Dr. Phil Shares: 7 Back Stretches to Help Ease Pain and Increase Mobility

7 Back Stretches to Help Ease Pain and Increase Mobility

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You don’t realize it, but every day, your back takes a beating.

Whether you spend your day on your feet or on your seat, the muscles from the base of your skull to your tailbone, and from armpit to armpit, get in on the action, keeping you upright, pulling objects toward you, and supporting and moving your shoulder blades as you reach, stretch, and extend your arms. Only when you’re lying flat do all of these muscles get to relax completely.

Is it any wonder your back feels like 20 miles of bad road at the end of a day?

Never fear: The seven back stretches below will not only help you free your flip side, they’ll also help restore proper posture and range of motion. That will make day-to-day activities like sitting and reaching easier and more comfortable.

How to Safely Stretch Your Middle, Lower, and Upper Back

The muscles of the back support and articulate the spine, so you need to exercise some caution when stretching them. Furthermore, the shoulder joint, for all its mobility (more on that later), has a downside, says Beachbody fitness expert Cody Braun: “It’s susceptible to injury.”

So think of stretching not just as lengthening muscles but as learning new ranges in your joints. “Lengthening a muscle takes time,” says Braun. “Some people force mobility by applying extreme tension against the muscle, but this will only lead to pain.”

For especially tight areas, use a foam roller or lacrosse ball to soften the tissue first, then choose a move or two from the list of back stretches below and work on increasing your range of motion — gradually. “This recipe, over time, paired with improved daily posture and movement patterns, will help you move better,” says Braun.

7 Back Stretches for Muscle Pain and Mobility

Ease your way into improved flexibility and range of motion throughout your spine with one or more of these back stretches pulled from Beachbody On Demand.

Seated twist

Benefits: Increases rotational mobility along the spine, stretching muscles throughout the cervical, thoracic, and lumbar regions.

Appears in: 3 Week Yoga Retreat – Week 1, Day 2: Stretch

How to do it:

  • Sit cross-legged, left leg in front of your right.
  • Sit up tall, lengthening your back and pulling your shoulders back slightly.
  • Place your right hand on your left knee, and the fingertips of your left hand on the floor behind you.
  • Continuing to lengthen your spine upward, look over your left shoulder, twisting to your left as far as possible.
  • Breathe deeply, attempting to rotate farther to the left with each exhale.
  • Hold for 20–30 seconds, and repeat on the other side, switching the cross of your legs.

Hand clasp stretch

Benefits: Stretches the lats and trapezius.

Appears in: CORE DE FORCE – MMA Shred

How to do it:

  • Stand upright, with your feet shoulder-width apart and your arms extended forward.
  • Rotate your palms outward so your thumbs point toward the floor.
  • Cross one forearm over the other and bring your palms together.
  • Breathing deeply, round your back forward, reaching your arms forward as far as possible.
  • Hold the stretch for 20–30 seconds.

3-way back stretch

Benefits: Stretches the lats and the muscles surrounding the rib cage.

Appears in: P90X3 – Total Synergistics

How to do it:

  • Stand upright, with your feet shoulder-width apart and your arms extended overhead.
  • Interlace your fingers, and flip your hands so your palms face the ceiling. Hold for 5–10 seconds.
  • Maintaining the positioning of your arms and hands, bend to your right and hold for 5–10 seconds, repeating the move to your left.
  • Returning to an upright position, maintain the position of your arms and hands, and round your back forward until your arms are parallel with the floor, holding for 5–10 seconds.

Bench lat stretch

Benefits: Stretches the lats and helps with overhead shoulder mobility.

Appears in: Body Beast – Build: Back & Bis

How to do it:

  • Stand beside an incline bench or other sturdy, chest-high object with your feet wider than hip distance, and place your right elbow on top of the back support.
  • Placing your right hand behind your head, slowly lower your body toward the floor, until you feel a deep stretch along your right side.
  • Hold for 20–30 seconds, then repeat on the other side.

Stability ball lat stretch

Benefits: Stretches the lats and muscles in the shoulder through contraction and relaxation, while improving mobility in the overhead position.

Appears in: P90X2 – P.A.P. Upper

How to do it:

  • From a kneeling position, place the backs of your hands on top of a stability ball (or chair), with your arms extended and your head in a neutral position.
  • Keeping your back flat and your arms straight, lower your chest toward the floor, and sink into the stretch, while pressing the backs of your hands into the ball. Hold for 5 seconds.
  • Remaining in the stretched position, release the downward tension on the ball for 5 seconds, and try to sink deeper into the stretch.

Revolved chair

Benefits: Promotes rotational mobility along the spine, stretching the middle- and lower-back muscles.

Appears in: Beachbody Yoga Studio – Get Centered with Elise

How to do it:

  • Stand with your feet together, palms pressed together in front of your chest, elbows out.
  • Keeping your back flat and your knees together, push your hips back, bend your knees, and lower your body until your hips are around knee level.
  • With your back still flat and your elbows wide, twist your upper body to the left, placing the back of your right elbow against the outside of your left knee.
  • Hold for a five-count, then repeat on the other side.

Supine twist

Benefits: Improves rotational mobility of the spine, and stretches muscles all along the upper and lower back, as well as the hips.

Appears in: 21 Day Fix – Yoga Fix

  • Lie on your back, with your arms extended out to your sides and your palms down, bringing your knees toward your chest.
  • Keeping both shoulders on the floor, slowly turn your head to the right and lower your knees toward the floor to your left (if you feel a deep stretch in this position, stop here).
  • For a deeper stretch, extend your left leg downward, place your left hand on the outside of your right knee and breathe deeply, pressing your right knee toward the floor.
  • Hold whichever version of the stretch is appropriate for 20–30 seconds, then repeat on the other side.

Why Back Muscles Get Tight

“Your shoulder is one of the most mobile joints in the body,” says Braun. As kids, we took advantage of that range of motion, climbing trees, traversing monkey bars, and throwing objects of all kinds, which helped our shoulders — and the back muscles that support and control them — stay mobile and healthy.

But the average adult’s habitual range of motion is much less varied. Most of us spend our days at a desk, says Braun, which keeps the lats in a perpetually shortened position. We rarely twist, or reach behind us.

Desk sitting has consequences for other back muscles as well. The upper fibers of the trapezius — which extends from the sides of your neck to your shoulders — become overactive, causing the shoulders to shrug slightly, and making the muscles feel tender to the touch.

Simultaneously, slouching causes the upper back to round forward, creating a hunched appearance — a position you may be holding right now. As your head angles downward, the muscles in the middle of your back have to work harder than usual to support it — which explains the chronic upper-back, neck, and shoulder tightness experienced by many desk sitters. The result leaves your neck sore and your chest muscles tight from constant contraction, further perpetuating the problem.

Primary Muscles of the Back

At first glance, the back looks like a morass of musculature, with fibers and Latin names running every which way. For stretching purposes, think of the back muscles as four major groups: the trapezius, the rhomboids, the latissimus dorsi, and the erector spinae.

Back muscles - back stretchesTrapezius

Starting at the top of your neck, your traps are formed by the kite-shaped muscles that extend from the base of your skull to just above your lower back, with points extending to your shoulder blades on either side. Their job: to move the shoulder blades upward, downward, and together, and to aid in turning and tilting the head.

Rhomboids

Working downward, the scapular stabilizers are a series of small muscles connecting the shoulder blades to numerous points along the torso. Their primary job is to prevent undue movement in the shoulder blades while you throw, pull, and push. They include:

Rhomboids major and minorwhich run from the inner edge of your scapula to your spine

Levator scapulae on the sides of your neck, which help the upper traps lift the shoulders

Serratus anteriorwhich pulls the shoulder blades forward, as when a boxer goes for a knockout punch (which is why it’s often referred to as the boxer’s muscle).

Latissimus dorsi

The largest muscles of the back are the lats, the flat, winglike slabs at either side of your back that run from your hips and sacrum to your underarms, and attach at your upper arms. They’re responsible for pulling your arms down and behind you, and rotating your upper arms inward.

Erector spinae

This is the group of garden hose-like muscles that flank your spine from your neck all the way down to your sacrum. They keep you upright, extending and stabilizing your spine when you bend to your sides, look upward, turn your head, or peel off the floor from your belly. There are three major erector muscles, each a different length: (from the spine outward) the spinalisthe longissimusand the iliocostalis.

BY:

Shared by Dr. Phil McAllister @ Forward Health Guelph

Dr. Phil Shares: 7 Exercises You Want To Avoid

7 Exercises You Should Never Do Again

The next time you go to the gym, take a look around: you’ll probably see all kinds of exercises, some good and some not-so-good.

The unfortunate truth is that not all exercises are created equal. Some are incredibly effective at building muscle and melting fat; others are ineffective and can even do more harm than good. (Worse, the bad ones are sometimes very popular.)

Read on for our list of the worst exercises — the ones you should avoid at all costs. If you currently have them in your exercise routine, try our alternatives, which are far more effective and take your body to the next level.

1. SITUPS AND CRUNCHES

Situps and crunches are as old-school as it gets: You see them in PE class, boot camps and military training around the world. But get ready for some big news because these tummy exercises aren’t effective or good for you.

Your core — which consists of your rectus abdominis, external and internal obliques, transverse abdominis, pelvic floor, etc. — is designed to help your body stabilize and brace against twisting and bending (not generate it).

Situps and crunches, however, eliminate the bracing and put your body into bad positions: You pull your neck forward, round your shoulders, flex your spine and put a lot of stress on your lower back. (It also goes without saying that you should avoid the situp machine too for those reasons.)

Instead, choose ab exercises that help you maintain a good posture throughout the exercise. If you want to take your core strength to the next level and get washboard abs, try our super effective 14-day plank challenge: It uses many different variations to blast your midsection from different angles to test your muscles (and your mind).

2. SMITH MACHINE EXERCISES

With the exception of the inverted row, avoid all exercises on the Smith machine. It seems safe because the bar has a lock that activates when you let go, but it puts your body in unnatural positions because the bar only moves in a straight, rigid line, which is not how you move in real life.

Also, because the bar follows a straight path, you don’t get to improve your stability or balance and you won’t get the same muscle gains you’d like. Researchers found that free-weight squats and free-weight bench presses activated more muscles than doing the same exercise on a Smith machine.

Stick to the free-weight version of your exercise: barbell squat, dumbbell bench press, etc. You’ll get more overall benefits and build more muscle and strength.

3. SEATED TWIST MACHINE

Remember what we said about how the core is supposed to move? Well, the vertebrae of your spine at your lower back can only twist 13 degrees in each direction, which is tinier than one hour on a clock. But the seated twist machines actually crank your body well beyond that range-of-motion.

If you want to improve your rotational strength, try the kneeling Palloff press. Get on both knees and set a cable handle to chest height. Facing perpendicular to the cable, bring the handle to your chest, and push it straight forward. Do it facing both ways. You have to brace your trunk to resist twisting and turning, which fires your core and keeps your spine in a safe position.

4. SUPERMANS

You might see these done in gyms or even physical therapy centers in an effort to “strengthen” your lower back. But the problem is it cranks your lower back into hyperextension while putting tremendous load and compression onto your lumbar spine. (Most people have a lower back that’s already too extended, which creates something called “lordosis.”)

Substitute supermans with another exercise if it’s a part of your current fitness program. Instead of directly targeting your lower back, focus on strengthening your entire trunk — back, abs, obliques, etc. — with core exercises where you maintain great posture throughout.

Try the single-arm farmers carry: Grab a heavy dumbbell in one hand, keep your chest up and shoulder blades squeezed, then walk. Maintain a neutral lower back and don’t arch excessively.

5. BACK EXTENSIONS

The back extension machine tries to strengthen your lower back by repeatedly flexing and extending it, which can cause problems. Worse, a lot of people hold a weight plate behind their head or at their chest, which further increases the stress on your spine.


READ MORE > 10 ESSENTIAL BODYWEIGHT EXERCISES 


6. UPRIGHT ROW

This popular exercise targets your shoulders and traps. Unfortunately, it’s one of the worst exercises you can do for your shoulders because it impinges your shoulder joints. The upright row actually forces you to internally rotate your shoulders and pull a heavy weight while in a poor position, which can lead to all kinds of problems.

Instead, to build strong and wide shoulders, replace upright rows with the dumbbell overhead press. It targets your upper body without adding unnecessary (and impinging) stress to your shoulder joint.

7. BEHIND-THE-NECK LAT PULLDOWNS OR BEHIND-THE-NECK PRESSES

Avoid any upper-body exercise where you pull or push from behind your neck because it puts tremendous strain on your shoulders. In a behind-the-neck position, your shoulders are almost at their maximal limit on extension in those positions — throwing weight on top of it just adds more strain to a fragile area.

Always do lat pulldowns, chin-ups, pullups, etc. toward your collar bones; if you’re going to press a weight overhead, start with the barbell at your collar bone or use dumbbells or kettlebells.

by Anthony J. Yeung

Shared by Dr. Phil McAllister @ Forward Health Guelph

Dr. Phil Shares: The Best Cardio Exercises for Weight Loss, Strength, and Stamina

The Best Cardio Exercises for Weight Loss, Strength, and Stamina

To many people looking to lose weight, cardio exercise means running… and that’s it. So if you don’t like rapidly planting one foot in front of the other for miles at a stretch, chances are you don’t do it. Or you give it half effort on the rare occasion you do lace up your sneakers.

But there are plenty of other ways to get your cardio on, most of which can help you boost heart health, build muscle and strength, and reach or maintain your goal weight — it all depends on how you do them. Following is everything you need to know about cardio exercises for weight loss, strength, and endurance.

What Is Cardio Exercise?

Although we think of “cardio” as activities like running, cycling, and swimming, cardiorespiratory exercise is anything that elevates the heart rate and challenges the body to deliver oxygen to working muscles, explains Pete McCall, C.S.C.S., an ACE-certified personal trainer and host of the All About Fitness podcast.

“The cardiac system pumps blood around the body, and the respiratory system draws oxygen in and around the body. Any exercise that engages these systems and keeps them going is cardiorespiratory,” he says.

Anaerobic vs. Aerobic Activity

Two more terms that get thrown around along with cardio are “aerobic” and “anaerobic.” These designations refer to how much oxygen is used to produce energy for the task at hand. While each energy system is always in use to some extent, the intensity of activity determines which form of fuel is utilized more.

Aerobic exercise relies primarily on oxygen to produce energy, and is performed at low or moderate intensity for an extended period of time (more than 2 minutes or so) due to the length of time necessary to produce that energy.

Examples: marathon running, swimming, road cycling, etc.

Anaerobic exercise, on the other hand, does not emphasize oxygen as its main source of energy, relying more on ready glycogen and phosphocreatine. Anaerobic activity is performed in bursts (up to 2 minutes or so) at high intensities.

Example: sprinting, weightlifting, and high-intensity intervals

The anaerobic threshold — at which you cross over from aerobic into anaerobic activity — varies from person to person, but generally starts around 80 percent of your max heart rate, says Beachbody fitness expert Cody Braun. Here’s a formula that can help you determine your max heart rate.

    220, minus your age = your age-adjusted max HR

For example, if you’re 30 years old, your age-adjusted maximum heart rate is 220, minus 30 years = 190 bpm. From there, calculate appropriate percentages of that number to determine your target zones.

In this case, 80 percent (the anaerobic threshold) is about 152 beats per minute. You can use a heart rate monitor to track your BPMs during exercise to make sure you’re adequately challenging yourself relative to your objectives.

The Talk Test

If you prefer an even simpler way of tracking your effort, there’s the talk test. Can you carry on a conversation? If not, you’re doing anaerobic work.

“Your body needs to expire (exhale) carbon dioxide to metabolize glycogen,” McCall explains. “So the pace of your breathing picks up and you lose the ability to talk.”

RPE

Another way to gauge the intensity of activity is the rate of perceived exertion (RPE) — basically, how hard you feel like you’re working. The RPE scale runs from six to 20, which roughly corresponds with your heart rate divided by 10.

At rest, your RPE is six. Light activity lands you at 11, hard work gets you up to 15, and all-out maximal exertion takes you up to 20.

Benefits of Cardio Exercise

Like all exercise, cardiorespiratory workouts offer a slew of perks. “Cardio improves circulation of blood and oxygen, allows you to exert yourself longer without being fatigued, helps make the heart more efficient, burns off calories, helps you sleep, gives you more energy, and reduces stress,” says Michele Olson, Ph.D., professor of sport science at Huntingdon College.

Cardio can even help you become stronger. “Enhancing aerobic capacity can improve blood, oxygen, and nutrient flow to working muscles, and help with recovery between sets of resistance-training exercises,” McCall says.

Cardio for Weight Loss

Of course, chief among the benefits of cardio for many people is weight loss. Research has long found that both endurance and interval training improve body compositiondecrease waist circumference, and lead to similar amounts of weight loss.

However, high-intensity exercise has been found to trump aerobic exercise at decreasing body fat, owing primarily to the afterburn effect of excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC). Where steady-state (low to moderate intensity) activity may burn more calories during its typically longer durations, high-intensity exercise keeps your metabolism elevated long after a workout, in some cases up to 72 hours. That means more calories burned overall.

And since interval training takes less time to get the same results, many prefer it. In a small study published in 2016, a group of sedentary men was split into two groups who exercised three times a week for three months: one did moderate-intensity cycling for 45 minutes, while the other alternated three 20-second cycle sprints with low-intensity pedaling for 10 minutes.

At the end of the experiment, both groups lost about 2 percent of their body fat. But the second group worked for one-fifth as much time as the first. “With HIIT, you are utilizing all your systems efficiently — you’re getting the biggest bang for your buck in the shortest time,” Braun says.

How Much Cardio Should You Do?

Man cycling hard | Cardio exercises for weight loss

The American College of Sports Medicine recommends adults get at least 2 1/2 hours of moderate-intensity cardio, or 60 minutes of high-intensity cardio each week for general fitness. That works out to 30 minutes five days a week, or 20 minutes three days a week, respectively.

But you can split up time within the day, too. For instance, 15 minutes of jump rope in the morning, and 15 minutes of soccer with your kids in the afternoon. Just be sure to push yourself (and pay attention to your heart rate) if you’re aiming for more vigorous cardio.

If you’re newer to cardio, McCall suggests setting a small, realistic goal, such as 15 minutes, three times a week. “If you’re successful at achieving this, that will encourage you to add more,” he says.

From there, add five to 10 percent more cardio each week. So, 15 minutes becomes 17 minutes, and then 20 minutes, etc. You can add five to 10 percent more mileage if you prefer to use distance as your measurement.

It’s OK to do some form of cardio every day, as long as you’re not doing super intense workouts daily. If you put in a hard day, make the one that follows an active recovery day with a walk or perhaps yoga. “Exercise is a stress, and your body needs days to recover and heal itself,” Braun says.

For those who favor a combination strength-and-cardio workout, Braun recommends doing strength first. “The body likes to use carbs before fat for energy,” he explains. “Strength training uses glycogen for energy. Once those stores are depleted, your body will turn to fat deposits during lower-intensity cardio.” Further, if you do high-intensity cardio first, you may not have the strength to give weightlifting your all, and your form might suffer.

Types of Cardio Training

The method by which you perform cardio is as important to your goals as the exercises themselves. The following strategies alter variables like tempo, rest, and even activity.

Endurance training

This is steady-state cardio, wherein you maintain roughly the same pace throughout a workout. You can do this with any of the cardio exercises listed below. You’ll burn calories and train your body to consume oxygen more efficiently, but you won’t build much strength, and you’re likely to lose some muscle.
Best for: Muscular endurance, cardiovascular endurance

Interval training

As mentioned above, alternating between periods of high-intensity bursts (such as sprinting) and lower-intensity rest or recovery (such as jogging or walking) will burn more calories in less time. It also generally burns more fat overall, improves anaerobic capacity, and helps your body recover quicker.
Best for: Muscular development, cardiorespiratory capacity, fat loss

Low-intensity interval training

HIIT isn’t the only way to get your intervals on. “Doing lower-intensity exercise for one to two minutes at time uses the aerobic energy pathways without creating excessive fatigue,” McCall explains. He recommends exerting at a 5 to 7 (on a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being the hardest) with a 2-to-1 work-to-recovery ratio. So go 2 minutes at a level 7, then 1 minute at a level 4, for example.
Best for: Cardiovascular endurance

Circuit training

This type of total-body workout involves performing a number of different exercises in succession (a circuit) with minimal rest in between. It typically involves combining cardio and strength training, though Olson notes it isn’t optimal for either. For weight loss, however, it can be quite effective. Alternate between exercises such as squat lunges, burpees, medicine ball passes, and mountain climbers for 30 to 60 seconds each, then rest a minute between rounds.
Best for: Muscular development, muscular endurance, cardiorespiratory capacity, fat loss

Fartleks

This funny Swedish term is is a great way to break up the monotony of regimented intervals, McCall says. Work at a high intensity for some distance (say, eight lightposts away) or time (until the second verse of the song you’re listening to). Then go at an easy effort until you recover. Continue this pattern for different distances or times for your entire workout.
Best for: Muscular development, muscular endurance, cardiorespiratory capacity, fat loss

Cardio Exercises for Weight Loss, Strength, and Endurance

You now know what cardio is and how it’s applied — here are the cardio exercises to try.

running swimming cycling jumping hiking | cardio exercises

Running

Easy to do most anywhere and fairly cheap, running offers a slew of benefits, like strengthening bones and enhancing joint health. However, “the repetitive impact can cause lower-extremity overuse injuries if you don’t vary it with other forms of exercise,” Olson says. To help avoid injury, make sure you’re running with proper form.

Cycling

Easier on your joints than running, biking challenges your body to effectively deliver oxygen to muscles, which it offers a greater likelihood for growth.

Swimming

Another great option if you have joint issues, swimming is a total-body workout. But you do need a place to swim — and to know how to properly swim — to reap all of its benefits. Once you do, check out these tips to improve your freestyle stroke.

Rowing

Crew teams are in top shape because rowing is a great total-body cardio and muscular workout. It’s also low-impact, sparing shock to joints.

Plyometrics

This kind of exercise most often refers to jump training, and can burn many calories as you increase your explosive power. Naturally, though, good form is a must for this high-impact activity, or you increase the risk of injury. “You need to have the best movement mechanics to do plyometric training,” Braun says.

Dancing

Who says cardio can’t be fun? Whether you prefer moving to pop musiccountry music, or something in between, dancing is a great way to improve aerobic — and even anaerobic — capacity.

Jumping rope

Cheap, portable, and easy to do pretty much anywhere, jumping rope builds aerobic and anaerobic endurance, and may help improve coordination, balance, and bone mineral density, research shows. It’s best to wear the right shoes and jump on a forgiving surface such as a wood floor, Olson says. And if you have tight calves, stretch them before and after.

Hiking

“Consistent hiking for two to four hours at a time uses the aerobic energy system, which can help increase the utilization of fat for energy,” McCall says, and that can lead to weight loss. Hiking is also easier on your joints than running, plus you’re spending time in nature, which has been shown to improve mood among other benefits.

Calisthenics

Old-school bodyweight exercises like squats and pushups are a great way to get your heart pumping and build muscular endurance. “The more muscles used, the more oxygen required, and the more calories burned,” McCall says. Try jumping jacks, high knees, ice skaters, mountain climbers, and burpees.

Sports

Games like softball, basketball, and soccer offer more than friendly competition. “Each sport has different benefits for your body, from the fuel system you use to skills required of your body and mind,” Braun says. “The movements required in different sports help teach coordination while keeping cardio fun and interactive.”

Cardio Is Way More Than Running

You can get the benefits of cardio in many more ways than simply running. Whether you swim, dance, or do Beachbody workouts at home, be sure to do more than one thing.

“Your body is capable of a lot of things. For general health and fitness, encompass all of it,” Braun says. Do endurance as well as interval workouts, in all forms of cardio, to lose weight, improve overall fitness, and reduce your risk of injury.

BY:

Shared by Dr. Phil McAllister @ Forward Health Guelph

Dr. Laura: GUT Circadian Rhythm

Insomnia, pain, fatigue, stress? How do you get to the root cause of your health problems?

SLEEP?

HORMONES?

OUT OF BALANCE?

Do you have sleep issues? Hormone issues? Or just feel out of balance?

 

Learn How Gut Microbes

Affect Your Circadian Rhythm

Join Dr. Laura M. Brown ND, Wednesday June 13, 2018 and  you will learn how circadian rhythms of gut microbes ultimately intertwine with our own circadian rhythms, which regulate our sleep/wake cycles, hormone release, and metabolism.

Comprehensive Stool Analysis 

Dr. Laura is a registered Naturopathic Doctor with a functional Medicine approach. Dr. Laura gets to the root cause of your health issue and stimulates the natural mechanisms of healing. Her individualized protocols are designed with time-proven remedies and the latest scientific research. Her inviting nature will meet you where you are, and inspire you toward a more healthful, purpose-filled life.

Dr. Laura: Beautiful Botanicals

Botanical Medicine

Garden enthusiast? Plant lover? Curious about natural medicine?

 

Wednesday May 16th, 2018 at Goodness Me! 

Dr. Laura M. Brown, ND will share with you her passion of botanical medicine and how it aids in the treatment of many common health issues.

Develop a greater appreciation for the wondrous value of medicinal plants.

Dr. Laura M. Brown, ND is a registered Naturopathic Doctor with a functional Medicine approach. Dr. Laura gets to the root cause of your health issue and stimulates the natural mechanisms of healing. Her individualized protocols are designed with time-proven remedies and the latest scientific research. Her inviting nature will meet you where you are, and inspire you toward a more healthful, purpose-filled life.

Dr. Phil Shares: Top 8 Gluteal Stretches for Buttock Pain

8 of the Best Glute Stretches for Buttock Pain

Tight glutes: in theory, we want them. We spend hours squatting and lunging to get a taut, lifted booty. But a rear that actually feels tight is, well…a pain in the butt. A sore buttocks makes it tough to sit, stand, and walk. It leaves you hobbling like a cowboy, searching for the best glute stretches to ease discomfort so you can go down stairs like a normal person, not a rodeo star.

Why are my glutes tight?

When it comes to buttock pain, intense lower body exercise can cause soreness in the gluteus maximus muscle. But daily activities tend to cause soreness in a different (and probably lesser-known) butt muscle, explains Beachbody expert Cody Braun. “The issue is often in the piriformis muscle (located deep underneath the glute muscles), which helps to externally rotate the femur and aids in abduction when the hip is flexed (drawing the leg away from the body’s midline),” he says. When this muscle becomes tight – whether from sitting too much or from a challenging leg workout – piriformis stretches can help restore the muscle to its full, functional length, help relieve butt pain, and restore hip mobility.

Mobility vs. flexibility

While often used interchangeably, “flexibility” and “mobility” are a different concepts. So if you think you want flexible glutes, you might actually need mobile hips – and vice versa. “Mobility refers to the degree and quality in which you actively move your joints through their full ranges of motion,” Braun explains. For example, someone with full ankle and hip mobility can easily move in and out of a full squat position, while a person with poor mobility may struggle or make compensations in other areas of the body.

Flexibility is usually expressed by the ability to completely lengthen your muscle,” Braun says. When a gymnast drops into the splits? That’s flexibility. And you can bet that she’s spent hours of her life holding static stretches. Both concepts are important when it comes to stretching your glutes, which is why the following glute stretches can help you achieve better hip mobility and flexibility.

8 Glute Stretches to Relieve Buttock Pain

Don’t let a sore buttocks get you down: here’s how to stretch your glutes (and relieve piriformis soreness), so you can walk, run, and move about your day with ease.

1. Seated Leg Cradle

Appears in: Beachbody Yoga Studio – Hip Opening Flow with Faith

This seated glute stretch will help alleviate sore glutes, no matter how tight they are from the previous day’s training. There are a few variations of this stretch, depending on how much flexibility and mobility you have in your glutes and hips.

  • Start in a seated position with your legs extended straight out in front of you. Draw your right knee toward your chest and cradle the lower leg by placing the right knee in the crook of the right elbow and the sole of the right foot in the crook of the left elbow.
  • Flex your right foot and keep your spine straight and your chest lifted as you gently rock your leg from left to right. You should feel this in your right hip and glute area.
  • Hold for 30 seconds before releasing your leg and repeating the stretch on the opposite side.
  • You can modify the intensity of the stretch by holding your knee and foot with your hands or scooping both elbows under your calf muscle and drawing your leg toward your chest

2. Cradle Knee Hug, Prayer Hands

Appears in: FOCUS: T25 – Stretch

In addition to providing a deep stretch for the glutes, piriformis, and hips, this two-part standing glute stretch will challenge your balance and build strength in the standing leg.

  • Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Lift your right knee so you can hold the lower part of your right leg: hold your right knee with your right hand and the outer part of your right foot with your left hand. Keep your back tall.
  • Hold the balance for two to three breaths.
  • Next, place your right ankle just above your left knee as you slowly bend your left leg, hinging at your hips as you lower your butt. Press the palms of your hands together in a prayer position. Press your right knee down toward the ground to intensify the stretch.
  • Hold this position, then return to a standing position and switching legs.

3. Pigeon

Appears in: Jericho’s BOD Exclusives – Half and Half

One of the best glute and piriformis stretches for runners, yogis, and desk jockeys alike, pigeon help to open your hips in a calm, restful position. This is most comfortable to do on a cushiony surface, like a yoga mat.

  • Begin in a downward-facing dog position. Lower your hips as you draw your right knee toward your chest and, with your knee bent, place your thigh and shin in front of you on the mat. Depending on your level of flexibility, you can keep your right foot close to your left hip or bring your shin forward so that it’s parallel to the front edge of your mat.
  • Make sure both hips are facing forward and your back leg is engaged (you can keep it straight or bend your knee, creating a 90-degree angle).
  • Leading with your chest, lean forward until you feel a stretch in your glutes and hip area. Hold for 30 seconds.
  • Return to downward-facing dog and repeat the stretch with your left leg

4. Figure 4 thread the needle

Appears in: Beachbody Yoga Studio – Strong but Simple Flow with Vytas

If tight hips are really limiting your mobility, this move may be a more accessible option than other glute stretches. Place your hands under the hamstring for a lighter stretch until your can work your way up to the more challenging option of placing the hands on your knee.

  • Lie on your back with the soles of your feet on the floor.
  • Cross your right ankle over your left knee, keeping your right foot flexed.
  • Draw your left knee toward your chest and, reaching your right hand through your legs, interlace your fingers just below your left knee (under your left hamstring for a less intense stretch).
  • Use your arms to pull your knee toward your chest until you feel a stretch in your right hip and glute area, and hold.
  • Release the stretch and repeat on the left side.

5. Seated figure 4

Appears in: A Little Obsessed –AAA

A simple but effective seated glute stretch, the seated figure 4 targets the glutes and piriformis. It’s easy to make this stretch more or less intense, depending on how close you bring your chest to your legs.

  • Sit with your knees bent and the soles of your feet on the floor.
  • Lean back slightly and place your hands on the floor behind your hips to provide support and balance.
  • Lift your right leg and place your right ankle just above your left knee.
  • Press your hands into the floor to bring your chest toward your knees until you feel a stretch in your right hip and glutes, and hold.
  • Release the stretch and repeat on the opposite side.

6. Prone happy cow

Appears in: 21 Day Fix Extreme –Yoga

This yoga pose might look advanced, but it’s fairly easy to get into, and it does wonders for easing tension on both glute muscles at the same time.

  • Lie on your back and draw your knees toward your chest.
  • Cross your right knee over your left and grab hold of your heels: your right hand should be holding your left heel, and your left hand should be holding your right heel.
  • Pull your heels toward you until you feel a stretch in your hip and glute area, and hold.
  • Release and repeat the stretch with the opposite leg crossed on top.

7. Cow face

Appears in: TurboFire – Stretch 40

A favorite glute stretch for yoga devotees, this seated glute stretch can help ease lower back pain while it opens the hips.

  • Starting in a seated position, bend your left leg so that your left foot comes to the right side of your hips and that your knee is facing forward.
  • Cross your right leg over the left so that your knees are stacked on top of each other with your right foot coming to the left side of your hips. Sit up straight and make sure both glutes are firmly planted on the floor.
  • With a flat back, lean forward until you feel a stretch in your glutes, and hold.
  • Sit up and repeat, switching the position of your legs.

8. Seated figure 4 fold

Appears in: P90X3 – Yoga

Done properly, this classic seated glute stretch will also relax tense hamstrings. For the best results, be sure to hinge at your hips and avoid rounding the back.

  • Start in a seated, straight-leg position. Bend your right leg and cross your right ankle over the left thigh, creating a figure four position with your legs.
  • Keep your glutes firmly planted on the ground as you hinge at the hips and lean forward until you feel a stretch in your left hamstring and glutes. Be sure to lead with your chest and keep your back flat.
  • Hold, and then sit up and switch legs to repeat on the opposite side.

Glute Anatomy 101

You’ve probably heard the name “gluteus maximus” before (how else are you supposed to tactfully reference the butt?), but chances are the medius and minimus parts of your buttocks aren’t as familiar. And as for the troublesome piriformis muscle? That might as well have sounded like a magical spell up until now. Here’s a breakdown of the gluteal muscle anatomy, so you know exactly what makes your rear end so bootylicious.

Gluteus Maximus

When we talk booty, we’re usually referring to the gluteus maximus – it’s the a huge powerhouse and an attention-getter. It’s not only your most sizable gluteal muscle, but it’s also one of the biggest muscle in the human body. And, because it’s located close to the body’s surface, it’s responsible for the butt’s rounded shape and prominent appearance.

The gluteus maximus originates from the hip bone, and tailbone, and connects to the femur (thigh bone) and iliotibial (IT) band. It’s main job is extension, but it also aids in lateral rotation: walking, sprinting, climbing stairs, ice skating – that’s all the gluteus maximus.

Gluteus Medius

Located on the upper, outer section of your rear, the gluteus medius is tasked with abducting (lifting to the side) and rotating the leg. It also works to stabilize your pelvis while you walk or run; any dysfunction or weakness in the gluteus medius can lead to issues with your gait (how you walk and run) and problematic movement compensations.

Shaped like a fan, the gluteus medius originates at the hip bone and connects to the upper portion of the femur.

Gluteus Minimus

Like the gluteus medius, the gluteus minimus plays a role in stabilizing the pelvis and rotating the leg. It’s smallest of the three glute muscles, originating from the hip bone and connecting to the top of the femur.

Piriformis

The piriformis is considered a “deep” gluteal muscle. Located under the gluteus minimus and within close proximity of the sciatic nerve, the band-like piriformis originates at the sacrum and connects to the top of the femur. It also aids in lower limb abduction when the hip is flexed and lateral rotation.

Why Should You Stretch Your Glutes?

Between sitting at a desk all day, sitting in your car during rush hour traffic, and sitting on your couch during a binge of Stranger Things, what is a butt to do with the massive amounts of inactivity throughout the day? One way to counteract it is by exercising (try these butt exercises, for example). You should also incorporate butt stretches into any workout that uses the lower limbs, as they can help prevent injury, reduce soreness, and prepare the glute muscles for activity.

When Should You Do Glute Stretches?

Other than the obvious, “whenever your butt hurts,” there are a few guidelines to follow when it comes to stretching your glutes. This mainly is because that there are two kinds of stretches: dynamic (moving) and static (not moving). Both are important – it just comes down to the timing.

Dynamic stretches are best to do before a workout, as they get the muscles ready for work by contracting and stretching in order to activate the nervous system, increase blood flow, and warm up the body. They involve movement and they cycle the joints through their full range of motion. Arm circles, leg swings, and walking lunges are examples of common dynamic stretches.

On the other hand, static stretches tell your body that it’s time to relax and recover. They involve bringing a muscle to its point of tension, holding for 30 seconds, and releasing (think: bending over to grab hold of your toes). “After exercise, you want to stretch the muscle to help the recovery process,” Braun says, as it helps to relax the muscle. Static stretching is particularly important when it comes to that troublesome piriformis muscle. “Piriformis stretches should be used to restore the full functional length, which, in return, will help with hip mobility,” Braun says.

Dr. Laura: Wheat & Gluten Sensitivity Testing

WHEAT & GLUTEN SENSITIVITY TESTING

There are over 100 proteins in wheat, which includes gluten, but is not limited to gluten.

Every time any of us eats gluten, some damage is done to the small intestinal lining. For most, it recovers and repairs in about twenty minutes . For those who are genetically susceptible it may take up to five hours. Then the next meal comes. Over time, repeated meals containing gluten repeat the damage, with little time of repair and recovery and eventually the body cannot keep up. Some trigger point of stress or illness may make it more difficult for the recovery. Then the signs and symptoms may show up. Not everyone has traditional symptoms of fatigue, weight gain, bowel issues, pain, gas, or bloating. Some have apparently no symptoms at all.

Gluten sensitivity plays a role in things like:

  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
  • autism
  • schizophrenia
  • cerebellar ataxia
  • depression
  • anxiety
  • fertility
  • autoimmunity
  • celiac disease
  • dermatitis herpatiformis
  • polymyalgia

 

A lot of gastroenterologists know how to screen for celiac disease, they’ll typically test for antibodies to alpha-gliadin, transglutaminase-2, maybe if they’re current with the scientific literature they’ll also screen for antibodies to deamidated gliadin and endomysium.

If some of these tests are positive, then they might do a biopsy to determine if there is damage in the small intestine. If the tests are negative, the patient’s generally told that they don’t have celiac or gluten intolerance and that’s as far at it goes.

However, research shows that people can and do react to several other components in wheat above and beyond alpha-gliadin, the fraction of wheat that is involved in the pathogenesis of celiac disease, and these include other epitopes of gliadin like beta-gliadin, gamma-gliadin and omegagliadin; glutenin, which is the other major half of the wheat protein; wheat germ agglutinin, which is a lectin in wheat; gluteomorphin; and deamidated gliadin. What’s more, people can react to other types of tissue transglutaminase, aside from tGT-2, including type 3, which is primarily found in the skin, and type 6, which is primarily found in the brain and nervous system tissue.

If this is you, the gluten you eat may affect your brain or your skin, or maybe your muscle, but you will be completely missed by conventional testing. I emphasize – just because the two markers your conventional doc tests your for come back negative, it does not mean you are not free from wheat related damage. Also, just because you do not have symptoms you think are related to wheat, doesn’t mean you are free from its (potential) body-wide damage.

How do I find out?

Enter Cyrex Array 3 testing. It is the most comprehensive form of wheat sensitivity testing available today. It involves a simple blood test and will test for the two markers your conventional doctor sends for plus 22 other markers.  You’ll have to confirm this at time of testing as pricing can vary. You will need an appointment with Dr. Laura M Brown, ND, Certified Gluten Practitioner, before and after your test. Dr. Laura will help interpret the test and proved direction for next steps. Dr. Laura has extended training in diagnosing and treating gluten related disorders.

Now it is important to note that Cyrex Array 3 will not diagnose Celiac, only the gold standard of positive intestinal biopsy will prove that, but it can tell you how strong the markers related to Celiac or other forms of non-celiac gluten sensitive (NCGS).

 

Here’s what the test results look like:

 

Test Prep:

 

This is a blood test that measures antibodies. As such, in order to improve the accuracy of

your test results, you must ensure adequate exposure to wheat beginning 25 to 30 days

before you schedule your blood draw.

Exposure to wheat allows your body to form antibodies if you do have sensitivity. Avoiding wheat before this test could cause a false negative result, meaning that the test states you are not sensitive to wheat when you actually are intolerant.

 

 

For more information visit www.cyrexlabs.com or book an appointment with Dr. Laura M. Brown, ND at Forward Health.

 

Dr. Phil Shares: 8 Yoga Poses for Stronger Knees

8 Yoga Poses for Stronger Knees

Yoga can be daunting for those with knee problems. Unfortunately, that’s a lot of us, myself included. Below are the yoga poses I used to strengthen my knee after surgery.

Three years into my yoga career, I suffered a meniscus tear. Physical therapy, ice, and painkillers were not enough to ward off surgery. I had to go under the knife.

My bones and tendons blocked the doctors from seeing the exact location of the tear in ultrasounds, so exploratory surgery had to be performed before the surgeon could fix the problem. By the time they were done, my leg looked like it had been beaten with a meat tenderizer and my muscles and soft tissue were in a sorry state. Giving up my career as a yoga instructor was not an option for me, so I took the time to learn how to protect my knee by strengthening the muscles that support it.

Here are the exact yoga moves I practiced to strengthen and stretch my knees. However, make sure to always seek advice from your physician before beginning any exercise or rehabilitation regimen, especially if you have any unique or special medical conditions related to your knees.

 

5 Yoga Poses for Stronger Knees:

1. Supported Chair Pose (Utkatasana)

This pose will strengthen the quadriceps, hamstrings, and abductors. It also increases blood flow to the lower region of the body, which can help with fluidity of movement. Chair pose is typically practiced away from the wall, but that may require more strength than your knees are able to handle at the moment, so use the support of a wall if you need it. Place your feet hip distance apart. Lean your back up against a wall and slide down until your knees and ankles are parallel with each other. You can place your hands on your thighs or reach the arms towards the ceiling. Hold the pose for a few breaths then slide back up. Repeat several times. As your legs get stronger, increase the number of breaths you hold the pose.

Yoga for the Knees Chair Pose

2. Supported Bridge Pose (Setu Bandasana)

Bridge pose is a yoga asana that helps properly align your knees while strengthening your back, glutes, and hamstrings. Lie flat on your back with your knees bent and walk your feet toward your bottom until you can just touch your heels with your fingertips. Step your feet out hip distance apart and place a block horizontally on the floor between your feet. This will help keep everything in place. Press into all four corners of the feet, the inside and outside edges as well as the heel and the balls. Draw your navel in toward your spine and press your lower back into the ground. Tuck your tailbone in and lift your bottom from the ground. Lift as high as you can without compromising your form (your knees should remain hip distance apart and parallel with the ankles). To get an added stretch in the chest, you can roll your shoulders under your body and interlace your fingers underneath you. Hold this pose for a few breaths then release the upper back first, then mid back, then finally lower your lower back and tailbone to the floor. Repeat a few times.

Yoga for the Knees Bridge Pose

3. Supported Half Moon Pose (Ardha Chandrasana)

Balancing poses can be very beneficial when it comes to building the muscles that help the knee. However, if your knee is currently inflamed, you want to avoid anything that will put this much weight on the joint. By using the support of a block, you can work on strengthening the muscles in this pose and stretching the hamstrings without putting stress on your knee. The first time you do this pose, use an empty wall and a block for support. Stand with your back to the wall and rotate your right foot so that the outside edge of the foot is parallel with the wall. Place the block in your right hand, bend your right knee, and shift your weight so you’re balancing on the right leg. Set the block on the floor a few inches in front of your right foot and press your right hand into it to help straight the right arm and leg. Rotate the left side of your body upward so that your back is either in alignment with the wall behind you or leaning on it. Your left leg should be lifted and parallel with the floor. Your left arm should create a straight line with the right arm. Hold for a few breaths and increase the amount of breaths as you get stronger.

Yoga for the Knees Half Moon Pose

4. Mountain Pose (Tadasana)

Mountain pose will teach you proper alignment that may help ward off new knee injuries and help you become aware of the muscles you need to engage to protect the knee. To get into the pose, stand with your feet hip distance apart, lift all your toes up, spread them wide, and then rest them back down on the floor. Press into the floor with all four corners of the feet to evenly distribute the weight of the body. As you press into your feet, engage your calf muscles. Engage the quadriceps and internally rotate your inner thighs to widen your sits bones. Tuck your tailbone in, and engage the glutes. Tighten your abs. Pull your shoulders back and down. Make sure your shoulders are stacked over your hips and ankles. Lift your chin and pull it back slightly so it is parallel with the floor. Relax the muscles in your face. Take several deep breaths and notice the muscles you have engaged to create proper posture. Hold this pose for approximately 10 breaths.

Yoga for the Knees Mountain Pose

5. Triangle Pose (Trikonasana)

A common problem with those who suffer from knee injuries or weakness is a strong vastus lateralis (the outer part of your quadriceps) and a much weaker, underused vastus medialis (the inner part of your quadriceps). Trikonasana is a pose that will strengthen the muscles that support the inner quad. Step your feet out in a wide stance so your left foot is parallel with the back of your mat and your right foot is turned out at a 90 degree angle, parallel with the inside horizontal edge of the mat. Bend your right knee so it lines up with the ankle and hip. Press into both feet and straighten the right leg, engaging the inner part of your quad and thigh. When this muscle is engaged, you will notice it is impossible to lock your knee. However, when you disengage the muscle, it will hyperextend and lock (you should avoid this). Reach your right arm straight down and rotate upward with the left side of your body. Line up your arms so they’re in a straight line and keep your core engaged. For support, you can place your right hand on a block, but be sure to keep the core engaged as you reach up to the sky with the left side of your body. Hold for a few breaths, disengage, and then repeat.

Yoga for the Knees Triangle Pose

3 Yoga Poses to Stretch The Knees:

It’s important to not only strengthen the knees but also to stretch them. You can make knee injuries worse if the muscles are so tight that they decrease movement fluidity. Here are 3 poses that stretch the knees and the supporting muscles without causing pain. Again keep in mind that each person is different and very few injuries are exactly the same, so make sure to seek advice from your physician before beginning.

1. Wide-Angled Seated Forward Bend (Upavistha Konasana)

Many of the poses that stretch your legs and hips tend to torque the knee in a way that can be quite painful for those who have knee weakness and pain. Konasana is a great pose that will stretch out the whole back of the body as well as the hips, inner thighs, and groin. To get into this pose, straddle your legs out in the widest stance you can comfortably place them. Flex your feet to activate the leg muscles. Place your hands on the ground forward in front of you and slowly walk them forward until you feel the stretch. Keep your spine straight and elongated throughout the stretch. If you find that your spine creates a C shape when you start to fold, place a blanket under the sits bones to lift yourself slightly off the floor. Hold this pose for 8 to 10 breaths. Follow it up by pulling the legs together and the knees into the chest.

Yoga for the Knees Seated Wide Angle Forward Bend

2. Easy Pose (Sukhasana)

Lotus is a common pose that that is held at the beginning and end of each yoga class and can be a real pain in the knee. So, instead of sitting with both feet in the crooks of your thighs, simply cross your legs and gently place one in front of the other. Keep in mind that the deeper the bend in the knee the higher the chance of pain, so you may not have a perfect crossed leg look. That’s okay. You also have the option of sitting on a blanket to make the pose more comfortable and placing blocks on either side of the knees. This pose will stretch your knees and ankles. Sit up tall and breathe deeply for about 8 to 10 breaths, increasing the amount of breaths as you feel more flexible over time.

Yoga for the Knees easy pose

3. Child’s Pose (Balasana)

This is a gentle knee stretch that can be intensified the closer you can move your bottom toward your heels. Props are necessary for those with tight, sore knees. Start on your hands and knees (with a blanket under the knees for protection). In the full, unmodified, pose you’d have your feet together with your toes untucked, knees separated so the belly can rest between the thighs, bottom sitting on the heels, and forehead on the mat with the arms extended out. Modify as you need. Consider decreasing the degree to which you part your knees. Use blankets behind the knees or on the heels. This pose can be held for 8 to 10 breaths and then increased slowly as you become more flexible.

Yoga for the Knees Childs Pose

Shared by Dr. Phil McAllister @ Forward Health Guelph