If you spend long periods of time with your legs flexed at the hip (such as when sitting or cycling) and are experiencing stiffness or aching in your back, there is a chance that a tightening of your Psoas muscle (right) could be a contributing factor.
The muscle attaches the leg to the back and is responsible for flexing the hip.
It will adaptively shorten when in a flexed state for extended periods and because it attaches to the lower back, as it shortens it can pull on the spine which can in turn cause stiffness and pain.
In this short clip below, Sally demonstrates how to effectively stretch the Psoas to ease any tightness.
What if we were to tell you that you could strengthen your core without even thinking about it? Sounds good, right? No more guilt from not doing your physio/chiropractor/PT homework. Try these 5 tips next time you go for a stroll…
Visualise a piece of string on top of your head pulling you upwards. Roll your shoulders back and down and maintain a neutral spine. When you slouch and roll forward, the muscles of your deep abdominals take the cue to chill out and take a breather. Fire them up and get them back to work by keeping your posture in check and walking tall.
Okay, not like Rachel from ‘Friends’ swinging your arms, but by pumping your arms as you walk, you change your centre of gravity ever so slightly and your core muscles will engage to help propel you forward whilst keeping your position tight.
Walking on an incline will engage your deep abdominal muscles more than walking on the flat. Activate your core and shift your centre of gravity again, leaning slightly forward as you climb for a power boost up the hill.
Carrying weight in one (or both) hands will place extra demands on your core muscles and you’ll need to keep fired up to keep yourself standing tall and maintain your neutral spine. If you’re carrying a bag in just one hand, be extra careful that you’re not leaning to that side by really engaging the muscles and bracing against it.
Practice breathing exercises to the rhythm of your walking pace. Try breathing in for 2 strides and out for 2 strides, and each time you take a breath out, activate your core and squeeze your pelvic floor muscles. Get into the rhythm and continue for the whole walk. Keep your breathing natural though, take too deep breaths and you’ll start to feel faint.
Happy 2019 everyone! We’ve been working lots lately, both personally and with our clients, around goal setting. As fitness and therapy professionals, we are trained in goal setting and how to make them SMART but having attended several seminars and workshops this year, we’re really learning how to drill down and set much more manageable goals which are easy to measure.
The great thing about it is that you can use it in any context. Health-related goals, professional goals and personal goals. Let’s make a start on the bigger picture, then work it down to something you can work on a practical level.
This is your ultimate aim. Let’s say you have back pain, for this example. You could say to yourself ‘my goal is to get rid of my back pain’ which is fine, but not that helpful in terms of giving yourself a plan and having the motivation to stick to it.
A more helpful suggestion would be to attach some emotion or feeling to your goal to help you really connect with what it is you want and to keep you motivated to achieve it.
A good way to tap in to what you really want is to have a think about what you don’t want, then switch it around to figure out what you do want. List it out:
“I don’t want to feel stiff when I get out of bed” becomes… I want to feel free from stiffness when I get out of bed
“I don’t want to have to say no when the kids want to play because of my back” becomes…I want to be able to play with the kids without my back hurting
“I don’t want my back to go every time I exercise becomes” …I want to exercise without fear of my back going
…you get the idea. So now we know what we want, we can start to figure out how we’re going to get there…
So now you’re clear on what you want and why it’s important, it’s time to act. Take some notes:
This is where we get to the bare bones to drill in to what you need to do on a practical level to reach your goal.
Take your goal and bring it together with the lists you made in step 2 – e.g.:
At this point if you’re working with a professional, they can help you break your goal down, and help you understand whether your goal is achievable in the time scale you have in mind. If not, break it down further.
When we see a client for a consultation, we first establish what they want and then design a programme within a set time frame to work towards it. We’ll then set smaller targets to achieve each week, say ‘increase weights by 5% each week’ or ‘take a 1-minute break from your desk every hour to walk around’.
If you’re working towards something yourself, say weight loss, work it down into weekly aims which can be as simple as ‘bring a healthy lunch from home every day’ or ‘only have 3 packets of crisps this week instead of 5’. Simple, measurable and achievable.
Small steps may not seem like much, but ultimately they contribute to your larger aim and stop you seeing something as a massive change and fooling your brain into thinking ‘2 less packets of crisps a week? Sure, that’s easy’.
If you have a wobble in the process, revisit your reasons why, and why it’s important to you. Attaching emotion to something hits us harder than a generic goal and can be a real motivator in sticking to a plan.
So, what are your goals? Let us know in the comments!
One of the first things we teach during a consultation is how to engage the core muscles. This is a fundamental part of any core strengthening work and can be easily applied to everyday activities, enabling you to use these muscles as a foundation for movement and perform functional exercise throughout the day.
1. Lie on your back with bent knees and feet flat on the floor
2. Locate the top of your hip bones, walk your fingers diagonally down a few centimetres and press in
3. Cough and feel the muscles contract. It’ll feel like it’s pushing your fingers out
4. Cough again and this time, try to hold the contraction for a few seconds, then relax
5. Repeat step 4 but this time, think about keeping the back of your rib cage pressed into the floor at the same time
6. Repeat step 5, counting to 10 out loud whilst holding the contraction
7. Practice, practice, practice
This technique is pretty tricky and does take lots of practice to master. It’ll feel quite unnatural at first and you’ll need to do it quite a few times before you get the hang of breathing whilst holding the contraction but carry on with the counting out loud and it’ll click eventually.
The idea is that once you know how to engage, you can use this technique to protect and strengthen your back whenever you lift, be it a weight in the gym, a small child or a full kettle for your morning cuppa.
We are well and truly in germ season now and the winter bugs are spreading like wildfire. So, if you’re training for an event or have those last few inches to shed to it your target…what do you do? Keep your fingers crossed and ‘sweat it out’ or give yourself a break and come back stronger on the other side?
A general rule of thumb is this; anything above the neck, you’re fine to exercise in moderation. Anything below, take a breather and leave your trainers at home until you feel better.
So, if you have a common cold, you’re fine if you don’t have a fever. Just lower the intensity, take it steady and focus on maintaining rather than improving until you’re fully recovered. Remember your immune system takes a battering if you train too hard and if it’s already compromised you’ll just take an age to get better.
If you have a fever, DON’T train. You run the risk of dehydration and heatstroke. Similarly, if you have a cough, chest infection or other respiratory illness, exercise will exacerbate the problem. It goes without saying that you need your heart and lungs on top form when training, right?
Use common sense and listen to your body. If you don’t feel up to it, don’t do it. Sometimes you’re better off taking a couple of days break, letting the illness run its course and that way, you’ll have a fighting chance of ridding yourself of the germs faster and getting stuck into training properly when it’s passed.0 Likes
As a nation, we now spend a day a week online.
At 70%, more of us than ever are using our smartphones to stay connected so it’s no surprise that there is a steep rise in the number of people suffering from neck, shoulder and upper back pain.
‘Text-neck’ is now a thing as we spend over 3 hours a day (and increasing) curled over our phones.
The average human head weighs 10-12 lbs. As your head tilts down, the gravitational pull on your head places additional pressure on your neck, up to a staggering 60 lbs at 60 degrees (or a small labrador to put it into perspective!)
When logging off isn’t an option, a good way to counteract this pressure is to work on strengthening our neck and upper back. Try these exercises once a day to help improve your posture and avoid your smartphone becoming a pain in the neck…
Keep your head upright and place your hand flat against the side of your head. Gently push your head away from you and use your neck muscles to resist, so your head remains upright. Hold for 20-30 seconds each side and repeat 3 times.
Lying face down, engage your core and raise your upper body from the floor. As you do so, lift your arms and squeeze your shoulder blades together, keeping your legs and buttocks relaxed and head looking down. Hold for 10 seconds and repeat 5-10 times.
Loop a resistance band against something sturdy, engage your core and taking hold of the ends of the band, keep your elbows in tight to your body and pull your arms towards you, squeezing in between your shoulder blades as you do so. Repeat 12-16 times for 3 sets.
Take hold of each end of a resistance band and hold out in front of your body. Engage your core and keeping your arms almost straight, move your arms back horizontally, stretching the band and squeezing your shoulder blades together. Repeat 24 times.
If you haven’t exercised before, you may feel muscle soreness around the shoulder blades and neck the first week or so. This is perfectly normal and your body’s response to getting stronger.
We know that drinking water is good, right? It’s a no-brainer – we hear it all the time; ‘drink more water!’ ‘water is good for your health!’ ‘drink 8 glasses a day!’ But when we drill down, do you really know why it’s important to keep your fluid levels up, do we understand the impact of not being hydrated?
Let’s explore a bit deeper.
Dehydration can make you lethargic, confused and lacking in energy. A study found that when a group of subjects increased their water intake from 1.2 litres a day to 2.5 litres a day, they reported a drop in tension, depression and confusion.
In one study, participants who drank an extra litre of water a day for a year lost an extra 2kg of weight on average. This can be due to several things; not mistaking hunger for thirst, feeling fuller and drinking water instead of sugary drinks can all be valid reasons.
Studies also suggest that it can boost your metabolism by up to 30%. Sounds good, right?
Our body is around 60% water, and basic functions rely on hydration. Water transports essential nutrients around the body and delivers them to our cells so they can function properly and is a major component of the blood and lymph system, which are fundamental parts of our immune system.
Drinking plenty of water also helps the kidneys flush out toxins from your body, removing all the nasties and stopping the build-up from weakening your immune system.
Staying hydrated helps lubricate your joints and avoid muscle cramps. You can exercise long and stronger when you have enough water on board.
Your discs are made up of an inner substance that’s mainly water, and an outer, tougher ring. Regular movement keeps your discs hydrated as they absorb whatever water is available.
If you’re dehydrated, however, this inner part of the disc also becomes dehydrated and can’t function properly. This places too much strain on the outer ring and can result in pain and swelling.
A general rule of thumb is 15ml per lb of body weight, with an extra 500ml-1 litre with moderate-intense exercise. If you drink between 2-3litres a day, you’re doing fine.
It’s great if you have a reusable bottle and set yourself the goal of having so many bottles full per day, depending on the size of it. I use a 1 litre bottle and aim to finish 3 refills a day. I do, however, aim to get it all in by 8pm, otherwise frequent loo visits will keep you up all night!
It doesn’t have to be water, though obviously that’s the best drink you can get (and it’s free!) tea, coffee and soft drinks all count towards your daily hydration goal.
We’ve all been there, haven’t we? You know, the day after a session in the gym or after playing some sports where your every movement induces wince-worthy pain. Let’s not even talk about stairs after leg day (or err, sitting on the toilet).
The actual term for soreness following activity is DOMS – Delayed Onset of Muscle Soreness. And man, don’t we know it? You know sometimes it’s even WORSE on day 2 following a workout? Yikes.
It’s not be feared though, the pain is likely caused by the build-up of lactic acid and microtears in the muscle fibres, and it’s through this breaking down that the muscles repair and come back stronger. It’s all good.
By the way, if you’re not sure if the pain you’re experiencing is DOMS, take a read of this post on when pain shouldn’t be ignored.
So the good news is, you can take steps to reduce the pain and though you won’t quite be bounding down the stairs the day after a date with the squat rack, you may just be able to manage it with a few less ‘eech’s’ and ‘ouches’
It’s like ironing your muscles with a giant rolling pin. Using the roller post-workout, you can give your muscles a good stretch and boost circulation to the tissues to aid recovery.
Similarly (but with less effort), you can get a deep tissue massage to help reduce the severity of pain pre-workout – as is often the case with athletes and sportspeople preparing for an event – or up to 3 days post-workout to boost circulation and ease tightness.
Muscles need protein to repair. Eating a protein-rich meal following a session will help feed the tissues, reduce inflammation and aid recovery.
Ok, so sometimes the thought of even going for a walk can be painful but bear with me. Low-intensity activity can increase blood flow and nutrient delivery, as well as aiding the removal of waste products. Grin and bear it for the first few minutes, you’ll soon loosen off.
The warmth of the water is fantastic for easing sore muscles, and if you add Epsom salts to the water, the magnesium promotes absorption of vitamins and flushes out lactic acid.
A client of ours sent us an email last week, expressing his thanks for enabling him to have the best night’s sleep he’d had in several months. It’s not unusual for people to come to us exhausted, following months – sometimes years – of surviving on very little sleep thanks to their back pain.
Sleep is vital for basic human function. It’s the time when our body rests and repairs. If you have back pain, that rest and repair becomes even MORE important. Yet, as so many people with back pain will tell you, getting comfortable enough for a decent night’s kip is easier said than done.
Try these strategies to help soothe you into a comfortable slumber the next time your back threatens to keep you up all night:
This one is tricky as everyone has their own comfortable position, but often the position which aggravates backs the most is sleeping on your front.
In this position, your spine is in an unnatural position and unable to maintain it’s natural curve, which subsequently puts pressure on your back muscles.
If you sleep on your side, try placing a pillow in between your knees to stop your top leg sliding forward and rotating your spine.
If you sleep on your back, try a pillow under your knees or small rolled up towel in the small of your back to maintain the curve of your spine.
Keep in mind at all times the natural shape of your spine and trying to maintain that in your sleeping position. Which brings us on to:
Too many or too little and you’ll have an unnatural curve in your neck. Choose a thickness which keeps your head and neck in alignment with your spine.
The warmth of the water will help relax your muscles. If you’re feeling stiff and tense, or your muscles are in spasm, this is the ideal way to encourage your body to relax as you prepare for slumber.
You’ll also experience the added mental benefits of helping relax your mind at the same time as warm baths can trigger the production of melatonin, the sleep hormone.
Salt baths are proven to reduce inflammation so using Epsom salts or magnesium in the water may also help.
Getting the right amount of support is vital, and investing in a decent mattress should be a priority if you have back pain.
In terms of the support, ultimately, there is no one type of mattress which is best for all back pain, so you should choose one with the right level of support for you, whilst maintaining the comfort you need for a good night’s sleep.
Choose a mattress which supports your back and helps maintain the alignment of your spine, without sagging in the middle, for example. One study found that medium-firm mattresses usually provide more back pain relief than firm mattresses. One which is too firm may cause pressure points on your shoulders and hips, so find one where your shoulders and hips can naturally sink in slightly.
Good posture is about more than keeping a straight back. It’s about reducing the strain on your body and placing it in a position which places the least stress on your muscles, joints and ligaments. It’s not just about how you stand either, it’s about things like your driving position, how you hold yourself when you walk and how you position yourself when you’re working.
Because of imbalances in our body when we’re not holding ourselves correctly, we tend to fall into a cycle of pain-poor posture-worse pain-worse posture, which is why it’s important to nip it in the bud and reduce posture-related pain from the outset.
In a standing position, your joints should be ‘stacked’. That is ears over the shoulders, ribs over the hips and hips over the heels. Take a look side-on in a mirror to check your alignment. Front-on, your shoulders should be level, head straight and hips should sit level with your feet pointing forwards.
If you notice you are out of alignment on any of the above, you may have an imbalance in your muscles which can cause pain, tension and loss of strength.
Most imbalances are possible to correct, with the right treatment. Take a look at some common problems and how they can be improved.
Probably the most common posture-related problem we see, thanks to modern life. If you stand side-on and your upper-back is rounded and your shoulders sit in front of your ears, STRETCH the muscles in your chest and front of your shoulders and STRENGTHEN the muscles in your upper back (seated row, reverse flyes and external rotation exercises) MOBILISE your shoulders (shoulder rolls, squeezing your shoulder blades together as you roll back and down).
This is when your head is tilted forward or down, and your ears are in front of your shoulders (did you know ‘text neck’ is a thing, by the way?) another by-product of our technology-driven lives. STRETCH the neck (gentle rotations side-to-side) STRENGTHEN the muscles in your upper back (see above) and MOBILISE your neck (chin-tucks).
When your pelvis tilts forward and you have an over-exaggerated curve in your low back with your bottom pushed out. STRETCH your low back (lie face down on a gym ball, curl your body over it) and psoas muscle at the front of your hip (kneel on one knee and push your hips forward) STRENGTHEN your core (concentrate on exercises with a forward-tilting pelvis such as pelvic tilt to bridge and plank, making sure you have a slight forward tilt in your hips). MOBILISE the low back (hug your knees into your chest and rock gently from side-to-side. Roll downs are also a great mobiliser).
Where your toes point out to the sides. STRETCH your glutes (lying leg crossover) and IT band (foam roll the outside of your thigh). STRENGTHEN hip flexors (exercise ball pull-in) and MOBILISE your hips and ankles (hip/ankle rotations)
It goes without saying that prevention is better than cure so, as much as possible, try to reduce the activity which is causing the posture, or improve your positioning whilst doing it. I should also add that sports massage is also great for treating most posture-related issues, as it works to release and stretch tight and overused tissues.