on a regular basis to my clients and students, and everyone has been able to get a referral, and see a physical therapist. This is usually covered by your health insurance, so take advantage of it.
In today’s video, I demonstrate a simple stretch that can take care of that hip imbalance. It’s easy to do and you’ll see results fairly quickly. I recommend a minute on the side that’s giving you the trouble – the hip that’s sore or doesn’t feel right, and a little less time on the other side. Always stretch both sides, but go a bit longer on the side that’s off.
If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask. I’ll be happy to help in any way that I can.
Best of Health,
Chronic Pain shrinks the grey matter in your brain. Studies have shown this, but those who are in pain didn't need science to prove it - you know it! It's difficult to smile or laugh when you're in pain, and as time goes on you can't even think clearly. Today, I'll talk about two things you can do to help rid yourself of that back or neck pain.
First, let’s look at our plastic brain and using Neuroplasticity to help reduce that pain.
Imagining activates the same neural pathways as the real experience!
This is something that sports psychologists have known and used for years. Allopathic medicine is now “getting the picture” and using visualization to help people reduce chronic pain as well. In fact, the reason that I began to study Neuroplasticity was to help my clients who are in pain.
So here’s a simple step that you can start today:
- Sit comfortably, but tall (not in a recliner), and close your eyes.
- Take three very deep breaths, slowing down your exhalations more with each breath
- Visualize your back (or neck, butt, knee, etc.) before you began having the pain. See yourself doing all the things that you could do easily back then, visualize your back in perfect health. See it lengthen easily, see yourself standing tall without effort, visualize your shoulders even and down where they belong. Continue deep breathing as you visualize yourself in perfect health.
Keep this going for at least five minutes, each day, for 30 days.
Your brain processes through images, so keeping these healthy images in your mind each day for 30 days will cause the brain to believe that you ARE healthy. Then, your exercises, relaxation techniques, and the other methods you are using to bring health back to your body will have a more powerful effect.
Secondly, I’ll like to share an exercise with you that helps take the tension out of your entire back and shoulder area, while strengthening the lower back at the same time – you know how I love multitasking!
Remember to relax your back for at least five minutes each day too – this is vitally important for back health!
Best of Health,
I'll bet that's a surprise, huh? I admit, when I first saw those headlines, I was skeptical. Even though I see firsthand every day how much Yoga helps our physical health, I didn’t understand the "why." Now that it makes so much sense, I wonder why someone hadn’t discovered this information long ago.
For years we‘ve known that practices like Yoga, meditation, and Tai Chi make us feel better, breathe better, remove stress, and even sleep well. “New science” has shown us that these mind/body practices leave, what science calls, a “molecular signature” in our cells; they actually cause our body to either raise or lower the protein production of our genes. Cool!
One recent study examined the effects of mindfulness practices on the immune system, with a specific focus on five outcomes: (1) circulating and stimulated inflammatory proteins, (2) cellular transcription factors and gene expression, (3) immune cell count, (4) immune cell aging, (5) antibody response. Their conclusion is that there is enough evidence to support a link between these mindfulness practices and gene expression to warrant further studies. YES! Let’s get more scientific evidence on board so that more docs will recommend Yoga, meditation, etc.
Another review seemed to point to what most of us already know – the majority of improvements and health benefits that people enjoy from these mindfulness practices are related to stress hormones and inflammation. While previous studies have focused on how these practices affect our brains (losing less of our grey matter as we age), this study also looked specifically at how our genes are affected. Certain genes are either upregulated or downregulated in our body throughout our day, based on many different circumstances. All of the studies measured what they call “gene expression,” (the way that genes activate to produce proteins which influence the biological make-up of the body, the brain, and the immune system.) They used blood samples to identify this gene expression both before and after each different mindfulness practice. Some studies were all about Yoga, some Tai Chi, others studied different forms of meditation, etc. In all the studies, the gene expressions of genes that control inflammation and stress were changed after the session.
The results of 18 studies that used gene expression analysis in research on mindfulness practices have, overall, found a significant downregulation of NF-κB (a key transcription factor that controls the expression of inflammation-related genes), which can reverse the molecular effects of chronic stress. I’ll take that!
Even though the study designs, the population, and the types of mindfulness practices used in the studies included in this review vary, it indicates that some of the psychological and physical benefits result from biological changes in NF-κB genes. More studies are currently being done to understand better how Yoga and other mindfulness practices affect our genes.
Another study, which was a follow up to a previous study done at UCLA, found that the Yogic meditation practice called Kirtan Kriya, reversed the pattern of increased NF-κB-related transcription of pro-inflammatory cytokines and decreased IRF1-related transcription of innate antiviral response genes previously observed in healthy individuals confronting a significant life stressor. Translation: This meditation practice reversed the inflammatory process in stressed out caregivers! This particular study was done on caregivers who live with the daily stress of caring for family members with dementia or Alzheimer’s.
When that first UCLA study came out, I wrote an article about it and offered training in this particular meditation practice. I am offering a special on Kirtan Kriya meditation training again today. You can find out more, and sign up HERE.
Dr. Helen Lavretsky, senior author of this study and a professor of psychiatry at the UCLA Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior, and her colleagues, found, in their work with 45 family dementia caregivers, that 68 of their genes responded differently after Kirtan Kriya Meditation (KKM), resulting in reduced inflammation. “The goal of the study was to determine if meditation might alter the activity of inflammatory and antiviral proteins that shape immune cell gene expression," said Lavretsky. "Our analysis showed a reduced activity of those proteins linked directly to increased inflammation. This is encouraging news. Caregivers often don’t have the time, energy, or contacts that could bring them a little relief from the stress of taking care of a loved one with dementia, so practicing a brief form of yogic meditation, which is easy to learn, is a useful tool."
Notice she used the word “brief”. This meditation takes only twelve minutes a day! Can you spare twelve minutes a day to alter your genes for reduced inflammation as well as increase your grey matter? Sign up now and learn this easy meditation practice!
Best of Health,
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.
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,
Have you been diagnosed with Piriformis Syndrome?
Do you have Sciatica and are not sure of the cause?
Let me tell you a story about a really thick muscle that can cause a lot of misery if you don’t take good care of it.
The Piriformis stretches from the bottom of your hip, across the center of your butt cheek, to the lower spine. We use it to rotate our hip and to turn our leg outward. It sits on top of a section of our sciatic nerve. So, if you’ve ever had sciatic pain, you know how debilitating it can be. That nasty pain travels from your lower spine, all the way down your leg when it's tense or tight, and you're in excruciating pain - right?!
It’s not so hard to keep your Piriformis strong and flexible, though.
Here’s a massage that will help to relieve your pain:
Place a ball or your fist under the butt cheek of your extended left leg. Place your right foot on the floor, bend the right leg, and use your right foot to roll yourself around on the ball until you feel the exact location on your butt cheek where the pain is most intense. Massage that area until the pain lets up. It will be painful while you are rolling on that spot, but breathe deeply and keep going, you’ll be glad you did! I don’t recommend tennis balls because they’re too hard, so try something softer, or use your fist. Make sure that you always massage both sides – even when your pain is only on one side. When one side is more flexible than the other, you will have pain, so fixing one will throw the other side off.
Another great stretch to keep your piriformis flexible and healthy is Sleeping Pigeon.
Here is a link to that one.
These are both simple things you can do every day in order to prevent that terrible pain from interfering with your life. You deserve to be pain free!
Let me know if you have any questions about these or other exercises for sciatic pain.
Best of Health,
Let's spend a few minutes looking for Dory on the bottom of the sea! Yes, you heard that right.
This exercise is called "Sea Weed Legs" and it's a fun way to remove the tension in your lower back. You can even do it with the grandkids for a fun activity to share; they'll love it!
Start out lying on the floor, on your back, with your feet flat and knees bent.
Lengthen your spine and relax your shoulders.
Breathe deeply as you gently raise both legs straight up into the air, feet toward the sky.
Pretend you are lying on your back, on the floor of the ocean.
Let the current gently move your legs around. They can go back and forth, side to side, or move around in any way you feel the current is going, as long as it’s slight, and gentle.
This feels really good and it’s fun to imagine all the fish swimming by – Nemo, Dory, Sponge Bob…
Continue breathing deeply and moving your legs gently for one to two minutes.
Then roll over into a fetal position on your side so that you can easily push yourself back up into a seated position with your hands and arm.
We are all so very busy and rarely take the time to just relax our back like this, but It’s so good for us!
We should take the time to relax our backs at least a couple of times a week.
Try this one once week and then try Legs Up The Wall next time.
Here’s a video of Legs Up The Wall. Do it with me now and see for yourself how lovely it feels!
Best of Health,
Is Being "Pain Free" Really Possible?
That depends on what those words mean to you.
Do I wake up with aches and a bit stiff sometimes? You betcha! I didn't get to be an adventurous 65 year old without sprains and breaks at some point. BUT, am I pain free? YES!
Because I know exactly what to do when some ache or pain comes back to haunt me and, just like Harry Potter’s wand, I can make it vanish more quickly.
There are exercises and relaxation or release techniques that can help all of us to be pain free - we just need to know which ones to use!
Over the next few weeks I’ll be writing about specific aches and pains and how to deal with them when they arise so that you can heal yourself quicker too!
Today, we’ll start with wrists. Lots of people have weak wrists. Many think there’s nothing they can do about it, that’s it’s “old age.” Well, there’s not much I dislike more than being told that by a physician. I have switched docs when one said that.
So, for those who have wrist aches and pains, here are some tips:
- Often, wrist pain is due to a strain, as in overuse of certain muscles. Using our computers is an example of something that can cause stiff muscles and painful wrists. The key then is to release the tension in those muscles and rest the wrists. If you do this release immediately before bed, then those muscles have a chance to really rest before using them again.
- If your wrist bothers you when exercising, and it’s difficult to do a plank or cat/cow on your hands and knees, here’s another way to release those tense muscles in between rounds of exercises. This is also a good one to use periodically during the day, if you work at a computer all day.
Try these out and let me know how you like them!
Best of Health,