Tag Archives: Back Pain

THE ULTIMATE HANG

A number of years ago I was on a bike adventure riding between Bryce and Zion National Parks.  In the distance way up high on some sheer cliffs I saw a couple of hammocks hanging as if floating onto the rock.  Climbers, I later learned, carry light weight hammocks, attach them to the rock and actually sleep perched onto the cliff.  Not something I’ll do in this lifetime, but hang I will and do.

Pilates fuzzy boots and aerial yoga inspired me to hang a pink parachute hammock

Hanging Fuzzy Boots Pilates

Woman hanging from fuzzy boots on Pilates trap table. Image courtesy of Balanced Body.

from the ceiling in my living room. Huge hooks mounted right into the studs easily support my body allowing me to swing, stretch, and hang upside down.  In Pilates, one of the most blissful acts is to hang in the fuzzy boots.  It helps the spine stretch, provides the benefit of reverse blood flow, and allows your hip sockets to release.

INVERSION THERAPY
Turning the body upside to promote a healing effect is nothing new. It’s why yogis do shoulder stands, handstands and other upside down postures. From the standpoint of pure physics, inversions counteract the effects of gravity.  All day long gravity is pressing down on your body, including the spine and intervertebral discs. When we turn upside, the spine is decompressed and surrounding muscles are lengthened.

You don’t have to be completely upside to experience the benefits of hanging. Simply having your torso below your waist you can feel the effects, even at -5 or -10 degrees. For those with back problems, fully hanging upside can overly stress discs and facet joints, and create too much slack within joints. An inversion table allows you to control how far over you will go. You lay down, securely fasten your legs, and tilt the machine backwards. You can move upside down in small increments from as little as a few degrees to fully upside down.

The intervertebral disc is the largest organ in the body without blood supply. Most lumbar discs are the size of a watch face and have no arteries going to them. Discs rely on the surrounding bone for nutrients. These nutrients percolate into the disc much like coffee going through a filter. Some studies suggest that pulling the bones apart through inversion therapy may help this process by drawing more fluid into the disc. This allows greater nutrient flow and improves disc hydration and height. The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Back Pain

Inversion tables are primarily devices that you purchase for home use. Some physical therapists or exercise professionals may also have them. Try before your buy.  And talk to your doctor before doing inversion therapy. You shouldn’t invert your body if you have certain medical conditions such as high blood pressure, detached retina, or glaucoma. Inversion therapy can also exacerbate laxity of the joints or spondylolisthesis.

But if you’re back is fine, hang away wherever you can: with your kids at the monkey bars, off the limb of tree, or from your very own living room hammock. Your back will feel better and you’ll gain a whole new perspective on life too.

Love,
JoAnn

MONEY CAN BUY YOU HAPPINESS

Turns out the old adage that money can’t buy you happiness is not true.  Money CAN buy you happiness IF you know how and where to spend it.  In this Ted Talk , Michael Norton shares fascinating research on how money can, indeed buy happiness — when you don’t spend it on yourself. Listen for surprising data on the many ways pro-social spending makes a difference in your life and the lives of others.

Michael I. Norton,  is Associate Professor of Business Administration in the Marketing Unit and Marvin Bower Fellow at the Harvard Business School.

For more on creating happiness in your life, check out the book: Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.

Life is what you make it.

Love,
JoAnn

FINDING A GOOD PILATES INSTRUCTOR

Pilates certifications can be snagged in weekend or take several years and hundreds of hours to earn. Good instructors gain the equivalent of a Master’s degree. When you want high quality instruction, look for:

  • Minimum of 300 training hours
  • Comprehensive and mat certifications
  • Several years of teaching
  • Ask about specialties. Some instructors focus on populations such as seniors, pre/post natal, rehab or high performance athletes.

Like yoga, Pilates has evolved through time. Today, there are a variety of styles but core development is fundamental to them all. Among the most well-known trademarked brands are: Stott, Power Pilates, Core Dynamics, the Physical Mind Institute, and Romana’s Pilates. But a trademark doesn’t necessarily ensure quality instruction.

“Anyone can take a list of exercises and teach them,” says Chicago-based Vered Arbel of Elements in Motion, “how you analyze and fit the exercises to the needs of the person requires anatomical and biomechanical knowledge. Really look for that.”

HOW TO FIND THE RIGHT STUDIO FOR YOU
A web search will result in lots of choices and can reveal a lot about a place.  What’s the vibe?  Warm and welcoming?  Super intense high energy?  Look at the pictures and the language.  Do they communicate well?  What do the instructors say about themselves? Look for client testimonials and consult Yelp.

Ask them questions that relate to what you are looking for and they should ask you questions too.  That will reveal their level of experience and care about new clients.  Questions instructors  should ask you include:

  • What do you do for exercise now?
  • What attracts you to Pilates?
  • What are your fitness goals?
  • Any injuries?

Taking a mat class is an inexpensive way to check out a studio and discover if the place simply feels right to you. Also, many studios offer discounted rates for first time students.

Counteracting the stresses of everyday life is among the main benefits of any exercise discipline.  Ultimately, Pilates can balance the body helping you feel at ease and comfort in your skin, increase energy, rid you of body aches and possibly back pain too. Well worth the price of admission.

Love,
JoAnn

RELIEVE YOUR BACK PAIN NOW

The bad news is that back pain will likely plague you at some point in your life, and probably more than once. The good news is there is a lot you can do to prevent, manage and relieve that pain. Heat and ice treatments work wonders and both bring easy, convenient, and fast relief.

WHEN TO HEAT AND ICE
You can treat any sprain/strain injuries with hot and cold packs because both help reduce muscle spasm and pain. There are differences in these temperature treatments though. Ice reduces blood flow thereby quieting swollen tissues. Heat, on the other hand, stimulates blood flow. The increased circulation brings more nutrients to the injured site and helps relax sore muscles.

At the first sign of an injury it’s recommended that you start with ice to calm the swelling. Ice the area for about 15 minutes then repeat the icing in about an hour. After 24-48 hours, move to heat treatments.

Note that alternating ice / heat is a general recommendation. Because both ice and heat are pain-relieving, do which ever makes you feel better. There’s no magic rule. Some people like to alternate hot/cold packs, while others prefer to stick one temperature.

PACKAGED AND DIY PRODUCTS
There are a lot of products on the market today that make hot/cold back therapy easy. They can be conveniently heated in the microwave or cooled in the freezer. Look for those which are large and can be draped around an area. Some are specially made for the lower back and attach with Velcro much like weight belt.

No cold pack? A bag of frozen peas can do wonders in a pinch. Whatever your do, avoid putting ice directly on your skin, it’s irritating. Place ice cubes in a bag, wrap a towel around it and apply. Be patient. It takes a few minutes for the cold to come through. Likewise, you can heat up a moistened towel in the microwave for a comforting moist heat wrap. Again, take care when applying to skin. You may need a second towel wrapped around the first.

PREVENTING BACK PAIN
A strong healthy body with good core strength helps prevent back pain in the first place.  Pilates is all about the spine and among the best ways to keep your back healthy for life. There are some simple exercises to bring quick relief such as this easy to do anywhere anytime upper back release.

GOT BACKBONE?

Your spine is, in many ways, the center of your universe. Knowing more about it and its function will help you understand why your posture and movement affect the health of your back. If something more serious should be the culprit in your back pain, anatomy basics will help you better understand what’s wrong. They’re your body parts. You own them for life. Why not get better acquainted?  Here’s a bit about your bones and in other blogs we’ll explore more.

THEY’RE ALIVE!

Bones are efficient and sophisticated bundles of tissue, minerals and water. Their jobs go well beyond basic skeletal framework. They are protective shells for vital organs such as the heart, the brain, and the spinal cord; they are scaffolding upon which muscles attach; and they are manufacturing centers for blood cells. Talk about multitasking! Linked by ligaments and moved by muscles, bones support a lot of weight without being crushed or broken (at least not until there is trauma or disease.)

SPINE FAST FACTS:

The spine is a stack of cylindrical bones called vertebrae. They form a natural double S-curve from your head to your hips.

The joint formed where the sacrum/tail bone intersect with the hips (SI joint) can be an overlooked source of back pain.

Muscles of the abdominals and back support your spine.

Nerves run through your spinal column and exit out to the rest of the body. Nerves can be compressed due to trauma or diseases leading to pain and lack of organ or limb function.

Vertebral bones are highly intricate bones supported by ligaments and moved by muscles

Intervertebral discs create a cushion between the vertebrae and also absorb the shock of movement.

For more about your spinal anatomy: http://www.spineuniverse.com/anatomy

PILATES – IT’S ABOUT THE SPINE

Bet you thought it was all about the core?  Well, yes and no.  Your core muscles support your spine, help you stay upright, and help you move in many beautiful directions.  A good Pilates session will take you through all the ways your spine moves: forward, back, side to side and twists. For more about Pilates: http://www.pilatesmethodalliance.org/i4a/pages/index.cfm?pageid=3277

Feel Better in 60-Seconds (or less!)

Back Pain is the second most common ailment in the United States (headaches are number one).  Most back pain is lifestyle and work related.  If you spend tons of time at a computer – this stretch will help you feel better in your body in less than 60-seconds.  Try it!

Check out my book, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Back Pain, for more ways to be painfree.  Now available for Kindle!

Love,

JoAnn