Monthly Archives: April 2009

7 Keys For Healthy Knees

kneeI received a request from a follower on twitter to post about problems with knees. While I can’t give detailed advice on recovering from an injury without seeing someone in person, I can give some general suggestions on how to keep your knees injury free.

Like all parts of your body, your knees are not islands in your legs. Knee health is mostly depended on the health of other surrounding body structures. I have boiled down knee care to a few hints that will increase your chances to have strong and flexible knees for years to come.

1. Reduce Impact and Twisting– Are your favorite activities high impact or require lots of twisting? These activities put enormous strain on your knees. It’s hard for many who love these activities to stop doing them altogether. Maybe you could cut down. Cross training can be most beneficial. For instance instead of running 5X a week you could run 3X a week and swim or row 2X a week. Give those knees a break and still keep fit.

2. Leg Muscle Balance– Often people will develop pain on either side or the top of their knees. This can be caused by a muscle imbalance in the legs. A certain muscle or muscle group might be  too weak. Make sure when you are strengthening your legs you hit all muscle groups not just quads, hamstrings and calves. The most common leg weakness I find with my Seattle massage clients are the adductors (inner thighs).

3. Pelvis Alignment and Muscle Balance- When your pelvis is out of alignment or you have a weakness in the muscles that stabilize the pelvis there is a large chance that you will become a victim to “trickle down ergonomics.” Which is a silly way of saying, what is going on structurally above the body greatly effects the lower structures. This is extra critical when the structures are as close to the knees as the pelvis.

4. Feet and Ankle Alignment and Muscle Balance- Are you landing on your feet evenly? Do you have weak ankles? Are you using comfortable and supportive shoes? These are all important things to keep mindful of and address immediately. This could be based on the “trickle up ergonomics” theory.

5. Range of Motion– If you spend more than an hour a day with your knee in one position then it is important for you to move it. Are you sitting a lot? Get up, stretch your legs and walk around for a few minutes every hour. Don’t drag your feet or shuffle when you walk. This bad habit promotes poor range of motion in the knee, hip and ankle.

6. Flexibility- Do you stand a lot? Do some leg stretches, especially for the quads and calves, every two hours. It is important that you stretch ALL OF THE LEG daily. The most common tightness I find in folks are the quads and adductors. Many runners will sacrifice stretching for added running time. This is not a good idea if you want to keep running for many years.

7. Body Support Team– If you are an active person or are currently having knee pain, it is important that you have a health practitioner that you can go to that will help you keep everything strong, flexible and aligned. My favorite type of practitioners for this are massage practitioners, physical therapists, and personal trainers.

If you have a more specific persistent issue that you are dealing with in regards to your knees, please seek medical help immediately. The sooner you start care the greater your chance for a speedy recovery and don’t underestimate the power of ice for injury recovery.  PJ Harris, LMP http://www.pjharris.com/

10 Exercises You Can Do at Your Desk

kateThis post is an interview with Kate Conwell, Personal Trainer Extraordinaire followed by her tips of 10 Exercises You Can Do at Your Desk. Below are some of the questions I asked her:

What suggestions do you have for people who have a hard time motivating themselves?
When someone wants to get back into shape and needs some help getting motivated, I would recommend two things: 1) Find someone to hold you accountable to your workouts – either a personal trainer or a friend. This person should be encouraging and dependable. You want him or her to “force” you to follow through on your commitment. 2) Figure out what physical activities you enjoy most and pursue those first. There are so many ways to exercise these days – dance and fitness classes, yoga, running, weight lifting, swimming, kick boxing, pilates – the list goes on and on. Try them all, and find the one for which you have the greatest passion. If you like doing something, you’re more likely to stick with it, and you will be excited about including it in your day. After you get going, if you feel it’s necessary to add something that you don’t enjoy as much in order to accomplish your goals, then do it. But always start with the stuff you like!

How do you think that a fitness trainer and massage therapist could work together to help a client?
When I work with a client, the first step is to decrease/get rid of any muscular imbalances in order to help her body function properly and effectively. Over time some muscles get too tight, while others are constantly stretched, and therefore weakened. Correcting these imbalances will help exercise be more productive, and overall life more comfortable. I enjoy working with massage therapists, like PJ, because massage helps decrease muscle tightness and increase mobility, which would help a person get rid of her imbalances more quickly.

What advice might you give someone who is having a challenge with a chronic injury due to a sport or fitness activity?
Chronic injuries are usually the result of a muscular imbalance or weakness. I would tell that person to go see their doctor, or a sports rehab specialist, to figure out if they are healthy enough to start a weight training program, and what muscle groups that specialist would recommend focusing on. When they got clearance from their doctor to proceed with weight training, I would create a program that focuses on strengthening the weak areas, stretching any tight muscles that are contributing to the imbalance, and developing an overall healthy body to prevent this injury from recurring. I would also tell them to listen to their body as we progress through the program, and suggest ice and massage to help speed the recovery process and ensure future health.

10 Exercises You Can Do at Your Desk
1. Heel Raises
– With both feet on the ground, press toes down and lift heels off the ground. Repeat 10-20 times.
2. Isometric Bicep – Bend elbow to 90˚ angle and press hand, palm up against bottom of desk. Keep constant pressure for 10 seconds then relax. Repeat 8-12 times.
3. Leg Extension and Hold – Extend leg straight ahead and squeeze. Hold for 10 seconds. Repeat 8-12 times.
4. Neck Stretch – Lean head toward one ear and hold for 20 seconds. Repeat on the other side.
5. Toe Raises – With both feet on the ground press heels down and lift toes off the ground. Repeat 10-20 times.
6. Upper Body Twist – Cross right leg over left knee then slowly twist body to right shoulder. Hold 15-30 seconds. Repeat on the other side.
7. Arm Circles / Shoulder Circles – With arms straight and parallel to floor circle in each direction 10 times. For shoulder version leave arms at sides.
8. Tricep Stretch – Hold one arm behind your head so that your elbow points up toward the ceiling. With the other hand, slowly pull on the elbow and hold for 15-30 seconds each arm.
9. Seated Crunch – Hands at side to support weight. Feet start on the floor in front of you. Lift your knees toward your chest and hold for 5 seconds. Lower legs back toward ground and repeat 10-15 times.
10. Inner Thigh Squeeze – While seated with back flat, place one fist between your knees. Squeeze your fist by contracting your inner thighs. Release slightly, keeping abs engaged and repeat 10-20 times.

How can people sign up for your newsletter?
Email me at: kate@purebdodyfitness with “Newsletter Sign-Up” in the subject line. Or visit my website, www.purebodyfitness.com and click on the link there to sign up directly.

Thank you Kate. Great tips! PJ Harris, LMP, http://www.pjharris.com

Three Easy Stretches to Relieve Neck Pain and Tension

Are you sitting or driving all day? A few hours into your day, does your neck start to hurt or tense up? Optimally, you would see a massage therapist to give you the very best in neck pain relief. But unfortunately, you probably don’t have a massage therapist on call to run and give you a massage every time you have pain. Well, here are a few stretches that can bring some relief. I have given these stretches to many of my Seattle massage clients and they work wonders.

1. Front Neck/Chest Pin and Stretch
The image below illustrates how to do this stretch. Pressing on the center of the chest with your hands and tilting your head back gently, give the front of your neck and upper chest a nice stretch. Breathe and hold stretch for at least 20 seconds.

pec-pin-and-stretch-middle2

2. Side Neck/Chest Pin and Stretch
This stretch is very similar to the previous stretch. Pressing on the upper left side of your chest and tilting your head back and angled to the opposite side will give the front sides of your neck and chest a nice stretch. Again, breathe and hold stretch for at least 20 seconds. Remember to also stretch the right side.

pec-pin-and-stretch-side1

3. Side neck stretch
Put your feet flat on the floor, grab the underside of your chair seat, and slowly tilt your head to the side. Breathe and hold stretch for at least 20 seconds. Again, remember to stretch both sides.

chair-trap-stretch

For the best results I recommend doing these stretches once or twice a day. If you are having a hard time doing them twice a day, at least do them when you feel pain. Thank you for reading, PJ Harris, LMP. http://www.pjharris.com/

A Frequent Culprit of Shoulder and Upper Back Pain

subscap3Do you have pain in between your shoulder blades? Do you sit at a computer, drive a car, or work with your arms in front of your for several hours a day? Then you might have a bound up Subscapularis.

What is a Subscapularis? It is a muscle between your scapula (shoulder blade) and your ribs. It is partially responsible for rotating your arm inward.

This is how the Subscapularis causes problems:

rolled-shoulder1If you are rolled inward at the chest and shoulders this can cause a tightening of the chest muscles in the front of the upper body and the Subscapularis. When this happens your upper back and the back of your shoulders become overstretched. Those upper back muscles start to make themselves rigid because the are trying to create stability. This can then cause knots and pain between your shoulder blades, ouch.

When consulting with my Seattle massage clients regarding their shoulder pain, I will often give them stretches for homework. Some of the stretches might incorporate stretching their chest, sides or arms to open up the front of their bodies. This helps to relieve the pulling inward of the chest and shoulders to give those upper back muscles some relief. Coupled with massage this is often helpful for relieving pain between the shoulder blades. I could give them a stretch for the Subscapularis. Unfortunately, due to anatomical structures getting in the way, I have yet to find a stretch for the Subscapularis that is effective. The best way I know to release this tricky little muscle is with massage.

So if you are one of the many with pain between your shoulder blades, ask your therapist if they know a good release for the Subscapularis. Maybe they are already taking care of this. If so, you could be on your way to finally being rid of that nagging pain.

Thank you for reading, PJ Harris, LMP http://www.pjharris.com/

Insomnia: 15 Tips to Help You Sleep

Many times my massage practice clients speak of their sleep2experience with insomnia. Sometimes they even come seeking massage to help them with this issue. This is a great idea and there are also other things you can do that might help.

I have been talking to people and reading articles on insomnia. As a result I composed a list of all of the suggestions I have been privy too. I hope this helps.

1) Regular sleep schedule – Get up at the same time and go to bed at the same time everyday. This includes the weekends.

2) Take a little walk – The gentle exercise and fresh air can help clear the day and bring about a more relaxed state.

3) Short or no naps– Taking naps decreases your likelihood of being sleepy come bedtime.

4) A little snack – Some people can’t sleep because they are actually hungry. Some foods are more conducive to bringing about sleep than others.

5) Decrease stress – This could create a whole new list. Good thing to explore.

6) Warm bath – What a lovely way to end the day. I feel relaxed just thinking about it.

7) Massage – My favorite relaxation tool. How about you?

8) Exercise – Many people can’t sleep because they don’t get enough exercise. Exercise promotes improved sleep quality by allowing smoother and more regular transition between the cycles and phases of sleep.

9) Avoid caffeine or alcohol – Both can get in the way of your sleep. Yes, even alcohol.

10) Chamomile tea – Chamomile is a lovely relaxing herb. Ask your Doctor or Naturapath about some other natural sleep aides.

11) Read something boring – Remember when you were in school and how hard it was to stay awake while studying?

12) Medium firm to firm bed – My chiropractor recommends this and I concur.

13) Relaxing musicHere is a list of my favorites.

14) Sleep Apnea – If someone has told you or you suspect that you temporarily stop breathing intermittently while you sleep, you could have Sleep Apnea. I suggest you consult your primary care person. There could be help for it.

15) Bedtime transitional routine – This could include some of the tips above or ones you have found on your own.

Now what I am wondering about is what has worked for some of you? What do you do to fall asleep when it seems that might be difficult?  Let us know by leaving your tips in the comment section. Thanks for reading, PJ Harris, LMP http://www.pjharris.com/