Stretching for the Mom-To-Be

Stretching for the Mom-To-Be

We all know about the importance of stretching, but how does a pregnant woman benefit from stretching regularly?  A  woman’s body goes through  so  many changes  when she is pregnant, from physiological  changes to anatomical changes, to allow for her baby to grow.  A mom-to-be  must  juggle these changes along with her busy life and stresses at work.   Proper stretching can help make this incredible journey a little easier and a little more comfortable.

The two changes that every woman experiences during her pregnancy are weight gain and breast growth.  With each passing month, the body naturally changes  its  center of gravity because of the increase in her anterior load – the extra weight being carried in the front of the body.  This shift causes many other shifts in her body:

  • The head sits more forward
  • Her shoulders round forward
  • The back curves forward
  • Her knees can become hyperextended
  • Her feet may become pronated

These changes and compensations trigger not only a gait and posture  change but can also cause  musculoskeletal  pain.  The most common pain associated with pregnancy is back pain mainly due to the change in the curve of her spine or sway back caused by the change of center of gravity.  The sway back can cause the muscles around the spine to tighten in order to stabilize the pelvis.  Other common pains are knee, hip, and joint pain. These could be caused by a combination of ailments: relaxation of the joints from hormonal changes, swelling, fluid retention and weight bearing.

Stretching these areas – shoulders, chest and lower body, will alleviate the  pain, help correct her posture, increase blood flow, and release toxins.  

Stretching will not only aid in pain relief  but also will help the mom-to-be to relax.  Stretching promotes blood flow and flushes out toxins.  Along with the increase in blood flow comes an increase in oxygen circulating throughout her body, giving her a much-needed boost in energy.

Leah Goldglantz, creator of Leahsplate.com and also a LYMBR ambassador, added personalized stretching to her routine during her pregnancy.  Leah started getting stretched at LYMBR around the beginning of her pregnancy for lower back pain, tight neck and shoulders. Not only did stretching help her with musculoskeletal pain and release muscle tension, it also helped her to relax and reduce stress.  She said: “It was very good, mentally, for me during my pregnancy.”

When a woman’s body is properly aligned during her pregnancy, it makes a big difference when the baby arrives. Bringing her new baby home with a body that feels balanced and limber makes it easier to spend hours carrying, changing and feeding her new bundle of joy. We often recommend that new moms visit us after they’ve settled in with their new family so we can make sure the imbalances are in check and mom can focus on the joy of motherhood. There are new sets of challenges that arise with caring for a newborn, which we will cover in a follow-up post.  

Written by Julie Diaz. Julie is a Stretch Therapist in our Tribeca studio.

This blog is written for information purposes. Please consult your physician prior to scheduling an appointment at LYMBR.

Graceful and Active Aging

Graceful and Active Aging

Our bodies are designed to be very efficient and active. Yet as we age, our physiology changes. The aging process causes a decrease in bone density, skeletal muscle mass and a change in our movement patterns. Even a slight change in movement pattern could lead to muscle imbalance. Changes in muscle balance can affect the position of your joints at rest and during movement. We are also inclined to lead a more sedentary life. Muscles become used to these new positions that come with less movement, altering their length and flexibility. A study released in PubMed Central regarding Age-Related Physiological Changes stated, “degenerative changes occur in many joints and this, combined with the loss of muscle mass, inhibits locomotion.”

As these new limits are put on our bodies, we tend to avoid doing the things we used to love because the movements are more difficult, and we lose a bit of confidence in what our bodies can do. Proper stretching can keep you moving as you age and give you a better chance of more mobility, balance and enjoyment out of life.

Stretching has many benefits to the physiological changes that our body experiences as we age:

  • Relaxes your connective tissues and lengthens the muscles close to or at their original length. Thus, gaining muscle balance – the proper length and flexibility of muscles surrounding a joint.
  • Increases your flexibility which improves your movement patterns. Improved flexibility also improves energy levels and efficient blood flow throughout the rest of the body, supplying the muscles with re-oxygenated blood and nutrients.
  • Corrects muscle imbalances which is a result of aging due to loss of elasticity in our skeletal muscle mass.
  • Improves joint range of motion due to tight muscles from altered posture and a more sedentary lifestyle.
  • Reduces tissue trauma that may further lead to inflammation and muscle spasm.
  • Reduces risk of injury as movement patterns, balance and confidence improve.

One of our regular clients has made stretching part of his new routine. Over the years he suffered many injuries and suffers from back problems. Coming to the studio several times a week has led to tremendous improvements in his back and his overall mobility.

Ask anyone who is in the aging category and most will tell you they wish they could get more out of their bodies. It’s so important to keep moving, and to keep moving you have to care for your body to fight back against father time.

Written by Noah Moore, Stretch Therapist in our Darien CT studio

LYMBR Golf – Get Ready for Golf Season

LYMBR Golf – Get Ready for Golf Season

As winter comes to a close and spring tries to make an appearance, golfers in the northeast are eager to play their first round. If you are fortunate to play year-round in warmer weather, chances are you have many rounds under your belt, with many more to come.

Is your body up to par?

Every golfer knows the importance of a finely tuned swing and the need for flexibility, yet their body often resists.  The golf swing is one of the most complex motions in all of sports. It uses the entire kinetic chain to transfer forces from your feet, through your hips and back, to your shoulders and hands. It’s no surprise this motion can take a toll, causing sore muscles, and often injuries from overuse.

The primary objectives of the golf swing are to produce maximum distance, be accurate, and be in control through every phase of the swing. To do this successfully with less risk of injury, proper strengthening and proper mobility and flexibility are key. We designed LYMBR Golf – a stretching and strengthening program to keep golfers strong and limber.

Golfers perform a lot of repetitive motions and do so for long periods of time. During the backswing, muscles like the quadriceps, glutes and obliques are activated in the hips and core. When these muscles are working together properly, the latissimus dorsi and pectoralis muscles can efficiently be stretched at the top of the swing to the full position of the backswing.

During the downswing, the quadriceps, psoas, obliques and glutes are a couple of the major players responsible for creating hip stability, hip extension, and internal rotation. Speed in the golf swing is created through rotation. You can’t rotate efficiently if you’re tight and off balance. The pectoralis muscles and latissimus dorsi generate force and energy that will travel to the forearms. The forearms are very important to the swing as they will affect your grip and can be a factor in your drive ending up in the center of the fairway or in the rough.

In the follow through phase, muscle groups like the core and rotator cuff muscles take charge in deaccelerating the body after maximum power is generated. This is very taxing on the body and with the proper stretching and strengthening program put in place, these muscle groups can be conditioned to perform at a high level. Keeping these muscles in good shape will also aid in injury prevention.

The strengthening part of our LYMBR Golf program uses a series of resistance-based exercises to target these muscles that are so high in demand. Our therapist acts as a resistance force through a series of guided movements, keeping your body properly aligned during each movement. Resistance is applied to help achieve full range of motion in both flexion and extension movements.

Flexibility is equally important for a good golf swing – and many golfers come to us feeling like they don’t have enough of it. The most common areas we treat with our golfing clients are the low back, hips and shoulders. Long days in the office during the week sitting behind a computer while having to endure a lengthy commute, often hinders many. Maximal rotation in backswing and downswing is hard to achieve if your hips are locked up from sitting. Often, these muscles are tight and underused which will directly affect your swing and the way you feel swinging. It’s crucial to correct muscular imbalances and tightness before compensation occurs, throwing off the entire chain.

In order for your newly strengthened muscles to perform at their best, they must also be limber. For example, if you have strengthened your hip flexors to help power your swing load and turn, but the range that muscle can go is limited, so too will the power you hope to generate with that motion. When your hip flexors are able to assist in a full and smooth rotation, the power behind your swing will be optimal. This is true for all the muscles that fire in unison when you set your tee and hope to drive the ball down the center of the fairway.

Tiger Woods is a prime example of healthy play versus non-healthy play. We’ve seen him play like a well-oiled machine and we’ve also seen him end his day very early. A few years ago, he talked about not being able to activate his glutes and thus leading to low back pain. There are several reasons this could have happened. Possibly compensation of weak or underused glutes, poor posture or compression of nerves to name a few. These are things that can happen to anyone if the proper preventative measures are not taken.

Getting ready for golf season or trying to improve on your current season takes a lot more than going to the range and hitting buckets of balls. You will get a lot more out of your game if you invest in a program designed to hit all the major muscles involved in the swing. The right program will keep you limber, strong and playing as much golf as you wish to play.

Written by Michael Eaton. Michael is a Stretch Therapist and Assistant Manager in our Darien Studio.

Learn more about LYMBR Golf.

3 Main Types of Stretching

3 Main Types of Stretching

We all know, or at least have heard, about the importance of stretching. Whether it is to improve your athletic performance, for general health and wellness, or to relieve pain and tension, stretching can be the answer. The real question is what kind of stretching should we be doing to get the best results. When it comes to stretching, there are three main techniques: static, dynamic, and ballistic stretching.

Static stretching is what typically comes to mind when talking about stretching. It is a form of active or passive stretching in which you hold a position for about 30-60 seconds, allowing the muscles and their connective tissues, fascia, to lengthen. This is the most commonly known style of stretching and has been seen as the status quo for years. This style of stretching may not be the best way to improve performance before physical activity. Using a static stretching program prior to engaging in physical activity may inhibit the muscle’s ability to fire properly. The primary reason for this is a reduction in muscle tension and an increase in length between resting muscle fibers. These two factors alter the length-tension relationship of the muscle, causing a decrease in muscle excitability. This in turn can directly affect the muscle’s ability to optimally function. Think of the tension in a rubber band. When you stretch a rubber band and hold that tension for a long period of time, you cause the rubber band to increase in length but lose the stored energy. The band’s tension is what allows the band to be functional. Our bodies rely on similar forces to propel us forward during a run, or allow us to jump high during a sport like basketball. If we overstretch our muscles, this inhibits elasticity, which inhibits our performance.

Dynamic stretching is a form of active stretching that is performed by engaging the desired muscle’s antagonist through the joint’s range of motion, only holding the stretch for 2-3 seconds. Because the stretch is only held briefly, the muscle is able to increase in length without a reduction in muscle tension or muscle excitability. By preventing the reduction in muscle tension, an individual is able to improve their range of motion without a loss in force production. Dynamic stretching is the style utilized by the therapists at LYMBR. This type of stretching is also referred to as a dynamic warm-up, which athletes use to prepare their muscles for the rigorous demands of their sport.

Ballistic stretching is the most controversial form of stretching. Unlike dynamic stretching, ballistic stretching utilizes muscle activation through quick, jerky movements. This inhibits the body’s stretch reflex and increases the muscle’s range of motion through the force created by the bouncing. The extra external force produced can overload the muscle, increasing the risk for potential injury. Because the high risk of injury does not outweigh the benefits of the stretch, most fitness professionals do not recommend using this style of stretching.

When looking at the three different styles of stretching, we can see that they can all be utilized to increase range of motion. Static stretching is the more well-know style and is commonly used for general stretching, but can inhibit muscle excitability, making it unappealing to people active in fitness and athletics. Dynamic stretching increases range of motion while maintaining muscle tension, making it useful for general stretching, fitness enthusiasts and athletes. Ballistic stretching can increase range of motion quickly, but has a higher risk of injury than other effective techniques. We all know we should stretch – stretching safely and effectively will help you reach your health and wellness goals.

In our next post, we will expand on our proprietary form of dynamic stretching called Progressive Dynamic Stretching.

Written by Rick Charron. Rick is a Stretch Therapist and manager of our Newton, MA studio.

Pose Longer, Run Farther, Feel Better

Pose Longer, Run Farther, Feel Better

You may feel that life did not bless you with the best knees. Whether you feel discomfort during a yoga pose, a run, or just moving about day to day – there is chance that a muscle a little higher up is the culprit.

The Gluteus Maximus and commonly known as your glute, is the biggest muscle in our body. This muscle helps to cushion us when we fall, externally rotate our legs, and propel us as we walk. This muscle can also be the cause of your knee pain. The Gluteus Maximus (one of three glute muscles) attaches to the top of your hip bone, right on the side. The muscle doesn’t stop there, it becomes a tendon and continues down to the outside of the knee. If this muscle does not have adequate flexibility, it affects the entire chain down the leg to your knee. So if someone favors one leg, juts their hip out when they stand, or habitually crosses their legs, they could develop a knee issue. We also see problems with athletes such as runners and with people that spend long hours sitting at their desks.

Working on the Glute Max and surrounding muscles releases muscular tension that can be influencing the hips and knees. Releasing this tension can give you the best chance to hold a longer pose, run a little farther, or move more comfortably through your day.

Keep Your Shoulders LYMBR Without Limitations

Keep Your Shoulders LYMBR Without Limitations

Frozen shoulder – if you’ve ever had it, you know how debilitating it can be. You may feel fine one day, then the next you attempt to put on your coat and you can’t reach behind your back without pain and stiffness.

Frozen shoulder or adhesive capsulitis, is a musculoskeletal condition that causes pain, stiffness, and limits the range of motion in the shoulder, making it difficult to elevate your arm, and decreasing the external rotation of your shoulder. This condition can greatly limit your ability to play your favorite sport like golf or tennis, limit your ability to practice yoga or workout at the gym, and just as importantly, limit your ability to perform simple daily tasks like putting on your coat, reaching up high to put something away, or even washing your back.

The exact incidence and prevalence of frozen shoulder is unknown, but it affects approximately 2% to 5% of the general population and mainly adults 40-65 years of age, with more cases appearing in women. The condition usually starts with one shoulder and commonly affects the opposing side years after the onset of symptoms in the first shoulder, but it does not affect the same shoulder twice.

Performing stretches on the isolated muscle is crucial to gaining and maintaining normal range of motion of the shoulder joint. We focus on the four rotator cuff muscles that surround the shoulder joint. But there are other muscles associated with shoulder elevation and rotation that are often overlooked and must be stretched as well. Some neck muscles like the Trapezius and Levator will be stiff on the same side of the affected shoulder. Also, part of the back muscles like the upper Latissimus play a role in shoulder rotation and depression of the shoulder. Stretching these areas as well will increase greater range of motion rather than focusing solely on stretching the shoulder joint muscles.

There are regression and progression stretches that can be executed depending on the severity of the frozen shoulder. Since the condition can affect both shoulders, our practice is to stretch both sides.

While it may be tempting strictly from a comfort standpoint, one thing to avoid is decreasing shoulder movement in the affected shoulder. Consistent stretching and strengthening exercises can get you to use more of the shoulder and greatly benefit in improving range of motion and thawing out that frozen shoulder.

Written by Morrida Chhan. Morrida is a Stretch Therapist and Manager in our Boca Raton studio.

Cold Days, Stiff Bodies

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

Stretching For The Active Aging

For many of our therapists, the work they do is not only professionally rewarding, but personally rewarding as well. One of our therapists 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.

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

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.

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.