Preventing Neck Pain While Working

Preventing Neck Pain While Working

After a long day of sitting in your chair, staring at a computer, do your neck and spine feel stuck? Whether you are still working from home at a less-than-ideal setup, or back at your office, chances are your posture is suffering from long hours at a desk. Are your shoulders rounded forward, leaving you wondering why your neck hurts? 

We know that poor posture can lead to neck and back discomfort, but coupled with incorrect equipment and workplace stress, this is a recipe for pain. Straining your body all day during work will decrease productivity and minimize your capacity for mental concentration. Both physical and mental stressors increase activation of the upper trapezius more than any other neck muscle. According to The Journal of Electromyography and Kinesiology, studies suggest that the upper trapezius muscles are activated by psychosocial stress independent of changes in concentration or posture. The Journal explains studies done by University of Colorado’s Physical Therapy Program comparing the effects of mentally challenging computer work performed with and without exposure to a psychosocial stressor on neck muscle activity and posture. The cervical flexor and extensor muscles however, do not experience a change in activity when adding workplace stress. It is important that we know the specific area that is being overworked in response to stress so that we can stretch that muscle and keep it relaxed throughout our day. Taking breaks in between work may be hard for you, so these practical tips will alleviate neck and back pain WHILE you work.   

1. Keep your neck from straining forward for prolonged periods of time 

  • Raise your screen to eye level 
  • Change your font to your eye’s preferred text size 
  • Lead movements with your eyes more than your whole head and slouching with your shoulders and neck 
  • 20/20/20 rule: look at something about 20 feet away every 20 minutes for 20 seconds at a time 

2. Reset your postural habits 

  • Lean back in your chair, rest your shoulders directly over your hips, keep your chest open and feet flat on the ground 
  • Adjust your screen and chair to an appropriate distance apart without compromising your new seated position 
  • Avoid pinning your phone between your shoulder and head while multitasking 

3. Break up the stiffness from staying still all day

  • Incorporate movement during work (i.e. walking during calls, our CEO is famous for doing this!) 
  • Stretch! Take 6-8 seconds in every rep. Perform 3-5 reps on each muscle. After a brief break (up to 10 seconds) you can perform a second set! 

*As you stretch, remember to exhale during the stretch and inhale as you come out of the stretch. This will help you see the most progress in your range of motion with each repetition.  

Move as far as your body will allow by itself before using assistance. This will allow for a more functional and impactful session.  

Below are some stretches you can perform to improve your posture and relieve pain: 

Neck Extensors 

Bring your chin down toward your chest and release back to neutral position. Try with your hands behind your head, adding light assistance. 

Neck Flexors

Start leaning forward to disengage the muscles that hold your head up, resting your elbows on your knees. Leading with your eyes, look up towards the ceiling. Keeping your mouth closed and teeth together will allow for a deeper stretch. 

Try taking your elbows off your knees and use either your fingers or palms to assist at the end of your range of motion on your forehead.  

Scalenes 

Sitting upright with your head facing forward, gently bring your ear down to the shoulder. Try bringing your hand to the top of the head to provide light assistance towards the end range of motion. Keep your opposite shoulder down. 

Levator Scapula 

Turn your head 45 degrees away from the stretching side (or until your chin is slightly outside the knees). Bring only your chin and head forward toward your chest.  Bringing your hand to the back of your head, perform the stretch and provide light assistance at the end of the range of motion.

Trapezius

Turn your head 45 degrees towards the stretching side. Bring your ear forward and down toward your chest. Perform the same stretch with your hand on the top of your head, bringing your elbow down toward the floor.  

Back Flexion 

Sitting toward the front of your chair, tuck your chin toward your chest and reach your hands in between your knees, down to the floor. If you can, reach your hands towards the back legs of the chair or pull on your own legs to add assistance. 

Thoracic Extension 

Place your hands on your knees for balance. Extend your back, lifting your breast bone, head, and eyes to the ceiling. Try to arch your spine during this movement, be careful to not just lean back in the chair  

Pecs

Start by placing one arm against a wall edge or door frame. Keep your elbow straight and palm against the wall with the arm at shoulder height. Pinch the shoulder blades together. Engaging the back muscles inhibits (turns off) the pec muscle. Turn your shoulders away from the wall. 

Written by Cierra Chamberlain, LYMBR Stretch Therapist.


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References:  
Bahar Shahidi, Ashley Haight, Katrina Maluf, Differential effects of mental concentration and acute psychosocial stress on cervical muscle activity and posture, Journal of Electromyography and Kinesiology, Volume 23, Issue 5, 2013, Pages 1082-1089, ISSN 1050-6411, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jelekin.2013.05.009 (https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1050641113001235)  

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.

Not local to one of our studios?

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

Stretching For Baseball – It’s A Whole Body Approach

Stretching For Baseball – It’s A Whole Body Approach

There isn’t a single muscle that isn’t tested when it comes to the sports of baseball and softball. Every aspect of these games is both mentally and physically demanding. The mental aspect demands that players have a wealth of knowledge and strategy about the game i.e. pitch selection, hitting for contact or power, knowing when to steal, etc. However, if your body is not flexible, mobile, stable, and strong, then a high baseball or softball IQ will only get you so far. At LYMBR, we hope to assist fellow baseball and softball players in their recovery and performance by mobilizing muscles, joints, and tissue involved in the three movements of the sports: swinging, throwing, and running. 

THE SWING

When you swing a bat you use a multitude of muscles to complete the swing. These include but are not limited to your deltoids, infraspinatus, wrist pronators/supinators, psoas, hip rotators, lats, pecs, etc. However, the function of any and all successful swings begin in the same place: the hips. Bat speed, point of contact, and how far that contact will go is determined by the rotational force of your lower body. It doesn’t matter how strong your upper body is, you will never be able to hit it as far as someone with better lower body rotation. The muscles listed above are consequently lengthened and shortened to complete the motion of the swing. If even one of those muscles is tight from overuse, stress, injury, or over-sitting then your ability to produce optimal swings mechanics is negatively impacted. The likelihood of this is fairly high since you’re doing this multiple times a day, every day, for years on end, and muscles will adapt to the length and motion you’ve made it comfortable with. It’s repetitive action, and it’s one of the most common muscular adaptations we see at LYMBR. By stretching out the back, shoulders, hips, wrists, and forearms we relax your connective tissues and lengthen your muscles back to its original length. This creates muscle balance. Swinging a bat at a tiny ball moving between 60-100 mph is hard enough without a tight, imbalanced body. 

PITCHING AND THROWING

At its most base, you’re just playing catch with your teammate. However, pitching and throwing at its heart is primal, ruthless, and steeped in strategy. You must understand pitch variance, changing your delivery times, hitting your cut-off man from the outfield, or whether or not to risk the far throw to home. What sets great arms apart from good arms is the overall comprehension of the throw itself. This is another motion dictated by the force production of your lower body. We are using similar muscles that we used in the swing such as the hip flexors, hip rotators, rotator cuff musculature, deltoids, lats, and wrist pronators, pectoral muscles, quads, glutes, hamstrings, and the muscles responsible for flexion in your back. If these muscles are tight or deconditioned, then they have a higher chance of misfiring creating a much higher probability of injury. By loosening these muscles, we improve the range of motion of the joint and associated muscles. This allows the joint to move in it’s normal range, rather than a limited range created by repetitive movement or overuse. This will reduce tissue trauma, inflammation/ lactic acid build up, or spasm. By increasing the range of the joint, we allow for proper motion which will reduce injury prevalence. When it comes to pitching, whether it be baseball or softball, sustainability is the name of the game. 

RUNNING

Running is undervalued in softball and baseball. Often for a good reason. This sport is highly technical and extremely strategic. If you are a power hitter with a cannon for an arm and a very high baseball IQ, then running and speed is not a prerequisite for greatness. However, a decent majority of baseball and softball players are not power hitters with cannon arms, and use speed as a way to get on base, make tough plays in the gap, and allow for more ground to be covered in the infield. Most of the athletes we see at LYMBR are not solely athletes. They’re students, they’re kids, they’re hunched over A LOT, and very rarely do we find they have proper posture. Improper posture will lead to a pelvic tilt either anterior or posterior. When our pelvis is not aligned with the rest of the body, force production from the legs will be drastically cut. By realigning the pelvis, we put our legs in proper position for power and force. This could be the difference between a stolen base and an out, a double play and an error, or a diving catch and a face plant. Baseball is not an endurance sport so to speak.

The games can be grueling and tiresome, but the movements are usually Quick and explosive, followed by periods of rest. These quick movements can become problematic if the muscles responsible are tight or unconditioned. It will increase your chance of injury, and your central nervous systems response to the play will be slower. By stretching out the muscles responsible for running like the psoas, IT band, calf, glute, hamstring, and ankle muscles we can improve flexibility which will increase blood flow, energy levels, and provide more oxygenated blood and nutrients to your body. Stretching also primes the central nervous system for movement, so the quickness at which you respond during activity will subsequently increase. 

The winter months were long with the lingering cold, the biting wind, and the decreased access to outdoor activities, especially with the pandemic. But spring is here, which means that sports like softball and baseball are in full swing. A sport that combines physical activities such as swinging, throwing, and running. Activities that, without optimal flexibility, mobility, stability, and strength could cause a season ending, or career ending injury. If you’re ready to start your season now, if you’re ready to create the most efficient version of yourself, if you’re ready to reduce injury and increase performance, then please join us at one of our LYMBR studios. 

A Note from an injured ball player: Listen to your body, if something doesn’t feel right, please get yourself checked. Take one game, or one season off, rather than dealing with an injury for the rest of your life. It takes 4-6 minutes to stretch your shoulder, and rotator cuff muscles to prevent injury and inflammation. Inversely, it could take up to 4-6 months,often longer, for a full rotator cuff recovery. Do the math, take the time, talk to experts, and take care of yourself. There is nothing more demoralizing than hurting yourself on the field, and never being able to come back from it.

Written by Conner Fritchley. Conner is a Stretch Therapist in our Darien studio, a LYMBR Academy Instructor, and he played High School Baseball.

The Best Stretches To Warm Up For Golf

The Best Stretches To Warm Up For Golf

“Warming up” is by far the most overlooked part of physical exercise and movement, particularly when it comes to the game of golf. This tends to happen for a multitude of reasons, but for the most part I think it’s the general excitement to get out onto the course as quickly as possible. Immediately hitting the driving range or getting right onto the course is extremely tempting, but I encourage you to give yourself enough time to properly warm up. I guarantee that you will feel better, and play better throughout your round.

Warming up lubricates your joints, warms your muscles and connective tissues, activates your nervous system, and helps sharpen your senses resulting in an increase in performance and athletic potential. This is especially important for the golf athlete as most golfers, and people in general, do not have the level of flexibility needed for proper swing mechanics. There’s plenty of factors that go into “why” flexibility falls short, but for most it’s increased periods of sitting, orthopedic injuries, or everyday aches and pains that can tighten people back up in a matter of hours. The best way to combat this is by performing something called “pre-event stretching” and undergoing a warm up. It is important to note that specific stretching techniques should be applied to pre-event stretching and warmups to reduce the likelihood of injury or decrease in performance. Static stretching, or holding stretches, is not recommended before a day on the course. This is because holding stretches can actually sedate the muscles, compromise muscle stabilizer functions, and lengthen muscle spindle cells without the brain being able to effectively monitor that change. You’ve probably had a feeling like this in your swing, you go to swing, and as you move through the motion something just doesn’t feel right and it impacts your ability to hit the ball properly. This is the brain responding to the change in length, and then altering the muscle length to match the pattern it’s used to. All in all: not good. 

BE DYNAMIC

Dynamic warmups and muscle energy exercises like the ones we use in LYMBR have been found to be the most effective at warming up the body, engaging muscles that will optimize swing mechanics, increase performance, and will reduce the likelihood of injury. This means that you will stretch into your target muscles without holding the stretch, and move in and out of the stretch until you loosen up. The repetitive nature and the minimal holding time is more effective as the brain can actively monitor the change in muscle length. This prevents the negative impacts of static stretching for pre-event such as joint destabilization and coordination deficits. In fact the body may actively tighten itself up during static stretching exercises as a way to protect the joint, especially if the joint is already sore.

Dynamic stretching does not put the body into a “threatened” state as the body responds better to being actively moved, and tends to allow the joints to move more freely. Typically, the golf athlete will respond better to this stimulus than trying to stretch across tight joints, especially in golfers over the age of 40. This is because aging creates degenerative tendencies in joints which decreases mobility unless there is focused flexibility practice to maintain or increase joint ROM (range of motion). This style of stretching and warmup not only lasts longer in most cases, but is also more effective for the body to learn how to move through an increased range of motion. 

4 STRETCHES TO GET WARMED UP

To make the most of these stretches, figure out where your biggest area of concern is for you and your swing (i.e. hips, shoulders, spine, pelvis, etc.) and pick the exercises that will help loosen these areas up. To assess which exercises make the greatest amount of difference, take out a club and swing it a few times before you stretch and mobilize. This will give you a solid starting point to reference as you move through your warm up and pre-event stretch. Indicators of improved range of motion from the exercises are as follows:

  1. Increased range of motion in spine, pelvis, and shoulders
  2. Reduced effort in swing, enhanced fluidity of motion
  3. Possible heightening of sense such as hearing, sight, and movement awareness. 

#1: SEATED BACK ROTATION WITH THUMBS UP

Take a seat in a chair with your legs shoulder width apart. Lift up your right arm with your thumb up. Turn your body with your arm and keep your eyes on your thumb. Return to the starting position and repeat for 5 repetitions. Repeat on the left side for 5 repetitions. Take a rest before repeating another set. Keeping the thumb up is great for hand eye coordination, it helps loosen up the shoulders, mid back, neck, and hip rotators. 

#2: SIDE LYING BACK ROTATION 

Laying down on your side, place your bottom hand on your knee to prevent the leg from coming up. Rotate backwards gently and hold for 2 seconds. Return to starting position before repeating the stretch for another 4 reps. Turn onto the other side and repeat on that side for 5 reps. Rest before repeating the exercise for another set. This is a great way to mobilize the upper back, neck, and shoulders. 

#3: HORIZONTAL GLUTE

Laying on your back, bring your leg up to a 90 degree angle. Use your opposite arm to bring your leg across your body. Try and keep your low back on the table. Bring the leg back to starting position and repeat for 5 total reps. Repeat on the other side for 5 reps, and rest before doing another set. This will help with your hip drive through your swing. 

#4: HIP FLEXORS

Grab a pillow and kneel down onto the pillow in a lunge position. Squeeze your glute, and drive your front knee forward until you feel a stretch on the front of your hip. Hold for 2 seconds, return to starting position and repeat for 5 total repetitions. Switch legs, and repeat on the other side for 5 repetitions. Rest before repeating another set. This will help with your hip drive through your swing and will prevent any compensations in the hips and lower back. 

WARM UP TO WIN

Add these 4 stretches as part of your pre-round routine. The few minutes you invest in a proper warm up will make the hours on the course more enjoyable and successful.

Written by Conner Fritchley, LYMBR Stretch Therapist and Academy Instructor.

Stretching For Skiing And Snowboarding

Stretching For Skiing And Snowboarding

During the winter season, there is a transition in the air that seems to affect everyone differently. Some tend to become more sedentary and stay inside where it is cozy and warm. Others rush outdoors and travel to the mountains for skiing and snowboarding. Researchers have observed decreased levels of physical activity and total daily energy expenditure during the winter months (Niebauer, 2016). It is important to consider activities like skiing and snowboarding as new alternatives to other forms of exercise. These snow sports have the potential to increase or at least maintain fitness levels during the winter. Professionals in the field also praise skiing for its positive influence on wellbeing and quality of life.

SNOW SPORTS AND THE HUMAN BODY

According to a recent article in Time (2018), skiing and snowboarding can be a ridiculously good workout. The combination of high altitude and low temperature challenges the heart, lungs, and muscles to work hard on each run down the mountain. A professor of sports medicine and cardiology expressed how the sport can have positive effects on your leg muscles, as well as the heart and blood circulation. Additionally, researchers observed improved insulin resistance, body composition, and glucose metabolism, whereas a drop in blood pressure, blood lipids, and heart rate. Each of these physiological benefits will improve your quality of life and long-term health. All of which are observed in individuals who ski or snowboard on a regular basis.

Individuals participating in these sports should consider following an exercise program before hitting the mountain, as the energy requirements of the sport is similar to high intensity interval training (HIIT).  Depending on factors like the individual’s skill level, exertion, and terrain of the slope, the body is working at a high level for roughly 15-20 minutes. Once the run is finished, skiers and snowboarders enjoy a rest period while on the lift back up the mountain. Skiing and snowboarding are challenging sports, especially to those who are untrained. The exercise program, designed by a fitness professional, may include aspects of cardiorespiratory, strength, plyometric, and flexibility training. 

The muscular system serves as the core of each movement while on the mountain. Functioning to counteract the effects of gravity and other external forces to maintain body alignment and to realign body segments while performing movements. The detailed movements in skiing and snowboarding utilize all muscle actions, resulting either in smooth motion for experts or sloppy motion for beginners. Depending on body awareness and skill level, the individual may move with more efficient muscle contractions.

THE IMPORTANCE OF FLEXIBILITY TRAINING

Injury prevention for skiing and snowboarding is highly valuable for both short-term and long-term success. Maintaining optimal conditioning and flexibility of the muscles in the trunk, hips, and ankles through regular stretching is recommended. According to Vagners (1995), lower body flexibility is extremely important for efficient skiing, and may be necessary to perform more advanced movements in modern ski technique. An important note is that flexibility is specific to each joint – whereby significant differences in flexibility may be observed in left and right extremities, unless stretches are carefully balanced according to the individual’s needs. Each individual varies in abilities and will need a personalized stretching routine to address their own needs. Be mindful of tracking progress from the starting point – this is important to highlight which areas are improving and keeps you motivated to continue practice.

Focusing on skiing and snowboarding, we begin to identify the importance of stretching for these sports. Stretching may reduce the risk for injury, which should be of top priority for all ages. Mainly in the lower body, the muscles are performing countless contractions, and muscle soreness will surely follow. In order to manage the discomfort, skiers and snowboarders should perform stretching routines to maintain prime conditions of the muscles. Specific environmental factors such as cold temperatures limit performance of the muscles due to reduced blood and oxygen supply. Stretching counteracts this by enhancing your body’s ability to deliver oxygen-rich blood to the muscles. Similarly, stretching helps to clear out metabolic waste like lactic acid build up. LYMBR stretching fuels the body by improving blood flow, oxygen and nutrition delivery to the working muscles. By moving these muscles beyond resting length, LYMBR stretching can keep the body ready to perform at a high level.

Skiing and snowboarding challenges the body to work through different ranges of motion. The muscles of the upper and lower body could benefit from stretching, as many of the movements will be replicated on the mountain. From the fundamentals to the advanced tricks, the body requires a high degree of flexibility when performed. Being able to flex, extend, and rotate different areas of the body are essential to these sports. For example, when snowboarders attempt a ‘180’ or ‘360’ the ability to move the back and hips is key. Stretching can help improve and maintain the range of motion required for these movements. Working with a professional at LYMBR can be useful to identify which areas need the most attention.

HOW TO STRETCH

If stretching before activity, the tempo of stretching should be matched to that of the activity to serve as a warmup. Whereas, stretching after activity should be of a slower nature to allow for a cool down. Breathing will be important throughout every stretch – inhale at the start of stretch and exhale all the way through the most intense part of the stretch. Allow the breath to help move the body through a full range of motion. Do not rush through the more difficult stretches. Give the body time to process so that the nervous system can develop confidence and understanding of the movement. Stretching should be dynamic – make sure to move through an active range before assisting. By following these principles, it ensures that every movement is both safe and efficient. Every stretch performed is an assessment of the body’s range of motion – be gradual by starting shallow and progressing to a deeper stretch. 

With our present knowledge on the topic, it can be concluded that stretching should be recommended for skiers and snowboarders of all ages and skill levels. Whether self-stretching or assisted stretching, there are clear benefits to this practice. Stretching plays a big role in the fitness and wellness routines of the winter months. Taking the time to stretch will keep the body going strong for the next run down the mountain. If done properly, a stretching routine can go hand in hand with a skiing or snowboarding hobby.

Written by Cesar Garcia, LYMBR Stretch Therapist and Academy Instructor.

References:
Heid (2018) – Time: Health – Exercise & Fitness Article Why skiing is a ridiculously good workout.
Niebauer (2016) – A comparison between alpine skiing, cross country skiing, and indoor cycling on cardiorespiratory and metabolic response
Vagners (1995) – A ski instructor’s guide to the physics and biomechanics of skiing.

The 3 Best Stretches for Healthy Shoulders in Racquet Sports.

The 3 Best Stretches for Healthy Shoulders in Racquet Sports.

Anyone who plays a racquet sport knows the importance of having healthy shoulders. Any type of muscle soreness or injury can make serving and hitting ground strokes very painful, taking the joy out of playing. There are four muscles that make up the rotator cuff, the infraspinatus, subscapularis, supraspinatus and teres minor, each of which have a different function, yet they work in conjunction to allow the arm to move in a 360-degree plane. Due to poor posture, an increase in sitting, and a lack of general emphasis on mobility, these muscles are unable to effectively move and stabilize the shoulder.   

Being a tennis, paddle, or squash player with lots of power does not necessarily come from strength. In fact, it has a lot to do with flexibility and how well you use all parts of your body in unison, something we refer to as the kinetic chain.  

Novak Djokovic is the best example of power through flexibility. When you look at him, he is slender and isn’t somebody you would classify as “strong” in the traditional sense. However, one of the things that makes him such a force on the tennis court is his flexibility. His body’s elasticity allows him to create so much racquet-head speed that it doesn’t benefit him to be bulky. He transfers a lot of his power by using his legs, hips, core and shoulder together. He utilizes every part of his body to create his power, and if one part of that kinetic chain is off due to either injury or lack of range of motion, a lot of his skill, coordination and strength would be lost.  

When we think about serving in racquet sports, a lot of the generated power comes from the range of motion in our shoulder, rather than just strength. One way to demonstrate this point is a simple exercise to try while reading this.   

Take your arm and bring it up to a 90-degree angle like in the starting position picture above, while keeping your elbow in the same position, bring it up to the 45-degree angle in the second photo and snap it back to the starting position with maximal force. Now try doing the same thing but this time, bring your arm back as far as possible to your maximum external rotation and snap back to the starting position from here. Which of these two created the most force? Maximum rotation of course. This is one of the keys to serving with power. Now if you look at my maximum rotation (which is not great by the way at only 95 degrees or so), if I could get my arm back another 20-30 degrees, wouldn’t I be able to create more force? Absolutely.   

Our shoulder creates torque when we serve and the more range of motion we have, the greater our angular momentum. Now I’m not trying to turn this into a physics lecture, however the key principle behind serving power is in the simple demonstration above. When in the LYMBR studio, we put a large emphasis with all of our racquet sport players on the importance of rotator cuff flexibility. The combination of stretching and our strengthening protocol will help you get your serve as strong as ever.  

Below are a series of rotator cuff stretches that you can do at home, as a warm up or cool down. Since these rotator cuff muscles all work together to allow the shoulder to move in a 360-degree plane. It is important to find a routine that helps you, it will not be the same for everyone. Try one set of each stretch, take a rest and go through the series again, be aware of your body and how each stretch changes how you feel. Always stay engaged mentally while you are stretching. This creates more mind to muscle connection, will ensure you are moving safely, and will give you the greatest chance of doing the exercise correctly. All of these factors will help take your racquet game to the next game.  

SUBSCAPULARIS  

Subscapularis – This muscle is largely responsible for the internal rotation of the shoulder, therefore to stretch the muscle, we must do the opposite. In order to stretch the muscle on your own, grab a long object (a broomstick, wooden dowel, or rake handle works). Standing straight, bring your arm out to the side and bend it to 90 degrees with the object on the back side of your arm.  From here, you want to bring your arm forward 5 degrees, drop the arm down by 5 degrees, and extend the arm out by 5 degrees. These tiny movements will isolate the subscapularis muscle and put the shoulder into a healthier position for stretching. Turn your palm so it’s facing forward, and grab the object behind you. With your opposite hand, pull the object forward to externally rotate the shoulder. Move through the stretch for about 3-5 repetitions and make sure not to hold the stretch. Do anywhere from 1-3 sets on each arm depending on how much time you have.  

 INFRASPINATUS  

Infraspinatus – This muscle will externally rotate the shoulder, therefore to lengthen the muscle we have to put the shoulder into internal rotation. Stretching this muscle does not require an object as we can use the ground as an anchor. Lying on your side, bring the arm that is closest to the ground out to 90 degrees. We want to position our shoulder similarly to how we did in the last stretch. Bring the arm forward by 5 degrees and extend the arm out 5 degrees. You also want to make sure that your shoulder is in line with your head, if it comes out to the side or is to far behind you then you’ll lose the precision of the stretch. Gently rotate your arm down to the ground whilst keeping your elbow still. Use your top hand to gently assist the arm further. Don’t use a lot of pressure on your wrist as you can hurt the joint or irritate the shoulder. Move through the stretch for 2-3 seconds without holding the stretch. Do 3-5 reps on one side and repeat on the other side. Perform 1-3 sets on each side or as many as you can with the time you have.  

TERES MINOR  

Teres minor – Whilst standing or sitting upright, put your hand behind your head, and reach for your opposite side shoulder blade. Take your opposite hand and grab the outside of your elbow, gently pulling your elbow and hand behind the head. This is an advanced stretch and in order to get the isolation, keeping your shoulder blade in the same place throughout the movement is the key. For most people, this will just feel like a triceps stretch, and that is okay. Put an emphasis on not leaning to one side as that will definitely cause you to lose the isolation of the stretch. Perform 3-5 reps with 2-3 seconds per rep without holding the stretch, repeat on the other side and perform 1-3 sets on each arm.  

This is a general routine that works for most people in keeping their shoulders healthy for racquet sports. However, the shoulder joint consists of about 8 muscles that attach to the shoulder blade, upper arm, and collar bone not to mention the various other muscles responsible for stabilizing and mobilizing the shoulder. If you are experiencing shoulder discomfort, or have trouble performing these exercises, we suggest getting in front of a LYMBR practitioner to ensure you are performing them correctly, furthermore to ensure the pain is not being caused by another muscle along the chain.  

Written by Koby Jansen of LYMBR Darien. Koby is a former D1 college tennis player at The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. Former #1 in the state of Queensland and #7 in Australia for his age group.