Welcome to the Mend my Back Lifestyle Foundations! We are happy to have you on board. We know first hand what it is like to live with back pain and it is not fun. Our programs are research-based and tested to provide you with lifestyle tips, adapted exercises and education to guide you towards a healthier, happier back. This program will offer nine Lifestyle tips that you can integrate into your own life leading to greater awareness and less risk.
The Mend my Back Lifestyle Foundations program offers daily lifestyle tips that are easy to integrate. We invite you to pick one Foundations tip per day and practice it for yourself. We recommend you track your progress in a journal. It is amazing when we look back on our logs to see how far we have come. A little motivation can go a long way to keep us on track. See you next time for Foundation tip #1! Better backs for life, Laura and Ian
Why does my back hurt? Where do I start? Welcome to your first educational tip! Identify the type of back disorder you suffer from whether you're experiencing back pain for the first time or if you've suffered a relapse. Some reasons why your back could be hurting: You fell over and landed poorly (acute injury), played a sport and did a maneuver that jammed your back, poor posture, chronic stress and negative emotions, sitting for more than an hour at a time, postural and abdominal muscles are weak, tight muscles for various reasons from inactivity to stress or compensation patterns of how you sit, stand or more, muscular imbalance - some muscles in your body are not doing their job at supporting you correctly, a medical condition, spinal disk degeneration. Do any of these examples resonate with you? What to do first: Consult with an experienced specialist, one that has extensive experience with back disorders. Do this: When in acute or initial phases of your pain, do take the time to rest and reduce inflammation; apply ice to affected area, proper nutrition and hydration to get the nutrients you need which will assist in healing, sometimes over the counter medication is helpful or as recommended by your primary health care practitioner. Helpful therapies: Try manual therapy with a reputable therapist who has experience treating back pain: physiotherapist, osteopath or chiropractor, acupuncture, behavioral therapy, hot and cold treatments or massage. What can I do right now? Focus on your posture with our power posture video. Have a picture taken of yourself, notice how you stand naturally. Be aware and mindful of how you stand, sit and how you move. We often don’t realize that we are misaligned until someone points it out to us. Stand tall and practice the Power Posture position daily, it only takes 60 seconds of your day! You can do it while speaking on the phone at home or at your office, waiting in line for lunch, or while waiting for the subway train or your bus. Until next time… We are happy to offer you helpful hints to get you more mobile again. We know what it is like when back pain disrupts your life. Be on the lookout for our next tips when we address how to use the power posture in daily activities to keep your back healthy and happy. When our posture is better we can stand, sit and move more effectively. Better backs for life, Laura and Ian
How do you sit, stand and move? Use your legs! I noticed recently while I was doing the dishes that I lean more to my right side putting more weight on my right leg then my left. I quickly adjusted my posture as soon as I became aware of my stance and posture to stand taller and to balance my weight on both feet. I realized that when I had terrible lower back pain last year that I was protecting my left side to avoid the pain triggers, so I would lean more to my right which ended up causing more muscle tightness in my right hip (this is what we call a compensation pattern). Notice what you are doing (or what you did) when you are in pain or experiencing discomfort. Adjust your posture; avoid slumping and head-forward posture. Be sure to check out the video tip today of how to support yourself in your chair and how to stand from a seated position more effectively. Our goal here is to strengthen your legs and hips to give your back a break. When we keep our muscles strong, we place less stress on the joints in our body, they become natural shock absorbers. Until next time… Better backs for life, Laura and Ian
We use the Bender ball in some of our Foundations Tips as well as the Full Mend my Back Exercise program offered at www.mendmybackprogram.com You can use any soft Pilates ball as an alternative.
Learn how to bend over and lift objects more safely How many times a day do you bend over or reach for something? To get dressed, put on your shoes, feed the dog, put out the garbage, get pots and pans out of a cupboard, reach for something in the trunk, etc… Learn to lift with your legs with your knees slightly bent, face the object and keep it close to your body, and especially do not twist your torso when lifting heavier objects! • Do not forward bend and twist at the same time with a heavy object in your hands! • Learn the hip hinge. The hip hinge is a fundamental human movement, and one of the most effective ways of build your hips, glutes, and overall lower body strength thereby putting less strain on the back. Until next time… Be more aware each time you bend down to pick up something from the floor or even to tie your shoes. Try alternative ways to bend and lift so you reduce the amount of strain you are placing on your spine to avoid pain triggers each time you bend over. Our next Foundation tip will show you how to perform daily activities with greater ease - like getting in and out of your car. Better backs for life, Laura and Ian
Healthier Back with Daily Lifestyle Habits Out of all the activities we do daily, we noticed we spend big chunks of time in the kitchen, at our desk, walking the dog and in the car. What are things you do repeatedly in a day? Are you aware of your posture while performing those tasks? I often catch myself rounding my back when I bend over to feed our dog! I admit even though I have been working as a fitness professional and movement specialist for over 27 years, I still need to remind myself to stand tall! In this video, we look at how to get in and out of the car more safely. Several of my clients who complained about back and neck pain spend a lot of time in the car to get to and from their workplace. Avoid sitting down too heavily, use your legs to support you, avoid twisting the spine, try sitting first then pivot from your hips to maneuver your legs into the car to avoid shearing forces in the lower back. Until next time… When we become more mindful and aware of our daily habits we are in a better position to make adjustments before pain is triggered. If you are longing for a healthier more supple spine, watch for our next tip on one of the best ways to improve circulation and energy to our spine and cardiovascular system. Better backs for life, Laura and Ian
Want a more supple spine? Get Moving! Move more and sit less. Sitting is the new smoking in terms of the negative impact being sedentary has on our overall health. However, when we are in pain, moving seems counter-intuitive because the wrong kind of movement can provoke pain. When Ian was diagnosed with 5 herniated lumbar disks, he couldn’t even stand up straight let alone go for a walk without shooting pain in his back and legs. After a successful operation, he was instructed to get up and move as much as he could daily. Four and a half years later Ian is fit, fully functional and doing the activities he loves from daily dog walks to skiing and mountain biking. A proper movement protocol is so important in teaching the body how to move well again without relapse. Our full Mend my Back program will show you how. For now, we encourage you to walk daily. Walking is like a natural back balm bringing circulation and nourishment to our disks and tissues that support the spine. If you are mobile and able, try the before and after stretches too. • Remain active. Walk 20-30 minutes daily with comfortable, supportive shoes. Until next time… When we move better, we feel better. According to a study at Harvard University, just 15 minutes of rhythmic activity is like taking an anti-depressant and not moving is like taking a depressant. Notice your energy and mood before and after a bit of exercise. A little goes a long way! Stay tuned for our next foundation tip to help prepare you for a more restful sleep. Better backs for life, Laura and Ian
How well do you sleep? Learn how to support your body in bed Our sleep is sacred! We love having a good night's sleep. But when we are in pain, getting a restful night’s sleep can be next to impossible. I remember when Ian was in his acute phases of back pain due to his multiple herniation’s he had a difficult time finding a comfortable position in bed. The pain was so sharp that tears came to his eyes and in an exhausted and weak voice he said, “I don’t remember what it is like to not be in pain, it feels like a have sharp knives stabbing my legs.” I remember feeling almost helpless. I would massage arnica cream on his lower back and we had 8 pillows in our bed to support his legs and torso to prevent him from straining or moving too much since if he did move at night, the pain would wake him up. In this video, we offer tips and tricks to prepare for a good night’s sleep. • Sleep on a mattress of medium firmness to minimize any curve in your spine. • If you are a back-sleeper place pillow under your knees for lower back support. • A side sleeper would place a pillow between the knees for better hip support. • How is your head positioned? Be sure to use a good quality, supportive pillow. • Our body recovers and regenerates when we are in our deep sleep cycle, pain often prevents having a good sleep, so prepare yourself for sleep with these top tips: ◦ Avoid technology and electronics one hour before bed ◦ Prepare your room; dim lighting, cool temperature, quiet space, no electronics, pillows, avoid eating a heavy meal 3 hours before bed You’re on your way… When we have a restful sleep, we are more focused, alert, in a better mood and have the energy we need to do all we set out to do in a day with greater ease. Foundation tip #7 involves something we should all do daily to boost our energy, reduce stress and keep the juices flowing! Until next time... Better backs for life, Laura and Ian
Get your Fresh Air and Clean Water daily Keep your air quality clean. Walking outdoors is an inexpensive, low risk and accessible form of exercise and has been shown to significantly lower depression, bust stress symptoms, manage blood pressure and enhance mental well-being especially in uplifting group settings. Many people spend their days in poorly ventilated areas with recycled air causing low energy, headaches, and sluggishness. Take breaks and get outside. 1. If you smoke, we recommend cutting back or stopping. Smoking impairs blood flow, resulting in oxygen and nutrient deprivation to spinal tissues. Did you know there are over 4000 toxins in cigarette smoke and just the carbon monoxide alone takes the place where vital oxygen should be to help repair and heal the inflamed tissues in your body? Smoking creates more inflammation in the body keeping the system in chronic inflammation and pain. 2. Drinking enough fresh water daily assists in removing toxins from your body that puts a strain on your organs, when your body is dehydrated your heart must work harder to pump fresh oxygenated blood to your organs and tissues, your skin gets dull and your joints can ache. Your joints and connective tissues need moisture to remain strong and flexible so that your movements remain smooth and pain-free. Everything we put into our bodies has an impact on our health and well-being. You’re on your way… Find out if your body weight is in a healthy range and discover a calculation to see if you are at risk in our next foundation tip. Better backs for life, Laura and Ian
Maintain healthy body weight. Try this evaluation below to see if you are in a healthy range. If our bodies carry extra weight, it puts more strain on all the joints in the body including the spine. If our body fat increases above a healthy range, we are also putting our health at risk for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer. Maintain a healthy diet and body weight to help mitigate back pain. Ian gained 55 pounds over the course of about 6 months during the worst part of his back episodes. A combination of factors contributed; inability to move much - he went from being highly active to completely immobile, then post-surgery the pain medication created stomach issues and he felt hungry all the time and needed to be sure to have food when taking the strong pills. After a few months post-surgery, he was committed to getting back in shape. He progressively began to do the exercises you will find in the full Mend my back program along with improving his dietary habits. We also provide some of our favorite recipes in the full program. Today’s video shows you how to calculate your own waist to hip ratio (WHR) How to calculate WHR: • Stand up straight and breathe out. Use a tape measure to check the distance around the smallest part of your waist, just above your belly button. This is your waist circumference. • Then measure the distance around the largest part of your hips — the widest part of your buttocks. This is your hip circumference. • Calculate your WHR by dividing your waist circumference by your hip circumference. According to the World Health Organization, a healthy WHR is: • 0.9 or less in men • 0.85 or less for women • In both men and women, a WHR of 1.0 or higher increases the risk for heart disease and other conditions that are linked to being overweight. You’re on your way… We love Teri Gentes fabulous meal plans and recipes. We include her e-book to healthy eating with valuable lifestyle tips in our Full Mend my Back program. Be sure to check it out for recipes designed to assist healing. Move your body at least 30 minutes daily with progressive exercises to improve your circulation, improve your muscle tone, enjoy better posture through strengthened abdominals, hips and back. You will find the detailed exercise program outlined fully in our Mend my Back Program as well. You’ve got this! Better backs for life, Laura and Ian
Reduce your stress & Take time out for self-care daily Any form of stress creates an imbalance within our system. In fact, any change in our lifestyle is a form of stress. What is important is our ability to adapt and bounce back quickly which is why learning deep relaxation techniques are helpful in restoring the body’s vital essence. • Release tension daily. Even mild life disturbances can build up if you don’t deal with them. • Don’t build up stress like a pressure cooker! Release the steam daily with this breathing technique to release tension and restore your inner body balance. • Practice this abdominal breathing technique 2x per day for 5 minutes either sitting on lying down in a comfortable position. ◦ Inhale through your nose to a count of 5 and exhale through a large imaginary straw (through your lips) on a count of 5. You’re on your way… Once you are aware of what is going on in your body and learn to sense an imbalance or disturbance, you can practice various techniques to release daily irritations before they accumulate and reveal more serious signals or health concerns. Believe it or not, true relaxation needs to be practiced. Achieving deeper states of well-being is more than just collapsing on the couch! We can train our brains and our mind to remain steady and calm no matter what storm is going on in our life. Sitting on the couch watching a moving can be enjoyable however we also need to teach our bodies how to move into deeper states of relaxation where the body heals more quickly. Slow, deep abdominal breathing is one way to take your stress down a few notches. Find more techniques for relaxation and meditation in our full Mend my Back Program. Be well. Better backs for life, Laura and Ian
We hope you have found the past nine tips you have received helpful in your journey towards living with a healthier back. If you are ready to begin rebuilding your mobility and muscular endurance, we invite you to join us in the full Mend my Back program, where you will find guided and progressive exercise programs. Over the next several months, we will teach you how to choose correct movements and exercises for your body. Learn what green light, yellow light, and red light exercises are. Learn and choose precise movements you can do anywhere that will make a difference in your flexibility, stability, and pain management. Thank you for sharing our programs with your friends and family. We hope to see you in our Mend my Back Program Module 1-4 soon! We’ve got your Back! Laura and Ian www.mendmybackprogram.com