Foam Rolling: How does it work?

Foam rolling has many benefits. The technical term for foam rolling is “self-myofascial release.” Foam rolling helps break up adhesion between your muscles and the fascia, or soft membrane, that surrounds them. It also stimulates nerves in the muscles that help release muscle tension and therefore reduce pain and tightness.

When foam rolling, I like to use a roller made from firm styrofoam that is three feet long by six inches thick. Go slow, and roll each location for 1-2 minutes at a time. If you feel a painful spot, pause and rest with the foam roller right on the painful spot for 30-45 seconds. That long pause on the tight spot in your muscle will cause the stimulation needed to release the tension and relieve the pain. You can do this 1-2 times a day.

In my line of work, I’m constantly learning new things and seeking better teachers. That’s why this week I attended a symposium on how to reduce shoulder pain called “Non-operative Shoulder Rehabilitation: Current Approaches in the Evaluation and Treatment of the painful shoulder. I learned a lot, and I’m going to pass it on to you, my clients.

Crawl Back to Fitness!

A big part of the functional fitness philosophy is that your body knows the best way to move, but sometimes we have to unlearn unhealthy habits in order to help it remember. One great way to do that is to repeat some of our basic developmental movements. Crawling is one of the most powerful ways to reset our bodies back to their original healthy movements.
Crawling helps us remember to breathe from our diaphragms, it promotes core strength and stability, and it engages the body in “cross-lateral movement.” These are movements that help the left and right sides of the brain knit together, allowing you not only to move with more coordination in your body, but also to learn and retain information better. Crawling is an important part of the developmental process, but not everyone spends enough time crawling as a baby–some kids almost skip right through to walking. Kids who do this are actually more likely to develop problems with learning and mobility. It’s okay if you’re one of these people, because you can reset and rebuild your brain by doing some specific crawling exercises now.
There are four basic crawling exercises. In order from most fundamental to most advanced, they are:
Commando crawl
Baby crawl
Leopard crawl
Spider-man crawl

All of them have some things in common: keep your head up and your butt low, keep a “big” chest, breathe from your diaphragm, and keep your tongue on the roof of your mouth. Other than that, they are slightly different motions.

Commando crawl:
Lie on your belly and prop yourself up on your forearms. Keep your hips low, almost flat to the ground, and drag your left knee forward alongside your body while pushing your right forearm forward, then your right knee and left forearm and so on.
Baby crawl:
On your hands and knees now, with your head up (make sure you’re holding it up above your shoulder blades and butt) drag your left knee straight forward while moving your right hand forward, then your right knee and your left hand, and so on. Make sure your knees are tracking underneath your body, inside the line traced by your arms.
Leopard crawl:
This is a similar motion to the baby crawl, but it’s a big step up in difficulty. Get into the baby crawl position, but instead of resting your knees on the ground, get up on your toes. Your shins should remain parallel to the ground, so that your body is in basically the same position that it was during the baby crawl, but propped on your toes instead of resting on your knees. Now move your right hand forward at the same time as you slide your left toes forward–keep your shins parallel to the ground. Do the alternate motion: right leg forward, left hand forward, and so on. Your knees should track inside of your hands.
Leopard crawl is very demanding, and it’s normal to spend a lot of time (months or longer) on the baby crawl before you move up.
Spider-man crawl
While this is a physically easier motion for most people vs. the leopard crawl, it is developmentally more advanced, and I don’t recommend doing it before mastering the leopard crawl.
Get in the same position as leopard crawl, and do the same motion, but this time with your knees tracking outside your hands. If this is done right, it causes your hip joints to go through a larger range of motion than before and challenges your rotational stability. If it’s done incorrectly, your pelvis will wobble back and forth, and a large part of your range of motion will come from curving your lumbar spine to the side–THIS IS NOT WHAT YOU WANT! Your pelvis should stay straight and level while your legs move from the hip.

Crawling is a surprisingly effective way to build up your strength, and the more challenging variations give you quite a workout. Sometimes you need to get your body back to basics to move forward. This type of resetting exercise can make your other workouts safer and more effective

PEMF: Brakthrough in Pain Management

PEMF: Breakthrough in Pain Management

Pulsed Electromagnetic Field Therapy is an emerging therapy that has lots of support from the medical and science communities.  It’s known to promote tissue healing and has been used for a long time to help knit bones together in stubborn breaks.  Recently, they’ve been adapted for other therapies.  They were featured on Dr. Oz recently, so I did some of my own research that I put together for you here:

Pulsed Electromagnetic Fields: What are they?
Pulsed electromagnetic field (PEMF) devices create resonating electromagnetic force fields that can act on the body’s cells to promote healing and pain relief

What are they good for?
PEMF devices are used to promote healing.  They’ve been shown to work for helping broken bones fuse back together, and also to reduce pain, swelling and edema (fluid buildup and pressure) for soft-tissue damage, such as post-surgery damage.
A 1995 study showed the following benefits:

  • Decreased pain
  • Increased range of motion
  • Reduced inflammation
  • Reduced muscle loss after surgery
  • Faster functional recovery
  • Faster healing of skin wounds
  • Enhanced capillary formation

How do they work?
PEMF devices increase the production of nitric oxide in the affected area.  This increases blood flow and reduces inflammation where the device is aimed.  Increased blood flow and reduced inflammation combine to promote healing much faster than the body can do on its own.

Are they safe?
PEMF is not known to have any side effects whatsoever.  Your doctor may not know about PEMF therapy, because they are not required to learn about PEMF in medical school.
Your doctor may also hesitate to recommend PEMF because they associate “magnet medicine” with quackery like magnetic shoe inserts.  However, several PEMF devices are FDA approved to treat post-operative pain and to help heal badly broken bones.  PEMF may also help with more day-to-day pain like arthritis, low back pain, and chronic joint pain.  In Canada, there is an over-the-counter device approved for exactly those uses.

If you have any more questions, feel free to ask me!

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