Lesson #4 from a Broken Ankle

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Altruism: the principle or practice of unselfish concern for or devotion to the welfare of others. Women, therapists and caregivers tend to be altruistic.

Are you always taking care of everyone else and forgetting to put yourself first. Throughout the week, how often do you put yourself first? What about over the course of a month?

It can be difficult to remember our own happiness in addition to everyone else’s. Givers can be terrible at putting ourselves first. We give, give, give but forget to give to ourselves.

Lesson #4: Give to yourself.

There’s a down side to putting everyone else’s concerns before your own.

When you relegate yourself to last place, you wind up exhausted, you don’t sleep well, your diet tends to suffer, you deal with more physical pain and the effects of chronic stress. How do you rate?

I’ve had a couple of months now to make changes in my life in order to ramp up the goodness in my life. Here’s a little exercise you can do to see how you’re doing: Write down 5 things that make you happy; then write down the last time you did each of those things.

As you review how you’re doing on your happiness exercise, never make yourself “wrong” for what makes you happy. (That’s something especially women do far too often.) It’s much better to just be honest. So, if shopping makes you happy, don’t beat yourself up, think your happy thoughts!

This week, sit down and figure out where you can begin to put yourself first by doing activities that you love. Even the little things like getting a manicure, taking a walk with your significant other or having a glass of wine or beer with your friends really matter and contribute to your overall happiness.

Have a wonderful and Happy New Year! See you soon.

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Stress, Aging and Muscle Balance

You’ve heard it before . . . The effects of stress in the body are cumulative.  But what does that really mean?

Let’s start with life is stress, begins at conception and ends when you die.    As you grow, you accumulate stress, but not too much . . . babies and kids are fairly resilient due to not having accumulated lots of stress in their young lives.  Once you hit puberty, stress starts to accumulate more quickly – maybe you remember when it was no longer as easy to put your foot in (or near) your mouth.  Pretty soon, we’re grown and off to college, then work, marriage, kids, buying houses, etc.  Now you’re into your twenties, and wouldn’t think of trying some of the body positions you did when you were, say, 5 or 6.  Why not?  Is it because you feel you’re too mature to try?  Or is it because those positions are no longer comfortable (but perhaps not impossible) to achieve?  Chances are, you’ve already lost some of the range of motion you had as a child, although you’re probably not aware of it.

Life goes on.  In your thirties, even more stress has accumulated, and you’ve lost even more range of motion.  But, again, you probably aren’t very aware of it . . . yet.  By the time you’re in your 40’s, you begin to realize that you’re not as flexible as you used to be.  Maybe you chalk it up to your desk job, or getting older.  But, the truth is, that had you continued to use your body like you did as a child, and managed your stress (which now includes physical, mental and emotional stress – not just life stress) to minimize the long-terms affects in your body, you should be as flexible (mentally, emotionally and physically) as you were in your late teens or early twenties.

Hard to swallow, isn’t it?  And, just exactly what does this have to do with exercise?

Exercise is a double edged sword. Do it correctly, and the benefits are unlimited. Do it incorrectly, and sh## can hit the fan. In my line of work I get to see a lot of people who are exercising incorrectly, either due to bad advice, or due to not understanding what’s involved.   For instance, one my older clients has been fighting a musculoskeletal imbalance caused from sitting too much.  Part of the problem is in the quads – the rectus femoris muscle, which also acts as a hip flexor.  So, my client decides (on her own) to strengthen her quads by going up and down the stairs in her house.  Oops!  Why?  Because every time you lift your legs, you are activating the hip flexors, and going up and down stairs puts lots of strain on the shortened hip flexors and overworked quads.

Have you done something like this?  Tried a new weight machine at the gym that didn’t work out so well?  Maybe you didn’t understand why . . . you just realized that perhaps that machine wasn’t the right one for you.  Maybe it wasn’t the machine at all – perhaps (a) you weren’t physically fit enough for the manner in which you used the machine, or (b) you exacerbated an existing musculoskeletal imbalance you were not even aware of.  Food for thought . . .

Exercise has become a double-edged sword.  Before you decide to up your exercise game, it’s a good idea to get balanced before you start.

Pain is a Request for Change

This is the post excerpt.

Few things are as distressing as chronic pain.  It saps your energy and takes an emotional toll.  Over time, a vicious pain cycle develops, one that seems to have a life of it’s own, often persisting even after the original cause is resolved.

Our bodies were created to be self-healing dynamos, given the right tools.  But, often, we’re so distracted by life that we’re not paying the attention to our bodies that they deserve, and we don’t provide the tools our bodies need to avoid postural distortion and developing pain syndromes.

Amazingly, though, making just a few simple changes in your life will set you up to once again live a pain-free life.

Pain often develops with injury or illness.  Chronic pain develops when the complex interplay between the Central Nervous System and the Peripheral Nervous System is dysregulated.  Each element of pain – especially stress – can add to or even start the cycle.

The current medical model in this country advises that pain medications are considered the last line of defense in the increasingly common fight again chronic pain for good reason.  The most commonly prescribed medications for pain management are prescription grade anti-inflammatories, opioids and anti-seizure medications.  All have severe side effects, up to and including death, which often further degrade your quality of life.

Massage therapy has been proven to be a more effective tool in pain and stress management than medications.  It’s been in use for the history of mankind.  Haven’t you used mechanical pressure to relieve pain – stretching an aching back or rubbing an area that hurts?  Research shows that massage stimulates the release of natural pain-relievers such as endorphins and reduces the devastating grip of pain on your body.

When I first met Gordon, he literally vibrated with tension and pain.  Gordon suffered with a nerve entrapment causing pain that most days exceeded 10/10 and was nearly suicidal.  The traditional medical approach was to surgically sever the nerve (a short term answer at best as nerves regenerate over time) and physical therapy made his pain worse.  Working together and using a multi-dimensional approach, we were able to restore his life and lifestyle with pain levels which have maintained below 2/10 now for several years – a more than 80% reduction in pain!

Using the food you eat to support your body, instead of eating for dis-ease, will also help reduce pain levels by reducing inflammation.  Discover the foods you’re allergic or sensitive to, and correct the adverse affect those foods have on your system.  Eliminate the foods from your diet that contribute to disease; eliminate and purge the effects of chemicals, heavy metals, pesticides and herbicides from your body.  Learn how to eat to balance your pH and to eat for health.

Christine’s case illustrates the dramatic effect diet can have on the body.  Christine suffers with arthritic degeneration of her spine, and came to me when her back pain ratcheted up to the 7-8/10 range and was interfering with her retirement lifestyle.  After a thorough assessment, it became clear that inflammation was a major contributor to her pain.  Just a few tweaks to her diet, and her inflammation was dramatically reduced, which brought her pain levels back to a manageable level (3/10 and below), allowing her preferred lifestyle to resume.

Our bodies were built to move, not sit behind a desk 40 hours a week, then behind the wheel of our car another 10 or more hours a week, sit to eat, sit to read, sit to watch television, sit to play games . . . The average American now sits 13 hours every day.  No wonder chronic pain is becoming epidemic!

I wish I could tell you that the simple solution is a certain number of hours at the gym 3 times per week, after all exercise is exercise, right?  I’m afraid not.  Once pain develops, you already have musculoskeletal imbalances, and it takes an expert to unravel the influences that contribute to those imbalances.

A recent case study of mine really illustrates this truth:  Bob was referred to me when his back pain was so severe, he could no longer stand up straight or work.  Bob was a “gym rat” and had unwittingly been continuing a work-out routine that was exacerbating his symptoms.  But, by using an approach of manual therapies combined with functional and corrective exercise, Bob could stand erect after just two sessions; after 8 sessions, he was balanced, pain free and back to work.  Before you hit the gym with pain, get properly diagnosed and have a plan to overcome the imbalances.

My clients know me as the go-to person when allopathic medicine fails.  When allopathic medical treatments fail, my clients come to me to help them devise a plan to address their complaints in a natural way, often without the need for medications or surgery.  It IS possible to unravel the unwanted influences on your body and regain your health.

Janet Lawlor is a holistic practitioner, Board Certified Bodywork Therapy, posture and pain specialist and a chronic pain survivor.  Janet is also a certified Yoga instructor and certified in Functional and Corrective Exercise.  She continues to train in techniques to help others overcome their chronic pain.  Her exclusive focus is on reducing pain, improving mobility and restoring quality of life.

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