shoulder pain

What Pain Are You Shouldering?

I often work with clients who report repeated episodes of neck and shoulder pain. Sometimes these symptoms are also accompanied by frequent headaches and TMJ pain. It is not uncommon for these clients to enlist a series of pain medications, anti-inflammatories or muscle relaxers to manage their pain. Perhaps the symptoms may be temporarily minimized, but will this really address the true problem?

In our modern world, many things have improved with innovation. However, much of this innovation has left us assuming improper postural positions for extended periods of time as we commute to and from work, sit behind a desk or computer all day and then collapse on the sofa for hours of TV or perhaps gaming and social media on a hand held tablet. Overtime, your shoulders stay rounded forward and your neck becomes positioned out in front of your body. To even attempt to sit up in proper posture with your head in alignment with your body becomes an uncomfortable feat that is nearly impossible to attain.

Maybe you have read some of my other blog articles and are starting to think, “Why is this women always writing about posture?” I keep writing about it because I keep seeing the long term effects of it in my clients. Poor posture is just the visible part of much deeper issues. Decreased breath capacity and decreased oxygen intake; increased compression on nerves and blood vessels; increased pressure on the TMJ, vertebral joints and shoulder girdle; and adaptive shortening of numerous muscles, tendons, and connective tissues are just a few of the issues that cause underlying mayhem in your body.

For the purpose of this article, I am just going to address the shoulder and some of the problems that occur as a result of rounded posturing. The shoulder girdle is a complex area due to it’s need for stability as well as the need for mobility. Here is a test you can perform right now: Slump your posture forward and allow your back and shoulders to round. Now lift your arms overhead as high as your can. Do you feel tightness, pinching, or an inability to get your arms all the way up? Next, sit up straight with your ear aligned with your shoulder. Now lift your arms again. What feels different? Does it feel easier to lift? Is there less restriction and greater ease of movement? The answer should be yes, and that’s only one reason good posture is so important in regard to the long term impact on our bodies.

Of course our bodies are amazingly resourceful and adaptive, but let me be real here. There is no way around subtle damage occurring in the shoulder joint when you have the posture of rounded shoulders that leads to a skull that is mis-aligned way out  in front of the shoulder. Outside of forceful impact injuries, many shoulder problems are due to improper alignment and mechanics that slowly wreak havoc on the rotator cuff tendons and the tendon of the biceps. Perhaps you or someone you know has had a “bone spur” in their shoulder.

Now a spur is not something that occurs overnight. It is caused by years of inflammation due to faulty posturing and movement patterns. Just like your body forms scar tissue due to the inflammation response at a wound site, the inner body can do the same thing with repeated micro-wounds to the joints. As the fibrous tissues continue to lay down layer after layer, a bone-like protuberance forms and thereby creates a situation where the surrounding tissues such as muscles, tendons and cartilage are now subjected to greater friction and subtle trauma with every movement.

Overtime, the tendons weaken and when presented with a sudden movement or unexpected load on the joint, may possibly tear. Maybe you have heard the term, “torn rotator cuff”. Once this happens, the joint has now lost some important stability. Since the body tries its best to adapt and survive any circumstance, other muscles begin to accommodate and work outside their intended purpose to support the shoulder since the shoulder is the stabilizing joint that places our hand anywhere in space for the purpose to eat, work or perform hygiene tasks to name just a few. Pain often begins to spread to the neck, shoulder blade and down into the arm as more and more accommodation takes place. Now these other areas are being submitted to inflammation and subtle trauma. Soon the low back and hand get into the picture, and on and on the snowball grows.

So now that you know some of the shoulder problems that can stem from rounded posturing, what are 3 simple things you can do to improve your posture and prevent injury and chronic pain in your shoulder?

  • Take breaks periodically at work to sit up at the edge of your chair aligning the ear, shoulder and hip in a straight line. Take slow, deep belly breaths while maintaining this position for one minute.
  • Squeeze the shoulder blades together and clasp your hands behind your back. Breathe deeply, expanding through the chest for 30-60 seconds while squeezing the blades.
  • Squeeze your shoulder blades down toward your back pockets prior to and during any overhead arm lifting. This helps to better position the bone in the socket, so to speak, and to minimize unnecessary stress on the soft tissues of the joint.

The old adage that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure is very true when it comes to shoulder pain. If you have questions or comments, please feel free to contact me or write in below. I am always happy to help you learn tools for better health and wellness that work.

Traci Vincent

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6 Steps to Increase Energy and Lose Weight

wightlossarticlePractically everyday there is a new fad diet or weight loss system being promoted on TV, radio and the internet. Many celebrities endorse products and programs, and it becomes very tempting to invest in yet another program in hopes of losing those extra pounds and finding energy and vitality again. Billions of dollars are spent by many who are desperate to find results. Unfortunately, people eat for many reasons other than hunger and survival. Sadness, boredom, anger, frustration, loneliness and anxiety are at the top of the list. In addition, modern living has left so many people living more frantic, yet more sedentary lifestyles full of commuting, desk jobs, and watching or using electronics like cell phones TV, video games, and the internet for several hours a day. Although the reasons can be complex, just these two mentioned here can play a significant role in weight gain and low energy for all of us.

Here are 6 steps that anyone can use to begin to unlock energy and shed unwanted pounds right away.

  1. Eliminate starchy foods from your diet immediately. Yes, that means bread, french fries, chips, crackers, white rice, potatoes, and corn just to name a few. In addition, if you find yourself binging on snack foods regularly, ask yourself why you are seeking these foods? Is it more of a stress reducer or emotional numbing agent? Pick plant-based foods rich in vital nutrients instead if you just have to snack on something.
  2. Consume a lean protein and vegetable at each meal. This could look like eggs and spinach, turkey avocado lettuce wraps, or perhaps tofu or salmon and vegetables for a couple of examples. This combination of protein and vegetables ignites your metabolic fire, thereby creating an internal environment ideal for weight loss.
  3. Drink more water each day. Quite often we are more dehydrated than hungry. When you get the urge to snack, drink a cup of water and wait 10-15 minutes and it’s likely that hunger feeling will subside. A well-hydrated body functions better in so many ways related to circulation, joint movement and overall cell health.
  4. Sleep 6-8 hours per day. Your body does its best repair work when you are sleeping. Lack of sleep minimizes the extent of this important function and commonly leaves the body harboring excess toxins, tension and stress hormones as well. And yes, you guessed it, all of these prevent you from losing weight and also keep you stuck in the cycle of needing caffeinated drinks or sugary foods for a boost of energy during the day.
  5. Breathe deeply. Speaking of stress, slow controlled breathing or deep breaths where the belly rises, are extremely important for reducing stress and tension and increasing energy. Place your hand at your navel and inhale. Feel the belly expand. Pause, then exhale completely drawing in the navel toward the spine. This technique is also handy when you feel the urge to eat unhealthy starchy snack foods. Utilizing this technique gives you a moment to observe what feelings are coming up that are prompting this sabotaging urge to eat something that will derail your weight loss goals. Through improving awareness, poor habits and behaviors can begin to be changed.
  6. Add interval training to your exercise program. This means adding short bursts of high intensity exercise in the midst of your program. An example might be incorporating 30 seconds of sprints or jumping jacks every 2-3 minutes when you are out walking or jogging in your neighborhood. If you are at the gym, one example would be to increase the resistance on the stationary bike for 30-60 seconds every few minutes. Interval training challenges your body and ramps up your heart rate and metabolism. You will see much better results versus just setting the cardio machine at a certain speed and going through the motions for hours on end.

By following these guidelines, you will begin to see improvements in your energy level and notice that your weight and waistline will soon be decreasing. As with any worthwhile goal, enlist a friend or partner to help you stay accountable. There will be moments when you need encouragement beyond what you can give yourself. Contact me if you have any questions or concerns. I’ll be happy to assist you on your journey to better health and wellness.

Traci Vincent, PT, RYT

 

 

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Pain Free While Working at Your Laptop

using laptopWith today’s technology, it seems like more and more of us find ourselves working on a laptop or tablet while seated at a desk for long hours, or for you trendy-types, perhaps at your local coffee place or even from your sofa. As your work stations become less predictable or adaptable to your specific body, how do you keep yourself from falling victim to those nagging aches and pains in the neck, shoulder and back that are all too common when using a laptop or tablet?

Here are a few important tips to remember…

1. Use a wireless keyboard and set your laptop on a 3 inch binder or stack of books to get the height of the screen up to a more appropriate eye level. Most people tend to let their head and neck gravitate forward when using a laptop or tablet since the screen is well below eye level.

2. Take short pauses and breaks every 30 minutes to look at something in the distance to give your eyes a rest. Get up and walk around briefly. Change tasks momentarily.

3. Sit at the edge of the seat, clasp palms together behind your back and expand your chest up and open; breathing deeply. If you are unable to clasp your palms, reach for the back of the chair and hold for 30 seconds.

4. Rotate your upper body to the side clasping the chair that you are sitting in. Hold 30 seconds and breathe deeply. Maker sure weight stays distributed equally in your buttocks. Repeat on the other side. This wrings out toxins and stale energy in the internal organs in addition to unwinding tightness in the neck and back. Notice the increase in circulation following this stretch.

5. Be mindful that your ears, shoulders, and hips are aligned vertically. Keeping an upright posture allows you to breathe easier and is less fatiguing to the postural muscles of the spine. Remember, oxygen is the gas that fuels your cells. The more fresh oxygen you consistently supply your body with, the better. You will feel less fatigued also.

Even though these reminders may sound familiar, each of us need to hear these things repeatedly. Our bodies are amazing and are able to reach improved work output performance when using a laptop merely by using simple adjustments and movements.

Well, I need to go follow my own advice…time for me to do some stretches and walk around. Peace and joy to you!

 

 

 

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Kicking That Knee Pain

Knee pain - runner injurySometimes knee pain can happen as a result of impact trauma, but often it seems to occur simply after routine activities and workouts for no significantt reason. You might even notice swelling, tenderness, pain and difficulty with balancing or stabilizing on that leg.  Many people begin to focus on the thought that something is wrong inside their knee since that is where they feel the pain. However, this can delay the resolution of the pain because many times, the problem is a result of an unidentified dysfunction elsewhere in the leg or hip.  Dysfunction in the hip can lead to improper loading of the joints in the leg with every step you take. Dysfunction in the foot changes the force load that travels up your leg each time your foot strikes the ground.

Observe people around you today as they are walking. Do you see anyone who’s knee angles inward like the letter “L” as they step on that leg? They may even report knee discomfort and limitation intermittently, but the problem likely did not begin in the knee. The body is an amazing interconnection of tissues that support and stabilize our skeletal structure. Many of these muscles partner together to optimize everyday movements like walking, running or climbing stairs. For example, the posterior tibialis, vastus medialis oblique and the gluteus medius muscles partner dynamically to create stable alignment from the foot to the hip. Because of our often sedentary lifestyle due to long commutes, desk jobs, computer usage and hours spent watching TV, our bodies begin to weaken and de-condition. Frequently the hip flexors (muscles in the front of the hip) become tight as a result of all this sitting and the gluteals (muscles in the side of the hip and buttocks) steadily weaken. This imbalance changes the dynamic function of the hip when walking or running.  Over time, these abnormal forces effect the knee. Hence, the mysterious knee pain that shows up after exercise.

Perhaps when you are standing, you may notice that one foot has a lower arch than the other and that your feet are sore after prolonged walking or exercise. The same principle applies as mentioned earlier. Weakness or tightness in the foot and ankle can impact the alignment and how the forces travel up into the leg. Again the knee joint gets bombarded by abnormal forces coming up from the foot and ankle. Knee pain is frequently the result especially with repetitive use.

Traditionally, when you go to a medical clinic reporting knee pain, x-rays and possibly other tests will be done on the knee. Typically, no one will assess you in a standing position or address your hip or foot and ankle. All the focus will be on the knee since that is where you have pain. You may be prescribed medication for pain and inflammation. As you begin to take the medication, you might even start to feel better temporarily. If this basic treatment does not relieve your knee pain long term, you may find yourself contemplating injections or even knee surgery. Sadly though, the attention will likely remain focused on your symptoms and not neccessarily on the underlying problem.

If this scenario sounds familiar, ask to have a posture and gait analysis done before any decisions are made about surgery. You will be amazed at the reduction in knee pain and the improvement in function that you can have by simply addressing dynamic positioning and stabilization in the foot and hip with proper instruction from a qualified physical therapist or advanced exercise therapist. Their expertise can definitely assist you in kicking that knee pain.

If you have questions, feel free to comment below or contact me for an assessment.

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Yoga Wellness

iStock_000019230860XSmallIn most cities, yoga classes and yoga studios are something you see almost daily. Forty years ago, people who practiced yoga were typically outside the mainstream. Today, things have certainly changed and yoga is no longer in the fringes, but rather a valuable tool in the pursuit of wellness.

What is it about yoga that is so beneficial? Well the list is long, but I will give you a few of the primary benefits…

  • Yoga emphasizes diaphragmatic breathing and other therapeutic breathing techniques. Regardless if you are doing yoga poses or not, by connecting with your breath, you are practicing yoga. Diaphragmatic breathing results in greater oxygen intake, thus supplying each cell with much needed fuel for proper function. As you inhale, feel your belly rise. As you exhale, contract the abdominals to press the naval towards the spine.
  • Yoga poses facilitate lengthening in myofascial restrictions and connective tissues that link the limbs and the spine. Poses such as Reverse Warrior, Triangle, Pyramid and Bow, just to name a few, elongate through side, front and back restrictions. As restrictions are freed, posture, blood flow, and nerve conduction are improved. Pain, if present is reduced.
  • Yoga promotes dynamic strengthening. Yoga emphasizes core strength and stability as the upper and lower body moves. Many poses are performed engaging the root lock through the pelvic floor region. Poses incorporate the entire body, thus improving strength in the spine and limbs. Our bodies are meant for movement and yoga offers a great format to move mindfully and safely.
  • Yoga aids healthy digestion and detoxification of internal organs. Twisting poses like twisting chair, twisting lunge, revolved triangle, eagle, and spinal twist are just a few examples of rotational movements that squeeze and release the intestines, lymph system and other internal organs to stimulate digestive movement and detoxification.
  • Yoga incorporates balance poses. As we grow older,  injuries more often result from loss of balance. Frequently challenging our balance stimulates proprioception and healthy communication between the brain, nerves and muscles.
  • Yoga practice bolsters mental focus and also the ability to let go of barriers in our minds and bodies. Through the use of mindfulness, breathing techniques, restorative poses and attention to proper structural alignment during the practice, our mind and body begins to move and open in ways often unexpected by someone new to yoga. This ability to remain calm during poses that many initially feel uncomfortable translates to many life situations off the yoga mat where it is important to stay calm and focused during difficult or challenging circumstances.
  • Yoga encourages relaxation and release of stress. At the end of yoga practice, there is a time called final relaxation. It is the counter pose of all the earlier active movements and poses. It is a gift to give your mind and body the opportunity to simply unwind and be still for a few minutes in our hectic pace of life.

Of course there are many more benefits to improving your health and wellness by practicing yoga on a regular basis. If you are a beginner, set your ego aside and make sure you take a level 1 or beginner class to get a better understanding of the poses and proper alignment in order to avoid injury or frustration. It is important to remember that yoga is about honoring your body where you are in the present moment and not about letting your mind insist on competition, judgement or expectations. I’ve been in classes where the instructor was teaching very advanced poses with several first-timers in the class. This leaves new students often frustrated, defeated and sadly, with a possible chance for pain or injury. Make sure you ask what type of class you are entering beforehand. Yoga is a practice, not a perfection.

I encourage you to give yoga a try. Your mind and body will thank you. If you have any questions or comments, please don’t hesitate to reply.

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3 Basics for Core Stabilization

double-crunches-abs-anatomy-manCore stabilization is an important concept to understand when thinking about your health and fitness routine. Quite frequently, people assume that “working the core” means doing more sit-ups for abdominal strengthening. This is actually not the case at all. By only emphasizing the rectus abdominus and hip flexors, you are actually causing a destabilization or imbalance of your core. Core strengthening is crucial for proper posture and also for power during heavy work or athletic activities.

Because most of us sit the majority of the time commuting to work, sitting behind a desk all day and sitting on the couch to watch out favorite shows, the hip flexors are typically very tight to begin with. When you do full sit-ups in your exercise routine, the hip flexors engage when lifting your upper body beyond the shoulder blades, off the floor. This creates a situation of strengthening a muscle that is already tight. As the hip flexor tightness increases, the pelvic alignment changes and thereby increasing pressure in the low back. You can see why and how destabilization and imbalance can occur.

Core strength is about strengthening all of the abdominal muscles, the obliques, the gluteals, the spinal extensors and deep rotators. It is creating balanced strength in the front, sides and back. So what are some other ways to strengthen the core besides just those traditional sit-ups? Here are three basic exercises that work the core safely and effectively:

Plank– There are a few type of planks that are very effective at building core strength: Kneeling plank, forearm plank and full plank. Remember to keep the spine in neutral alignment and not let the belly sag. Fingers should be spread wide and gluteals engaged. Keep breathing and hold as long as you can in maintain proper form or 10-60 seconds.

Superman-While lying on the floor, engage the abdominal muscles first, squeeze the gluteals and lift the arms, feet or a combonation of the two off the floor. Keep contracting the abs to protect the spine while your back goes into extension. Keep breathing and hold as long as you can without pain or 10-30 seconds. Return to lying flat on the floor to rest then sit back into a child’s pose where your buttocks moves towards your heels. This flexes the spine to balance out the extension.

Triangle-Standing with feet wider than your shoulders, turn left foot facing out. Extend arms to a “T” position. Hinge to the left from the hips, lengthen through your spine and let you arms go to the 6 and 12 o’clock positions. Squeeze the right gluteals to keep the upper and lower body in alignment and not rotated toward the floor. Keep lengthening through the spine to avoid collapsing your weight unto your shin. Continue breathing and hold as long as you can painfree and in proper form or 10-30 seconds. Repeat on the other side.

Of course there are many exercises tor core strengthening, but knowing the basics is important. If you have questions about these exercises, feel free to contact me. Your health and wellness is my passion and priority.

 

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