Tag Archives: health

Completing a Pilates Hundred Challenge

Ever wondered how it feels to complete your “Pilates Hundred Challenge” with us? Pilates Pod client Pete Summerbee explains how it helped him on his journey to fitness:

“Well as my 100th Pilates class of the year has passed, I wanted to reflect on the year I hit 43 and the approach I took to fitness.

I wanted to get fitter in 2015 and started the year with Dry January as well as a target to reach 100 Pilates classes by the end of December. My other target was to lose a stone but that seemed a pipedream, more of that later.

The alcohol bit was really easy, a lot of tonic water, and ever since then my relationship with alcohol has really changed. I still enjoy it but rarely have it – once a week maybe.

Not a lot happened for the first month weightwise and then I tweaked my diet – porridge, honey and chia seeds for brekkie and homemade veg soup for lunch, cut out the sugar and a lot of junk. (Still have junk food Friday nights though!) With this combined with the Pilates the weight dropped off and I toned up too. I am also a bad carb freak and won’t touch lots of foodstuffs but I now love brown rice and pasta.

The Pilates classes got easier, even though I don’t know left from right and have no co-ordination some days. The classes and people are great fun and I have never been fitter, lighter or healthier plus I have muscles where I never knew I had muscles. I put it down to a combination of watching food, sugar and drink intake (not dieting), a lot of walking (my tip is get a dog),the Pilates and the great team at the Pod. There is always laughter in the classes, however that might just be my classes!

The other day for some weird reason a group of us (outside of class) had to show whether we could sit down and stand up without using our hands, I was the only one who could. It is easy for me now.

What else has happened? Well I have done a Pilates display in public (which was great fun but scary. There was so much noise going on that none of us could hear our instructor Ellen and it is hard to watch what someone is doing when you are doing a cat stretch and trying to figure out the next exercise) and I’ve also taken part in a photoshoot for the Pod. There should definitely be an out-take section on the website, that’s for sure.

Overall I am loving Pilates and feeling really fit. Going to try to fit in more yoga as well as cycling in 2016.

Oh yeah and about that weight loss – 2 stone 7lbs at the last count!

So how is 2016 going? Well I hit the big 44 and by the time you read this post I’ll be on my 56th class of the year, working towards my second Hundred Challenge, what a great idea where did that come from?! I’ve completed another Dry January and I am healthier than I have ever been and I put this down to the Pilates. I now do a range of different classes and levels as well as really getting into my yoga. I’ve found having less alcohol is easy and I’d advise you to go for quality over quantity once or twice a week

I’m still enjoying the Pod, the journey, I’ve even been to my first baby shower and guessed the size of the bump. I’ve never felt healthier, loving life and 99.99% sure that will be training to be a Pilates teacher in September.”

Thanks Pete for sharing your experience.

I’m having a baby! What to expect in the 1st Trimester and exercises to help

Congratulations! You’re having a baby! 

Well, me too, so snap! This is my second child, my first is 5 years old and now I am 19 weeks pregnant with number 2, so I know what you’re going through.
baby on board
What’s the 1st Trimester of Pregnancy 
0-12 weeks of early pregnancy is known as the 1st trimester and a time to establish a routine. Every woman’s body is different and each pregnancy is individual. 
The focus for exercise in the 1st trimester establishing a good routine that will see you through your whole pregnancy, to help you stay active and strong in pregnancy, because let’s face it, it is hard work on your body and for a looooong time! But even more importantly, what you do now during pregnancy, sets up good preparation in your body to help you give birth naturally, with an ideal alignment of baby inside you and with to make the “job” a little bit easier. (she laughs at the word “easier”)
It’s also about pre working on returning to shape and recovery after baby is born, as the investment you make now in your body will help facilitate  this time later to be that little bit easier too.
Early pregnancy is not the time to work too hard. You may be feeling tired, sick, have some weight gain, an increase in the need to go to the loo, breasts become larger and more tender and hormones are all over the place. Avoid overheating in exercise, don’t worry about working out too hard, things may be a struggle for you at this time even though you don’t have a huge bump yet. It’s a time to realise what’s going on in your body is pretty major and amazing and listen to it.  In these early days, baby is doing it’s important forming so let’s give it some thought and chill out a little more on the vigorous stuff and start being mindful of the creation inside you, your changing body and respect the changes.  The 2nd trimester is the time where you can up your efforts so leave that for then.
Creating a good awareness focus on your pelvic floor muscles is key right now. They take a lot of strain over 9 months of pregnancy with the weight of a growing baby, as well as that extra effort during natural delivery. Learn what the pelvic floor muscles are, how to keep them both strong and flexible. We need the “bounce” in our muscles as well as the tightness so remember it’s not all about pulling up, up up down there!
Keep your movements controlled, slow and mindful, remembering to support the lax ligaments that occur in pregnancy from the hormone Relaxin by strengthening the muscles and ligaments that support around the joints.
Pregnancy is not about being wrapped up in cotton wool either! It’s a demanding effort on mum, and you need to be strong, active and healthy to cope with the demands. So although it may feel like a time to sit back, eat tubs of icecream and attend antenatal exercise classes where you only breath and then eat cake, come on ladies, invest in yourself! Strong and supple legs, back, core and pelvic floor are the order of the day so let’s keep active moving forward in our pregnancy… more on that later in our 2nd Trimester blog.
The stages of a baby
What exercises are good for the 1st Trimester?

Natural alignment of the pelvis– important for facilitating a correct birth position and so you know a benchmark of the “norm” when later it naturally starts tilting forward.

Extension of the thoracic spine– you want to work on extension of the (mid-upper) thoracic spine for later prevention of the inevitable roundness that occurs, to support the weight of the growing breasts, to maintain a good upper body alignment and to help with lower back support. This area becomes increasingly stiff as the lower back becomes more mobile.

Flexion of the lumbar spine and oblique strengthening– gain mobility of the lower lumbar spine to strengthen and stretch the back muscles. It’s important to learn how to activate, strengthen and stabilize with the deep abdominals known as the Transvere Abdominisius, along with the Obliques, which helps prevent the destablisation of the rectus abdominus which may cause abdominal separation known as Diastasis Recti, and to help stablise the pelvis and aid with lower back ache.

Focus on pelvic floor toning and stretching– the pelvic floor muscles need toning and stretching to work naturally as a support system against the weight of a growing baby bearing down on them. This is important during pregnancy, to assist and guide baby out in delivery and to regain their control after, helping to avoid those little “leaks” that can be common. Pelvic floor muscles should be worked with breathing exercises and functional movement so it’s not about just squeezing your bits aka Kegel, but making them work during normal movements like a squat.

Breathing– breathing is great as a relaxation tool  and will not only help you engage your deep ab muscles and pelvic floor, but help you relieve stress and stretch tight mid back muscles. As baby gets bigger inside you, your organs get squashed, and the added hormones too, make breathing a little bit harder to do, so focusing on your breath is a great way to bring back some focus to this area.

Finally, it’s often nice to get out and meet other mums to be. Doing a specialist prenatal Pilates or yoga class during your pregnancy will get you to meet other like minded women, who can share support with how you are feeling and in our classes, the ladies make friends and often have babies around the same time so you’ve got an instant network of new mummy friends! Please note we only recommend continuing with Pilates in your 1st Trimester if you have been doing so before you became pregnant. Otherwise, wait for your 1st scan, check all is ok with the baby and with your pregnancy and join in from 12-13 weeks.

Oh, it’s ok to eat the occasional tub of icecream too! (mine’s the salted caramel one!)

Look out for part 2- The 2nd Trimester…….coming soon!

Written by Michelle Smith
Owner, The Pilates Pod and mum of 1 (and a bit!) kids!
www.thepilatespod.co.uk

Top tips for preventing back pain in the workplace

It’s reported that 3 out of 4 people have back pain in their lives and 85% of those are undiagoned, meaning there is no specific medical reason why.
SO WHY?!

chained to the desk

Do you ever feel like you’re chained to the office desk?

Considering how much of your day is spent at work, you’re probably right for thinking so! Plus it’s reported 4 out 5 British workers eat their lunch at the desk so we really are chaining ourselves to the desk!

The office environment presents all sorts of physical stresses on the body.   Monitors too low for your eye-line, chairs too high or too low, phones stuck between the ear and shoulder, RSI and shoulder strain from repetitive typing without correct support, wrong lighting causing eye strain…. shall we go on?!

But one of the biggest problems we face is sitting down all day, and lets face it, most of us leave work and go home to sit all evening on the sofa! This long period of inactivity causes the spine to:

  • Slouch and gradually compress against gravity
  • Adds strain to the lower back
  • Forces the mid back to overly round and tighten the chest and weaken the back support muscles
  • Pushes the head further further, adding to neck strain, headaches and increasing load added onto the spine.
  • Shortens and tightens hip flexors
  • Weakens the important abdominal core muscles
  • Reduces space for the vital organs

So what’s the solution?

I quit quit1

Ok, maybe not! But thankfully it is possible to make a few changes that will reduce the time and how you sit at your desk and improve your back pain.

  • Swop your chair for a stability ball. Posture is greatly increased by working your core stabilising and back muscles as you sit on a ball, as well as been shown to lead to better circulation, upper body mobility and less beck and joint pain.
  • Get a raised desk and do away with the chair at all! LinkedIn staff did this and saw a 50% reduction in back pain from not sitting down!
  • Ensure typing is done with wrist support resting on the desk. Awkward positions when typing can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome.
  • Get a hands free set for your desk phone. No more holding the phone between your ear and shoulder which causes neck and shoulder pain. Plus hands free means you can stand up and walk around more so less time sitting down.
  • Get a grip!  We’re losing our grip power as most things we do is by finger touch. Building up grip strength by making and tightening a fist (without tightening your shoulder and neck) will exercise the forearm and the small muscles in the hands, reduce the effects of typing RSI  and carpal tunnel syndrome and give you great toned triceps too!
  • Wiggle at your desk. if sitting still is the enemy, then have a little wiggle. Circle your ankles, flex and point the toes for improved circulation- do the same in the wrists. Stretch your neck by tipping your ear to your shoulder, circle your shoulders, lift your chest up to the sky and lengthen your spine, circle your pelvis like a clock to move the lower back.
  • Counter balance the effects of desk working by doing some Pilates regularly. Move well every day with some forward bending, side bending, twisting and back bending/extension will go a long way to helping to reduce the effects of sitting down all day.
  • Make the tea! Getting the teas/coffees in for your team will not only get you out of the chair and moving your spine but it’ll also make you more popular too! We suggest you use the handy colour chart to get the right strength of your colleagues favourite brew… mine’s a Builders Brew!

what's your strength brew?

You may also be interested in the following related  blogs:

 

Written by: Michelle Smith
Director, The Pilates Pod
www.thepilatespod.co.uk

Optimal nutrition for the over 60’s

The term ‘senior citizen’ no longer evokes images of blue rinses, zimmer frames and beige polyester clothing. Baby boomers are seemingly more healthy and youthful than ever, enjoying active and energised retirements. Just think of some of our most fabulous, glamorous ‘seniors’ like Helen Mirren,and Tom Jones who like a fine Bordeaux, seem to get better with age.
Helen Mirren

By 2050, for the first time ever, the world population will have more people over age 65 than children age 5 and younger. Baby boomers (those born post 1946) are therefore are more important and significant generation than ever before and will impact our socio economic climate for years to come.

Despite their increasingly youthful appearances however, researchers claim baby boomers are at risk of more disease than previous generations, triggered by their increasingly sedentary lifestyles and poor nutrition. Despite apparent improvements in medicine, healthcare and standard of living, today’s 60 years olds are less healthy than their immediate predecessors. Age related illnesses such as diabetes, arthritis, Alzheimer’s and cancers are more prevalent than ever.

However such illnesses do not have to be an inevitable part of growing old. With good nutrition and lifestyle there is no reason why you cannot maintain great health into the winter of your life.

During our lifetimes our nutritional requirements do change quite significantly. It is therefore important to make sure that your diet is tailored specifically for your advanced years.

It is a popular belief that over 60’s require less calories, however they actually need more of certain nutrients than younger adults. As we age, our body becomes less efficient at producing and absorbing certain vitamins and minerals.

greensI
In theory we should get all vital nutrients from our food, but this can be a challenge for even the healthiest among us. Changes in farming techniques mean that foods are simply not as nutrient dense as they once were.
A good quality supplement is therefore recommended at all ages, but especially during older age. As with many things in life, you get what you pay for so avoid cheaper vitamins from the supermarket that are full of fillers, and invest in food state vitamins from brands such as Cytoplan. A specially formulated multivitamin for over 50’s will ensure you get the complete spectrum of vitamins and minerals.

Alzheimer’s

Alzheimer’s is a concern for many, and by 2025 there will be 1 million people in the UK living with the disease.

The Mind diet advocates 10 foods which they claim reduces the risk of alzheimers by 35%. This includes green leafy vegetables, nuts, berries and whole grains. It is advised that red meat, cheese, margarine, pastries and sweets are avoided.

Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis (meaning porous bones), is a common concern for over 60s. This degenerative disease occurs as bone density decreases, increasing risk of fracture. Post-menopausal women are particularly prone to the disease due to increased oestrogen production. Your doctor will no doubt recommend a diet high in dairy to prevent osteoporosis. However dairy is not the best source of calcium. It is highly acidic, and mucus forming, and most humans cannot digest the lactose it contains properly, which leads to conditions such as asthma and eczema. The body needs magnesium in order to absorb calcium so supplementing with calcium alone is not enough.
It is therefore a good idea to eat a diet rich is calcium and magnesium rich foods such as cruciferous vegetables like kale and broccoli. Sardines are also calcium rich and have the added bonus of containing B12 that is a key nutrient for brain and nervous system health.
Exercise and muscle strengthening also helps prevent the osteoporosis. For best results, aim for 30 minutes of exercise five times a week.

Vitamin depletion

Vitamin D depletes with age and there are only a handful of foods that contain it. Fish such as tuna, mackerel, salmon and sardines are all good sources of the vitamin. For vegetarians, vitamin D sprays are a simple way to supplement your diet.

Vitamin B12 absorption

Aging decreases the body’s ability to absorb B-12 in the small intestine, which may lead to a deficiency. The Institute of Medicine advises that over 50’s supplement synthetically with a good quality supplement.

While it’s true that our body’s change as we age, illness and disease is not inevitable. Eat a nutrient dense diet, made up of whole natural foods and keep sugar, caffeine, dairy and gluten to a minimum.

juice
Recipes

Smoothies and juices are a fantastic way to supplement your diet.

These easy recipes are packed full of essential vitamins, minerals and enzymes.

Supergreen Juice- Bursting with essential minerals such as magnesium which maintains normal muscle and nerve function.

2 medium apples
3 celery stalks
½ cucumber
½ thumb of ginger
½ lemon
½ lime
2 cups spinach or kale

Wash and juice all contents, removing pith of lemon and lime before juicing

Simple Superfood Smoothie

Rich in fibre, vitamin C, K, vitamin E, B6 and potassium, as well as packed with plant based protein, this smoothie is a great way to start the day.

½ avocado
1 pear
1 tspn chia seeds
1 tspn hemp seeds
1 glass of coconut or almond mylk

Blend all ingredients

For more information, contact naturopath nutritionist Amy Huggins
Health & Happiness

Hahlogo

Do your ironing to lose your mummy tummy

When I was around 20 years old, a man came up to me in a nightclub and asked me how I got such a flat belly, his wife didn’t have one anymore!

At the time I was rather proudly sporting a flat tummy and slight six pack, neatly presented in a figure hugging hot pink dress that would have shown all lumps and bumps. Of course, disregarding the obvious retort  of “you shouldn’t be so cheeky about your wife, you’re not looking so hot yourself you know!” I promptly replied about my gym loving, ab crunching lifestyle.

Course what I now realise is the secret to my flat tummy was youth!
Despite binge drinking, take away loving and late night partying, I could still rock up to the gym and do a few gym ball exercises and a spot on the treadmill and my metabolism would forgive me.

Fast forward another decade and I had my son.  I think I put on about 2.5 stone (though never actually been a fan of the scales so didn’t really weigh this properly) I expect the sudden love for mars bars didn’t help the weight gain but I kind of expected my pre child days to spring my body back.

I’d been doing Pilates by then for about 8 years and it was a life saver when it came to back pain through my pregnancy and got me delivering Dylan with some impressive pelvic floor pushing.  8 weeks after I had him I thought it was time to get serious about getting into shape again so the food plans started, the exercise was upped and the workout at home with baby Pilates happened. I was really excited at the thought of my flat belly returning.

mummytummy
One day when getting dressed, I noticed a line on my tummy that hadn’t been there before. Shock horror it was my “mummy tummy.” The leftovers from the sagging skin, dropping belly that once so hugely held my son inside. This now rather depressing sight drooped over my lower belly like some sad reminder of my old days passed!

Now I know some of you will be thinking that these lines, stretch marks and flabby bits are a love reminders of the wonder that is pregnancy and the memento of your child arriving into this world. But me, I just wanted my old flat belly back! I love my child, but going from luscious locks, perky boobs, healthy skin and a flat toned body, into a sad sack tummy, spotty flaky sallow skin, empty booby sacks and hair that refused to grow except in random  places  making me look like a devil. This was not good.

It took about a year before I started feeling like me again properly. The boobs changed so many times I couldn’t keep up with repeat bra changes, the stretch marks faded (annoyingly I forgot to use Bio Oil on my boobs so this was the only place i got them) the hair grew back, my skin perked up but my tummy has never quite been the same.

A more desperate woman  would have gone crazy with the ab crunches in a quest to squash the mummy tummy, and probably would have choked on her tea reading this when I say it was a year before I started feeling myself again. I know these celeb mags are always proudly pointing out the ladies back into the bikini after 3 weeks from giving birth, but it’s unrealistic for most of us.

iron your tummy

My secret weapon to feeling me again in the tummy department are the pelvic floor muscles. When you activate your pelvic floor, you co-connect with your deep abdominals called your transversus, or what I like to call your “super iron”. This is a wrapping muscle that goes around from front to back, giving you pelvic and lower back stability but the really great news for us mummy tummy phobics, it’s wraps and flattens your tum! Doing proper Pilates exercises with mindful awareness to this pelvic floor/transversus connection makes a podgy saggy mummy tummy, lift and flatten away like the best flattest, crinkle free ironing service.

No matter how hard you try to “crunch” away your belly, you will only make it worse and possible lead to abdominal separation if you do that too soon without building a good foundation inside.

Have I got the perfect belly? No not by a long shot. Since having a child, it’s never ever been the same. BUT I am never going to be wearing a crop top in public again, I prefer tankinis over bikinis and the only people who see me naked are me, my husband and my child. So I’ve learnt to live with that accept it. But after trying a pair of ‘hold me in belly’ Spanx and finding that I can hold my mummy tummy better myself AND more comfortably without feeling like my insides have been choked.

I am now ditching the Spanx for more “ironing!”

P.S- Guys if you’re reading this over her shoulder, the same secret goes to you. get “ironing” if you want to improve your beer belly!

man belly

 

Written by Michelle Smith
Director, The Pilates Pod. Mummy to Dylan age 4yrs old.
www.thepilatespod.co.uk

 

 

 

 

 

 

The man, the legend and his creation

“Physical fitness is the first requisite of happiness.”

Do you buy that? Smart words you might think?  These are the words of Joseph Pilates, the creator of the Pilates method. Except back in  the 1900’s when he devised this fantastic system of movements, it was called “Contrology” (only later becoming Pilates after his death)

So let me just get this right… Pilates was created by a man?
How many men do you know these days who do Pilates or even less, how many teach it? Yet the system was originally created by a man and taught to hundreds of men. And not just “a” man, Joe was a man’s man!  A cigar smoking, beer loving, womanizing, man!

Joseph Pilates (1883-1967) always claimed that he was far ahead of his time with his system of exercises and he was right. In the early 1920’s he started his first studio in New York City, but today Pilates is known internationally as a key staple exercise and movement programme. Not a fad that came and went, not a wishy washy airy fairy exercise, not something that didn’t make you break a sweat, but a system of carefully controlled (hence the name Contrology) flowing movements designed to return you to life. It’s no wonder then that his (second) book in 1945 was named just this “Return to Life through Contrology”  (his first book was “Your Health”)
These days the Pilates method is taught and practiced by millions of smart cookies all over the world, who’ve cottoned on to the fact that this Pilates thing will make your back feel strong, your whole body feel toned, your vitality and energy increase, make you stand taller, walk and move easier….. basically it will make you feel fan dabby tastic!

Joe based his concepts for Pilates on having a balanced mind, body and spirit and took some of his inspiration from the early Greeks. He studied scientifically and experimentally into what upset the balance of these things.  Sleep, posture, stress, technology all played a part in his research.  You might not even know that much of Pilates work was outside of the actual exercise system we now know and love but that he also had his views on how we should sit on a chair, sleep in our bed, and built furniture to help us get this balance.
He believed in correct breathing being the basis of it all, as it is in life. Adding in body movement and mechanics, spinal flexibility and physical education.

Quite simply Pilates is a method of exercise designed to bring about balance in your body through strength and flexibility. If the body is restored to balance, it can move effortlessly without strain.  Most of the time, we are completely unaware of these stresses and strains being added to the body, causing us to be out of balance. Until it’s too late and the injury sets in to the point of letting us know about it. An ache or niggle here, later leading perhaps to more pains and a trip to the osteopath or doc.

Sure, doing Pilates will, as Joe wanted, return you to life and restore your imbalances once you have them. But imagine if you will a life where doing Pilates meant you didn’t get the imbalances in the first place?! That’s what’s it’s all about. It’s functional, basic movement. Strength training, flexibility training, body balancing.

You can (and should!) use it to help your sport improve, to get you out of back pain, to prepare your body for motherhood, to deal with the physical demands on a young developing body, or to managing the issues we face as we get older. It’s perfect for everyone; male and female alike.

In Pilates we refer to a “two way stretch” That’s one of the really cool things about it, you are always focusing. As one part of your body strengthens, the other side is stretching. Imagine in a gym, you’d have to use two machines for that. In Pilates, just the one exercise will do both! As your body becomes stronger, it also becomes longer = flexibility and strength! Winner!

We focus on the inner workings of the body, what some refer to as the “powerhouse” or “core.”
The deeper muscles of the body can’t be seen but can still be felt, and it’s these smaller postural muscles that help us with proper alignment whilst we go through our everyday movements. An imbalance in these muscles means we can’t work as efficiently, we are more likely to injure.  Time off work, time off the sports pitch, time off picking up the grandchildren for a cuddle. Do you want that?

But it doesn’t stop there! Pilates is a full body exercise. You use your brain to move your body so it’s great for the grey matter! You simply don’t have head space to think of the shopping when you’re doing Pilates, so a natural stress reliever.  We also use the limbs; our arms and legs, so you’ll be getting them stronger too.

In fact, Pilates as a class may help you in the studio, but just think of the all the benefits it gives your whole life outside the class room! For a full Pilates experience, you should also be using the equipment such as the “Reformer” to really condition the body, but it’s so easy to start with just you and a mat, anywhere, anytime.

And what’s not to like about that?! Just be sure your teacher knows a bit about what they are talking about!

For more information on Pilates, check out www.thepilatespod.co.uk

 

 

Are we a nation of pill poppers?

“The one thing that is taking up GP’s time is those arriving with back pain.”doctors waiting room

That was the view in the Cambridge News recently, reporting on how we are a nation obsessed with the control of pain and the taking of pain relief. We’ve all done it- reached for the headache tablets when our head is pounding and thanked those little white pills for sweet relief when it’s gone. But what happens the next day and the day after that when the same headache comes back?

A recent study from The Lancet journal has revealed that paracetamol is no better for back pain than placebo. With 26 million people suffering from back pain in the UK, that’s a pretty big number of people reaching for the bathroom cabinet supplies and keeping the pharmaceutical company rich!

Of course there are people who’s lives and conditions rely on medication, we’re not talking about those here naturally. But have we become reliant on the “quick fix” of those little tablets to get us through back, neck or headache pain on a daily basis?

Deal with the cause and not the symptom

From a previous life coping with back pain from a car accident, I know too well of the joy  you feel from re-occurring visits to the osteopath where your back is temporarily “fixed” only for it to spring back again a few days or weeks later and rely on that fixing again. Or to manage the pain with Tens machine and medication that was offered to me with the NHS. Do you want to spend your life like that? I got fed up relying on someone or something to “fix” me and started looking for ways to manage myself and that’s when the lightbulb moment happened.

lightbulb moment

Sure, that’s dealing with the symptoms, but what is the cause?!

In my case the symptoms were back and neck pain, spinal stiffness from being locked up on impact and muscular spasms. But the cause (obviously we know the car accident was the culprit) was that my spine was no longer in alignment, my neck was too far forward, my mid back twisted and locked up, my lower back and pelvis had been trying to cope with this imbalances and caused pain.
After the initial physio help and no help from the Tens machine, I invested in Self Management Tools, better known as Pilates!

It’s really important to get your spine checked out. A good osteopath or chiropractor won’t just look at the symptom (tight hamstrings, sore shoulders etc) but look at the whole spine and realign your spine and pelvis into it’s optimal position, allowing your muscles and joints around it to then work freely and without restrictions. But without some sort of “management tools” to help keep your spine and pelvis aligned, this trip back to the docs or osteoapth  can be a frequent (and expensive) reoccuring one!

For me, once a week doing Matwork lead to 3-4 times a week on both Mat and Reformer and guess what…

magic wand Hey presto, the magic happened!

I was moving my body again in all directions; forward flexion, side bend, rotation twist and backwards extension and feeling supple. I got stronger in my centre and core, my glutes starting working and the pain disappeared. My body started to help itself!

At first I didn’t realise it, but after a couple of weeks I began to think “hang on a minute, my back hasn’t been hurting like it usually does!” and then I realised what I’d been doing differently- Pilates!

But it’s not really magic is it, it’s just a bit of common sense.  Pilates isn’t a magic pill but it’s sensible, controlled movement. Pilates is exercise, exercise is movement, movement is what makes us feel better!

Move often, with control, stability and mobility. Stretch, strengthen, feel better!

And you can look forward to chucking those pills in the bin!

For more info on how Pilates can help you, see www.thepilatespod.co.uk

Osteopath’s thinking… Back Pain- why do we live with it?

Back Pain, why do we live with it?
The statistics are scary, 80% of adults will at some time experience debilitating back pain. As if that’s not bad enough then most of that 80% can look forward to recurring episodes. This can lead to cycles of treatment with your therapist of choice and or popping pills in order to deal with the pain.

back pain

Rather than dealing with the underlying causes many people fall into a cycle of coping with their episodes of back pain and though this may be all circumstances allow us to do in the short term in the long term it could be compounding the problem.

As an osteopath the low back pain patients I see fall into two groups:
• Patients in acute pain who have regular treatment until their symptoms subside
• Patients in acute pain who once their symptoms are under control continue with regular
maintenance treatments.

It’s easy to say that the second group are perhaps making the more sensible choice but we all have different demands on our resources, be this time or finances and for some patients the boom and bust cycle of back pain treatment is the only viable option.
For many people this coping mechanism is what gets you through the rough times but it’s not a great long term solution for many reasons.

What both groups have in common is the factors that contribute to them being in pain are usually similar an unholy trinity of poor movement patterns, leading to imbalanced muscles that act unevenly on the joints of the body resulting in wear and tear and strain.
This is not an easy fix as our movement patterns are difficult to change, especially when people become fearful of movement triggering pain. In many cases the amount of tissue damage that has occurred in order to trigger a painful episode is vastly out of proportion to the acute pain or immobility that can result.

For example the tearing of a few fibres of a ligament will cause an inflammatory response. This is the body’s natural response to any injury. One of my tutors described the area of the injury as becoming like a politician: swollen, painful and useless!
Inflammation begins to subside after 72 hours and this is where movement becomes an essential part of the healing process. As the tissue repairs collagen fibres will start to be laid down around the injured area. If the area is immobile this will happen in a random pattern and the resulting scar tissue could end up restricting movement in the future exacerbating the muscular imbalances in the area and leading to further problems with joint dysfunction.

If the injured area is passively moved through a pain free range of motion during this time then the collagen fibres will organise themselves around these movements and the resulting scar tissue will be far less restrictive with a greater chance of returning to normal movement patterns.
The fear of movement can persist long after the injury has calmed down. This can make people very wary of moving, the very thing that their body is designed to do in order to heal and setting in place the potential for further injury.

pills pills and more pills

Popping pills as a way to cope with back pain also has it’s drawbacks as a long term solution. The over the counter remedies easily available to us typically contain a class of medications known as non steroidal anti inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDS. The NHS Choices websites states that a common side effect of prolonged NSAIDs can be indigestion and stomach ulcers, further adding to your woes.

 

So far this is all pretty depressing but take heart, you are after all reading a Pilates blog and in my next piece I’m going to tell you just why I think Pilates is so fantastic for back pain.

no pills, just Pilates- thanks Pilates Nerd for the image Image by Pilates Nerd

Written by London Osteopath and Pilates instructor, Jon Hawkins
www.freerangepilates.com
Guest blogger for The Pilates Pod