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Pain Related to daily Activities

Our daily activities can actually cause muscle imbalances. No matter your line of work, you probably have some type of routine, repetitive activities. This can overwork some muscles and under-work others and is one reason many people often say, “I do not know how this happened. One day I felt pain but I’ve never had an injury.”

The body is a balanced system of levers and disrupting that balance can put joints at a mechanical disadvantage, causing unnatural and inefficient movements. The muscles that work harder tighten while the opposite weaker muscles lengthen causing impingement of joint spaces and other joint irregularities. This extra wear on the joints and ligaments can also cause arthritis, bulging disks and even tiny fractures in the spine. For example, an office worker who sits incorrectly all day with chin forward, shoulders rounded and leaning over toward the computer will likely have anterior shoulder, low back and neck pain. Think about the amount of times you get up and down in one day. If you are doing so incorrectly the force on your spine eventually will cause some type of break down. This postural distortion eventually can cause all sorts of problems such as pain, poor sleep, scar tissue build up and muscle atrophy, just to name a few. The problem is people go to the doctor and take medication for pain and are told to do routine, impersonal everyday exercises.

Unfortunately, medication can often be a mask that only exaggerates the problem and introduces new side effects. And general, routine exercises don’t fit every person. People have different lifestyles and do different things. One person may have back pain due to a hip dysfunction while another may have a thoracic issue so exercises need to be tailored to the individual.

An effective exercise prescription needs to not only consider your job but your daily activities and workout routine. Did you know stretching alone can alleviate most basic everyday complaints? Exercise and stretching related to daily activities can benefit any person because if you feel better at work you will perform better. If a job is stressful it can actually cause tension in the neck and back, and pain from tight muscles can trigger stress and thus the start of a cycle.
Charles DeFrancesco
www.fitandfunctional.com

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What Makes Up the Core

The foundation of your core is much more than just your abdominal muscles. It includes muscles that lie deep within your torso, right up to your neck, and your shoulders.  The core includes the following structures:

  •      Multifidus –A very deep muscle that runs from the neck (C3) to the lumbar spine (L5). Approximately two thirds of the static support in your back is produced through contraction of the Multifidus muscle.
  •      Interspinales, Intertransversarii, Rotatores – Deep structures that attach directly to the spinal column. These are very important for rotatory motion and lateral stability.
  •      Internal/External Obliques & Transversus Abdominis –These structures transmit a compressive force, and act to increase intra-abdominal pressure that stabilizes the lumbar spine.
  •      Erector Spinae – These muscles help to balance all the forces involved in spinal flexion.
  •      Quadratus Lumborum – This muscle stabilizes the  12th rib during respiration and laterally flexes the trunk.
  •      Thoracolumbar Fascia – This area supplies tensile support to the lumbar spine, and is used for load transfer throughout the lumbar region.

These muscles connect to the spine, pelvis, and shoulders to create a solid foundation of support.  When these core muscles are strong, flexible, and move freely, then the athlete is able to generate controlled, powerful movements in his/her arms and legs.

Imbalances Weaken Your Core

Training long hours does not guarantee that you have core stability.  In fact, spending too much time working within one plane of motion often creates core imbalances.  Add these imbalances to stresses caused by poor posture during running, and the repetitive motions of swimming, and you have an equation for the development of a weak core.

Often the athlete tries to correct these imbalances by heading to the gym to strengthen weakened areas.  Unfortunately, since many weight machines only work through one plane of motion (usually sagittal), these strengthening exercises only reinforce core instability.

Imbalances Affect Performance and Lead to Injury

Optimum posture is based on the attainment of a balance between primary muscle movers and their opposing muscles.  This is referred to as a force coupled relationship – when muscles act in opposition to each other to create a movement.  An imbalance is created when one muscle group is overworked in comparison to its opposing structure.

Most cyclists focus on their hamstrings, quadriceps, and gluteals and forget about the importance of core stability.

Consider how many hours the triathelete spends bent over in a flexed position on the aero bars, with no rotational or side bending motions. A strong core is needed to counter-balance these forces.

With a focus on the core, a cyclist can generate more power and can sustain a higher level of intensity for longer periods.

A stronger core also means less stress on the primary muscle movers and a delay in the build up of lactic acid.

Even minor changes such as brake position can affect core stability.

  • If the brake handle position is too low, the cyclist is forced to reach too far forward with their forearms.
  • This reaching position forces the cyclist to raise their head forcing the pelvic girdle posterior. This position cause a restriction in several key muscles in the core, thus reducing performance.
  • The ideal position for the forearms is to have the elbows bent and the forearms flattened out. In this position, the cyclist head drops into a more comfortable aerodynamic position, and the pelvis tilts forward. In this position, the cyclist is able to use all the core muscles with improved efficiency

Following the Kinetic Chain

Consider how the chronic shortening of just one muscle can affect performance and cause injuries.  There are multitude of different muscle groups we could focus on, but for our example we will chose the rectus abdominus muscle.

rectus abdominus is often shortened by doing crunches, hanging leg raises, or by spending an excessive amount of time bent over the aero bars.

The rectus abdominus attaches from the fifth to the seventh ribs.  As this muscle shortens, it has the effect of:

  •  Pulling the chest down and moving the shoulders and head forward.
  •  As the shoulders move forward, the arms and hands move inward (also called medial rotation).

If we follow the kinetic chain, what started as a shortening of an abdominal structures ends up affecting posture, shoulder rotation, arm position, and even the positioning of the hands.

Running

Now consider how a shortened rectus abdominus affects a triatheletes performance during running. Although opinions about the ‘ideal running form’ vary greatly, most authorities will agree that the less energy you expend, the more effective your running style.

The following table illustrates how an imbalance in the rectus abdominus decreases the runners ability to run efficiently.

Common running recommendations
(Runners World Online)
How a shortened rectus abdominus affects your running
Run upright. Your back should be straight, roughly at a 90-degree angle to the ground.

Look straight ahead. Your eyes should be focused straight down the road on a point moving about 10 meters in front of you. This helps to keep you in a straight line.

Swing your arms naturally. The angle at the elbow between your upper and lower arms should be about 90 degrees. Your hands should be loosely cupped, about belly level.

A shortened rectus abdominus will pull the runners posture forward. This causes a braking action that reduces running economy.

As the rectus is shortened, it pulls the chest forward and pushes the head down.  In order to look straight ahead as instructed, the athlete wastes a considerable amount of force in trying to overcome the contracted rectus abdominus.

As the shoulders move forward, a shortened rectus abdominus causes the arms to rotate internally. This makes keeping your arms relaxed at the recommended 90-degree angle much more difficult, again reducing running economy.

This is only one example. When performing a biomechanical analysis, it is very common to see numerous imbalances of which the athlete is completely unaware.

 

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Protein in Your Diet

Proteins are complex organic compounds. The basic structure of protein is a chain of amino acids.

Function
Every cell in the human body contains protein. It is a major part of the skin, muscles, organs, and glands. Protein is also found in all body fluids, except bile and urine.

You need protein in your diet to help your body repair cells and make new ones. Protein is also important for growth and development during childhood, adolescence, and pregnancy.

Food Sources
Protein-containing foods are grouped as either complete or incomplete proteins.

Complete proteins contain all nine essential amino acids. Complete proteins are found in animal foods such as meat, fish, poultry, eggs, milk, and milk products such as yogurt and cheese. Soybeans are the only plant protein considered to be a complete protein.

Incomplete proteins lack one or more of the essential amino acids. Sources of incomplete protein include beans, peas, nuts, seeds, and grain. A small amount of incomplete protein is also found in vegetables.

Plant proteins can be combined to provide all of the essential amino acids and form a complete protein. Examples of combined, complete plant proteins are rice and beans, wheat cereal, and corn and beans.

Side Effects
A diet high in meat can contribute to high cholesterol levels or other diseases such as gout. A high-protein diet may also put a strain on the kidneys.

Recommendations
A nutritionally balanced diet provides adequate protein. Protein supplements are rarely needed by healthy people.

Vegetarians are able to get adequate amounts of essential amino by eating a variety of plant proteins.

The amount of recommended daily protein depends upon your age and health. Two to three servings of protein-rich food will meet the daily needs of most adults.

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Eating for Energy

By: Amy Bell

The foods we eat have a direct impact on our overall energy.

Think about how you feel after having certain foods.

A greasy fast food meal more than likely leaves you tired, sluggish, and possibly feeling guilty, while a meal full of complex carbohydrates, healthy protein and fats, and fresh fruits and vegetables leaves a person feeling satisfied and energized. Continue reading Eating for Energy

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Aging Well with Good Nutrition

PADMINI SHANKAR, Ph.D., RD
Assistant Professor
Department of Family & Consumer Sciences,

As we enter the 21st century, the life expectancy of older Americans continues to increase and by the year 2030, nearly one-fourth of the total population will be comprised of the elderly. To maintain an optimal quality of life, extended longevity in the elderly should be accompanied by good health, free from disease and disability. However, many of these in Continue reading Aging Well with Good Nutrition