Centerworks Blog

Latest "Alleviating Pain & Chronic Health Problems" Posts

Can Pilates Help Kyphosis?

kyphosisDo you have Kyphosis?

It’s a fairly common back problem. In fact, there are more than 3 million cases of Kyphosis in the US per year.  What is Kyphosis?  It’s commonly known as having a “hunchback.” Kyphosis is an excessive outward curvature of the upper back and is most common in older women, often is related to osteoporosis.  But it’s not just a women’s problem, men can have Kyphosis too. Some people experience back pain, neck pain, and stiffness. Kyphosis is a body posture that can become disfiguring. Sadly, with the increased number of hours that we’re sitting in front of our computers and ducking our heads forward to look at our cell phones, everyone is at a higher risk for developing Kyphosis with our poor posture habits!  And just because you have Kyphosis, doesn’t mean you’ve got osteoporosis.  There are different ways you can treat Kyphosis including, pain meds, physical therapy, back braces, exercise, and surgery.

How can Pilates help Kyphosis?  Dramatically!  First of all, Kyphosis is mostly a postural problem.  Yes, there might be underlying medical issues or a genetic predisposition to carry yourself with a hunchback. But ultimately it’s about body alignment and developing better muscle function to help you stand taller and be straighter.  Exercise is crucial to develop better body alignment.

Pilates is one of the best physical activities on the planet to help eliminate hunchbacked, Kyphotic posture. Why? Because there is so much emphasis in a Pilates workout on moving the spine. By bending forward, backwards, sideways, and twisting the muscles of the torso in both the front and the back, the spine is getting stretched and strengthened in ways designed to help lift and lengthen it for better posture.

When the body is bent forward in Kyphosis, the upper back can become both over-stretched and weak while the chest muscles end up being too tight and strong. Added to this is the fact that 98% of what we do in life is in front of us – we’re ALL at risk for developing Kyphosis.

To begin re-balancing the upper body, the chest muscles need to be stretched and the upper back, arms and shoulders needs to be strengthened. Getting stronger with the hips, pelvic floor, and low core will also provide an anchor of support to help lift the spine into a taller position.

Why is Pilates a great way to help kyphosis?  So many Pilates exercises are done flat on the back – and lying on your back can be a great way to let gravity start opening the chest and straightening out the spine.  In the weight room, most exercises are done with a flat back. But staying flat isn’t going to give you the best benefits for improving Kyphosis – it’s the movement of the spine that will help elongate the muscles and re-align the spine.  Every Pilates exercise is a combination of work and release.  And Pilates exercises focus on both stability and movement.  This is key in alleviating back pain and improving Kyphosis.

If you think the Pilates Roll up is making your Kyphosis worse, you’re wrong.  Rolling UP on this exercise is strengthening your low center and stretching your back.  Rolling DOWN is helping to strengthen both the abs and the back.  As you lay each segment of your back on the mat one-by-one, you are helping to reinforce taller posture!  This is just one example of a spine flexion exercise from Pilates.  (And every exercise that bends the body forward and returns the body tall is helping you get the back muscles working more effectively.)  It’s all about sequential, segmental, articulation of the spine.  If your upper back is stuck like a chunk the segments cannot move freely.  Pilates is designed to help free up the body for better movement.

The Pilates prep exercise “FLIGHT” is a great way to open the chest by strengthening the upper back.  If you don’t lift too much with your head and low back, you can begin to activate the middle-upper back muscles which is where the hump is.  To do this effectively, the bones and muscles in the back almost need to relax first to fall closer to the breastbone (going from a hunched position, passing through a flat spine, to then begin lifting the back into arch.)  In learning how to do this on Flight, the motion can transfer to all the other Pilates back extension exercises like the Swan, Single Leg Kick, the lift up in Open Leg Rocker, Pulling Straps, the T, Down Stretch, Kneeling Knees Arched, Back bend over the Barrel. There are so many great Pilates exercises that focus on back extension!

Side bending and Twisting exercises are the other two ranges of movement that are needed to help improve posture and reduce the exaggerated curve of Kyphosis. And both side bending and twisting exercises are excellent ways to begin mobilizing the mid to upper back for better posture to reduce the excessive outward curvature of Kyphosis. But as with any exercise, it might be challenging to get the parts of the back that really need to be moving to do the work to twist and side bend for maximum benefit.

There are many ways these concepts and exercises can be incorporated into a Pilates workout. For side bending exercises there’s the Mermaid on the Mat, with the Chair, on the Reformer, with the push-thru bar, over the Arc Barrel, Side bend on the Short Box, Side bending on the Ladder Barrel, Arm Waves on the Arc Barrel, Kneeling Side Legs, and more…In particular, emphasizing the upper back doing the side bending, rather than just side bending from the waist will be most effective for mobilizing the upper back to improve posture and reduce the unnatural curve of a Kyphosis.

And finally, twisting exercises. In my opinion, twisting exercises are one of THE best ways to free up the spine! If you think about getting water out of a wet washcloth you twist it, and then fold it.  To help improve mobility through the upper back, you can apply this concept for similar results. There are lots of great twisting exercises in the Pilates repertoire.  Saw and seated twist in Matwork; Short box twist (and variations); Stomach Massage Twist; Saw with the Push Through bar; Spiral Twist with the Arc Barrel; Seated Twist and Teaser Twist on the Chair.

This is not an exclusive list of ALL the Pilates exercises that will benefit your back if you have Kyphosis. But an example of some of the exercises that might be included in your Pilates workouts to help improve your posture if you have Kyphosis, as well as to help keep your back in great shape to avoid getting Kyphosis.

There isn’t one exercise that you must to do to help Kyphosis. But a better understanding that you can improve posture and re-educate your muscles to reduce problems caused by Kyphosisis important. When you improve strength, flexibility, and body support it is possible to improve your alignment and alleviate the aches and pains. Pilates can be a valuable part of your exercise program to help improve posture and reduce the severity of Kyphosis and its associated aches and pains.

Johns Hopkins Medicine has a nice article in their health library that goes into more details about kyphosis, the different types of kyphosis, and different treatment options.  It’s interesting to note that postural kyphosis is the most common type and can improve with exercise!

You don’t have to live with a hunchback.  By improving your posture with Pilates, you can stand taller, undo the bad habits that have you bent over, and keep your spine moving in a more normal and natural way.


Get started improving your healthy movement habits by paying attention to your posture!  Discover more about your current posture habits. Take the Centerworks Posture Quiz

Posted by administrator in Alleviating Pain & Chronic Health Problems, Posture Improvement.

Abdominal Bracing and Back Pain

abdominal bracingHave you been taught abdominal bracing exercises for back pain?  Are you aware of how you’re using your ab and back muscles?  Can you feel what’s happening in your core – in the front, in the back, along the sides?  Does your belly push outward, stay the same, or flatten when you think about stabilizing your center?

I’ve recently been asked why I want the low belly (and whole-belly) to flatten towards the spine to support the back. Some of my clients are realizing that this is NOT what they normally do, but until now have been in the habit of pushing the abs out when they engage their core.

After a quick google search – I have to say that I cannot agree with much of what I’m seeing posted on the benefits of abdominal bracing!  Or, the methods in which these other blog posts and videos are explaining it.  Keep in mind that I am not a doctor or physical therapist – but with a lifetime of my own personal lower back issues, more than 20 years teaching Pilates and helping people eliminate back pain, i am confident that my logic and methods are sound.  There’s a lot more to eliminating back pain than bracing, and bad bracing habits are only going to make your back feel worse, not better.

Here are a few reasons why poor abdominal bracing habits might be contributing to your back pain:

If you push the abdominals outward to “brace” it’s going to pull the lumbar spine forward (out of position) too.  This creates an excessive lumbar arch and the back muscles will tense up to keep you from going too far. This is NOT helping to stabilize a healthy back position!  The larger QL (Quadratus Lumborum) muscles are going to activate and try to work as stabilizers.  But the QL is designed to help you MOVE – to arch the back and side bend – not just support posture to hold you steady.  When this is how you’re holding for support, your brain is being trained to use a movement muscle as a stabilizer. As a result, what muscles are you going to use instead when you need to bend forward, sideways, or backwards?  You’ll end up playing tug-of-war and straining your back because the lower back won’t “let go” when it needs to!

Take walking for example: If both QL’s are busy “bracing” for support, you cannot unlevel the pelvis when you walk.  This unleveling action is what helps stretch and strengthen the back with every step. Walking should be working the Obliques, and when the body is working properly this allows the leg swing to swing freely from the hip like it’s supposed to.  There is also a component of spine rotation that should be happening to get the whole-body benefits of walking for a healthy stride – but if you’re practicing abdominal bracing all you can swing is your arms.  Abdominal bracing puts your back and pelvis on lock-down, resulting with a tiny stride and your back/core/everything that should be working to make walking an excellent healthy-back exercise isn’t doing its job.  The result of this mis-managed core support, your back gets weaker, and you end up experiencing more pain not less.

What about the actual back stabilizers?  The smaller Multifidus muscles are the back muscles that need to be working in opposition to the abs to help stabilize the back (and the Multifidi can work to hold you tall, arched, rounded, twisted, or in a side bend).  Also, the Multifidus muscles span the full length of the spine and are segmental – which means it’s possible to stabilize the lower back and have free movement of the ribcage and upper back, or vise versa. Stabilize the upper spine, move the hips/pelvis, and low back, or use the Multifidi to stabilize the full length of the spine.  (Your QL muscle are only in the low back – there is no way tensing up this muscle is going to help you support healthy movement!)  Do you know how to find, and use your Multifidi?

Why better posture matters for eliminating back pain

If you’ve been told to do back “exercises” but nobody’s looked at your posture habits – or shown you how to start improving your posture – can you see how the back exercises you’ve been given may not fix the underlying problems?  If your posture and body alignment are off, your body is by default – out of balance.  Because of this, it will be nearly impossible to find and use the right muscles for your “back-care” exercises.  They might be great exercises, but if you can’t do them right because of posture or muscle imbalances, you’re not going to reap the benefits.  The body is great at “cheating!”  It will always find a way to do the work, without actually doing the work when the right muscles aren’t strong enough to get the job done.

When the body fears that the low back is in trouble because it’s over-arched, the abs aren’t strong enough to pull in effectively, and the QL won’t let go to help shift the spine into a safer, more functional position… the Glutes start grabbing and typically people end up “tucking” the pelvis to try and take the stress out of the lower back.

But what this does is pull the pelvis even farther out of a functional position, locks up the hips, and starts shifting the lumbar curve up into the mid back, creating more stress, and ultimately, additional upper back, neck, and shoulder problems. The abdominals continue to get weaker and the arms and shoulders take over. What should be “low center” support, has shifted to “high center.”  It’s impossible to maintain a healthy back without proper posture, the correct pelvis position, and the right muscles in-balance to support you.

Following Bad Cues Won’t Keep Your Back Healthy

If you’ve been told to pull your “navel to spine” you’re missing out on most of the muscle support that needs to be activated to protect your back. This one-point of support is more likely creating a bigger divide between the upper and lower halves of your body. There’s a good chance that because of this, you’ve got a habit of using your hip flexors instead of your abs to shore things up! This jams your pelvis, spine, and ribs together creating compression for support instead of finding support with length and strength. When the hip flexors grab, and the pelvis gets pulled towards the ribs, there is not enough space for the abs to pull inward! The bad habit of popping the abs outward, and the Quadratus Lumborum and other back extensor muscles overworking, gets reinforced.

Body awareness, and a better understanding of how to find and use the right muscles, matters if you want to really get the right support to eliminate back pain.

It’s important to learn how to correct the relationship between the pelvis and the ribcage so that the spine is in optimal alignment; then properly activating the sequence of support through the whole length of your torso (and keep the length) while you contract the deep core muscles for back support. This involves pelvic floor, transverse abs, obliques, multifidus, proper breathing habits, and better spine alignment!

Bracing by tensing everything up like you’re going to get punched in the gut might be useful if everything you need to do with your body involves zero movement. But if you’re going to walk, be active, use your arms & shoulders, legs & hips, and spine to bend in any direction, you’re going to have to learn how find and feel different layers of muscle support to work and release when needed depending on the movement or activity.

Change for better habits won’t happen overnight, but it can improve quickly once you know what you’re doing!

Tuck vs. Scoop vs. Neutral/Functional Pelvis
If you always tuck your pelvis to do abdominal strengthening exercises, you are not most effectively training your body to feel better. Sometimes the hips need to scoop when the abs work, and sometimes we need to maintain more of a “neutral/functional Pelvis” and still engage the core. Knowing when your muscles need to contract and hold everything still to stabilize vs. contract to move your body, is vital information for developing healthy movement habits to keep your back safe. Learn the difference between tucking, scooping, and stabilizing a functional pelvis for a healthy spine.

Check your Curves: Lay on your back with straight legs and notice where the highest point of your back is off the floor.  (it should be at approximately the navel.)  For most people it’s probably much higher than this.  Getting the back bones to relax and drop closer to the floor, to help reset the natural curves of the spine is key to then finding and using the right muscles to stabilize the back. Ultimately, your Rectus Abdominals (the 6-pack muscles) are the least important for spine support. The Transverse, and Oblique Abdominals play a much bigger role in keeping your back healthy, and the Multifidii are the missing link on the backside. None of these can effectively work without an anchor (the pelvic floor), which most people have never thought about, or been taught to activate properly.  Please note that practicing Kegels is not helping, but could make your back feel worse. Activating the pelvic floor for support, to be able to lift and decompress the spine with better breathing, will help your back feel better.

Help eliminate back pain by doing more than Abdominal Bracing.  Pilates can be an excellent way to start connecting mind, body, and movement to identify which back muscles are movers vs. stabilizers and getting them to do the right job at the right time will set you up for success to maintain a healthy, pain-free back.   If you’re experiencing back pain, find a well-qualified Pilates teacher and get started with one-on-one sessions, it will be the best investment you can make in re-educating your body to beat back pain. Discover how much more you can do with the right muscle support to break the bad habits caused by poor posture, muscle imbalances, and abdominal bracing.


Here are 3 things I share with my clients to help them practice finding and using better muscle support for their at-home workouts. 



Laser Spine Institute – Abdominal Bracing Exercise
Abdominal Bracing and Hollowing

Posted by administrator in Back Pain, Functional Movement.

Sit or MOVE? Which One is Best for Your Body and Your Health?

And why does it matter if you sit or MOVE anyway?

Sit or Move

Let’s face it, we’re spending way too much time parked on our rumps, not thinking about whether we sit or move.  You know it’s bad when they start naming new health problems that are directly related to how much we’re sitting.  Have you heard of gluteal amnesia? It can be directly related to lack of movement and muscle atrophy because we’re not doing what we need to be doing to activate, strengthen, and use our muscles to MOVE! Sit on your butt for too many hours a day and your glutes get lazy, hips, hamstrings, and quads get tighter which leads to more low back pain, as well as hip pain, knee pain, and problems with your neck and shoulders.

It’s so “relaxing” to park your butt in a chair and chill out, but is this really in the best interest of your body and helping to maintain your good health? Or, would a wiser choice to be getting up and doing something a little bit more active?

Whether you’re sitting, standing, or moving, good posture matters to keep your muscles working well.  And if that’s not enough motivation for you, studies have shown that the more you sit, the higher risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancer. We have to decide to sit or MOVE more to help improve whole-body health.

A quick 60 minute workout 2-3 days a week isn’t going to undo 8-10 hours with zero movement and poor posture while you’re tush is parked at your desk working all day.  Sit with good posture and you’re a step ahead to keep your body strong, fit, and flexible. Get a little extra time standing up and moving around and your body, and brain will be even happier.

Do you find yourself exhausted from a long day at work? How is sitting in front of the TV going to perk up your energy level?  Chances are it’s not. But, maybe that snack you grab will do the trick. Unfortunately, you’ll likely end up burning fewer calories because you’re too sedentary, while eating more because you’re desperate for energy.  Did you know that standing burns 30% more calories than sitting and you can up that number even more if you move! We have to make a conscious decision to sit or MOVE throughout the day.

Our muscles only get stronger when we use them.  We only get more flexible when we work our joints through their full range of motion.  Our circulatory system (heart), respiratory system (breathing), and digestive system all function better when we are active so whether we sit or move, our bodies are impacted.

Shift Your Mindset from: “I HAVE to Sit Down” to “I just need to MOVE for a Minute.”  Then I challenge you to follow the wise advice that just came out of your mouth and do it.  Set a timer, get up, and move for at least ONE Minute (every hour of the day)! 




Looking for a quick 10 minute workout to re-energize your whole body for better health?  Check out the ebook: Pulse Power! The Daily Dozen






Interested in getting better benefits from every step you take?  Discover an easy to learn system to help you enhance your whole-body health by fine-tuning your gait with Pilates Walk: Tips, Techniques and Exercises for a Healthy Stride.

Posted by administrator in Alleviating Pain & Chronic Health Problems.

You CAN Eliminate Back Pain with Pilates Core Exercises

Use Pilates to help eliminate back painAre you ready to kick your back pain problems to the curb?

Get ready to eliminate back pain… You can start feeling better fast!

Back pain is a significant problem in the USA.  There can be a variety of different reasons to end up challenged with back pain problems, and it can be extremely aggravating to figure out how to feel better.  But there are lots of different exercises that can be done to eliminate back pain, and Pilates can be an excellent choice in the process of improving posture, strength, flexibility, and developing healthy movement habits to enjoy life.

I was recently contacted by Natalie, at Runway Pilates to be a contributor to an article she was writing 11 Pilates Instructors Reveal the Best Core Exercises For Back Pain.  It was awesome to be asked to share my insights.  Then I realized that I needed to be succinct in my response! With my own personal low back issues, and having worked with lots of clients over the past two-plus decades of teaching Pilates, I’ve got so many thoughts to share on the subject of eliminating back pain problems.

Posted by administrator in Back Pain, Pilates.

Osteoporosis and Exercise: Keeping Your Bones Healthy – Exercise Safety Considerations and Resources

Osteoporosis and ExerciseI have posted several blogs about Osteoporosis and exercise, and seemingly this is a topic that I get questions and comments from readers quite frequently.  Over the years, I have had numerous clients with osteoporosis, and we’ve adjusted their Pilates workout programs to keep them safe based on their Dexa-scan results.  I’m also reaching the age, where I need to be a little more careful with my own bone-density issues.

But with this said, I don’t necessarily consider myself an “osteoporosis expert.”  So when I get specific questions about personal health issues, or osteoporosis and exercise, especially from readers all over the globe who cannot come into the studio and work with me personally, it’s nice to be able to refer people to a professional I trust to help answer questions.

Sherry Betz, PT, GCS, CEEAA, PMA®-CPT is a leader in the field of exercise, Pilates, and osteoporosis.  Her company, Thera Pilates® offers Physical Therapy and Osteoporosis Programs.

American Bone Health is a non-profit organization that provides education, resources, and tools to help you understand bone disease and bone health.

Here’s a helpful Poster from American Bone Health for improving your bone-healthy habits during everyday activities.  Regardless of whether you have osteoporosis or not, these tips and exercises can benefit your whole-body health! 

Posted by administrator in Exercise and Fitness, Osteoporosis.

Improving Plantar Fasciitis requires Paying Attention to a Lot More than Just Your Feet

Plantar Fasciitis Over the years, I can’t even remember how many clients have walked thru my doors complaining of foot pain caused by Plantar Fasciitis.  Some were avid runners, others were nurses or school teachers, they either have jobs that required them to be on their feet all day, or they’ve made such poor footwear and shoe choices that now foot pain and plantar fasciitis were chronic foot pain problem!

I recently read an article by Rick Merriam, “Plantar Fasciitis has very little to do with your Foot.”  This is a good article that is a strong reminder to me of why I’ve always focused on improving strength to affect muscle release, rather than just “stretching.”  Balanced muscle development is required for a healthy body to move efficiently and without pain.

This is also why regardless of whether you’ve got foot pain, knee, pain, hip pain, back pain, or neck and shoulder pain, the first thing to become more aware of are your posture habits to stand, sit, and walk.  If you can’t stand upright and breath with good posture habits, and optimal body support to help lift you UP off your feet, and keep your body in good alignment to move efficiently, it will be impossible to start making changes that will stick, no matter what the issue is you’re dealing with.

Posted by administrator in Alleviating Pain & Chronic Health Problems.

Vagus Nerve Stimulation May Help Reduce Inflammation, Depression, and More…

Vagus Nerve Stimulation Might Be A Missing Link for Better Health

How in touch are you with your Vagus Nerve? Do you struggle with inflammation, depression, or other chronic health challenges?  Has anybody ever suggested that you do anything specific to support your Vagus Nerve or suggested Vagus Nerve Stimulation?  Do you even have a clue as to what it is, where it is, or what it does?  I know…me neither.  The Vagus Nerve links communication between the head, heart, and digestive tract.  And of course before you go running off willy-nilly seeking the Holy Grail of answers for your health problems on the internet, check with your doctor and get proper medical advice before doing anything!

I saved the link to an article on the Vagus Nerve Inflammation Connection months ago because it interested me. Unfortunately, I am just now getting around to looking at it and realized that the website it’s posted on is no longer being updated, but I’ll go ahead and post the article link (below) that prompted this post.

I’m not much of a research junkie because I get lost in the technical mumbo-jumbo.  However, in my personal struggle to maintain good health, I appreciate insights from every angle.  Western medicine has failed me more times than I can count, and for many of my issues it’s been a struggle of mind over matter since finding a solution has been a nebulous quest.  While it would be great if there were a magic pill, potion, or food that would “fix” it all, our bodies are complex organisms and there are a lot of factors involved in getting everything to function optimally.

Inflammation has been a HUGE struggle for me throughout my life, that along with depression, anxiety, digestive disorders, Optic Neuritis, joint pain, and muscle aches.  I’m hyper-sensitive to foods, chemicals, and smells.  Sometimes I can get away with more, other times I’m over the edge and in-trouble faster than I can blink.  For some reason this past fall and winter were particularly challenging.  My lows have been lower and I fall faster to the pit of despair than I ever have in my life.

It’s scary, but I’m also talking about it because I know I’m not alone. I am also sick of people saying; “It’s just a choice!” “Choose to feel better.”  “Choose to think positively.” “Choose to be happy.”

You, my friend (or psychologist), obviously have never spent a day in my body where the norm is to wake up every morning trying to fight off the feelings of wanting to be 6 feet under.  TRUST ME, nobody would willingly want to spend their life feeling like crap – physically, mentally, or emotionally.  These are reasons why I’ve always exercised.  Physical activity is my “drug of choice”  because I really can’t take medications.  Most of the time I feel better when I am physically active.  But sometimes even that doesn’t help.

Posted by administrator in Alleviating Pain & Chronic Health Problems, Mind-Body Health.

Core Support for Better Posture

Low Center vs. High Center: Get Your Core Support Where It Can Serve You Best

By finding and focusing on the right segment of your midsection to improve core support you can improve posture, help eliminate aches and pains, and reduce stress for better health.

One of the things I spend lots of time on with my clients is identifying the difference between Low Center and High Center support.  Lack of body awareness, not understanding the difference between low center and high center, not knowing what your normal “go-to” recruiting pattern for core support really is, are just a few of the reasons why I believe so many people have issues with low back pain, hip pain, shoulder pain, and neck pain.

You might “kind of” know that your posture isn’t great.  But you might not completely realize that YOU are 100% in charge of HOW you are holding your posture, and 100% in change of WHERE you are holding your posture. You also might not realize how much your “not-so-great” posture habits have been affecting every little ache and pain your body experiences throughout the day.

The cumulative effect of poor posture habits over time, is that some of those little aches and pains turn into chronic problems and for many people this leads to shots, surgeries, and mis-use injuries.  But at the root of it all is POSTURE. 

Posted by administrator in Alleviating Pain & Chronic Health Problems, Back Pain.

Bye-Bye Back Pain By Practicing this Simple Back-Opening Breathing Exercise

Reducing Back Pain with Breathing Are You Ready to Take Action and Do Something About Your Back Pain?

Back pain can be anywhere along the spine from the tip of your tailbone, all the way up to the base of your skull.  Regardless of where it hurts, or what you’ve done to aggravate it – the truth is, that all anybody ever really wants is a quick fix to make the pain go away.

I know personally how life-altering it is to live with chronic back pain.  I was born with defects at L5-S1 and that instability has made maintaining my core strength a necessity to keep me healthy.  And if you’re low back is out of alignment, nothing stacked on top of that is quite right either so back pain can result anywhere from the bottom to the top.

If it’s not your low back that’s bothering you, it might be your mid-back, or upper back / neck and shoulders.  It’s nice if a chiropractic adjustment can get you back in alignment, but then the question remains – how long will your adjustment hold before it hurts again?  Pills and shots tend to mask the pain so you feel amazing while you’re medicated, and worse off when it wears off!

There are 2 critical things to pay attention to that can quickly begin alleviating your back pain problems. 

  1. Better Posture
  2. Breathing

Ideally our spine is designed to move freely in all directions.  When the bones are “out of balance” it restricts movement.   Muscles get into tight over-holding patterns, and the daily activities we do over and over sometimes only make it worse.  Muscles move bones, so getting the right muscle balance to maintain healthy body alignment for better posture really does matter if you’re serious about fixing your back pain problems.  We need stability AND mobility.

It’s nice to think, “ If I could just “relax” my back would feel better.”  But the truth is, it’s a combination of both work and release that will make the biggest difference to improve your health.  Right now that work/release balance for good posture is out of whack, and the only way your body can tell you there’s a problem is with a pain signal.

Improving posture is going to be a long-term project…  There is lots to become aware of, bad habits to replace with better habits, and never-ending opportunities to incorporate posture-improving exercises into your weekly workout program. If you’re interested in getting started paying attention to your current posture habits click here to take this Posture Quiz.

Now let’s talk about breathing: Keep reading and take in a few deep breaths.  Notice where the air is going inside your body.

  • Does your low belly stick out when you inhale?
  • Does most of your air rise up into the front of your chest? 

(Both of these not-so-hot breathing habits are contributing factors to low back pain.)

  • Are you able to take a full, deep breath, or are you a shallow breather?

If your back really hurts you might be compensating by not breathing deeply enough to avoid more pain (when in fact this choice is only making the lock down effect worse, and creating more tension.) 

  • Do you breathe evenly into BOTH lungs?  Or tend to fill one side more than the other? 

(Not breathing evenly, back muscles are not working/stretching evenly.)

  • When you inhale do you lift your shoulders up around your ears, or is the ribcage lifting and the shoulders are just riding along on the lift of the cage?

(If you’re actively hiking your shoulders up, you’re jamming your head/neck into your body compressing the cervical spine.)

Since so many people these days have forward head posture your poor neck and shoulder muscles are already on over-drive to keep your head from falling off your body, which is a part of why your shoulders want to hike up to begin with and why you may be dealing with neck pain, mid-back pain or both.

Poor neck! Poor shoulders! Poor back!  Have I gotten your attention yet?

Posted by administrator in Back Pain, Breathing.

Alleviate Shoulder Tension with These 10 Healthy Movement Habits to Help You Feel Great

Alleviate Shoulder TensionAre you sick and tired of aggravating neck and shoulder pain, and ready to change your habits to help alleviate shoulder tension?

I’ve had the opportunity to help so many clients over the past 20+ years teaching Pilates who have walked thru my door complaining of neck and shoulder tension, stress, chronic pain, or rotator cuff injuries.  It’s amazing how quickly things can improve with a better understanding of posture, breathing, body alignment.  Then getting the right exercises into your weekly workout program to reinforce healthy new movement habits and alleviate shoulder tension is the ultimate way to keep the pain away.

It’s a 3-Step Process to get your brain and body in sync for better health.  We don’t know what we don’t know. It’s impossible to make corrections or improvements with our movement habits to alleviate shoulder tension if we don’t realize we need to change, or have never been shown a better way to stand, sit, breathe, or move.

Step 1: Your brain has to be able to send the right message to your muscles. Cognitively understanding what needs to happen is the first step. If you don’t even realize that there is something you’re doing with a daily habit, task, or exercise that is creating the pain, OR that there is actually something that you can do about it, how on earth can you ever fix it? Your brain is the master controller for the rest of your body.  Your body sends a message to the brain that there is pain…  The brain is then supposed to help the body fix it!  How often do you ignore the pain and just keep doing what you’re doing? (or try medicating & masking the pain with a pill – so you can ignore the problem and hope it will just go away?)

Step 2: Improve Your Body Awareness. Being able to find and feel things working differently in your own body is step 2.  It’s important to be able to notice when you’re doing things right or wrong so you have an opportunity to make adjustments for better health.  There is a level of trust that needs to be restored between your brain and body, to improve confidence that if there is a problem, you acknowledge it, and will take action to improve the situation.

Step 3: Practice Good Posture and Healthy Movement Habits.  By applying better body mechanics to every physical activity you do, you get to put your new-and-improved posture habits into practice to help re-train the right muscles to support healthy pain-free movement; reducing your risk of injury and ensuring that whatever activity you do it’s safe and effective to help you stay healthy.  This not only helps alleviate shoulder tension, but helps develop a well-balanced body to keep your whole-body healthy!

Even when we’re sitting still, doing nothing, it can be challenging to alleviate shoulder tension!  Just thinking about things that increase our stress level can effect the amount of neck and shoulder tension we’re holding onto.  Being cold and shivering will wrap your shoulders up around your ears quickly also, and you might not even realize why it’s happening.  Too much time in front of your computer, sitting in a recliner watching TV, or bending your head forward to text message on your phone all are daily life activities that may be contributing to neck and shoulder tension problems.

If you’re tired of complaining about neck and shoulder tension and ready to start paying attention to what you’re doing along with learning how to take better care of your body, there is something you can do about it.  Yes, getting a massage might help you enjoy some temporary relief, but for lasting results it’s time to take control of your body and be pro-active to improve how you stand, sit, and MOVE.

Here are 10 healthy movement habits you can start incorporating into your daily routine to help alleviate shoulder tension.

Posted by administrator in Functional Movement, Shoulder Pain.