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

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