What does the ribcage have to do with neck pain?

It's safe to say it: I've become obsessed with fascial tissue. I just can't seem to get enough information about this amazing system, which supports our bodies in ways I hadn't realized before.

Here's a nugget that I find really cool: traditionally, we've approached anatomy in a reductionist way. We took knives to cadavers and sectioned out pieces of the body. We cut up muscles and bones and gave them names. When I studied for my training exams, I studied where muscles originate and insert on bones. Then I studied the actions those muscles had on bones. This led me to think of human movement in terms of mechanical leverage.

Our understanding of fascial tissue turns this idea on its head. Today we understand that fascial tissue supports the bones, muscles and organs. The tissue is so comprehensive in the body that when one part of the body moves, the entire fascial system responds to that movement.

So what?

This helps explain why you may hurt yourself in one area, yet feel pain in another. The fascial system, if continually stressed, will end up breaking at its weakest point.

Tom Myers, my new personal hero, as well as a body worker and author of Anatomy Trains: Myofascial Meridians for Manual & Movement Therapsits, explains how our fascial system responds to stress in this video about tensegrity. He's much more eloquent and knowledgeable than I am, so his video is definitely worth a look:


Fascia and pain-free living

Fascia. You've probably heard the term, because it's a buzz word in the fitness industry these days.


There's been a lot of new research on the fascial system in the last couple years, and its changing the way we think about fitness, mobility, rehabilitation, and aging.

Fascia is like a huge body stocking that sits right beneath the skin. It is a seamless system that surrounds, supports, and connects your muscles, bones, organs, and nerves. This amazing system requires fluid in order to function properly and, you guessed it, as we age, and as we perform repetitive activities, it becomes dehydrated. This causes pain and stiffness.

But there is good news. Researchers have found that this system, which was previously disregarded because we believed it was insignificant, is actually adaptable and intelligent. We can manipulate the connective tissue to hydrate it, eliminating pain.

Last weekend I read Sue Hitzmann's book The Melt Method, and now I'm moving on to her list of suggested readings. Hitzmann developed an entirely new way to look at and alleviate pain on one's own, with some specialized balls and foam rollers. After using these props for 10 minutes, 3 times a week, anyone can learn to fill connective tissue with fluid, make it supple, and alleviate pain.

I'm excited about this method for 2 reasons.

  • The first is rather selfish: I'm no stranger to chronic pain. During the tech boom in the late 90's I spent years working at a firm, sitting at a computer for 12-14 hours a day. 6 years of that repetitive activity left me with unbearable elbow, wrist, and finger pain that I still feel every day, even though I quit that job 13 years ago. In fact, I don't think I'd last a single day in an office environment today. I've seen countless doctors who've given me no better advice than to stop using computers and cell phone. I'd love some relief!

  • The second: almost all of my clients have some type of chronic pain. They've had surgery on their knees and ankles and feel no better than they did before the procedures. They are aging and feel stiff. They have pain from repetitive activity at work. I want to add my new knowledge to my sessions with them, to make sure they are strong, balanced, healthy and pain free. Who doesn't want that?

This new research is so cool: I just had to share it with you. I've begun to use the method and have experienced immediate results. The mobility in my wrists is greater. My grip strength is greater. AND, I know there are more benefits to come. This is definitely a game changer.


Chocolate milk and muscle repair

Chocolate milk is a healthy, post workout treat
Source: I am Baker.
Click to get a great recipe for homemade chocolate milk!

Guess what? Chocolate milk isn't just for kids. Exercisers looking to repair muscle post workout can benefit from sipping on the frothy treat as well.


Chocolate milk not only has an ideal mix of protein and carbs for muscle repair, but the treat also replenishes glycogen stores (the body stores glycogen as energy reserves) and rehydrates cells.

Next time you're looking for a post workout treat, feed your inner child and make some cold, chocolatey milk. Enjoy, guilt free!


The heart healthy Nordic diet

The Nordic diet is has heart healthy and anti-inflammatory properties

You've probably already read and heard about the virtues of the Mediterranean diet, and while this diet is still well regarded in the medical community, it's getting some competition.

The Nordic diet is gaining recognition as a wise way to eat as well. The foods that make up the Nordic diet were recently featured in the Journal of Internal Medicine for their heart healthy and anti-inflammatory properties.

What makes up a typical Nordic dinner plate?

The Nordic diet features fatty fish, berries, canola oil, fruit, vegetables, and whole grains.  To get the full benefit:

  1. Aim for 3 or more servings of fish (2 fatty fish and one lean) per week
  2. Use vegetable based oils when cooking
  3. Eat at least one piece of whole fruit daily
  4. In addition to your whole fruit, consume 1 cup of berries daily
  5. Choose whole grains
  6. Eat 1.5 cups of vegetables each day, and aim to incorporate a variety of root vegetables
Sounds like a delicious way to eat well, don't you think?


The avocado and your diet

Avocado is a powerful appetite suppressant

I love summer, not only because of its relaxed schedule, but because of all the delicious fruits and vegetables that are readily available. Summer produce is so delicious it hardly needs any human intervention. Drizzle a little olive oil, top with fresh herbs and a bit of sea salt and your tomatoes, zucchini, squash, plums, peaches,...you name it, is delicious.

This summer I'm indulging, without guilt, in avocado. You may remember the days of the low-fat diet, when a dip of guacamole was considered a diet sin, but avocado is seen in a friendlier light these days. Researchers, whose study was published in Nutrition Journal say avocado is a powerful appetite suppressant. People who eat an avocado half with their lunches enjoyed a decreased desire to eat over the following 3 hours by 40%.

So how can you enjoy this satisfying, diet friendly fruit?
  • You can do the obvious: 
    • Add it to your salads. 
    • Find a soft avocado, mash it, and use it on sandwiches as a substitute for mayonnaise
  • Experiment: 
    • Make your morning smoothy thick and creamy by adding avocado. 
    • Make a healthy and filling pudding for snack.
  • Make one of my favorite summer sandwiches:
    •  Layer with tomato, onion, and cucumber in a whole wheat pita. Drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with feta cheese and season with sea salt and pepper. Throw it in the toaster oven until the bread is crisp. Yum! 


How to beat the weight statistics

Surround yourself with others who prioritize health

It's sad but true: the majority of Americans have weight issues.

In 2013 the American Medical Association deemed obesity a disease, but that doesn't mean that maintaining a healthy weight is out of our control.

In fact, there are many social factors that can influence our weight, and it is useful to understand what they are in order to maintain a healthy weight. Consider these statistics:
  • Having 4 obese friends doubles your chance of become obese
  • If you live in the Midwest or the South you are more likely to be overweight than if you live in the Mountain states or the Northeast
  • Children with parents who are obese are 3 times more likely to be obese themselves
  • If your spouse is obese, your chances of becoming obese increase 37%
  • If your sibling is obese, your chances of becoming obese increase 40%
So what does this all mean? Surely you can't cut off ties with your mother or your best friends. But you can be aware of social influences and take steps to make sure you surround yourself with people who live the healthy lifestyle you aspire to.

Ask your neighbor if you can accompany her to the farmer's market for fresh produce this weekend. Ask your co-worker to share her favorite healthy recipes. Join a walking group and get to know others who make exercise a priority. Inch your way into circles of people who strive to live healthy lives. The result?  You'll develop one, too.


Summer health

Summer exercise is too fun to be considered a chore

I can't quite believe it, but it is mid-July, and in a few short weeks I'll be turning my attention to replacing tattered backpacks, acquiring sneakers without holes, and cutting the unruly hair on my children's heads.

The winding down of summer is bitter sweet for me. I'm usually ready for my sweet cherubs to return to school so I can approach my work in a more sane, less disjointed way. But I miss the open schedule and warm weather, and I miss the inviting opportunities to eat well and exercise outdoors.

During the summer months the fruits and vegetables have more color and more crunch. They are fresh, juicy and full of flavor. This prompts us to eat more healthy produce, perhaps trading nectarines for potato chips and cherry tomatoes for pretzels. And it frees up our time in the kitchen, because we no longer have to concoct a sauce of vinegar, basil, and craisins to mask the fact that the sugar snap peas are tasteless. They taste delicious au natural.

Likewise, summer exercise hardly feels like a chore. If you live in a state where snow and cold weather seep into fall and spring, the joy of being outside may make you forget, entirely, that you are exercising. Evening walks without bulky coats, hikes in the woods, marathon sessions pulling weeds, biking to the park, running with the dog, family games of tennis and golf, a dip in the pool may well feel more like luxuries than required sweat sessions.

Seize the season. You still have 2 months to take advantage of summer's offerings.
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