November 23, 2010
I’d like to talk about three muscles responsible for supporting the arches of the feet that are located in the deep posterior compartment of the lower leg: Tibialis Posterior (Tom), Flexor Digitorum Longus (Dick) and Flexor Hallucis Longus (Harry). Let’s have a look at each one of them:
“Tom” (The Tibialis Posterior) runs from the proximal Posterior Tibia and Fibula to the Plantar Surface of the Foot, and it plantarflexes the foot at the ankle joint and inverts the foot at the tarsal joints.
“Dick” (The Flexor Digitorum Longus) attaches from the middle Posterior Tibia to the Plantar Surface of toes 2 to 5. It flexes those toes at their Metatarsophalangeal Joints and the Interphalangeal Joints, it flexes the foot at the ankle joint and invert the foot at the tarsal joints.
“Harry” (Flexor Hallucis Longus) has its origin in the Distal Posterior Fibula and ends on the Plantar Surface of the Big Toe. Harry flexes the big toe, plantarflexes the foot at the ankle joint and inverts the foot at the Tarsal Joints. This is quite a strong muscle. Harry can help with propulsion when we push off the floor just by flexing our toes when we walk, run and even jump.
Tom (the Tibialis Posterior muscle) is the major suspect for a condition called Shin Splints, very common with runners. Dick (Flexor Digitorum Longus) and Harry (Flexor Hallucis Longus) may also be involved in this crime as they could also be getting tight and not helping to support the arches of the feet.
Shin Splints is a general term for all types of pain that you may feel around the front and inside of the shin bone. When you start or add more exercises to your normal routine, the compartments of the lower leg (where each muscle sit inside the calf area) may become tight and that is the reason for all the pain. Tightness will cause weakness in the muscles, they stop performing properly and the structure fails to support the body. Usually the arch collapses and Tom, Dick and Harry can no longer help support the arches. They become very painful and only massage may help alleviate the pain. Some Physiotherapists and Podiatrists will suggest the use of orthotics to support the arches.
Something you can do when the pain comes in the middle of an exercise is to loosen up your laces, to promote circulation and help take the pressure off the calves. After the exercise you will need to rest, ice, compress and elevate your foot to help reduce the inflammation in the area. Massage will only be beneficial when the inflammation is gone, so make sure you ice the area at least 3x a day, 5 minutes on, 5 minutes off for 4x.
So now we understand why Dick, Tom and Harry are not guilty for Shin Splints. The actual criminal is the human who doesn’t respect the limits of the body and is lazy when it comes to looking after themselves.
I hope this information was useful for you. If you’d like to book a massage with me to treat shin splints, please send me a message or contact me on 0421 987 367 (Sydney, Australia only).
November 17, 2010
Following the discussion on the Levator Scapulae muscle, its relation to neck pain and how its weakness can affect the surrounding muscles like the Trapezius for example, i thought it would be a good idea to talk about the Trapezius a bit more this time.
The Trapezius is a big muscle that runs from the base of the skull (occiput, nuchal ligament and processes of C7) all the way to T12 attaching to the lateral clavicle, the acromion process and the spine of the scapula. It is divided in three parts, upper, middle and lower. It does many different actions, like lateral flexion, extension and rotation of the neck, elevation, retraction (adduction), depression and upward rotation of the scapula and finally extension of the trunk.
Common tightness in the Trapezius muscle comes from a series of imbalances. The inclination of the head when sitting at a desk changes the centre of gravity of the head and all muscles responsible for extension of the neck get stiff, like the Trapezius for example. That posture will also round your shoulders, tightening your chest and making your trapezius become weak and unable to protract the scapula back in place. Most people may also feel pain in the lower portion of the Trapezius due to the constant extension of that area.
When you carry a bag or purse, they tend to slide off your shoulder so subconsciously you avoid that by bringing your shoulder up. This posture causes the elevators of the scapula (like the upper trapezius) to stay in a contracted position for long periods of time, consequently causing stiffness and pain.
When you talk on the phone holding it with your shoulder and head instead of using your hand, the lateral flexors and elevators of the scapula (one of them is the trapezius) will eventually get tight and painful as well.
Holding heavy weights in one hand, like a lap top for example, does the same as when you carry a bag or talk on the phone using one shoulder, you tend to elevate that side to keep you balanced and the upper fibres will eventually get tight.
Another problem that may arise from tightness in the upper fibres of the Trapezius muscle is the compression of the greater occipital nerve. Because it pierces through the Trapezius (around the posterior scalp) the tightness may cause tension headaches, very common with computer workers.
So, considering all this information, i believe you now understand why good posture is so important at work, why you should carry backpacks on both shoulders instead of bags that have only one strap, and also that you shouldn’t speak on the phone using your shoulders. Certainly there are other factors that may cause tension in the Trapezius muscle, like sleeping on one shoulder, lying on the couch with your head resting too high on a pillow, stress, etc. But you should also try and stretch this muscle in a regular basis, sitting at your desk or when you go to the gym for instance.
This picture shows a good way of stretching your Trapezius:
But you may also get massages regularly if the stretch is not doing much. This video found on youtube shows a great way of releasing the Trapezius:
So there you go, keep in mind the causes and avoid them and anytime you need relief, stretch or go get a massage!
Thanks for following my blog and next week there will be more important information for you to live a better life.
November 10, 2010
Today i’m going to tell you a little story that happened this morning and made me create this post. My neighbour texts me at 7am to ask if i could help him, he woke up stiff and with a lot of pain in his neck. So I told him to come and after a quick examination it was easy to realise that his Levator Scapulae was injured.
The Levator Sapulae is a muscle that mainly elevates the Scapula (shoulder blade). Its attachments are the transverses processes of C1 to C4 (first cervical vertebra to fourth cervical vertebra) to the medial border of the scapula, from the superior angle to the root of the spine of the scapula:
As i’ve mentioned before it elevates the scapula but also extends the neck (at the spinal joints) and laterally flexes the neck (at the spinal joints). This muscle lies under the trapezius muscle in its inferior portion, and is deep to some neck muscles on its superior portion, the splenius capitis and the sternocleidomastoid. I’ll talk about those muscles in the future. Have a look at this image to understand a little bit more where those muscles are:
So back to my miserable neighbour and his sore neck, i asked him what happened, and he said “oh, i think its my pillow”. I know he does a lot of desk work so his neck gets very tight, and maybe a pillow that is too high could make the situation worse. The pain was shooting from the top of the neck down to his shoulder, just like in this picture:
He couldn’t turn his head to one side and it was hard to look down and up. No wonder why, those are all the actions the levator scapula does. But why does it happen?
Computer work is usually the reason. Sitting at a desk all day we get tired and after repeating the same thing over and over again, day after day, week after week, your muscles eventually will get used to that posture and you start loosing mechanical functionality. The muscles in the front of the neck (scalenes) and in the top of the neck (sub occipitals) become short, the pectoralis muscles (chest), biceps, deltoids (shoulder), sub scapularis and serratus anterior (under the arm and around the ribs) all get tight.
He probably dehidrates in the office and that just makes the situation worse. Then no stretching, poor technique when exercising, unstable shoulders, etc, etc, etc… Eventually the body gives up, one muscle fails, the rest of the muscles in that area will have to compensate. If the levator scapulae gets an intense pull, the compensating muscles try to protect it and go into a strong spasm, then there you go, injury, soreness, stiffness, frustration, pain killers, etc.
Some of the things you have to know when it happens.
1st: If it hurts when you cough or sneeze, you may have pulled a rib or a vertebra out of place. You need to see an Osteopath.
2nd: If there is only restriction in range of motion and a lot of pain, it will take a long time to heal and you should avoid heavy exercises.
3rd: GO GET A MASSAGE!
4th: follow up with stretches – this is a very good one: sitting on a chair, the hand on the injured side goes behind your back, shoulder down, and the head should go to the opposite shoulder.
5th: if there is stiffness in the morning, there may be a bit of inflammation in the joint, ice for 20 min, 5min on, 5 min off. At night you can use a bit of heat to relax the muscles and bring blood to the area to heal the tissues.
6th: If your pillow is too high, try and get one that is low, like the dodgy ones for kids. You can also try and sleep without a pillow for a couple of nights.
7th: Meditation can also be good for people who can’t relax when they go to bed. Meditating when you go to bed and when you wake up can help you let go of emotions that keep your body tense.
I hope this post was interesting enough for you. If you’d like to learn more about the neck or what you can do to avoid this problem, please let me know.
Have a good one guys! 😀
October 28, 2010
Today I’ll be talking about “Stress”, it’s definition and how it affects the body.
Stress is a deviation from homeostasis due to various internal and/or external factors (stressors).
The General Adaptation Syndrome (G.A.S)
Every living organism tends to remain in a state of homeostasis. In homeostasis, all physical and psychological systems function smoothly. When a stressor disrupts homeostasis, the body adjusts with an adaptive response, or an attempt to restore homeostasis. This adaptive response to stress varies in intensity and physical manifestation from person to person and from stressor to stressor. The three-stage response to stress is called the general adaptation syndrome. The phases of the general adaptation syndrome are alarm, resistance and exhaustion.
The Alarm Reaction:
Any physical or mental trauma will trigger an immediate set of reactions that combat the stress. Because the immune system is initially depressed, normal levels of resistance are lowered, making us more susceptible to infection and disease. If the stress is not severe or long-lasting, we bounce back and recover rapidly.
Eventually, sometimes rather quickly, we adapt to stress, and there’s actually a tendency to become more resistant to illness and disease. Our immune system works overtime for us during this period, trying to keep up with the demands placed upon it. We become complacent about our situation and assume that we can resist the effects of stress indefinitely. Thats where the danger lies. Believing that we are immune from the effects of stress, we typically fail to do anything about it.
Because our body is not able to maintain homeostasis and the long-term resistance needed to combat stress, we invariably develop a sudden drop in our resistance level. No one experiences exactly the same resistance and tolerance to stress, but everyone’s immunity at some point collapses following prolonged stress reactions. Life sustaining mechanisms slow down and sputter, organ systems begin to break down, and stress-fighting reserves finally succumb to “diseases of adaptation”.
The General Adaptation Syndrome is thought to be the main reason why stress is such an abundant source of health problems. By changing the way our body normally functions, stress disrupts the natural balance – homeostasis – crucial for well-being. It can also subtract years from our lives by speeding up the ageing process. Resistance is the name of the game when it comes to disease. Stress is one of the most significant factors in lowering resistance and triggering the various mechanisms involved in the disease process.
I hope this information is important to you. If you think it is, please pass it to friends and family. My goal is to get everyone aware of how our bodies work and how simple it can be to look after ourselves. We just have to know what to do.
Have a good weekend!
October 21, 2010
Today i thought it would be nice to talk about exercising, the definition and the benefits you get when you sweat and burn fat.
I often get clients who never exercise or do little exercise every week. It is sad to see that they have such busy lives and they forget about looking after themselves. Work, kids, family problems, there are many different “excuses” to not exercise. Getting them to start this new lifestyle is very hard, and every time i see them i try to get them to at least stretch, make sure they drink less coffee and more water, that they try and go for a swim, a walk, cycling, etc. Unfortunately it doesn’t happen very often. There are professionals out there who can help, Personal Trainers are very good for motivation and diet suggestions, and i think everyone should at least try a session just to see how good they can feel after a nice workout.
Exercise therapy (as it can be called) is the use of specific, stylised movements that are designed to increase the functional ability of structures within the musculo-skeletal system and other body systems. Exercise has many forms but when utilised as a therapy, it is designed to elicit specific adaptive responses by the body’s tissues and organs. These responses may have the effect of promoting healing of injured tissue (when used in a treatment program). Finally exercise therapy has also been shown to prevent injuries when used in a maintenance program.
The benefits of exercise include:
- Increase in the number and size of blood vessels in the heart and the muscles, resulting in the better and more efficient circulation.
- Increases the elasticity of blood vessels , lessening the likelihood of breakage under pressure.
- Increases the efficiency of exercising muscles, enabling the muscles and blood to better carry and utilise oxygen.
- Increases the efficiency of the heart, making it a better pump.
- Increases tolerance to stress, reducing the negative effects of the stress/pressure syndrome.
- Decreases cholesterol and triglycerides, lessening the chances of arterial deposits.
- Lowers high blood pressure, reducing the risk of heart attack and stroke.
There you go, i hope it gives you enough reason to start exercising, if haven’t already done so.
Keep checking my blog for more interesting information about how to live a better life.
October 13, 2010
Today i am going to talk about the injury process so you can understand what goes on inside your body when you get injured. A lot of people don’t know about this process and often don’t know what to do to treat or how to prevent injuries.
Soon after a physical trauma occurs an inflammatory process is initiated. With this inflammation, various chemicals are released which serve to bring blood and repair materials to the damaged tissue. Immune cells destroy foreign bodies and clear away cell debris. These responses result in a rush of blood and plasma into the area. There is associated muscle spasm in the surrounding muscle tissue, to help protect the area.
The symptoms of an inflammatory response are pain, heat and swelling in the localised area, sometimes associated with loss of function of the affected tissues. This response normally lasts 48-72 hours. After this time the injury usually begins to stabilise, with no further increase in the symptoms. Shortly after this, the symptoms gradually begin to diminish.
Classification of injury:
Injuries can be classified into four major groups:
- Acute: The onset of these injuries is sudden and often due to some form of violence or high level trauma. The signs and symptoms of an acute injury are often severe due to the high amount of damage to the tissues. Depending on the type of tissue damaged, acute injuries can be life threatening – if this is the case then they should always be treated with the utmost urgency. The acute stage of injury usually occurs within 48-72 hours after the onset. The injury is inflamed, and may involve bruising and bleeding. The site is painful with associated loss of function, redness, heat and swelling. Apart from applying basic first aid (ice would be good), you should not attempt to massage, apply heat or stretch the affected area. These injuries should be referred to a medical practitioner or physiotherapist.
- Chronic: These types of injuries are usually caused by a repeated stress that is sustained to an area or tissue that causes a breakdown. This impairs the correct functioning of the tissue or structure and if not dealt with appropriately by the body, it can lead to further damage. The chronic stage of injury comes after the post inflammatory stage, the injury is no longer inflamed, however normal function has not yet returned. Examples are bursitis and tendonitis. In the chronic stages of injury, the symptoms tend to persist, or recur, and their onset is insidious.
- Environmental: These are injuries caused by the environmental factors such as temperature, terrain and weather conditions.
- Illness: These can be caused by bacterial or viral infection.
Generally an injury is triggered by some form of stress, such as a fall or blow. Or it may be a prolonged, accumulative stress, like training too many times a week for too long. The human body has a limited ability to withstand and adapt to stressors. If the form of stress is too severe or sustained for too long then the body’s available resources are incapable of preventing injury.
Each person is different and has different physical characteristics therefore their ability to deal with stressors varies. A form of stress that does not result in injury to one person may result in injury to someone different. Recognising the nature of stressors and the physical abilities of different individuals is important in the prevention of injury.
Pre-disposition to injury:
The frequency and type of injuries is most likely associated with age, mental attitude, activities, lifestyle, and physiological fitness relating to the activities undertaken. Predisposing factors in relation to injury are:
- The athlete’s age, sex, body type, personal characteristics, experience, health and conditioning and illnesses.
- The equipment used, facilities and protective clothing.
- Environmental factors, the characteristics of the activity, contact or non-contact, team or individual, etc.
- Endurance or speed
- Power or skill
Pre disposition to injury relating to age:
Children have some advantages over adults in their resilience to injury. As they are usually lighter, contact sports appear not to cause as many injuries. This may also be due to the fact that their bones are more elastic and provide a higher level of shock absorption than does the adult skeleton. When they sustain injuries, children heal faster. There are, however, certain disadvantages linking children and injuries. They are more physically active and lack the maturity of an older, more experienced person in respect of knowing their limits.
Older people are generally predisposed to a higher risk of injury. This is mainly due to the decline in the ratio of lean to adipose tissue, decreased bone density and decreased skin thickness. Reduction in cardio-vascular capacity also makes an older person more susceptible to injury. The healing time for injuries is usually longer in older people. However, experts agree that the effects of injuries associated with aging can be greatly reduced if the person maintains regular physical activity.
The effects of stress on the muscular-skeletal system:
When the muscular-skeletal system is stressed, the following occurs:
- Periosteal pain areas develop as a result of sustained increased tension in the tendons,
- Lack of co-ordination of movement occurs with the development of muscle imbalance,
- Joint restriction occurs ans well as fascial shortening,
- Trigger points (localised areas of hyper-activity of neurological structures) are formed in the muscles and lead to altered reflex action,
- Energy waste from sustained hyper-tonicity leads to fatigue,
- Widespread functional changes develop which can affect the entire body. For example, development of increased kyphosis (curvature of neck and shoulders)causes shoulder and neck pain, headaches, altered respiration and increased stress,
- Increased hormonal activity (stress hormones, epinephrine and cortisol) alter metabolism of proteins, fats and carbohydrates, leading to altered energy levels. This reduces the ability to heal and recover from injury and affects the person’s ability to relax,
- Loss of function and immobilisation.
Ok, that was a lot of information today, but good information. Hopefully you found something interesting here that you never knew before. I hope you understand the concept of injury and prevention of injury, and that you keep in mind that regular exercise, proper stretching, massage, hydration, proper diet, better posture, all these factors can contribute to a better, healthier life.
See you next time! 😉
September 28, 2010
Today i’m going to talk about the health benefits of Yoga and Pilates, two very good techniques to improve your posture, strength and flexibility.
Some people have tried one or both of them, and not always you find people who like them both. I do – yoga has helped me a lot with my balance and flexibility and although I am not practicing it at the moment, every week i try and do some of the poses that i found were the best for what i need when i workout. I have tried Pilates as well for a while, i think its amazing, but have only been practicing a few exercises to keep my pelvis balanced and my core strong.
Here’s the difference between the two:
Pilates is a non-aerobic method of exercising that lengthens and stretches all the major muscle groups in the body in a balanced fashion. It requires concentration in finding a centre point to control the body through movement. Each exercise has a prescribed placement rhythm and breathing pattern.
Muscles are never worked to exhaustion, so there is no sweating or straining, just intense concentration (unless you are doing a cardio pilates class). The workout consists of a variety of exercise sequences that are performed in low repetitions, usually 5–10 times, over a session of one and a quarter to one and a half hours. Mat work and specialised equipment for resistance is used.
The Pilates method is taught on an individual basis and exercises are regularly re-evaluated to ensure they are right for each individual. Due to the individual attention given, this method suits everybody from elite athletes to people with limited mobility, pregnant women and people with low fitness levels.
Classes are held in specialised Pilates studios, physiotherapy clinics or at your local leisure facility or community centre.
If you would like to read more about how pilates started, click here.
The classical techniques of yoga date back more than 5,000 years. The practice of yoga encourages effort, intelligence, accuracy, thoroughness, commitment and dedication.
The word yoga means ‘to join or yoke together’. It brings the body and mind together and is built on three main structures – exercise, breathing and meditation.
The exercises of yoga are designed to put pressure on the glandular systems of the body, thereby increasing its efficiency and total health. Breathing techniques performed during yoga increase breath control to improve the health and function of body and mind. The two systems of exercise and breathing prepare the body and mind for meditation, with an approach to a quiet mind that allows silence and healing from everyday stress. When practiced regularly, yoga can become a powerful and sophisticated discipline for achieving physical, mental and emotional wellbeing.
There are many various forms of yoga, each with its own emphasis. The most popular forms of yoga are Ananda (Hatha), Bikram, Iyengar and Sivananda.
Classes usually have 10–20 participants, allowing individual attention.
For more information on Yoga and its history, click here.
Pilates health benefits
The health benefits of Pilates include:
- Improved muscle strength and tone
- Increased flexibility and strength of the abdominals and back (core strength)
- Improved posture and rehabilitation or prevention of injuries related to muscle imbalances
- Increased lung capacity and circulation through deep breathing
- Improved concentration
- Increased body awareness
- Stress management and relaxation.
Yoga health benefits
The practice of yoga asanas (postures) develops strength and flexibility, while soothing the nerves and calming the mind. The asanas affect the muscles, joints and skin, and the whole human body – glands, nerves, internal organs, bones, respiration and the brain. The benefits of yoga include:
- Improved muscular and postural strength
- Increased flexibility of the muscles and joints
- Reduced fatigue
- Reduced pain and muscle stiffness
- Enhanced ability to concentrate
- Improved energy levels and ability to cope with stress.
Where to get help
- Your local council
- Pilates studios, physiotherapy clinics, local leisure facility or community centre
- Yoga studios, local leisure or community centre
Things to remember
- See your doctor for a check-up to assess your fitness level.
- Pilates is a safe and effective method of rehabilitation and focuses on muscular balance.
- Breathing techniques performed during yoga increase breath control to improve the health and function of both body and mind.
- Both yoga and Pilates improve muscular and postural strength.
I hope this information was useful for you when it comes to choosing one form of exercise or both. Maybe one day you could be performing the same pose as the girl in the previous picture, imagine that? Never say never 😉
Cheers and have a good week.