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How does Santa keep his back healthy for Christmas?

  • Written by Dr. John P. Monahan, PT, DPT, Quality Care Physical Therapy, Inc.
Since Santa needs to travel a lot for Christmas he needs to keep his back flexible and strong.  He will need to keep his hips and hamstrings loose as he travels.  For his long sleigh rides he may pull his knees to his chest and hold for one minute to stretch his buttock taking tension out of his low back.

Another great stretch is wrapping his hands together in front of his knee while sitting in his sleigh and pushing his knee away with his arms stretched out straight, stretching and rounding his back out.

Again he would want to hold this stretch for one minute and would never want any stretch to be painful.

This is also a great stretch when he has no back support or if he is sitting on the edge of his seat in his sleigh.

Santa will also benefit with lots of stops on his travels because movement of his spine helps maintain healthy nutrition and flexibility in his discs and joint in his spine.  If Santa ever complains of back pain it will most likely be related to tightness in his back muscles and hamstrings.

Since Santa has to carry a heavy bag of gifts he needs to have strong core muscles.  He will be squeezing his abdominal muscles in anytime he is about to lift and move anything heavy.

He will do a transverses abdominus squeeze which works just like the wide black belt squeezing Santa’s belly.  As this muscle shortens with squeezing inward and pulling the belly in toward the spine, this creates a corset around the spine which provides support and stability for the spine to move in any direction protecting it from injury.

These exercises will help Santa have a merry Christmas.

Relieving Plantar Fasciitis

  • Written by Kimberley Barker, BA, LMT, CNMT, NTP
footIf you have been diagnosed with plantar fasciitis, or experience heel pain that usually occurs with your first steps in the morning, you are not alone. It can start as a dull, intermittent pain, which may progress to a debilitating, stabbing or searing pain in your heel when you walk, run or stand. Once the tissues warm up the pain may decrease, only to return after periods of standing, sitting or walking.

The plantar fascia is a tough, fibrous tissue that attaches to the heel bone (calcaneous) and fans forward toward the toes, supporting the arch of your foot. The fascia most commonly becomes irritated and inflamed at the point where it connects to the heel, though occasionally pain is felt mid-arch. The fascial stress placed on the calcaneus may also promote the creation of bony growths called bone spurs.

Contributing factors include: fallen arches, tight calf muscles, sudden increase in activity levels, sudden weight gain, pregnancy, overuse and wearing shoes with inadequate support.

Plantar Fasciitis may take 6 – 18 months to heal, but there are certain self-care practices you can follow that may help reduce your pain.

1. Icing your foot, especially the heel, may provide temporary relief from pain and inflammation.

2. Never walk barefoot, especially in the morning when muscles and fascia in your foot are cold and tight. Put on a supportive pair of shoes before getting out of bed.

3. Have your shoes checked for wear and proper fit. Investing in a good pair of orthotics may help alleviate some of your pain.

4. Rest. Don’t overdo it, especially if you are in pain.

foot25. Massage to all muscle groups of the leg and foot is an important part in addressing plantar fasciitis. Tightness and trigger points in the calf muscles can contribute to excess tension and pain in both the lower leg and the foot.  Muscles in the entire leg should be lengthened, as you may find that you compensate for pain by changing your gait and recruiting other muscles to walk. This can result in pain in your foot, knee, hip or back. Ideally, your massage therapist should have excellent knowledge of musculature and foot mechanics, and should avoid any deep work where bone spurs may be present. Massage for plantar fasciitis may be uncomfortable, but should not be excessively painful.

6. Stretch your feet and calves regularly as greater flexibility in these tissues makes them less susceptible to damage.

Seven lessons to take home from the gym

  • Written by Caron MacLane, Caron Circle Coaching
When you go to the gym, what is your agenda?  What benefits do you receive?  What do you learn?  Consider these seven attributes and how they can be valuable habits to lead you to your own achievements both in and out of the gym.

Persistence pays. When you go to the gym consistently over the long term, then you derive increased benefits. Whether your intention is muscular strength or overall endurance, either takes time to build. You begin at some place you may call “weak” and build from there. The work is cumulative. It takes time to realize a change.  Longer than a day and longer than a week. Look at any of those hard bodies that catch your eye to see the results of persistence rather than quick-fix shortcuts.When you build the long term habit of exercising, you can experience the benefits that only come with time.  Persistence is strengthened with consistency.

Consistency is key.  Going to the gym for long term results starts with building a short term habit. You can define your own habit.  Perhaps it is twice a week.  Starts and stops are ineffective, as sometimes the stops are longer than the starts. During those stops, you can lose everything you built up and may have to start over.  The rewards are high when you are consistent every time even when the days are difficult.

Every day is different.  Some days you may feel excited to go to the gym.  Other days you may feel resistant. Some days other things may beckon.  The gym is the given entity.  Your perception is the variable.  Your perception may be swayed by the voice in your head.  When the voice in your head says things to lead you astray, it is time to fire that voice and choose what you would like the new voice to say.  Write your own script for the voice in your head.  Then remember to apply that script.  Relentlessly. This is further strengthened when you have an intention.

A clear intention increases the likelihood of success.   Whatever your intention, make certain it is meaningful enough to give you incentive when you feel like reneging.  Your intention serves as your reason to go, your “why.”  The things that can be in the way can be extremely compelling.  That means your why has to be bigger than the challenges.  When your why is big enough, it can motivate you when challenges emerge.  And challenges will emerge.  Some days there may be so much to do you just think about how much time you can save by skipping the gym.  Remember how strong you would like to feel the next time when you are riding your bicycle and would like to keep up with your friends?  Keep your appointment to work out.  Once you get there, take those baby steps that will lead you to success.

Results are incremental and cumulative.  In our fast paced culture, we look for things to happen immediately.   Effects of workouts show after you change your body, which is a relatively slow process.   Whether you measure with time, repetitions or weight, you can increase the number with time. Those initial pushups that may feel shaky and painstaking can become smooth and definitive after you have developed the habit and strengthened those muscles—one pushup at a time. That smooth and definitive feeling can increase your confidence.

The mind works more effectively when the body is strong. The ancient Greeks glorified a strong mind in a strong body. Work out physically to feel more alert and alive mentally. Since there are fewer physical demands as part of survival, you can utilize the gym to compensate for our modern comforts. Your body was designed for use. When you use your body, it offers an effective home for your mind. Thus your mind can more fully function. And you increase your care for yourself.

A workout is self care.  Workout time can be time for you to be with yourself, a respite from the rest of your life. You can use it to nourish yourself and fill your cup.  It may be a push at first that can morph into more clearly fulfilling your sense of self care. Or perhaps it feels like self care when you feel the endorphins.  Those endorphins raise your experience of well-being, making life feel harmonious.

Pain and inflammation shouldn't kill you

  • Written by Kimberley Barker, BA, LMT, CNMT, NTP
In the United States chronic pain and inflammation are a multi-billion dollar industry. According to a recent Center for Disease Control and Prevention report, over 15,000 Americans died in 2010 due to prescription pain killer overdoses. 16,000 deaths per year are also related to complications from Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug (NSAID) use. Chronic inflammation has become an epidemic that puts us all at risk for developing illnesses such as arthritis, digestive disorders, allergies, asthma, diabetes, irritable bowel syndrome, heart disease and cancer.

Inflammation is the body’s natural reaction to injury, trauma or immune response. Classified as acute or chronic, inflammation can start as a beneficial condition, only to persist and become a degenerative process.

Acute inflammation is characterized by localized heat, swelling, pain, redness, and often loss of function. It is your body’s “defend and repair” system.

Chronic inflammation starts where acute inflammation leaves off, and will continue until negative triggers are removed. Negative triggers include: obesity, stress, pain, physical inactivity, sugars, poor quality or rancid fats, high protein diets, food and environmental allergens, processed foods, dehydration, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, and pesticides and chemicals in your food, cleaning and beauty products, to name just a few.

Luckily, there are easy ways to help reduce chronic inflammation. Since it may take many years to feel the results of stress, poor diet and lifestyle, you can’t expect the problems to disappear overnight. However, with time and the right choices, your body can begin to heal.

To start, here are a few changes that can help reduce chronic inflammation.

• Eat more nutrient dense vegetables, raw foods and sprouted seeds and grains as they contain beneficial enzymes, vitamins, minerals, and fiber

• Exercise aerobically at least 30 minutes a day

• Stay hydrated so your body can transport nutrients to vital organs and remove toxins and waste

• Consume healthy fats. Essential fatty acid combinations such as fish, flax, and borage seed oils improve the body’s ability to heal

• Reduce known negative triggers

Not all nutritional protocols are appropriate for every individual. If you are considering making changes to your diet please consult your healthcare provider for options best suited to you.

Kimberley Barker is owner of Balanced Health Massage & Nutrition in Woodinville, WA. Balanced Health is located in Butterfield Chiropractic in the White Stallion office building.

Stretch to relieve sore shoulders and neck

  • Written by Cheyanna Carlson, LMP, Harmony Massage

Everyone knows the relief and relaxation they feel after a good massage. The impact it has on your muscles and their functionality can be felt immediately.

These effects often last the entire day, or more. What many people don’t realize, is that they can help prolong this feeling of pain-free movement by continuing to stretch the muscles worked at home.

More often than not, the muscular pain felt in one area of the body, is a direct result of issues in another part of the body.  Today I’m going to address one of the most common problem areas that people come to massage therapists for help with.  It’s an area plagued by almost everyone who has ever worked at a desk: the neck and shoulders.  An increasing amount of people find themselves in a stressful office environment that often involves spending hours a day at the computer.

What does this do to the mechanics of the body?  Without realizing it, most people tend to hunch their shoulders forward, head down, and stay in that position reading paperwork and typing.

Now, what you’ll notice after a while is the discomfort in your neck and shoulders, but the real culprit is your pectoral muscles.  Your pecs are what pull your shoulders forward, and spending a lot of time contracted in that position, tends to make them extremely tight. You won’t notice it ... until your massage therapist gets ahold of them.  It’s the overstretch of all the muscles in your shoulders that claims your attention.

So how to help yourself at home and make your massages more effective?  Stretch!  The best part is that no tools or special athletic skills are required for this.

The most simple, yet effective way is to start is by finding a regular sized doorway in your house.  Bedroom, bathroom, doesn’t matter.  Stand in the doorway, place hands and forearms down flat against the outside.  This creates a nice brace for you to now lean forward.  You will immediately feel the front of your shoulders, as well as your pectoral muscles, begin to stretch.  Hold this pose for about 30 seconds.

Continuing this a few times throughout the day can help allow those muscles to relax, which will in turn allow your shoulder muscles to begin to contract back to where they should be.  Combined with massage, stretching can be your biggest tool for muscular pain relief.