Cold Days, Stiff Bodies

As the cold days of winter start to add up, you may start to notice pain and discomfort in your body. This is a natural and very common occurrence this time of year. When our bodies start to get cold, the first thing we do is hike up our shoulders, round our back and bury our chin. Even while sleeping, we curl into a ball in hopes that we will get that satisfying warmth. And chances are, you are not moving as much as you do in warmer weather.

In colder weather, our nervous system activates changes within our bodies to help regulate body temperature. Vasoconstriction occurs, where muscles tighten to constrict blood vessels throughout the body. Less heat reaches the surface of our bodies and in turn our core temperature can remain steady for our vital organs (Homeostasis).

Our bodies adapt to the positions that they are put in and the conditions they are exposed to. Over time, our muscles will shorten and become stiff.

Having a rounded back and shoulders, along with a protruded chin places a lot of stress on the upper back and shoulders. Stretching the muscles in the neck, upper back and shoulders which all support the cervical and thoracic portion of the spine, provide a lot of relief. Muscles like the trapezius, levator scapula, sternocleidomastoid, and rhomboids. These muscles are also very important for maintaining proper posture. After having these muscles stretched, people often feel taller and more open, and feel relief from pain and stiffness.

Temperature plays an important role in the way your muscles contract. It’s a lot more difficult for muscles to contract in cold weather as opposed to warmer conditions. The temperature affects how easily oxygen is released from hemoglobin to the muscle. In colder weather, the rate that oxygen is released is slower. Which means there is less oxygen available for the muscle, causing the muscle contraction to be difficult. This is where stiffness is felt. Oxygen intake is very important, as it is what fuels the muscle.

By regularly stretching with good form, you are promoting efficient blood circulation. The circulating blood provides oxygenated rich blood and nutrients to the muscle. This fresh blood is what is needed for the muscle to have proper function, strength, and flexibility.

Another way to increase your oxygen intake is to get more exercise. Be sure to warm up with active stretches and movements first. Injuries like muscle strains happen more often while exercising with cold muscles. Active stretching helps blood circulation to the muscles and warms them up.

Let’s continue to stay active and avoid poor movement patterns in the upcoming winter months. This can be achieved by warming up before exercise and properly stretching. Stay warm and BeLYMBR!

Written by, Michael Eaton. Michael is a Stretch Therapist and Asst Manager in our Darien, CT studio.

Stretching For The Active Aging

For many of our therapists, the work they do is not only professionally rewarding, but personally rewarding as well. Shakeem Fowler of our Darien studio shares how LYMBR has made a difference in the life of someone very important to him.

We all have that one relative who just can’t move like they used to. An uncle who used to be agile as a fox can no longer look to his left or right without turning his whole upper body. Or mom who was an active runner all her life but now needs help getting in and out of the car. There is no denying it, our bodies experience wear and tear as we age.

For me it is my grandmother who used to be that one-woman army in the household. She did everything from trimming the hedges in the spring and shoveling her driveway in the winter, to taking the dogs out for a run at 6 o’clock in the morning. She defied all standards for what people her age are expected to do but it was only a matter of time before father time caught up to her. She developed osteoarthritis and had to undergo surgery for knee replacement in both of her knees. Now tasks that required no second thought or energy, such as picking up a piece of paper off the ground or tying shoelaces, were difficult and strenuous on her body.

She has gone through physical therapy multiple times in attempt to regain her flexibility and strengthen the muscles surrounding her knee to be able to do the things she was able to do prior to having her surgery. She made progress, however, she was nowhere near her flexibility goal of touching her toes, and nowhere near the level of independence she wanted and was used to. On some days she even needed a grappling device to pick things up that had fallen. There was still something missing, until I introduced her to LYMBR.

Prior to beginning her personalized stretching sessions, she was only able to extend her hands just beyond her knees in a standing position. I worked with her 3 times a week for an hour at a time focusing on her entire lower body chain. In our first session, I found that the reason she was having limited flexibility was due to tightness in her hamstrings, calf muscles and her lower back. By week 3 she was able to not only extend past her knees but able to grab on to her ankles. As we progressed with her range of motion we incorporated more stretches targeting muscles that pull the legs back towards the midline of the body, such as the adductor muscles. By doing this we were able to gain mobility in more directions rather than just neutral, front to back, which in turn promoted better balance as well. By week 5 she was able to touch her toes and was on track to regaining her independence.

I will continue to work with her so that she is able to maintain her range of motion and enjoy the independence that comes with her acquired flexibility.

We don’t know how valuable the elasticity of our muscles is in so many day-to-day activities until we lose mobility and are faced with that lingering thought, “I should have taken better care of myself.” Like so many people, we tend to think that once we lose flexibility in our joints, that range of motion is gone forever. Here at LYMBR we challenge that misconception and evoke a new quality of life through active engagement of the mind and body through safe and efficient personalized stretching.

Written by Shakeem Fowler. Shakeem is a Stretch Therapist in our Darien Studio.

STRETCHING MYTH: When muscles are flexible around a joint, you will get injured.

The idea that tight muscles perform better is a common misconception.

In order for muscles to perform at their best and protect a joint, they must not only be strong, they must be flexible. It doesn’t matter how strong your muscles are around a joint, if they lack flexibility you risk imbalance and injury.

A strong muscle has the ability to lengthen and shorten at an adequate rate while acclimating to the forces placed on it. When the muscle is tight, it lacks the ability to fire properly due to poor adjustments to tensions being placed on it. When a muscle fires incorrectly, it causes a chain reaction throughout the entire body, throwing off your balance, posture and functional ability.

When a muscle lacks flexibility, it also restricts your joint’s range of motion, decreasing mobility, and creating muscular imbalances around that joint. In all sports and activities, proper form is imperative for maximum results and to prevent injury. Proper form can only be achieved if all the muscles that are involved in the movement are healthy and flexible and able to meet the demands being placed on them.

A tennis player came to see us complaining of recurring elbow bursitis. After evaluation, we found that her bursitis was a result of tight muscles surrounding her elbow joint. This tightness caused a friction force to be applied to the bursa, inflaming it. We stretched the muscles that surround her shoulder and elbow in order to increase blood flow and decrease pressure in the joint. After two sessions with our stretch therapist, the client reported that her pain was 100% relieved. Now that her elbow joint is more mobile, and the muscles are able to fire properly, she is able to play multiple sets without the added stress on her bursa.

Continued sessions with us have helped her to decrease tension forces in her elbow, increase mobility, enhance her posture and improve her tennis form and performance. She is now able to play longer and stronger without pain. Regular stretching sessions have taken her game to another level.

Stretching and Weight Training: A LYMBR stretch therapist and personal trainer’s perspective.

Strength Training continues to grow in popularity, more now than ever. It’s no wonder considering the many benefits – an increase in muscle size and strength, the ability to help maintain a lower body fat percentage, stress management, and, of course, the benefits we see in the mirror.

The last thing you want is for all that hard work at the gym to set you up for injury or pain down the road. If you make regular stretching a part of your fitness routine, you will greatly reduce that risk.

An avid weight trainer who focuses on upper bodywork came to us with lower back pain. A postural analysis was performed and it was identified that his shoulders were rounding forward. The anterior side (front) of his upper body became tight (overactive) due to the weight training, and the posterior chain (back) of the body became weaker (underactive).

The cause? Strength training shortens the muscles and creates microtears on the tissue during a workout. These microtears are caused by the tension placed on the muscle from using weights. Through this process, the length of the muscles is shortened, and over time, the more these fibers remain shortened, the more prone you became to injury and compromised posture.

The physiology of the body is very good at seeking equilibrium. The body will always seek a balance in which the body creates a stable environment. But in our client’s case, this new stable environment came at a cost. Rounded shoulders created an imbalance within the mid-line of this body, creating an improper posture. And thanks to gravity, the weight-bearing lumbar spine had to support more weight due to the slight protruding head that comes with rounded shoulders, resulting in lower back pain.

Stretching the muscles of the anterior portion of his upper body helped him regain better posture by lengthening the appropriate muscles. As the muscles lengthened, the rounding in his shoulders decreased. As his body found its new, more efficient equilibrium and his posture improved, the pain resolved as the pressure was taken off his lower back (primarily his Latissimus Dorsi).

We are often asked, “what is the best set of stretches for weight lifting?” The answer – there is no specific stretch regimen. It all depends on each person’s body blueprint, and what they need according to their overall assessment. Whether you’re a beginner, moderate or frequent gym member, every stretch protocol is different.

Our sessions helped him to better understand how his body works and how to be conscious of when his body is in need of a stretch. His workouts are more effective, his movements are more efficient, his training can progress, and he will reduce the risk of further pain or injury.

Written by Noah Moore. Noah is a Stretch Therapist in our Darien Studio.

Stretching For Golf

The golf swing is one of the most complex and beautiful motions in all sports. It utilizes the entire kinetic chain to transfer forces from your feet through your hips and back, to your shoulders and hands. The spiraling golf swing is truly a full body movement. We have clients come in sharing that golf is doing a number on their body – making them feel older than they are, and by the end of the season they are really hurting. Assisted stretching can make a big difference, as long as each client is evaluated for their individual needs.

If we look at common ailments that sideline golfers we see overuse and low back issues topping the list. Overuse injuries are just what the name indicates, and often easily preventable. Overusing an area, simply put, is performing motion, stopping, and performing the action again and again. The stopping and resuming occurs between shots, between holes, between rounds and between days. Every time a muscle gets warm, which occurs during frequent use, it eventually cools down. During the cool down phase the muscle contracts. Without any activity to restore length muscles will get incrementally shorter. Some players may feel discomfort after their first round while other players can go weeks even months before feeling something. Including stretching to keep you muscles long and your nerves relaxed at any time is helpful to prevent injuries.

Every part of the body is involved in a golf swing, yet not everyone swings the clubs or hits the ball the same. Because everyone is different there are specific stretches for each person. The differences in swings cause the body to brace and store impact forces differently for each of us.

Therefore, the entire body should be considered and considered on an individual basis. We see two very common areas that clients see relief from; stretching the hip flexors and adductors which greatly increase the golfer’s drive, and stretching the low back which relieves tightness and pain. These finer details are what a stretch therapist highlights for you to keep you out on the course, competing in tournaments, and getting the most out of your season.