it may just help

B.

If you have not read my previous post then this post may not make much sense. So before you read this, go here and read this one first.

In my last post I wrote about lower back pain and what newer research is concluding regarding what may be causing it. As promised, this is the follow up post and I want to use this post to go over what you can do if you are suffering from lower back pain caused by stress on your thoracolumbar fascia.

What

Let’s look at the 3 common items I covered last post that can distress the thoracolumbar fascia and cause back pain and what can be done to address them:

  • Dehydration: Simple. Drink more water and also consume foods that are high in water content. If your urine is dark in colour, not light like straw you are dehydrated. Check out this link to read up on the colour of your pee. If you are very active or sweat a lot, you have to consume more water. And if you can, please stay away from bottled water. The huge negative impact on our environment and also to yourself for something that is in the ground under your feet, comes out of your taps and is pretty much available anywhere for free. If you are concerned about the safety of your water you can purchase water filtering kits for your home or elsewhere. It doesn’t make sense environmentally and economically for you to purchase water pulled from the ground, transported, put into plastic (a byproduct of oil) bottles, transported again to the store for you to pay for. If you would like more info on the environmental and health impacts of bottled water check out the links.
  • Lifting: “Lift with your legs, not your back otherwise you could injure your thoracolumbar fascia!” That’s it. Lift properly. Not only heavy things but all things. Lifting something incorrectly that’s not that heavy may not cause discomfort but it may cause distress and over time, doing the same thing, that distress can add up and lead to an injury that requires time off of work, time away from the fun things you like doing. When lifting, don’t bend over at the waist. Bend your legs, look forward or even up, keep you back straight, weight on the heels and lift using the muscles in your legs. If you feel the load is too much for you, get someone else to lift it!
  • Sitting: When at work, be sure to get yourself a desk that can go from a normal sitting position to standing position. If you think about it, why do we sit in chairs at work? How long have people been doing this? For years! Way back when offices were created, long before computers, we lived in different times. The boss, the company held all the power (ok, that hasn’t changed all that much over the years). No sick days, no going home because your back is sore. Also, that work did not involve having your hands out in front of you using a computer. So why do we still use technology today that is from over a hundred years ago? It makes no sense! We know the more we sit the worse it is for us. And for as little as a couple of hundred dollars you can get a device that will allow you to stand and sit while using a computer. Keep this in mind too, the damage isn’t only done over a long time frame, short term consequences can have long term impacts too. Short term is a relative term but it can be as long as 5 years. If you work for 45 years 5 years is about only 11% of that time frame. And don’t let the boss make you feel like a snowflake asking for this. It’s 2019 for f*cks sake! Our workspaces shouldn’t look like they did back in 1919. If you need to, put together your arguments on why this will benefit your boss. At the end of the day when you are gone working somewhere else for whatever reason, you will still have the back you have while your boss will not really give two sh*ts.

Lastly

Hot baths, hot water bottle, heating pad are great for bringing heat and thus increasing blood flow to the injured area which should aid in healing. You can also try this stretching routine to help loosen things up:

      • Lying on the floor on your back with knees bent, feet flat on the ground, take time to feel the spots that have tension and relax them. Lay on the floor and feel everything relax.
      • Then, press your lower back to the floor (cat pose) and relax. Then, do it again for 8 to 10 times.
      • Now, do the reverse. Bring your lower back up (cow pose) to increase the space between your lower back and the floor. Do this about 8 to 10 times.
      • Lay there and relax.
      • Do the above again, the cat and the cow.

The above can also be done while sitting in a chair. Try it!

Finally

Take care of yourself. Advocate for yourself. You are your keeper.

Yours in health,

Darryl

it’s not always what you think it is

A.

I’ve suffered from it for years, ever since I was a teenager. Happened one day when I bent over to pick up an empty box that held items the store I worked for were selling. That was it. Bending over picking up an empty box.

A terrible sharp pain in my lower back.

I could hardly straighten up due to the excruciating pain and fortunately, I was able to leave work early. The pain subsided a bit but I was not myself for about 7 days. A year later the same thing again. Then the following year again. I think then I went and saw a chiropractor. The treatment I received alleviated the pain for  a short time but it never did seem to cure it. Almost every year a flareup.

Side note: I don’t despair chiropractors but do your homework and listen to your gut. A chiropractor that was at a health fair put on by my employer was concerned about my back condition(?) and wanted a formal evaluation. I had x-rays taken and he examined my back. I was told that my back is in such bad shape that he would not be surprised that I wouldn’t be around this earth after 5 years. Seriously. This is what I was told. It didn’t feel right, his philosophy on chiropractic so I bounced. That was about 19 years ago. Guess I showed him.

What

dealing with pain
Dealing with back pain

Back pain, specifically lower back pain. I think almost everyone has had some lower back pain at one time. And it can be so debilitating. You feel immobilized, useless, every movement seems to cause pain. And then it goes away after so many days. Then, maybe 6 months, maybe a year it’s back again and you have some ideas why but you really aren’t sure. It gets in the way of the things you do, the plans you have, it makes life suck.

What causes this pain though? Unlike a typical blunt trauma injury like a sprained wrist, a broken leg, a pulled muscle it seems to be a mystery. Rest would be the fix then they changed their mind and movement was the best way to be back on your feet. Your chiropractor ‘adjusts’ your back and it feels good but it’s not a cure.

Why

The reading I have done on this subject over time shows more studies are pointing to muscular imbalances, overly tight muscles and also muscle fascia.

Tight glute and piriformis muscles can cause lower back pain and also that pain that shoots down your leg due to sciatica. Hamstring muscles that run from your hip down the back of your knee if tight can also cause lower back pain. The psoas muscles that run from both sides of your spine down to your femurs if tight and short will end up pulling on your vertebrae causing back pain.

It’s a lot of information, isn’t it. Confusing and complicated. I want to add one more to this list, something you may not have heard of and it’s been getting more attention over the last few years. Thoracolumbar fascia.

treatment
Treating the pain

Let’s break this down. Fascia is made up of connective tissue collagen and other stuff. It holds muscle where it’s supposed to be, like compartmentalization of things otherwise you would have muscles and organs floating around in your body, sloshing together. It’s a support system for your insides. Think of the white stuff that is between the orange peel and the flesh of the orange. That white webbie stuff. That’s your fascia.

The thoracic part is because it covers the thoracic spine. It’s more than that diamond shape from the mid spine down to your tailbone, it actually runs from one shoulder to the opposite hip. The transitional area between the upper and lower body allows forces to be transferred for various daily activities. Enabling movement, it is also important for stability.

So what is it we could be doing that can aggravate the thoracolumbar fascia? Let me highlight some of these:

        • Dehydration: This fascia tissue is in constant contact with muscles, tendons, etc. constantly rubbing as our body moves. Water is what our body uses as lubricant for our joints and also for fascia tissue. This can cause inflammation and may then stimulate the free nerve endings that live in the fascia. I’ve talked in the past how being dehydrated even 5% can cause a drastic negative hit to our performance and I just gave you another reason to drink water.
        • Lifting: “Lift with your legs, not your back otherwise you could injure your thoracolumbar fascia!” When we feel pain after incorrect heavy lifting we think we hurt our back which in a sense we did but if we don’t know exactly what we injured then how could we treat it? Lift properly, always no matter what the load is.
        • Sitting: I may shock you here with what I’m going to write. When you read ‘Sitting’ did you immediately think lower back position in the chair? Probably, I know I think that. But let’s look at the fascia and how it connects. As I wrote earlier it’s connected all the way from our pelvis to our shoulder girdle.  If I grab your right shoulder from behind and pull hard, does only your shoulder girdle move? No, your body twists all the way to your hips. Are you sitting in such a way that you have tension in your chest, tension in your shoulders? As the fascia tissue adjusts to the tension, the changes can be manifested to your lower back causing you to think you’ve incurred a back injury. But you are right too. Improper sitting, favoring one side over the other most definitely will lead to injury. Think of what laying in a bed in the same spot, sitting on a couch in the same spot over the years does. They get compromised from the constant weight, that one spot. Our body will take abuse but only so much. Sitting in positions that aren’t neutral to our support systems; fascia tissue, bones, muscles, etc. over time will cause us grief.

More to come

This will be a 2 parter. It’s early in the morning, I’m off to work in about an hour and boy is it going to be a long day.

This may help you to understand what may be causing your back pain. I hope so. And if you think so then you may want to read the second part coming out soon.

Yours in health,

Darryl

 

 

the heavens crushing down

You might not be a Titan condemned to hold up the heavens for eternity but who doesn’t want bigger shoulders anyway?

That is the topic of today’s post. Keeping it simple, I am going to give you the formula to help you get there. I’m not saying it will be easy, hard work will definitely be involved but it will be simple in what you need to do.

What

shoulder
Strong shoulders

Let’s look at shoulders. Broken into 3 muscle groups, the anterior deltoid (front of the body) the lateral deltoid (the side of the body) and the posterior deltoid (the rear of the body). I have excluded the muscles of the rotator cuff as that is a large topic in itself.

Most of us, and I do mean most, have over developed anterior deltoids. This is largely due to the lives we live. Our arms are out in front of us mostly; using a keyboard, working on things with hands in front, and also carrying heavy items. This tends to over work the anterior deltoids leading to them being stronger than the other two deltoids. I’m going to include exercises that will involve all 3 deltoid groups but you may want to check with a personal trainer to see if you fall into this group and should be focusing on the lateral and posterior delts more that the anterior delts.

Let’s get to it.

How

Posterior deltoid:

        • Bent over dumbbell rows: This is a great exercise to work the back of the shoulder. Holding two dumbbells at your side, bend over at the waist keeping your back arched as to keep a good posture. move your elbows out so your arms are almost perpendicular to your torso. You should now be bent over almost to 90 degrees with both dumbbells touching just below your chest. Keeping a bit of a bend in your elbows, bring the dumbbells out and up so they are almost parallel to the ground. You should look like a giant letter T with a head on it. You may find your hands will want to fall back towards your waist. Don’t let them. Hold at the top for 3 seconds then bring the weight back towards under your chest but not all the way as you want to keep the resistance on your muscles. This exercise can also be done on a bench. Sitting on the end of a bench bring your chest to your knees and do the flies from there. Do you feel this at the back of your shoulders?You should. Don’t have dumbbells? Move onto the next exercise.
        • Resistance band Rear Delt Fly: This exercise mimics the bent over dumbbell row exercise except you are standing and working only one shoulder at a time. Attach one end of the band to a stationary object that will not move at a height that just below your shoulder. Grab the other end of the band and position yourself so your hand is just on the other side of the centre of your body. So if I’m using my right hand, my hand should just be on the left side of centre of my chest. Now mimic the same motion as the dumbbell fly exercise keeping the arm slightly bent, bringing that hand to the outside of your body so your arm is almost extended but still slightly bent.

Lateral Deltoid:

        • Lateral Raise: This is kind of like the dumbbell flies in that the motion is very similar but you wont be bent over and the weights start just in front of your legs. Standing with a dumbbell in each hand, legs soft (this means you have a slight bend in the knees) the dumbbells just ahead of your centre in front of your quads, with that bend in the arms bring the dumbbells up and out so you for a big T with your arms. Resist the urge to spring into the motion using your legs to help carry the weight up. This would be cheating and you don’t want to do that, yet (we’ll talk doing negatives later). Keep the wrists soft too, almost like you are pouring out from a jug when your hands get to the top.
        • Resistance Band Lateral Raise: Just like the above exercise but with resistance bands. I’m a fan of resistance bands. If you have read my article you know the benefits are constant resistance where as with free weights, or even machines, there is a point in the motion of the exercise where resistance drastically falls off. If you are using bands be sure to use ones that give you the resistance you need to keep in the range of adding muscle and strength and not endurance.

Anterior Deltoid:

        • Front Dumbbell Raise: Pretty much the same as the lateral raise except the dumbbells are brought up in front of you kind of like you are holding up your hands to push someone away from you. Keep knees and elbows soft and again, don’t bring the weight all the way down to the point the resistance is lessened.
        • Resistance Band Front Raise: Again, same as above but with resistance bands.

The standards:

        • Dumbbell Shoulder Press: Working the anterior delts, this also works the tricpes, the muscles in the rotator cuff, the trapezius muscles. And it helps make you stronger when lifting things overhead. Using two dumbbells, sitting or standing, start with the dumbbells at your shoulders like you are ready to press something upwards. Lift the weights up above you until your arms are almost straight (keeping soft elbows). Do not lock out your arms as we want the resistance to stay on the muscles, not the joints. Bring the dumbbells down but not too low that the resistance comes off of the muscles.
        • Shoulder Shrugs: It’s like it sounds but with weights. Using two dumbbells at your side, be sure to keep your hands centered at your side, shrug your shoulders like you are bringing your shoulders to your ears. This exercise mainly works the trapezius muscles and in turn strong traps helps with improving posture as they pull your shoulders back and help to stabilize your neck and upper back. Also, you can use much more weight doing shrugs than you can doing raises so this helps in developing forearm and hand strength. Try not to use aids such as wraps to help hold the dumbbells if you are using heavy weight. In my opinion, it’s better to drop the weight and hold the dumbbells using the strength of your muscles. Think of it as putting your hands on your knees when doing lunges. You may be developing stronger legs but by putting your hands on your knees you have eliminated the stabilizing muscles, your core muscles, from working and your core will not be strong as it should be when doing this type of movement.
        • Resistance Band Shoulder Shrugs: If your resistance bands have the ability to attach a grip then you can use them for shoulder shrugs. Depending on the type of resistance band, you can stand or sit and have them under your feet to make them the right length to give you the right amount of resistance.

Tools

presses
Shoulder presses

My explanation on how to do these exercises make sense to me but maybe not to you. Check Youtube for video’s on these exercises if you need to. Or, engage a personal trainer to show you and to ensure your form is correct. Remember, incorrect form may not manifest itself in an injury immediately. It may take months before the damage done has been felt. I’m not self promoting when I recommend to hire a personal trainer. It doesn’t have to be  a long commitment. It can be short term to educate yourself on proper form and then a check up or a few. It could be money well spent preventing a future injury.

Mix it up. Use various principles to add strength and muscle. Principles such as negatives, pyramids, stacking, etc.

Goal

If your goal is to add size, and with size comes strength, DO NOT DO MORE THAN 12 REPS. If you are serious about adding size, keep reps under 6. This is why you never see power lifters doing endurance sports, or lifting lighter weights to get more reps. This does not mean use the same weight you would have when doing 12 or 15 reps and do only 6, it means using heavier weights, or more resistance.

The muscles need to be stressed to the point there are micro tears for growth to happen. Stopping at 6 when you could have done 8 will not help you achieve your goal.

Stick to 2 exercises for each muscle group doing 3 sets for each exercise sticking to the appropriate amount of reps. Do this to start. If the muscles are stressed and you notice this with the normal muscle pain than great, you are doing well. If not, add another set.

Eat. Eat as much whole foods that are plant based as you want! No worrying about how much protein you are getting as you will get what you need. Did you know the RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowance) for the average woman is under 50 grams? The world we live in has us believing we need so much more. And more isn’t always better. More protein means more work for our kidneys and it’s unnecessary and if you are getting this in the form of a supplement you are just throwing your money down the toilet, literally. If you find you are not adding weight than you probably are not eating enough whole foods and may be eating too many processed foods that won’t help contribute to building muscle tissue.

Finally

Right amount of sets, reps, eating well. Listening to your body’s feedback and reacting to it. Setup a schedule and follow it. It is that simple. I know! I used to be a big guy in the sense of muscle once weighing in at 200 lean lbs and squatting over 300lbs. I was mentored years ago by a friend who went from 150lbs to 210lbs. He knew what he was talking about and he was walking proof and I took that knowledge and applied it to myself.

Do the same for yourself and you will get results. Will you have the same results as others? Not always. We have different body types and those underlying body types will always be there at the core. But you will change your body. You are sitting at the wheel, molding the clay, shaping it the way you want.

Yours in health,

Darryl