Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Exercises & Stretches for Arthritic Hands

Daily tasks can be painful and difficult when arthritis and other types of joint issues affect the hand and wrist. There are numerous medications and treatment solutions that can help ease the pain but exercise is one of the best and noninvasive solution that can provide many benefits.

Hand exercises can help strengthen the muscles that support the hand joints. Movement with exercises and stretches will help to keep ligaments and tendons flexible resulting in better range of motion and function.

What is happening to cause the pain you might ask? The lack or cartilage or cushioning in the joint causes inflammation and irritation. Pain can increase with repetitive tasks such as typing or gripping. The production of synovial fluid which lubricates the joints can be increased when the hand and wrist are exercised and stretched regularly- this will improve joint function.

Take a look at the exercises below and give them a try!

Thump Opposition
Begin sitting with your hand in a comfortable position. Touch the tip of your thumb with one finger, then separate and repeat with each of your other fingers. Make sure to keep the rest of your arm relaxed during the movement.

Finger O
Begin sitting upright in a chair with your elbow resting on a table, palm facing forward, and fingers straight. Make a circle with your thumb and index finger. Straighten them back out and repeat. Make sure to keep your wrist straight during the exercise.

Finger Spreading
Begin sitting upright in a chair with your hand resting flat on a table. Spread your fingers apart as far as is comfortable then bring them back together and repeat. Make sure to keep your fingers on the table during the exercise.

Seated Claw Fist AROM
Begin with your wrist and fingers straight. Curl your fingers toward your palm, bending at the middle knuckles. Return to starting position then repeat. Make sure to keep your wrist straight during the exercise.

Seated Full Fist AROM
Begin with your wrist and fingers straight. Curl all of your fingers toward your palm into a fist—light squeeze or no squeeze.  Return to the starting position then repeat. Make sure to keep your wrist straight during the exercise.

Wrist Circumduction AROM
Begin sitting with your arm resting on a table and your hand in a fist, hanging off the edge. Slowly rotate your wrist in a circle, first clockwise then counterclockwise. Make sure to keep your wrist relaxed during the exercise.

Standing Wrist Flexion Stretch
Begin in a standing upright position with one arm in front of your body, palm facing the floor. With your other hand, bend your wrist downward until you feel a stretch. Make sure to keep your elbow straight.

Standing Wrist Extension Stretch
Begin in a standing position with one arm in front of your body, palm facing the ceiling. With your other hand, apply a gentle downward pressure on your fingers, bending your wrist and keeping your elbow straight.

Blog post by Farran Jalbert.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Get The Most Out Of Your Personal Training Sessions

Personal training is an option for members who need the extra motivation or guidance to get through a workout.  It’s also a great way to learn new exercises and progress your fitness routine.

Working with a trainer is great but are you getting the most out of your sessions?

Set Clear Goals

It’s important that you and your trainer are on the same page.  It’s also important that you set clear goals so your trainer can build the appropriate program for you.  Think SMART goals: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timely.  Goal setting should be worked into your first appointment and revisited during each session.

Arrive Early

I say this over and over again to my clients… warm up before your session!  Showing up late not only cuts into your training time but now the trainer has to incorporate a warm up into the routine leaving not much time for actual exercise.  Show up early to get in a little cardio, dynamic stretches and/or foam roll so you’re ready to go when the session begins.

Speak Up

Communication should go both ways.  Ask questions.  Let your trainer know how you’re feeling and exactly what you’re feeling.  If something isn’t right, don’t be afraid to speak up.  We appreciate your feedback and honestly!

Do Your Homework

You can’t just show up to your once a week training appointment and expect to see progress.  Your trainer can work with you to build a weekly plan but it’s ultimately up to you to commit by exercising on your own, eating right and recovering well. 

Bring A Buddy

Still struggling with motivation?  Find a friend with similar fitness levels and goals to team up with.  They can help get you out the door on days you may consider cancelling and help push you harder during the workout.  One-on-one personal training can get expensive so ask about most cost-effective group personal training rates.

Attitude Is Everything

Everyone has their own reason for working out but if you’re not invested in your own health and fitness, you’re never going to get results.  A positive attitude is key along with patience, commitment, consistency, and hard work.

Blog post by Jen Skiba.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Perform a Better Prone Plank

Do you remember your first plank you were asked to hold? Did it feel like the seconds were minutes and that someone had lit a fire under muscles in your stomach that you never knew you had? Well if you dread the plank or are having a difficult time maintaining good form here are a couple methods to use to improve your experience.

Do you ever get pain in your lower back? Set up is key!

When preparing to plank it is important to remember the focus of the exercise is preventing hyperextension of the lower back.  That being said, engaging the muscles of the lower abdomen and pelvis properly before even lifting off of the table is crucial in preventing any excessive motion in the lower spine. One strategy is utilizing the Posterior Pelvic Tilt. This exercise will teach you how to build tension in your lower abdomen and create a “flat back” to help aid in any drooping or arching of the lower back when in the prone position.

Supine Posterior Pelvic Tilt with Ball Squeeze

Begin by lying on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Place a ball between your knees and squeeze. Slowly bend your low back and tilt your pelvis towards the floor. Return to start position.

Do you feel more pressure in your shoulders than your stomach?

Improper alignment of the shoulders over the elbows can cause abnormal strain on the individual’s tendons and ligaments of the shoulder joint leading to possible injury. It is just as important to ensure to keep the weight of your torso from sinking to the ground as well as shifting forward during the plank. This can again place a shearing force across the joint line of the shoulder and needs to be avoided. One exercise that can help is the Scapular Push Up on a Table.

Plank on Table with Scapular Protraction Retraction

Place both hands on the edge of a table and step your feet back into a plank position. Slowly round your upper back, pulling your shoulder blades apart. Next, lower your back down, squeezing your shoulder blades apart.

Remember to breathe!

How often do we tend to hold our breath when performing strenuous exercise? This sometimes can hurt you more than help you. In our case with the plank, a deep exhale through pressed lips can help tighten your core just before you lift up and continue to hold the ribs down to prevent hyperextension at the back during the hold. Quadruped Diaphragmatic Breathing drills can help you establish a good spinal position as well as core contraction just from breathing!

Quadruped Diaphragmatic Breathing

Begin on all fours. Breathe in, pushing your abdomen down, then exhale and repeat. Make sure there is no movement in your chest or shoulders as you breathe.

 Plank Progressions: 

Plank with Elbows on Table --> Plank on Knees --> Standard Plank

Plank with Elbows on Table

 Plank on Knees

Standard Plank

Blog post by Craig Moody.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Apple Cider Vinegar

It’s apple season!  We all have our favorite types of apples—my personal favorite is Macintosh—and ways to incorporate apples into our diet (apple pie for the win!) but have you ever used Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV)?  Here are some benefits:

Helps Lose Weight
Always check with your doctor or nutritionist before adding anything new into your diet but when taken before meals, ACV lowers the glucose and insulin levels in the blood after the meal. This has a threefold effect of keeping one full, reducing fat storage, and improving risks of heart attacks caused by glucose spike. Take 1 tablespoon diluted in 1 cup of water before a meal daily. Do not have more than 2 tablespoons per day.

Offers Cosmetic Benefits For Skin And Hair
ACV is popular as a natural hair and skin care remedy. Here are some ways you can use it. Remember, these are home remedies that have been used by individuals, but until scientific study backs up wider use, you may want to try these with some caution – and only if your skin and hair are not too sensitive. Always test a small patch of skin first to ensure you don’t have an adverse reaction to the remedy.

  • Skin Toner And Facial Cleanser: Mix a tablespoon of ACV into a cup of clean water and dab onto your face with a clean cotton ball. You should feel your skin tighten and your pores should close up. Rinse off once dry.

  • Sunburn Remedy: If you have a sunburn, applying diluted ACV (about half a cup to every four cups of water) can help heal the skin and may even prevent blistering.

  • Dandruff Remedy: For dandruff or itchy scalp, rinse hair and scalp with ACV that has been added to your regular shampoo. You could also just rinse it through with a mix of plain water and ACV, with both in equal amounts.

  • Natural Deodorant: The acetic acid in ACV kills the bacteria on your skin that decomposes sweat and creates body odor. Dip a cotton ball in a 1:1 ACV and water mixture. Swab your armpits with it. Let it evaporate. Then powder the armpits with a 1:1 cornstarch and baking soda mixture to keep dry. If you are worried about the vinegary smell, just add a few drops of your favorite essential oil.

Detoxes Your Body
ACV also features in detox regimens. That is because it may bind to toxins that have accumulated in your body and help expel them. As toxins build up in your body, its ability to function at its best also declines. Taking ACV may help offset some of that.

Lowers Blood Pressure
ACV may also have benefits for those with high blood pressure. Animal studies have proven the hypotensive action of the vinegar, showing that it can lower blood pressure possibly due to the acetic acid in it. However, human studies must be done before it can be suggested as treatment for the problem. It also helps that the potassium in ACV eases tension in your blood vessel walls, lowering blood pressure.

Alleviates Plaque Psoriasis
Plaque psoriasis causes red raised patches and silvery skin to develop in those afflicted. Besides the knees, elbows, and lower back, it can also leave you with a scalp that’s itchy and painful. According to the National Psoriasis Foundation, using ACV as a rinse on the scalp can relieve symptoms like itching and associated pain or discomfort.

Improves Insulin Sensitivity In Diabetics
Insulin resistance and diabetes have the uncomfortable ability to make life that extra bit challenging. Which is why the antiglycemic effect of ACV is so important. ACV can improve insulin sensitivity in those who have type 2 diabetes. It ups the glucose intake by the tissues of your body and prevents the complete digestion of complex carbs. The result are blood glucose levels dip, enabling you to avoid spikes and fluctuations that diabetics dread. With better control over diabetes, you are that much closer to getting your health back on track.

But here’s where it gets tricky. Taking ACV with blood glucose-lowering medicines may dip your sugar levels below normal, leading to hypoglycemia. So always ask your doctor.

Reduces Bad Cholesterol And Increases Good Cholesterol
Another area in which ACV makes a mark is heart health. If you are hoping to ward off cardiovascular illness, taking some ACV can help. The antioxidant polyphenols in it can help lower the “bad” LDL cholesterol levels in the body. Chlorogenic acid, one such polyphenol, also does not allow the LDL to oxidize and form fatty deposits in the arteries. This helps keep your blood pressure in check and your heart in better shape.

By improving your heart health, you boost overall fitness. You may, therefore, be able to stay active and build up the stamina to work out – good signs if you want to lose weight.

Even if you eat a cholesterol-rich diet, like fatty meats and dairy, drink a little with warm water before all meals to improve digestion and reduce serum cholesterol levels.

Stimulates Growth Of Helpful Gut Bacteria
ACV is a functional food that helps you keep a favorable balance of gut flora. Considered a prebiotic, ACV can also help stimulate the growth of good bacteria in your intestine. These are needed not just for good digestion but also for health and well-being and enable the body to fight off infections better. A tablespoon of ACV mixed with water is a good aid for digestion too. Apple cider vinegar can also treat acid reflux. Drink 2 teaspoons mixed in a glass of water at each meal.

Protects You From Fungal Infections
ACV has antifungal properties. This is invaluable when dealing with common problems caused by the growth of the yeast candida, also responsible for oral thrush. Research has shown it to be an effective antifungal agent with therapeutic potential in problems like denture stomatitis, which is the inflammation and redness of the area beneath a denture.

Other Possible Benefits
There are a lot of popular claims about how ACV can cure the common cold, treat eczema, and get rid of warts. But we do not yet have any scientific evidences to prove these, so we cannot recommend ACV for these purposes. But you can of course go right ahead and drink ACV for all its other benefits.

How To Have ACV For Health Benefits
Whatever your purpose, ACV can be consumed in a few popular ways. Common dosages range from 1-2 teaspoons (5-10 mL) to 1-2 tablespoons (15-30 mL) per day. Do not go above that, because excess consumption may have harmful effects.

  • Plain ACV: If you have a stomach for it, simply drink up the dosage suggested by your naturopath or specialist, or have a therapeutic dose of about a teaspoon before each main meal as most people do. Make sure to wash down with a glass of water as ACV can erode tooth enamel and burn the tissue of the esophagus. 
  • ACV With Warm Water: Another popular way is to mix the apple cider vinegar with a glass of warm water so it goes down easy.
  • ACV In Drinks: Simply add ACV to water, add some honey, and you have a refreshing drink. You can also add some to smoothies or juices.
  • ACV In Food: You can also add it to salad dressings and marinades. Also use it as a glaze or baste meat and vegetables with it.

Should You Have Raw Or Organic ACV?
Raw or organic apple cider vinegar usually refers to the unfiltered version of the vinegar. It has a cloudy appearance and contains some of the bacteria involved in the fermentation process as well as enzymes and protein strands – also called the “mother.” Non-organic ACV is pasteurized and its nutrient content is thought to be lower than organic ACV.

While some people believe that the “mother” is responsible for all the health benefits of ACV, this hasn’t been proven adequately via scientific research. Also, the high bacteria content in the unpasturized organic version may not agree with everyone.

On the other hand, the acetic acid in both organic and non-organic ACV has been found to have some marked benefits. Depending on your constitution and needs, your healthcare provider will be best equipped to recommend one of the two.

Blog post by Ally Wilson.

Monday, October 23, 2017

The Great Debate: When to use heat and when to use ice

Different methods of heat and ice therapy prove to be an effective and inexpensive way to provide relief. When is it good to heat and when is it beneficial to use ice? The correct use of heat and ice at the proper time can aide in reducing recovery time.

Let’s first understand what heat and ice do. Ice constricts blood flow to muscles, thus decreasing swelling, bruising and discomfort. As the muscle cools, the amount of blood in the muscle diminishes as the constriction process pushes it out. As the muscle warms and the blood vessels expand, new blood comes rushing in and cleans the debris left behind from the injury and stimulates the healing process. As a general rule of thumb, icing is best for acute injuries.

The application of heat therapy stimulates blood flow to the area, which brings restorative oxygen and nutrients. Additionally, heat can inhibit the transmission of pain signals to your brain and decrease your stiffness. Heat is generally not a good idea for new injuries because it can make the swelling and inflammation worse. Heat can work very well for chronic pain, relaxing muscles before exercise.

A common problem area for many people is the low back. Chronic pain can be debilitating and extremely uncomfortable. So what might be best for chronic low back pain? There is no straight forward answer; it may be trial and error until you find a remedy that works best for you. But when it comes to exercise, many people with chronic back pain find heat therapy helps to warm up their muscles beforehand, while cold therapy helps with pain and inflammation afterwards.

The chart below identifies some common reasons for pain and which treatment is most beneficial. Remember if you have any serious injuries consult with a doctor before self-diagnosing.

Blog post by Farran Jalbert.