R.E.S.T. for the holidays

I have a wise friend. What a blessing! Her name is Kelly Duggan Shearer. She kindly allowed me to share these suggestions with you about keeping the holidays happy. She encourages us to R.E.S.T. to stay sane the holiday season.

R: Reduce stress. Set a budget for time, social obligations and gifts. Prioritize tasks and activities. Practice relaxation techniques. (I think this might include massage, don’t you?!)

E: Embrace yourself. Exercise daily. Get plenty of rest. Eat and drink in moderation.

S: Set realistic expectations. Remember, the holiday season is not a cure for feelings or loneliness, anger or sadness. Also, do not expect yourself to attend every event to which you are invited, or to enjoy each activity equally.

T: Take time to reinvent your holiday. Create new traditions and memories. Surround yourself with caring, supportive people. Honor the memory of those who are no longer with you.

Kelly is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (MFC 45250) with a private practice in Glendora, CA. She specializes in helping women in their 30’s and 40’s to reclaim freedom in their hearts and joy in their relationships. Who can’t use a little more joy? Reach her at 626-841-9165 and here. Thanks Kelly!

Are your nerves compromised?

Neck after neck of tight, cranky muscles made me wonder the other day: How do nearby muscles respond to spinal misalignment? Misalignment of the vertebrae is also called subluxation. I decided to find the answer for you and for me by asking our good Dr. Rion Zimmerman, D.C. Dr. Zimmerman runs a thriving family chiropractic practice in La Cañada.

Me: If vertebrae are out of alignment, how do the muscles surrounding or attaching to those vertebrae respond?

Dr. Z: I define a subluxation as an unhealthy neurological pattern or habit that creates a physical, chemical and/or emotional response. The muscles’ response could be considered a physical response and what the muscles do is increase in muscle tone, get tight or hard. This tonal increase is based on a response within the autonomic nervous system known as “fight or flight.”

Me: How do people usually experience or feel spinal misalignment?

Dr. Z: A subluxation occurs in response to stress: physical, chemical or emotional. A basic way to break neurological symptoms down is through the three main types of nerves that create these symptoms. Sensory nerves which would respond with burning or sharp pain; motor nerves which would respond with lack of coordination or weakness; and the autonomic nervous system which would respond with symptoms to the organs all throughout the body, for example digestive or respiratory dysfunction.

Me: I have often heard people wonder if after chiropractic adjustments, tight muscles just pull the vertebrae out of alignment again. Is there a negative loop that needs to be broken here? If so, how is it broken?

Dr. Z: Remember the subluxation is an unhealthy neurological pattern or habit in the body. So it is not the muscle pulling out the vertebrae but the nerve that is not properly activating the muscle. After an adjustment the nerve will fire but with time the old negative pattern will force symptoms to return. Generally there is a recommended treatment plan that involves multiple chiropractic adjustments. These multiple chiropractic adjustments are recommended to help create a new healthier pattern in the nervous system.

Me: How does targeted stretching and exercise play a positive role in our bodies being able to hold alignment properly, naturally, or effortlessly?

Dr. Z: A new healthier pattern is developed in the nervous system through chiropractic adjustments. It is then up to the patient to help maintain this pattern with a customized exercise and nutritional plan.

Me: What differences are there in misalignment of vertebrae in the neck, mid-back and low-back, if any?

Dr. Z: Chiropractic is holistic because of its effect on the nervous system. Each part of the spine houses a different part of the spinal cord which distributes to different muscles, organs and cells. An extreme example of this would be a severe spinal cord injury. If the cervical portion (neck) of the spinal cord is ruptured then everything below it is affected, both arms and legs along with all organs. If the lumbar (lower back) portion is ruptured than both legs and all organs that correlate with those levels are affected.

Dr. Zimmerman is a chiropractor specializing in preventative, hands-on care in La Cañada. He can be reached at 818-952-0172 and http://www.flintridgefamilychiropractic.com

Thanks Doc!

self-massage for runners

In honor of my niece who incorporated a lot of running into her training, I offer these self-massage tips for runners and other athletes. Using self-massage as part of a warm-up routine can help improve performance and reduce the chance of injury. Muscles pumped full of blood have more oxygen at their disposal and therefore more power and endurance. Tendons and ligaments that have been warmed up are less brittle and better able to flex when needed. This simple routine addresses both of these goals.

Sit on a chair or on the floor. Begin by jostling the muscles of the upper and lower legs. Allow your muscles to be loose and think of jostling them around the bones at the center of the leg. (Easier when seated on a chair.)

Next make your hands into loose fists and rhythmically, gently pound the muscles of the upper leg. (Pretend you’re a  drummer finally getting your turn at a solo.) Keep the tempo fairly vigorous, not slow and meditative. In a pre-workout session you want to get the blood pumping. You can alternate left and right fists or clasp hands and strike the muscles together. (no picture for this one)

Target the inside and outside of the upper leg by leaning into the muscles with the heel of your hands. Inside and outside muscles help with balance and equilibrium. They benefit from being warmed up too. Keep the pressure light to medium and the rhythm fairly quick. You’re pumping blood into these muscles.

Target tendons and ligaments of the ankles and knees: We want our tendons and ligaments to be warmed up before taking the load of running or other sports. Tendons and ligaments are made of a substance that responds really well to heat or heat generated by friction. Should one twist or roll an ankle, a brittle ligament is more likely to tear than a warmed-up one.

Vigorously rub the area all around the knee (top, bottom, front and sides of knee). You can use the heel of your hands, the palms, or backs of knuckles – whatever is comfortable. You can do this through clothing, right on the skin, or by throwing a towel over the knee. You can also throw a hot water bottle or hot pack onto the knees before you run. Both of these strategies work well.

Proceed to the ankles. Ankles have many tendons and ligaments. They help provide stability for the variety of motions we ask of our bodies: bend, flex, point, brake, sprint, turn on a dime, etc. With the heel of your hand, vigorously rub all around both ankles. Get the tops of the feet, all around the ankle bones on the insides and outsides of the feet, the heels, the Achilles tendons in the back. Take a moment to move each ankle through a complete range of motion passively or actively. Be sure to rub the bottom of the foot where the important plantar fascia lies. You can do with with a tennis ball instead of your hand if you stand up and roll your foot over the ball.

Lastly, if you have a tool like The Stick, use this to roll out any muscles that were hard to reach. This can be great for the hips. A tennis ball up against the wall can also get the hips pretty well. The gluteus maximus is a very important muscle in running.

Now do some stretching and you should be ready to tackle your run or other exercise. Share in the comments if you have a favorite pre-run/pre-exercise warm-up everyone should know about.