Friday, May 29, 2009

Angels of Relief for Demons of Hand Pain

Seeing the Angels & Demons movie trailer motivated me to read the book for a second time. The 569 page paperback is hard to put down as I couldn’t stop running along with the labyrinth plot through the streets and cathedrals of Rome. In the first reading, I stayed up all night and read almost the whole book. This time, I’ve spread it out over four nights—a great read. However, I’ve noticed that my hands are very sore from holding a book open for three hours every night.

As a structural integrator and massage therapist, hand pain isn’t new to me. I have a solution, the Octopus Undulation, which I do every night after work. It works like this:

Start by slowly moving the tips of your fingers of just one hand in a wave-like motion. Use the movement to explore and wash away the stiffness in the first knuckles. Let the movement creep up your fingers, massaging each knuckle in turn with the movement. Then continue into the web of the hand. See if you can move your palm so it is as fluid as an octopus. Gradually incorporate your wrist, forearm, elbow, upper arm, and shoulder into the movement—as though you don’t have any bones.

Now feel the difference between your two hands. You’ve just given yourself a massage!

Normally I can wash away my hand stiffness with just one minute of this undulation. However, after holding a paperback for several hours, I need about three minutes on each hand. This exercise is useful after knitting, pruning or computer mousing—anything that requires repetitive motion of the hands.

You can view additional Undulation Exercises here.

I’m looking forward to watching the Angels & Demons movie. I hope it lives up to the majesty of Rome and thought-provoking ideas in the novel.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Inversion Therapy for Low Back Pain

A good friend of mine has an inversion table. When I visit her, she offers its use like others would offer a glass of freshly-squeezed orange juice. “Would you like to lie on the inversion table? It’s good for you,” she says.

Yoga practitioners have touted the benefits of being upside down for millennia. Poses such as Downward Facing Dog, Handstand, Headstand, Shoulder Stand, and Legs Up the Wall Pose put the body in a position where the effect of gravity is reversed, giving the lymphatic system a boost, aiding digestion, and reducing the spine’s weight-bearing responsibilities. There’s the added advantage of learning to see the world from a new angle.

Headstand, handstand and shoulder stand all come with risks, however. Without building strength and dedicated, regular practice, you can easily hurt your neck with these poses. In addition, inversions should be used cautiously for those with high blood pressure, according to a study published in Physical Therapy and are also not advised for people with glaucoma.

You can read more about the benefits and risks of yoga inversions in this Yoga Journal article.

Inversion tables offer many of the same benefits without the potential damage to the spine. Simply hop on, rotate yourself to the desired upside down angle and rest or read. I even saw one advertised on TV recently.

The most promised benefit is to take pressure off the spinal joints, decompress nerve roots and rehydrate the discs between the vertebrae. A study published in the Archives of Physical and Rehabilitative Medicine in 1978 concluded that short periods of inversion increased spinal length and decreased nervous activity of the low back muscles. Being inverted is a type of gentle traction. The angle of the table determines the rate of traction.

There are many brands of inversion tables including Teeter Hang Ups ®, Body Flex, Body Max, FitForm, Paradigm, and Ironman Relax. You can even use a well-built inversion table to do exercises such as curl ups, but be sure you have an extra sturdy model. It’s also important to follow all safety precautions for these products. Just like being in a handstand, you run the risk of falling down if not properly secured.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Un-Wind to De-Stress

It is exactly three hours and six minutes since I started to install my new printer. I bought the printer, because I have a 600-page job that I wanted to have printed and stuffed into envelopes tonight. The old printer was just going too slow. After more than two hours of computer freezes and aborted installation attempts, I was starting to get stressed and the tension was welling up in my neck and shoulders.

As the seconds ticked away on the installation program, I started to count and lengthen my breaths. That helped, but as the situation progressed, I found my tension mounting again.

While waiting for responses on the on-line chat with the support department, I remembered to undulate. My breathing was already steady and I could concentrate on moving my spine in a flowing manner, feeling each vertebra and releasing the restrictions with simple movements. Easy Sway is my favorite to release tension and I fall into it quite naturally--when I remember.

A flowing motion in the body creates more ease to "go with the flow" during the trials of life. Unwinding physically literally unwinds the mind. Try it and see if you don't feel less stressed when your body moves in a fluid way.

By the way, the new printer works--double sides copies, no less! I won't have the project complete tonight, but it's not the end of the world.