Hot or Cold?: When to Use Heat or Ice for Injuries

UntitledSoreness and injury can occasionally come up with activity as well as inactivity. Common ailments for inactivity associated with long term sitting may include shoulder, neck or back pain as well as full body stiffness. Other common injuries associated with exercise or active movement can include shin splints, pulled or strained muscles in the legs, neck, or back, as well as general muscle fatigue. Specific treatment of such injuries may be dependent on the location and severity. It is always important to seek out a professional evaluation for treatment, especially for severe injuries. With this in mind, hot or cold treatment may be prescribed.

Regular treatments of heat, ice, or the combination can help the body to rejuvenate and recover. But how do they help? Ice treatments including ice baths, ice packs, or cool compresses help with pain management by reducing swelling and inflammation. Ice treatments can be applied after injury, but should not be applied for more than 20 minute intervals. It is important to protect your body from frostbite via controlled application. Continue to ice regularly for the prescribed duration until the injury is healed.

Applying heat treatments, including heating pads, hot compresses, or a warm bath can be great for relieving muscle stiffness and a sore body. Heating helps to generate blood flow throughout your muscles which, in turn, stimulates relaxation. Heat treatments should always be at a safe temperature to avoid burning the skin. Simple movement (if possible) can also be a natural way to warm up muscles and reduce tension. Consider light walking or stretching to do so. This can be followed up with physical therapy or massage treatment for optimal recovery.

How To Keep A Healthy Spine

UntitledWhen we sit all day, we often compromise the stability of our posture. As a result, we may also be compromising the health of our spine, core strength, oxygen intake, and ability to focus. Combining posture, strength, and stretching exercises regularly will not only help you feel stronger, but will make sitting or standing in alignment come naturally.

Keeping your exercises balanced will not only ensure well rounded fitness, but will help to strengthen important muscles groups that work together to keep you stabilized. Always include lower back with upper back routines to fully support your spine. Upper back routines will help to avoid hunching or slouching, while lower back routines will help your stability in daily activities such as lifting, walking, standing, etc. Here are a few exercises to help maintain a healthy back.

Airplane: Laying on your stomach, lift your head, chest, arms and legs off the ground as high as you can. Keeping your head stabilized, look no further than the floor in front of you. Hold this position for 3-5 seconds. Return limbs to the ground. Give your neck some relief by resting your head to one side. Repeat this exercise 5-10 more times, alternating your resting position each time.

Spine Extension: Balancing on all fours (hands and knees), reach one arm straight out in front of you. Balance this move by extending the opposite leg straight behind you. Hold this position for 3-5 seconds and return back to hands and knees. Repeat on the opposite side. Continue this exercise 5-10 more times.

Cat/Cow Stretch: Remaining on all fours (hands and knees), arch your spine, tucking your chin to your chest and your pelvis in. Hold for 3 seconds. Reverse this stretch by dipping your stomach toward the floor and tilting your head and pelvis up toward the ceiling. Return to a neutral spine. Repeat this exercise 3-5 more times.

The Office and Your Hips

officeOne of the most common effects of a sedentary lifestyle, often associated with office work, is tight hip flexors. When we sit all day, our hip flexors are positioned to be shortened while our glutes become stretched and inactive, causing both to become weak and inhibited. Tight hip flexors cause the pelvis to tilt forward.

Having weak glutes prevents the body from counterbalancing a forward tilt, causing the low back to arch and ultimately impacting proper alignment or posture. Additionally, this position can lead to compression of the lower discs, leading to painful injuries. Stretching, especially after long periods of sitting can help to heal and prevent tight hips, encouraging healthy alignment and flexibility. Here are a few great stretches to get started!

Butterfly - Sitting with your spine straight, move legs and feet so that the soles of your feet are touching. Keeping spine as straight as possible, slowly lean over your legs at a comfortable angle until you feel a stretch in your glutes and hips. You may choose to fold over for a few breaths to get a deeper stretch.

Cross Over - Laying on your back, keeping one leg bent, cross your opposite one foot over your bent leg so that it looks like the number four. lacing your hands between your legs, grab hold of your thigh (bent leg) and pull both legs slowly toward you. Repeat on the opposite side.

Wide Squat - Taking a wide stance, and keeping your spine straight, slowly squat down until your bottom is hovering over the floor. Hold this position for a few breaths and return to standing. Repeat a few times more for an extra stretch.

Stretching for Strength

Untitled 4Despite its somewhat low intensity, stretching actually has fantastic benefits associated with building physical strength. By skipping out on stretching post-workout you may be putting yourself at risk for soreness and injury, an ultimate inhibitor to physical progress. By improving range of motion and decreasing muscle soreness, stretching is a vital source for quality exercise performance and overall health. With this in mind, here are three top ways stretching contributes to strength and proper fitness.

1. Stretching, especially after physical activity actually helps to lengthen muscle tissue and increases flexibility. With this, you may also find improved range of motion necessary to carrying out strength building exercises. Doing so can also help to improve the effectiveness of exercise in this way.

2. Stretching also helps to stimulate blood flow post workout, which aids in avoiding lactic acid build up – an occurrence that leads to muscle soreness. By saving time to stretch, you can actively help your body to recover.

3. Preventing muscles soreness can similarly help to improve your endurance over time. By decreasing your time for recovery, you can quickly continue a fitness regimen. In this way, it becomes easier to to increase your exercise frequency or duration, both positive elements in improving strength.

Stay Warm This Winter

Stay WarmWhen the temperature drops, it can be difficult to keep our muscles warm while exercising or commuting outdoors. The effects of the cold can also carry indoors leaving you feeling sore or stiffer than usual. Try a few of these simple habits to help curb the wearing effects of winter, helping you to stay active and healthy!

Stretch! - Does the chill have you feeling tense? Stretching throughout the day can help! Warm up from the winter blues almost anywhere, anytime with some of your favorite subtle stretches or yoga routine. Doing so not only helps to relieve stress on the body, but can help to avoid injury. Be sure to focus on some of the most common areas of tension including the shoulders, neck and back.

Layer Up - Stay loose by wearing layers! The more you can protect yourself from the cold, the easier it will be to keep your muscles warm and functioning properly outdoors! Know when to take your exercise indoors if the elements become too harsh. Exposure to extreme cold can hinder performance and put you at risk for frostbite and other physical dangers.

Bring the Heat - Applying subtle heat to your muscles can be very soothing, and help to aid in recovery so that you can get back to your regular activities. Heat packs or hot baths are a great solution to warming and relaxing your muscles throughout the winter. Don’t forget your extremities! Keep hand warmers in reach to avoid stiffness in your fingers or toes.

Keep Moving! - If you are brave venture into the cold, be sure to keep your body and muscles moving as much as possible. Standing still, especially in frigid conditions can quickly lead to stiffness and make it difficult to fulfill your intended activity.

Stretching For Better Sleep

Untitled 2These days, it can be difficult to take sufficient time for relaxation at the end of our day. However, the busier our schedules become, the more important it becomes to wind down efficiently and effectively. Reserving even just five or ten minutes for relaxation before bed can significantly improve your ability to fall asleep faster. As a result, you may find improved energy and productivity the following day. Not only is stretching a great way to relax, but is an active way to relieve your muscles of any tension built up over the day so that you can wake up feeling recovered and refreshed. Want to give it a try? Start with a few of these great stretches.

Side Bend: Sit on the floor or bed cross legged. Support your body by placing your left hand on the floor beside you. Leading with your right hand over head, lean your body to the left to feel a stretch in your right side, neck and shoulders. Be sure that your bottom remains completely on the floor. Repeat this motion on the opposite side to complete the stretch.

Seated Stretch: At a seated position, lead your legs straight out in front of you. On an inhale, slowly bend your torso and arms forward reaching as close to your toes as possible. Hold the position for a few breaths to feel a stretch in your lower body and legs.

Happy Baby: Laying on your back, bend your knees to grab a hold of your feet. Slowly lift legs wide overhead. Gently rock back and forth to feel a release in your hips, back and hamstrings.

Release Stretch: Standing up, cross your arms and grasp each elbow with opposite hand. Slowly bend your head, neck and arms toward your feet. Gently rock side to side for 5-10 breaths. Gently roll back up to complete the stretch.

Easy Ways To Fit Stretching Into Your Day

StretchLike exercise, stretching regularly can have great health benefits. Whether it’s pre or post workout, when you wake up, or while you’re at work, stretching can help to alleviate tension, increase flexibility, and boost circulation. As a result, you may find that regular stretching can help you to carry on your daily routine with increased energy, focus and stamina. With this in mind, here are some great ways to incorporate light stretching into your day.

When You Wake Up: Stretching first thing in the morning is a great way to wake up your muscles and shake off any stiffness that you may have developed during sleep. Start off slow and easy by rolling your shoulders or taking a careful bend to touch your toes. For an additional shoulder stretch, clasp your hands straight out in front of you and roll your palms so that they are facing away from your body. Very gently, push your hands toward the wall, allowing your shoulder blades to release forward. If you’re not one to get out of bed right away, try the same moves by sitting up straight with your legs out in front of you. Even in bed, these simple stretches can help you to start feeling awake and alert.

At Work: Stretching a few times during work can help to relieve tension, reduce stress and improve focus. Stretching is especially important for those who work in an office as it allows for subtle, yet important movement that is often sacrificed by sitting most of the day. If you work at a desk, try raising your arms over your head and lean from right to left several times. Tilt your head gently forward, backward and side to side onto each shoulder for a subtle, yet effective neck stretch. For a lower body stretch, balance your heels on the floor and move your feet front to back and in circular motions. You may feel this most in your calves and shins.

Before Bed: Incorporating subtle stretches before bed can help the body to wind down, allowing you to feel relaxed for better sleep. Lay on your bed or the floor with your legs straight up against the wall at a comfortable angle, with your arms by your side. Inhale and exhale for a few breaths while you feel the stretch on the back of your legs. For a back stretch, sit with legs crossed, arms raised, and round your back forward until your hands are as close as possible to the floor or surface of the bed in front of you. For an additional stretch, continue to sit with legs crossed and twist your torso and head carefully from right to left.