Ways To Combat Stress On Your Body

Ways To Combat Stress On Your Body

When the holidays roll around, a common topic that is part of the conversation is not only the joys, but the stress that comes with the season. We all know how stress affects the mind, but it also affects the muscles in our body. The most common areas we feel these affects are the neck, shoulders, hips, hands and feet. Paying a little extra attention to these areas can help keep you calm and comfortable.

NECK
When we experience stressful situations whether in a moment or over time, we tend to feel tension in the neck. Your shoulders hike up, causing tightness in the muscles along the back and side of your neck. Stress puts the neck muscles in a constant state of slight contraction, which can lead to unwanted tension. This tension leads to restricted range of motion, that feeling of having a knot in your neck, and sometimes tension or migraine headaches.

Stretching your neck will provide some relief. Not only is the experience of getting stretched relaxing, but the result is a lengthening of the muscles, allowing them to return to their natural, more relaxed state. Your neck will have greater range of motion, making your head feel lighter and your face more relaxed.

 

SHOULDERS / UPPER BODY
We tend to hold a lot of stress in our shoulders causing them to round or hunch forward. This postural change reduces our mobility and puts added strain on our head, neck and upper back. Rounded shoulders also affect our ability to take full and complete breaths as the space in which our rib cage wants to move is restricted.

Stretching the muscles in your shoulders helps to open up and reduce the built-up tension in the upper body. As the shoulders relax and find their proper state, you experience a more open and relaxed posture. Your rib cage has more room to expand and the strain is taken off your head and neck.

HIPS
If you study or practice yoga, you are familiar with the concept that we store a lot of stress and emotions in our hips. We’ve seen clients have an emotional reaction when we make significant improvements to their hip mobility during a session. The stress and restriction in your hips inhibit your comfort and your range of motion. Every movement we make begins with the hips, if they are not properly balanced and mobile, the effects resonate through your body – most commonly in the low back.

When you experience a proper series of stretches to open your hips, the effects can be felt on your entire lower body – you’ll feel lighter and move with more freedom. Some clients report a sense of calm, relaxation and release.

 

HANDS 
When we are feeling stressed, the muscles in our hands begin to clench, sometimes we don’t even notice it happening. Even when you are not holding something, they will stay in that tense position. This tension causes constriction to the tendons of the hands from the palm up through the tips of the fingers. This can have a negative impact on the forearm and the elbow. A common example would be similar to carpal tunnel syndrome – as the muscles in the hands and wrists begin to constrict, the nerves become inflamed from all of the pressure.

Stretching the hands will give you a feeling of letting go, literally. The hands will begin to relax releasing the tension from your fingertips up through your forearm.

 

FEET
It is not commonly known that we hold a lot of stress in our feet. The result is restrictions in how the mechanics of our feet perform, especially in the arches, where we carry all of our weight. When the mechanics are not working properly, you put pressure on certain areas of the foot which are not designed to carry the load of your body on their own. The resulting tension and pain can resonate from the feet up the through your calf and behind your knee.

Having your feet and toes stretched may seem like an odd concept but the results are incredible. You’ll feel your toes open and your foot relax.  Keeping your feet happy is a major factor in keeping your whole body happy. We ask a lot of our feet and they are so often overlooked.

To make the holiday season more joyful than stressful, take 30 mins a day to focus on you. Put your phone down, try some deep breathing, go for a walk, and of course, focus on stretching.

Simple Stretches While Traveling

Simple Stretches While Traveling

Get the most out of every day when you travel.

It’s the height of travel season with the holidays and winter break right around the corner. We look forward to our well-deserved time off and want to make the most of every day. Don’t let the effects on your body from all that travel impact your ability to dive right in to your vacation. Learn what happens to your body while you travel and a few simple stretches and posture changes to help avoid and relieve common aches and pains during your journey.

What does travel do to our body?

LOW BACK
When we travel, we are likely sitting for hours on end, whether it be waiting for or on a flight.  We are 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 different alignment in our bodies and putting stress on the joints and muscles around it.  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 your 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 will 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.

Stretching the piriformis and hamstrings as in the video below, will reduce the tension of those muscles, lessening compression on the sciatic nerve.  This can be done before or after travel, using any flat surface or a chair.

HIP FLEXORS
Hip flexors connect our pelvis and thighs, and when that angle is decreased when sitting, the muscles will tighten up.  Now add hours to that amount of time for travel and 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. Stretching the hip flexors, especially after a long flight or train ride, will alleviate the tension and restore the muscles to their proper range of motion.

SHOULDERS
Carrying bags are obviously necessary for travel, and with added fees for checking bags, it is easy to overstuff our luggage.  Heavy backpacks will place stress on the shoulders and low back.  When carrying a single shoulder bag, our bodies will favor one side.  Favoring one side causes the other 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 to high or too low on your back.

NECK AND SPINE
Sitting upright for hours 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.

Whether you’re traveling for pleasure or business, make sure your body is travel-ready and be mindful of your posture and mobility as you make your way from home to the airport, on the plane and to your final destination. Safe travels.

 

 

Written by Ariel Scheintaub. Ariel is a Stretch Therapist in our Tribeca studio.

 

Stretching For Paddle Tennis Players

Stretching For Paddle Tennis Players

Stretching, a concept that is vitally important to the health and wellness of any competitor, is frequently forgotten in the racquet sport community – including paddle tennis players.

This fast moving sport is popular with tennis players looking to extend their outdoor racquet season, and most often played by weekend warriors. Cold temperatures, fast movements and bodies that are not fully prepared to play have given this sport the designation of having one of the highest injury rates at 66%.

The rough, hard surface of the paddle court is a contributor to these injuries. It can be dangerous and harmful to the ankle and knees if the proper movements are not mastered and the body is not prepared. The surface does not give, and a wrong step can roll an ankle, tear an achilles or produce strain from the constant pounding.

Paddle is a game of constant movement, swift court-to-court pivots, as well as back and forth motions. This can be very draining on your lower body and can lead to tears or strains. Just like all court sports, footwork is very important. The largest impact falls on the knees. The knees take a lot of pressure from the swift pivots, lunges, side steps and jumps. These movements impact the lower body from the calves to push off and stop, the hips for multi-directional movements, and the hamstrings during lunging.

The rotator cuff sees a lot of action in the game as well. The constant swinging motion puts a lot of strain on this area so keeping it healthy is extremely important for the future of the athlete’s career.

In the studio we spend a lot of time working on the forearms, rotator cuffs, calves, quads and hamstrings of our paddle clients to help them stay dominant on the court. We also focus on the hip flexors as they are the point of agility and power as well as the lower back as it takes quite a beating and tends to be a common area of injury.

The LYMBR method we apply in our studio is an active stretching technique that keeps your muscles actively working, open and stretched to their full potential.

Some clients visit our studio prior to their match as their pre-game warmup. It can be utilized as a type of dynamic exercise, by actively assisting in the movements and creating the blood flow throughout the body.

Colder temperatures make a proper warm up even more important for lubricating the joints and muscles. The knee and elbow flexion and shoulder tension caused by overuse can be devastating to the weekend play. Stretching and working on the lower extremities; calves, shins, and hip flexors and the upper extremities; shoulders, back, and wrists are vital to performing at an optimal rate of play.

Racquet sports can be played by all ages both competitively and recreationally. But for the weekend warriors, a tendency to overlook stretching is common and with a few additional minutes, they can avoid very serious injury.

At LYMBR, we have protocols specifically designed for these types of sports, as well as for injuries if they occur. We encourage players to be proactive and approach the sport ready to play at maximum health level for their next match.

Written by Noah Deutsch. Noah is a Stretch Therapist and Assistant Studio Manager of our Newton studio, as well a nationally ranked badminton player
Stretching + Dance

Stretching + Dance

Maintaining flexibility through stretching is one of the most vital components of dance. Without full and even extreme flexibility, movements do not look complete and the artistry is weakened. Flexibility is prized in the dance industry and allows for striking shapes and lines to be made by the body. Two common movements across several different styles of dance include the grand battement (kick) and grand jeté (leap). These both require the legs to move through a great range of motion using power and momentum, achieving a specific stretched end point. General muscles that regularly need to be stretched by dancers include the hamstrings, hip rotators, hip flexors, and back extensors. Having the capability to be mobile within an extended range of motion is what makes dance exceptional and appealing to watch.

Aside from large, explosive kicks and leaps, there is also a very specific technique of fine movements and placements of which dancing is built upon. For example, exaggerated plantar flexion is a main mechanic of dance technique. This strong “pointed” position of the ankle and foot demands long and lengthened muscles which cross on the front side of the foot and shin; examples include the extensor digitorum longus, which runs from the knee joint to the toes, the tibialis anterior, which runs along the shin to the big toe, and the extensor hallucis longus, which runs from the outside of the middle of the shin to the far end of the big toe. On the contrary, consistent plantar flexion means actively contracted calves (the gastrocnemius and soleus), along with the muscles that cover the underside of the foot. These muscles undergo repetitive stress and must be thoroughly stretched to reduce the risk of Achilles tendon damage and plantar fasciitis (pain to the bottom of the foot from inflammation).

Overall, stretching before performing dance movements is critical to injury prevention since muscular range of motion is pushed beyond limits. A pre-stretch will elicit blood flow and loosen up the fascia, preparing the muscles for the activity to come. Fortunately, many of the movements of dance will continue to stretch the body throughout the activity, leading to increased ranges of motion over continued practice. Stretching post-dancing also allows for recovery and cool-down while promoting lengthening of the muscles. A common concern of dancers is looking too “bulky,” which stretching combats by relieving muscle shortening from the repetitive contractions. Any dancer will attest to the benefits of having extraordinary flexibility; however, it takes a persistent regimen and an informed, safe approach to achieve it long-term.

Written by Lauren Daniska. Lauren is a Stretch Therapist in our Newton studio, as well as a professional dancer.
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.

Written by Noah Moore. Noah is a Stretch Therapist in our Darien, CT studio.
LYMBR Gave Me My Life Back

LYMBR Gave Me My Life Back

How one woman finally found relief after a serious horseback riding accident.
Lucia’s story, written by Christine Baer

Whether it was the stiff leather of the horse’s new tack or symptoms from undetected Lyme disease, Lucia will never know for sure. But something was causing her horse to be extra jumpy that day in February when she went out for a ride on a wooded, snow-covered trail in Bedford.

The first time that the truck backfired from a distant road, Lucia’s horse did something very out of character for the palomino mare. She bucked. “It was a vertical, ‘bucking bronco’ type of buck,” Lucia says. One that would be difficult to manage, even for an experienced rider, but Lucia managed to hang on. The second time, she wasn’t so lucky.

Lucia grew up riding horses, and the trail ride that day was one that she took regularly on her beloved Butterscotch, whom she has owned for twelve years. She rode five days a week, and the bond with her horse was strong. So the pain she felt when she landed on the frozen ground that day ran deeper than the shattered pelvis she suffered. “I was devastated that this creature did this to me.” It simply made no sense.

There was no cell phone reception on the trail, and Lucia knew that she had to find a way to get help. With no possible chance that she could walk with her injuries, she had no choice but to crawl, grateful for the cold snow that gave her some relief from the pain as she made her way to the road.

Eventually, a passerby found Lucia and she was taken to the hospital, where she learned that she had not only shattered her pelvis, but had three broken vertebrae and a torn hamstring, as well. She would spend the next two weeks in the hospital. But that was just the beginning of her recovery.

After coming home from the hospital, Lucia spent six weeks in a hospital bed at home, finding solace in reading, writing, painting and catching up on popular television series. But, with each day, Lucia realized that time was not improving the pain she was experiencing.

Still, her doctor insisted that the pain was normal, and prescribed physical therapy. Just five days into the protocol, Lucia’s pain was excruciating. She decided to seek a second opinion, and turned to a different hospital. There, she was told that her pelvis was not going to heal on its own. She needed surgery to insert eight pins and plates. This was devastating news, as Lucia would now need to spend another eight weeks in bed.

After the surgery, and now seven months post-accident, Lucia was still only getting around with the assistance of a walker, and she was still experiencing pain and weakness. “I was so broken,” she says. “I was at a point where, at age 56, I was accepting that I would never walk normally again. That’s when I found LYMBR.”

Lucia is passionate when she talks about the thing that made all the difference on her long journey to recovery – personalized stretch therapy. When Lucia walked into the newly-opened Darien CT LYMBR studio last June, she didn’t know what it was all about. But, she knew that she was willing to try just about anything to get some relief from the pain.

Certified stretch therapist Michael Eaton admits he was a little nervous to work with Lucia after hearing all that she had been through. Her long list of injuries was overwhelming. But LYMBR trains stretch therapists like Eaton to help people who need relief from sore muscles, over-use, and even injury.

“I could see that she had some discomfort when she first walked in. I remember it took a lot of effort to get on and off the table due to the injuries,” says Eaton.

“My body was so locked up from all the trauma and surgery,” Lucia recalls. “But even after the first session with Michael, it felt like a revelation that I might not have to walk like that anymore.”

LYMBR’s stretch therapists are certified, with over 100 hours of hands-on training, to use progressive dynamic stretching that helps improve flexibility. For Lucia, this was key to getting her life back.

“The first improvement I saw in Lucia was her confidence,” says Eaton. “Lucia came in very guarded and naturally protecting the injuries. After the first few sessions, she was floating in and out of the studio with a new glow to her.”

Due to the extent of her injuries, Eaton approached Lucia’s stretch therapy with great care and caution. He constantly checked in with her to make sure that she didn’t have any pain or discomfort during their sessions, keeping her informed about which muscles he was isolating and stretching. Over time, the two developed a friendship. “We talk about everything in sessions, from the latest trends to what’s going on in our personal lives. When a session is over, I’ll usually tell her what I want to work on for the next time. Lucia always responds, ‘Okay, you’re the boss. I trust you.’”

Three months after her first session with Michael at LYMBR, Lucia says she feels like she can overcome anything. “I can walk down stairs!” she exclaims. She is back to her active self, taking her dogs on long walks without the need for pain medication or a cane. She still goes in for a LYMBR stretch with Michael one to two times every week.

“Working with Lucia has opened my eyes and helped me realize just how powerful this work is…” Eaton says. “It’s bigger than just stretching people. I get to help people who have been living in discomfort for years feel some type of relief.”

Lucia won’t be riding any time soon. But she is still the owner of five horses, one of whom is Butterscotch. After the accident, a vet discovered that the mare was suffering from undiagnosed Lyme disease, which caused the uncharacteristic behavior that day on the trail. The two were reunited after the incident.

“When I discovered how sick she was with Lyme, and saw how overjoyed she was to see me when I finally visited her in my wheelchair, my disappointment in her was replaced by understanding and gratitude that my injury was not worse,” says Lucia.

“While I am very sad that I can’t ride,” she says, “I plan to just be around the horses and take care of them until I can. LYMBR has made me so well that I can do that.”