Monthly Archives: August 2016

Relax Your Way To a Pain Free Day

As summer winds down and the school year starts, your life likely just got a whole lot busier. Whether you have kids lunches to pack, extra-curriculars to keep up with, or maybe a new busy season has begun at work, this time of year can often bring extra stress along with it. It might be difficult to think of relaxation now, especially after you’ve just gotten back from a week at the beach. However, research shows that relaxation can be an important part of your daily routine – making stress more manageable and even offering pain relieving benefits. We’re here to help remind you of the importance of relaxing, and even better, how you can do it – even when you think you can’t.

Stress is something we try to avoid, but often can’t. Stress can have some serious detriments to your health – both mentally and physically. Physically, stress can increase your blood pressure and put your heart through extra, unnecessary work. This can lead to an increased risk of heart attack and stroke. Stress can be as dangerous as hypertension, a poor diet and lack of exercise to your heart. Stress has also been linked to depression, it can even kill brain cells. So, without stress, your body is healthier, even showing it can better fight off colds and slow cancers; and your mind is healthier by improving your memory and staving off depression. If this hasn’t convinced you to decrease stress through relaxation, don’t worry, we have plenty more reasons to share why relaxation is important to your health.

The benefits of relaxation can extend to improved chronic pain management, as well. For those of you suffering from back pain, relaxation can be a healthy, holistic way to find relief. Relaxation eases your body and relieves muscle tension. It can also help take away your focus from the pain, giving you a break from using energy thinking about and managing the pain. Stress can cause you to feel tense – usually because your muscles involuntarily tense up under stress. This tension can cause pain. Relieving stress can release the muscle tension making you feel better overall.

Finding ways and the time to relax might not always be your priority – but, these easy tips can help you carve out just a few minutes to relax your mind and body. You only need a few minutes to try these relaxation techniques, but those few minutes will have your back thanking your for much longer.

If you are tight on time, the best technique is slow, calculated breathing. You can focus on your breaths or even place your hand on your belly to feel the breaths go in and out. Breath in deeply and hold for a 3 count. Exhale deeply for 3 counts. While breathing, you many find it helpful to thoughtfully recite a mantra such as “I feel” on your intake and “relaxing” on the outtake.

During your deep breathing sessions, you can add in guided imagery. You can imagine yourself in your favorite place, or a peaceful setting. Take 5 or 10 minutes to explore the setting. What does it look like? Smell like? Feel like? Make sure you feel safe and comfortable in this space and feel yourself relax.

You might even find implementing Progressive Muscle Relaxation can help change the focus from painful tension in your back to relieving tension elsewhere. PMR is a technique in which you will voluntarily tense and then relax different muscle groups. You might start with tightening your toes, your calf or your thighs. After each sequence of tensing, you will release the tension and feel the stress slip away from that muscle.

The benefits of relaxation are important for our fast-paced, stress-filled world. If you are experiencing pain, it can be even more important to help you get through your day. The best part about relaxation is that it can be done anytime, anywhere and only takes a minute or two. Those few precious minutes can help lower your blood pressure, take away back pain and give you a clearer head to take on your day!

Don’t Forget the Back in “Back To School!”

“Oh, my achin’ back!” isn’t something you’d expect to hear from your child. Youth can be a benefit when it comes to your back health; but, there are some things that parents should be cautious about when it comes to their child’s back.

Back to school means finding the right backpack for your child – this is an accessory they will be carrying for hours each day for the next 9 months. While a great convenience for hauling textbooks and homework, carrying a backpack can be problematic. Backpacks that are too heavy or worn incorrectly can result in an aching back and shoulders, tingling arms, weakened muscles, and stooped posture. The back will compensate for any weight that it is required to carry, but, the consequences can distort the natural curve of the spine, round the shoulders, and cause imbalance and fall risks.

First, you’ll want to choose the best backpack for your child. When selecting a backpack, ensure that it is the correct size for your child. When selecting a backpack, it should be approximately two inches below the shoulder blades to waist level, or slightly above the waist. It should rest comfortably at that height and shouldn’t sink below the waistline. Choose a lightweight material such as canvas instead of a heavier material like leather. It should have two, padded shoulder straps – avoid a one shouldered bag to help the weight to distribute evenly across your child’s back. If the bag might tend to be loaded on the heavier side, choose one that has a hip belt to help relieve some of the weight from the back to the pelvis. You might even consider a rolling bag rather than one that is worn on the back.

Once you’ve selected the correct (and obviously the coolest) backpack, you’ll want to make sure that it is used appropriately. Distribute weight evenly. Load heaviest items closest to your child’s back and balance materials so that they can easily stand up straight. Arrange the load so that it does not shift and cause imbalance. Check that the packed backpack weighs no more than 10 percent of your child’s body weight. If your child weighs 80 lbs., their backpack should never exceed 8 lbs. If it does, clean out the backpack regularly to eliminate excess or unneeded items. If it has a hip strap, encourage them to use it to help alleviate the strain on the back and shoulders. Always ensure all of the zippers and compartments are closed. If your child does begin to complain of shoulder, neck or back pain, it might be time to reevaluate what backpack they are using.

Remember the most important thing to remember when keeping your child’s spine safe and loading up the school backpack is to “Pack it Light, Wear it Right!”

Go for the Gold! Train Like an Olympian

This weekend, the Summer 2016 Olympics will kick off and we will see the world’s finest athletes compete for a gold medal. Many of these athletes have incredible conditioning and workout routines to prepare them for competition. Leading up to competition, they focus on diet and exercise. Ever wonder what some of their secrets are? If you are looking to change up your workout regimen, you can sneak in some of these tips. Remember to always consult with your doctor when you want to incorporate new exercises into your routine.

Successful athletes all do the same thing: they set a goal and stick with it. This is the most important part of training like an Olympian. You can do this, too! Is your goal a distance? A weight? A blood pressure level? A reduction in pain? Once you determine your goal, you can establish the building blocks of your exercise and diet plan. Break down the process of reaching your goal into smaller goals that can mark progress along the way. This can often help make an unreachable goal seem much more attainable.

In most sports at the Olympic level, many athletes put their effort into developing lean muscle mass rather than only losing fat. One secret that many athletes use is following a steady-state cardiovascular workout. These often take the place of strength training and high intensity-interval training (HIIT) because these workouts can often exhaust you, making recovery time between workouts longer. While it is important to rest between workouts to prevent strain, fatigue and injury, when you are working out towards a goal, you’ll want all the time you can get working out instead of resting. You’ll recover faster following a steady-state cardio workout than one that focuses on strength and HIIT. Steady-state cardio can also help you to maintain muscle mass, burn calories and build your aerobic fitness. Often the types of maneuvers can mimic the benefits of weight training without the stress.

You might think training is the most important part of being a successful athlete, but don’t forget about a healthy diet. The first thing any Olympic athlete will tell you is that hydration is key to their success. Each athlete will formulate a healthy diet designed for their goals and the types of training they are doing. The food you eat should fuel your body and contain a good balance of nutrients to support those workouts. Eat for your workout. Athletes will focus on filling their diet with healthy, lean proteins like almonds or chicken. If energy is needed, you can incorporate healthier carbs like a sweet potato or chickpeas. Antioxidants in leafy, green veggies can help with recovery, too. Most healthy athletes will avoid fatty, high calorie foods that offer low nutritional value like fried foods, white carbohydrates, foods high in sugar, and large portions.

Finally, the best thing you can do to train like an Olympic athlete is to stay motivated. A fitness plan should really come down to one simple question: are you going to stick with it? Make sure you create a plan that you enjoy and that brings you joy. If you don’t love your workouts, you should at least respect them. To keep you on track, try to find a buddy that will work out with you and keep you motivated on those days when you just don’t feel like it. Write down your goals and keep a positive diary of your amazing progress. Stay optimistic about your goals and your workouts and you will soon see the benefits.