Stiffness, Stretching

Want to Stop Grinding Your Teeth When You Sleep?

Last week, I had a new client that came in with the problem of biting through her bite guard that her dentist gave her. She said she had been a grinder for years and was afraid she would damage her teeth. Her dentist referred her to me and said she had bitten through a couple of guards. I taught her how to relax the muscles in her jaw and the side of her head which will help alleviate the grinding, but then I spoke with her about how to relax her mind before she went to bed.

Most people that grind their teeth at night tend to be the same people that replay their day, or even their life, night after night. As they are thinking about, either what they should have done earlier or what they must do tomorrow, the muscles in their face and head will tighten causing them to clench their jaw. This is also bad for their TMJ joint. Many times they will suffer with headaches, especially on the side of their head. If this is you, what can you do about that?

Let’s begin with relaxing the muscles in your jaw and head. You can do this sitting up or lying down, it doesn’t matter. There is a muscle between your cheek bone and your jaw called a masseter. It is about 1.5-2 inches wide and it is a major player in chewing your food. If you hold your jaw tight or grind your teeth at night, you may find this muscle to feel sore doing this exercise. Use the thumb on the same side as the cheek you are working, in other words, use your right thumb to work your right cheek. Move your thumb from the ear to towards the lip. You will start about an inch in front of the ear. Hard pressure is not necessary and like I said, your cheek may be too tender to stand a lot of pressure. Gently push across the muscle horizontally starting at the cheek bone and going down to the jaw. Repeat this 3 times. Now using the same thumb, start at the cheek and with a long sweep, go down to the jaw. Do this 2 times.

The next step is to place your thumbs, or fingers on each side of your head and make little circles from the back of your head to your temple area. Don’t press real hard, but hard enough that it feels good. Remember how good it feels when your hair stylist is rubbing your head as they shampoo your hair? You can get that same feeling any time. Do this for as long as you want, you cannot overdo this.

Finally, we need to quiet your mind. Some may choose meditation, which is my favorite, other may choose to write in journals, or if you are worried about tomorrow’s to do list, write it out and set a plan. This will take it off your mental plate so you can relax better.

Meditation can feel very daunting for many people, but the reality is, once you understand that it is not as hard as most meditation teachers make it out to be. Many times people believe you need to meditate like a Tibetan monk. That is not necessary. Sitting quietly for 5-10 minutes and allowing your thoughts to roll through your mind without judgment, which is great way to relax. The idea that you can sit for 30 minutes with no thoughts is nearly impossible unless you are highly trained. Let the thoughts roll and then let them go.

Writing them down can do similar things for relaxation as well. Just get them off your mental plate. Once you can do this, you can sleep like a baby, wake up refreshed, and start the next day full of energy. The secret to great sleep is a quiet mind. It may take a while to fully get it, but keep trying you can get there.

Stiffness

Are you Aging Faster than Your Friends?

We love comparing ourselves to our friends, don’t we? I am a competitive person and it just seems like fun to see if I can move better than my friends, especially when they are younger! Wouldn’t you agree? It’s funny , we think of stiff people as being old and frail, however, I see many younger people that are stiffer than people nearly twice their age. I was just listening to a podcast about the movement of people in today’s society and the researcher mentioned something I had not really thought of. He said that the way our cities and neighborhoods are set up, they are not conducive to humans walking, biking, or running. The foods we eat contain more fat than ever, and technology is eliminating the need to move. IN my town, Sarasota, they are building some bike paths and walking trails, but the problem is they go no where. Wouldn’t it be nice to live in an area that you could walk to the grocery store, coffee shop, or even to work? The invention of the car allowed us to be spread out as it forced us to need a car to go from place to place. There are communities that are being built for people to do just that. I am hoping this trend will continue. The autonomous car and companies like Lyft and Uber are lessening the need for a car.

Our local Visit Sarasota group which promotes local businesses, are creating events for restaurants that buy local food for at least 6 months, gluten free menus, and prepare food in a healthy way. If we can get people to start looking for these traits in the restaurants they eat, we can start to change the way restaurants work. It takes a little work for now, but if we can get into the habit of searching out these restaurants and buying natural foods, especially those that grow locally in our communities, we can change so many diseases that people suffer from today. Shopping at local farmers markets is a step in the right direction and many cities promote these every week. We are lucky here as we have several that run on different days of the week.

So why should we take the time to do these things? It seems like a lot of effort. You are correct, it will take some effort in the beginning, but just as demand got us to this point, demand can get us back to where we need to be. Locally grown foods are best to eat because the foods that grow in your area are designed to help you survive the climate. If you notice that food that grown in the south typically are juicier than foods that grow in the north, Why? The high humidity in the south creates a higher need to stay hydrated, therefore the foods are geared to help you. Foods in the north, especially in the winter, are geared to put more fat on you to help deal with the cold. Foods like melons are in season in the summer for that reason. Today we can get melons are year long. the problem we do not need some much hydration in the winter plus, the shipping these foods from all over the whole is not efficient use of energy either.

Technology is a wonderful thing, and I certainly enjoy it. However, technology can make a bit lazy. We need the movement to keep our bodies functioning at a high level. You may not think that is so important, but that is what is driving the high health care costs in our country today. Never in our history have so many people lived to be so old. Because of that we have little data about how we actually age beyond 80 and yet, more and more people are hitting 80 and even 90 years of age. The possibility of most of us living into our 90’s should give us some pause about how to prepare ourselves so we can enjoy our lives longer and not be broke from the high cost of healthcare. Unless you have millions of dollars put away, 20-30 years of hospital stays and nursing homes will drain your retirement pretty quickly.

So smart small and develop the habits of taking a brisk walk every day. You don’t have to walk 5 miles on your first day and you don’t have to set a speed record either. Start looking at food as medicine to improve your health and buy from local farmers. If you are planning a move, look for neighborhoods that are walkable for the goods and services you need. All it takes is a few baby steps and before you know it becomes a way of life. As you and your friends begin to change your demands from merchants, the merchants will change their products and services for you. Let’s change the world one person at a time. You can do it!

Back Pain, Neck Pain, Stretching

Back Pain: Is it just Normal Aging?

I get this question all the time. What is interesting is how many doctors and therapists ask me the same question. It does seem like the older we get, the more back pain we endure. I remember when I was 49 years old getting ready for my 50th birthday, all my friends teased me about the amount of pain I would be feeling once I turned 50. Of course, these are the same friends that teased me about the same thing at 40 too. I remember thinking, if they are right, who wants to be 50. Why not just die before 50 and save yourself all that pain. Just kidding, but I did laugh at them at 55 when I said I was not going to sit wait for the pain they promised at 50. I am 59 and still no pain, but I am sure my friends will promise the same pain at 60 too.

The truth of the matter is, age has little to do with your back pain! Barring a trauma to your back, most back pain did not start as a back problem. Back pain and subsequent disc damage comes from your posture, how you walk, shoes you wear, and inflexibility of the hips and/or neck. Think about this for a moment. You back is made up of 26 vertebrae with disc in-between. These bones cannot apply pressure without the use of your muscles. Damage to discs and nerves is the result of muscle pressure, not a bone that moves on its own.

If you sit a lot, chances are the front of your thighs or the inner thighs will shorten and you will feel morning back stiffness or stiffness when you get up out of a chair. I always chuckle a little when I see people wearing an elastic back brace to support their back. Even if you use the brace to lift things properly and use your legs, back stiffness can still occur. This happens because the thigh muscles tighten from the lifting and the pain can show up in your back.

As a practitioner, we are all taught to focus on the symptoms and not the cause. First of all, most doctors don’t have the time and most therapists need to study the mechanical movements of the human body. So when your back hurts, the practitioners focus is on stopping the pain by drugs, braces, deep tissue massage on the back, or strength training. All of these can actually make it worse,long term.

The surprise thing about upper back pain is that it can be caused by the way you walk. When your ankles only bend to 90 degrees, you will likely lead with your head putting a lot of pressure on your mid back and neck. The front of thighs play a role in this as well. yet few people ever think to look at the ankles when dealing with a back pain patient. Your practitioner can only do what they are taught to do. Most are not trained this way. I know I was not initially.

Here are some things to think about if you are experiencing back pain. Does you back hurt more when you stand for long periods of time, walk for a little distance, or when getting up out of a chair or bed? Chances are, it is your thighs, front or inner, and not your back.

Does your back hurt if you sit too long and you feel a need to stand up to stop the pain? Chances are the back of your thighs and calves are too tight. If you neck and mid back hurt, check your stride, are your shoulders rounded in, or is your head leaning forward? usually the chest muscles are too short, the front of your neck is short, or your stride is too short and that sets off the chest and neck to cause the pain.

To learn more about what to do, go to http://www.musclerepairshop.com or my YouTube channel at The Muscle Repair Shop.

Uncategorized

How to Choose the Right Seat!

This sounds like an oxymoron, right? Everyone knows when they sit in a bad chair, or do they? Recently, I have had several clients come in and complain about back and hip pain. All said they had not experienced back stiffness before. As I probed them with a few questions, which I always do, each of them had recently purchased a different car. My follow up question was, what kind of car did you have, and what kind of car do you have now?

Two of my clients had down-sided from a mini-van to a sports car, A third had gone from an SUV to a sedan. The problem here is pretty simple when you think about it. Each of us are shaped differently.Some of us have a short torso and long legs, or a long torso and short legs. A few of us are pretty equal between our torso and legs. The odd thing is, our car seats don’t accommodate the different shapes. Plus, a mini-van or SUV seat is higher and places you in a position like a chair at home. This takes a lot of pressure off the hamstrings.If you switch to a sports car, or sedan, the pressure is increased causing low back stiffness.

If you have long legs and a short torso then you will experience low back pain when you stand because the front of your thighs will tighten while sitting in this position. The lower the car, the worse it will get.

If you have a longer torso and short legs, then headroom becomes an issue. The seat being too long puts too much pressure on the back of your knees which can cause your legs to go to sleep. This will lead to low back pain while sitting, not standing.

The same can be true of chairs in your home. If you have short legs and the seat cushion is too long, it places pressure on the back of you legs. People with long legs sitting in a cushion that is too short will sit with their knees above their hips and they will feel back pain when they stand.

When choosing a seat for home, look at the length of your thighs and the length of the seat cushion.If they match, it will work for you. If not, you could be heading for back pain. Cars are a little more difficult. People with long legs can ride comfortable, for long distances, in cars with higher seats. People with shorter legs have to be concerned with headroom and the length of the seat cushion.

I find it odd that car seats don’t have backs that move forward and back. This would improve the seating for people of all shapes. We can move in every direction with the seat, but not the back. Oh, in case you think the lumbar feature actually helps, watch someone sitting with a small pillow on the small of their back. To see straight ahead they have to tighten the back of their neck in order to left their heads. Lumbar will cause the same reaction. This will lead to headaches and upper back fatigue.

Be very choosy about the seat you sit in. I have seen some beautiful cars that I wanted to own, but once I sit in the seat, I knew I could never take a long drive in that car. Your back will appreciate your effort. Check out my videos on stretching your body properly at http://www.musclerepairshop.com or go to my YouTube Channel, The Muscle Repair Shop.

Back Pain, Neck Pain, Stiffness, Stretching

Who Else Wants to Travel Without Stiffness?

It’s summer time and most people take their vacations during the summer. The biggest issue is stiffness, whether you are flying long distances or driving across the country. Of course there are many gadgets designed to help your body travel better, but they rarely work. Even our cars with 10 way seats, heated/cooled, lumbar support, and whatever else that can be put on a seat for comfort, it seems to only help a few people. if you think about seats, airplane, train, or car, they are all the same size. Obviously each of us are different sizes. Some are tall, short, small. or large. Not to mention, everyone has different body lengths and leg lengths. This creates most of the discomfort when travelling. I am well over 6 feet tall with long legs, while my wife is mid 5 foot range with long legs as well. There is no way we can both sit in 2 seats that are identical and one of us not feel the discomfort. She has tried pillows for her low back and neck, but they can create a problem as well. Placing a pillow at your low back will cause your body to lean back over the pillow which will put a strain on your neck, and it does for her. Placing a pillow around your neck forces the neck forward which will shorten the front neck muscles. This will lead to tension at the base of your neck when you get out of the seat. My idea for the perfect seat is to have a seat back that can glide forward to accommodate people with any length legs which will take the strain off the low back because just raising the seat up is not enough. Have a back that can extend upwards to accommodate any length body to support the neck. Sadly, I have not seen a seat like that yet, but hopefully someone will soon invent one.

Until then, we can focus on preparing our bodies to endure the trip. Let’s begin with the neck. About every hour or so, lean slightly forward, rest your chin in the palm of your hands, and gently push your chin up towards the ceiling. The secret here is not to use your neck muscle on the back to lift your chin, only your hands. Only hold the stretch for 3-5 seconds and repeat 8-10 times while breathing out through the stretch. This will lengthen the muscles on the front side taking the pressure off the back side of your neck that can radiate down the middle of your back.

For the low back, bring a tennis ball in a sock. The tennis ball will be placed between a wall and your hips. You can also use the tennis ball on your upper back since you are already standing. Why not kill 2 birds with 1 stone! You are not rolling on the ball, but you are moving the ball around on your hip feeling for sore spots. When you find one, maintain the pressure, do not increase it, and breathe out as you relax the muscles beneath the ball. If driving in a car, plan a stop every 2-3 hours. I have done these at rest areas, restaurants, bathroom stalls, and even on the side of my car. If flying, I have done these on terminal walls, airplane bathrooms, and airport bathrooms too. Any place you can find a hard surface, this will work.

Once you get to your hotel room or home, there are stretches you can do to free your hips, calves, chest, and neck. You can see my videos at http://www.MuscelRepairShop.com or my Youtube channel- The Muscle Repair Shop. This will make travelling more enjoyable and will increase your energy level for more activities. isn’t that what we all want on vacation?

Back Pain, Stiffness, Stretching

Here is a Technique that is helping Golfers Hit Better Shots!

Golf is a very humbling game and every golfer knows that. Many of my clients play golf, take golf lessons, and still complain of aches and pains along with a not-so-good golf game. Even after taking lessons, the #1 problem most of my clients complain about is back pain and not hitting the ball as well as they once did.

My client Bart loves to play golf and he plays 3-4 times per week. By the time he got to the back nine of his game, he would complain about back stiffness. His friend, Lee, and another one of my clients, referred Bart to me because he was tired of hearing Bart complain and he wanted to help his friend. Lee told me that Bart had bought expensive shoes, a back brace, was taking pain pills daily, and now was getting injections. Nothing seemed to work and it was affecting his golf game. The funny thing ,was when Lee told Bart I was a massage therapist, Bart, initially refused to come, because he had tried massage therapy before and it didn’t work. This is the usual story I hear daily and either most people just keep doing what is not working because a doctor recommends it or gives up their game.

The truth is, you don’t have to give up your game, or live in pain. Understanding how your body works in hitting a golf ball, will help you change your body to stop the pain. Every golf pro will tell you that when you hit the ball, rotate your body around your spine. Not twist your spine and power the hit with your arms. Yet most amateur golfers do just that. The power of the swing comes from the legs and it begins at the feet and most importantly, the ankles. Stand in your socks and go through your swing. Feel how your weight shifts across your feet as your body rotates through the swing. The shifting is allowed by the 4 calf muscles. The calf muscles control your feet from side to side and front to back. The calf muscles also work with the 3 hamstring muscles and inner thighs to rotate your hips. The flexibility in your calves, inner thighs, and hamstrings will decide how far you hit the ball.

Most people stretch their calves by standing on a slant board, step, or curb. This does not stretch all the calf muscles. It only stretches the Achilles tendon. Hamstring muscles are stretched as if they are only one muscle, plus without properly stretching the calves, you can never stretch the hamstrings. Learn how to stretch these muscles properly by going to my website at http://www.musclerepairshop.com. There you can learn how to stretch correctly to help your golf game. We offer 1-on-1 appointments or video appointments with videos to help your learn the right stretches. You can also visit my YouTube channel- The Muscle Repair Shop, and see videos to get a better understanding of stretching the right way.

Back Pain, Stretching

The Little Secret That Can Improve Golf or Tennis Swing!

Last weekend I was driving past a golf course, I saw several men place one of their clubs behind their neck and began twisting their upper body. Years ago when I played golf regularly as a teen, I remember seeing men doing the same thing. As I began learning about the mechanics of the human body, a lesson that I took with a golf pro kept coming back to me. This golf pro would line me up preparing to hit the ball. He would have my feet about shoulder width apart. knees slightly bent, and always told me to keep my head down so I would not top the ball. The last one was always the toughest for me and that probably kept me out of the PGA. Just kidding! What really stuck with me was, the pro telling me that when I rotate my body, keep my spine straight and rotate around the spine like it was a stick. So why do so many people continue to do the spine twist when the pros are telling us to remain straight in our spine?

When I took tennis lessons, my pro told me to pretend I was throwing the racket toward the ball and to generate the power from my legs. Which meant to start at my feet and rotate up through my thighs into my hips. I am not twisting my spine.

When I look at the human body from a mechanical view, I see the rotation of the body starting at our feet moving up through our thighs and rotates our pelvis. At no point do I see the spine twisting. Since most people don’t stretch their calves correctly and their thighs are very stiff, the power comes from the upper body which sets us up for low back pain, shoulder pain, and even rotator cuff injuries. For most people playing golf or tennis, how they swing the club or racket, will determine the amount of back injuries they sustain.

Most stretches we are taught will not improve our flexibility, but will make us less flexible. A great example is the calf stretch. How many of you stretch your calves by leaning against a wall with one foot behind the other? Or, do you stand on a slant board, curb, or step to stretch your calves? What you actually doing is stretching your Achilles tendon which is attached to your middle calf muscle, but it is in no way stretching your calves. To see a video on how to stretch the calves the correct way and to give you a quicker first step in tennis, go to my YouTube channel at The Muscle Repair Shop to see videos to stretch your calves.