Lower back pain is terrible and best avoided. With some careful techniques and correct lifting a lot off back pain can be avoided. I’ve put together a short presentation video on how to better look after your back and some techniques and tips on avoiding lower back strain and damage to spinal discs
This article is about a little at-home ‘life hack’ to remedy a sore neck. All you need is a regular bath towel and somewhere comfortable to lie down. It is a gentle relaxation exercise that encourages the neck to return to its normal lordotic (see diagram below) curve. The rolled towel provides a curved surface for the relaxed neck to ‘stretch’ on. It could be considered a myofascial release of sorts, to release the soft tissue of the neck and allow the neck to move in its normal range of motion. It does require you to lie down for at least 10 minutes. Once you feel comfortable with it you can progress incrementally up to 20 minutes.
Please note if you have severe neck pain or disc problems, seek appropriate medical attention before trying this technique. This exercise/technique is gentle and should not be painful. If you experience pain, please seek proper medical care. (Please see a professional, doctor google doesn’t quite cut it).
Anatomy of the neck and spine
The spine forms a long column that creates the base structure to our frame and can be thought of as a central building block of the body. It provides structure and protection for organs and the spinal cord. It also provides additional features such as shock absorbers in the vertical plane (up and down). If you look at the body from the side view (lateral anterior/posterior view) you will see three distinct curves in the spine. The lower back has a lordosis curve, the middle back has a kyphotic curve (thoracic) and the neck also has a lordosis curve. It is because of these curves that we can deal with stresses going up and down in the body. For example, running would be problematical if the body could not absorb the up/down (vertical) shock of striding and landing on our feet.
The neck has seven small bones called vertebrae that stack up on each other. These are the cervical vertebrae and form the cervical part of the spine. The normal curve of the neck should be similar to that of the lower back, in that it curves anteriorly forward. For some people the curve can be reduced or even straight, which tends to lead to neck pain and complaints. Also, the smaller facet joints can become stuck or immobile, which will also cause pain and discomfort.
Cervical towel roll technique
The use of a simple rolled-up towel can encourage the natural lordotic curve of the neck. If there are stuck facet joints the towel roll exercise can help free these up. Usually when mobility returns to these joints they feel much better and movement much improved. If you have ever cracked or adjusted your neck, it is usually these joints that have shifted and make the pop or click noise.
1. Prepare the towel. You need to make a roll out of the towel. I like to fold it in half (longways), then half again. From here simply roll the towel up till you get a nice firm cylinder. I find a firmer roll works better and has more effect.
2. Lie down somewhere flat and soft. On the bed works fine, or carpeted floor, yoga mat. A couch is suitable if you can lie completely flat and not have your head and legs sticking out in awkward directions.
3. Lie on your back face up looking at the ceiling. Putting something soft such as a pillow under the knees is relaxing and it softens the spine a bit. You can have the head unelevated or use a flat pillow. Now place the rolled-up towel under the neck. The neck should feel comfortable and supported, but also like it’s getting a little stretched out. Everyone is unique so you will need to experiment with the rolled towel by making it smaller or larger to find the appropriate size for you. Make the towel cylinder smaller by simply unrolling it a bit with the flappy part under the skull and not down near the shoulders.
4. Once you have found your support posture and everything feels good, you just need to lie there for 10 to 20 minutes. Very simple.
I hope you find some value in this home help technique and it comes in handy one day.
Sleeping on a towel roll
I you think your pillow may not be suportive and causing your stiff neck / pain you can incorporate the towel roll with your pillow and sleep on it. The Video below demonstrates this.
Your gluteal muscles have some important features:
• are the main muscles used for walking, when moving legs from hips
• essential for the stability of the hips when walking. Without them you would topple over to one side.
• allow you to extend your back
• allow you to stand from a sitting position
• Gluteus maximus supports the extended (straight) knee. It does this via the iliotibial tract (ITB). This is the fibrous band of connective tissue that runs down the outer side of the thigh.
Gluteal dysfunction and weakness can have quite a large effect on the functional physiology of the body. Glute weakness can cause some of the following:
• lower back pain – over-using lumbar muscles to compensate
• hamstring over-use (tightness and pain) –> can also then lead to pelvis rotation –> pressure and pain in lower back
• knee pain from reduced stability
• tight hip flexor
• ankle problems
• plantar faciitis
As humans, we tend to find the easiest and laziest way to do things. Perhaps this is energy conservation. For example, when picking something up from the ground we tend to lean over with a flexed back instead of bending the knees and squatting down. The gluteal muscles can simply just get deconditioned and weak through lack of use. The simple solution is to wake them up again and do a few exercises. Even doing something as simple as squeezing your butt cheeks together while waiting for the bus can help (try 3 sets of 10 reps) or whenever you remember during the day, for example whilst waiting for the jug to boil. Something this simple can help the brain and glutes make a better neurological connection and “switch on” better for movement patterns.
Pain can also be a limiting factor. There could be any number of pathologies in the hips and back creating a painful situation that limits movement. Pain is remarkable in that it causes an inhibitory effect on muscles in the affected area. Hence, once the pain has subsided the muscles can still be inhibited or have decreased motor response (“switched off”). Again, doing a few floor-based gluteal exercises can help to retrain the connection with the brain and the bum muscles.
For example, the correct firing order for leg extension (lying on tummy and raising leg up towards ceiling) is:
Glute -> Hamstring – > quatratus lumborum and lumbar muscles.
However, with a dysfunctional glute it can become:
Hamstring + lumbar muscles.
Hence, much more strain is placed on the surrounding structures.
Anatomy: Gluteus maximus – the largest muscle in the body – forms the buttock cheeks.
Gluteus medius and minimus – lateral stabilisers. These muscles are located on the sides of the hips. They wrap around the bony part of the thigh bone (trochanter of the femur).
Training the glutes
Strong, healthy glutes are important for proper movement and health maintenance. However, there can be other problems that are present in the pelvic/lumbar region that need to be addressed before any rehab training and exercise should be performed. Muscular fatigue (“feel the burn”) is ok but acute and neuralgic pain is telling you some damage is going on. Please always train being mindful and respectful of your body’s abilities.
Below are a few glutes floor-based exercises to get you started.
Lying on the side, back should be straight (neutral spine), and all the movement should be occurring in the leg that is facing the ceiling. You can support your head and neck with one arm, and have something soft to lie on. You can use a yoga mat or towels. Please note it should not be painful to do these exercises. After a while you should feel muscular fatigue. However, if you experience any acute pain or nerve pain please stop and get assessed by a health professional.
Do each exercise 10 times then roll over to other side and complete 10 times on other leg. Repeat this for each exercise. Once you have done them all, go back to the top and re-do them. Try doing 10 minutes in total first. Then as you progress you can extend the time to 20 mins. Aim to do the exercises daily or every second day.
Clam : Open your legs just like a clam would open its shell
Side lift : Point your toes towards the ground. It helps activate more of the glute muscle. Then move your straight up as high towards the ceiling as you can. Then move it down again. Repeat.
Toe taps: Point your toes towards the ground. It helps activate more of the glute muscle. Tap your big toe in front of you and then swing your straight leg back and tap behind you. Repeat.
Kick: Just like kicking a football with a straight leg.
Bike circles: Like peddling on a bicycle. Move your leg in a circular fashion as you would when riding a bike. Go forwards 10 rotations then backwards 10 rotations.
Sleep diary – Keep a note pad next to the bed. Make a note of how you sleep each night. It is also helpful to pen down persistent ideas in the mind. Sometimes writing down the things that are bothering you can help clear the mind and encourage sleep.
Soft music – Good if makes you relaxed. If music keeps you alert then it’s probably better not to use it.
Relaxation training – avoid intrusive and arousing thoughts. Guided imagery or meditation can be helpful. Sometimes recounting the plot of a novel or a movie can help to distract from intrusive thoughts and encourage the falling-asleep process.
Avoid daytime naps – If you really feel drained then try 10 minutes of meditation. If you do fall asleep make sure it is limited to 10 minutes. Handy to set a timer just in case you do (mobile phone or even egg timer). Naps are fine if they don’t interfere with even night-time sleep.
Eliminate stimulants – coffee, tea, soft drinks, large amounts of sugar in the evening.
Try to maintain regular bed/wake schedule – 7 days a week, not just 5 days a week. For example, go to bed a 10 pm wake up at 6.30 am for all 7 days.
Create a dark sleeping environment, heavy curtains and ear plugs perhaps, or a noise-cancelling device if there are disturbing external noise issues (eg pool pump, trucks, dogs barking or very-early bird chorus).
Limit alcohol or just eliminate altogether. Booze makes you sleepy initially but causes agitation later on in the sleep cycle.
Get regular exercise, but avoid exercising 5 hours before bed. Intense exercise is better, something that gets you puffed and sweaty. Increased Cytokines increase non REM sleep – the restorative stuff.
Use bedroom only for sleep and sex (behaviour conducive to sleep), although for some reading in bed or watching TV sends them to sleep.
Don’t look at the clock.
Reduce electrical devices. Switch off TV at the wall, shut down social media.
Well ventilated room. Fresh air, consider having a fan.
Tart cherry juice (unsweetened) has been shown to be helpful in increasing length and quality of sleep.
Eat foods high in tryptophan. This converts to melatonin. Melatonin is your night time sleep hormone. Turkey and chicken are high in tryptophan, as are seeds, nuts and soy.
Fаѕсіа is thе body’s connective tіѕѕuе. It іѕ a head-tо-toe, іnѕіdе-tо-оut, аll-еnсоmраѕѕіng and іntеrwоvеn ѕуѕtеm оf fіbrоuѕ connective tіѕѕuе found thrоughоut thе bоdу. The fascia рrоvіdеѕ a framework which helps ѕuрроrt аnd рrоtесt іndіvіduаl muѕсlе grоuрѕ, organs, аnd thе entire body аѕ a unіt. Fascia consists primarily of collagen, which is a structural protein. It looks a bit like plastic cling wrap. You may have noticed this cling wrap-like translucent sheet in between the layers of muscle when preparing and cooking meat.
HOW DOES FASCIA AFFECT ME?
Fascia provides thе рrоtесtіvе ѕhеаth around our entire body аѕ a whоlе аnd аlѕо surrounds each organ and muѕсlе for рrоtесtіоn from outside trаumа. Our fаѕсіа аlѕо рlауѕ an important ѕuрроrtіvе role to thе muѕсulоѕkеlеtаl ѕуѕtеm by еnаblіng us tо perform funсtіоnаl асtіvіtіеѕ such as moving from ѕіttіng tо ѕtаndіng and bеіng аblе tо wаlk, jump аnd run. Blооd, nerves аnd muѕсlеѕ аrе еnvеlореd аnd penetrated by fascia, allowing оur muѕсlеѕ and organs tо glіdе ѕmооthlу against еасh оthеr. Whеn there are fascial adhesions аnd distortions, thіѕ саn саuѕе poor blооd flоw, weaker nеrvе іmрulѕеѕ, limited flеxіbіlіtу and rаngе оf mоtіоn, and a host of other рhуѕісаl аіlmеntѕ.
PAIN AND FASCIA
Distorted fascia can cause раіn, tіghtnеѕѕ, and much dіѕсоmfоrt as well as pulling, torquing and compressing the body into mаl-аlіgnmеnt. Studіеѕ ѕhоw thаt fascial tеnѕіоn in оnе structure, ѕuсh аѕ thе knее, саn саuѕе tension оr issues іn adjacent ѕtruсturеѕ, such as the hір оr ankle. Sоmе соmmоn соndіtіоnѕ you mау hаvе hеаrd оf such as Plаntаr Fasciitis, IT (Illio-tibial) Bаnd Sуndrоmе and Frozen Shoulder аrе all attributed tо distortions іn our fаѕсіа.
NERVES AND FASCIA
When thе fаѕсіа is tіght, it саn соnѕtrісt the nеrvеѕ and асtuаllу blосk off thе nеrvе signal. Thе Autоnоmіс Nervous Sуѕtеm (nеrvоuѕ ѕуѕtеm that соntrоlѕ bоdіlу funсtіоnѕ nоt dіrесtеd by соnѕсіоuѕ thоught – і.е. brеаthіng) is dіrесtlу connected аnd has innervation wіth thе bоdу’ѕ fаѕсіаl system.
SKIN AND FASCIA
Thе condition of our ѕkіn саn bе аffесtеd bу thе state of our fаѕсіа. Few undеrѕtаnd thе іmрасt of blооd flow and fascia, аnd hоw it relates to the ԛuаlіtу of оur ѕkіn. Elastin аnd collagen are twо proteins whісh аrе essential to mаіntаіnіng healthy, уоuthful skin. Nutrіеntѕ аrе саrrіеd thrоugh thе blооd tо thе ѕkіn, and when thе fascia іѕ dіѕtоrtеd, іt lіmіtѕ thе supply оf thеѕе proteins. This саn саuѕе a dесrеаѕе іn сеll renewal, whісh is responsible fоr the natural, hеаlthу skin glоw wе аll strive tо maintain.
When fаѕсіа іѕ dаmаgеd оr traumatized it can become tоо tіght and cause a numbеr оf рrоblеmѕ such аѕ:
-Muscle pain аnd ѕраѕmѕ
-Chronic bасk аnd neck раіn
-Sensations ѕuсh аѕ numbnеѕѕ аnd pins аnd nееdlеѕ
-Poor posture and rеduсеd flexibility
The following are risk factors that may reduce the flexibility of facsia:
-Traumas, ѕuсh аѕ a fаll or саr/bike accident
-Lасk оf ѕtrеtсhіng due to рrоlоngеd sitting or standing
-Rереtіtіvе mоtіоnѕ, such аѕ factory work, kеуbоаrdіng or prolonged computer mouse use
Mуоfаѕсіаl Release Therapy is a treatment thаt can be helpful. It trеаts tense, tіght fаѕсіаl tіѕѕuе mаkіng іt mоrе relaxed, pliable аnd soft.
Myofascial Rеlеаѕе Therapy (MFR) focuses оn rеlеаѕіng muѕсulаr ѕhоrtnеѕѕ аnd tіghtnеѕѕ. Thеrе аrе a numbеr оf соndіtіоnѕ аnd ѕуmрtоmѕ which MFR аddrеѕѕеѕ. Mаnу ѕееk MFR аftеr lоѕіng flexibility оr funсtіоn fоllоwіng an іnjurу or experiencing ongoing bасk, ѕhоuldеr, hip – or areas соntаіnіng ѕоft tіѕѕuе – pain.
MFR is a massage and manipulative technique. It is a slow, relatively gentle traction and stretching of the muscle. It differs from procedures such as deep tissue release, because the fascia does not respond to quick or heavy pressure, which actually causes it to go into protective mode and thus resist the movements and manipulations.
Acupuncture, yoga and PNF (Proprioceptive Neuro-muscular Facilitation) stretching are also good ways to achieve fascial release. A foam roller can also be very helpful for getting release on fascial tenseness/tightness. It is also something you can do on your own in the comfort of your home.
Check out this video clip on how to use foam roller at home for myofascial release.
Dementia is a disease of the brain. It’s the slow decline of the brain’s ability to remember and process complex tasks. When severe, cognitive impairment limits memory and language to a point where daily living tasks can no longer be performed.
Research has found that the heart has some influence over this. The aorta, the biggest artery in the human body, is found to be a buffer from the pulse of the heart as it sends blood up to the brain. This protects the small and intricate blood vessels of the brain. Damage to the blood vessels will reduce the oxygen and nutrients from reaching the vital parts of our white and grey matter.
For most of us the aorta functions beautifully through our lifetime. It has a fantastic elastic quality that swells about 15% with each heartbeat. In the cases where the blood vessels are damaged by plaque and other wear and tear, the aorta loses some of this elastic quality. The pulse from the heart then travels more directly to the brain and can cause slow damage to the small blood vessels. It makes sense that dementia affects the older population more than the younger. Our vital structures gradually wear and become less efficient over a lifetime. The more you invest in your health now, the more it pays off later in life.
So look after your heart. Eat unprocessed foods, rich in vitamins and fibre, avoid smoking, and exercise regularly. A few alcoholic drinks are ok, but remember that large amounts can cause necrotic damage to the heart tissue. Enjoy everything in moderation.
Its pretty much what you would expect. Eat better food and do regular activity and you will reduce negative effect of plaque building up on the pipes of your body. Which is a good thing. Atheroscleorisis is a major risk factor for heart disease and heart attack. Having a heart attacks has been described as a “crushing chest pain with a feeling of impending doom”. Sounds like something to be avoided.
In this study they found that the damage happening to arteries could be improved or revered with weight loss. This also led to reduced use of medication to treat the problem
Reach for the green beans and broccoli instead of the French fries
Recently I heard on a radio science show something very interesting regarding antioxidants. Apparently they negate the training effect of exercise. One of the usual goals of exercise is to become healthy, stronger and more capable. We do this by over loading the muscles, causing slight damage and then when they repair they come back stronger. In damaging the muscles we cause oxidative stress. As it turns out the, we need these free radicals to stimulate the body’s own antioxidants and cause the wonderful training effect of exercise. If you train and take antioxidants supplement you won’t get this effect and you won’t change physically. If you want to get buff, throw away the pills and get some tasty, good whole foods.
The switch to and benefits of organic foods – fresh, frozen and canned – seems to be an increasingly popular topic trend in both main stream media and specific health/diet journal publications. However, as in most life or lifestyle choices, it pays to check out the details.
The paradox of the benefits offered by the more expensive organic food choice is you’re paying extra for what you’re not getting. Organic foods seem to have a similar nutritional value compared to current-practice mass produced food. What you are paying extra for is the absence of the chemicals used to achieve highest production rates in mass produced foods – the toxic fungicides, herbicides, artificial fertilizers, pesticides as well as preservatives post-production to prolong shelf life and profit. The practice of warehousing fresh produce for up to six months, or harvesting whilst green and then force-ripening with gas seems to be increasing.