8 Easy Exercises for Holiday Travelers

The Holiday Season is upon us, and while that means family gatherings, good food and great memories, it also means travel. A lot of it.

It might surprise some, but the solution to stiff joints, sleepless nights and that general “funk” you feel during travel could be found in simple stretching exercises.

Just a few minutes of relatively easy physical activity can put you in a better mood, enhance flexibility and reverse the effects of prolonged sitting, waiting and standing around in cars, on planes and at airport terminals.

The following exercises are a great way to increase circulation to the muscles of your legs and core, and to maintain some semblance of an exercise program while you're on the road or in the air.

Note: If you have an injury, chronic pain, or other health conditions it is always best to consult with a Physical Therapist before starting new exercises. 

1. Seated crunch twists. 

Gently pull your abdominal muscles in toward your spine. Put your hands behind your head. Exhale as you bring opposite elbow to knee. Sit tall between sides. Complete 10 crunch twists on each side.

2. Water bottle-resisted hip adduction. 

Place a hard plastic or metal water bottle between your legs. Gently engage your pelvic floor muscles and then squeeze your legs together, pressing against the water bottle. Hold for 5-10 seconds, then release completely. Repeat 10 times.

3. Arm-resisted hip abduction. 

Lean forward and wrap your arms around your legs. Clasp your hands together. Keep your hands clasped together as you push your knees outward, pressing into your arms. Hold for 5-10 seconds, then release completely. Repeat 10 times.

4. Seated heart circles.

This one feels great and is so good for your spine. Place your hands on your knees and circle your ribcage to the left 5 times, and then to the right 5 times. Think of using your heart to draw a circle on the seat beneath you. 

5. Leg stretch.

While seated, keep your back straight and slowly reach down to touch your toes. This helps loosen up your lower back after endless hours on the road. If you’re fortunate enough to travel first class, you can probably do this stretch while traveling.

6. Stretch to the stars.

This one is exactly what it sounds like. With your arms extended above your head, lock your hands together and push up, up and away. 

7. Rubber ball squeeze.

In the frenzy to ensure we’re properly stretched out, the hands and forearms are sometimes neglected. Also called the “stress ball exercise,” this one is about as simple as it gets: take a rubber ball (a tennis ball also works well) and squeeze it for a pre-determined number of reps and intervals – for example, 3 sets of 15 squeezes. 

8. Hip stretch. 

A chair is all you need – well, a fair amount of flexibility helps, too. While seated, place your right ankle on your left knee. Slowly bend forward until you notice slight (not uncomfortable) tension in your hips. Reverse the process for a complete, effective hip stretch. 

With a Physical Therapist’s advice, you can modify these exercises to address your exact pain or injury issues. Make your free appointment with iAM Physical Therapy today to discover which stretches are best for you, and ensure that pain and muscle fatigue don’t get in the way of your holiday plans. 

Don’t wait to see your physician! 10 proven ways to ease low back pain naturally --- without pain medication, shots, or surgery

Studies show that 80% of people will have low back pain in their lifetime. These are my top 10 tips for easing and preventing low back pain!

 

1)    Limit Bed Rest – Studies show that short term back pain is alleviated by movement and being active. People who rest or limit their mobility end up with increased back pain and have a harder time returning to regular activities.

2)    See a Physical Therapist – Physical therapy is essential for managing low back pain. A Physical Therapist will help identify the cause of your pain/injury and provide remedies such as pain management, progressive exercises, and education on proper posture/movement.

3)    Keep Exercising – Activity is the best medicine for low back pain. So keep moving. Find activities that are not painful such as swimming or walking. Avoid activities or positions that caused your back pain in the first place. Remember to move in moderation and stay away from strenuous activities such as bending/heavy lifting.

4)    Forget about the Brace – Bracing your low back will lead to core weakness which puts you at greater risk of injury or re-injury. A brace should only be used sparingly and for short term strenuous activities such as heavy lifting if needed.

5)    Ice and Heat – If you have a recent injury ice should be applied for the first 2-3 days, especially if there is swelling. After 2-3 days heat may be used for pain relief.

6)    Focus on Good Posture – Most often people go about their activities with bad posture. Overtime, this bad posture puts a lot of stress onto the low back. Try to maintain proper spinal alignment and curvature throughout the day, which will take pressure of your back and nerves reducing your pain.

7)    Focus on Flexibility – Increased tightness throughout your muscles can also lead to back pain as it puts increased load on the spine. The goal is to promote equal load throughout your low back to help minimize risk of injury and decrease pain.

8)    Strengthen your Core – Core muscles are essential for low back health. Your muscular core helps decrease load and protect your spine. You are at greater risk for low back pain if your core is weak.

9)    Keep Proper Sleep Postures – Sleep is important for healing. 8-10 hours is recommended. Sleeping in the proper position is also important, especially if pain keeps you up at night. To decrease stress onto your low back place a pillow under your knees if you sleep on your back or place a pillow between your knees if you sleep on your side. Avoid sleeping on your stomach.

10) Stop Smoking – Studies show that smokers are more likely to suffer from low back pain compared to non-smokers. Smoking leads to unhealthy tissues and puts you at greater risk of injury. Smoking also slows down the healing process. 

Let's address the lion in the room...

Hello everyone. Sorry for the delay on this post. I just got back from an amazing trip in Kauai and I am playing a bit of catch up. My boyfriend Warren and I spent a week relaxing, snorkeling, kayaking, boating, and taking in the fresh air of the Hawaii islands. It was the perfect place to reboot and de-stress. Exactly what the doctor ordered.

It is always interesting to me that when I am on vacation or doing activities that bring me fulfillment, I don’t notice those aches and pains that plague me during the stressful work week. I often wonder how much stress contributes to my pain. I usually seem to notice my low back, neck, or headache pain more so when I am stressed out! 

Pain is not always what it seems. We now know that pain is 100% of the time produced by the brain. We have all experienced physical pain at some point in our lives. It can be acute, lasting less then 3 months. Or it can last longer than 3 months, which is called persistent pain.

Acute pain is generally a result of tissue damage. The brain is signaled to protect the site of injury. Acute pain is most often treated with medications for pain/inflammation management, rest, and gradual/controlled return to activity.

Persistent pain is a bit trickier. After 3-6 months, tissues have healed as much as they can and lack inflammatory markers. Tissue damage is no longer the source of pain. The brain is now doing all the dirty work.

 

I have a great example of this. I have always had some sacroiliac joint (SIJ) dysfunction due to hypermobility and some weakness throughout my core. From time to time, I will have some alignment issues resulting in SIJ pain. Most of the time this pain is acute and resolved with proper physical therapy management. However, a few years ago I was taking a course on SIJ dysfunction. Prior to the course I did not have any SIJ pain. But by the end of the course I was in significant pain throughout my SIJ without any specific mechanism of injury. So why was I in so much pain? My brain was completely focusing in on this area of my body and I was relating my past injuries to the course work. My brain started to go on defense!

Generally pain is a good thing. It warns us that there is danger. However, sometimes our brain will perceive a threat when there is no actual danger.  Imagine seeing a lion in the room when it is actually a small kitten. The nervous system has become hypersensitive. This is chronic pain. It is a protective mechanism and a learned behavior from past events.

 

The good news is that chronic pain is treatable with a holistic approach including stress management, proper nutrition, a healthy lifestyle, cognitive behavioral treatment, and controlled physical activity without fear or pain protection.

This is part 1 of my chronic pain series. Going forward I will cover the specifics behind the science of chronic pain as well as how to help you manage chronic pain better.

Stay tuned!

 

Cheers!

Welcome to iAM Physical Therapy and Wellness!

I am beyond excited about the opportunity to share ideas and cultivate conversations with you, my friends and clients, regarding all aspects of life, our bodies, and how physical therapy plays an important role in the longevity of our optimal health, wellness, and happiness!

iAM Jessica Wiley, owner and Doctor of Physical Therapy, at iAM Physical Therapy and Wellness. I have a passion for the human body and marvel at its capabilities. It is truly amazing how limitless the body can be when we provide an environment that fosters the tender, love, and care it craves. I too am a patient and living proof of this. June 2014 I fractured my T5 vertebra in a bicycle accident. For months I was in intense pain and sometimes wondered if my back would ever be the same again. With the proper rehab and training, I ran my first marathon one year later. It still amazes me!

Sometimes it is not easy to understand what our body needs. Our body is a complicated machine made of up of several mechanical parts as well as a software system (aka the brain), which not even the best scientists in the world have quite figured out. 

Does your body need rest... or does it actually need progressive loading? Are you weak because you lack strength or do you lack motor control to maximize your muscular capacity? Is the location of your pain really the cause of your pain? Your MRI is normal... so why do you have pain? 

These are not always easy questions to answer. But with a little detective work and team work, we can identify what is the true cause of your problem and come up with a plan of care to address your personal functional goals. How we treat and care for our bodies today has a direct effect on how we function as we get older. The game plan is not only to reduce your pain and optimize your function today, but also to set you up for success down the road. Even when you are 80! 

So lets get started!! Check out the rest of the website to find out more information on iAM Physical Therapy and Wellness services and philosophy. We strongly believe in providing the best physical therapy care possible to enable clients to meet their specific functional goals with faster, better, and longer lasting results. I will be updating the blog on a weekly bases with input on new articles, self management techniques, and innovative exercises all related to optimizing your overall health, wellness, and happiness. Cheers to a better, stronger, and faster you!