Stiffness, Stretching, Uncategorized

Why are Muscles so Hard to Understand?

Most people would say that they know what to do for muscle pain. They would take an over the counter pain pill, heating pad, ice pack, or Ace bandage. If that didn’t stop the pain, they would seek a doctor who would shoot an X ray or MRI. If that showed nothing broken or torn, the doctor would refer you to Physical Therapy. Physical Therapy would do strength training with traditional stretching. Once your insurance runs out, you may go to a trainer at the gym, who again will do strength training with traditional stretching. Finally, if it is still is nagging you, you go back to the doctor that may put you n a brace with some pain pills or muscle relaxers to take when it flairs up. We have all been on this treadmill at some point in our lives. Usually at the end we are told it has to do with our age and we just stop doing anything that causes pain.

The problem here is, the people that should be knowledgeable of muscle pain are not really trained in finding the causes, just stopping the symptoms. The cynic in me says, it is a good money maker, but the realist in me says, they just don’t know! You cannot blame people for what they have not been trained to do for pain. Frankly, I have been surprised to learn how little , as a society, we understand about muscles. Yes, we all have been taught how to strengthen our muscles to make them bigger,faster, and stronger. However, chronic pain is more about the relationship between the muscles and the bones, and the muscles and the brain.

Our muscles are far more emotional than they are physical. In fact, the physical side of our muscles is more affected by our emotions that physical activity. Our brain is designed to protect us 100% of the time. Our brain is in total control of our muscles to make sure we do not hurt ourselves. Otherwise, our brain may say, there is a cliff ahead, please stop walking and our legs would say “screw that, we are walking.” Not a good outcome, right?

Stretching properly is very meditative. Like meditation, we focus on our breath to calm our brain. In stretching, focusing on feeling the muscle we are stretching relax and release is key as well. You cannot think of what happen and hour ago or what will happen an hour from now. You cannot listen to fast paced music or focus on a recorded book. You certainly cannot focus on the news while trying to stretch. When the brain focuses on letting the muscle go, the muscle will release. This takes the pressure off the joints, nerves, and discs. Too much pressure and the brain will fight you. Even in deep tissue massage, without the patient breathing and releasing the muscles, the patient is fighting and the therapist will injure their hands.

Stretching is more like eating than strength training. If you wake and eat breakfast at 8 am and do not eat all day, you will be hungry and you know why. If you wake up and stretch at 8 am and don’t do little stretches throughout the day you will tight again. Every movement you make causes your muscles to tighten and there is nothing you can do but stretch. It is as natural as your body getting hungry. The stretching we are taught at school, gyms, and even PT are more strength training than stretching and that will make the pain lasts longer. Check out my videos on my YouTube page, The Muscle Repair Shop or my website, http://www.musclerepairshop.com to learn how to stretch to stop your aches and pains and enjoy your life!

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.

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.

Uncategorized

The Little Known Secret to Staying Cooler in Hot Weather!

We are coming into summer and we all know what that means! The heat rising during the day, humidity in Florida is high, and we are sweating uncontrollably. Most people’s first response is to wear as few clothes as possible, spend plenty of time in water, or find an air conditioner to stay cool. The problem with the last two responses is, what if you need to do something outside? How can you survive another hot summer? The biggest mistake we make, is wearing too few clothes. Yes, you read this correctly. We are wearing too few clothes in how weather.

I grew up on the coast of North Carolina and the summer there can make Florida feel like a cool place. It is not unusual there for temperatures to reach upper 90’2 to low 100’s daily from late July to early September. Humidity can stay above 95% during the day and even in the low 80% at night. The last time I was there in August, I left town at 4:20 am. The humidity at 4:30 am was 84% and water was running off my car like it was raining. I am sharing this information so you will know I understand living in how weather. I have done it all my life.

 As a teenager in North Carolina, I worked on farms during the summer to earn money. I will never forget an old farmer that I worked for because he always wore long sleeve shirts, long pants, and a hat. I know what you are thinking, WHAT? Yes, every day he dressed the same way and I could not believe it. Like many of you, I wore shorts, tank top, and flip flops, just hoping to find a little cool breeze. I decided to ask him one day how he could stand wearing all those clothes and this is what he told me.

“Young man, I am about 10 degrees cooler than you are, he exclaimed, you do not understand how your body works to keep you cool.” I was shocked and amazed at the same time. He continued to tell me the reasons behind the clothes he was wearing and how everybody should dress the same.

What I learned from this old man was, wearing a tank top and shorts allowed the hot sun to dry my sweat as fast as my body could make it. Therefore, my skin was very hot to the touch which made me very hot. With the long sleeve shirt and long pants, his body would sweat wetting the inside of his clothes, and some on the outside as well, which kept his body temperature about 10 degrees cooler. It is your body’s natural way to prevent overheating. We are the only animals in the animal kingdom that does this. The hat kept the top of his head cooler as well as damaging his skin from the sun.

I decided to try this and to my surprise, I was cooler. Since that time if I have to be outside, I always wear a long sleeve shirt with UV protection, long pants, and a hat. When I met my wife 20 years ago, she thought I had lost my mind going outside dressed in a long sleeve shirt. Even after I told her my story she still did not believe me. We would work in our yard and she was overheating and just could not understand how I could stay out there and work in the heat. After 15 years of me repeating the story, she finally decided to try it. She was amazed and can’t stop telling her friends about this new discovery! Her friends now think she is nuts too. I have recently bought hats I can wet for additional cooling. This works great at the beach, ballparks, and theme parks. I know sound crazy and the idea of you sweating sounds nasty but try it. The seating actually detoxifies your body and it keeps you cool, so there is nothing nasty about that. More importantly, you can enjoy your events and stay cool while everyone else is dying. Enjoy the Florida sun!

Uncategorized

Think Stiffness is a Part of Aging? Wrong!

It is funny how we think about older people. I was recently working with a webmaster and we needed some picture of older people, 55+. that were frustrated with chronic pain. The person that I was speaking to was a young woman probably in her 30’s and college educated. What she sent to me for my approval was just too funny. She sent 10 pictures of people, not 50-65, not even 70-75, but people over 80 years of age and to top it off, all of them were laughing and having a good time. In her mind, people 50-65 are too old to be active and look 80+. Though I work with many very active people over 80, the pictures she sent were pictures of inactive or sickly people. That is the normal picture of older people. Sadly, too many older people have that same perspective too.

Most of my clients are over 50 years of age and are very active, including the clients over 80. So I have to wonder if the vision of a sickly older man or woman is so strong in the heads of older people that the vision becomes their destiny? If so, what are the active older people doing so differently? Or are the active older people just the lucky few?

I have ask many people over 80 and 90 years old about how they think and what they do daily. I also ask if they think that what they do is the secret to aging better? The responses are very similar and are laughed at by their peers, but the truth of the matter is, they understand the secret to aging better.

The common threads are, they always have a project for tomorrow, next week, and next year. They believe they can still do the work inside and outside like they did years ago. They read a lot, work puzzles, work on their computers to figure out software, and they get out into the sun daily to sweat. Their diet is healthier with less calories as they age. they love to exercise, typically tennis, biking, walking, or swimming is at the top. Golf seems to be too slow for many of them. All of them maintain great relationships with spouses, family, and friends and remain active in their social organizations too. They do think about getting older, but only from the perspective of running out of time to get their projects completed.

I have had some great conversations with my older clients and though they are 80+, their mindset is equal to that of a 50-60 year old. These are lessons we all can follow.

Stretching, Uncategorized

Most Tennis Stretches Don’t Work and Why!

So you are getting ready to play tennis and you know should be stretching/warming up to play the match. You lift your foot, if you can, and set it on top of the net to stretch your hamstring, right? You stand there talking to your friends for 20 seconds to a minute, because the longer you stand there, the better the stretch, right?. You take that leg down and then place the other foot up there and repeat the same process. How cool! I can stretch my hamstring and talk to my friends at the same time. Most of my friends are impressed that I can actually get my foot up to the net. The ones who cannot reach the net will sit on the bench, stick their leg out in front of them and bend their ankles to stretch their calves. The rest of the players will just fly onto the court and began to play because they just not have time to stretch and besides they do not need it. They stretched yesterday at the gym. Does this sound familiar?

In all of these scenarios, none of these people have actually stretched anything. In fact, the last group has the best chance of not having an injury while playing. The first group is doing what they were told to do by their pro or instructor. The problem is, they are doing strength training disguised as stretching. First of all, the standing in that position is an act of balancing which means their calves, feet, and thighs are all contracting so they do not fall down. Secondly, they have to contract their abdominal muscles to lean forward, tightening the ab muscles. Finally, there are three hamstring muscles and they are trying to stretch all three at the same time which is impossible. All three hamstring muscles are important for tennis because you are running in many different directions and stretching them in one direction is just wrong! As a side note, the four calf muscles need to be stretched to help the three hamstring muscles work better.

The second group is trying to stretch their calf muscles, but they are tightening their shin muscles which will lead to shin splints. Sitting with your leg out in front of you and bending your foot back towards you requires the contraction your shin muscles which will cause them to tighten. I know, I know, you have been told that you should contract your muscle and release. Contract again and release, which is suppose to stretch the opposing muscle. All you have done to fatigued the muscle you have been contracting. The last group doing nothing at all, are at least not tightening their muscles more than they already are, but they are still tight and will eventually hurt themselves. So what should you do?

Get a yoga strap, rope, or belt to stretch. Do not use an elastic band as they were designed for strength training. You can sit on the ground or sit on the bench with your foot on top of something like an ottoman. Place the strap around the ball of your foot and gently pull the strap towards you without using your leg muscles, only your arms. This will stretch the 2 middle calf muscles attach into the Achilles tendon. As you begin the stretch breathe out and focus on letting these two muscles relax. You need to focus your brain on the stretch or the stretch is lost. The brain is the most important part of stretching. You have heard of the mind/body connection in yoga classes? This is very similar except we don’t hold the stretches for a long period of time. Only hold the stretch for 3-5 seconds and repeat the stretch 8-10 times. I will talk about more later. Now, rotate your foot to the middle of your body and repeat the stretch. Finally, rotate the foot to the outside of the body and repeat the stretch again.

The reason for holding the stretch for just 3-5 seconds is to avoid the stretch reflex, which is in every muscle we have. That is what keeps you free of danger until our thoughts override it, this causes injuries. Allowing the muscles you are stretching to relax frees the joint in that area and gives the brain the opportunity to release the muscle. Repeating the stretch 8-10 times allows you time to acclimate to the movement and let your brain learn that your body can move that way. Focusing on the stretch versus talking to your friends allows your brain to release the emotional tension and then the physical tension in the muscle. If you occupy your brain with information that can cause stress, sadness, anger, or even happiness the brain will not let the muscle release and in some cases may even tighten the muscles more

Tennis is a great game, but if you are not prepared to play the game, injuries will occur. My clients that do play tennis love the fact that their new flexibility improves the way they can hit the ball, attack the net, and chase down balls they could have never gotten to before adding this type of stretching to their game. My oldest tennis player is 89 years old and he plays 3 times a week against 70 and 80 year old opponents. His average game last 2-3 hours. Oh , did I say he also built his own ranch at 87.