Walk Into The New Year of YOU!

Happy New Year! May This Be The Year Of YOU!!!!

As we round off the first week without seeing the sky fall, it’s time to begin hunkering down on all we have planned and dreamed of.

I was recently talking with a client about her goals for the upcoming year.

She told me that she really wanted to get back to being able to walk. She had noticed that her walk seemed “more elderly. You know… slow, short distances, and hunched over.”

During the conversation, she spoke of her pre-quarantine ability to walk through the grocery store without a cart, and walking in her neighborhood during good weather.

She also indicated that she couldn’t explain why she hadn’t kept up with walking once quarantine ended. “Just lazy, I guess” was her only excuse.

Let me first say, she is not the only client to say this about the change in her physical abilities since quarantine. Secondly, for many of us, we may see this reflected in our own lives. I know I do.

For the first time in our lives, we had the one thing that helped shift our priorities from the crazy run of life to having TIME to focus on self, family, and home.

Now we are beginning to see what the new normal is, and life is beginning to race forward again. And our ability to have time to focus on ourselves is waning.

But let me remind everyone… If you stop moving, your body will stop being able to move when you need it to.

The ability to walk can be improved upon! And let’s face it, as we get older, walking in a stable and secure manner is so important.

We know decreased mobility results in weak core and leg muscles, limited range of motion (ROM) in the back and legs, and loss of balance.

Maintaining full ROM as you work on improving your walk can help your joints move better in the long run.  This means not only focusing on motion in all the joints from your feet to your low back, but also reaching the fullest extent of the range of motion in your muscles (within your abilities).

Yes, this includes stretching from your toes to your head!

Exercises should be done slowly and within your ability to be safe doing them. I also recommend that once you become more secure in basic movements, to begin incorporating light resistance and high repetitions for leg training exercises.

Why? Because walking is a low resistance, high repetition activity. Your exercises should mimic that type of motion.

One of the best ways to improve your gait is to accentuate the motions that occur in your legs while walking.

Strengthening exercises should focus on the core. Remember the “core” is more than the abdomen. It is “nipples-to-knees, 360 degrees” around the body. If your ability to walk has gotten weak, it will be expressed in your core and your lower legs (knees/ankles/feet). This may prevent you from walking safely.

So let’s talk about things you can do right now to begin helping yourself! Even if you’re laying in bed, sitting in your easy chair or at your desk, or standing in line at the grocery store.

Here are some excellent gait training exercises that can help improve your ability to walk.

Exercises to improve lower leg ROM may include:

  • Ankle pumps and circles
  • Calf stretches with a towel
  • Laying (on your back) heel slides to improve knee ROM
  • Seated knee extensions
  • Standing on tip-toes
  • Standing on heels

Exercises to improve hip and upper leg ROM may include:

  • Laying (on your back) toe taps
  • Laying (on your side) leg raises
  • Laying (on your side) clam shells (knee raise while ankles remain on surface)
  • Laying (on your front) heel raises
  • Standing in place high marching steps

Exercises to improve core strength may include:

  • Laying (on your back) toe taps
  • Plank or push-up position
  • Standing from a sitting position with little to no use of arms
  • Squats
  • Belly-button pull

Walking requires that you spend approximately 40% of the time standing on one foot. One foot is on the ground while the other swings forward through the air. That means that single leg standing is an important component to safe walking.

To improve your balance, you have to challenge your balance. This means creating situations where you may be a little unsteady. This trains your body to respond to this unsteadiness.

Exercises to improve balance may include:

  • Standing flamingo stance (one leg balance)
  • Target toe tapping in varying distances and angles from the planted leg
  • Use of foam pad or BOSU ball to balance on
  • Side stepping

Exercises to improve your ability to walk is to practice the motions of walking.

  • Stepping over obstacles (forwards, sideways)
  • Target stepping
  • Stepping up and down
  • Walking backwards (don’t do this alone if you are unsteady on your feet)

As you practice, your balance should improve along with your gait. But, you must remain safe while training. Be sure you are able to hold onto something stable while practicing balance exercises. Stay within your limits. Listen to your body to know when to stop due to pain or high discomfort.

Since obstacle stepping requires you to take big steps with high knees, it requires you to spend extra time standing on one leg as you step. This can help improve gait, but it may also create instability as you step. So, be sure you are safe while performing this exercise.

Last, but definitely not least, your posture and where you look during walking make a huge difference in stability. Become aware of what your posture looks like during standing and walking. Video yourself in snug fitting clothes or bare necessities to really see how you hold your upper body and how you move during walking.

While you can’t correct old posture, it is possible to practice a new improved one that helps relief pain and support the low back and core.

The body will follow the eyes. If you are busy looking down during walking it forces your center of gravity to shift to accommodate your posture. This is a huge cause of falls. Feeling sure of footing and practicing an upright eyes forward posture will help in balance and being able to respond through stable movement.

If you are unsure of your ability to do any gait training exercise, visit your local PT. They will be able to help.

Ultimately, the only way to improve how well we walk is to practice the various parts that give us trouble! So jump in! Get back to walking. Remember when you first start out, walk 1/2 the total distance you think you can, cuz you’ve got to get back!

If you are ready to see how it is possible to continue to have the TIME to focus on yourself and your back health in our new normal, set up a free consultation now! The booking link is below.

Make the year of YOU a happy and healthy one!

Sincerely,
Andrea Felesina, Advanced Family Nurse Practitioner
Director, The Healthy Back Program

My Christmas Wish

Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house, no one stirred as I paced quietly as a mouse.
Sciatic pain had broken my slumber.
No jingle bells jingled or sounds of joy came forth.
Low back pain had silenced my Christmas hearth.
The children were nestled all snug in their beds;
Everyone slept with visions of sugar-plums dancing in their heads;
Whilst I in my jammies trying to pace, stretch, and roll-out my pain, knowing without sleep I’d be off my pre-AM game.
When on my umpteenth passing of the tree, a twinkling glimmer meant just for me!
As I gingerly bent to see the matter, when what to my wondering eyes did I see?
Why a Christmas Pickle, stuffed deep in the tree!
I knew in a moment it must have been St. Nick.
As I stood mesmerized, a hand slipped into mine.
And then, in a twinkling, I heard a small giggle from behind.
My family gathered around.
My youngest looked up. His eyes, how they twinkled! His dimples, how merry!
“All I want for Christmas is your back to be happy,” he said.
My husband came forth. He spoke not a word but went straight to work.
And with a reach and a tug, he pulled the pickle from the tree,
And laying a gentle kiss on the tip of my nose,
My family gathered around me.
“You work and care tirelessly throughout the year, but who does the same for you?”
With that, I suddenly understood why the Christmas pickle was so special.
It is a gift for those like me,
Who also wants to be free of low back pain’s control.
For you see the Christmas pickle’s gift is a healthier, happier me!
As I finally snuggled down for a long restful winter’s nap, I swear I heard a faint jingle and the wish…

“A Healthy Back Christmas to all to start the year off right!”

– By Andrea Felesina

To get the most from your Christmas Pickle, watch my free Mini-Masterclass to see some of the many ways your Christmas pickle is close at hand to getting back pain relief!

Watch here!

Sincerely,

Andrea Felesina, Advanced Family Nurse Practitioner
Director, The Healthy Back Program

PS – Haven’t heard of the Christmas pickle??? It’s the tradition of an extra gift to the lucky person that finds the ornament hidden in the Christmas tree!

Inversion Tables and Back Pain

I recently had a question about the use of an inversion table for back and neck pain. As this isn’t a topic I’ve addressed with you before…

Here we go!

Inversion tables are a form of decompression therapy. We see this type of therapy commonly used in chiropractic offices and physical therapy.

Inversion tables basically work to provide decompression or reversed gravitational pull on the body.  

The theory is that lengthening the spine creates gap(s) in between the discs. This is meant to improve the flow of nutrients through the vertebrate column, relieve pressure on the discs and nerves, and reduce back pain and/or leg pain.

Spinal issues commonly addressed by decompression are bulging discs, degenerative discs, and at times herniated discs.

There are reports that inversion tables can also help reduce tension headaches, increase flexibility, promote lymphatic drainage and blood circulation, and improve mood. By reversing the effects of gravity, the blood is able to circulate more freely to the upper body, including the brain.

For most healthy people, inversion therapy poses few threats. However, there are some people that decompression therapy from an inversion table isn’t right for.

It is important to note that inversion tables can increase eye pressure. Thus, people with glaucoma and retinal detachment are advised against the use of this technique. Other contraindications include stroke, recent head injury, spinal injury or bone weakness.

Additionally, inversion tables are not recommended for use by people who have had recent back surgery, untreated high blood pressure, hiatal hernia, and other conditions that may be made worse by inversion therapy. Always get medical advice if you’re unsure if you should use an inversion table.

You also want to be cautious or get medical advice if you’ve had joint fusions/replacements in the ankles, knees, or hips.  

Ultimately, upon considering an inversion table, I always recommend trying one first. Go down to your local sporting goods store and give the floor model a try.

The #1 rule… DO NOT do this by yourself if you’ve never done this, or are unsure of your abilities. It is possible to get severely injured or stuck in one of these!

#2 rule – Know the table! The adjustments and safety features of the table are key. Understand how to adjust it for you.

#3 rule – Do not expect to hang upside down very long initially. It takes practice and tolerance to be able to relax in this type of position for any length of time.

#4 rule – Always have a phone or assistance close at hand to help get you upright.

#5 rule – Last but not least… Always choose the smallest angle of decline until you are comfortable with the table and need more decompression.

There are tons of independent stories and testimonies to the efficacy of inversion tables. The scientific evidence is lacking for any long-term results.

I personally have one. I find that the effects are temporary. But on days when my back is really angry or I’m feeling crunched up through my sacrum and lower back, this little bit of relief is like a refreshing deep breath.

Sometimes it’s the little break away from the constant ache that helps keep my sanity going!

Your coach and friend,

Andrea

A LITTLE KNOWN CAUSE OF CHRONIC BACK PAIN

I recently began seeing a new client. She came to me because of chronic low back pain that has been ongoing for the last 8 years. Upon getting started with The Healthy Back Program, she reported several abdominal surgeries including: 1 appendectomy, 1 C-section, and 1 hysterectomy. All her imaging shows only minimal arthritic changes in her spine.

“How can that be possible? I struggle with such pain, yet the imaging showed nothing! Am I going crazy?”

“No” was my reply. I went on to discuss with her the many possibilities for her back issues. The one that seemed to make the most sense was the concept of scar tissue, and how it can create or add to low back pain. Especially as she had several abdominal surgeries.

The confusing aspect about this type of back pain… It can make us feel crazy. Or it can make us think we are hypochondriacs. This is because there is no way to see it on imaging. Thus, often times folks feel like they are at the whim of the entire universe when it comes to low back pain.

Let’s review the process of scar tissue development. During any injury/surgical process, there will be inflammation. With inflammation people experience the typical symptoms of redness, heat, swelling and pain. This is normally short-lived during the initial stages of healing.

Once the body starts to repair the injury/surgical area, it begins using a building protein call fibrin. Fibrin is mostly found on the inside of blood vessels, and is what helps form a clot to stop bleeding.  It basically acts like duct tape to help hold and support the wound via scar tissue.

The problem begins when the body fails to shut down the inflammatory process even after the wound is healed. This can cause a damaging pattern of chronic inflammation.

Unfortunately, the body doesn’t know the difference between new inflammation or old. It continues to do what it is supposed to – deposit fibrin in the inflamed area. This leads to a buildup of scar tissue.

With continual scar tissue buildup, the area can begin to have restricted blood flow, decrease organ functioning, and other issues of chronic inflammation.

We know the build of scar tissue can lead to the formation of adhesions or connections between the scar tissue and surrounding organ or structures. We often see this in abdominal surgery.

Excess scar tissue can cause restriction and pain during movement. Over time, these adhesions can result in significant lost mobility and increased pain.  

Additionally, scar tissue formation can trap or press on a nerve, or cause irritation due to nearby adhesions. This is also common from back surgery.  

The key to lasting back pain relief is managing the inflammation, preserving movement, and getting myofascial bodywork to help break up the scar tissue and keep things moving.

Once scar tissue has developed, pain pills may temporarily dull the pain but they won’t remove the scar tissue or its cause.

Another way based on diet and supplements is to consider the a class of enzymes called proteolytic enzymes. These not only function as digestive enzymes, but also support a healthy immune system, promote healing of tissues, and encourage muscle recovery. There is a school of thought that they may also potentially help breakdown scar tissue and decrease inflammation throughout the body.

Since I’m a huge fan of less is more when it comes to supplements and medications, why not eat your proteolytic enzymes? You can get them from papaya and pineapple (the two of the best sources of proteolytic enzymes). Other foods that are high in proteolytic enzymes include:

  • Ginger
  • Kiwi
  • Sauerkraut
  • Yogurt
  • Kefir
  • Miso

Finally, it is possible to have surgery to remove the excess scar tissue. However, every time the body gets cut into, it creates its own scar tissue! Thus, often times a no-win situation.

As 85% of chronic low back pain patients have no known cause for their pain, maybe it’s because there is a missing piece of the puzzle. But knowing the cause is only part of the battle.

The rest is up to us at home, on a daily basis… Diet, movement/exercise, inflammation minimization, and stress management. And if you feel you would like to start tackling your chronic back pain through a shift in health, consider a tried and true method!

Your coach and friend,
Andrea

Director of The Healthy Back Program
“You are the only person that is 100% invested in your health and its outcomes!” ~ Andrea

Spending too much time with TP?

I wanted to share with you about a medical patient I saw this week. She is 50 years old and does have some medical conditions, that are mostly stable in my medical opinion. As we were reviewing her previous year’s health and wellness status, she made an off-hand comment about her husband teasing her about her love of TP. With a little more prodding, I discovered she was having “leaking” issues.

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Stop The Anxiety-Pain Rollercoaster!

Did you know stress can be both good and bad? Most of us usually think about stress and anxiety as negative aspects. What we know is positive stress (eustress) is actually helpful for health, excitement, and motivation in life.

The problem happens when our minds go from a solution-orientation to one of overthinking or worrying. We begin to let the “monkey mind” control our narrative. Unfortunately, this narrative is usually negative in nature.

Continue reading “Stop The Anxiety-Pain Rollercoaster!”

Getting The Best of Balance

I always knew I was clumsy. I used to joke with people, “I came into this world falling down, I’ll most likely go out the same way!” I would even add, “I’ve fallen down so much, I’m now very graceful on the way down!”

As I’ve gotten into my 40’s, I’m no longer using these phrases. I don’t want to fall. I’ve discovered, I don’t bounce as well as I did in my 30’s. And I certainly don’t recover from a fall like I was in my teens!

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Fear = Success

What if I told you failure does equal success? What would you say? Would it be something like, “There is no way that is true!” Or “If you failed, then you didn’t succeed!” Or “failure is the opposite of success.”  

But I’d like to propose that indeed, this is true. Especially when we are trying new things or attempting a change in our lives.

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Is Degenerative Disc Disease Real?

I was speaking with a client today who was recalling her appointment with a new pain management specialist. According to her, he was asking her about her medical history and back issues; to which she started listing off previous diagnoses such as Fibromyalgia, DDD/DJD (degenerative disc/joint disease), and spinal stenosis. At this point, he apparently became hostile with her and began a long diatribe about how DDD isn’t real and how he wished people would stop calling this a disease as it gives patients something to “whine about when there is actually nothing wrong with them!”

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The Hardest Thing to Change is Ourselves….

Change is hard and scary and sometimes downright daunting as it means we have to take a look at our lives and be willing to change. We know, need and want to live healthier. Maybe some of the changes you’re thinking of are to make some healthy changes to eating habits, start exercising again regularly, get more rest, or learn to use natural remedies instead of turning to over the counter medications for simple illnesses.

Continue reading “The Hardest Thing to Change is Ourselves….”

Pain Relieving Essential Oils

Courtesy of FOX News

Essential oils have been used for centuries to relieve a variety of conditions, pain and inflammation. Many essential oils have similar, and sometimes more effective, pain-relieving properties than many prescription or over-the-counter analgesics.

There are many benefits to using essential oils to get relief from pain and inflammation. For example, essential oils have fewer side effects than many modern drugs and they also help to soothe your mind and make you feel more relaxed. So, essential oils play an important role in pain management and in treating many inflammatory conditions.

If you suffer from chronic pain associated with arthritis, lower back pain, migraines, fibromyalgia, nerve pain or sciatica, then essential oils are excellent home remedies to treat the pain.

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