Back Pain, Foot pain, Neck Pain, Shoulder pain, Stiffness, Stretching

Your Feet can Cause Back Pain!

Just last week I had a new client come in with neck and shoulder pain. He was an older man in decent shape. He had visited several doctors and had been to physical therapy with no luck in relief. I examined him and found that his neck, shoulders, and chest muscles were soft. His range of motion was good with no restrictions. He said that everybody had worked only on his upper body. Some offered braces, injections, and strength training exercises to alleviate the pain. I could not see anything that could possibly cause him discomfort in his neck and shoulders. Then an idea hit me to look at his lower body, especially his feet and ankles. Oh my gosh, his hips, legs, and feet were hard as a rock. He had very limited range of motion in all his lower joints. He thought it was just old age that was causing his pain, when in reality, it was lack of movement and shoes.

We have historically told each other that as we age, we should slow down. The truth if the matter is, we should speed up. Sitting during the day caused this man to tighten the front of his thighs and the inner thighs. The shoes he was told to wear prevented his feet from actually working properly and his gait prevented his calf muscles from elongating properly. Sitting in a recliner may feel good, but they are the worst thing for older people to sit in. First, sitting causes the front of the thighs and inner thighs to shorten which will cause the pelvis to tilt forward when they stand. The muscles in the stomach will atrophy and shorten which will pull the upper body forward adding to the the low back stiffness originally caused by the thighs. This is a main reason why so many old people walk bent over. We blame it on arthritis, but in my practice, I find that tight muscles cause the bent over walk more than anything else. Lastly, reclined back in the chair, car seats will do the same, causes the muscles on front of the neck and the chest muscles to shorten which can lead to the hump back look. Next time you see someone reclined back in a chair watching TV, look at the angles of their body while reclined. Then when they stand up, most times you will see the same angles in the standing position as they had in the reclined position. For that person to stand up straight, it takes too much muscle contraction on the back side which can lead to compression on the discs and nerves. The scary part is , many people sleep all night in their recliner because their body is so stiff, it hurts to lay flat. The more you sit in a recliner, the worse your body will feel when you stand.

The calves and feet are greatly affected by the shoes we wear and the length of our gait. You will hear me say over and over, 99% of all the people have never stretched their calves properly. That is a bold statement, I know, but we have 4 calf muscles and when you watch people stretch their calves they typically use the standard calf stretch you learn in the gym. The problem here is, that is an Achilles tendon stretch and does not address any of the 4 calf muscles. So learning how to stretch the calves properly will increase the range of motion in the ankles which will lengthen your stride and , believe it or not, relieve your neck and upper back pain. The shorter your stride, the more you will lead with your nose when you walk. This will cause mid back pain and neck stiffness.

The shoes are another story. Most clients I see, have muscles in their that have atrophied from years of wearing shoes with arch supports, heel supports, and thick soles. These things were designed to stop immediate pain, but will affect your whole body long term. The arch of your foot is suppose to take the impact every time your feet hit the ground. This protect your knees and hips. The impact can be up to 10 times your body weight. We have all been told we should walk heel to toe, right? the heel supports causes us to walk that way and that sends the impact up through your bones with every step. We should step on the whole foot with most of the impact right behind the ball of your feet. Finally, thick sole shoes do feel comfy, but your have 272 nerves on the bottom of your feet which tell your brain when the level of the ground changes so you won’t fall down. If the sole of your shoes are too thick, the brain has no way of preventing you from falling down. The problem is, we have worn these shoes that were designed for immediate relief and now out feet are too weak to just go cold turkey and change. We have to work at building up the stamina and strength in our feet so we can walk like we were designed to do.

It is work to change all of these things s, so don’t do it all at the same time. Take it step by step. You are welcome to view my videos on YouTube at, The Muscle Repair Shop, or contact me at https://www.musclerepairshop.com. I can help you improve your gait and posture to stop the nagging aches and pains that plague so many older people. Aches and pains are not just age related, it is bad mechanics and frankly, most practitioners are either not trained in body mechanics or they just don’t have the time to help you. You can help yourself stop the pain.

Back Pain, Neck Pain, Stiffness, Uncategorized

Now You Can Improve Your Movement Regardless of your Age!

It has been another great week working on people of all ages, but the most interesting clients I see are the ones over 80-95 years old and are still kicking it in high gear. How many times have you heard people say, well at your age you need to slow down or maybe you have said it to yourself thinking that your age has a lot to do with your aches and pains. Not long ago I spoke with a doctor and his reaction was surprising as he said that he seems to only see sick people where I see healthy people. So what is the difference, genes, habits, or just plain luck. It could be any or all of them, but it is not their age. The doctor’s patients are the same age as mine, yet they bodies are crippled and in pain.

I love talking to my older clients about their lifestyles and thought processes as they continue to age beyond where most people think they should be sitting in a recliner. The first thing is, they all will tell you the recliner will kill you. I was at a furniture store the other day and they have recliners with cup holders, remote holders, trays for pen and paper, and now they have USB ports for the laptop or Ipad. What is next, an arm to bring you coffee or a mixed drink? Watch a person that sits in a recliner a lot, especially when they stand. The first thing you will notice is the stiffness in their low back. Usually they have head forward posture and their belly starts to grow because they are not moving. The sad truth is, most of these people have been led to believe they should not move for fear of hurting themselves. This talk usually comes from their peers or self talk.

There are a few of the commonalities amongst my clients who are 80+ in age. They always have a plan for tomorrow. There is always a project going on, no matter how physical it is. They are committed to a healthy diet. Lastly, they use their minds to solve problems and design new ideas, no matter their age they never stop learning.

One of oldest clients plays tennis twice a week and runs his own cattle ranch whcih he started at 87. Imagine that, when most people are afraid to walk too far, this man started a small cattle ranch, built a new house, a hydroponic vegetable farm, and plays tennis twice a week. He will soon be 90 years old.

Another client of mine rides a bike on 50-100 mile trips weekly to monthly at a speed of around 20 mile per hour. The amazing thing is this client broke his pelvis in a bike accident less than a year ago. Today that client is back on the bike riding stronger than ever. Not bad for a 70 year old.

I have many stories to share, but the important thing to remember is these people never stop moving. They don’t act like they are 70, 80, or even 90 years old. They all exercise regularly, they learn how to stretch correctly from me. eat well every day, not just to lose a few pounds, and they have control of their minds. Each of these people have made a commitment to always eating healthy, working out without excuses, and focus their minds in a positive direction no matter what. You can have that same life at their ages but you have to commit to preparing your body for aging. What you do, eat, and think when you are young can influence how well you will age. Bad habits like drinking a lot, smoking, doing dangerous activities, and not focusing your mind in the right direction can be a bad recipe for your old age.

This is called taking control of your health and not just let it happen to you as if you had nothing to do with it. Out health care system is filled with people who are hoping and praying that someone will come up with a pill to solve their problem. A problem they most likely created because they did not know any better. With all the knowledge we have today, we need to get up out of that recliner and get on the computer, ask people who know, and make the commitment to improve your life forever. While there is no guarantee, at least if you do get sick, your body will be in a better place to recover faster and save you from multiple symptoms happening at one time. The side benefit is, you can give your recliner to a charity. In fact, let’s start a program that will overwhelm places like Good WIll, Habitat, or Salvation Army with recliners. If you are interested, leave your comments below.

Back Pain, Neck Pain, Stretching, Uncategorized

Get Rid of Airplane Stiffness Once and For All!

I have just returned from the “City of Love,” Paris, France. It was amazing and the people there were so much fun. Of course the food was spectacular. The toughest thing about going to Paris is the flight to and from Paris. it was 8.r hours there and 9.5 hours back. Luckily the plane we flew on was the awesome Boeing 787 which made the flight better, but for most people sitting that long can be hard on their body. Their back or neck will usually stiffen up and it can ruin a great vacation, even in Paris. Unfortunately, just a massage will not solve your problem and of course drugs are just a temporary thing. The stiffness is still there just waiting for the drugs to wear off. You must prepare for the flight before you get on the plane and after you get off.

I worked on stretching the rotation muscles in my hips and quads( front of my thighs). This would prevent low back pain when I stand up. Some of you will use stretchy back braces or sleep with a pillow under your knees to relieve the pain. The back brace really doesn’t work because the cause of your pain is on the front side of your body. The pillows under your knees is a clear sign that by shortening your quads, it takes the pressure off your low back. I also stretched my inner thighs to prevent low back pain. Again the front of my body will cause pain on the back side of my body.

I stretched my calves to prevent leg and foot cramps. Most people think by taking a drug or wearing special socks will help. Again, it is just masking the cause. I stretched my neck and chest because sitting in the seat forces my head forward which will cause my chest to narrow. The pain will show up on the back side of my neck and upper back, but the cause is on the front side. I arrived in Paris pain free, and walked all over Paris in my Merrell Vapor Glove 3 shoes with no foot and leg pain, no back pain, and no neck and shoulder pain. Got back on the plane flew back to the states and still no pain anywhere.

The secret to the stretching is knowing how to stretch correctly. 99% of people, including professionals have not clue how to stretch the body. I know this sounds a little arrogant, but I have tried many different types of stretching looking for alternatives and I have yet to find one that actually stretches the body. I know some of you are thinking, what about yoga. There are some yoga techniques that have an element of stretching to it, but the way it is taught in the United States is strength training which will tighten the body. I just went to a 2 day yoga seminar and listened to the instructor talking about how his techniques were stretching the body, yet 90% of the people in the room could not get into the poses he was teaching and the poses took a tremendous amount of strength to get into and hold. There was no stretching in any of the poses. It may look like you are stretching one side by tightening the other, but the truth is, the supposed stretched side needs to stabilize the contracted side to maintain balance. Therefore your are not stretching at all.

Check out my free videos on my YouTube channel, The Muscle Repair Shop, or contact me at musclerepairshop.com for help in stretching the correct way so you can stay pain free.

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.

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, 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, 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.