Chronic Pain, Wellness

FYI: Myofascial Cupping 101

Myofascial cupping is a therapeutic technique derived from ancient chinese therapeutics used thousands of years ago.

It also resembles someone post octopus attack, and has been spotted (no pun intended) on many high level athletes. Similarly to how Kinesiotape (we’ll discuss this next time!) became mainstream after it was seen on a few olympic athletes, cupping has become increasingly popular in the therapeutics realm.

How does it work?

Cupping works in a “negative pressure” style. When we think of most therapeutic treatments or modalities, the goal is generally to increase (or decrease) circulation, change tissue temperature, use friction, pressure, or tissue movement to do the first two things, realign soft tissues, and change the nervous system’s perception of an area. One of the most common modalities, massage, works in a positive pressure style. That being, the practitioner is applying pressure to the area to increase circulation, temperature, create soft tissue change and affect the brain’s perception of the area.

In cupping, cups are applied with suction to draw the layers of tissue apart, allowing circulation to rise from the bottom up through the different layers of tissues (think muscle, lymphatic vessels, facial tissue and connective tissues). The suction helps to create heat, and is a modality that has been shown to be effective in releasing fascial and tissue tightness, scar tissue, and increasing lymphatic drainage.

As a practitioner, I find that myofasical cupping will get deeper than my hands can when it comes to releasing certain types of tissue trauma and tightness. I use cupping to assist in the treatment of arthritis, all sorts of soft tissue injuries, back pain, and chronic injuries (that broken rib you had years ago that still bugs you, or that ankle that just doesn’t move right, or the knee that you tore a ligament in years ago and still have issues with). I also have body builder clients who love cupping as it relaxes the fascial binding around muscle groups, which allow their muscles to “pop” more. Of course, like all modalities, it comes with some risk. Those with vericose veins should avoid cupping directly over the area, and it should be used with caution (and by an experienced professional) with individuals dealing with an acute stage injury, spinal injuries, and those with hypermobility disorders.

In the clinic I find it extremely beneficial with clients working with arthritic joints. Knees and shoulders specifically seem to respond very well to the addition of myofascial cupping to their rehab plan, and many with back pain often find it helps to calm down the acute levels of pain. Myofascial Cupping can also be used to stimulate acupressure points for a more holistic style of treatment, if the practitioners is trained in the meridians of the body. I have seen it used to treat digestion troubles, menstrual cramping/pain (which is not normal!!!), stress and anxiety, and insomnia. More often then not, the structural release will also help with some of these conditions- as the body is all one big dynamic system. It is important to take a big picture approach when treating any condition, physical or otherwise.

As with any modality- it is a tool to be used in the process of returning someone to being able to move without pain- and a stepping stone on the pain to rehabilitative and preventative movement and lifestyle practices. It should not be used as a bandaid or a quick fix for pain/dysfunction.

Clients are often put off by the circular bruise like marks cupping leaves, but majority of the time those marks are not painful nor are they technically bruises. Rather they are titled “ecchymosis”, which is basically the technical term for a hickey. Another common misconception is that cupping breaks blood vessels. Cupping does not break blood vessels, in most cases, the marks are left because the circulation is drawn to the surface underneath the circular cup. Rarely are vessels actually damaged or broken. If we look at the ancient chinese style of cupping, some pracitioners still provide “wet cupping” which involves blood letting, as well as hot cupping or fire cupping- in which the practitioner creates suction by heating hte cup with a flame before it is applied. Majority of soft tissue practitioners will use a suction gun to suck the air out of the cup, and wet cupping and fire cupping aren’t as common.

Cupping is an effective modality for a variety of conditions, and from someone in the industry I can tell you that it is worth the hickeys. As always, cupping isn’t a one stop fix. All treatments or modalities should be accompanied by a preventative exercise and wellness program. Before attempting cupping, check in with the practitioner about the risks and where they took their certification.

Athletic Therapy, Biomechanics, Chronic Pain, Free Workouts, Posture, Wellness

Knee pain: It’s not complicated (usually)

After seeing an older woman in the clinic the other day a few weeks into her post-knee replacement rehabilitation- her daughter approached me stating she knew she was headed in the same direction as here mom (aka, was already having knee and hip pain in her life) and wanted to know if there was anything she could do to prevent the process.. or if it was just inherent that she too would eventually have to replace a joint or two.

If there is one thing I want to get across to people it’s that nothing to do with our health is guaranteed.

What I mean by that is.. just because you have a family history of something does not mean it can’t be prevented or course corrected. ESPECIALLY when it comes to our movement health!

When it comes to the knees.. generally the actual problem is coming from the hips and/or feet. I refer to the knee as a bridge joint. It is designed to improve efficiency of transit, absorb and transfer force. If the lines of force get messed with (aka you lack stability in the joints above and below), then the efficiency of that joint and it’s movement go right out the window. Stress builds up and that leads to warning signs (pain), inflammation, stiffening, and of course eventually degeneration of the structures within the joint. This can present via tendonopathies, osteoarthritis, runner’s knee/jumper’s knee (both tendonopathies), patellofemoral syndrome or patellar chondromalacia, and even increase your risk of ACL/MCL and meniscal injuries.

Barring external trauma (but yes postural dysfunction can even contribute to the risk of this), pain and issues in the knee generally are coming from above or below.

This is why I always recommend those passionate about running or other repetitive movement based activities get their gait screened by a professional. Catching dysfunction early and prescribing appropriate corrective movements is key in preventing problems down the chain.

Here are 4 “simple” exercises I prescribe routinely to clients experiencing knee/hip/back pain or rehabbing a joint replacement.

1. Clamshells.

You’ve probably seen these before. Designed to activate the lateral stabilizers in the hip, you should feel the burn on the top side of your hip as that is where the activation should come from. Laying on your side with knees bent to approx. 90deg, hips and ankles stacked- clamshell the knee open lifting from the hip. Do not let your hips fall backwards, they should remain stacked and level throughout the movement. Hold the clam at the top range of motion (wherever you can raise to without your hip sliding back!) for 10seconds, slowly return back to the start position.

Repeat 3 sets of 10-15 routinely in your day. The more you activate the muscles properly, the more the brain makes it automatic.

2. Gait Activation

Laying on your stomach, tuck your chin to lift your head (nose should remain pointed down to the ground!), and squeeze your butt cheeks together. Holding and maintaining this position, press opposite arm and leg to the ground while lifting the other opposite limbs off the floor. Hold for 4seconds, switch and repeat process.

This activates Deep postural muscles and connects the brain to a proper gait transfer pattern. It also cues butt activation and neck stabilizers.

Repeat 3-5round of 20 a day.

3. Single Leg Bridging

If you struggle with regular bridging, this is a advanced progression- so work towards it with holds before movements. Glute activation is key here!

Finding your bridge, lift one leg off the ground maintaining your glute activation. Lower the pelvis down half way and then push back up to full bridge on the one leg. Your hips should be the pivot point, not your low back! Core should remain strong, and glutes should be the main push to full hip extension. Drive up through the supporting heel to help engage the back half of the body/butt.

Repeat 6-10/leg for 3 – 5 rounds.

4. Side Bridges

Classic hip hinging activation exercise. All these movements also double as releases for the front of the hip (tight hip flexors anyone??).

On your side, supported by your elbow, shoulder, and core activation, pivoting from the knees- use glutes to actively push hips up and forward through a hinge motion. Hold at the top for 5-10seconds, then sit back and down through the hip hinge.

Common mistakes here: slouching into the shoulder (push UP through the ground/elbow and squeeze shoulder blades together), lack of core activation/bracing allowing for the spine to hinge instead of the hips (think of a squat motion at the hips!), lifting up THEN forwards.. try and make this simultaneous, as if your hips are moving up and down a ramp.

Repeat 6-12x for rounds of 3-5. Great used as a warm-up to other activities.

You would also do well to add in some foot exercises! @thefootcollective on instagram is one of my fav resources- but you can also refer to our existing post about old person feet here!

Struggling to figure these out? We offer complimentary movement assessments and consults to new clients. Prevention and rehab programs for all sorts of clients are available. Have questions? Leave a comment or find us directly at katmahtraining@gmail.com. We’re always happy to help you get your movement right!

Have fun kids!

Athletic Therapy, Biomechanics, Chronic Pain, Conditioning, Equestrian, Free Workouts, Motor Learning, strength training, Weight Loss, Wellness

At your age…

Here’s a fun tidbit I hear OFTEN second hand from clients after their friends/family/peers find out what their training and therapy plans consist of…

“At your age, should you really be lifting weights?”

“Isn’t weight training dangerous for your joints? Does that really help you feel better?”

“Aren’t you worried about getting injured again?”

“I heard that weight training is bad for you- doesn’t it cause arthritis”

First off.. I’m honestly not sure where people are finding that last bit of information from, at this point in our history. Secondly I’m also endlessly grateful that I’ve stopped frequently hearing that weight training will make women bulky- at last that myth has been put out of it’s misery. Third off- weight training is highly effective for arthritis rehabilitation and management- WHEN IT IS DONE CORRECTLY. The only time it’s going to cause arthritis is if you don’t do it in good form. This is why having the guidance of a trained professional is imperative when starting any new program. At the very least get a movement assessment and see where you need to work!

Would I tell someone of ANY age to just go and start lifting weights (no matter how much)? NOPE.

Do I prescribe and coach programs for ALL ages (yes, all the way up to 90-somethings- seriously) that involve various amounts of loaded movements, functional movements, dynamic movements, and stability training? You bet I do!

Here’s the neat things about the body.. it works on an adaptation based system. Which means- invariably- to IMPROVE our systems we have to STRESS our systems.

Here’s the feedback I get from my dedicated clients:

“I don’t wake up at 3am anymore with back pain”

“I sleep through the night and don’t wake up stiff in the mornings anymore”

“I don’t get tired during the day”

“My joints aren’t bugging me as much since I started training”

“I’m making healthier choices elsewhere in my life since starting this training routine.”

“I FEEL GOOD”

When we apply GOOD, healthy stress to our system- things change for the better. We also develop a higher tolerance for negative stressors, which means we function just overall more kick ass.

It no longer new information that the mind and the body are one coordinating unit.

Exercise, movement- of any kind- is the BEST and most EFFECTIVE medicine. The stats support it. Check these out.

According to the Conference Board of Canada, if we were to decrease the number of inactive Canadians by even 10%, we’d see a 30% reduction in all-cause mortality and major savings in health care. It is in fact estimated that more than $2.4 billion, or 3.7 per cent of all healthcare costs, were attributed to the direct cost of treating illness and disease due to physical inactivity1. The financial impact of poor health amounts to a loss of more than $4.3 billion to the Canadian economy, and the negative repercussions of inactivity cost the healthcare system $89 billion per year in Canada2. According to several studies, properly structured and supported exercise program, designed and delivered by a kinesiologist can, among other benefits:

  • Reduce the risk of high blood pressure and heart disease by 40%;
  • Reduce the incidence of type 2 diabetes by 50% and be twice as effective as standard insulin in treating the condition;
  • Help the function of muscles for people affected by Parkinson’s disease and Multiple Sclerosis;
  • Decrease depression as effectively as pharmacological or behavioural therapy;5
  • Reduce the risk of stroke by 27%;
  • Reduce the risk of colon cancer by 60%;
  • Reduce mortality and risk of recurrent cancer by 50%;

(Based on year 2009. Jansen et al., 2012 2 Based on year 2013. 3 Cardiorespiratory fitness is an independent predictor of hypertension incidence among initially normotensive healthy women.
Barlow CE et al. Am J Epidemiol 2006; 163:142-50. 4 Reduction in the incidence of type 2 diabetes with lifestyle intervention or metformin. DPP Research Group. New England Journal of Medicine 2002; 346:393-403. 5 Exercise treatment for depression: efficacy and dose response.
Dunn A et al. American Journal of Preventive Medicine 2005. 6 Physical activity and colon cancer: confounding or interaction? Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise:
June 2002 – Volume 34 – Issue 6 – pp 913-919)

Weight training- when done intelligently for each individual- is just as effective as other types of exercise in improving health. It has it’s own set of extra benefits and of course risk factors. Just like that Tylenol you like to pop for your back pain.

There is no one way to utilize the benefits of movement. Some people to pick things up and put them down.. others like to yoga.. some like to do step classes, and others just like to go for regular walks and stretch. IT’S ALL GOOD.

The biggest emphasis I am trying to make is that adding weight to your routine when you’re doing it correctly for YOUR SYSTEM (this is where the help of a trained professional often comes in), you’re looking at more resilience throughout your body and mind.

Don’t knock it til you try it 😉

(With the correct prescription and educated advice, of course!)

Athletic Therapy, Biomechanics, Chronic Pain, Conditioning, Equestrian, Motor Learning, Posture, Weight Loss, Wellness

If it ain’t broke.. The right way to move

Is there a correct way to move?

This is a question that has plagued therapists, trainers, and clients since the age of time.

Actually.. probably not that long.

The evolution of health and movement is one to be admired- in that, we’ve gone from quadruped beings, to walking, running, bipedal masterpieces, to what we are now.

We’re at an interesting point in movement science. We’ve somewhat regressed in our movement ability. While yes, we are still bipedal, upright beings- we no longer spend much of our time moving around in a variety of ways.

Now we move from point a-b-c-d in condensed timeframes, spending majority of our time between 3 positions (or variations of..): standing, seated, and laying down.

The author of Sapiens, Yuval Noah Harari, points out that the Agricultural and Industrial Revolutions not only may have ended our movement ability, but also may have birthed the beginnings of the various chronic illnesses and pain that affects us today.

Modern Day practitioners have been preaching alignment for decades already, and certainly our posture and ability to move has a huge impact on our overall wellbeing.. but is there such a thing as the “perfect” posture or alignment? Is there one optimal way to move?

The truth is yes, but also.. no.

There is certainly a most efficient way to move- in that, we will put minimal stressors on our structure and expend the least amount of energy to create that movement. There is a general textbook answer to this optimal alignment.

As an aside- it’s common to hear practitioners saying that one of your legs is longer then the other, or your pelvis is out of alignment.. when often the truth is some asymmetries are NORMAL to a certain degree.

We all have one shoulder that will be slightly depressed based on our hand dominance. We all have slight differences in how our rib cage sits, because of our anatomy (the left side has less lung in it to account for the heart- causing a shift between left and right), and where the rib cage goes the hips follow. Our body works in a chain like system- one link compensates for the next.. and while many compensations cause other problems, not all asymmetries are bad or abnormal. This will also change based on the mental health and perception an individual holds on pain, stress, and their systemic health. The debates on these fuel many research articles and books already. Stay tuned for more discussion on those topics and how movement relates to them.

When it really comes down to it, our movement is as unique as we are- and what is the best way to move for one person may not always mirror the best way to move for another person. We’re designed to be adaptable beings, and our postures should be just as adaptable.

Wait.. haven’t you been preaching posture and biomechanics your whole career?

Yes.. and while there may be differences across our spectrum of movement- majority of us inherit similar postural dysfunctions.. it’s very rare to find someone who moves well, even though there is no set checklist for what exactly moving well means.

Moving poorly in relation to your body can create a vicious cycle of degeneration, causing pain, causing less movement, causing more negative health outcomes. You can get enough movement, but if you don’t move well- you can actually do harm to your body which results in less movement.

For that reason *usually the first step with clients is to assess and correct how they move. From there we build a foundation of efficient movement, and build their movement habits on top of that foundation.

While I can’t say there is one right way to move, I can say that it is very rare to find someone with obviously inefficient movement without some sort of history of pain. The thing about pain is that it may not even present as physical pain.. it may be present in the form of gastrointestinal issues, or undue mental states. Our structure represents our internal framework too- and that can be a chicken or the egg scenario.

Many movement based practitioners will offer within their consult with you a movement screen. If you’re looking for an assist with your health, this is one of the things you should look to your professional to do. Cookie-cutter exercise programs, apps, and group fitness classes are convenient and cost effective- but the grain of salt there is if you get injured or develop pain because you’re movement wasn’t properly screened before starting a program- they cost you more in the long term.

We routinely see clients at their wits end come into our care. They’ve tried everything and nothing works- they are even hesitant to try anything else. They can’t move enough because of pain, or- they’ve never been taught healthy habits around their lifestyle (including movement and nutritional practices). This is what plagues our healthcare system today, and the message I keep putting out there to clients and peers is that none of this is a difficult fix- it just requires a shift from expecting a quick, cheap fix, to some quality time spent investing in our own health and getting educated guidance.

If you have questions about your movement today- send us an email and we’d be happy to help. Consults are always free.

Athletic Therapy, Chronic Pain, Wellness

5 Reasons Why Integrative Movement is Different

1. Accessibility

We pride ourselves in providing a simple, affordable solution to health and lifestyle services. We also offer services out of four satellite locations covering South Winnipeg, the Pembina Valley, Charleswood, and Selkirk region. All our locations are partnerships with other likeminded health facilities. From full functioning gyms to yoga studios – we do the groundwork to develop a health focused community feel wherever we go.

2. Investment

How many of us have bought into a health program, rehab, or gym membership only to under utilize it and later feel like we’ve just wasted the money? Our job is to support you in whatever your health goals require. Whether it’s developing healthy habits in the gym or at home, recovering from an injury, or pushing yourself to a new level of health and fitness, we work hard to provide highly skilled and knowledgable support. As a bonus, new members at our Selkirk and Charleswood locations automatically get 6 weeks of coaching alongside their memberships. No longer will you be stuck not knowing what to do with your gym membership! Your health is an investment, and we believe that navigating those investments is best with accessible, individualized support.

3. Individuality

It’s all about YOU- At IM we are different then your average rehabilitation facility or personal training sales pitch. We take the time to figure out what makes you tick. From consult to regular sessions, you can expect to spend 45min-1hr with us in either dedicated one on one therapy, consult, or training sessions or in a small group of likeminded individuals working at a common goal. Keeping things personal allows us to make sure you’re getting all the resources YOU need to reach your full health potential.

4. Diverse Experience

We are a team of Kinesiologists and Athletic Therapists with years of education and a growing experience base. Each of us enters our practice with our own personalities, history, and interests. For that reason, we pride ourselves in working as a team to meet our clients where they are at- and when appropriate work as a team with other professionals you deem valuable to your healthcare team.

5. We get it.

Life happens. Injuries are tough. Pain messes with our heads. Taking the steps towards lifestyle change seems impossible some days. We have been there, and we understand. Even on the days where you think it’s never going to change, the pain will never leave, or you’ll never get your old energy back.. we’ve got you. We won’t give up even when you don’t know where you stand. As the therapists and coaches we are, we hold out hope even when all hope seems lost. We’re all in the same boat, us humans, and we approach your care on your side every single day.

Want to learn more about how we can fit seamlessly into your journey towards optimal movement and health? Book your FREE consult here or drop by any of our locations to learn more. Looking forward to meeting you!

Athletic Therapy, Chronic Pain, Wellness

5 Reasons Why Integrative Movement is Different

1. Accessibility

We pride ourselves in providing a simple, affordable solution to health and lifestyle services. We also offer services out of four satellite locations covering South Winnipeg, the Pembina Valley, Charleswood, and Selkirk region. All our locations are partnerships with other likeminded health facilities. From full functioning gyms to yoga studios – we do the groundwork to develop a health focused community feel wherever we go. We also offer online services and training for those at a distance or on a budget! 

2. Investment

How many of us have bought into a health program, rehab, or gym membership only to under utilize it and later feel like we’ve just wasted the money? Our job is to support you in whatever your health goals require. Whether it’s developing healthy habits in the gym or at home, recovering from an injury, or pushing yourself to a new level of health and fitness, we work hard to provide highly skilled and knowledgable support. As a bonus, new members at our Selkirk and Charleswood locations automatically get 6 weeks of coaching alongside their memberships. No longer will you be stuck not knowing what to do with your gym membership! Your health is an investment, and we believe that navigating those investments is best with accessible, individualized support.

3. Individuality

It’s all about YOU- At IM we are different then your average rehabilitation facility or personal training sales pitch. We take the time to figure out what makes you tick. From consult to regular sessions, you can expect to spend 45min-1hr with us in either dedicated one on one therapy, consult, or training sessions or in a small group of likeminded individuals working at a common goal. Keeping things personal allows us to make sure you’re getting all the resources YOU need to reach your full health potential.

4. Diverse Experience

We are a team of Kinesiologists and Athletic Therapists with years of education and a growing experience base. Each of us enters our practice with our own personalities, history, and interests. For that reason, we pride ourselves in working as a team to meet our clients where they are at- and when appropriate work as a team with other professionals you deem valuable to your healthcare team.

5. We get it.

Life happens. Injuries are tough. Pain messes with our heads. Taking the steps towards lifestyle change seems impossible some days. We have been there, and we understand. Even on the days where you think it’s never going to change, the pain will never leave, or you’ll never get your old energy back.. we’ve got you. We won’t give up even when you don’t know where you stand. As the therapists and coaches we are, we hold out hope even when all hope seems lost. We’re all in the same boat, us humans, and we approach your care on your side every single day.

Want to learn more about how we can fit seamlessly into your journey towards optimal movement and health? Book your FREE consult here or drop by any of our locations to learn more. Looking forward to meeting you!

Athletic Therapy, Biomechanics, Chronic Pain, Conditioning, Equestrian, Motor Learning, Posture, Wellness

Inhale | Exhale 

It’s all going to be okay… Assuming you’re breathing right! 
Just kidding.. It’ll be okay regardless. However, the way we breathe dramatically influences our total body function and health. Breathing improperly will not only cause stiffness in the upper back, shoulders, hips, and neck, it can also decrease energy levels. The most common manifestation I see of poor breathing mechanics is neck pain and headaches. Most of us like to breathe with the muscles in the upper part of our chest and neck (instead of our diaphragm). This is especially true for those of us who experience increased levels of stress- as emotions will change how we breathe as well. Since most of us now live in a society that breeds high stress and emotion a lot of the time, it’s not surprising the most of us have forgotten how to breathe. 
If we experience stiffening in our ribcage, we will by nature also experience a tightening in our neck and hips. Where the ribs go, the hips go.. And vice versa. So now we have stiff ribs, hips, and a neck that is poorly set up to absorb the force of our heavy heads bouncing around. 
Try this. Lay on your back with your feet resting on a stool or chair (knees and hips should be approx at 90deg). Place your hands on either side of your rib cage. Take a deep breath in, and out. Did you feel your lower rib cage expand to the sides (into your hands)? No? You’re probably breathing into your upper chest and neck, then. One more time, do the same thing but move one hand to the tissue just above your collarbone. Did you feel that tissue expand with your inhale? Then you’re definitely doing it wrong. Take your hands back to your side rib cage. Now apply light pressure on either side (press in with hands) and take an inhale, focusing on pushing your hands out. Repeat this at least 10 deep breaths, also making sure to exhale entirely each time. Welcome to the wonderful world of diaphragm breathing! 
Practicing that movement multiple times a day is the first step in getting your breathing back on track. You should notice a marked difference in how your neck and upper back feel, maybe even improved energy levels and mood! Make sure when you do take time to practice this you don’t have other distractions. It takes a lot of focus to get this right! 

Athletic Therapy, Biomechanics, Chronic Pain, Equestrian, Posture

Relieving upper back stiffness (and dog kisses)

 

Upper back stiffness is an issue for a lot of us. I woke up the other morning with what felt like 3 ribs stuck together on my left side, and as a consequence couldn’t really move to the left. This was kind of an issue when I had a full day of clients, and lots of driving that day. Even my first client of the day noted “your posture looks funny” before I even told her what was going on (I’ve clearly trained her well!). She was right. I was a postural disaster. With one hip hiked and my torso shifted to compensate for the lack of mobility in my rib cage and upper spine- it was one thing after another.

The rib cage often gets forgotten about when we talk about function and mobility. Most of us don’t breathe properly, which is another post altogether. Also- most of us don’t have the mobility in our thoracic spine (english: upper back) that we should. This is largely due to spending our days with our arms in front of us and our heads poked forwards (hey you scrolling your news feed- stand up straight!). Decreased mobility in the upper spine will also contribute to breathing patterns, and poor movement patterns elsewhere.

Why did my three ribs decide to glue themselves together they other morning? Probably because for a few weeks now I’ve been rehabbing a strained hip flexor. This has caused my pelvis to be posturally uneven and rotated, which likely was causing me to collapse in my torso to the left side.. mix in a little stress (I went to bed less then relaxed) and you have a recipe for the fascia (connective tissue woven into the muscles) to stick and the space between each rib to get smaller. Not a nice version of sticky ribs.

When any part of our skeleton isn’t happy- it can be stemming from many different sources. Whether its a structural problem you’ve had since birth, a motor control issue/postural issue that’s come over life, or because of muscular tightness (imbalances)- usually the best fix is movement. I know this. And I decided to do some self-therapy for myself to help get some of my mobility back.

In the above video I’m doing thoracic spine extensions over a foam roller. These are excellent for getting the thoracic spine moving. Even though my pain was coming from the side of my rib cage.. I know that the ribs are connected to the thoracic vertebrae, so if there is immobility at their connection- there will be further immobility in the rib’s movement too. Usually where the pain is isn’t where the problem is.

We live in a world that’s full of people/apps/blogs/products offering quick fixes. Usually, though, when it really comes down to it it’s all about following your gut and doing what feels good for you… I know my postural issues and their compensations- and it’s taken me years to figure out how to solve them when they act up (and I haven’t been taking care of them). This week was a clear example of doing the one thing I knew would feel good. After rolling out my upper back, I took a nice hot bath and did some deep breathing to relax and stretch my intercostal muscles (the muscles in between my rib cage).

The next morning I woke up to greatly decreased stiffness and pain in my rib cage.. it was still there, but very minor. I had a little stiffness and pain moved down to my sacroiliac joint and hip, but it was calm. The pain had retreated back to it’s original source, and I had more mobility. Just from taking literally 30seconds to take care of my upper spine I put myself back on track, and in a much better mind set.

This post started out as a Upper back themed post.. and it’s spiraled into a self-care lesson. Taking care of your movement doesn’t always require a large time commitment. Sometimes a few minutes at the end of a long day doing mobility work and stretching can solve A LOT of future discomfort.

Take care of yourselves out there!

PS: pets looooooooooooooooooove to help with your exercises 😉

Biomechanics, Chronic Pain, Equestrian, Free Workouts, Motor Learning, Posture

The One- Say Happy Valentine’s Day to Your Body.

Who says V-Day has to be about your significant other? Make it about you! You only get one body. What are you doing to appreciate it?

Before you hunker down for your chocolate binge and netflix (it’s allowed, I’ll be doing it too), make sure you do a little something for your one and only body. It doesn’t have to be a huge thing, our body appreciates the simple things. Movement. Total body movement. We don’t move much anymore. A great quote from Katy Bowman’s book Alignment Matters sums this fact up:

“Our culture’s use of chairs and toilets, our beliefs in what our posture means to others, and even our clothing (rigid shoes, narrow skirts for women, etc) have all resulted in self-induced joint rigidity. All the movements you have never done are movements that would have toned muscle, kept connective tissues moist and supple, and kept blood oxygen flowing evenly to all areas of the body. Instead, we have huge chunks of unused muscles, bones scraping together at the joints and increasing friction (causing osteoarthritis), and we are constantly medicating to make living possible in our physical agony.”

Scary, right? But there’s a silver lining- all of that is COMPLETELY CHANGEABLE. All you have to do is wrap your head around moving more. Change that little voice that says “we’re tired today, it’s okay to just sit here and relax” and reframe it into “I’m going to go for a nice relaxing walk after each meal, to clear my head and move my body”. I guarantee you’ll feel much better!

How many people do you know who use restrictions in their body as an excuse? I’ve even had people tell me their trainers avoid their areas of pain in their programs, simply because that area causes them restrictions. That’s a sure way to cause long term issues, in my mind. For example. You don’t do squats, lunges, or high impact cardio because your knees hurt. So, instead of figuring out WHY your knees hurt (probably and issue in your hips and core, and/or your posture, gait, and lifestyle habits).. you just avoid them completely. Long term effect? Decreased bone density, higher risk of osteoarthritis, muscle imbalances, decreased movement ability- chronic pain.. So while it’s great you’re working with a trainer, it might not do you much in the long term. If you have a restriction- or a bad attitude- there is a way to correct them and move on. Don’t get stuck with what you have!

Sitting for long periods is bad. So is over exercising or staying in any one position for a long period. It’s all about constant change. We’ll all have to sit for long periods here and there.. it’s the nature of the world we live in.. but we can adjust how we’re sitting so we’re not always stuck in one spot. Take stretch breaks, get up every 20-30min and go for a walk around wherever, don’t sit cross-legged all the time. Change it up.. constantly!

So, in the light of that lecture.. here’s one of my favourite strength exercises for the WHOLE BODY. And guess what, it doesn’t require any equipment except for you and the floor/ground. It also requires little time, and little space. Feel your excuses narrowing? Good.

All you need is a floor, with enough clear space that you could lie on your back and not hit anything, and a can-do attitude. If you have a can’t-do attitude, I’m not sure why you’re reading this post- go be unhealthy somewhere else and come back when you’re ready to adjust your lifestyle.

This exercise involves moving your own body-weight and doing the most functional of tasks: lowering yourself to the ground, and then lifting yourself back up. This is a task that everyone, no matter your size or age, should be able to do. It’s imperative to our health. I know 90yr olds that can still do this. You have no excuses to let this ability falter!

So. Get to the point. I know.

I commonly call this the “inchworm” exercise, but I’ll let you create your own name for it if you want.

It’s pretty simple, really. Start by standing up (in a good posture, I hope), then bend over from the hips, and knees, touching your hands to the ground. From here, walk your hands out until you’re in a plank position (you can drop to your knees here if needed), and then lower yourself to the ground (preferably in a push-up style and not a face plant style). Here, take a second and do a back extension or a cobra pose, just cause it feels nice. Then lower yourself back to the ground, push-up back into your plank and reverse the whole process… walking yourself back up to standing. Here’s a super accurate stick-figure drawing:

I know. I’m the next Van Gogh.
Repeat this anywhere from 5-10 times and you’ve got yourself a total body workout with no huge time commitment and no equipment necessary. When you’re ready for an extra challenge.. start on one leg and keep one leg elevated through the entire movement! Or start adding more push-ups.

You can do this anywhere! The office, the kitchen, the living room, your mom’s house, in front of the couch, in the gym, outside, at the barn… ANYWHERE! So.. do it. If you have a good reason not to, please share in the comments below 😉

Athletic Therapy, Chronic Pain, Equestrian, Posture

Chest Opener

Who doesn’t love a nice chest opener exercise?!   
This week’s feature mobility exercise targets the chest musculature, particularly the pectoralis complex.. A common culprit in that forward shoulder position a lot of us deal with! 
All you need for this beauty is a foam roller (or a rolled up yoga mat or pillow), some floor space, and a few minutes. 
Start with your spine aligned on the roller, with the base matching up with the base of your spine. Arms at your side, sweep them up to the middle position and hold here for 10-20seconds.. Breathing in and out through the stretch, before continuing into the last position. Sweep down and find yourself in the middle holding again… Repeat 10-15 times, breathing deeply and letting your chest open and shoulders drop. 
Watch that you aren’t letting your shoulder shrug up, and take note of any restrictions or tight spots.. Spend a little more time there. 
There should be no pain with this, only a stretching feeling! It is possible you may get some pops or cracks in the upper back from the position on the roller. 
Work this into your daily routine for a refreshingly free feeling in your upper body!