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What are You Waiting For?

It seems that every day someone will make the comment, “Life sure flies by fast!” I am sure many of you have heard that throughout your life. I don’y think time has sped up in any way, but we get so caught in what we are doing that we set aside those important visits, or even moments, to spend with the people we love.

Today, my friend Ann passed away after a long battle with cancer. As I age I am reminded each year how important it is to spend time with loved ones by witnessing my friends dying one by one. Yet, with these huge reminders, I think about the people I love and soon get back to life the way it was. Are the things I do more important than family or friends. The short answer is no, but we look at our lives, is that true?

No one is ever promised an extra day on this earth, so what are we waiting for that will allow us to relax and enjoy our friends and family? Is there something that will happen that will signal us that it is Ok to waste time with the people we care about the most? If we earn all this money we have envisioned in our lives, we it be worth it if there is no one around to enjoy it with? When is enough, enough?

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Stretching

Is it Really Your Age?

I just had a client come in to see me complaining of low back pain. She had been to doctors who had sent her to physical therapy. After several weeks of therapy, her back improved a little but still nagging her every time she did anything. She went back to her doctor to complain, he politely said to her, it is probably your age. This woman is less than fifty years old, how could it be her age? Most people would agree with the doctor, since all of our peers tell us that after 40 it is downhill from there.  With so many people living to well in their 80’s, that means that more than half your life is living in pain.

   According to the National Center for Complimentary and Integrative Health, more people suffer with pain each year then diabetes, heart disease, and cancer combined. Opiods have been the answer for a while and we are learning that is not working. Braces, injections, and surgeries don’t seem to be slowing the pain down. The question is what do we do now? When the lifespan was only 65-70 years old, we could survive till death, but today we are living much longer and it is becoming impossible to survive that long.

 The best answer I have seen is learning how the brain works with our muscles and how to stretch our bodies correctly. What we see in the gyms and on TV is not stretching correctly. It is disappointing to see all these highly educated people stretching people incorrectly. We need to teach them better. Learning to stretch correctly stopped my own back pain 16 years ago and I see it helping people everyday regardless of their ages. What age has to do with your aches and pains is to tell you how long it took you to get to the pain. Everybody at 50 does not have the same pain in the same place. Your pain has more to do with your lifestyle. Things like the way you walk, stand, and sit play a huge role in the amount of pain you suffer. I will talk in future posts more specifically about gait and posture so stay tuned for that. Be sure to ask questions or make comments on any of my posts as I am open to questions and comments.

Stretching

#1 Reason People Fail the Fitness Resolution!

 Happy New Year! Yes, it is that time of year again when we all create our New Year’s resolution. Not surprisingly, getting in shape always seems to be at the top of the list. Unfortunately, by February 1 we feel we have failed then just quit. I used to do the same thing. I had great intentions to lose the weight by going to the gym, but the problem was I felt worse after working out than I did fat. You miss a few training sessions and now you feel it is hopeless.

   I remember working in a gym as a trainer and  see the same people come in every December, buy a membership for themselves or a partner.  They would usually come in with new gym outfits and confident this would be the year to lose that weight. Sadly, by the second week of January, many would no longer come back. Then the next December it would start all over. Why is this so difficult?

   It can be hard to believe that we are no longer 22 years old anymore and the in the gym, that is very apparent. Members would come in and try pick up their workouts where they left off in high school or college. Of course that was 20 plus years ago which is a recipe for an injury. So the injury would stop them and leave them feeling like they are too old to work out. Others would come and workout as instructed but would wake up the next day sore and stiff. They would feel hopeless because they had pictured themselves feeling awesome as in the ads for the gym. Sometimes a trainer’s ego can get the best of them and they can work you too hard, too fast. Sadly, few people understand the value of proper stretching. Traditional stretching like you see in most gyms and schools is not correct stretching and may lead to more injuries.

   The #1 reason people fail to get fit, STIFFNESS! Yes, the work out will make you stronger, give you more stamina, and it will definitely make you stiff! I am not saying you should not work out, but you must add the stretching into the routine as well. Think of your car. We all know we need gas and oil for the car to keep running, correct? Think of strength training as the gas and stretching as the oil.Leave one out and the car stops, so will you.

  Strength training will build strength and improve stamina, but it shortens the muscles which apply pressure to your joints and nerves, including your back. That pressure will stop your body from producing enough lubricate in the joints and discs which allow you to move smoothly. The joints and discs will dry out and create arthritic conditions.

   Stretching, on the other hand, can free those joints by creating space between your vertebrae and joints which allow the lubricating fluid to soften and cushion to alleviate pain. Unfortunately, too many people hold their stretches too long and apply too much force which switches the stretching to strength training.

  So let’s make plans again this year to get in shape. Begin your workouts as soon as possible, let us teach you how to stretch properly, and visit a nutritionist to learn how to eat a proper diet to achieve your goals.  No diet that requires deprivation only will work. It is not about calories in, calories out, but your emotional tie to food. The quality of the food, like the quality of the gas in your car, will determine how well you run.With the proper plan you can achieve your goal. I know this works because I lost 105 lbs. in 1997 and I never re-gained it back by staying on the plan.

Back Pain, headaches, Knee Pain, Neck Pain, Shoulder pain

When is the best time to stretch?

This is probably the most frustrating question I hear every day! Most of my clients and even my wife admits to only stretching when they experience pain. They come to see me frustrated with their pain and like everything else they have tried, they feel hopeless.

  The problem here is the mindset. Since we were children in grade school, every gym teacher and coach treated stretching as an afterthought. I can remember my coaches saying, “you boys go on over there and stretch before you go home.” Of course he would leave the field and usually so would we. The only time you really hear people suggesting to stretch is when they have a pain. I get it, it is a brainwashing! However, that doesn’t make it correct.

   Have you ever watched a dog or cat stretch out every time they get up to move?  Look up on the wire and you will see a bird stretching their wings before they fly. To these animals stretching is innate, and it is also true of humans. The problem is, we have been convinced that stretching really doesn’t work and especially for older people.

   I stretch every day of my life. I do not set aside a special time of day to stretch, although I do stretch first thing in the morning and most times at night for 15-30 minutes. Setting aside a planned time can create stress if you are running behind and are afraid you will miss your stretch out time. This will tighten the muscles and create more pain in the body. My stretching happens throughout the day and it is not a chore. Stretching, done correctly, should be relaxing and something you look forward to do doing. Unfortunately, for many of us, stretching has been painful and too much work and you are too tired to deal with it.

  Think of stretching like relaxing on the beach or in a hot bath. Stretching, done correctly, is about releasing the tension in the body by releasing the emotions from the brain. It is not about pulling the muscles really hard or pressing to hard creating pain in the muscles. That is not fun and no one will look forward to that!

   When holding a stretch, only hold for 3-5 seconds, breathe out allowing the muscle to relax. As the brain begins to let go, the muscle will relax. Repeat the stretch 8-10 times without force.  Do not try to stretch multiple groups of muscles at one time. Special poses are stamina building which equals strength training which equals tightening of the muscles. This is how people get hurt with stretching. When pulling so hard that all you feel is a muscle hurting, you are strength training.

   Stretching is a great way to take a break from a hard day. It will help regenerate the body and prepare it for a good night’s sleep and restful day tomorrow.

Back Pain, Knee Pain

Increase the Distance of your Golf Swing

Most golfers, especially as they age, complain about not being able to hit the ball as far as they once could. When we were younger, our muscles were a little stronger which allowed us to make up for the lack of rotation of our body. When we were younger our bodies were a little lighter for some people and we had not built up so much time in the Lazy Boy recliner either. The bottom line here is, our inner thighs have tightened and our quads, front of thighs, have also shortened. Due to sitting too much, the inner thighs will shorten. The issues that tight inner thighs create is low back pain, in the middle of the back, when standing up after sitting for a while or, getting out of bed first thing in the morning. The inner thighs can pull the pelvis slightly forward creating the back pain. With golf, short inner thighs limit the rotation of the hips through the ball and the need to use the arms for power takes over which usually ends up with a shoulder injury.

  The quads will also pull the pelvis forward when short and that will cause low back pain on either side of the low back area Both the quads and the inner thighs attach to the pelvis and as they shorten the pelvis shifts forward, putting a kink in your lower spine. When both are tight, it limits the rotation of your lower which can affect your knees, but just as important, it reduces the amount of power you can generate when hitting the ball. Most people will rely more on their upper body, or increase their strength training since they feel weak. The weakness comes from the muscles not having enough power to force through the tightness. No amount of strength training will help you do that as the brain will stop you before you hurt yourself.

  ON my website, www.MuscleRepairShop.com, you can sign up to see the videos.  Once you have signed up, send me a message stating that you want the lower body golf stretches and I will send them to you. There 4 different stretches for the inner thighs, three for the calves, and one for the quads. They will take about 10 minutes to do twice a day, everyday for as long as you play golf. The goal of stretching is not to relieve pain only. If you make a habit of stretching every day, you can prevent injuries from happening which will allow you to play golf for as long as you want.

Back Pain, Neck Pain

Do you Wake Up With a Stiff Low Back?

    I remember years ago waking up with a very stiff low back.  There were times that if I sat for a while, even standing up would cause my low back to feel stiff. At its worst, I would climb out of my car on my hands. The best part is I drove  Lincoln Town Car, which is huge. I went to several doctors, some sent me to physical therapy while others offered pain pills, braces, and injections. All of the doctors said that if none of those options worked I would be headed for surgery. SURGERY! I was only 42 years old. That is where my personal journey began.

  My mentors responded with use your muscle knowledge. They would laugh and say, if you figure this out, that would be amazing! Are you ready for amazing?  I never did anything that would be a trauma like falling down or lifting something that was too heavy. All I did was spread wheelbarrows of mulch. If I worked in my yard for 3-4 hours, it would take me 3-5 days to get over it. I was frustrated and could not believe that I was dealing with that much pain.

   I began to look at my body as a whole mechanical machine. I asked the questions like, how does my body balance itself,  and if a muscle on one side tightens can it affect the opposite side?Not realizing at the time how profound those questions were, but how few health care practitioners asked the same questions. I remember asking myself, How can a good ole boy from North Carolina figure this out, when highly educated people have not? The answer is, these educated people are not trained to ask those questions.

      The final answer to my pain was not my back at all. When we think about body balance, it makes total sense that if a muscle on the front side was tight, the pressure on the back side would increase. The same can be said side to side. When I was spreading mulch, I would bend over to lift the mulch with a pitchfork, turn, and spread it over the ground. To do this I had to contract the 4 muscles, quads, on the front of my thighs and contract my inner thighs. The thigh muscles attach to my pelvis and my inner thighs attach to my pubis bone. As these muscle shorten, they will pull my pelvis forward. So how does that affect my back?

  Well, by pulling my pelvis forward ,the spine in the low back will bend which will cause my body to lean slightly forward. Over a short period of time, the lean will get worse. As it got worse, I would contract my hip and low back muscles to help me stand straighter. These muscle would tire from fighting with the front muscles. This resulted in muscle spasms in my low back.

   I solved the spasms by laying on my side, grabbing my top ankle and bringing my knee back behind my torso. I stretched my inner thighs by sitting in a chair, crossing my leg, and gently press down on my knee to stretch the inner thigh.You can see these stretches on my YouTube,  The Muscle Repair Shop. Give these a try for at least 2 weeks and you will see the difference. Let me know how you are doing by leaving a comment.

Foot pain

Stop Foot Pain Without Expensive Tools

Foot pain has created an entire industry from shoes to specially trained physicians. We have blamed flat feet for arch pain. We have created arch supports and orthotics to prop up the arches which help temporarily. We have created shoes with special heel supports, arch supports and supports if you supinate or pronate. Again, a temporary fix. People are now being told to not walk barefoot, especially on hard surfaces. These are all temporary fixes as they are only addressing the symptom and not the cause.

The first thing to do is start bt understanding why the foot hurts. Rarely is the site of pain, the cause. The calf muscles control most of the movements of the feet. There are 4 calf muscles. When I was young, I thought there was only one muscle as that was how it was always presented to me. Maybe the coaches thought the same thing.

The inside calf muscle, the Plantaris, controls the height of the inside of the foot. When this muscle is short, the person will tend to walk on the outside of the foot. This can cause pain on the outside of the foot, pain in the arch, or pain in the ankle. By hitting the outside of the foot, there is a lot of pressure placed on very small bones with little fat for cushioning. On top of those issues, walking on the outside of the foot can lead to bunions, nerve pain, and calluses on the big toe. If this is happening, the shoes will wear out on the outside first.

The outside calf muscle, the Tibialis Posterior, controls the outside of the foot. If this muscle is short, the person will walk on the inside of the foot causing pain in the big toe, inside of the heel, and ankle. Over time, this will cause damage to the knee and ankle.

The 2 middle calf muscles, Soleus and Gastrocnemius, control the vertical movement of the foot. When these 2 are short, things like Plantar Fasciitis, knee pain, Achilles Tendonitis, knee pain, low back pain, and even neck pain can occur. These 2 muscles can cause a slow of the body movement and overall pain.

The amazing fact about the calf is how few people in the country actually stretch them. Most trainers, coaches, and physical therapists teach a calf by standing on a slant board, step, or leaning against the wall with one foot back. Unfortunately, these stretches never stretch the outside or inside calf muscle which leads to many foot problems that people suffer. By lengthening these 4 muscles, the ankle can be free to move through its full range. The scary thing is few people can actually move their ankle through the full range. I love to watch people walk. Too many use a short stride and will lead with the nose. This causes neck pain and low back stiffness. A person may feel they are taking longer strides and they are based on the ankle’s range of motion. However, if they are leading with their noses, chances are their stride is too short.

So how are the calves stretched? I would suggest getting a yoga strap, rope, or anything that does not stretch. Stretching with a stretchy band is strength training and the muscles will tighten. When I stretch my calves, I sit on the floor with my back against the wall. If you cannot sit on the floor, then sit in a hard-backed chair with an ottoman. The key is to have back support and not lean back.

Next, place the rope around the ball of one foot, gently pull the toes back towards the body. Hold the stretch for 3-5 seconds and repeat 8-10 times. A few things not to do. Do not pull hard enough to lift the heel off the floor or ottoman. Do not use the leg muscles to stretch, remember this is about letting go. Do not force the movement with strength as it will cause the muscles to go into strength training mode.

Next, rotate the foot to the right and repeat the stretch, holding 3-5 seconds and repeating 8-10 times. Finally, rotate the foot to the left and repeat the stretch. Now do the other foot so the body will be in balance.

Stretching is about letting go with the brain by relaxing the muscles and feeling the muscle extend gently. Forcing the stretch will only cause the muscles to tense up and not allow you to free up the muscle. I would do these every morning and evening for 2 weeks or until they feel looser. I would follow this up with practicing how to walk with a longer stride. in a future blog, I will discuss how best to increase the stride.

Check out my videos on my YouTube channel, The Muscle Repair Shop, and visit my website at http://www.musclerepairshop.com.