Category Archives: General Health

The “F” Word

Scale

I am writing this issue about a topic we have all struggled with. How do we talk about size? My title refers to the three letter “F” word, “Fat.” This is a challenging topic because most of us (or perhaps all of us) feel unsure about our size at times. If we are unsure about our own bodies, how do we even begin talking about this issue with someone else?

When I think about bodies, I think about health. A healthy body is a balanced body. We need to take in enough fuel and nutrition to get through the day, but not so much that we begin to feel tired and slow. Likewise, we need enough exercise and activity to keep our bodies strong, but not so much that our bodies start getting injured and breaking down.

Nutrition is about balance and performance. Your body needs fuel to make it through the day, and particularly through dance classes and dance rehearsals. Most dancers need to refuel multiple times through the day to keep up with the demands of dancing. The amount of fuel your body needs changes as your dancing schedule fluctuates. For example, you may need to add more healthy snacks during a show week or over an intense summer camp. If your body does not have adequate fuel, it cannot keep up with your dancing.

Likewise, keeping up with your fitness is important in order to keep up in dance class. This is the “F” word I prefer when talking about bodies. Like most things in life, fitness is about balance, which is different for every dancer. Most dancers need to do some sort of cross training, but it is also important not to overdo. Rest and recovery are an important part of any activity. If your fitness is not balanced with recovery, you may be at for risk overuse injuries.

Sometimes dance can be seen as focusing on the external lines or images of our art. While dance is beautiful, it is the internal beauty that matters, not only the external picture. We connect most deeply with dancers who dance from their hearts, not just their muscles. Your body is your tool to express your soul. So you have to tune and tone your body, but, in the end, it is your soul that will ignite the audience.

Choose your words! Words can be very hurtful, whether they are on social media, or said behind someone’s back. Often times, we don’t even think about our words and a simple comment can be taken the wrong way. Most people feel unsure about their size at some point (or many points!), no matter what size they are. Dance teachers and parents should also be careful about their words and avoid comments about dieting, or “feeling fat.”

Finally, ask for help. If you are being teased about your size or weight, let that person know your feelings are hurt. Then, talk to someone you trust about your concerns. If you are concerned about an eating disorder in yourself, or someone else, The Alliance for Eating Disorders is a great resource and is a good place to start.

 

by: Dr. Kathleen L. Davenport, M.D.

 

Technology is Affecting Your Spine

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The era of technology has changed the way we communicate with each other. Text messaging on cell phones is a common way that people are communicating. What we don’t realize is how detrimental this could be to our neck, shoulders and back. Whether you are spending time on your phone text messaging or even reading on your tablet you are assuming the forward head posture.

The average head weighs approximately 10 pounds when it is in neutral position (ears over shoulders) and every inch that your bring your head forward you are changing the alignment and increasing the pressure on your spine.

Prolonged forward head posture can lead to neck strain which can include muscle imbalance, muscle tightness, headaches, muscle spasms, and nerve irritation. Also, staying in a slumped over position is not favorable for your lungs or internal organs. Test yourself try taking a deep breath while hunched over and then when sitting up straight. How do you feel?

Here are tips to help avoid forward head position:

  1. Make a conscious effort to know where your head is in space, your ears should always be in line with your shoulders.
  2. Squeeze your shoulder blades together
  3. Use a docking station
  4. Sit with your feet flat
  5. Take frequent breaks from your phone or tablet, if you have to set a timer to reminder yourself.

Some things you can do to alleviate symptoms in your neck, upper back, and shoulders.

  1. Chin tucks or Cervical Retraction (try making a double chin)
  2. Cervical Rotations (looking from side to side)
  3. Shoulder Shrugs
  4. Shoulder Blades Squeezes
  5. Chest stretches
  6. Going for a 15-20 minute walk without your phone or tablet.

Technology will continue to evolve which will keep us more connected, but in the mean time it can cause us to have more negative affects from over use. Try to be mindful and take a break for your cell phones, tablets, and other hand held devices in order to protect your spine.

by: Rita Zimmermann, LPTA/CLT

One Movement, Many Muscles

By Rocco Ferraiolo PTA, NASM-CPT,PES, USA L1SPC

Our body is a complex system made up of bones, muscles, nerves and other soft tissue structures that work together to provide us with virtually seamless movements and support. When one of these structures is limited or affected at some point, this could affect all the others; If not immediately, at some point in the near future. Example:

Your Psoas Major, one of two “hip flexors” in our body (Iliacus being the other and together can be called the Iliopsoas), is one of those muscles that goes over looked but can lead to multiple issues if not kept conditioned.

A quick little anatomy and physiology lesson; the psoas major is a deep hip muscle that connects the lumbar spine to the upper part of the femur. The lower half of the psoas is joined together with the iliacus muscle—which is why the two muscle groups are often referred to as the iliopsoas. A major network of nerves, which connect the lower spinal cord to the deep abdominal, oblique, hip and quad muscles, travels directly through the psoas in most individuals. The psoas is generally considered a hip flexor muscle—it shortens the distance between the thighs and torso. Hip flexion occurs when you drive your knees up when running.

When the Psoas is tight or lacking flexibility or maybe weak, this could lead to lower back pain, poor posture, increased curvature of the lumbar spine and of course poor overall performance whether it be in everyday life or athletics.

So when going through your stretching and strengthening programs, be sure to include the “hip flexors” and if you sit at a desk or in a car the majority of your work week, get up and walk around to keep your hip flexors stretched.

 

References:

  • Kirchmair, L., et al. (2008) “Lumbar plexus and psoas major muscle: not always as expected.” Regional Anesthia and Pain Medicine. Mar-Apr;33(2):109-14.
  • Sutherland W., (1990). Teachings in the Science of Osteopathy. Portland, Oregon: Rudra Press, 279-281.
  • Michele A., (1962). Iliopsoas. Springfield, Illinois: Charles C. Thomas.
  • Tufo, A., et al. (2012). “Psoas Syndrome: A Frequently Missed Diagnosis.” The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association.

Guidelines for Preventing Falls

Guidelines For Preventing Falls(per AAOS 2012)

Risk Factors

Age.  The risk for fall increases with age.  Normal aging affects our eyesight, balance, strength, and ability to quickly react to our environments.

Activity.  Lack of exercise leads to decreased balance, coordination, and bone and muscle strength.

Habits.  Excessive alcohol intake and smoking decrease bone strength.  Alcohol use can also cause unsteadiness and slow reaction times.

Diet.  A poor diet and not enough water will deplete strength and energy, and can make it hard to move and do everyday activities.

Many falls are the result of hazards like slippery or wet surfaces, poor lighting, inadequate footwear, and cluttered pathways in the home.

Most fractures are the result of a fall in the home, usually related to everyday activities such as walking on stairs, going to the bathroom, or working in the kitchen.

 

Preventing Falls

Maintaining your health and staying physically active can help to reduce your risk for falling.

Maintain a diet with adequate dietary calcium and Vitamin D, and talk to your primary care doctor about checking your Vitamin D level.

Do not smoke and avoid excessive alcohol intake.

If possible participate in an exercise program that aids agility, strength, balance, and coordination.  Climbing stairs, jogging, hiking, dancing, weight training and other activities can help build bone strength and slow progression of osteoporosis, a disorder that causes bones to thin and weaken.

In addition, active pastimes, such as bicycling and gardening, also can improve health and life quality.

 

Home Modifications to Prevent Falls

Place a lamp, telephone, and flashlight near your bed.

Install a nightlight along the route between your bedroom and your bathroom.

Arrange furniture so you have a clear pathway between rooms.

Remove throw rugs or secure loose area rugs with double-faced tape, tacks or slip-resistant backing.

Do not sit in a chair or sofa that is so low that it is difficult to stand up.

Put non slip treads on stairs.

Install Handrails on both sides of the stairway.  Each should be 30 inches above the stairs and extend the full length of the stairs.

Repair loose carpeting or wooden boards immediately.

Install grab bars on the bathroom walls and keep a nightlight in the bathroom.

Use a rubber mat or place nonskid adhesive textured strips inside and around the tub/shower.

Use a sturdy, plastic seat in the bathtub if you cannot lower yourself to the floor of the tub or if you are unsteady.

 

 

 

Image Courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net/ Stuart Miles

 

How Much Water Do You Drink Per Day?

ID-100166700The earth is covered by 70% water and the human body is made up of 50-75% water. The human brain is made up of 95% water, the blood 90%, and lungs around 70%. Just like planet Earth, our bodies would not survive without water. Water is a necessity. Hydration is vital for the human body to perform properly. The standard recommendation is to drink  at least eight 8 ounces glasses of water a day.

Some of the benefits of keeping the body hydrated are:

1) Water adds bulk to stool and fluid to the colon and prevents constipation.

2) Detoxification is aided by water. Drinking water naturally helps remove toxins that build up in our lymphatic system, kidneys, and intestinal tract.

3) Blood is made up of 80 percent water and bones 50 percent water. To assure that you are creating new blood and bone cells it is important to hydrate.

4) Water helps lubricate your joints and protect against wear and tear

5) The brain is made up of 85 percent water and staying hydrated can help prevent headaches, improve concentration, decrease irritability, and improve fatigue level.

6) The elasticity of the skin improves with the consumption of water. It can help keep you looking younger by moisturizing your skin.

7) Research has shown that mild dehydration has been associated with feelings of depression, anger, and confusion.

In order to insure that you are successful in drinking enough water throughout the day here are ways you may want to consider some of the following.

You may want flavor your water by adding a slice of lemon, lime, cucumber, or orange. It’s a natural way of enhancing the taste which can make you more prone to drink more without adding calories.

Eating more fruits and vegetables which contain a high water content and will help keep you hydrated. Some of the fruits and vegetables are watermelon, strawberries, cantaloupe, grapefruit, lettuce, spinach, zucchini, cabbage, and peppers.

You can develop a reminder on your cell phone or PC to alert you when or how many glasses of water you should have had in a day.

Instead of soda you may want to drink something healthier,  try seltzer water with a splash of 100% natural juices.

Try to keep a large bottle or glass by you at all times.

When exercising it is important to hydrate, but the amount varies with the the type of activity and in what climate you are exercising.

Water is necessary in order for our bodies to work efficiently and  helps us be more energetic.

A healthier body means a happier life, so go to your nearest water cooler and pour yourself 8 ounce glass of water, remember that the daily amount recommended by the medical profession is 64 ounces of water per day for best results.

 

Written by Rita Zimmerman, LPTA/CLT
Photo courtesy of artzenter/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Female Athlete Triad

The Female Athlete Triad is an important factor in sport health as well as sport ID-100182953performance. The three components of the Triad are low energy availability, decreased or absent menses, and low bone density. While the Triad is often seen in female athletes, low energy availability and low bone density can also seen in male athletes.

Low energy availability refers to the athlete’s output (calories used, often in sporting activities) being greater than her input (calories eaten). This can be due to an eating disorder, but can also be unintentional. Absent menses (“amenorrhea”) means not having a period by age 16 or missing three periods in a row. Women, who only have 4-9 periods in a year, or a cycle longer than 6 weeks, have “oligomenorrhea,” which means a low number of periods. Low bone mineral density requires a test to determine the bone density. If it is low, an athlete may be at risk for breaking a bone and possibly for not reaching her full height potential.

It is common to have only one or two elements of the triad, and an athlete does not need to have all three components to affect her sport and her health. Short term and long term health problems can happen from the Triad. Athletes can be at increased risk for breaking a bone, cardiovascular disease, and injuries to the muscles, tendons, and ligaments. These injuries have the potential to cause time loss from sports and can lead to more serious medical issues.

The most important component of treatment is modifying diet and exercise to restore balance to the athlete’s energy availability. Sometimes this may mean eating more calories and/or decreasing exercise.Treatment should be under the guidance of a physician familiar with sports medicine as sometimes further testing needs to be ordered.

 

Written by Dr. Kathleen L. Davenport, MD

 

Image courtesy of hyena reality/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Poor Posture, Poor Performance

Maybe we should have listened to our mothers and grandmothers when they said, “sit up straight and don’t slouch.”

We all know that poor posture is not healthy for any of us.  It affects multiple aspects of how the systems in our body function.

Muscle Imbalances & poor alignment

Having poor posture can change the alignment of joints, overstretch some muscle and shorten others. As a result, you will acquire aches and pains that are putting unnecessary wear and tear on the body. Correct posture can lead to less injury, better movement patterns and less aches and pains.

Breathing

When you exhibit correct posture, your lungs are able to fully expand and we are able to breathe from the diaphragm. This will allow us to utilize the right amount of oxygen. Slouching results in decreased space for your lungs to expand and it impedes the movement of your diaphragm. As a result, the body uses shallow breathing from the chest, allowing only short gasps of air.

Digestion

Indigestion and heartburn can result from poor posture. Hunching over the table does not allow your internal organs the room they need to function efficiently. Sitting up straight allows them to perform properly thus allowing food to pass through without resistance. (Maybe standing up we can digest faster and eat more because it goes to the toes – – – it’s a joke)

Self-esteem & Body image

I call it proud posture! Someone that we encounter with slouching shoulders and hunched over does not elude confidence or strength (think of Eeyor from Winnie the Pooh). Staying with that Tigger shows self-assurance, health and probably lessens his chance of injury because of his posture.

Improvements to posture

Various cueing techniques, strengthening and flexibility exercises can be implemented to correct your posture. Pull those shoulders back, relax and sit up straight. Can’t remember that, place yourself in good posture, then take a strip of athletic tape down your spine and a strip across your back shoulder to shoulder. Now try to slouch. . .it won’t feel good! Whatever the method . . . be diligent.

 

By: Rocco Ferraiolo PTA, NASM certified, SPARQ certified