230516 Keeping your shoulders flexible and pain free part one

230516 Keeping your shoulders flexible and pain free part one

If you have shoulder pain, and if your doctor has cleared you to exercise that area, here are a few tips that many find to be helpful in alleviating their shoulder discomfort. According to physical therapist (PT) Alex Petruska, a senior PT in the Sports Medicine Center at Harvard affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital, the focus in getting pain relief is on three goals:

  1. Increasing your range of motion (ROM)
  2. Strengthening the muscles of the shoulder
  3. Stretching the ligaments and muscles to keep them limber

He goes on to suggest doing the following five exercises, with supervision until you know how to do them correctly.

Behind the back ROM, exercise

  • Begin this with your right hand behind your back. Keep the back of your hand against your lower back or belt.
  • Now reach around with your left hand and gently pull the right hand up towards the left shoulder. Go slowly and be gentle when doing this stretch. Due to the leverages involved, it has a tendency to put a lot of tension on the shoulder.
  • Hold the top position for 10 to 20 seconds at a time. Do the stretch on each side ten to fifteen times before moving onto the next exercise. Stretch only to a point of mild discomfort.

Keep your shoulders flexible with the overhead stretch

Keeping the muscles and tendons of your shoulders flexible, helps make daily activities easier to do. Here is a good, but easy stretch to start your day out with each morning.

If you have difficulties getting down or getting up from the floor, you can do this one in bed or standing. The latter, in my humble opinion, is the best way to do this because you can a larger range of motion.

  • Start out by lying on your back and holding onto a small towel or even better yet, a short piece of elastic material to keep tension on the muscles in the shoulder during the stretch.
  • Your hands should be about shoulder width apart.
  • Begin with your arms straight, hands at the waist, holding onto and attempting to spread the towel or elastic material. Now, in a slow gentle motion raise them up toward the ceiling and lower them back behind your head, still keeping your arms straight.
  • When standing up, try to move your straight arms further behind our head each time. A good gauge of how far you are moving them is to stand with your back to a wall. Step away from the wall a few paces and see if you can still touch it. The farther out you go, the more your ROM will be. Do this stretch without pain.

Shoulder extensions increase the strength of the shoulder muscles that help control the shoulder blade.

  • Stand with your arms straight and your back touching a wall.
  • Push against the wall with your arms while keeping your elbows straight.

Hold the tension for 10 to 15 seconds ten times.

More next week.

180416 Exercising your arthritic knees

180416 Exercising your arthritic knees

There are more than 100 different rheumatic diseases and conditions the most prevalent being osteoarthritis. The symptoms of the various rheumatic diseases include aching, pain, stiffness, and swelling in or around the involved joints.

Take a look at the following chart and see if you can detect the common thread in each disease.

Do you notice the trend? These four mentioned diseases, for the most part, result directly from a lack of exercise and poor eating habits. Both are changeable habits. Getting more to the point, some, if not all, of these painful conditions may be lessened with exercise, but it takes a change in your habits to start moving in the right direction.

Making the change in habits

Exercise and arthritis would seem to be a poor combination, however it turns out that the best thing you can do for your arthritic joints is to exercise them. The key here is to match the right exercise to your condition and to find your limits so you don’t overdo it but still do enough to benefit from the session.

Starting out with your exercise program

If you have not been consistently exercising because of your arthritis, it is a wise idea to discuss it with your physician. The two of you can then come up with mutually agreed-upon guidelines that will help you exercise in a safe manner and within healthy limits for your joint conditioning.

The first thing that comes many people’s minds when it comes exercising is jogging. However, if you have arthritic ankles, knees, or hips jogging is more than likely not going to be an exercise of choice for the simple reason is that it hurts. There are a variety of substitutions that can be made such as riding a stationary bicycle, using an elliptical trainer, and perhaps, depending on the treadmill, a treadmill. Water aerobics is also an option.

The right exercise or exercises will gradually help strengthen and thereby stabilize the joint. The stronger the ligaments, muscles, and tendons are surrounding the joint, the more stable this joint is going to be, which means less joint laxity and less pain with movement.

The most basic recommendation for choosing exercises is finding those that are low intensity and repetitive. These types of exercises do not overly stress the joint; they reduce the force placed across the joint and help preserve the integrity of the joint without causing pain during the movement.

260813 Starting out with an aerobic exercise plan

Starting out with an aerobic exercise plan

The research over the past several years continues to support the benefits of aerobic exercise. Not only is it good for your cardiovascular system but it helps ease fatigue symptoms in those with chronic fatigue syndrome, in the elderly, and the long-term sedentary person. However, this does not mean that people in these categories should just immediately go out and try to run a marathon. Before you even start, check with your doctor and review your history of activity, any type of joint problems, cardiovascular conditions, or other conditions that may cause you problems if you exercise

If you have not exercised consistently in the past or in the recent past, start out slowly and build up gradually your ability to tolerate the physical activity. Even though exercise will help most people, those with chronic fatigue syndrome should start out very slowly because it can aggravate the symptoms in some.

Older, sedentary, people must also start building a foundation of activity by increasing their levels of exertion on a smaller progressive scale. This will go a long way to avoiding injuries.

One of the easiest ways to get started on a physical activity program is to start walking. Begin with a slow pace of eighty steps per minute for about half as far as you think you can go every day. Increase this distance until you are walking a mile or so each day all the while being cognizant of the traffic and the phenomenal ability of some idiot drivers who are not paying attention to come dangerously close to you. (Oops, that just slipped in)

Some of the more recent studies have shown that brisk walking, one hundred steps per minute, five times a week for at least half an hour results in almost the same health benefits as exercise that is much more vigorous.

Another advantage of taking a brisk walk is that those who take these walks lower their risk for heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, cancer, Osteoporosis and potentially other diseases. It has also been found that mental health issues seem to occur less frequently.

Gradually you will notice your ability to go longer increases until you are walking thirty to sixty minutes a day. Once you are able to do this, you might want to start including biking or some sort of an exercise class.

One of these new activities could include resistance training. You do not need to go to a gym to resistance train but the advantage of doing so and hooking up with a certified strength specialist is that you will learn how to do the exercises correctly and in most cases avoid injury. Old style bodyweight calisthenics can be effective in increasing your muscle mass, strength, and power output.

Power output is important because it develops the strength necessary to rapidly catch your balance if you begin to fall. If you do not have the strength, you will not have the power to protect yourself.

Do not be fooled by the advertisements saying that you can use light hand weights to get strong because it will not happen. You have to challenge your muscles and unless your condition is such that you cannot move heavier weights these small hand weights are not going to suffice.

190713 Paying attention to the red flags of pain

Paying attention to the red flags of pain

Pain is your body telling you something is not right. Maybe it’s simply a little ache that quickly goes away, but what if it is excruciating. Some pain signs are serious red flags that need to prompt attention by a medical professional. Carefully consideration of these signs may be the step that is necessary to prevent further deterioration of a manageable condition.

An emergency pain signal, one that should get you moving to an emergency department, is one or more of the following symptoms:

 A sudden onset of severe pain that is unrelated to an accident or some other situation that commonly would constitute an accident
 Upper abdominal area or chest pain or pressure
 Having difficulty in breathing or suffering from shortness of breath that is not normal to your situation
 Dizziness, fainting, weakness, particularly if the dizziness and weak condition comes on suddenly
 Sudden severe headache or a change in your vision
 Difficulty in speaking or understanding others
 Confusion or sudden changes in your mental status, a loved one or someone close to you may be the first to notice this change
 Uncontrolled bleeding
 Persistent and severe vomiting or diarrhea
 Coughing blood
 Vomiting blood

Don’t try to tough it out. Get medical help and get it fixed.

100713 Killing the pain of exercise, does it kill the gains too?

Killing the pain of exercise – does it kill the gains too

In a study conducted at Ball State University years ago, researchers found that lifters who took ibuprofen or acetaminophen disrupted the benefits of lifting weights. The manufacturer of Tylenol funded this study.

After the results of this study came in the researchers discussed amongst themselves the ill effects of both of these drugs on muscle protein synthesis. This is especially true, according to the study, when a person is trying to build up muscle mass.

Because the original study was only a one-day study, it was decided to extend it out with a greater population. This population was a mature group of 36 men and women 60 to 78 years in age. This group exercised for three full months. It is unknown exactly how many times a week they exercised or what the exercises consisted of but the results were outstandingly remarkable.

According to lead researcher, Todd Trappe, “those lifting weights and taking recommended doses of ibuprofen or acetaminophen increased both their strength and muscle mass 25 to 50% beyond that of placebo group which lifted weights and took look-alike but inactive pills.”

The question that immediately arose after these results were examined was whether or not you should be adding these drugs your exercise program. The quick answer from Trappe was no.

As he explained ” the amount of the benefit that you get when you do resistance exercise without the drugs is so substantial that is not worth risking their potential side effects such as gastric bleeding.”

What about the trainees who are already taking these drugs? Todd explained it this way” you don’t need to worry that they’re interfering with any resistance exercise are doing.”

Now from my reading of the literature and perhaps this is just true for the younger trainees, most of it states that taking a pain reducing substance tends to lower the synthesizing ability of the protein after exercise. More study obviously needs to be conducted in this area. However, for the older generation it appears that taking these substances will help you maintain and improve your strength and muscle mass.

If these results were true then, is there reason to doubt they would be true today? In my gym, the recommendation is to readjust the lifting schedule rather than revert to these types of pain management aides.

220413 Setting yourself up for success with your exercise plans

Setting yourself up for success with your exercise plans

A beginning exercise program should be fun and easy to follow. It should not be a complicated affair filled with complex and hard to follow directions or intricate movements. Just keep it simple, follow it each day, and have fun. The more complicated you make it the harder it will be to stay up with it.

Set your goals as precisely as possible. For example, telling yourself you want to be stronger may sound good, but it is too general. Do you want to be able to do one push up or one hundred? It makes a difference doesn’t it?

Be specific about each of your goals by knowing exactly where you want to go with your exercise dreams. Decide how you want to exercise, how much you want to exercise, how long you have to reach your goals (both immediate and long range), and how much time you will dedicate to each training session. Without knowing each of these and writing them down it is unlikely that you will actually get there.

Start out slowly and don’t overdo it the first time. It is easy to be over enthusiastic when beginning but this same enthusiasm can lead to being extremely sore the next day. This is something that catches unwary trainees by surprise. Good coaches nip this in the bud by not piling on exercises. Remember, if you are a coach, that it is easy to make someone sore.

You will have to decide whether you need a workout partner. Some people do well with one and others do well on their own. It all depends on your need to be with someone when you exercise.

If you find the right partner, each of you can exceed your expectations in the gym with the mutual support and encouragement you provide to one another. However, if you hook up with a lackard, one who does not show up on time, doesn’t push, or is too social then your training will suffer. You have to decide what is best for you.

Whatever you do, it has to be a fun experience otherwise, you won’t keep it up.

270213 Why am I sore after working out?

Why am I sore after working out?

The simplest answer to the question “why am I sore after working out” would be to say that you did too much. But that’s not really a good answer is it because there are a multitude of reasons why a person gets sore after working out.

The most obvious reason someone gets sore is because they aren’t used to doing what they just did and their muscles are rebelling. Another reason is they may have placed too much of an emphasis on one muscle group and overdid it in the last session. On the other hand, they could have gone too long in their workout.

Most likely, you exercised a new group of muscles in a different way by using too much weight, adding extra repetitions to your sets or doing full range of motion in each of your repetitions when you weren’t used to it.

The most common exercise that produces soreness afterwards is the squat because squatting exercises the large muscle group in the legs and people are not used to doing a full squat. Even a small number of total repetitions, such as twenty-four, in an inexperienced lifter will cause soreness the day after. This is delayed onset muscle soreness, which in itself is not a bad thing depending on the severity of the soreness.

This muscle pain could be from an accumulation of waste products in the muscle or microscopic tears in the muscle tissues themselves. The latter seems to be the prevailing thought on the cause of the soreness.

Even though it seems that a muscle tear would be a bad thing, these microscopic tears actually encourage the muscles to become stronger by repairing the tissues in a manner that makes them more resistant to the tears in the future. This process is what builds greater muscle mass and increases your strength and endurance. It’s a training guide referred to as progressive exercise, because you don’t start at the top and work your way higher, you start at the bottom and build up your ability to lift more and go farther.

However, if the pain is excruciating, you need to be seeing a doctor to find out what was injured. Excessive pain means you need a break to recover and then make plans to modify your exercise program to prevent future occurrences of this nature.

Minor pain normally goes away on its own because your muscles are getting stronger or your cardiovascular system is adapting to the stresses you are putting on it. However, a sudden, sharp, and acute pain is a danger signal that you have pushed yourself too hard, too fast. At this point, the prudent action is to stop, evaluate and start protecting yourself from further damage by following the rice protocol.

The rice protocol is an acronym for rest, ice, compression, and elevation. The severity of the soreness will govern whether not you seek medical advice. Normally if it hasn’t subsided within several days see your doctor may be prudent.

An overall body warm-up that is followed by a torso specific warm-up and ending with an exercise specific warm-up will go a long ways towards avoiding an injury while exercising. These do not have to be fifteen and twenty minute warm-ups. Likewise, they should not be static or passive stretches unless you are having difficulties in specific areas and need this extra assistance to regain your full range of motion at these locations. If so, do them, but end up with an active movement in that area. Otherwise, keep your pre-session stretches dynamic.

You can start out by skipping rope or riding a bike and gradually building up your speed until your heart rate and breathing are increased and you are sweating a slight amount. Next, depending on your exercise session, do an upper, middle or lower torso warm up. Follow these with the first set of your specific exercise for the day. It may be a slow run progressing into a fast run or a light set of squats moving up in weight to the top work out sets.

After you are finished with your exercises, do static stretches for the major muscle groups. This is a perfect time because your whole body is warmed up. The muscles are flexible, pliable, and the nervous system is at peak efficiency; the perfect setting to regain any lost range of motion or to increase the range of motion.