Is Your Knee Pain A Pain In The Butt?

Is Your Knee Pain A Pain In The Butt?

If life did not bless you with the best knees or hips in the world, don’t stress! Sometimes the sports we play or jobs we do have a negative impact on our body. We all know someone who has suffered from knee problems. It might even be you. One muscle that can impact your knees is a muscle you may not have considered. If you’re seated and reading this then you are using this muscle right now because you are sitting on it! This muscle, technically known as the Gluteus Maximus, is our biggest muscle in our body. This muscle helps to cushion us when we fall on our backside and propel us as we walk. Sometimes this muscle can actually be the cause of your knee pain.

This may seem weird to some, because the knee is so far from the hip. The truth is that the Gluteus Maximus attaches to the top of your hip bone, right on the side. The muscle doesn’t stop there, it actually becomes a tendon and continues down to the outside of the knee. So if someone stands on one leg, juts their hip out or even sits with their knees touching they could develop a knee issue.

We see a lot of runners who come to the studio for knee pain, but also people that sit for hours at work without taking any meaningful breaks to move around and relieve some tension.

Focusing on the Glute Max region releases muscular tension that can be influencing the hips and knees, giving you the best chance to crush your next run, ride or whatever gets you moving! It can even make those long work days a little more pleasant. 

Low Back Pain + Your IT Band

Low Back Pain + Your IT Band

One of the most common reasons clients come to our studio is to find relief from lower back pain. We see this in clients who sit at desks all day, as well as clients who are very active either training for a race or maintaining a rigorous workout schedule. The origin of this pain often stems from the IT Band and the glutes. The IT Band, also known as the iliotibial band, runs lateral to the quads (the outside of the thigh). This band runs from the iliac crest, which is part of the pelvic-hip complex (as shown below) and around the outside of the knee. The knee is the most common place people think of when they hear the words “tight IT Band” – but the low back is just as common an area to be affected.

If you take a look at the study of movement, muscles work in conjunction in order to facilitate movement by pulling on the bone; everything within the body is somehow connected. Therefore, anything that is misaligned or tight may cause an improper movement pattern somewhere else in the body, altering proper function.

If there is tension in the IT Band or gluteus, they begin to pull on adjacent muscles within the complex of the hips, notably the Quadratus Lumborum (QL’s). The QL muscle is technically an abdominal muscle but it has tremendous impact on the lumbar region of your lower back.

The IT band provides stability at the hip during lateral movements. Other muscles that stabilize the hip includes the gluteus medius and the quadratus lumborum (QL). As the IT Band tightens due to injury or overuse, friction will cause a downwards pull of the gluteus medius and the QL, causing the upper body to laterally bend a few degrees to the right. Even a slight pull on the lumbar spine could potentially compress the nerves and lead to pain and even greater neuromuscular problems later in life.

How do we approach this in the studio? We begin with an assessment by performing various stretches on the client. First, we test the hip flexors and the muscles of the quads to determine whether these muscles contribute to the lower back pain. From this point on, we turn to the IT Band and test its range of motion. Often times the IT Band contributes to tightness in the gluteus medius. Tightness in this muscle creates tension within the rest of the gluteus muscles. After stretching the gluteus muscles, we make sure to check in with the client to see how they are feeling after the series of stretches. The last piece within this series is to target the Quadratus Lumborum. Since the QL has several attachments into the spine, we make sure to perform a light and smooth stretch in order to allow the client to relax on the table and prevent the nervous system from protecting the muscle. Once the nervous system has relaxed, we see incredible results from the stretch,relieving a great amount of tension within our client’s lower back. We then re-asses by testing the range of motion of the IT Band and see how the client feels when they get off the table. As they start walking around the studio, they experience notable relief in their lower back and improvement in their gait.

Lower back pain affects so many people – yet every body is different. Treating the whole body is key to finding the source of the pain and finding the path to relief and recovery.

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Unwind Your Poor Posture

Unwind Your Poor Posture

Your posture affects everything you do in life, work and sport. The way we move, or don’t move, through our day has lasting effects on our body. Here are the 5 main areas of which you should be mindful, to minimize the chances of poor posture impeding your day and your ability to be active.

Chest/Biceps 

Rounded shoulders are usually one of the first indications of poor posture and some muscular imbalance in that area.  Oftentimes, this will suggest that the chest, or pectoral muscles, and the biceps are tight.  Shoulders that are rounded forward towards the front of the body shorten these muscles, causing tightness. Daily activities that may cause this include typing at a computer while sitting at a desk or carrying a backpack heavier than it should be.  Great stretches to help lengthen these muscles include the doorway stretch pictured below, and child’s pose. 

Hip Flexors 

Most people are surprised to learn that their hip flexor muscles play a vital role in posture, as they connect the torso to the legs, aiding in spine stabilization. Tight hip flexors often reveal an anterior pelvic tilt, meaning the pelvis is rotated forward and the spine exhibits added curvature.  The shortening of these muscles, as well as an excessively curved spine, will cause the upper body to be shifted forward.  A sedentary lifestyle or sitting for prolonged amounts of time may cause this tightness.  To help decrease tension in the hip flexors, make sure to get up and walk around if you find yourself sitting for an extended period of time. 

Quadratus Lumborum (QL) 

A tight quadratus lumborum, or QL, is often the source of low back pain and an anterior pelvic tilt.  The Q Lis located in your lower back on either side of the lumbar spine. It starts at your lowest rib and ends at the top of your pelvis. Much like the hip flexors, a tight QL can be the result of sitting for long periods of time, sedentary behavior, and weak core muscles.  Strengthening the core muscles and stretching the QL through back rotations will help correct this imbalance by bringing the pelvis and spine back to a more neutral position. 

Latissimus Dorsi (Lats) 

Are tight lats affecting your posture? Tight latissimus dorsi, or “lats”, can be easily observed during a postural assessment. Look at yourself in the mirror: Is one shoulder higher than the other? If one side of the torso appears shorter than the other, the side that appears shorter is tighter.  This imbalance can be caused by carrying a bag on only one side of the body. By carrying a bag on one side, the lats on the other side will start to compensate and shorten for the unilateral added weight. Favoring leaning to one side more when sitting will also cause tension on that side’s lats.  Make sure to properly stretch both side lats during the day. If a shoulder bag is being used, make a conscious effort to not overstuff it so that the spine can stay aligned, and alternate carrying on your left and right side. The stretch pictured below is one of many to target this area, and is a fan favorite amongst our clients.

Neck 

Stiffness in the neck muscles will also cause a shift in posture.  In today’s technology-based society, it is easy to find ourselves looking down at some sort of screen, whether it be at a monitor in the office, or a phone on the commute home.  This repetitive stance of looking down causes the muscles in the front of the neck to tighten and the head to protrude forward, placing it out of line with the spine.  Bringing any electronics in use to eye level, as well as making a conscious effort to sit up straight, will aim to prevent this imbalance. 

Good posture takes practice and mindfulness of how you carry yourself throughout your day. Better posture leads to a better, more comfortable life.

SUBSCRIBE TO LYMBR ON DEMAND to get access to self-stretches you can do anytime, anywhere to supplement the work you do in the studio and keep your posture in check! Members get this free, non-members get the first month free. 

Written by, Emma Younghans and Ariel Scheintaub.

3 Simple Yet Effective Stretches For Your Calf Muscles And Ankles

3 Simple Yet Effective Stretches For Your Calf Muscles And Ankles

It’s the height of summer and we’re running more miles, playing more sets, and getting in as many rounds of golf as we can. Are you preparing your body for the demands you’re placing on your muscles and joints?

Every activity involves demands on your lower leg. Below the knee, we have multiple muscles that allow us to push off, jump, change direction and make explosive movements. The calf muscles below the knee include the gastrocnemius, which is the large, two headed muscle that’s primary function is running, jumping and pushing off, while it also helps flex the knee joint, hence its size. The gastrocnemius is a type I muscle fiber, meaning it is responsible for explosive movements. The other muscle that comprises the calf is the soleus. It aids the gastrocnemius yet is utilized more in walking and less explosive movements as it is comprised of type II muscle fibers. Since it is a smaller muscle, it only acts at the ankle joint. The gastrocnemius and soleus muscles come together towards the ankle joint and create a band known as the Achilles tendon. It is crucial to understand that these muscles are very susceptible to injury if exposed to sudden movements and contractions.  

Since the lower leg is such a sensitive area, injuries due to quick and explosive movements can take a long time to recover from, depending on the severity. We have all heard of the dreaded Achilles tendon tear, one of the most painful and hardest injuries to fully recover from, however a calf strain or tear can also be very painful. When an injury like this occurs, people describe the feeling of a pop or even the sensation of being kicked or shot in the leg.  

One of the ways to help prevent this from happening is a to make time for a thorough warm up and cool down. The stretches laid out below show how to stretch each part of the calf with these gastrocnemius and soleus stretches, which will help protect the muscles and surrounding tendons. It will also greatly reduce the risk of ankle injuries. Note: when performing these stretches, each time do one set with the foot pointing straight forward, one with the foot turned in while keeping the knee tracking forward and one with the foot turned out and keeping the knee tracking forward. This will also stretch the medial and lateral aspects of the muscle.  

DISTAL GASTROCNEMIUS  

Distal gastrocnemius – With the band double wrapped around the top of your foot, start with your toes relaxed. Lie flat on the ground with your head supported by a pillow and your non-stretching leg bent next to you. From here, aim your toes towards your shin and use your arms to pull the band for an additional stretch. Gently keep moving through the stretch for 2-3 seconds and relax. Do 3-5 reps on one side and repeat on the other side. Perform 1-3 sets on each side. If you are doing the stretch before your activity, use a slightly quicker tempo and if you are stretching after, use a longer tempo. Tip: lying flat is imperative to the specificity of the stretch. If you are sitting upright, it will not target the correct area of the muscle. 

PROXIMAL GASTROCNEMIUS  

Proximal gastrocnemius – With the relaxed leg out straight, double wrap the band around your stretching foot, getting as close to your toes as possible without the band slipping. Lie flat on the ground with your head supported by a pillow and your non-stretching leg bent. With your leg out straight, point your toes towards your shin and pull the band to get an additional stretch. Gently keep moving through the stretch for 2-3 seconds and relax. Do 3-5 reps on one side and repeat on the other side. Perform 1-3 sets on each side. The more flexible you are, the higher your leg can remain straight. Do not concern yourself with how high your leg is, focus on keeping it straight. If you are doing the stretch before your activity, use a slightly quicker tempo and if you are stretching after, use a longer tempo.

SOLEUS 

Soleus – sitting on a chair with one foot up and one foot relaxed, take both hands and grab around the middle of your foot. Point you toes straight up and use your hands to help pull upward. Have your leg bent to a comfortable angle, not all the way and keep your heel on the chair. Gently keep moving through the stretch for 2-3 seconds and relax. Do 3-5 reps on one side and repeat on the other side. Perform 1-3 sets on each side. Again, If you are doing the stretch before your activity, use a slightly quicker tempo and if you are stretching after, use a longer tempo. 

The next time you plan your run, match or round, be sure to add time before and after to stretch so your body can see you through and perform at the level you expect.  

Is Your Body Travel-Ready?

Is Your Body Travel-Ready?

Get the most out of every day when you travel this summer.

Whether you escape to the beach or tour a new city, don’t let the effects on your body from your travels, impact your ability to dive right in to your well-deserved summer vacation. Learn what happens to your body while you travel and a few tips and posture changes to help avoid and relieve common aches and pains during your journey.

What does travel do to your body?

LOW BACK
When we travel, we are likely sitting for hours on end, whether driving in a car or traveling by plane. Your posture may start out fine, but over time, we become more prone to slouching, causing the lumbar spine to be unsupported.  If this pattern of slouching continues, we start to form a new posture, causing misalignment in our bodies and putting stress on the joints and muscles. Tension will be increased in the low back muscles. Stretching these muscles will help increase mobility in the lower back, lessening any acute or chronic pain an individual may have there.

If you have to lift a heavy bag, keep it close to your body to protect your back and keep your core tight while you are lifting. If you are flying, practice proper sitting posture in the airport while waiting for your flight. Sit up tall, lengthen your spine, and pinch your shoulder blades back. Wherever you are traveling to, it is a good idea to support your low back by placing a rolled-up towel or small travel pillow between you and the seat. Practicing good posture will enforce good posture, preventing your low back muscles from stiffening beyond comfort.

SCIATICA
We see clients in the studio complain of a tingling or shooting pain from their back down their leg after getting back from a trip. Oftentimes this may be a case of sciatica. Sciatica can be a symptom of other back issues, in which pressure is put on the sciatic nerve. Such pressure may cause pain radiating from the back and glute muscles down the leg. The muscles most heavily affected by sciatica are the piriformis, glute, and hamstring muscles.

Before heading out, plan a visit to the studio for some low body stretches. Stretching the piriformis and hamstrings as in the video below, will reduce the tension of those muscles, lessening compression on the sciatic nerve. 

HIP FLEXORS
Hip flexors connect our pelvis and thighs, and when that angle is decreased when sitting, the muscles will tighten up. When you’re seated for hours during travel, that tightness increases greatly. Tight hip flexors will overstretch the glutes and hamstrings, making them harder to utilize once you reach your destination. Having hips that are too anteriorly or posteriorly tilted will also cause a pulling of the hip flexors, which may lead to discomfort in the knees and low back.

It is important to maintain proper posture while sitting, as slouching or sitting with the knees up toward the chest will cause added tension in the hip flexors.  Try to get up and walk around during your travel so that the muscles are not flexed the entire time. When you stop for food or bio break, take 5 extra minutes to walk around and stretch. Stretching the hip flexors, especially after a long flight or car ride, will alleviate the tension and restore the muscles to their proper range of motion.

SHOULDERS
Carrying bags are obviously necessary for travel. Heavy backpacks will place stress on the shoulders and low back.  When carrying a single shoulder bag, our bodies will favor one side, causing the other side to compensate in movement and posture. Muscle imbalances that are not corrected will often cause discomfort in the neck, shoulders, and back. Although we may assume a shoulder bag only affects the muscles of the upper body, lower extremity muscles, like the hips, will also become imbalanced due to this shift in posture.

Using a rolling bag for luggage will lessen the stress of carrying bags. If you do use a two-strap backpack, make sure not to overstuff it, and adjust the straps so the load does not lie too high or too low on your back. If you prefer a single strap bag, switch shoulders every 20 mins to even the load.

NECK AND SPINE
Sitting upright for long periods of time when traveling will affect the neck and spine. Usually neither area will be properly supported while in this seated position. The head and neck will shift to get comfortable, or while trying to sleep. If the back or neck is leaning to one side, that side will be shortened and should be stretched. Looking down at any phone, tablet, or book during travel will cause the front neck muscles to tighten, while the muscles in the back of the neck and back lengthen.

Use a travel pillow to support the neck while traveling. Stretching all of the neck and upper back muscles will allow for proper alignment of the neck and spine and reduce any soreness in the areas that may have been slept on improperly. These stretches can be done from your seat or once you reach your destination.

Before you head out for your vacation, plan some time in the studio to get your body travel-ready. Subscribe to LYMBR On Demand so you can get access to self-stretches anytime, anywhere. And book a relaxing session for when you return!

Safe travels!

Written by Ariel Scheintaub, LYMBR Stretch Therapist