Vagus Nerve Hack | Valsalva Maneuver

Let’s discuss another vagus nerve hack that you can incorporate into your day to decrease your heart rate and regulate your nervous system. This one is a little unique; it’s different than our standard slow, deep breathing. The Valsalva maneuver is great for anyone that’s experiencing super ventricular tachycardia (SVT), which is an increase in your heart rate. In essence, it will slow the heart rate down and create a relaxation response.

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Anatomy

Now let’s talk a little bit about anatomy. The vagus nerve is leaving the brainstem and branches off to innervate muscles of the face, ears, throat, heart, digestive tract, and elimination tract. As it relates to the heart, specifically for this maneuver, the vagus nerve innervates the SA node of the heart. So, by creating pressure in the chest, it signals the SA node to signal the AV node to decrease the heart rate. In essence, the Valsalva will slow the signaling down in the lower chamber of the heart, which decreases the heart rate.

Precautions

Before we get into how you’re going to perform the technique, I do want to remind you who should not perform this technique. Anyone that has a known heart condition, congenital heart disease, coronary artery disease, or heart disease, should not perform this, and/or check with your medical doctor. There is a temporary increase in blood pressure so it can place you at higher risk. If you do not fall into one of those categories, please feel free to give this a try.

How to Perform the Technique:

  • Inhale normally, pinch your nostrils, and begin to exhale.
  • Hold it for 10 seconds. You’re exhaling through the nose while you are pinching your nasal valves, thereby creating pressure in your chest.

Initially evaluate how you feel, and then you could repeat this several times. It should have a slowing of the heartbeat and relaxation response. A great thing to do is to take your pulse before and after the maneuver to see if it has lowered your heart rate. You can use your radial or carotid pulse, whatever is easiest for you. Just make sure not to use your thumb when taking your pulse. The Valsalva maneuver can be a great addition to your life and your health.

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Other things that may interest you:

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8 causes of LOW BACK PAIN that isn’t a weak core

Do you have low back pain, and you’ve been told that it’s from a weak core? Here are eight reasons why it may not be coming from your core.

One in four people experience low back pain in their lifetime, and it is also one of the number one causes of the opioid epidemic. Most people that are seeking pain medication are coming in initially for low back pain.

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One of the things that is important to recognize with acute low back pain is that it can be treated very easily. However, because of the nature of our medical system, we tend to go to our primary care, get a muscle relaxer and pain medication, and get referred potentially for an X-ray. The X-ray doesn’t show anything, but you still continue to have low back pain. Now you are referred for an MRI but still don’t show anything except for some degeneration, which everyone after the age of 35 is going to have. You still don’t have any answers, so you get an injection. Then three months after this acute low back pain episode, you’re still having pain. Now you are in a chronic pain state. 

Chronic pain is much different than acute pain. It is defined by having pain greater than three months and is referred to as central sensitization. Our nervous system becomes sensitized. We have no tissue damage, however, the brain is still interpreting that there is pain in, let’s say, for example, the low back.

Here are eight root causes of your low back pain, that isn’t simply a weak core. All these can also contribute to acute and/or chronic low back pain.

1) Poor Breathing

Our breath should be a diaphragmatic breath. We breathe 20 to 25,000 times a day. If we are not breathing from our diaphragm, then that means that the sequencing of our entire abdomen is affected. It also creates a stress response.  

2) Movement Compensations

When we think of how pain or injury ultimately happens, think it’s when anatomy meets opportunity. If you have an ankle sprain, let’s say three months ago, and although it’s getting better, there’s still some stiffness in the ankle. Now every time you are walking and striking the ground in dynamic movement, there is asymmetry. You have different forces that are being transferred up through your body.  That means that now you’re going to begin to compensate. You’ll change how my foot strikes the ground; how your pelvis is moving. This can be an example of how any movement-compensation, especially over a period of time, can ultimately lead to pain and or injury.

3) Stress

This can not be emphasized enough and how it’s one of the biggest factors in low back pain. Not only can we hold tension in our abdomen and our pelvic floor, but it also shifts our breathing to an upper chest breathing pattern. Additionally, stress is linked to inflammation. Without a doubt, I’ve seen in my clinical practice that this is one of the biggest driving factors of low back pain, especially chronic low back pain.

4) Poor Sleep

Inadequate or interrupted sleep is actually one of the biggest drivers of low back pain. Poor sleep also shuts down the release of our growth hormone, which is needed for repair and healing.

5) Chronic Inflammation

Ninety percent of all health conditions are linked to excessive or persistent inflammation; from eczema to anxiety, depression, and even Alzheimer’s. Now, when we think about inflammation as it relates to our musculoskeletal system or nervous system, inflammation will contribute to pain, joint stiffness, joint inflammation, osteoarthritis, and more. This can also consistent with chronic low back pain.

6) Sedentary Lifestyles

This can be one of the biggest drivers of recurring low back pain, per some of the research. We are meant to move; our bodies crave movement. We do not want to be in one position all day long. As you’re thinking about your day, think of it from a ‘movement mindset’. It doesn’t have to be exercising 30 to 60 minutes; you need to be moving all day long.

7) Poor Gut Health

Your gut is your second brain, and we have an entire nervous system located right there. If there are gut issues, that means there are inflammatory issues. Without a doubt, because we have 70 percent of our immune system in our gut, and we have this nervous system, when we are having visceral pain, this will influence the sequencing, timing, and coordination of all of our muscles and our abdomen and pelvis. It is definitely something that can contribute to low back pain, especially in the case of bloating and constipation. 

8) Lack of Movement Variability

As I mentioned earlier, our bodies crave movement. When we are in sustained postures all day long like sitting at a desk or crossing our legs in one direction, not changing positions consistently throughout the day, then our fascial tissue, our three-dimensional network, or ectoskeleton can get sticky. It is meant to be elastic, create tension, and transfer force efficiently. If we are sitting in sustained postures throughout the day and not changing positions, like getting down to the floor and getting back up, this can, unfortunately, contribute to low back pain.

There you have it; eight different root causes of why you might have low back pain. There are, of course, other things like pelvic pain and other medical conditions, but hopefully, you can appreciate that it is not necessarily because you have a weak core that you are having low back pain, and if you strengthen your core it’s going to get better. You want to look well beyond that. 

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The benefits of GROUNDING | Earthing

Grounding, otherwise known as earthing, is one of the most powerful and simplest things you can do to improve your health. As Aristotle once said, “In nature, there is something marvelous.” This conductive contact of the human body with the surface of the earth can have intriguing benefits on our physiology. Let’s discuss this simple and powerful technique, its benefits, and of course, how you can do it.

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What is grounding?

Essentially, it is the direct contact of the skin on the hands or our bare feet on the surface of the earth. Or it can be done via a grounding system. The amazing thing about grounding is that people all over the world in diverse cultures have talked about the benefits and how to improve their health and well-being from being barefoot on the earth for thousands and thousands of years. Although this may seem new to some, it is really prevalent in other cultures.

Benefits of Grounding

Let’s get into the evidence-based benefits of grounding

1) Reduces inflammation

We know that ninety percent of all of our chronic health conditions are linked to excessive or persistent inflammation. Grounding is one of the simplest ways to address that.

2) Decreases pain

3) Decreases stress response

It can help shift us from our sympathetic state to our parasympathetic state in our autonomic nervous system

4) Increases heart rate variability

The higher our heart rate variability is, the interbeat between the heartbeats, the better the function of our autonomic nervous system. This can be associated with better recovery, better emotional resilience, and overall well-being.

5) Improves sleep

6) Improves cortisol rhythm

Cortisol is one of our key stress hormones.

7) Improves wound healing

Grounding can be a great thing to include in an integrative approach to healing.

8) Reduces blood viscosity

This can be one of the best things you can do for reducing your cardiovascular risk.

So, how can you include grounding in your life?

The easiest way is to just get outside barefoot. You could spend as little as 10 minutes to see some benefits up to an hour.  Stand or sit in a chair and place your feet on the ground. You can put your hands in the grass but be sure to make sure it is consistent time outdoors. This is the simplest way to include grounding, but if that’s not realistic for you, you can use a grounding system. That can come in the form of a sheet, mat, patches, wristbands, and ankle bands, and connect to a grounded outlet. By connecting to this grounded outlet, you’re connecting to mother earth.

Why does this work?

One of the theories is that our skin contact with the earth allows electrons to spread into the skin as well as the body, which thereby impacts immune markers.

As I mentioned, grounding has been around forever. Now, through research, we are seeing the potential health benefits.  Think barefoot is a way of life. When you stimulate the small nerves in the bottom of your feet, you can connect to the earth’s surface and bring your body back into a state of balance; reducing inflammation and driving parasympathetic nervous system response.

Reach out for a 15-minute FREE discovery session to see how we can help you on your journey.

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Vagus Nerve Hack | Auricular Ear Release

Let’s talk about another vagus nerve hack, which is the auricular release, also known as an ear release, that you can do anytime anywhere to continually improve your emotional, mental, and physical well-being. Please make sure to check out our other videos on how to assess your vagus nerve, the polyvagal theory, as well as many other vagus nerve hacks that you can incorporate into your life.

The fascinating thing about the auricular release is the external ear is one of the only places in the body that the vagus nerve is sending this peripheral branch to. In fact, the auricular branch surfaces as the afferent auricular vagus nerve, which means that the information from the periphery is going to the brain. Thereby, we are stimulating the ear from the periphery and signaling back to our nervous system to create this sense of calm.

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Anatomy

As the vagus nerve exits the medulla oblongata in the brainstem, it comes down into the jugular foramen. As it leaves the cervical vagus nerve, it branches out into this auricular branch of the vagus nerve. It also connects to the facial nerve, and therefore can promote relaxation of the facial muscles as well. It is also referred to as either the aldermen nerve or the Arnolds nerve.

How to Assess

Pull each ear slightly out to the side at the ear lobe, the middle of the ear, and the top of the ear. Assess to see which one feels more tense and/or which side feels more painful.  Does it feel elastic or restricted?

How to Perform the Auricular Release

Place your finger right under the ridge inside of your ear. You want to think about pressing backward. Gently move your finger in slow, small circles. There shouldn’t be any pain or discomfort, although it may feel a little different side to side. Sometimes this will trigger a sigh, swallow, or yawn. That is a sign of relaxation of the nervous system. You should likely feel a sense of calm.

The second technique would be to come down almost as if you’re going to go into the eardrum with your finger. Gently press backward toward the back of your head, and perform slow, gentle circles. This could be done for one minute or as long as you feel like it is helping and it’s comfortable.

The third technique is performed by placing your finger on the skin behind your ear. You will gently pull the skin up towards the direction of your head, moving the skin over the tissue. This is a myofascial release. Hold until you feel a release. This could feel like your finger can move easier and the skin feels more elastic. It could also trigger a relaxation response. You can hold this for one minuet or longer if you find it to be beneficial.

The last technique is just gently pulling down on the ear lobe. This is considered a craniosacral technique, so it can have benefits for dizziness, headaches, and other neurological type symptoms. So, this is powerful for many different reasons, not just stimulating the vagus nerve.

After you finish one side then you would switch to the other, then reassess to see if it feels more elastic and not as irritated. 

The great thing about these vagus nerve hacks is that it gives you control over your own nervous system. You can incorporate these throughout your day since they only take seconds to minutes to perform. This will help to bring you back to that state of rest and digest and a state of social engagement where you can be joyful, mindful, grounded, and compassionate.

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Vagus Nerve Hack | Neck Release

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Vagus Nerve Hack | Neck Release

Not only can you consciously tap into the power of your vagus nerve; you should.

Known as the “wandering nerve” in Latin, it begins in the brainstem and innervates the muscles of the throat, circulation, respiration, digestion and elimination tracks. It accounts for 80 percent of our parasympathetic, or “rest and digest,” nervous system.

Healthy vagal activity is associated with better physical and mental well-being. Otherwise, it can cause issues such as inflammation, heart disease, and strokes.

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In other blogs, we have covered some of the best vagus nerve hacks. Today’s neck release will not only target some of the key muscles that are involved in stress breathing, but also the carotid artery which moves into the carotid sinus, innervated by the vagus nerve.

So just like all the other vagus nerve hacks, this will induce a relaxation response. We are doing this through stimulation of the vagus nerve via the carotid sinus.

How To Perform This Exercise

To perform this exercise, use a small to medium-sized ball, preferably soft, and gently place it on the left side of the upper neck right under your ear. You will compress, shear, and lengthen, by placing some pressure into the tissue and then gently twisting the ball across the neck. You want to be gentle with your twist and you want to move your head in the opposite direction as you are doing this. Once you get to the center of your neck, you’ll want to be more cautious because you have your hyoid bone, larynx, pharynx, and esophagus there, which will be a little more sensitive. Then, continue to rotate the ball to the other side of your neck while naturally rotating your head in the opposite direction.

So what are some things that you may experience after performing this exercise?

1) You may feel like your face and neck feel much more relaxed or softened.

2) You may feel a sigh, swallow, or yawn which is a sign of relaxation of the nervous system.

3) You may feel warmth in your face.

4) You may feel like you can see, hear, or speak more clearly. This is due to the stimulation of the vagus nerve, and some of the other facial and cranial nerves.

The great thing about these simple vagus nerve hacks is that you can do them anytime and anywhere during the day. It can bring you back to this parasympathetic state, the state of social engagement, where you are connected, mindful, and joyful.

Reach out for a 15-minute FREE discovery session to see how we can help you on your journey.

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STOP rolling your IT Band!

Do you have IT band syndrome, and you have been foam rolling like crazy and there’s no improvement? In fact, it’s so painful when you do it, you can barely tolerate it. The IT band, short for illiotibial band is a thick band of fascia that runs along the lateral side of the leg. Think of our fascia as our ectoskeleton; it’s the glue that holds us together and is our force transmission system. An interesting fact about fascia is that it has seven times as many sensory nerves than muscle, which is why it feels so painful to roll your IT band. That is why foam rolling is not the most beneficial way to treat it. It is important to get to the root of the issue.

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What are the muscles that the fascia attaches to? One is the TFL, tensor fascia latae, which is on the side of the hip, and the other is the glute max. Those are the two muscles that should be targeted through soft tissue release with IT band syndrome.

It is important to try to find the root cause. Just because we have pain near the outside of the knee does not mean that it is the source of the problem. Oftentimes there is a loss of deep hip stability or foot stability that is contributing to IT band syndrome. If there is a loss of stability in the hip, the TFL can become overactive and will pull the hip joint forward. Even the hamstrings can become overactive and push the hip forward. We then lose what we refer to as joint centration, which means that the hip is shifting forward and up. Therefore, soft tissue work, stabilizing the hip, and integrating the feet and the ground into movement are essential. Here are some ways to incorporate all of those things. Make sure to check out the video on how to perform these exercises HERE.

1) Soft Tissue Release

The first is the TFL release. You can use a lacrosse ball or tennis ball. Place the ball right on the outside of the hip and lie down on it. The bottom leg will be extended and the top leg can be bent. The leg will naturally rotate in and you can stabilize yourself with your elbows on the floor.

You would hold this for roughly two minutes. You’re goal is to completely relax. When you get to that painful point it might feel like it is taking your breath away, so if it doesn’t feel like that you can adjust the ball to a spot that does. 

The second one is the glute release. For this one, bring the ball underneath the buttocks. Let the hip naturally rotate out. Once again you can hold it there for about two minutes. After you’ve done your soft tissue releases, now you want to move that tissue in its new range. 

2) Hip 90/90 Stretch 

Starting with your feet outside hip-width apart while sitting on the ground, you can drop your legs down to the side. This will be your 90/90 position. Bring your arms behind you and stabilize yourself in that position. Try to hold this here for a period of time. Following that, move to the back hip. You want to think of hinging from your hips, not just rounding your spine, over the front hip. You can make it active by pressing into the ground with your hands and breathing into that position.

3) Dynamic Movement

Now we want to integrate that into dynamic movement, specifically working in lateral and rotational planes. This can include various lunges and single leg balance activities.

You want to remember that IT band syndrome is a symptom, not a diagnosis. So think beyond rolling your IT band and look at a way to integrate all of this into more proper movement. 

Reach out for a 15-minute FREE discovery session to see how we can help you on your journey.

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5-Minute Golf Fitness Screen

Are you a golfer who wants to improve their distance or accuracy this season, or perhaps you have low back, shoulder, or elbow pain every time you golf? Are you looking to not only improve it, but prevent it from getting any worse?

Read on for your golf-specific screen that you could do to assess how your physical body and perhaps, limitations, are impacting your swing efficiency and performance.

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1) Pelvic Tilt Test

At address position, we should be in a neutral spine. “S” posture, refers to an extended posture and a ”C” posture refers to a rounded posture.  Both limit your ability to rotate in your backswing. And of course, the backswing is what dictates the transition, or downswing.

From your address position, we want to see if you can move through a clean range of motion, extending and rounding the spine without any shaking and or difficulties. Are you able to move through it in its full range of motion? That’s what we want you to be able to do in your golf swing.

2) Torso Mobility Test

This test looks at the concept of disassociation. In the entire golf swing, we have to be able to disassociate our torso from our pelvis. To do the torso mobility test, we are in our address position, crossing the arms over the chest, and from there, rotate just the torso back and forth while keeping the hips stable. If you’re able to keep the hips stable and move your arms, that means you have good disassociation between the torso and the pelvis. Now, we do want to look if it is a more lateral motion or rotational, and if the pelvis moves side to side or rotates as we’re trying to separate the two.

3) Pelvic Mobility Test

Here, we’re going to get into address position, crossing the hands over the chest. From there, move the pelvis back and forth in that rotational plane while keeping the upper body stable. If you attempt to move your pelvis and your torso is moving as well, then that’s indicative that you don’t have good disassociation. Also, you want to make sure that it’s not a lateral motion and it is in fact, rotational.

4) Toe Touch Test

Being able to touch your toes from standing shows that you have a proper weight shift in the pelvis. The pelvis needs to shift backwards for us to be able to get into a proper address position.  Our address position is the foundation of our entire swing. So that is, in fact, where we need to be the whole time. As you transition, you’re starting from a hip hinge position and mostly stay in there as you come through impact. So, are you able to touch your toes, have a nice uniform curve in your spine, and be able to get that natural weight shift in the pelvis?

5) Single Leg Stance

Are you able to stand on one leg with the other leg in a 90 degree angle at hip level, holding that position for at least 25 to 30 seconds without any increased effort? Is this a relaxed position for you or does it require a lot of effort? If this is fairly easy, then you can attempt to close your eyes. Why is this so important? In your golf swing, you are shifting your weight from one side to the other. You must have really good stability on your trail leg to load the backswing and as you come through to impact, you have to be able to have a great stability on your lead leg to load into it. It seems very basic, but it’s really imperative for a great golf swing.

6) 90/90 Test

We want to think about our shoulder mobility and our shoulder mobility as it relates to our golf posture. If we start from a position, with our elbows at 90 degree angle, and rotate them back as far as we can, we should be able to get to at least 90 degree angles, preferably a little bit farther here. Now move into your address position and perform the same test. Are you able to get into the same position? Have you lost a lot of motion? In your swing, you have to be able to have that proper external rotation while you’re in your address position. So, it is really important to optimize shoulder mobility, and this is a great way to test it.

7) Seated Thoracic Rotation

First, grab your club and bring it right over your shoulders. Start by rotating to the right, back to center and then to rotate to the left. See if there’s a restriction on either side. Now, you’re going to take the club above your shoulders, keeping the shoulder blades out of the equation, which means you can’t use them or compensate with them. Now rotate to the right and rotate to the left. See if there’s any asymmetry, and if you are able to get to about 45 degrees.

8) Total Rotation

Have your feet together, arms to the side, and rotate to the right. Are you able to get your shoulders in line? Then, rotate to the left and you should be able to see the wall behind you. If someone is standing behind you, they should be able to see both shoulders. That is going to be indicative of proper neck, ankle, thoracic, and hip mobility. In order to have a great backswing and get into a properly loaded position, we have to have enough internal rotation in the hip, for example. Just as when we come down through our downswing, we need to have enough mobility to be able to rotate into it. If not, you’ll start to see a sway and slide.

It is important to understand how your physical limitations can impact your swing efficiency and injury risk. So, take five minutes and see how you move. Need help? Reach out for a golf rehab or performance assessment.

Reach out for a 15-minute FREE discovery session to see how we can help you on your journey.

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How Sugar Affects Your Pain

You probably know that sugar is not the best for you, but do you know how it’s impacting your pain and inflammation in your muscles and your joints? Sugar is, in fact, at the top of the list as one of the biggest contributors to pain. Numerous studies continue to prove that sugar promotes pro-inflammatory markers. Why is that important? Chronic low level and systemic inflammation contributes to many of the health conditions that we face. In fact, 90% of all chronic disease is associated with inflammation.

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Let’s discuss five different ways that consuming added sugars in your diet contributes to inflammation and therefore, pain.

1) Stimulates free fatty acids in the liver

When free fatty acids are digested by the body, the compounds that are released contribute to pro-inflammatory markers. 

2) Produces Advanced Glycolytic end products (AGEs)

When sugar is combined with a protein or fat in the bloodstream, oxidation or inflammation in the body occurs. 

3) Causes leaky gut

Increased sugar intake can contribute to leaky gut, also referred to as intestinal permeability. We have tight junctions in our gut that function as a protective barrier to not let toxins and pathogens move through into our bloodstream. However, in the case of leaky gut, these tight junctions break down and foreign invaders can pass through to the bloodstream. This, in turn, creates an immune response. This can also contribute to leaky brain. Leaky brain is where these pathogens, toxins, and foreign invaders cross the blood-brain barrier and can contribute to brain fog, loss of clarity, memory issues, etc. 

4) Increases LDL

When we have increased LDL from overconsumption of sugar, there is an increase in inflammatory markers, specifically C-reactive protein. 

5) Causes weight gain

Increased sugar consumption can lead to weight gain, which thereby increases your insulin resistance as well as inflammation. That can contribute to a whole cascade of other symptoms. 

In one study that was performed, the participants who drank 40 grams of added sugar a day (one soda), increased their insulin resistance, inflammation, and LDL markers. Also, consuming 50 grams of fructose within 30 minutes can increase your C-reactive protein, an inflammatory marker. Lastly, 50 grams of refined carbohydrates in the form of white bread can increase your pro-inflammatory marker, niuclear factor-kappa B (NF-kappa B), and increase blood sugar. 

Now you have a little bit of a better understanding of how sugar impacts your body, specifically inflammation, and therefore pain. If you’re in a chronic inflammatory state, you’re pain will likey be higher. Your first step in evaluating sugar is to track it. See how many grams a day you are consuming.

There is a difference between natural sugars and added and refined sugars. That doesn’t mean you need to eat six fruits a day, however. As it relates to added sugars, you want to have less than 20 grams of sugar. That means you have to think about how many grams of sugar is in your creamer, salad dressing, tomato sauce, etc. In most cases, there is high fructose corn syrup in those as well. You want to evaluate how many grams a day you’re actually getting and then begin to slowly decrease it. You don’t need to do it overnight. It is important to recognize that if you are consuming a lot of sugar, you can have a significant die-off reaction as you begin to eliminate those sugars from your diet. Just begin to slowly work them out of your diet and transform to a more natural, whole food plan.

Reach out for a 15-minute FREE discovery session to see how we can help you on your journey.

For more content, make sure to subscribe to my YouTube channel here.

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Understanding Your Pain

We have all experienced pain in our lives. Perhaps it’s been acute pain where you roll your ankle, or it’s more chronic pain, something like low back pain that’s been around for months or even years. It could also be from surgery or some kind of procedure that you may have had done that could cause a considerable amount of pain. Therefore, it is important to understand pain—understand the pain in your own body, and what implications it has. Just for a quick statistic, 15 million U.S. adults suffer from some kind of chronic pain, and 80% of our global opioid supply is consumed in the U.S. There are 125 deaths per day due to opioids, which are most commonly prescribed for low back pain, which is why it’s such a powerful topic to talk about and understand implicitly.

What’s a common course of low back pain in America? You have an acute episode of low back pain, go to your medical doctor, and get some kind of prescription pain medication. The pain medication doesn’t work, so maybe you get a muscle relaxer, too. Now your primary care is going to refer you for an X-ray, and it shows nothing, or maybe some degeneration that everyone over 35 years old typically has. Then you’re referred to get an MRI, and it shows a herniated disc or some degeneration as well. Of course, that doesn’t give you any information either because imaging in most cases does not correlate to your symptoms. So, then you are referred for an injection. You get an injection that doesn’t really do much at all or lasts for a short period of time before your symptoms return, and you’re referred to physical therapy. The course of low back pain in America is problematic because this is what contributes to moving from acute pain to chronic, which we’ll discuss.

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Let’s start with the definition of pain. Pain is an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with tissue damage or potential tissue damage. Essentially, pain is an alarm system. What it’s telling us is where the pain is, the amount of pain, the nature of the pain, and it is signaling to us, danger.

Now let’s talk about acute pain versus chronic pain. An example of acute pain is when you put your fingers on a hot stove. We have nociceptors, sensory receptors in the skin that will signal through the spinal cord to the different areas of the brain, to create a motor response or reaction. With somatic pain as described, we are signaling to the brain to pull back. Now we can also have visceral pain of the organs or the lining of the organs. Lastly, referred pain, which can be something like a heart attack referring pain to the left shoulder. All of these can be different forms of acute pain.

Chronic pain is much different. Chronic pain is defined as pain that you’ve had for three to six months or longer. With chronic pain, there is no tissue damage, however, your brain is sensitized and signaling that there’s still danger. This causes you to have a heightened sense of pain because your brain is still perceiving that this pain is happening even though the injury has healed. The key take home with this is that pain is not directly correlated to the amount of tissue damage. For example, someone that has had chronic pain for years would indicate that there is no tissue damage at that point, yet the pain can be very heightened. Conversely, someone with an acute tissue injury could have a very low level of pain.

Now that you know a little bit more about acute versus chronic pain and that it is not necessarily related to tissue damage, it’s important to know what you can do about it. It is not simply a matter of taking Advil or Tylenol, because we actually have our own natural painkillers. Endorphins, enkephalins, and serotonin are some of the best natural painkillers; better than NSAIDs.

Also, it is important to recognize that pain is not simply a sensory experience. It is always an emotional experience as well. It has been shown that if you are in a positive mental state, this can impact your ability to manage pain. So, what can you do about your pain?

1) Don’t Panic

Pain is information. Whether you’ve had it for a day or you’ve had it for three years, it is information that your nervous system is either on high alert, or you have some kind of potential tissue damage. Either way, you want to explore it with a gentle curiosity. You want to understand your alarm system because that is your nervous system that is giving you this powerful information to be able to do something about it. Recognizing that no matter how long you’ve had pain, you can continue to make improvements, and be able to be in a pain-free state. 

2) Improve your Movement

You should get evaluated to see what your movement patterns look like so you can limit compensations that are so common. The more that you compensate, you continue to alter your motor control, and the more you will have pain. When you have pain, you have more distorted motor control, so it ends up being this vicious cycle of pain.

3) Stress Management 

This is one of the key things that you want to think about as it relates to pain. Incorporating things like mindfulness, yoga, and meditation into your life to make sure that you are in a positive emotional state to be able to manage the pain. If you have pain, and it’s already heightened, and when you add stress on top of that your pain tolerance will decrease. So, your pain is actually higher. 

4) Graded Exercise

With all of the pain science research, one of the most important things is exercise, specifically, graded exercise. This means it has to be done at a very slow pace and returning to a comfortable state over time. For example, if you’ve had chronic low back pain for 10 years, then beginning a walking program starting at 45 minutes is way too much. Starting with 10 minutes is more appropriate and then every other day progressing to 12, 15, 20 minutes slowly and working your way up to a point that feels great for you. 

That’s just a quick taste of a little bit of pain science and how you can manage pain in your life. I hope this was helpful for you.

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How to Burn More Calories During Your Day | NEAT

Did you know that you can burn almost 350 additional calories each day, which is equivalent to 30 pounds per year if you include more NEAT in your life? NEAT stands for Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis. It is defined as any other type of activity that is outside of your purposeful physical training. Think of this as the energy expenditure related to the daily maintenance of your body, leisure activities, occupation, and all of the things outside of your intended physical 30 to 60 minutes at the gym.

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There are three different categories of NEAT that you can include. These include body posture variations, ambulation/locomotion, and fidgeting. We will discuss each one of these and how to include them in your daily routine.

3 Ways to Include NEAT:

1) Body Posture Variation

One of the most important things that we should all consider is to assume as many different positions and postures as possible during our day. There is no one good or bad posture. The best posture is the next posture, so you want to think about constantly changing positions. There isn’t such a thing as perfect ergonomics, it’s really about moving consistently throughout the day. Are you sitting, standing, waling, moving, and weight shifting? Are you able to sit down onto the ground and get back up? The more that we can assume different variations of postures of sitting, standing, and moving, the better. Our bodies crave movement, so let’s give them what they deserve. 

2) Ambulation or Locomotion

How can you increase your steps throughout the day? You can use a monitor to track how many steps you’re getting a day. Use that as a goal to slowly increase your steps to your day. Let’s not forget about all the locomotive patterns like crawling or skipping; any ways that you can begin to reinforce one of our most powerful movements in our body, which is walking. It is the most powerful assessment of movement efficiency. The more you can begin to increase steps and dynamic movement throughout the day, the better.

3) Fidgeting 

This can be twirling your hair, rubbing your head, or tapping your foot. If you are doing this 150 minutes a day, this can, in turn, burn 350 calories a day, which is equivalent to 30 pounds per year. Every time you’re in your chair or you’re standing at your work desk, think about how you can add a little bit of extra movement in. This will increase NEAT and can be beneficial in metabolism and your weight loss goals or maintenance. 

In today’s movement culture, we are so focused on performing 30 to 60 minutes of physical activity most days of the week. Instead, we want to think about this from a movement mindset perspective and move most hours of each day. That begins with incorporating some of these most fundamental things like walking more, fidgeting more, and changing and assuming different positions. Once we can begin to incorporate these things, we can make such a profound difference in our movement and overall health. Once again, our bodies crave movement, they do not crave sustained positions. 

Reach out for a 15-minute FREE discovery session to see how we can help you on your journey.

For more content, make sure to subscribe to my YouTube channel here.

Other things that may interest you:

IS YOUR GUT PREVENTING YOUR WEIGHT LOSS?