This is an article I started working on before my hiatus, but if I had started writing it now I guess I could have titled it Quarantine Pain Solutions.
Hang from a Pull-up Bar
This is one I have touched on before, but it works so well it gets another mention here. Just hold onto something a little higher up and…..dangle. This is a great stretch for the neck, chest, shoulders and back. It’s a great, cheap way to open up the entire shoulder girdle and help out with, well the obvious one is shoulder pains, but headaches and neck pain too.
If you have tingling or numbness in your fingers, it might help with that too! Thoracic outlet syndrome (TOS) is a horrible, painful feeling down your arms and into your hands and fingers too. It can come from a number of things, decreased blood supply or nerves being squashed way up in the shoulder. See, going through the shoulder, the thoracic outlet – hence the name, there is a lot of stuff there. Bones, muscles, nerves, arteries. Muscles.
And when that stuff gets squished, it leads to pain down the arms, or even in certain parts of the arm, depending on how and what is squished. Dangling opens this all up and helps decompress everything.
This one is free, simple and never ever ever done. Well, OK, if you’re reading this, maybe you do. But how consistent are you with stretching? Most people that come into my clinic either don’t stretch at all, or aren’t consistent enough with it for it to make a difference. Stretching helps with muscular problems, but it can also help with things like fibromyalgia.
Now, it is my opinion that most people don’t carry on with stretching because traditional, static stretching is, frankly, rubbish. Painful, takes forever to do anything worthwhile, hurts, have to do it for ages, it doesn’t feel good and the time-frame? Yonks! So here is a trick to make stretching actually effective and a worthwhile pursuit.
When stretching, you need to work the muscle you’re stretching. Example, to stretch your hamstrings, muscles on the back of the thigh, you’d put your leg on a chair and lean forward till you could feel a pull down the back of your leg. Great! Now, if 10 is “Oh my god I’m gonna rip this off the bone!” and a 1 is “Why am I even bothering?”, then you want to aim for a 3 or a 4 in the stretch. You should be able to feel it, but also hold a conversation and it be comfortable.
Next comes the magic.
While your leg is up, drive your heel down into the chair/floor/bed/whatever you’re leaning on. Push like that for 5 seconds, then relax. Next time you go down into the stretch, you’ll get a little further. Again, drive the heel down for 5 seconds. Do this a few times, then on the last go, drive for 10-20 seconds.
This type of stretching works great for every muscle/ Whatever you’re trying to stretch, if you give it some resistance, then afterwards relax into it, you will become way more efficient at stretching.
This is another one that has been mentioned in this blog before. Several times. But it bears repeating again. These go from beginner to intermediate to sadist levels. The golf ball is the most effective, but it also hurts the most. Give and take. The idea is to massage it into the tight and sore muscles. You can roll them across the bottom of your feet to relieve some plantar fasciitis, sit on it relieve piriformis syndrome or dig it into your traps to relieve tension headaches. Just go slowly, adding pressure and moving round till you find some very sore bits, holding it there until the tension eases off.
This one is mostly for after you’ve been to the gym, but it can work great for tight muscles whatever the cause. A contrast shower is where you switch the shower between hot and cold, for those of you who are somehow not aware. This horrible form of shower does a great job of curing DOMS, especially if you do it right after exercise. Cold for as long as you can stand it, then hot till you warm up, then rinse and repeat.
Whilst walking rocks, for LOADS of things (reversing type 2 diabetes, lowering high blood pressure to name a few!), this one is mostly about not just lying in bed. When everything hurts, like your back, I get that you don’t want to get up. Why would you – it hurts! But if you don’t move, you tighten up, which causes other, different issues. So then you don’t move because that hurts too, so you tighten up and….
I understand why you do it, but use your body as normally as possible as soon as possible. It will help. Promise.
Now then, here is the controversial one! Posture. There’s a full length post coming on this, so I’ll fully expand on it there, but the short hand is: good posture can help, and it certainly isn’t going to hurt. Don’t beat yourself up when you find yourself slouching, but pull your shoulders back, head up and when you sit, imagine you have a tail. Would you sit all scrunched up if you had a tail? No, you would not.
Foam rollers have got a lot of notice recently – and rightly so! They can really help ease tension, tightness and open up your body and spine. BUUUUUT they have their limitations. Foam rollers work great for large muscle groups, like the quads or lats. Anything smaller, you need to circle back up to the ol’ golf ball trick. Foam rollers to warm up, gold balls to get in nice and deep and hit those trigger points.
This is a great stretch for your whole spine. Often, when your back hurts, it tightens up to try and protect you. Your spine is split into something called “motion segments”. This is two vertebrae with a disc in the middle:
When moving from cat to camel and back, the idea is to go slowly from one position to the next, imagining each motion segment moving at a time, one after the other. This exercise is about developing motor control and feeling your body and getting to know your spine. Hello spine!
The final piece of poor person’s equipment is a towel! This is great and really versatile. Roll it up and stick it on your low back when sat at a desk – BOOM! Instant lumbar support. Fold it into a square and put it under one side of your pelvis to help counteract any rotation. Sit on it to counterbalance a tilt – I’m looking at you here, fellas, with your wallet in your back pocket.
You can also use it to help you stretch, shoulder mobility, strength exercises….. Give me an email if you want any tips or how-to’s (email@example.com).
Loads of different things out there that you can repurpose for body care and maintenance. Obviously I recommend getting adjusted often! But if you can’t, say due to a global virus lockdown, then hopefully some of these will help you get through till you can see your friendly local neighbourhood chiropractor again!