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.


We are Changing the Blog Name

Beginning Thursday, February 21, 2019, our new blog name will be. “Stretch and Release.” Our blog address will be http://www.stretchnrelease.com. Please make note of the changes so you don’t miss out on any of our posts.

“Stretch and Release” is the name of our technique for helping people stop their chronic pain and it seemed natural to name our blog the same. We will continue to give the same great information in the same format.


What are You Waiting For?

It seems that every day someone will make the comment, “Life sure flies by fast!” I am sure many of you have heard that throughout your life. I don’y think time has sped up in any way, but we get so caught in what we are doing that we set aside those important visits, or even moments, to spend with the people we love.

Today, my friend Ann passed away after a long battle with cancer. As I age I am reminded each year how important it is to spend time with loved ones by witnessing my friends dying one by one. Yet, with these huge reminders, I think about the people I love and soon get back to life the way it was. Are the things I do more important than family or friends. The short answer is no, but we look at our lives, is that true?

No one is ever promised an extra day on this earth, so what are we waiting for that will allow us to relax and enjoy our friends and family? Is there something that will happen that will signal us that it is Ok to waste time with the people we care about the most? If we earn all this money we have envisioned in our lives, we it be worth it if there is no one around to enjoy it with? When is enough, enough?

Back Pain, Foot pain, Knee Pain, Neck Pain, Uncategorized

Are You Prepared for Old Age?

Recently I graduated from the University of South Florida with a degree in Aging Sciences. I went back to school as an older student to improve my knowledge of the Aging process we all face. Aging Sciences has taken the place of Gerontology because Gerontology covered the aging process from 55 years old to death. Aging Sciences covers aging from birth to death. The most important thing I learned was that we are not prepared for what we will face as we age. Being my fifties, I have some time to improve, but for younger people, they can actually prevent themselves from many of the ailments that older people face today.

Our health care system is a symptom-based system which means it focuses mainly on solving the ache or pain with little regard towards the cause. When older people suffer from arthritis, back pain, or joint pain, we can offer drugs, braces, or surgery as a means to stop the pain. What we should be looking at are their diet and lifestyle. Unfortunately, even the doctors will say, ” at your age, what do you expect?” You should expect everything to work, however, you must be taught how to prevent these things from happening and most health care workers are not trained to teach you.

We know that inflammation can lead to heart disease, but did you know it can lead to arthritis, joint stiffness, and even back stiffness. Too many people are consuming processed foods, mainly carbohydrates, that convert into to simple sugars. These simple sugars can create inflammation throughout your body. Secondly, carbohydrates are the main portion of your diet can cause your body to burn sugars instead of fat which can lead to obesity. Just by simply reducing the number of bread, pasta, and eliminating most of the processed foods like pastries and doughnuts, you can reduce the harmful effects. Eating more vegetables like lettuce, kale, greens of different kinds will help to reduce the need to burn glucose(sugar). Remember to take baby steps to build a habit. Bad eating is a habit just like good eating. Never go cold turkey and deprive yourself as this is a recipe to fail. In 1996, I weighed 315 lbs. Over the next 18 months, I lost 105 lbs. without ever going on a diet. All I did was to learn new habits. It is not easy, but you can do it!

Lifestyle changes like taking brisk walks every day, choosing the stairs versus the elevator, and learning to relax are keys to reducing stress which can cause inflammation in the body as well. Meditation is a great way to reduce stress and bring your life back into calm. This can make you more productive and efficient. Little changes daily to your lifestyle will build a lifetime of good habits without too much pain. Part of my losing the 105 lbs., was beginning to walk around my 1 bedroom apartment because I did not have the energy to walk around my building. That is where I started.

These are small changes you can do every day. The younger you start, the more positive results you will have. In fact, many of the ailments older people suffer from today would simply be eliminated with these changes. This blog will continue to break down the choices you have so you can easily transition your life into a more healthy and fulfilling life. Please leave any comment you may have or suggestions as we will delve into aging from birth to death and how to prepare yourself for the aging process no matter where you are starting from.


Are your Ankles Affecting your Golf Swing?

Golfers are always looking for ways to improve their golf game.  Is it the golf clubs, the golf balls, the shoes, or the training? Some may think if they get stronger in the gym, their distance will improve. Some may even get into stretching, but unfortunately, too many times the stretching is ineffective. All of these factors will improve your game, but understanding how stretching affects your game could be the most important one.

Let’s talk about the ankles, which I call the Rodney Dangerfield of the human body. I will include the calves in that assessment as the calves control how well the ankles move. We have all done the standard calf stretches, leaning against the wall with one foot back or standing on a slant board or curb, leaning forward trying to extend the Achilles tendon thinking we are stretching our calves. Once you understand how the calves work, you will quickly see how ineffective these stretches are for golf or any sport. There are actually 4 calf muscles in each calf. Some of you may have thought there was only one. There is an inside calf muscle which controls the inside part of the arch. When this muscle is short, or tight, the person will walk on the outside of their foot, supination. The outside calf muscle controls the outside of the arch and when it is tight, the person will walk on the inside of their foot, pronation. The two middle calf muscles run the length of your leg forming the Achilles tendon and continues into the arch. These control the up and down motion of the foot. Most healthcare people treat the foot with special insoles and shoes as if there is something wrong with your foot, but in reality, it is your calf. Why is this important to you?

As a golfer, your swing starts in your feet. Try swinging a club in your bare feet and feel how your feet move across the floor. How much movement you get is based on how flexible your calf muscles are to free your ankles. When these muscles are tight, there is a lot of torque on the knees, hips, and low back. When a golfer is stiff, they will tend to muscle through a swing using their upper body and that is where many injuries originate.

The best way to stretch these calf muscles is using a yoga strap or rope. Never use a stretchy band as they were designed for strength training. Sitting on the floor with your back against the wall, place the strap around the ball of your foot. Do not use your leg muscles and do not pull hard! Stretching is not about the pressure, but the releasing of the muscles.  As you gradually pull the strap back, feel the middle calf muscles releasing. Do not lean back with your back, we are not wrestling a horse! Your ankle should be able to bend to 110 degrees. Do not force it, as the muscles will tighten and your stretch has stopped. There should be some pain. However, too much pain and your muscles will contract which will cause you to be in strength training mode. Hold each stretch for 3-5 seconds and repeat 8-10 times. Next, rotate your foot to the inside and repeat the stretch. You should feel this on the outside of the calf. Again, do not force, but allow the muscle to let go. Finally, rotate foot to the outside and repeat the 3-5 second hold and repeat 8-10 times. You should feel this on the inside of the calf. If your ankles are really tight, do these every morning and every night before you go to bed.if you suffering from night leg cramps, this will resolve the cramps. If you cannot sit on the floor, try a hardback chair with an ottoman.

During your day, place a golf ball on the floor and gently press down on the ball as you are sitting. Do not do this standing.No Pain, No Gain will not be your friend. Do not roll it around as I want you to pinpoint sore spots on the arch of your feet. Rolling around is fun, but it doesn’t solve your problem. The problem is hitting the ball farther with better movement. Keep that in mind! Check out my website at http://www.MuscleRepairShop.com


What Makes a Great Massage?

cheerful older women


    For many people, the type of massage therapy they receive is irrelevant because they are usually so tired, the client is basically paying to sleep on the massage table for an hour. Due to living a hectic and stressful life, anytime we can lay down and have someone rub our body, especially our back or feet, our body will relax and we will more than likely fall asleep. Remember how your mom used to do that and it felt so good! Many people believe that this is a great massage. In reality, how would know if the therapist was great at massage because you were not there consciously to feel what they were doing. If the therapist has to wake you up when you turnover and you go back to sleep, then the therapist could have just stood there and rubbed your body, regardless of any technique they ay have mastered. This is a flaw in our thought process about determining a great massage from a simple rub down. There are 226 different types of massage and every massage therapist is a little different. Every therapist has a different educational background therefore their style can vary. Massage is about trust which means, you need to talk to them. I am not talking about a lengthy conversation, but talk about the technique and how it can help you. The therapist needs to know what medications you are taking, what treatments you are currently having, and how you feel overall. These questions are important because the therapist will be  moving fluids and affecting tissues which can negatively affect your health. 

Massage therapy requires communication between the therapist and the client. As the therapist is finding areas of your body that are tight or sore, they can coach you to breathe and release using your brain to let go. Muscles are just as emotional as they are physical. Physically, your muscles can feel tight and sore, however emotionally they can feel atttacked if the pressure is too much. If the therapist can communicate with the client when to breathe, then as a team you can release your muscles, blood will flow better, and your body will feel more at ease. When a client goes to sleep, the brain has been turned off, so even if the therapist pushes really hard, all your body will remember is soreness after you wake up. The next time someone touches you, your body may flinch, feel pain, or you may feel a tickle. This is because your body doesn’t remember why, but it knows something is not correct and it reacts.

What of level of undress should you do? That should be up to you based on how comfortable you feel at that level of undress. I have done massages with clients that are totally nude to totally dressed. It doesn’t matter, as long as the client feels comfortable. Sometimes, the client may be allergic to the oils or just doens’t want to be oily when going back to work, then doing a massage fully dressed,or lightly dressed, can be done.

 I have found that with certain clients suffering with fibromyalgia or polymyalgia, combining massage with light stretching works best. In this situation,it is best to have the client fully clothed with clothes they can move around in. This reduces the soreness brought by the disease and allows better freedom of movement.

Bottomline is get to know your therapist and feel comfortable in their surroundings. Few people are allowed to get that close to you and you should make sure of your trust of the therapist and the surroundings. Ask for their credentials and understand what they will be doing to you. Research the technique to better understand if that particular technique will actually help you. A good therapist will recommend another therapist that does a different modality that could help you.