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Hi, I'm Alexandra Ellis, an anatomy loving body-nerd who enjoys breaking down complicated body concepts to help you maximize your performance for pain-free living.
Read my entire story here.
Did you know that approximately 80% of Americans experience at least one episode of back pain during their lifetime? It’s one of the leading causes for missed days of work, school and decreased productivity. The traditional treatment route includes ice, heat and pain killers, but what if you could alleviate the pain in the comfort of your own living room?
Even the medical staff at the UCLA health center is beginning to consider alternative treatments to help save patients time, money and keep the appointments books of the spine specialists clear for cases that really need it. They found that 70% – 90% of patients with back pain improve with seven weeks of conservative treatment (ice, heat, position that relieve the pain, etc).
Expensive scans and MRIs can sometimes complicate the issue, as they can reveal structural issues that are unrelated to the current pain and a prescription for painkillers can lead to a downward spiral of opioid abuse (and major constipation, but nobody talks about that).
I too have suffered from back pain – I did what so many of us do and slapped some ice on it and ignored it for as long as I could. But my back pain would not subside and transformed into sciatica. This led me to Physical Therapy and eventually to where I currently am with my interests, but I honestly wish I knew then what I know now.
So if you currently are or have ever suffered from back pain, give these three things a try to see if they offer any relief.
- Practice belly breathing. Back pain can cause (and is often caused) by tension in and around the abdominal muscles. If there’s been an injury to the low back, it is very common to see an increase in tension in all of the surrounding muscles. Deep breathing, specifically into the abdomen, can help to reduce stress which can lead to global relaxation of the body’s tissues. The act of breathing also physically stretches the myofascias of the abdomen, which can also help to decrease back pain.
- Stretch. If you have back pain, chances are the surrounding areas are filled with tension. Long held stretches help to relax the fascias of the muscles, as well as relax your nervous system (are you sensing a pattern here?). Muscles to target are the hamstrings, inner thighs, quadriceps and hips. Here’s one of my favorite ways to stretch glutes, hamstrings, hips and low back at the same time! Note: You can do this same stretch without a Coregeous ball.
- Abdominal massage. I hope by this point, you see the pattern of stress relief, belly breathing and stretch to help alleviate back pain. Abdominal massage with a soft inflated ball will help with all three! My favorite is the Coregeous ball because it’s grippy skin helps fast track relaxation, but is pliable enough to give under the weight of my body. If you are having trouble figuring out if or how to breathe into your abdomen, this tool will teach you how. It also helps to stretch the muscles of the abdomen, all of which are related to breathing and back pain. To start, grab a soft, inflated ball, place it on your bellybutton and lay face down. Begin breathing into the ball, trying to breathe as deeply as possible. If it is too intense, try to contract and relax your abdominal muscles, holding the activation for 8-10 seconds.
Hopefully, you find some swift at home relief with these three techniques. If not, as always, call in the big guns and be sure to get checked out by a healthcare professional.
Do you suffer from back pain? What is your go-to stretch or technique for relief?
Resources: UCLA Health Vital Signs, http://vitalsigns.uclahealth.org/winter2017/files/8.html
- March 24-26: YTU Integrated Embodied Anatomy (San Francisco, CA)
- April 22: Bulletproof Shoulders (Santa Monica, CA)
- April 29 – 30: Roll Model Weekend (Tampa, Florida)
- May 5-6: YTU Hips Immersion (San Juan Capistrano, CA)
If you find yourself in an anxious and panicked state throughout your day, you are not alone. In fact, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, anxiety disorders affect 18.1 percent of adults in the United States (approximately 40 million adults between the ages of 18 to 54). Even without a clinical disorder, stress affects us all and can be difficult to manage.
Now, you may be thinking that your day to day isn’t too stressful, but that’s probably because you’ve become accustomed to it. But I can promise you that your nervous system has not evolved to put up with the constant barrage of demands and notifications that flood your system on a daily basis. Our sympathetic nervous system (commonly referred to as the “fight or flight” portion) was designed to flood your system with hormones and chemicals to help you avoid becoming a cheetah’s dinner. What it was not designed to do was stay on high alert 24/7/365. read more…
I am going to bust two myths today: 1) that teachers never get injured and 2) that there is a magical place where everything is perfect and there is no work to be done. Neither one of those is true.
I’ve been dealing with pain for a few months now. Like many people, I brushed it off, thinking it was just overtraining and would go away. But it didn’t – it progressed instead.
I don’t recall a specific moment that the pain started but I remember that at some point, I felt cramping and pain behind my knee when I flexed it past 90˚ and that the spasm was so intense, I was not able to fully extend my knee and walk when I stood up. So I worked around it – made sure that I did not sit with my knee flexed too far and moved slowly when I stood up. I did what I’m sure we’ve all done at some point – worked around the problem instead of dealing with it head-on. read more…
There is an all out competition for your attention at any given moment of every single day. As you’re reading this article, you might also be listening to music, someone might be calling your name, or there’s some attention-grabbing event happening in your environment. Our focus and attention are precious and yet far too often, we approach tasks or activities only partially in the game.
Practicing mindfulness has benefits that extend beyond the singular moment, things like improved focus, less stress, better memory, and less emotional reactivity, to name a few. Being mindful while you do anything is not as hard as it seems is follow these few simple ideas:
Pay attention. You can’t be mindful if you are multitasking. Mindfulness requires full attention to the task at hand. That means turning off your notifications, putting your phone on silent, perhaps even closing your eyes, depending on your attention skills and your external environment.
Watch yourself breathe. Whatever the task is, paying attention to your breath will fast track the process of tuning in. If you pay attention in your workout, you’ll be more mindful of your movements. If you tune in to how you’re breathing while you are drafting a very uncomfortable email, you’ll probably be more sensitive to the words you are actually putting on paper. Simply watching the breath for few moments will help you be mindful no matter the task.
Notice your surroundings. Paying attention is not just an internal activity – pay attention to what’s happening outside your body too. This includes the sunshine on your skin if you’re outside. Or the movement of air through the room and how that feels across your bare skin. Can you feel the breath moving in and out of your nose across your upper lip? Can you feel your skin sliding underneath your shirt as you beathe in and out? Notice how your external body is interacting with the environment and it will help you to be more mindful in the moment.
Know that mindfulness is not just limited to the gym or your yoga mat – try being mindful the next time you’re in line at the grocery store, sitting at a stop light, going through security at the airport, or on a walk with your dog or family. There are so many opportunities to be mindful which will help to train your brain to focus on one task at a time. Focus and attention are a skill that needs to be practiced, so why not practice it throughout your day?
What activity will you practice mindfulness with today? Give it a try and see how you can be more mindful in all of your activities and let me know how it goes in the comments below!
- What are the benefits of mindfulness: http://www.apa.org/monitor/2012/07-08/ce-corner.aspx
- February 3-5: YTU Integrated Embodied Anatomy Training (Poulsbo, WA)
- February 10: Friday Night Roll + Relax (Glendale, CA)
- February 13 – March 20: Structurally Sound Small Group Series (Burbank, CA) space is limited!
- February 24-26: YTU Shoulders Immersion (Cleveland, OH)
I am a huge fan of barefoot/zero drop shoes for restoring and maintaining the health of the feet and body. But just like you wouldn’t take your 95-year-old bedridden grandmother on a hike up to the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro immediately upon getting cleared for light exercise, you shouldn’t rush into barefoot shoes with some preparation.
Barefoot style shoes help your foot maintain it’s natural ability without restricting movement. Yes, it feels like you’re barefoot and no, you don’t really need arch supports (read more in my article Flab Feet, Not Flat Feet are the Issue). Shoes that restrict motion or support arches will increase the pressure into any of the joints above the foot (i.e. ankles, knees, hips and low back to name a few).
If you run out right now in a pair of barefoot shoes, you run the risk of injury, as your foot is not strong enough to support the entirety of your body’s weight. That’s not because the foot will never be able to do it, but because you probably haven’t been prancing around barefoot in 20+ years. read more…