Why you shouldn’t skimp on stretching

Stretching – that activity that we know we should no but generally don’t, leaves you feeling nice and warmed up and ready to take on the world… but why is stretching important, and does it really matter if you decide to skimp on it? In this article our Musculoskeletal Therapist Emma shares her wisdom on stretching.

Range of motion

Generally speaking, the range of motion is dictated by two factors: your joints and muscles. Muscle provides passive and active tension to joints, with neuroreceptive qualities to it, dependent on its contractile state. Movement is also dependent on the amount of range of motion a synovial joint has (synovial being a joint that has a capsule filled with synovial fluid).

Muscle tension decreases range of motion

So from this we have one major factor that we can control: muscle tension. Muscle tension can result from a variety of things; anything from your day-to-day activities – work, exertional exercise, walking, even sitting down and watching television has some factor in which muscles create tension, and which muscles are switching off and not doing their job.

Without even working your muscles can become tense from your body’s amazing ability to adapt and overcome situations. This can include scar tissue, neurological impairment, or certain postures (think desk work, five days a week situations).

Stretching helps the muscles and the joints

Stretching generally focuses on the muscular length between the joints where it originates, and where it attaches. When you stretch, your muscle increases in length due to muscle: brain communication through certain receptors. As well as stretching muscles, actively stretching allows your joints to increase in space, allowing less compression between bones. This reduces deterioration of joint structures, ultimately allowing your ligaments and fascia (the connective tissue surrounding your muscles, bones, joints, blood vessels etc) to release. Regular stretching can therefore prevent pain and discomfort that arises from both muscular tension and joint pain.

Stretching calms the mind

Active stretching, the kind that puts you through your entire range of motion – holding and releasing several times, can also induce a meditative state, where you are able to enjoy the full benefit of your feel good endorphins! Combining stretching with some deep breathing exercises will help you to be able to stretch longer with the added benefit of relaxation.

Stretching for people who ‘can’t stretch’

Are you particularly tense and feels like you just can’t reach that happy point of no pain and/or length when stretching? Getting some passive stretches from a Musculoskeletal or Remedial Massage Therapist can greatly reduce the restrictive feeling of active stretching as they work with your own body dynamics, rather than against them. It feels fantastic to stretch like this since you’re immediately relaxing into it and allowing your body to naturally move in ways that would otherwise be limited from the psychological barriers in place to reduce injury.

So to recap, you shouldn’t skimp on stretching because…

  • It lengthens muscles to relieve tightness
  • It helps to increase space in the joints, which can prevent pain and discomfort
  • It helps to prevent injury
  • It increases range of motion, to help you move more freely

So now that you know, try not to skimp on stretching. It really is an important part of keeping your body healthy and mobile through the years. Happy stretching, everyone!

Want your own tailored stretching program? Make an appointment with a musculoskeletal or remedial massage therapist by calling 07 3367 0337 and we will help you on the way to recovery. 

Crossing your legs – how bad is it really?

Posted by Dr. Tressa Fuss – chiropractor

People often ask me if crossing your legs is really bad for you.  They have been told that crossing your legs can lead to varicose veins. This is the case.  But it’s worse than just the vein damage… Your whole body is affected.

VEIN DAMAGE:

Your arteries (the blood vessels from your heart to the body) have the very powerful heart to pump your blood down the the feet. The veins (the blood vessels from the body to the heart) however use your calf muscles, which aren’t as strong, to push the blood back up.  They also have little valves inside to catch the blood as your leg muscles pump it up, to stop gravity taking it back down to the feet. The weight of one leg on the other compresses the tiny veins in your legs. Your body needs these veins open to ensure that the blood is able to be pumped back to your heart.  If they are squashed then the blood pools in your feet and calves which stretches the veins. The veins not only become more visible through the skin as they become bigger, crossing the legs makes the poor valves work way too hard and can cause irreversible damage.

SPINAL DAMAGE:

Your spine can also be injured by crossing your legs. To understand how, give this a try:

1. Sit down with the feet flat on the ground and put one hand on each hip.

2. Cross your legs with one knee over the other and feel what happens to your hips.

One hip will elevate and the other hip will lower as the pelvis twists to allow you to cross the legs. The more you sit like this, the more the body gets used to it and muscles will begin to hold you in that position even when you uncross the legs. The pelvis is a bit like the floor of your house, if it’s twisted or tilted, it’s hard to expect the walls will be straight and the roof on flat. Except in the case of your body, the walls are your spine and the roof is your head. If the pelvis is tilted the spine will curve and twist trying to keep the eyes parallel to the horizon.

The other problem is that if the floor is tilted, it usually means the foundations (your legs) are dodgy too. When the pelvic bones tilt, the muscles tighten and one leg gets pulled closer toward the body. This gives you a shorter leg on one side.  When you stand up, the body leans over that side causing even more change to the spinal curves, even up as high as the neck.

Any changes to your spinal curves causes an altered load bearing to the joints and increases your risk of wear and tear as well as pain and inflammation.

See the three pictures below.  The first is with uncrossed legs, the second is with legs crossed at the knees and the third is with one foot up on the opposite knee.  You can easily see how much the poor body has to try and compensate.  Hips are tilted, the spine is twisted and leaning off to the side, the neck is rotated and the head and shoulders are not level.  It affects the body the whole way up.  Imagine the imbalanced muscles, the uneven joint pressure, none of which is at all good!

chiropractor brisbane

WHAT YOU CAN DO:

Crossing the legs at the ankles is better but anything higher than that causes damage long term.  If you do need to cross the legs for a brief period (eg. modesty reasons when wearing a short skirt) make sure it is for as little as possible, get up often and make sure you swap legs consistently so that it’s not always the same leg on top.

Do you cross your legs much? Are you suprised to learn the effects?

Heat Therapy – How To Get Best Results

Posted by chiropractor Dr. Craig Buscomb.

The ice and heat debate is a never ending discussion.  Depending on what book you read or who you talk to, you will get different answers as to what is best and how to use them effectively.  Here is my take on heat therapy.

Heat therapy can have numerous benefits and has long been associated with comfort and relaxation.  However, it can provide both pain relief and healing benefits for injuries.  Heat is best used for sub-acute and chronic or long term conditions.

So how does it work? 

Heat therapy can help provide relief through several mechanisms:

Heat therapy dilates the blood vessels in the area.  This process increases the flow of oxygen and nutrients to the muscles and washes away the toxin build up, helping to heal the tissue and reduce pain.

Short term heat application will only penetrate a few mm’s.  Deeper tissue reactions are due to local reflexes and require more than 15 minutes of heat.

If mild heat is used it can decrease sensation of sensory nerve endings.  This means that applying heat to the area will decrease the transmission of pain signals to the brain and help relieve the discomfort.

Heat application also facilitates stretching the soft tissues around the spine, including muscles, connective tissues and adhesions.  As a result of this, there will be a decrease in stiffness as well as pain, with an increase in flexibility and overall feeling of comfort.

How to use heat therapy effectively

My suggestion for using heat therapy is to have a good heat source like a wheat bag, hot pack or a heat lamp.  My favorite thing to use is a wheat bag for its ease of use and safety (if you follow the instructions and heat it correctly).  If you are using a microwave to heat a wheat bag, make sure you put a cup of water in the microwave to avoid overheating the wheat.

When applying the heat I have found short bursts tend to work more effectively from a physiological perspective.  Apply the heat for 20min (to make sure it penetrates deeper tissues) them remove the heat for approximately 40 min before re-applying for a further 20min.  These short bursts will help bring two big rushes of fresh oxygenated and nutrient rich blood to the area to help speed up the healing process.  You can leave the heat on for longer, but applying it this way will give you the best physiological response.

A single massage helps in the treament of chronic pain

A controlled study has proven that massage is an effective treatment for patients with chronic pain. In the study involving 101 patients, those that received massage had significantly less pain both after the treatment and one hour following the treatment. Patients who received massage also had reduced levels of anxiety and reported feeling calmer.

These results prove the massage is a very useful treatment in helping to manage pain.

Our massage therapists help chronic pain sufferers lead more active lives with reduced pain. Call 07 3367 0337 for an appointment today.

Seers et al 2008, A randomised controlled trial to assess the effectiveness of a single session of nurse administered massage for short term relief of chronic non-malignant pain, BMC Nursing.

Alkalise It!

EATING ALKALINE FOR GOOD HEALTH

You may have heard that following an alkaline diet is good for your health, but what does that mean? When you eat a food, as well as giving you essential nutrition it also exhibits an acidic or alkaline effect on your body. Foods which have an acidic effect decrease blood pH and cause inflammation in the body, foods which are alkaline forming increase blood pH and have an anti-inflammatory effect. Given that inflammation is associated with nearly every single disease, including cancer, heart disease, infertility, arthritis and pain conditions, it is important to keep inflammation levels in our system low. When you eat too many acid forming foods you create inflammation in your body.

So what kind of foods are acid forming? As a general rule, meats, dairy, grains, sugars, coffee and alcohol are acid forming, whereas most fruit and vegetables are alkaline forming.

Let’s take a closer look at some commonly eaten foods and what effect they have on the body

  • Acid Forming Foods 20% of the diet
  • Acid Proteins
  • All Meat
  • Beef
  • Lamb
  • Pork, bacon, ham
  • Chicken
  • Fish
  • Legumes
  • Sausages
  • Shellfish and crustaceans
  • TVP
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Cashews
  • Pecans
  • Walnuts
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Sweeteners
  • Sugar
  • Maple syrup
  • Agave
  • Artificial sweeteners
  • Heated honey
  • Fruit juice concentrate
  • Grains and grain products
  • Wheat
  • Rye
  • Kamut
  • Spelt
  • Rice and rice flour
  • Noodles, pasta
  • Breads
  • Vegetables
  • Corn
  • Olives
  • Winter squash
  • Fruit
  • Cooked fruit
  • Canned fruit
  • Dried fruit
  • Plums
  • Prunes
  • Blueberries
  • Beverages
  • Coffee
  • Tea
  • Soft drinks (very high acid)
  • Mineral water
  • Fruit juices that have been heated (long life)
  • nutrient water
  • sports drinks
  • Spices and seasonings
  • Tomato, BBQ sauce
  • Cocoa
  • Mustard
  • Pepper
  • Vinegar
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  • Alkaline forming foods 80% of the diet
  • Alkaline protein
  • Almonds
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Pepitas
  • Fermented tofu and tempeh
  • Mung beans
  • Millet
  • Quinoa
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Almonds
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Pepitas
  • Flax seeds
  • sesame seeds
  • Sweeteners
  • Raw honey
  • Stevia
  • Blackstrap molasses
  • Grains and grain products
  • Buckwheat
  • Millet
  • Sorghum
  • Amaranth
  • Quinoa
  • Vegetables
  • All vegetables except those listed as acid
  • Very high alkaline vegetables include
  • Spinach
  • Silverbeet
  • Kale
  • Rocket
  • Broccoli
  • Beetroot
  • Sprouts
  • Fruit
  • All raw fruit except those listed as acid
  • Fruits which are high alkaline include
  • Lemons
  • Pineapple
  • Kiwifruit
  • Beverages
  • Fresh fruit or vegetable juice
  • Alkaline water
  • Coconut water
  • Soda water
  • Spices and seasonings
  • Chilli
  • Cinnamon
  • Curry spices
  • Ginger
  • Herbs
  • Miso
  • Sea salt
  • Tamari
  • Pepper
  • Vinegar
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FINDING THE BALANCE

After reading the list above it would come as no surprise to you that most people’s diet are extremely over acid, with far too much meat, grains and additives and not enough fruit and vegetables. To maintain good health you should aim for a diet that is made up or 80% alkaline forming foods and just 20% acidic foods.

A good example of this would be a small piece of fish with a large salad, or a breakfast made up of fresh fruits with just a little muesli. Following a diet that is high is raw fruits and vegetables is the only way to keep your body alkaline.

Take advantage of the ‘exceptions to the rule’ and consume the alkaline nuts and seeds almonds, peptitas and sunflower seeds, or include some alkaline grains such as quinoa, buckwheat or millet in the diet. Quinoa is a particularly good source of protein and makes a great porridge or rice substitute.

The most important things to keep to a minimum are soft drinks, coffee, tea, alcohol, red meat and refined grains like white rice and bread. Not only are these foods very acidic, they have also been associated with many health conditions and should be avoided where possible.

SEEING THE BENEFITS

Patients which follow an alkaline diet report more energy, weight loss, clearer skin, less pain and discomfort in their bodies, improved sleep and alleviation of headaches and even less hair loss! Try it and feel the benefits for yourself!

Call us on 07 3367 0337 to book your appointment today!