Have You Been Stretching?

“Are you doing your stretching?” is always the question I ask my clients as they hobble into my office or when finding their hamstrings are like Golden Gate Bridge cables. However, this question should also asked by your PT, your massage therapist, your pain physiatrist, etc.

Inevitably the answer is: no, sort of, I used to, I have stretches at home, when I think about it, when I hurt, I should but I don’t, I don’t have time, I do think about it but it’s usually when I’m busy, usually only when I’m getting ready to work out, I can’t get on or off the floor for that stuff, I did that once and it didn’t work, I watch my wife do it every morning… and the list could go on and on and on and on….

I thought it may be beneficial for you to have some basics on this subject! Even just to see the surprise on your provider(s)’ face about your “yes” answer.

In the beginning…. Your ability to stretch may be exceptionally limited due to pain, tightness, discomfort, mental resistance, lack of experience or confidence in your abilities, or even embarrassment. THIS IS NORMAL! Remember if you’ve never done this before, you might be bad at it initially. And that’s ok. And it may take time to begin to feel any significant changes. As you didn’t accumulate muscle/tendon/ligament/fascia tightness overnight, you can’t expect to erase months, mostly likely years, of tension immediately. While everyone may want to suddenly be limber and gumby, the reality is stretching doesn’t have to be based on being Jane Fonda and getting yourself into a pretzel. Sometimes the best stretches are the simplest.

When I teach stretching to clients, I start with the explanation that the benefits from good quality stretching only lasts for approximately 3 hours. Thus, does it make sense why we ask clients to stretch multiple times per day? I explain that stretching helps to keep fluids moving in the joints, helps with exchange of fluids/nutrients/waste in the muscle fibers, warms up fascia connective tissue to allow for more give with movement, helps to improve posture, acts to aid in pain reduction, adds to relaxation, and encourages mental/spiritual clarity & quietness.

I encourage clients to have a stopwatch or timer with them to do their stretching. This is because I encourage stretches to be held for 30 seconds (at minimum) but preferably to hold them for 90 seconds. Yes, this is an eternity, especially if the stretch has discomfort associated with it. However, by taking the longer route, it provides you with the opportunity to allow your muscles to warm up and begin to relax; to allow you to begin to find mental stillness and your breath in the stretch, and to notice your body’s response to the stretch.

The words of wisdom are to go into a stretch slowly, hold it for 90-seconds, then come out of the stretch even slower. Diving into and out of stretches is a great way to injure the area and confuse the body about what is supposed to happen – relaxation!

I also strongly teach my clients about the balance act of stretching. So often we tend to focus more time, intensity, or pattens of stretching on the body part that cries out the loudest. But the body works in balance; thus, if you only stretch the painful side or area and not the opposite or associated areas, you only add to the body needing to compensate for the imbalance being created. What this means is you may start to feel more pain in the opposite side that is working harder and harder to help you cope with the side that is the main problem. So, help your body keep balance – balance out your stretching.

Did you know that stretching doesn’t require you to be on the floor? Heck, for many stretches you don’t even have to get out of your chair or bed!!!!! So the excuse of having trouble getting off the floor no longer holds any water; it’s just a resistance you’ve created to get out of doing it! Did you know that if you are lucky enough to have access to a pool/hot tub that it also provides an excellent place to stretch? Especially if you are unstable in your balance/gait, are afraid of falling, or if standing is painful. Being in a weightless environment to stretch (like a pool) allows you to put some of your fears to ease and may even help you to get a little extra movement in for the day!

Develop a routine of not only when you stretch, but the stretches you do. Putting stretching into your daily routine should be like brushing your teeth. The routine you create should include when in your day you’ll stretch. Make it as important so that when you forget to do it, it’s creates a reinforcement to ensure you get to it everyday.  Some people stretch initially prior to getting out of bed, some do it after their morning coffee, some do it while watching the morning TV/news. Finally, find a routine to use. Trying to create this on the fly can be difficult and gives you the ability to do only the ones you like. The body is great at learning to adapt to things we challenge it with. For instance, any personal trainer will tell you that if you don’t change things up, the body grows bored and it is hard to continue to see improvement. Stretching is no different. If you don’t challenge your body with a new routine at least monthly, you’ll grow stale in your progress.

Last but not at all least, I teach my clients about listening to their body and breathing on a scale to work towards their “edge”. The “edge” is a range that we can all use for pain. The least stressful or painful end is where you can say easily, “I’m ok, I don’t hurt, and I have no trouble breathing.” As the stretch intensifies, you might say, “I’m ok, I can feel the stretch, no problems breathing or relaxing into the stretch.” The next step of intensity may be, “I’m ok, I’m starting to hold my breath or I’m having some trouble relaxing into it.” Finally, there is a clear line where people go from being ok to not being ok. I usually encourage people (over time) to find that edge and work up to it, WITHOUT going over. It’s one thing to initially have pain/discomfort from cold tissues/fascia just needing to warm and stretch out – this usually takes only a few seconds before the discomfort begins to dissipate. But if you have pain that stops or catches your breathing, makes you cry out in pain, or causes significant discomfort that doesn’t ease with the stretch; then you’ve pushed past the edge.

Stretching, like all forms of movement, requires practice. So if you can’t touch the floor initially or you can only touch part way down your thighs in a forward bend, THAT IS OK! You may be very surprised what you’ll be able to do after even a few weeks of working at it!

I’m including a link below for stretching created by a local neurosurgical group in Northern Nevada. However a search of the web or YouTube has thousands of videos and stretching ideas to put into practice. Just remember, you will need more than 1 stretching routine, you may need to start small and easy to work your way up, and some stretching is ALWAYS better than none.

Exercises to relieve back pain and strengthen the back | SpineNevada – Reno, Sparks, Carson City

I hope this has been helpful for you.

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.

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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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Medical Marijuana and Healthcare Providers- Part 3 of What’s all of the Fuss about this Marijuana Stuff?

Healthcare providers and legal issues of medical certification

In part 1, I reviewed a brief history of marijuana, discussed medical-grade cannabis, presented some basic information regarding the constituents in the marijuana plant, and gave an overview of the endocannabinoid system. In part 2, I discussed medical marijuana education and information regarding its uses, side effects, and dosing. In the final part of this series, I will discuss information that is specific to healthcare providers in relation to their advocacy role, ethical and legal considerations of the patient that is a healthcare provider, and a review of the current laws/regulations. This information is helpful to both patient/caregiver and medical provider(s).

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Part 2: What’s all the fuss about this marijuana stuff?

In part 1, I reviewed a brief history of marijuana, discussed medical-grade cannabis, presented some basic information regarding the constituents in the marijuana plant, and gave an overview of the endocannabinoid system. In part 2, I will present medical information regarding marijuana and its use. This information is helpful to both patient/caregiver and medical provider(s) alike. Not only is it important for patients to fully understand how to choose, dose, and utilize their medicine, but it is imperative for providers to begin to have some basic education to help patients make choices about their medications. This blog series is meant to help initiate conversations between patients, family members/caregivers, budtenders and medical providers by providing basic information. 

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What’s all the fuss about this marijuana stuff?

As a healthcare provider, a patient, a family member and loved one, I try to view all sides of how a person decides to treat, heal or cure an ailment. If the treatment is effective with minimal to no side effects, then it is hailed a success; even if the real success was more attributable to the innate healing nature of the patient’s body. Thankfully science definitely plays a role in the identification of assistive and supportive measures found in medicine of all types and philosophies. It is important to understand the majority of interventions of healthcare are really meant to be supportive of the body’s innate healing. Things like medications, healthy lifestyle choices, and stress management are meant to help support and maintain the body’s balance of homeostasis. As a healthcare provider, it is important that my decisions and recommendations of care of my patients are based in science and also driven by the patient’s beliefs and definitions of what health and wellness are.

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Is your life all work and no play?

 Is your life all work and no play?   When was the last time you did something enjoyable just for yourself?  Spent the day relaxing comfortably all alone? Or spent quality 1 on 1 time with a close friend content in just being together, talking, walking, wondering about life in general? When did you last spend time reflecting on the spiritual aspect of your life, sitting in meditation or prayer, or just looking up at the stars in wonder?

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Healthcare Provider-Patient Communication

One of the biggest complaints I continue to hear from patients and clients is the issue of lack of communication with their healthcare provider, most notably physicians and mid-level providers. Communication issues seem to be related to a few categories including: inattention to the patient (various reasons), lack of empathy and/or big picture of the patient, lack of time, unacceptance of alternative health approaches by the patient, and generational views of the healthcare provider by the patient.

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Being Your Own Patient Advocate

I was recently questioning a patient about why I’d not gotten results of tests I’d ordered. Her reply, “I’d like to get my labs done, but I’m still dealing with my insurance company to ensure all the right codes are used, the labs are covered, and to find out what my out-of-pocket costs will be?” How can I argue with a patient that is advocating for herself? I can’t and won’t – she’s doing as I’ve asked, being her own advocate.

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