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, elbow pain, hand pain, Knee Pain, Shoulder pain

Are Household Chores Killing Your Body?

Sorry, I have been away for a little while, but my wife and I have had our house totally re-modeled which required us to move out for two months. Oh, we also took a flight to Paris i the middle of all this too! I mentioned that in my last post. Anyway, we have been helping our contractors do some of the work and that can be harder than any workout. Of course, I spent time watching the people work visualizing the muscles that actually allowed them to do what they did. I told you , I am a muscle nerd!

Let’s start with the electrician. Our electrician had to bend her body in ways that would probably cripple most people not used to doing it. Crawling under cabinets on her back, sitting on the floor reaching around and through the walls, up on a ladder, working overhead, and the rotating of her hands to connect the wires together. The plumber made very similar movements without the ladder. Instead of working with small wires, he was working with larger pipes, but it was the same movement. Our carpenter and drywaller, the same guy, did all those thing as well, but for longer periods of time. For instance, he was on a scaffold scraping popcorn off the ceiling, replacing drywall to fix the holes left from changing fixtures, texturing the ceiling, and finally painting it. The tile guy was on his knees continuously while stretching forward to left and place large square tiles. He also had to use his shoulders to wipe across the tiles over and over as he laid the grout.All of these jobs required them to be in positions, most are rarely in. This will lead to back pain, neck pain, and fatigue.

Let’s look at these positions and think about your own body when you do these for much shorter periods of time. The climbing up a ladder and working overhead. Some of you may have do this when you are trimming tall bushes or short trees. Maybe you have painted a ceiling that left you sore. Going up and down a ladder will cause the rotating muscles in your hips to tighten as well as the quads, front of your thighs, to tighten as they left your entire body weight up each step. This can lead to low back stiffness by the end of the day. While standing on the ladder, looking overhead, they will tighten their back muscles from their pelvis to their neck, but what is forgotten is, the abdominal muscles must tighten too to stabilize your balance so they won’t fall. This cause compression on the spine from top to bottom.

Working on their knees is very similar to you gardening. First off, most of the contractors use knee pads to soften the pressure on their knee caps which will damage their knee joints. You, too, should always use a knee pad even if you are on the dirt which is softer. On top of the knee pressure from the knee caps, is the pressure on the knees from the the front of your thighs. These muscles attach below the knee cap which adds additional pressure on the knee joint, plus the upper part of the thigh will fatigue and pull your pelvis forward causing low back stiffness as well.

Working with their hands twisting wires or tightening pipes together can cause elbow tendinitis, wrist tendinitis, carpal tunnel syndrome, or arthritis in those joints. Why? The twisting of the hands is created by the two bones in your forearm. there are five muscles on top of the forearm that allow to open your hand, five muscles on the bottom that allow you to close your hand and muscles in-between the two bones that allow you to rotate your hand. The gripping of the hand causes these muscles to tighten and get hard. This hardness pulls the joints closer together causes the joint to lose its lubrication and pain occurs. The rotation also increases the hardness which causes the wrist bones to lose their lubrication and increase the pressure on the median nerve in the carpal tunnel of the wrist setting off carpal tunnel syndrome. Arthritis is simply the drying out of the joint and we will discuss that in a later post.

I am always amazed at how many contractors complain about their pain and yet do very little to prepare themselves for the job at hand. Many people do not know how to prepare for yard work or house work. We all seem to just go out and do it, then we are surprised we hurt. Can you imagine a football player not preparing for one game on Sunday, then being surprised if he gets injured. These players are preparing all week and still get injuries, imagine if they did not prepare at all. To properly prepare we must understand which muscles we will be using. I don’t mean anatomically, but feel which part of your body is being used in the movements you are doing. In future posts, I will be discussing how to prepare for our chores in the house and outside of the house. These little preparations will allow you to finish your chores and have the luxury of admiring your work without sitting on a heating pad or taking pain killers for days.

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.