It’s about that time of year. The time when we get lots of questions about how to get rid of neck pain. Maybe it’s all the online shopping?
Here is what we recommend to let the healing begin.
As always, anytime you have pain you want to calm things down.
First step is to decrease the inflammation.
Next CHECK IN on these 3 areas:
Hip Check In- stiff muscles or tightness causing pain in your neck can be a sign that you’ve got some underlying weakness in your core and postural muscles.
Why check your hips when you’ve got neck pain? All movement begins at the hips which are the base of your core. Your hips don’t lie. Imbalances in strength and mobility of your hips will cause issues all throughout the body.
Wait what? Yes it's true and because everything’s connected to everything through your fascia (connective tissue). If your hips are tight and pelvic floor muscles are weak, then your neck may be working overtime to hold you up against gravity.
Posture Check In- it’s important to check that you aren’t straining your neck with your positioning in bed and wherever you sit for long periods (i.e. office chair, sofa, car seat).
Bed Tips: How many pillows do you sleep with? You want to find just the right amount of support particularly in your neck area so that you aren’t too flexed or too flat. You’ll need to take into consideration if you sleep on your back, side or belly. They make pillows for all types of sleepers now. Find one that fits you just right.
If your neck is flared up, you might need some extra support in the curve of your neck just below the base of your skull. You can roll up a towel and place it in the bottom of your pillowcase for some extra support.
If you’re a belly sleeper, a good goal would be to try and become a side sleeper. You could even get a body pillow and sleep halfway between your side and belly sleeping for less stress on your neck.
Chair Tips: ideally you want to sit in a position with good low back support that encourages you to sit with your shoulders over your hips and head in line with your spine. Try to have your elbows supported to take tension out of your shoulders and put any screen at eye level to avoid slumping over and flexing your neck too much. Standing desks work for some folks also to break up their sitting time.
It’s impossible to have perfect posture all day long but you can become more mindful of how you sit and take frequent movement breaks to reset your posture and help your tissue stay hydrated throughout the day.
Stress Check In- most of us are aware that when we are stressed, we hold tension in our necks. Taking simple relaxation breaks from 3 reps to 3 minutes throughout the day will help you calm your nervous system and help you feel more ease each day.
Now that you’ve checked in, which of these areas needs some attention? Keep that in mind as you work on the next step: moving without pain.
NECK BASIC MOBILITY WORK
Here are a few gentle movements to help relieve neck tension or pain.
Relaxing your face- There are 2 simple moves that can help you relax your face and put less tension on your neck. Smiling and putting your tongue on the roof of your mouth while you breathe. I know it seems too simple but try it while you are working on the computer or working out to see if it helps keep tension out of your neck.
Relaxing your shoulders- Good form is important not only in sitting but when you are lifting weights or doing arm movements during Pilates or Yoga exercises. Check in and make sure your shoulders are not pulled up toward your ears (elevated) when you are sitting, cooking, driving, working out, talking on the phone. Instead keep your shoulder blades pulled down toward your hips and think arm pits to hips as you move and go through your day.
Chin Tuck Exercise- Sit up tall, shoulders over hips, arm pits to hips and gently move your chin back toward your spine like you’re making a double chin. Think about lengthening the back of your neck. Repeat 10 times as long as this doesn’t increase your pain. Rule of thumb: if a movement makes your pain worse, don’t do it or modify it.
Nose Circles Exercise- Sit up tall with good posture and move your nose in a circle like you are drawing a circle the size of an orange. Repeat 5-10 times then reverse directions and repeat circles 5-10 more times.
Modifications: If you’re super flared-up, you might want to do the Chin Tucks and Nose Circles laying on your back with a supportive pillow or towel roll. Bend your knees with feet flat on floor to take even more tension off your spine. You can do these several times a day especially at the end of your day. When someone has a recent injury, you typically have them do 10 reps every hour to help calm the area and get out of the pain cycle.
Remember we want to calm the body when it’s in pain.
As things calm down and you’re able to move better without pain, the next step is to turn on your postural muscles with stability exercises.
POSTURE WORK FOR NECK PAIN
Even though you are dealing with a neck issue, you want to start with stability exercises aimed at strengthening your hips and pelvic floor muscles to help improve your posture and take tension off your neck. You can literally reshape your body with a few minutes of daily fascial body work.
We show you how to improve the mobility and stability of your hips and spine using fascial stretching, massage and stability work in our online program, HIP Camp™: Stretch & Rest Care Tools To Reshape Your Body. Learn more here.
WHEN TO SEEK HELP WITH PAIN
If you have sharp or constant pain or start to lose sensation or control of any muscles, it’s time to call your doctor. Seek medical help immediately when you have an acute (new) injury.
If you’ve been diagnosed with a herniated disc or have numbness/tingling into your arm, you will need a health care professional to guide you with your recovery. You’ll want to find someone that has strong manual therapy skills and training with myofascial tools like cupping, kinesiotaping or dry needling. You may benefit from traction techniques also. Your provider should also give you a home exercise program to do between sessions.
Don’t forget you are still fragile as you are healing. Go slow as you get back to normal activities even when you start to feel better or have less pain.
P.S. Ho. Ho. Ho. It’s time to Roll. Our favorite foam roller is 30% off this month. It’s like having a PT, Chiro, Massage Therapist in one and the closest we can get to sending our hands home with you. You can find it here*.
In our online program, HIP Camp™, we show you how to use the foam roller & more to help you reshape your body for better energy, mobility and posture. Learn more here.
For more stress management tips, download this Daily Planner to help you add 1-3 minute rest & relaxation breaks into your day.
DIY Self Care Book Resource for Neck Pain: McKenzie Method- Treat Your Own Neck. Available in English and Spanish. You can find it on Amazon or here.
For more for tips on having good form during workouts, refer to this Fit Blog.
For suggestions on how to build your rehab team, refer to this Fit Blog.
*denotes affiliate link
2020 has been INTENSE for all of us. We've all got a battle or two (or more) going on right now in our lives.
Even dentists are reporting increased numbers of cracked teeth and dental emergencies since the Spring. Apparently, it's from all the jaw clenching and teeth grinding from stress.
Good news, I've got a go to breathing exercise for anxiety and stress...
THE COOLING BREATH
It’ll not only help you process strong emotions like The Ha Breath does, but help you calm and relax your nervous system.
It’s the perfect time to add it to your breath work toolbox.
OK let's test it out.
Check in to see if you are feeling any anxiety or stress. Rate it on a scale of 1 (none) to 10 (I’m freaking out).
Next do 5 reps of The Cooling Breath.
HOW TO DO THE COOLING BREATH
After 5 reps of The Cooling Breath, check back in and rate your anxiety or stress on a scale of 1 to 10. Did it go down? Do you want to do a few more reps? Listen to your body. What does it need?
You can use The Cooling Breath during the day, in the car, before bed. Anytime you feel anxiety rising. Make sure to teach it to your kiddos. They'll love it. You can describe it like blowing bubbles if that helps them catch on to it.
We are sending tons of love to anyone fighting or recovering from the virus, the fires, or the hurricanes. Please take care of yourself during these challenging times.
P.S. Craving better sleep? Download this 5 minute rest meditation to take a quick time out, prep for a nap or to relax your body before sleep (it includes The Cooling Breath).
Download this daily planner to help you add more 1-3 minute rest & relaxation breaks into your day.
Would you agree that time is our most precious resource? One thing that can rob you of time is being in pain.
You only have so much energy (i.e. brain power) in a day and painful joints or muscle soreness takes up brain space.
If you’re in pain and not able to move well, what are you missing out on in life? Is it time with loved ones, your favorite sport or hobby, planning your dream trip?
What’s pain costing you? At work? At home?
It's never too late to learn simple strategies to help you get out of pain and calm things down.
So, let’s do an inflammation checkup.
Are you in pain? Does your body feel, sore, tight, or stiff?
Inflammation and soreness are signs of over-training or over-use.
Healthy tissue doesn’t hurt. It’s not tender to touch. It doesn’t hurt when you move.
Pain is telling you something is not right. It’s a protective mechanism. It’s locking up to guard.
Your body is like “Hey, over here. Pay attention to me. You better stop that. I need a break NOW!”
It’s talking to you all day. We get hunger signals. Thirst signals. Fatigue signals. All of them are like the warning lights on your car. Alerts before you break down.
Most of us wait until our body is screaming at us all day or we can’t move before we pay attention.
The good news is you can learn to calm it down if you missed the warning signals.
6 Strategies To Calm Down Inflammation
THE MORE YOU:
The more you'll benefit from supporting your body with daily practices to decrease inflammation.
Which one are you going to test out first?
It's never too late to feel, move, and perform better! Here's to taking it one day or one step at a time.
If you’re feeling the anxiety creeping back up as the Rona wildfire spreads across the southern part of the U.S., here's a self-care practice that should help.
We had our dress rehearsal in April for this scenario. Cue the jazz hands, it’s SHOW TIME!
We know what to do to slow the spread: WASH (your hands), WATCH (your distance), WEAR (your mask).
We know outside (with social distancing) is safer than indoors.
It’s the perfect time to start a GROUNDING PRACTICE. And it’s super simple.
How To Start A Grounding Practice
Grounding 101: Lie on the ground outside for 5-10 minutes. You don’t have to do anything but let Mother Earth do her thing.
Spice it up: you can visualize growing roots from your body down into the earth as you breathe. Inhale all the healing energy of nature, then exhale anything you want to release from your mind or body through those roots down deep into the earth.
Benefits Of A Grounding Practice
A Grounding Practice can help you:
Other options when you can’t get safely on the ground and start to spiral with anxiety or fear:
Self Care Resources
Here are links to all the blogs for resources I’ve pulled together so far during the pandemic:
Self-care basics during COVID-19
Immune Boosting Breath Work
Pet Care: the latest CDC update is that humans can pass coronavirus to their pets (no evidence of them giving it to humans). Keep your pets away from anyone outside your household and anyone who has tested positive or is in quarantine.
If you don’t know Andy Slavitt, I recommend you follow him on twitter (@ASlavitt) or on his podcast (In The Bubble) for real time COVID-19 updates as hot spots develop around the country.
Stay Safe & Strong!
P.S. Want better sleep? Download this 5 minute rest meditation to take a quick time out, prep for a nap or to relax your body before sleep
It’s getting W-E-I-R-D in here.
How are you doing now that we’re at the mask stage of the Rona Ride?
I’m used to them in the medical world, but it still feels strange to wear them in public.
This whole experience is pretty disorienting. Isn’t it?
As we add covering up with the mask to social distancing, keep in mind you can still connect with others using your eyes and body language.
Some of my stroke patients that I learned the most and felt closest too didn’t speak a word the entire time I worked with them because of their aphasia. We used body language and eye contact to connect and understand each other.
When you’re wearing a mask in public, you can still crack jokes and use eye contact to connect with people especially those with essential service jobs. The stress and fatigue are on the rise in the front lines.
Smile with your eyes. They’re still the window to your soul. Send them some love.
TO MASK OR NOT TO MASK
I know there’s confusion and mixed messages out there on masks, even when some communities require them.
Part of the journey of this pandemic is we have to adapt as we learn more information. Current research shows masks help decrease risk for all by at least 50% (3 ply surgical masks are better than home made).
Wearing a mask is another tool to protect ourselves and the most vulnerable in our community from the virus.
Mask Care 101: Make sure you cover both your mouth and nose with it. And once it’s on don’t touch it with your hands. If you do touch it, wash your hands. Take it off by the ear loops and throw it away.
Yes the Rona Ride is getting repetitive but it’s simple: Wash (your hands), Watch (your distance), and Wear (your mask).
BOOST YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM
Before you mask up, do the dog breath (in your house or car). It’s another exercise to add to your breath work toolbox that’ll help boost your immune system.
Peace & Love,
P.S. Helpful Resources:
Download this daily planner to help you add 1-3 minute rest & relaxation breaks into your day.
Additional Rest Resources
Self-care basics during COVID-19
Surgical Masks: Austin Emergency Supply Foundation provides free masks to small business and those in need. You can buy masks for just yourself or for you + help others get them too.
Best Mask For Glasses (anti-fog)
I don’t know about you but I’m ready for a REST stop on the Rona Ride.
It’s starting to feel like a country song come to life…
Dad’s on lock down (at his assisted living).
Youngest brother’s on the front lines (ER doc in Virginia that loves infectious disease).
I’m on a see saw balancing between two new worlds (the wellness “rest” world from my yoga nidra training and the upside down medical world on the verge of burn out).
Ironically, my yoga nidra training started when the pandemic hit our area.
I'll be honest my Rona Ride stalled out at the end of April when my body screamed "time out" due to poor sleep from stress and the crazy pace of all the almost daily changes happening in the medical world.
I was exhausted mentally and physically.
So what did I do?
I busted open my rest-care tool box which helped me bounce back energy wise.
THE BEST MEDICINE IS REST
There has never been a better time to listen to your body and give it what it needs.
Right now besides your basic hygiene, social distancing and using the latest CDC safety precautions, I recommend using as much rest, laughter, and nature as medicine as possible.
I saw a post where someone mentioned they were making turns onto aisles at the grocery store like they were in a haunted house. I couldn’t help from LOL thinking of that even though it’s also sad. Hopefully we won’t feel like that forever.
Find the humor whenever you can right now. It's OK to laugh while you're anxious or sad. It's a #1 coping strategy in the healthcare world. Don’t feel guilty.
Focus on what you can control in your immediate environment. Your self-care comes first then everyone else. The wellness rules are the same as before, but we need to ramp up the calming strategies.
Remember to take advantage of the health benefits of movement and meditation each day. You don't have to go hard core. A little bit helps a lot.
Did you know doing something synchronized like singing with another person is right up there health wise? Our bodies intuitively know this. Think of all the TikTok videos or the clapping each day in NYC and Italy for health care workers.
Go ahead and bust out the karaoke or your favorite dance moves a few minutes a day. Sing and shake your body to keep the energy and emotions flowing.
I know you’ve got cabin fever. Go for a drive. Go outside and soak up some sun. Get near water or trees. Move your body. But then I still want you to REST, REST, REST.
This is a marathon not a sprint. Our bodies heal and get stronger at rest.
REST & RELAXATION SELF-CARE TOOLS
Here are some free rest and relaxation tools to help calm your body & brain:
Download this free 5 minute rest meditation for better sleep. Use it to take a quick break, prep for a nap or to relax your body before sleep.
Free Meditation Apps: Calm, Head Space
Tapping (EFT) is a combination of ancient Chinese acupressure and modern psychology that sends calming signals to the brain. Here are some free resources:
The Tapping Solution free coronavirus stress and anxiety meditations: go here
The Tapping Solution has 6 months free membership for health care workers and first responders: learn more here
Tapping with Brad Yates on YouTube: Coronavirus
Rest is medicine!
P.S. Working from home for the first time? Don’t forget to take mini movement breaks for better focus & less stiff muscles. Download the Mini Moves Planner to help your body feel more energy, ease, and flow each day.
Need some immune boosting tips? Here’s the Healthy Traveler Packing List from an oldie but goldie blog post on nutrition and exercise resources to add to your self-care practices. They're good year-round not just for travel.
Find COVID-19 self-care basics & resources here.
One of the things I love about Pilates, Yoga, and Qi Gong is the emphasis on the breath work.
They all teach you how the breath is where it all starts. It controls everything. How you heal. How you feel. How you move.
And there are so many breathing exercises out there that can give you different results.
You can change the way you breathe so that it calms your nervous system, to turn on your nervous system before or during activity, to boost your energy, to loosen muscle tension, and/or to decrease anxiety and overwhelm.
It’s fascinating how something so simple can make such a difference in your body and mind.
Put your hand over your heart and close your eyes. Take a deep breath in through your nose and out through your mouth. Repeat a few more deep breaths.
Did that release some tension in your neck? Do you feel a less overwhelmed? How about more grounded or centered?
You can use this breathing exercise anytime you feel like life is spiraling out of control. It reminds you that you DO have control.
One breath can change everything. Your mood. Your energy level.
And as they say you've gotta feel it to heal it. Breath work will help you do that.
Having a variety of breathing exercises in your self-care tool box will help you manage stress, fatigue, and pain to perform and feel your best each day.
Here is another breathing exercise for you to try that will help you release STRONG emotions: The Ha Breath*.
Some of us were taught that it's not OK to express strong or negative emotions (i.e. anger, sadness) and they get trapped in our body. This technique will help you release them.
Not to get too woo woo on you, but it'll also help you center yourself by combining both your masculine and feminine energy so you’re in a more peaceful place.
THE HA BREATH
Remember…baby steps, my friend. All is well.
P.S. Want to feel more energy, ease, & flow each day? Download this free daily planner that'll help you pick out a few self-care mini moves so you can find your groove.
*FROM THE BOOK: Daring To Rest by Karen Brody who learned The Ha Breath technique in a Sierra Bender workshop.
If you’re worn out, burned out or in need of a time out, here’s my favorite tool to help you get re-energized.
I've used it daily for the past 2 years. It's been my #1 self-care practice as I continue to ride the emotional roller coaster of providing elder care for my dad.
I learned about it on a podcast that led me to a book that started me on a 40 day challenge with a simple rest tool called Yoga Nidra.
I was completely worn out from helping my dad through his 3rd cancer surgery in a year when the podcast caught my attention.
I'd heard the name many times from my Yoga Therapist colleagues, but didn’t really "hear" it until my body needed it the most.
My body was like “Yes, THAT is what you need to do when you get home.” Deep rest was exactly what my body was craving and I was the perfect candidate to test out the power of it.
I'll never forget my first yoga nidra nap and the way it refreshed and energized my worn-out body (and soul).
It’s the most relaxed I’ve gotten on my own without going to acupuncture or massage. I would even say it’s a deeper relaxation experience that energizes you versus having that post bodywork fog where you can barely drive home.
What is Yoga Nidra?
It’s basically meditation while you rest.
You lie down, listen to a guided meditation, and rest. It’s called “yogic sleep” and involves intense relaxation.
Doesn’t it sound fascinating and fun?
It’s my favorite rest tool for managing fatigue and stress.
If you’re a caregiver for little ones, old ones, even furry ones... it'll help you re-charge each day.
If you're in a healing profession... it's your burnout prevention tool.
If you’ve got a job that requires you to perform (athlete, speaker)… it’s your pre-game “find your flow” mindset tool.
A 15 minute yoga nidra nap will help you calm your nervous system so your body can repair and heal itself.
It has been such a powerful healing & recovery tool in my life. I know it can be in yours as well.
Getting Started With Yoga Nidra
BOOK AND CHALLENGE:
P.S. Check out your brain on Yoga Nidra. The research on brain scans during Yoga Nidra is remarkable. Your brain is asleep and awake at the same time. After you wake up, you're primed and ready to act: Brain scans
Have you gotten clear on your ONE fitness goal for January 2020?
Does it include having more energy and less inflammation in your body?
Is 2020 the year you become a joyful & well-rested Wellness Warrior?
If so, we’ve put together a few NEW YEARS deals on our online bodywork camps to help you get started without burning yourself out.
They’ll help you take the first step to having more energy, ease & flow each day… by giving your body the gift of stretching and massage to release your tight & tender spots with less than 10 minutes of daily self-care (or what we call "stretch-care").
Both camps begin on January 6th.
At this time of year when there’s a ton of pressure to speed things up and change everything about your workouts and diet, we want to show you the benefits of slowing things down.
Let’s set you up for success by breaking the habit of going too hard, too fast. It’s THE recipe for inflammation, injury and burnout.
Instead let's calm your body with daily fascial stretch-care and bodywork tools so it has time to work its magic...to heal itself and get stronger.
Your body gets stronger at rest.
You can train smarter by resting harder whether it's to support your workouts or your wellness.
Our bodywork camps show you how easy it is to do this.
They lay the ground work for you to stay active, agile, & pain-free at any age.
It’s like when the flight attendant says to “put on your oxygen mask first.” Our camps are the "oxygen" for a strong, well-rested body & mind.
Our online bodywork camps are on special until December 31st. Choose the one that is the best fit for your body's needs right now.
GETTING STARTED WITH YOUR STRETCH-CARE:
If you’re a newbie to fascial stretch-care, our online MINI Bodywork Camp™ (How to Foam Roll & Massage for More Freedom & Flow) will help you get started with a simple daily foam roller routine. You'll learn how to use our favorite flexibility hack, foam roller massage, to calm your body for better mobility & stretch results- it’s 50% off for a limited time. Learn more.
GOING PRO WITH YOUR STRETCH-CARE:
If you’re ready to take a deeper dive into improving your mobility for better posture & faster recovery from workouts, you’ll want to check out the special we’ve got on HIP Camp™ (Stretch Care & Recovery Tools for the Mindful Athlete). It includes an AWESOME bonus holiday offer: The Pelvic Floor 5 Day Strength Challenge.
HIP Camp™ is our 4 week online base training program that will help you build a strong core with a well-rested body & mind. We'll walk you through our simple system to find & treat ALL your spots- the tight, tender, weak (& tired) spots to make lasting changes in your mobility & performance. You can get $150 off when you pay in full or we have a new payment plan option available with this special offer. Learn more.
It’s time to renew & refresh yourself in 2020.
Let’s do this!
Mollie & Ender
P.S. All holiday deals and bonus offers expire Tuesday, December 31st at 5pm CST.
The Pelvic Floor 5 Day Strength Challenge is a BONUS offer when you purchase HIP Camp™ by December 31st. It includes a pop-up Facebook Group for coaching & support beginning February 3rd. We’ll have daily challenges + office hours for questions, prizes, and cover strength, cardio, & clean eating exercises to improve the health of your pelvic floor & more. It’s the perfect compliment to HIP Camp™ trainings. Learn more about camp here.
Did you know you have a superpower? Yep, it's true. We all have it no matter our age or ability. It’s neuroplasticity! Your brains ability to rewire and grow when challenged.
It’s the reason I can confidently say it’s never too late and anything is possible. You can grow, learn new skills, be active & agile at any age.
But, there's a catch. It only happens when you challenge yourself outside your comfort zone and do lots (and lots) of repetition to cement in that new healthy habit or skill.
As a physical therapist working in brain injury rehab these past 20+ years, this was my job. Provide tons and tons of opportunities that challenged the patient who had injured their brain to use their weak side so they could walk and function better.
It's called a "forced use approach" to regaining muscle function (motor control). You're trying to turn on the weak muscles and create new pathways in the brain to help the body move better.
My patients all learned the easy way to move on their own using their strong side. Sometimes on day 1 of their injury. It wasn’t efficient and it limited their ability to reach their full potential functionally, but it was easy for them to pick up on their own.
That’s what your brain will do if you don’t challenge it. It’ll find the easiest way for you to function but most likely will keep you small and limited. And if you don't use it, you LOSE it. This is true whether it's a goal to improve your physical, mental, or emotional health.
Typically, every new habit or goal you want to achieve is outside your comfort zone. It's not something you are used to doing. You've got to learn some new skills to accomplish it. Turn on some new brain cells (neurons) and make new pathways.
And as soon as you decide you’ve got a new goal, whether it’s from fitness to finances, you brain is going to resist with fear and sabotaging behaviors. We all experience this. We always will no matter how healthy, successful or happy we are.
The research shows not even a life-threatening diagnosis of say cancer or heart disease will encourage most people to change their diet or behaviors like smoking. I can’t tell you how many patient’s I saw pushing their IV pole outside of MD Anderson Cancer Center for a cigarette during a chemo break when I worked in the Houston Medical Center.
Your brain is just trying to protect you. Keep you safe (in your comfort zone.)
That’s why I love a good brain hack. It might be from the support of a coach or therapist, a shift in mindset, or adding a new mantra to your bag of tricks. The more tools you have to deal with resistance and limiting beliefs, the better.
It takes practice and repetition, but the good news is that IT IS POSSIBLE to rewire your brain to accomplish any skill, goal or healthy habit you desire.
I've got 3 brain hacks to help you snap out of it when you start sabotaging. #3 is brand new so be sure to test it out.
3 BRAIN HACKS TO HELP YOU PLAY BIG & TAP INTO YOUR SUPERPOWER
Mollie Miller, PT