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,
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,
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…
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,
One of the best ways to reduce your back pain is to improve your walk. I have talked a lot on these pages about sitting, and given you some great exercises to do, when sitting, to ward off back pain, but HOW we walk is just as important.
Here's a video from one of my presentations that includes a short demonstration of John Wayne's swagger! Yes, the old cowboy knew what he was doing.
Give it a try, "pardner"!
Best of Health,
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!
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?
- 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.
- 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,