Supported sitting….rest your spine.

    Do you sit a lot at work? Do you drive a lot? Do you find yourself experiencing back pain or discomfort when you sit? Most chairs at work, home, school, restaurants, etc., are not made to adequately support your spine in sitting. If you do sit for extended periods of time, your spine could use a rest. So, how do you do this? Try some of the following tips.

    1) Always have your  feet flat on the floor in front of you. Resting on your toes with your heels off of the floor or putting your feet behind your knees puts unnecessary stress and strain on your spine.

    2) Make sure that your knees are at a 90 degree angle to your hips. If your knees are above the level of your hips, it places your back in a flexed or rounded position. If your knees are below the angle of your hips, it places your back in a hyperextended or arched position. Both put strain on your spine and the muscles of your back.

    3) Support the curve of  your low back (lumbar spine) by using a towel roll. I love using towels rather than purchasing “lumbar rolls” for several reasons. First of all, towels are cheaper and you already have some in your home. Second, you can adjust the shape and size of the towel roll depending on your chair. Play with the size of the roll and start by placing it at the level of your waistline. Adjust it as necessary….you will immediately know when you have found the right spot.

    4) Take as many breaks as you can to stand, stretch and move around. While sitting pump your ankles, wiggle your fingers, stretch your arms and shoulders, turn your head side to side, stretch your torso.

    Remember to keep moving….it’s important for your health!

Be healthy!
Cheryl Ilov PT, GCFP

Unlock your knees….effortless standing.

    Have you ever found yourself experiencing back pain, knee pain or foot pain in standing? Or that holding yourself upright even for short periods of time is exhausting? Here is a little experiment to help you find your way to effortless standing.

    Stand up, and notice how you are standing. Don’t change anything, just pay attention to how you stand. Are your knees straight or bent? Is your weight on the front of your feet or the back? Do you stand more on one leg? Does your back feel tense and tight, or loose and flexible?

    Now slowly and gently bend your knees. Does that change the sensation of your low back? Are your feet more solid on the floor? Now straighten your knees and “lock” them. How does your back feel now? How do your feet feel on the floor? Slowly go back and forth from “soft knees” to straight knees.

    With your knees still “soft”, gently shift your weight side to side. Notice a bouancy in your knees, and a willingness of your feet to accept the floor. How does your low back feel now? Stop. Walk around the room for a minute. Stop. Stand. Notice how you are standing now, and how this small experiment may have allowed big changes to take place in your ability to find your way to effortless standing.

    This is a snippet of a Feldenkrais Awareness Through Movement(R) lesson. You may want to consult with a Certified Feldenkrais Practitioner(R) or look for Awareness Through Movement(R) group classes in your area  to explore new ways of moving through life with ease and grace, decrease aches and pains, and improve your performance in all functional and recreational activities.

Be healthy!
Cheryl Ilov, PT, GCFP

Effortless posture……finding your spine.

    Good posture is effortless. No, this isn’t a typo; it’s the truth. And the key to effortless posture is to find a way to let your spine support you. Our spines are designed with natural curves that support us during all weight bearing activities. Unfortunately, sometimes our ideas about finding “good posture” causes us to try and change the natural curves of our spines. The result? Abnormal alignment, muscle imbalances, back and neck pain. 

    So, how can we find the natural curves of our spine? Try this simple movement exploration based on The Feldenkrais Method(R). It’s important to move slowly, carefully, and with a spirit of interest and curiosity. Remember, in Feldenkrais(R) lessons, there is no right or wrong, good or bad; just opportunities to learn. 

     1). Sit on the edge of a firm chair with your feet flat on the floor. Bring your attention to your sit bones (located under each buttock and called the ischials). Notice how your sit bones contact the chair. Notice the shape of your spine……don’t change it, fix it, or make a judgment about it. Simply take a moment to sense the shape of your spine from the base of your pelvis to the top of your head.

     2). Very, very slowly and gently begin to rock your pelvis forward and backward on the chair. You are moving from your pelvis, not your chest. Notice how you rock more forward on your sit bones, and then more backward on your sit bones. Do this several times, slowly, carefully, and with a sense of curiosity. Notice how the pressure of your sit bones change against your chair. Pause and rest.

     3). Once again begin rocking your pelvis forward and backward. Slowly. Gently. Notice how you get shorter on the front of yourself and longer on the back of yourself as you rock backward on your sit bones. Notice how that changes when you go forward on your sit bones. Several times, slowly, gently. Notice how you breathe as you do this. Pause and rest.

     4). Once again begin rocking your pelvis and notice when your sit bones pass through a spot where you feel like you can sit easily and comfortably. If you can sit without any effort your spine is supporting you. You have found effortless posture in sitting.

     5). Slowly come to standing, and notice what it feels like to be in a standing position. Notice the shape of your spine. Walk around and notice the carriage of your head, the movement of your shoulders and the movement of your pelvis as you walk. 

      This simple but powerful movement exploration can help you find a renewed sense of ease, grace, youthfulness and elegance in your posture as well as all of your functional and recreational activities. The Feldenkrais  Method(R)….making the impossible possible, the possible easy, and the easy elegant!


 Be healthy!
Cheryl Ilov, PT, GCFP        

Treat your feet to no more pain….

    A lot of us experience foot pain during our lifetime. It may start out as small twinges of discomfort that is easy to ignore. However, your aching feet can develop into much bigger foot problems as well as leg, hip and back as well as difficulty walking. However, with the proper attention, including exercises and stretches, you can keep your feet strong, healthy, flexible and pain free. Not only will your feet thank you, you will be able to continue to enjoy the activities that you love and keep you healthy. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

    Massage your feet. 
        Take the time to get familiar with the shape of your feet by massaging them on a regular basis. I suggest using a moisturizer or foot cream. Use a gentle but firm pressure, and give a little extra attention to the areas that are tender or sore. 

        You can also use a tennis ball. Stand, place your foot on the ball and firmly and gently press into it, concentrating on the ares of your foot that is tender or feels tight.

    Stretch your calves.
        Stand with both hands against a wall for support. Place on foot forward and the other one back. Bend the front knee, straighten the back knee and press the heel into the floor. Breathe and relax into the stretch. Hold for 10-15 seconds, then switch legs.

        Repeat the stretch starting with the first side again. This time, slightly bend the back knee as you stretch. The stretch will get deeper into the calf muscles, the Achilles tendon, and will gently mobilize the ankle joint.

    Strengthen the muscles in your feet.
        We have muscles in our feet that support proper foot mechanics in gait and support the the arches. Sit in a chair with your bare foot resting on a towel on the floor. Slowly contract your toes down into the floor and toward your heel to “walk” the towel in toward you. Work one foot at a time. 

     “Play the piano” with your toes. Sit in a chair with your feet on the floor and work one foot at a time. Lift all off your toes off of the floor. Slowly and meticulously lower one toe to the floor at a time, starting with your pinkie toe and working your way to your big toe. This takes some practice, but you will feel the muscles in your feet getting stronger and more flexible.

    These 3 tips will help you decrease foot pain and keep your feet healthy. There are also many foot products on the market such as rollers, reflexology balls, yoga toes five toe socks and shoes. 

    However, these are not appropriate for individuals with diabetes, impaired circulation, neuropathy or decreased sensation in your feet. Be sure to consult with your health care provider for more guidance on foot care.

    Be healthy! 
Cheryl Ilov, PT, GCFP