Teach Your Kids to Walk & Play with Ease!

 

We look at our friends and our loved ones, young and old, and we see most of them slouched over, walking with feet turned out, walking on their toes, or not walking at all because they are just too tired to walk. Naturally, we think of our children and how we want them to be. We want the best for them. We want our children to be able to move, walk, sit, and stand with comfort, ease, and grace. Here are some tips to help you help them do that, without nagging or becoming irritated.

  • Make Good Posture A Game.

Youngsters mimic their mothers and fathers, copy their postural habits and gestures, and imitate the way you walk. If you want your little ones to develop healthy postural habits, you have to show them good habits for sitting and standing. Sit on the floor or a hard surfaced chair. Make a game of finding your sitting bones. Once you and your child find them, see how long can you sit on them without rolling forward. First one to fold loses. There’s got to be an M & M treat there somewhere. Reward your little ones for imitating you.

  • Practice Yoga Together.

Another way to make good posture fun is to practice these easy-to-follow yoga poses together… Mountain pose, Tree pose, Cat-Cow, and Down Dog pose. These poses not only build coordination and strength, they also build big-time body awareness. Once your child is aware of his body, alignment and good posture are easier to find and maintain.

  • Build Posture From the Ground Up.

Bring awareness to your child’s feet as often as you can. Teach her to stand with all ten toes pointing forward and with her weight equally balanced between the heels and balls of both feet.

Make sure that your child wears sensible footwear when she has to wear shoes but goes barefoot whenever possible! Children don’t need flip-flops. Flip-flops force their toes to curl and heels to drag. Her calf muscles can’t move the ankle in flip-flops, so her stride will be shorter, and her ankles will roll in. Sneakers and real shoes are better.

Most of her balance information comes from her feet. Shoes, no matter how cute, restrict neurological development. Wearing flip-flops, like wearing high heels, is developmentally detrimental to your child’s alignment and postural wellbeing. Children need to be barefoot as often as possible.

 

  • Teach Lightness of Being.

You are how you move. Teach your children grace and lightness when they move. Start with talking about their top and bottom, head and feet. It is essential to spinal alignment and development. Cue your children to be aware of their heads by describing how their heads are ‘floating’ on their spines like balloons. We all take our bodies for granted, but if we are aware of how we move, that lightness will carry over to good alignment, posture, and agility.

 

  • Whole Body Walking.

Your child learns by your example in walking. It is important that you walk with awareness. Practice a graceful and long stride. Learn to walk with your whole body. You are how you move.

Here’s a trick: walk around the living room and see if you notice your butt muscles and your hamstrings (back of legs) working. If you don’t, your stride is too short. Your child’s stride will mimic yours, so lengthen yours! Do the same walk, but now extend your stride by an inch or two. See if you notice the butt muscles and the hamstrings working. If you do, your stride is good, and you are using the muscles you were given.

My father used to play a game of Giant Steps with me. I was tall, gawky, and uncoordinated. A game like Giant Steps helped me to find my balance, find the leg, and butt muscles for walking and running. As adults, we now call it a Lunge.

 

  • Chin Level With The Earth.

This is a daily reminder in yoga. Grandma probably walked with a book balanced on the top of her head. We don’t do that today, but see if you can do it, and then make it a challenge with your kids. Don’t use today’s fashion models as examples, as most of them have horrible, slouchy posture.

If your chin is level with the earth, then your head is up, relaxing the shoulders. It is a way to organize the body for elegance and good posture. Encourage this simple trick in your children and you will create healthy gait and postural patterns. If you look down, you’ll fall down.

  • Use Your Whole Foot.

Your foot has four points of contact: heel, mid foot, forefoot, and toes. Again, make it a game but show your child that he can use the entire foot to walk, balance, and push off.Walking is a game of balance. There’s an exercise called Funny Walk that my daughter liked. Walk barefoot on your heels, then toes, then outside of the foot, and then the inside of the foot. It’s fun, awkward initially, but it gets the foot and lower leg working.

Funny Walk will build your child’s arches. Feet need arches to work well, to absorb shock and to provide power in movement. Orthotics should be used as a temporary measure only, and only as part of a leg-building program. If your doctor or podiatrist recommends them as a permanent solution, say “no thanks”. Find a professional who knows how to strengthen leg and foot muscles. It’s not rocket science.

With exercises like this, she can have a healthy foot strike and a long stride. She will develop good balance and that healthy stride will build muscle and neuromuscular coordination.

 

  • Play Every Sport, Any Game.

Put all these steps into action with play. Children learn how to move by being active. Different games, different sports demand different movement patterns…all good. Specializing in one sport develops only one set of patterns…not so good Children should be active in as many ways as possible.

Minimize all sitting. TV, IPads, IPhones, and Internet games should be a reward for being active. Your children will sit hours and hours in school. Don’t contribute to their inactivity. This will be a battle, but it’s one worth fighting.

Get out there and play with them. Throw a baseball, softball, basketball, anything round and catchable, to your kids! Encourage your children to play every safe sport, to dance, to run, to swim, to throw a Frisbee, and to be kids. Playing outdoors is where they will grow strong. Playing is critical to the development of their bodies and their brains!

 

Who’s writing this?     Bill Boland is an exercise physiologist and lifetime runner based in New York, where he directs an alignment and movement practice known as the BodyFix Method™.

The Perils of the “Yoga Butt”

I had been teaching yoga for about two years when I first heard the term “yoga butt”. Having mistaken it for an eye-roll worthy comment regarding a shapely backside, my friend and co-teacher Megan, corrected me. “It’s when you’ve done Pigeon so many times that your glutes (butt muscles) become weak and overstretched”

I accepted the validity of that view, so it took some time before I embraced the importance of strengthening my glutes as a valuable addition to my yoga practice and teaching. Since the beginning of my yoga practice, I’ve heard countless teachers cue their students to deactivate their glute muscles. The claim is that tight butt muscles result in pain in the hips and lower back, and that soft, squishy glutes are the key to a mobile, flexible body. “Nobody wants a tense, tight ass!” One of my yoga teachers would routinely exclaim to a roomful of delighted students. The relief was palpable. We were finally off the hook for not wanting to do squats and leg lifts!

My teacher was somewhat correct. You don’t want glute muscles (or any muscles) that are loaded with tension or are overly tight. But it’s inaccurate to equate tightness with strength. Like every other muscle group, glutes should contract and release appropriately during movement. Yoga certainly qualifies as movement, so why all of the misinformation?

There are a few reasons why. One could actually be cultural. When I began practicing in 2007, yoga was a certain type of “anti-workout”. Plenty of practitioners (including me) embraced yoga after years of joyless exercise programs that included tedious glute and hip exercises. To engage in a sweaty, breath-centered practice that didn’t include sculpting the rear end was beyond refreshing.

Another reason glute strength was discouraged could ultimately be in the service of the poses, even if the poses don’t serve the practitioner. Certain Pigeon variations and “advanced” hip stretches are so extreme, that only the hyper-mobile can achieve them. A person would have to have profoundly overstretched glutes in order to put their foot behind their head. These “hip openers” can feel great in the short term, but over time, glute muscles lose their functionality. The result can include pelvic instability and pain.

When the glute muscles are weakened, an inevitable lack of balance develops in movement. A variety of compensations can spring from underachieving glutes. Hip extension can become limited and hip flexors are taxed. Hamstrings frequently take over where the glute muscles fall short, and they become even tighter as a result. The femoral head can lose its centration (neutral position) and slip laterally, often resulting in a sore outer hip. The lower back can ache due to glutes that fail to anchor the back of the pelvis down. Regardless of the symptom, weak glutes can inhibit functional movement and limit the benefits of a yoga practice.

I’ve made a few key adjustments to my yoga practice since learning more about biomechanics and butt muscle function. In addition to daily glute exercises (see below), I’ve deliberately activated my glute muscles in Bridge pose and in Prone Backbends. I still practice Lotus and Pigeon poses, but I no longer include Compass pose or any Bound postures that tug at the glute muscles to the extent that the hip hikes up or moves laterally. I frequently practice Warrior 3 with the support of blocks so that I can access my glutes within my practice. As a result, my lower back has regained its length and my pelvis feels symmetrical and stable.

Yoga is a personal practice with a variety of techniques for each individual practitioner. There is no single solution for all bodies, but if you relate to any of the symptoms of “yoga butt”, it might be time to bring glute strength into your practice. Try the exercises below as a warm up before your favorite yoga class or home practice. Explore balancing your hip opening routine with some stabilization work and enjoy the results!

Strength & Stabilization Exercises:

 

Supine Buttock Contractions

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Butt Blasters

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Clamshell

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reverse Clamshell

STAY PAIN FREE DURING SUMMER TRAVEL

 

School is out for the summer and temperatures are rising. As you start to plan your summer getaway, whether it is a weekend in the country or a romantic European vacation, take some simple measures to reduce any undue stress that traveling might add to your body.

If you suffer from chronic pain, whether it is your low back, hip, knee, neck, or shoulder, it could be exacerbated by the long periods of sitting that travel often requires. In addition, travel often involves lifting heavy loads as well as changing our patterns of eating, drinking, and sleeping. It also disrupts the healthy habits that keep us out of pain and in balance.

So, if you are packing up and heading out for an exciting adventure, take these simple measures to keep yourself pain free while traveling….

  • Pack lightly…

An easy way to injure your lower back is by lifting heavy loads. There are two ways to protect yourself from this as you travel. A simple solution is to pack less! If you do have to lift a heavy load, use proper form.

  • Lift luggage carefully…

If you lift heavy luggage, protect yourself with optimal stability.

  1. Keep your hips and shoulders square; do not rotate or twist your spine as you pick up the suitcase. This is how injuries occur!
  2. Bend from the knees and hips, not your back. Keep your back flat; do not round your back as that strains the discs.
  3. Avoid putting anything heavy in overhead bins on the airplane. Lifting heavy objects overhead puts you at unnecessary risk to strain your lumbar back. If your suitcase is heavy, do yourself a favor and check it.
  • Sit smartly…

Protect yourself by sitting well on the plane or in the car.

  1. Use a lumbar support! This is an easy way to protect your low back and spine. A BFM round inflatable pillow is an ideal travel companion! Place your pillow, a rolled up towel or sweater, or lumbar support behind your navel, just above your pelvis. This will support the natural arch of your lower back.
  2. Keep your knees in line with your hips! Sit with your knees and hips in line. Do not allow your knees to drift open, as that will force the top of your thighs to jam into your low back. Point your feet straight ahead, with your knees over your toes and your knees aligned with your hip sockets.
  3. Avoid rounding your shoulders! Put simply, don’t slouch. Rounded shoulders lead to neck pain, decreased breathing, disrupted digestion, lower back pain, and a host of other alignment issues, so use the lumbar support to balance your head and shoulders.
  • Hydrate and Nourish Your Body….

When you travel, it is easy to get into bad habits with readily available junk foods and not enough water on hand. If you don’t prepare, both mentally and logistically, you will find yourself tired, thirsty, and reaching for a Snickers or a Twinkie and a soda at a rest stop.

Plan. Pack healthy snacks. You know that airports and rest stops are full of salty, sugary, and fatty foods. These foods are inflammatory and will exacerbate your pain. To avoid getting caught in that trap, bring your own snacks. (It is also much less expensive!) Pack foods that are not only healthy but also delicious so that you are not tempted to stray off course!

Stay hydrated. Drink lots of water. First, drink as much as possible the day before you travel. Then on your trip, sip water slowly throughout your journey to help you maintain proper levels of hydration while not having to visit the restroom too often!

  • Move As Much As Possible!

Nothing is more important than getting up and stretching every 30 minutes or so. If you are driving and can’t stop that often, then when you do stop, spend a few minutes walking around and doing some simple stretches to lengthen the muscles that have been shortened by sitting.

Here are a few exercises to lengthen you out after you have been sitting in a car or airplane seat for too long!

  1. Overhead Arms with Twist
  2. Stationary Lunge
  3. Standing Quad Stretch
  4. Standing Hamstring Stretch (can do in the airplane bathroom!)
  5. Seated Bounce Ups

This sequence will lengthen the muscles that get the tightest from sitting. Use it at a rest stop or standing in the airplane aisle. Seated Bounce Ups can be done sitting at any time. They will keep your butt muscles active during long flights or road trips. When you arrive at your destination, wake up your body with movement. Skip the escalator to the baggage claim; take the stairs, instead.

For a more detailed travel menu, if you have questions, or if you would like to schedule a session, email me at anita@bodyfixmethod.com.

Safe travels my friends!

Anita

Here’s A Plan To Avoid Running Injuries

My friend Jim loves to run. He has been running since he was in grade school. He ran cross-country competitively in high school and college and has done his best to run 15-25 miles a week since his university days. His biggest issue isn’t time. He makes the time. Even bad weather has never stopped him. But injuries have.

Jim has been injured almost every year since I have known him. He’s holding up the national average for running injuries. Out of almost 12 million runners, male and female, over 50% are injured every year. That’s nearly 2 million stress fractures and 4 million sprains or strains!

Many of those injured quit running and try another form of exercise because they believe a new exercise routine won’t be so hard on their feet, ankles, knees, hips, low back, shoulders, and neck. They are missing the point, however. Running is not causing the injuries; it’s the runner and his form. Runners bring their form, their posture, and their misalignment to their new sport. As a result, their results in their new sports of cycling, tennis, or swimming won’t be any different.

With good running form, most injuries could be avoided. In theory, you can just go out and run. We are designed to do just that, and we did so for millennia. For thousands of years, we ran our quarry to exhaustion. Because weren’t bigger than most of the animals on the plains or in the forests, we had to outrun them as well as outwit them. Otherwise, we became dinner. Unfortunately, 21st century sitting and working has robbed us of that freedom. We can get it back, but we have to change our overall posture to be able to run without injury.

Running is not an inherently dangerous sport, yet the number of running injuries increases annually, and not because more people are running each year. The total number of runners in the US has stabilized but the injuries just keep coming. One out of two runners are injured each year. If you are one of them, please read on and follow through with what I am asking you to do.

Let’s start with the head and shoulders, as that’s what we see first. If we correct postural and alignment problems there, we’ll both look better and we’ll run injury-free. The standard postural condition of the 21st century is either a forward head, followed by rounded shoulders, or rounded shoulders and a chin jutting forward. Runners are not distinct from the human race, so most of us have these postural issues.

Sitting for hours on end is the primary cause. This is followed by our computer use and poor working conditions. And, finally, we have our streaming and smart phone addiction. The forward head and rounded shoulders condition changes our walking and running patterns dramatically. It punishes runners and athletes more aggressively because we are pushing the body by running, hitting the ground harder than just walking and stressing the joints much more than walking.

 

The first step in correcting a problem is to recognize that it’s there. Look in the mirror or ask a friend to take four standing photos of you in minimal clothing. You want to see where the joints line up – or don’t. We are designed so that our muscles contract to move the joints, and then extend to allow the joints to go back in line. If the muscles are too tight or too loose, they can’t get out of contracting, so the joints are stuck out of position. If your head is forward or your shoulders are rounded, the chest muscles are locked in contraction and the back muscles are pulled taut and unable to resist the forward tension. Most of the body’s joints won’t line up and good running form disappears.

Print the photos out and look at them, preferably with an honest, straight-talking friend. It may not be a pretty picture; it might be at odds with how you see yourself, but in this case, the pictures don’t lie. Don’t worry about it. The most important issue is running pain free, not stroking your ego. Focus on the fix.

Let’s assume that the rounded shoulders are way out of line. Tight chest muscles, a result of sitting and staring at a screen all day, are rounding your shoulders forward. This throws off your center of gravity, vital for running power and stability. The rounded shoulders also tense up your hip flexors and upper, mid, and lower back muscles, which takes the biggest back muscles (latissimus dorsi) out of any support function. This means only your joints are holding you up, and they can’t take the pounding on their own.

Let’s fix this. Here are five exercises that will get your shoulders back, and get you on the road to running injury free. Just do them everyday. No excuses.

Static or Resting Back

 

Static Back Pullovers

 

Upper Spinal Floor Twist

 

 

Lumbar Erector Stretch-One Leg

 

 

Standing Arm Circles-Wide Stance

 

 

 

These exercise aren’t hypothetical. They work. I do them everyday and at my age, many of my contemporaries are having a hard time walking, much less running 3-5 miles a day.

Your times will improve, your training will be more focused, and running will become fun again. Stay consistent with these exercises, and you will be a happy runner.

If you would like a copy of these exercises, fill out the Contact Form and we will send you a PDF of the program, with easy-to-follow pictures and directions. Do the work and run injury free. If you have questions or would like to schedule a one-on-one, email me at bill@bodyfixmethod.com.

How to Fix Your ITB and Knee Pain with Your Shoulders

The outdoors is great for your mind and your body. You love to run and with the increase in adrenaline and the optimism of great achievement that come with the warm weather, you head out the door and onto the streets. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, your knee starts to hurt. It didn’t hurt when you were walking. Why now? You think, maybe I’m just not built for running….

Before buying into that thought, take a look at your shoulders. Is one shoulder more forward than the other? Is one shoulder higher than the other? Have a friend help you take a full body photo of both your right and left sides. Then go through this checklist:

Rounded Shoulder & Trunk Rotation Checklist

  • Is one shoulder farther forward than the other?
  • Are both shoulders rolled forward?
  • Is there more back visible by the shoulder on one side?
  • Are the ears positioned past the ankles if you drew a line to the floor?
  • If so, does the neck have a curve?
  • Do the knees fall in towards each other?

If you said yes to any of these questions, your upper body posture may be the cause of that annoying knee pain. How? Here’s the answer. It’s the forward shoulder on the opposite side as the knee pain. Confusing, isn’t it?

Take an exercise band, a piece of yarn, or something similar, and tie it around the outside (lateral) base of your knee. This is where your ITBand attaches to your tibia (shin). Put on a belt and thread the band through the belt on the same side. This is close to where the ITBand attaches the iliac (rear part) of the pelvis. (Hence ITB for Iliotibial Band). Congratulations! You now have your own personally controlled Iliotibial Band! Let’s mess it up!

Watch the video below on how to make and test an Interactive Model IT Band:

Interactive Model IT Band

Take the band you just threaded through the belt, and stretch it up and over to your opposite shoulder. Stand tall or flat against the wall and tie it around your shoulder. Now have some fun and pay attention to what tightens and what loosens the band when you make any of the following moves. Pay attention to the knees and arches.

  • Stand tall and twist side to side.
  • Round your shoulders forward and twist one side then the other.
  • Play with jutting one shoulder out more than the other.
  • Now add a forward head to the mix.

The purpose of this exercise is to feel how the tissue tension of seemingly remote areas of the body has an impact on other parts of the body. Did you notice how the ITBand stretched more the further forward and rotated down the opposite side was? Were the knees bending in or were they straight? If you have knee pain and your shoulder is forward and the knees pointing in, the poor ITBand is getting pulled from both directions. The knee pain is because the ITBand is rubbing on the joint itself. The purpose of the ITBand is to stabilize, not to go through the mechanics of running.

How Did It Get This Way?

In most cases, a forward shoulder and trunk rotation didn’t happen overnight. It could be flat feet and a torso rotated in the direction you sit and work all day. It could be from carrying a bag over one shoulder for years, walking the dog on the same side, leaning into one arm at the desk, or sleeping on one side. Each body is different, as is its history. Think about what habits reinforce your daily movements. These little things add up. Fortunately, once you are aware of what feeds your unbalanced posture, it is easy to do other little things to correct it.

Treat the Cause, Not the Symptom 

It hurts! So, I should stretch it. Right? Not necessarily. If the knees are pointing in and the opposite shoulder is rotated in, the ITBand is your protection against blowing out the knee. Stretching it would only feed the problem. Attack the shoulders and the rotation first. A collapsed arch on one side can contribute to the knee pain as well. However, if the shoulders and rotation aren’t fixed, it will be impossible for the foot to strengthen and build an arch under all the torque and weight.

Do these 5 easy exercises before and after running to eliminate your IT Band pain.

 

 

Simple Shoulder Opener

 

 

 

Upper Spinal Twist on the Floor

 

 

Hip Crossover

 

 


Wall Sit/Air Bench/Skier’s Bench

 

 

Standing Arm Circles

TMJ and the Problem With Specialists

Jennifer came to me about three weeks ago in an effort to identify and eliminate the chronic pain in her left shoulder and the ongoing tension in the right side of her neck. As with all of my clients, we discussed her injuries and overall health. I thought I was up to speed regarding her medical history and any other health concerns, so you can imagine my surprise when she revealed to me that she has struggled with TMJ for fifteen years.

“Do you think my TMJ has something to do with my neck and shoulder pain?” she asked. “Why, yes,” I told her,” it most certainly does”.

TMJ (temporomandibular joint) disorder is a painful condition affecting the lower jaw (mandible), the temporal bone of the skull, and the soft tissue that surrounds the joint. The joint itself is packed with nerves and muscles that govern complex movements of the jaw. When TMJ symptoms are triggered, typical actions of the jaw, such as chewing and speaking, can become deeply painful. More of a collection of symptoms than an identifiable syndrome, TMJ disorder can spring from arthritis or injury, but a specific cause is unknown.

Treatment for TMJ disorder is similarly vague. Most medical and dental professionals suggest avoiding surgery, as it is invasive and is reported to produce no reduction in pain. In its place is a gentler ‘less is best’ approach. Heat, ice, and soft foods are the recommended techniques for managing painful TMJ flare-ups, but there is no recommended method for countering TMJ.

Most online resources focus only on the muscles of the jaw and the joint itself. What is not explored is the relationship between the position of the shoulders and the facial muscles. “Specializing” TMJ as a dental or jaw disorder eliminates a wealth of treatment options that address TMJ as a whole body issue. TMJ is not the only condition that is treated in isolation. Most people go to their general practitioner for a referral to a specialist when soreness or discomfort becomes chronic pain, whether it is back pain, knee pain, TMJ, or migraines.

Most of us want to hear from an expert who has devoted a lifetime to studying the very spot where we feel pain. It’s a natural impulse towards specificity that sustains the notion that a specialist can offer relief. The only problem with that line of thinking is that the different areas of the body do not operate in isolation. Our bodies are not a series of unrelated parts functioning independently but a complex of overlapping systems that affect each other in large and small ways.

The musculoskeletal system is a series of pulleys and levers that coordinate joints throughout the body to create motion. Any muscle within that system that is misused through faulty movement patterns will have an effect on the rest of the system. Sometimes the effect is painful. However, initially, it’s often not. When muscular pain triggers immobility in a joint, it’s useful to study not just the joint but also the neighboring muscles that are likely to play a role in the condition and in the recovery. Without their inclusion, relief is likely to be short lived.

Like many of my clients, Jennifer has rounded shoulders. Her pectorals (chest muscles) are tight and her lavator scapulae (shoulder blade lifters) aren’t as strong as they should be. This notorious combination triggers the upper trapezius muscles to overwork. Once the upper traps are hot, it becomes increasingly difficult to position the head above the spine. The result is “forward head position” or “text neck”. This effectively doubles the weight of the head as it relates to the traps. When the head is just a few degrees forward of the spine, the upper traps have to work twice as hard to hold the head at all, creating even more tension in the neck and, often, the jaw. The temporomandibular muscles tighten in response, which in time can result in TMJ.

As a plan of treatment to release Jennifer’s shoulders (and in effect, free her from her TMJ symptoms), we are strengthening her mid and lower trapezius muscles and softening her pecs. This will discourage an overreliance on her upper traps, which will bring her skull above her spine and in time will release her jaw. We are also addressing some ankle mobility issues that limit ankle dorsiflexion and disproportionally position her weight on the balls of her feet, thereby exacerbating the pain in her neck and shoulders (see Anita’s blog for more on that topic). As Jennifer’s body is becoming more aligned overall, the TMJ symptoms are diminishing. Eventually they will disappear.

Chronic pain is a whole body issue. A global, not specialized, approach is in order to yield lasting relief. Whether the pain is in the jaw, neck, lower back, or feet, you can be sure that the entire body is playing a role. At BodyFix Method™, we analyze a person’s alignment from head to toe. We study movement patterns and teach our clients to move efficiently and with ease. If limiting treatment to the sight of your pain has delivered minimal results, then it’s time for you to widen your scope and address your whole body.

 

If you struggle with TMJ symptoms, try this short program for rounded shoulders. After, Check out our TMJ Pain Program in our Shop, to maintain proper alignment and prevent TMJ pain in the future. Rounded Shoulders can also cause Foot Pain. Read last week’s blog, Got Foot Pain? Fix Your Rounded Shoulders to learn more.

 

 

Blandine’s Pec Minor Stretch

 

Upper Spinal Floor Twist

 

 

 

 

Seated Knee Pillow Squeezes

 

 

 

Standing Shoulder Shrugs at Wall

 

 

Standing Ankle Opener on Half Dome

 

 

Standing Arm Circles

 

 

 

Always feel free to reach out to me at elaine@bodyfixmethod.com for questions or to schedule and evaluation.

 

Got Foot Pain? Fix Your Rounded Shoulders!

 

Sharon is a 75-year-old female with chronic foot pain and balance issues. She has had several problems with her feet in the past twelve months. Currently she has a neuroma on the ball of her left foot. Last year she broke her 5th metatarsal on the same foot. She has daily ankle pain, soreness, and spasms in her feet that wake her up at night.

How are all of her foot problems connected? How does her foot pain relate to her whole body alignment? I ask these questions in order to understand how her whole body posture and movement patterns are causing her pain.

At BodyFix Method™, we look at the alignment of the whole body to solve every chronic pain condition that we see. Recently, I have been treating many clients with foot and ankle pain. There is a common theme in each of these cases, and it may surprise you. They all have rounded shoulders.

Rounded shoulders are a current common cultural phenomenon. Everywhere that you look, you see people with sunken breastbones, forward heads, and rounded shoulders. This is the result of a culture supporting the default position of sitting. When we sit, we tend to lean forward, diving into our work and play with both our attention and our heads and shoulders. The result is a glut of joint and muscle issues that derive from rounded shoulders.

Why is this significant? We can treat chronic pain most effectively only when we look at the alignment of the whole body and the relationship of all the parts in both static posture and in motion. Sharon’s ankle and foot problems are not isolated from the rest of her body. Everything is connected.

When I assess her standing alignment, her rounded shoulders and forward head posture are evident. When she walks, her shoulders are doing the walking, not her feet and ankles. Her ankles are not working at all! The missing parts are harming her every step. Her shoulders have rounded forward, taking her head along, and forcing her body weight to fall heavily on the ball of her foot. Therefore, she can no longer heel strike as she takes a step forward. The ankles can’t dorsiflex (flex back) because she is standing and walking in constant plantar flexion (toes pointed). Put simply, because her weight is always forward, her ankles can’t work. There’s no room for them to move up and down.

Sharon is not unique. I am seeing more and more cases of individuals with a lack of proper ankle and foot function coming from their rounded shoulders. As we walk, we should land on our heels and push off our forefoot, primarily our big toe pad. Clients with rounded shoulders just like Sharon develop neuromas (nerve pain in the ball of the foot), from too much weight coming forward into the balls of the feet. Clients come in with broken metatarsals, which often comes from the lack of fluid ankle motion in walking.

Plantar fasciitis can develop from rounded shoulders. The plantar fascia (the connective tissue on the sole of the foot) becomes tight and unresponsive when the body weight is forward. The hamstrings work to bring the shoulders back over the pelvis and the result is a constant pull down the legs into the soles of the feet. The chronic tension eventually results in the inflammatory condition we know as plantar fasciitis.

The alignment of the whole body is causing these foot conditions. The treatment demands a whole body approach. The first order of business is to reduce the rounding of the shoulders, to release the anterior muscles of the chest and torso. As the shoulder blades return to the upper back (where they belong) and optimal vertical alignment is restored, ankle and foot function will immediately improve.

We combine that with strengthening the mid and upper back to support the shoulders and head. We build strength and connect the muscles that support a neutral position of the pelvis. Strong butt muscles are critical. We then can focus on restoring optimal ankle and foot mobility, now that the foot and ankle can function without the handicap of rounded shoulders.

If you have either chronic or occasional foot pain, here is a short program that will alleviate that pain.

Supine Foot Circles & Toe Flexes

 

 

Blandine’s Pec Minor Stretch

 

 

 

 

Upper Spinal Floor Twist

 

 


Active Wall Climbs

 

 


Standing Arm Circles

 

 

If you do have foot or ankle pain or poor function and worse balance, give some attention to your shoulders. Take a look in the mirror. Are your shoulders rounded? Is one more forward than the other? If so, set your intention to restore the optimal alignment of your shoulders. Begin these exercises as soon as possible. As your shoulders open and your mid-back begins to work, your foot function will improve. It will become easier to walk efficiently, gracefully, and without pain.

If you have any questions about a foot condition and how improving your alignment can help, please email me at anita@bodyfixmethod.com.

Take care and be well,

Anita

Make Headaches & Neck Pain Go Away

Are headaches and neck pain constant companions during your day at work or play? If the answer is yes, there may be a simple and long-lasting solution. Migraines, temple headaches, shoulder pain, stiff necks, sinus drips, and eye pain are often avoidable just by correcting your forward head position.

There is a cure, an easy DIY program to fix your headaches and neck pain. The good news is that it is up to you. That could be the bad news, too, but I have faith that you want to live a pain free life, so it’s a good thing.

You already know that drugs won’t cure the headaches and neck pain. At best, they put off the pain for a short while. The cure is not hi-tech. It is getting your head back on your shoulders and your shoulders back where they belong. Few cures can be more straightforward than that.

We live in a world of flexion, a world of forward, always bending forward, and that’s not a good thing. A little pullback, a little balance, some high and low back extension, a bit of upright now and then all help the body function as it was designed to do.

In yoga, there is a counter pose to every position. We need to add a counter pose to sitting and texting and computer use. For example, a counter pose to forward head and rounded shoulders would be an easy and simple backbend along with a set of standing arm circles. Just stand up and put your hands on your hips, lift up, and bend back from your waist. It can’t get much easier.

Sitting for hours on end, tightening up leg and back muscles that should be long and free to extend, just adds to the forward head and rounded shoulders condition. It doesn’t have to be. As I said, it’s up to you.

A forward head and rounded shoulders won’t cause immediate symptoms or pain; they aren’t traumatic injuries like breaking an arm. Yet, they will eventually cause real pain. It will sneak up on you because of repetitive movements and positions.

A forward head and rounded shoulders will change your natural walking patterns, forcing you away from heel-toe walking and to a forefoot-first pattern, which will weaken your arches, calves and further tighten your hamstrings. You can “get away” with this for years, but it will catch up to you. So why not correct it before it becomes a problem requiring therapy, medication, or surgery, none of which will address the actual cause of the pain?

Change is hard. Most of us resist change; what’s normal seems okay to us, until it’s not. Changing our sitting positions and our desk habits seems almost impossible, especially when we aren’t sure what’s wrong. What’s wrong is the neck and shoulder pain we have when we sit at the desk, watching TV, texting, or just moving about.

What is good sitting posture and what can we do to find it and to keep it? Good question, and here’s the answer. Your sitting bones are the key to good desk, eating, texting, and sitting posture. Try it. Sit down on a firm-bottomed chair and wriggle around until you feel both sitting bones leveled out and straight down on the seat. Stay there. That’s home base. Bottom line, your ears belong in line with your shoulders and your shoulders should be in line with your hips. But it all starts with your sitting bones. Let the bones be your guide.

If you sit on your sitting bones at the office, in front of your computer, on any surface, your shoulders and head will fall into place. There’s a natural neck and low back curve and you need to keep it. Slouch, lean back or forward, off the sitting bones, and you’re in trouble.

One of our therapists Kat Kohler created a video that will give you some guidance about sitting at the office. She offers exercises that will get you started on the way to a balanced head and well-positioned shoulders, as well as ways to improve your office to better prevent a forward head and shoulders.

Our Marketplace has a quick and easy Office Pain Relief Program for just $20 that will, I guarantee, correct a forward head and rounded shoulders and, even better, keep you that way. Try it. The exercises will make a difference.

If you have questions, would like to know more, please fill out the Contact form below and we will get back to you ASAP.

Be well.

Why The Yankee’s Abundance of Caution with Young Pitcher’s Arms is Not Enough

Last week, the NY Times published an article on Tommy John surgery, examining what seems like an inevitable surgical procedure for many of major league baseball’s high-speed pitchers. In an effort to preserve the arm health of new pitchers, protocols limiting the amount of pitches per game have been set to minimize the stress on a pitcher’s elbow tendons. Unfortunately, even this protocol doesn’t seem to prevent damage to young or old pitchers.

If you are a pitcher, scout, or coach, please read this carefully as it may make a huge impact on your thinking. Why aren’t the physical screens, the physical therapy, and the emphasis on mechanics and mandated rest time saving a pitcher’s elbows? What if I told you it wasn’t the elbow? Or even the shoulder? Very often when you have elbow and shoulder pain in high torque and velocity sports, the true cause is in the hips and upper back. The elbow tendinitis issue could even start as far away as the feet because collapsed arches and excessive pronation will bring about a misalignment of the hips.

Pitching has a number of similarities to Crack the Whip, a playground game we played as children. Take a look at the way it is played, courtesy of You Tube. The connection to Tommy John surgery has to do with momentum and transferred energy, just like Crack the Whip.

Imagine the energy used throughout the entire body of a pitcher throwing a 90+ mile-an-hour baseball. If the back and hips don’t allow for a smooth transfer of energy from the hips to the arms, the elbow gets jerked hard with a force that it can’t support. The elbow, like the knee, is a stability joint. It is not meant to twist or to be twisted. That twisting, turning, and rotation belongs to the thigh (hip), ankle, shoulder, and wrist. These are the designated rotatory joints of the chain, not the elbow, or the knee.

The standard response may be that pitchers are already strong. An example could be that they can gym-squat more than their own body weight. So, they already have strong backs and hips. Wrong! Just because they can move mass doesn’t mean they can move their joints and bodies in a healthy pattern.

What imbalances does an alignment therapist look for? For starters, they look to see if one hip is rotated or turned more forward than the other? Is one hip higher or lower than the other? Is it the hip or is there something going on in the ankle or the foot that is causing the hip rotation? What do the shoulders look like? Are they forward or are the tops of the shoulders resting in a nice clean line below the ears? Is there a curve in the neck and is the head balanced over the shoulders or? Is one shoulder higher, lower, or more forward than the other? Has all the muscle mass built up in the upper back, forcing a rounded over look? The more yes answers to these questions, the more likely the player is to be injured one season into his sport.

But pitchers are one-sided humans. Of course, one side will be different from the other! This tendency needs to be corrected by cross training through various modalities to develop neutral shoulders and hips. A pitcher should train for strength and mobility resulting in a proud chest with shoulders back and even, resting comfortably under the ears of a head resting on a slightly curved neck. Tight and over-developed biceps may seem cool but they can’t keep the rotator cuff engaged and the shoulders stress free. Pitching should be graceful, not mechanical.

Train to neutralize the hips so that one isn’t higher or more forward than the other. Train to make up for all the throwing on one side. Don’t rely on heavy lifts to do this. Don’t strengthen what is already strong. For full optimal stabilization, recruit all muscles, not just the big ones.

For an initial look at the overall postural and mechanical balance of a player, use the BodyFix Method™ posture and gait analysis system for an estimate. Evaluating players with this system can be like having x-ray vision for faulty movement patterns and compensations, all of which will lead to permanent dysfunctions.

With a trained BodyFix Method™ therapist, after the posture and gait analysis is complete, the therapist can then test for specific muscles that aren’t firing properly by using her skills in Muscle Activation Technique (MAT). This assessment is a series of comparative movement tests to pinpoint which muscle and even which region of the muscle isn’t firing properly. Either palpation or isometrics can then be used to wake up that inactive spot so that it can operate with the rest of the team.

What have we learned today? Elbow and shoulder pain, whether it’s from pitching, golfing, or swimming is usually caused by a dysfunction elsewhere in the body. The elbow was just the weakest point the force was traveling through.

How can we prevent this? Find the strong and overworked muscles and relax them; find the weak and underutilized muscles and make them stronger. Find the forward, hiked, and rotated joints and make them neutral. We must have symmetry in order to have grace and fluidity in movement.

Lastly, a discerning eye and proper alignment testing is key. Work with a professional and learn how to see the imbalances in action so you can test and correct the imbalances before they shake the “machine” apart.

If you have questions, comments, or would like to know more about alignment and function, please get in touch with me at kat@bodyfixmethod.com.

 

Love To Play Golf? Strengthen Your Hips, Thighs, and Knees First!

 

Golf is hard on the knees, especially knees with arthritis or knees with a previous injury. Most arthritis is really osteoarthritis, meaning that the bones of the knee joints are being beat up because of poor joint alignment. Knee injuries are related to the amount of rotation throughout the body required during the backswing and follow-through.

For a right-handed golfer, a significant amount of torque and valgus stress (stress to the inside of the knee) is generated at the left knee. The knees must stay flexed during the backswing to absorb some of the rotational stress of the swing.

Golf requires ankles that work, not just to point and flex, but also to rotate the foot in and out without using the knee or the hips. The two rotation joints in the lower body are the hip joint and the ankle. If the ankle joints don’t rotate, then the hip joints take on more work, and the knees usually becomes the victim.

For the many golfers who have tight back muscles and joints, one of the ways to attempt to generate more turn in the backswing is to place more stress on the knee. This often leads to injuries to the medial (inside) meniscus. There are also many golfers with tight hip muscles, which changes the joint alignment at the knee. This again places more stress on the knee, making it more susceptible to injury.

Most golfers play hurt, with shoulder and hip tendonitis, sore and tight muscles, and osteoarthritis, diagnosed or not. “Professional golfers condition to play golf; amateur golfers play golf to get in condition,” a Jack Nicklaus quote, which leads to the fact that 60% of amateur golfers will have a serious injury during their too short careers.

Why? Amateur golfers are often out of shape, almost always have faulty swing mechanics, and rarely warm up correctly or enough. Amateur golfers seldom have the best form and no one can get in shape to play good golf without serious conditioning. Most amateur golfers are “weekend warriors”, truly brave men and women who sit all week long and then hit the course in search of a good match, exercise, and movement.

Here is a list of injuries that will happen and each of them can be avoided. The injuries start with the lead wrist, move to the lead elbow, go to the lead shoulder, run down to the lead knee, and finally end at the low back.

  • Wrist Tendinitis
  • Tennis Elbow or Golfer’s Elbow
  • Rotator Cuff Injuries
  • Knee Pain
  • Low Back Pain

Strengthen the muscles and joints needed for a contact sport like golf but first, correct your faulty movement patterns that can lead to significant injury. Most of us try to do too much in a short period and wind up hurting ourselves reaching for performance when we haven’t even gotten the movement of the swing down right. Once the movement is right and stability is assured, power and distance will come. Until then, you’re kidding yourself. And, you are going to hurt yourself.

If you would like some professional flexibility and mobility help, get in touch with us and schedule a Skype session with a trained therapist. Alternatively, you can spend $20 and download one of several Golfer’s Exercise Programs from our Shop Here. One or two of the programs will get you started. You can use one series all season or upgrade as you become more comfortable with your progress.

If you have questions or suggestions, please let me know at: bill@bodyfixmethod.com. We are here to help you stay healthy.

Take advantage of the amateur athlete resources available within a movement clinic like BodyFix Method™ in New York or Golf-Body NYC. Can’t get to New York? No worries. There is a golf or movement clinic in almost every city. A personal trainer at your gym may have skills that will help with your conditioning and flexibility. If there isn’t one known to you, ask. In addition, follow through and ask the pro at your club.

Can’t Wait To Play Golf? Strengthen Your Hips, Thighs, and Knees First!

With Bill Boland & Bradley Borne

For the many golfers, one of the ways to attempt to generate more turn in the backswing is to place more stress on the knee. This often leads to injuries to the medial (inside) meniscus. There are also many golfers with tight hip muscles, which changes the joint alignment at the knee. This again places more stress on the knee, making it more susceptible to injury. Strengthen the muscles and joints needed for a contact sport like golf and correct faulty movement patterns that lead to significant injury.

Saturday April 29th, 2017: 9.30am – 4.30pm
$100
Space Is Limited, Enroll Now!