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.

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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.

elbow pain, wrist pain

Get Rid of Carpal Tunnel Once and For All!

My client, Emily, was totally frustrated with her carpal tunnel. She had been wearing a wrist brace for years after enduring 2 carpal tunnel surgeries. She thought that the surgery would fix her hand. Instead, the pain went from her hand to her elbow, which was diagnosed as cubital tunnel syndrome. Again, another surgery followed by a brace, and still there was pain. On her flight to Florida, she grabbed her suitcase and felt immense pain in her neck and shoulders. Her girlfriend referred her to me when she saw Emily in tears,mostly from the frustration and fear of not being able to use her arm.

Emily’s problem started in her hand and is still coming from her hand. Most of us have heard of carpal tunnel syndrome and understand there is a tunnel in our wrist area called the carpal tunnel. We have a total of 26 muscles in our forearms that run from our elbow to our fingers. These muscles allow us to open and close our hand. When we grip things, we are engaging the muscles on the bottom of our forearm which run through our carpal tunnel in our wrist and press on the median nerve which runs right next to these muscles.

Carpal tunnel is usually described as a result of repetitive actions like typing on a computer or cash register. However, it can be caused by gripping a steering wheel too tight, or a gold club or tennis racket. When travelling, gripping the suitcase handle can cause carpal tunnel syndrome as well. Doesn’t it sound ominous, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.

Surgery does relieve the pain temporarily, however since you use your hands every day it will come back. That is why so many people wear the wrist braces. It is not a strength issue as described by many therapist and trainers. It has more to do with overuse and not knowing how to release the strain from the overuse. Which means once you know how to release the pressure, you can prevent the pain from coming back at all.

I n your forearm there are 26 muscles and 2 bones that run from your elbow to your wrist. From the wrist, there 5 muscles that continue through the carpal tunnel on the bottom of the wrist to each of your fingers. In that tunnel lays the median nerve and when pressure is applied to the nerve by the muscles,pain occurs in your hand and fingers. so how do you fix it?

Using your opposite hand, apply a little pressure to your forearm and feel for sore spots. Don’t squeeze hard thinking you are going to force it out. You will only make it worse. Apply just enough pressure to feel the sore spots. When you find one, it may hurt a lot at the beginning, if so, lighten the pressure a little, breathe out, and allow your brain to relax the muscle. Do this all over your forearm until the muscles feel softer than cotton candy. No matter how strong you are, your muscles should feel soft for more freedom of movement.

Next , make a light fist with the painful hand, bending at the elbow. Place the opposite hand over your fist and gently press down. Again, you are not going to force it down and if you try, you may make the pain worse. It is not, no pain, no gain here! Hold the stretch for 3-5 seconds and repeat 8-10 times. Breathe out each time and allow your brain the chance to relax the muscles. Finally, stand next to a table and place your painful hand palm down with the fingers pointing behind you. Gently lean into the wrist and feel the muscles in your forearm stretch. Hold for 3-5 seconds and repeat 8-10 times. You can do this 3-5 times a day. It will only take a few minutes each time, but it will keep it away.

We cannot stop doing everything we need to do to survive or have fun. Wearing a brace may stop the pain today, but it will cause the muscles to weaken and increase the pain later which will result in multiple surgeries. Who has time for that? Emily’s wrist pain stopped within 5 days and she has been pain free for the last 2 years without the brace. In fact she donated the brace to a friend.

To learn more about how to stop common aches and pains, subscribe to this blog or go to my website at http://www,musclerepairshop.com

I have videos at my YouTube channel, The Muscle Repair Shop, which are free to watch.

elbow pain, Stiffness

Here’s a Quick Way to Stop Elbow Tendonitis!

The other day I saw a young woman that loved to play tennis. She played several times a week, but was having trouble with her elbow. Like most tennis players she purchased a band that wraps around her forearm to try and stop the pain. Though it helped, the pain was still there enough to reduce her playing time. She even tried creams and lotions hoping to reduce the pain because friends had said it was probably inflamed. That didn’t really work either. I spent 2 sessions with her and taught her why her elbow hurt and how to stop the pain.

Elbow Tendonitis is actually a hand issue, though the pain is in the elbow. There are 26 muscles in you arm from the elbow to the fingers. There are 5 main muscles on each side that attach at the elbow and allow your hands to open and close. The harder you grip anything such as a tennis racket, golf club, or steering wheel, the tighter these muscle become and the more pain you will get in the elbow. The solution is pretty easy.

First , feel your forearms. If you cannot easily feel the 2 bones in your forearm, which you probably can’, and that is why you hurt. Using the opposite hand began gently pressing on your forearm and breathing out to allow the muscles to release. The pressure you apply will not release these muscles, it is your brain that will release them. Too many people, including therapists, believe that they can push the hardness out. This is not true! In fact, the harder you push the worse it will get. The end result result should be a softer forearm, regardless of how strong you are. Hard bodies and buns of steel are not good for the human body.

Next, make a light fist with the hand of the arm with the tendonitis and push it down with the opposite hand bending at the wrist. Hold for 3-5 seconds and repeat 8-10 times. Each time you press down, breathe out and allow your brain to relax the muscles in the forearm. Finally, stand next to a table and place your palm down with your fingers pointing behind you. Then lean into that same hand to release the muscles on the inside of the forearm. Hold for 3-5 seconds and repeat 8-10 times.

Since nothing is torn, broken, braces are ineffective. The inflammation is a build up of lactic acid, so creams are ineffective. Even though you feel weak, strength training will make it worse. Holding the stretch too long will make it tighter. Tight muscles will make you feel weak, apply pressure to your nerves and joints, and even affect your blood circulation system.

Chronic pain cost us more per year than heart disease and cancer combined. To reduce and/or stop the pain, we must change our minds about how to address the pain first. Once we look at our cause of pain, not the diagnosis, we can change our health.

Be sure to check out my videos at my YouTube channel, The Muscle Repair Shop or go to my website at http://www.MuscleReparShop.com.