sitting…the real culprit!

I’ve recently taken to posting about all things…healthful. Dr. Hugmamma is in the house! Next patient, please?!? Of course I  have my panel of experts, doctors, writers, and wannabees like me. Because we are all guilty of sitting, probably most of the time, I thought this article was timely. I too need to “listen up!” Join me won’t you…

A matter of gravity – Too much sitting can compromise your health
By Jennifer Nelson

Photographer: Frank C. Müller

Image via Wikipedia

MIKE DELGADO knew something had to give. “I typically sit in an office chair 12 to 14 hours a day, and I was starting to have major low-back-pain issues,” … About to head to a chiropractor seeking relief, Delgado instead purchased an ergonomic office chair. Though skeptical it could make a difference, within a week he felt better and one year later is pain-free. He credits the chair.

Surprisingly, Delgado–and others who sit at a desk all day–is a lot like an astronaut. When astronauts are in space, they lengthen, explains Joan Vernikos, former NASA scientist and author of Sitting Kills, Moving Heals; How Simple Everyday Movement Will Prevent Pain, Illness, and Early Death–and Exercise Alone Won’t (Quill Drive, 2011). “They stretch out because nothing is pulling them down.” Then they return to Earth and, wham, their backs compress. Muscles that support the spine that were not used in space due to weightlessness, suddenly are faced with gravity, and need to prevent vertebrae from slamming against each other. It’s a lot like sitting.

People don’t need rocket scientists to tell them that sitting too much could give them a sore back. But now, other health problems are attributed to too much sitting, including raised blood pressure and, of course, obesity.

Educator Astronauts Dorothy Metcalf-Lindenberg...

Splash landing
Sitting is equivalent to what happens when you quit using gravity. When you stand up, gravity pulls on your body from head to toe. When you sit down, that distance is smaller, and if you allowed gravity to have its way, you’d be crumpled on the floor.

“We are born in gravity and have evolved in it,” Vernikos says, “If we don’t use it and we sit or lie down too frequently, then we do away with the stimulation that nature provides, because we aren’t using muscles while sitting all day.”

What happens when you stop using core, spine and other muscles that engage while standing? A host of health issues.

Bad posture

Image via Wikipedia

Houston, we have a problem
To complicate the issue further, if you slump in your chair, round your shoulders forward, lean toward your computer screen and sit with your legs tucked under, it’s not difficult to see why you might have back pain, neck pain and other problems.

“Posture is huge (when you’re sitting) in a chair, and if you’re tall or short it completely changes the angles,” says…Sara Daly, physical therapist at Waterfalls Day Spa and Vermont Wellness Tetreats in Middlebury, Vermont.

One small step
Since most of us sit eight to 10 hours at work, then sit on our drive home and plop in front of the television for more sitting at night, how can we counter these effects? “The most important thing is to get out of your chair and stand up,” says Vernikos. Adjust, pace and move. Get up every 20 or 30 minutes and just stand–you don’t even need to walk around.

Daly says to take breaks and change positions frequently. Walk while on the phone, squeeze your shoulder blades together, flex and point your ankles. Set a computer or phone alarm to remind you to change position. Post notes at your desk, or buddy up with a co-worker and prompt each other.

posture correcte, SVG created from Image:Postu...

Image via Wikipedia

When sitting or standing, try not to slouch. Sit up straight with your back against the back of your chair and your feet flat on the floor. Stand tall with your head up and shoulders back.

At home, lie down and elevate your feet above your heart for a few minutes to improve circulation. Sit on an exercise ball for a few minutes, or lie back over it to change the curve of your spine. Almost anything you do that gets you up and changes your position every 30 minutes will help.

As for astronauts, Vernikos thinks a dose of gravity may eventually be the cure–some sort of spinning wheel or machine they can ride to get their daily gravitational pull. For those of us on Earth but chair-bound, getting up often is the simplest solution.

…don’t know about you…but i ache just reading this article…think i’ll stand for awhile…

Fold sitting

Image via Wikipedia

………hugmamma. 

Defecation in the sitting position, as used in...

Image via Wikipedia

alternative medicine

My daughter has taught me much about the health benefits of alternative medicine. A serious student of dance since age 11, she is aware of every nuance of her body. She knows when it’s in tip-top shape, and she knows when it’s in need of tweaking. Alternative medicine helps her correct imbalances in her anatomy. Being in alignment ensures that she can do her job with utmost confidence. Practitioners who assist her are physical therapists, chiropractors, massage therapists and accupuncturists. My daughter turns to all of them for help, as needed.

My first encounter with a chiropractor was about 6 or 7 years ago. Living away from my home with my daughter in another state where she was training with a ballet company, I suffered chronic pain in my lower back. Not being able to “live with it” any longer, I searched the yellow pages for a chiropractor, a female one. I wanted sympatico, not brute force. My eyes fell upon an ad in a box. Not only was the doctor female, but she was described as “gentle.” She proved to be that and more.

Dr. Geier adjusted my problem back and in the process, did wonders for my disposition. Throughout the 2 1/2 years of self-imposed exile from my husband and all that was familiar to me, she was a friend with whom I could commiserate about life. With her adjuster, an instrument that makes anatomical corrections through sound waves, Dr. Geier straightened out my back when it was out of alignment, and did the same for other body parts as needed. I came to depend upon her to keep my aging body in working order, and my soul open to the positive energy she imbued. As a bonus Dr. Geier, a practitioner of homeopathic medicine, gave me a better understanding and appreciation for a vegetarian diet (not that I became one) and the use of natural remedies. (My daughter and I use Arnica for muscle aches and pains. It works after being in one’s system for about a week). I will always be beholding to this wise doctor who put me on the right path to caring for myself, body, soul and mind.

Returning home after my daughter’s career was launched, I found an equally competent healer in Dr. Babcox. She is younger than Dr. Geier, but no less capable of adjusting my body parts after my abuse of them in the daily grind of living. She’s convinced me that I can’t expect my body to do what it always does if I don’t give it a “hand-up” once-in-awhile. Quickly throwing luggage onto security conveyor belts and hoisting them up into overhead bins, are sure-fire ways to get me into my chiropractor’s office. I’ve tried to stay away at times, thinking my shoulder and back pain would somehow disappear. But after paying Dr. Babcox a visit I always think “Now why didn’t I do this sooner, I would’ve been rid of my suffering before now.” I may go months without a visit, but I know my chiropractor is always there just in case. And believe me, there will always be ongoing need of her services, until the day I stop living. So it looks like Dr. Babcox is onboard for the long haul.

Several years ago my daughter had strained her groin muscle in a rehearsal. Not attending to it more seriously, the ache lingered for a couple of years. It became an issue when she wanted to be considered for meatier roles during a summer gig. Choreographers tried her in solos, and she tried even harder to make them happen. No matter their consideration or her over-the-top effort, the ache finally got the best of her. She came home to us and spent the remaining summer months recovering.

Throughout her season of regular employment with her dance company, my daughter continued to suffer the niggling ache in her groin. She muscled through and looked forward to a great summer working the gig she’d been with the previous year. Happily, she did dance the full 12 weeks that summer.  But a few weeks into the job, the strained muscle began rearing its “ugly head.” Frustrated, my daughter spoke about it with me. 

One day while browsing the shelves at Barnes and Noble, I happened upon “The Permanent Pain Cure” by Ming Chew, PT. Perusing the introductory chapter, I had a “lightbulb” moment. This man’s advice “The Breakthrough Way to Heal Your Muscle and Joint Pain for Good” seemed tailor-made for my daughter.  So I bought the book, called her on the phone, told her to buy and take certain supplements prescribed by Ming Chew, as well as soak in epsom baths as he also advised. A few days later my daughter called announcing that she was feeling tons better. The problem muscle felt looser, more relaxed. She could dance more fully, not afraid to put pressure on the area. And so it continued to feel fine. I convinced her and my husband that she needed to see Ming Chew for some hands on therapy, for I was absolutely certain he could eliminate the pain for good.

After I exchanged emails with Ming Chew, my daughter flew to NYC where in a week and a half, she spent 3 sessions in physical therapy with him. Not until a year later did she tell me that the treatment was somewhat painful. I say somewhat, because dancers have a high threshold for pain. I would have probably bolted through the ceiling at the hands of Ming Chew. My daughter likened it to Rolfing, another alternative medical treatment which she’d endured at 14 years of age, when a ballet teacher recommended that it might give her more flexibility. (I didn’t learn of the pain my daughter felt at this man’s hands until many years later. Talk about high thresholds?) But after all is said and done, Ming Chew’s treatment DID resolve my daughter’s persistent groin muscle ache. So she owes him, at least in part, for being promoted from apprentice to full company member the year after being treated. 

On the inside flap of the back cover of the book is a description of Ming Chew “…a physical therapist, former champion bodybuilder, and martial artist whose work also uses concepts of Chinese medicine. The Ming Method, which uses no surgery or drugs, has healed thousands of clients, including many high-profile athletes. Ming Chew’s work has been covered in the New York Times, Men’s Health, and the Daily News. He has a private practice in New York City.” You can visit his website at www.mingmethod.net. I highly recommend him, especially if your life, or job, depends upon it.

Finally I’ve been convinced, largely owing to my daughter, that massage therapy is a necessity, not a luxury. And so I see Jennifer, my massage therapist, regularly, if not every month, then every other. She is not one who gives me a spa massage, although I’m sure she could. At her very able hands I am relieved of sore muscles which, if left unattended, would become a chronic issue, and perhaps a major one. Equally important is that massage therapy helps regulate one’s limbic system (A ring-shaped area in the center of the brain that consists of a number of connected clusters of nerve cells.) It’s one of those tidbits of information that I’ve heard but couldn’t tell you where from. But trust me, remember my header is HUGMAMMA’S ATTENTION TO DETAIL. And I am anal about details.

According to “The American Medical Association Encyclopedia of Medicine,” “The limbic system plays a role in the autonomic nervous system (which automatically regulates body functions), in the emotions, and in the sense of smell. The limbic system is extensive, and the different substructures within it have been named (for example, the hippocampus, the cingulate gyrus, and the amygdala). Much of our knowledge of the limbic system comes from the observation and investigation of the behavior of animals and people known to have damage to or disease in the limbic area of the brain. The most commonly observed effects are abnormalities of emotional response, such as inappropriate crying or laughing, easily provoked rage, unwarranted fear, anxiety and depression, and excessive sexual interest.”

My daughter is fortunate to be with a company that cares about the well-being of its dancers. They are regularly seen by physical therapists, and a chiropractor. And the dancers avail themselves of a great massage therapist who makes his sessions more affordable for them.

While I must find my own team of alternative medicine practitioners, doing so has been a “no-brainer.” I see them more regularly than my medical doctors, and gladly so. I have been free of prescribed drugs for a few years, giving my liver a break from processing all those potentially harmful chemicals. (Now it can just focus on breaking down and getting rid of the stuff that’s in the food I still can’t stop eating, like peanuts, and a dessert now and then.) My chiropractor and massage therapist help “heal” my body, soul and mind. These services are priceless in the grand scheme of things…

my best life going foward…hugmamma.