Pain in your butt?

The gluteal muscles of your buttocks are among the largest and strongest in the body. They are responsible for moving your leg at the hip joint. More specifically, they extend your thigh, help with rotation, and help keep your pelvis stabilized and strong. For example, every time you climb the stairs, get out of your car, or get out of bed in the morning, your glutes kick into action. You rely on them every day.

When you do activities such as running, climbing, or squats, your glutes are loaded even more. These muscles can get tight and painful from overuse or strain and massage therapy can provide relief. Under the glutes lie the lateral rotators of the hip.

The most clinically notable of these is the piriformis muscle. It is really important to address when a person is experiencing sciatica type symptoms. The sciatic nerve can be compressed by the piriformis muscle and cause pain in the hip area and down the back of your leg, often making it painful to sit or to get up from sitting. Thankfully, massage therapy is very good at addressing this “piriformis syndrome“.

As you can see, the gluteal region of the body is an important one for day to day life as well as for more athletic pursuits. Keeping it strong is important to your overall health as it plays a big role in keeping you active and mobile. If you are experiencing discomfort or limited movement because of tightness in this area, it is wise to get it treated to prevent any further muscle or nerve involvement

About the author ...

9 Tips for Pain-Free Exercise

Everyone knows that fitness is important to health. Wanting to be fit is highly desirable. However, if you have slipped away from regular activity, or are wanting to try a new, or harder type of exercise there are often some obstacles that get in the way

The biggest challenge is usually just getting started. You CAN do it!

The next barrier that many people come up against is pain. This can make working out a little less inciting.The soreness in the muscles that you get the day or two after an intense work out is called Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS for those in the line of body work). It happens because your building muscle! It is also due to lactic acid, a bi-product of exercise. A few tips on minimizing this:

  1. Find a good trainer. Someone that will work with you at your level. Too much too soon will cause more  soreness.Start slow and build gradually. Working out doesn’t have to hurt.
  2. Have a good work out. One that includes a warm up, cool down, and stretching. A trainer can help with this
  3. Stay hydrated. If you’re sweating more you need to replace your fluids. Drink more water. It’s simple, so do it.
  4. Eat well. If you’re not getting enough of certain minerals (magnesium, potassium, calcium) or electrolytes you can get muscle cramps. A proper diet is also important to support muscle development, a changing metabolism, and increased demand for energy. I always recommend working with a professional, like a holistic nutritionist, that will help you meet your individual needs and save you the guess work.
  5. A contrast shower. After a work out have a hot shower, finish the last 30 seconds with cold water. This will help to “flush” out the lactic acid.
  6.  If you missed the first 5 points and are sore the next day have a hot bath with half a cup of Epsom salts, a hot tub, or sauna.
  7. Practice good form. This is where a good trainer can help. It is so much better to do an exercise correctly, slower, and with less intensely once, than to do it fast or with poor form 10 times to avoid injuries. Pilates is excellent for bringing body awareness.
  8. Address injuries. Generally, movement is good the body, but if something hurts more than a little, check you’re technique. If it hurts a lot, listen to your body; don’t do it. Have someone help you resolve and rehabilitate completely from your injuries. This is where I highly recommend Osteopathy. Osteopathy can help to restore proper body mechanics, improve circulation, reduce pain, and promote healing. It helps you get to the cause of injuries that can slow you down. 
  9. Rest. This is important to allow your body time to recover, repair muscle and injuries. By rest I mean sleep. If you practice good sleep habits and still don’t sleep well you may benefit from having an Osteopath Manual Practitioner help balance your nervous system.

Pain is a signal from your body to change what your doing or to address an injury. The sooner you deal with pain the sooner you’ll enjoy the activities you want to do. Work with professionals that understand the body. You’re health is an investment: Take care of your body and your body will take care of you.

About the author ...

Stacey Ayres, Osteopath Manual Practitioner, Registered Massage Therapist, is the owner of Better Health Clinic, She is a member of the Canadian College of Massage Therapists of Ontario as well as the Ontario Association of Osteopathic Manual Practitioners. Stacey has a particular interest in pediatrics, chronic pain, post trauma and surgery rehabilitation, and fertility.

Pilates for Kids!

As children are growing their bodies are constantly changing.   Education about the body, helps to create confidence and is empowering during this dynamic phase.   This is also a time when kids are forming bio mechanical patterns that will be used throughout their lives.  Introducing Pilates to your child will assist in establishing an active lifestyle free from pain, instability and poor habitual posture

Pilates promotes agility, mindfulness, and coordination that translates to sports, schoolwork and everyday skills.   This exercise option is suitable for children that are 8 years and older, under the supervision of a certified Instructor.  Classes at the Better Health Clinic are mat based and utilize props such as the stability ball and BOSU that are fun and easy for children to adapt to and enjoy.   Equipment with spring tension is used when appropriate and modifications are made for the individual participant.

  • Kids Pilates classes are 45 minutes in length and a fun at home plan is customized for your child.   Pilates is typically done in bare feet and any comfortable athletic wear that allows for movement.  Private or semi- private classes are offered if you want to bring a friend or sibling.  Private classes are recommended for participants working to rehabilitate an injury after doctor/primary therapist release.
  • Private Class $35 + HST
  • Semi Private $20 per child + HST

About the author ...

Karen Sullivan, STOTT PILATES® Instructor, ZEN•GA + Total Barre Trained Instructor -- with over ten years of teaching experience, and continued education Karen combines her acquired knowledge and understanding of movement to provide her clients and fellow instructors the tools they need to explore pain free movement. K

The Wiring Mess of Stress

Evolutionarily, the stress response was designed to keep us alive and safe. The caveman who did not respond to the presence of a saber-toothed tiger would have made a great lunch. So it makes sense that we are pre-wired to have the stress response.

The part of the brain involved in the stress response is in the limbic part of the brain called the amygdala. It is often referred to as the reptilian or lizard brain as in evolutionary terms, it is ancient and primal, keeping us safe. The amygdala signals that we are under ‘attack’ and tells us that we ‘lack’ so we gather more resources to survive. 

The Sympathetic and Parasympathic Nervous Systems

The amygdala receives sensory information from the outside world and then responds by activating systems that control the responses. It is connected to the autonomic nervous system that has two main branches, the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system. The sympathetic is often referred to as the gas petal, and the parasympathetic, the brake.

When the gas petal or sympathetic nervous system is activated, it’s response is fight, flight or freeze. In this state the body is aroused; heart rate increases, blood vessels are constricted to keep the blood flow to the major organs, blood pressure increases and digestion slows down. The parasympathetic response or the brake, helps us restore, refuel and relax. It is often referred to as the rest and digest system.  The body is required to be in this state to heal and repair.

Robert Sapolsky, professor at Stanford University, has defined stress as anything that knocks us out of homeostatic balance. It will move systems from functioning out of normal range. When animals become stressed, they return to a level of homeostasis quickly thereafter. They go back to grazing or caring for their young. With humans however, we can continue the story in our heads. Our frontal lobe allows us to think on a deeper level. This can help us reflect on deeper meanings and can also get us excited about new adventures, but it can also cause us to worry or ruminate about stressors in the past or anticipate possible stressors in the future that might not even happen. As Mark Twain quoted, “I’ve had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened.”
Stress can actually be helpful to people. It can give them motivation and help them perform. Sometimes we need the deadline to keep us on task to finish the job, but research indicates that many people experience chronic stress. Prolonged or chronic stress can produce wear and tear on our minds and bodies and also effect our behavior. 

The see-saw of the hot and cold systems of the brain 

The amygdala cannot tell the difference between a real threat like a car coming at you driving on the wrong side of the road, (which happened to me in Australia only it was me who was on the wrong side … Oops) and perceived threats that are thoughts, feelings and beliefs in your mind.  Sometimes the amygdala can become over sensitize and activate a strong stress response for something as simple as a traffic delay.  The amygdala can even forms associations with random or neutral events like the words: test, sport, or plane, as I have become familiar with as a teacher and consulting hypnosist. The word fear has been commonly given an acronym –  F.E.A.R. – False Evidence Appearing Real, because that is what is often happening.

Walter Mischel designer of the famous marshmallow experiment, describes the brain having a hot and cold system.  The hot system, the limbic system, where the amygdala is located, is emotional and reflexive.  The cold system which is slower, cognitive and reflective is associated with the prefrontal cortex.  When the amygdala, the hot system is activated by either perceived or real threat; the frontal lobe, the cold system, the area of the brain where good decision making, self regulation, weighing consequences of action, and rational thought is located, is deactivated. A metaphor useful for describing the way these two systems operate is a teeter-totter or see-saw; if one of the systems is really high, the other must be low. A lot of us have observed this when witnessing someone in the heat of emotion. An angry person who is emotionally charged and has activated the limbic parts of the brain, are often not logical or even rational. Their argument often makes no sense.  Parents and teachers have learned that it is almost impossible to have a rational discussion with an emotional child or teen. We wait until they have calmed or cooled down and their cold system is working to discuss the issue.  A highly emotional state turns off the cognitive part of the brain and this  could explain why the stressed out kid says to me that their ‘mind goes blank’.

Studies have shown that relaxing students before a test or performance can significantly increase their results. Their cognitive brain is functioning better in this state.  Being too rational, logical or having the emotional brain turned off, ‘like Spock’, can lead to people lacking in compassion. A good goal would be to develop equanimity or resilience and be able to balance the hot and cold systems and the see-saw.

Stress is universal and unavoidable, but the key is to learn effective ways to deal with it

There are things that we can learn to do to maintain equanimity when faced with stress so that we can become more resilient. It is ultimately how we deal with stress, that will effect our well-being.  Anything that calms the amygdala will release the stress and make you feel relaxed. When you are relaxed the level of stress hormones drop, and health-inducing hormones like oxytocin, dopamine, nitric oxide, and endorphins are released.  

Here are some good ways to activate the parasympathetic nervous system and turn on the relaxation response:

  • Exercise. People who exercise regularly often show increased vagal tone.  Because the vagus nerve is the central component of the parasympathetic nervous system, people with higher vagal tone have been shown to have more resilience to stressors.  Exercise also increases brain function, which is an added bonus.
  • Practice mindfulness. When we become mindful of our thoughts and subconscious programming we can let go of unhelpful thoughts. 
  • Do things that require focused attention.  Developing perseverance and grit can help fire up the wiring of the cold systems of the brain.
  • Cultivate positive thoughts.  Positive emotions such as joy, gratitude, compassion, hope and love to turn on the relaxation response. 
  • Be with nature. This can create a sense of wonder and awe.  These powerful positive emotions can also activate parasympathetic nervous system.
  • Diaphragmatic breathing.  Ancient wisdom teaches us to use the diaphragm while breathing. When doing this it is natural that your belly should move in and out, not your chest. Because the parasympathetic nervous system is activated when we breath out, focusing mentally on the outward breath can be very helpful.  

Another great way to relax would be hands on work like massage. But of course my personal favourites would be meditation or hypnosis whether they are self-guided or otherwise.  They both are great ways to calm down both the amygdala and production of stress hormones like cortisol.  It is what I call my ‘mental massage’.

Ginette,  BSc. BEd. CH.
From http://rightbrainhypnosis.com/

About the author ...

Ginette Andress has a degree in Biochemistry from the University of Waterloo, a Bachelor of Education from the University or Toronto and has been passionately teaching secondary school science and mathematics for 23 years. She received her Certification as a Consulting Hypnotist with the National Guild of Hypnotists.

Are you doing your stretches?

We can sound like a broken record at times (and believe me, we know it), but taking care of your body is essential to living a healthy and active lifestyle.  Most people place the care and maintenance of their bodies in the hands of healthcare professionals. In some cases this is required, but just doing self care at home can substantially increase quality of living.  One example of self care is stretching.  Many people don’t take the time to stretch when it is an essential part to everyday life.  They might not see the effects as fast as if lifting weights, or might not have the time to stretch but investing time into simple everyday stretching will yield high returns in the future.  Remember, like all body healing techniques, it takes time

Our day to day tasks are demanding on our bodies, despite what type of movements we are doing.  Heavy lifting or pencil pushing, each repetitive task we do affects a different muscle group in its own way.  This overuse causes the muscle to become shortened or tight which can result in trigger points in the muscle and fascial adhesions (fascia is connective tissue which binds together muscles, organs, and other soft structures of the body). Stretching allows you to lengthen muscles and fascia to prevent Fascial Adhesions from occurring.

What are the Benefits of Stretching?

  1. Stretching can help with lengthening any shortened tight muscles & connective tissues.
  2. Will prevent future injuries.
  3. Increase range of motion at a joint.

Things to keep in mind while Stretching…

  1. There shouldn’t be any pain with stretching.
  2. Always being aware of your posture while stretching.  
  3. Making sure you’re breathing during your stretches.
  4. No ballistic movements (bouncing into the stretch).

HOLD – stretches should be held for at least 30 seconds to be effective.
For now, keep your head up, and keep smiling!

Your pro-active, pro-health care team,
Ashley Coelho RMT and the Better Health Clinic

About the author ...

Ashley Coelho is a graduate of the reputable Sutherland-Chan Massage Therapy School and is a member of the College of Massage Therapist of Ontario as well as the Registered Massage Therapist Association of Ontario.