pain management

What you are stretching might not be muscle and could be making your pain worse.

I hear this all the time, whether it be in a class I’m teaching or a student next to me while I’m practicing on the mat. “This is such a great stretch! I feel it all the way from my low back to my ankle.” Now, wait just a minute. Hold the phone.

There is no muscle that goes from your low back down to your ankle!!!

You are not “stretching” a muscle in this case. Most likely you are stretching a nerve. Nerves are like your tenacious little old lady next door. They are feisty, easy to piss off, and when you do they stay pissed off for a long time making your life miserable. However, if you are kind to them and show love, they will be your most loyal life long friend. Enough said. Please don’t stretch your nerves.

I had a patient come to the clinic with low back pain and nerve pain down the leg. She tried everything, including yoga, which she thought helped. However, that nagging ache and occasional shooting pains would not go away so she finally scheduled a visit with me.

It took awhile to really nail down what was going on. She was getting better, pain intensity and frequency were reducing, however occasionally after yoga she would have a really bad flare up that would linger for a few days. Because of this we started breaking down her yoga postures, the form and what she was feeling in each pose. Eventually we came to twisted triangle. Ends up she was twisting too much from the low back, and not enough through her stiff mid back. The excessive twist in her low back was causing a pinch on the nerve sending the sensation all the way from her low back to her ankle. She thought it was a stretch so she pushed harder- essentially making the nerve very angry. To heal we went over how to practice without the nerve sensation, and instead feel a muscle stretch. After this there rest of healing went smoothly.

I encourage you today to look at how you are moving and stretching and start noticing. For example, that hamstring stretch you feel all the way to your foot- not hamstring!!

It’s tricky! I get it. It’s why personally I move very slow in my yoga practice. Since I’m hyper mobile I want to ensure I’m really stabilizing and stretching where I need to stretch. If I move too quickly it’s easy to fall back to old patterns. Reply back- what do you think? Do you have a question about what you feel in a stretch? This is the way to ensure your yoga practice is really helping you instead of harming.

Warmly,

Alison

PS- A holiday gift for you! If you refer me a family member and/or friend and they become a patient you receive a free 60 Minute Massage! Enjoy! In the meantime watch this interview with Ashlee where we talk about the importance of women’s health, what it means, and balancing life as a mom and business owner:

5 Secrets to getting a goodnight's sleep even with pain

Sleep is tricky if pain keeps you up, or wakes you up. At the same time when you sleep the restoration and healing occurs. So how do you get to sleep and stay asleep when healing? Here are some tips:

  1. Have a routine. You know the drill turn off the electronics, phone and dim the lights. Personally, I love to take a shower or bath to release the day and begin to unwind the nervous system. From there I move through a short and gentle yoga practice including lots of long holds, deep breaths and ending with a couple of restorative postures. In a perfect world this is done by myself, but most of the time my three year old joins in. On those nights the practice def takes on a new flavor, but it’s sweet moments that I can cherish forever with my daughter. Plus it’s setting some healthy habits for her as well. When you are healing from injury choose a practice that will help to support the healing. My patients are always given an individualized practice (AKA your homework), this is the prefect time to do it.

2. Support yourself. Use lots of pillows and bolsters. Support yourself in bed so you can be as comfortable as possible. This is the time to be high maintenance. If you are not comfortable and focus on the pain it will take FOREVER to fall asleep (if you can).

3. Use essential oils. Another part of my routine is using calming and grounding essential oils before my yoga practice and bed. I like to diffuse lavender, cedar wood, vetiver, stress away, peace and calming and/or orange. Topically I use the roller Tranquil on my neck and wrists. If I’m really having a hard time drifting off then I inhale a drop of valerian or I will take Immupro which has a little melatonin and mushrooms to boost immunity.

4. Keep the roller by the bed. I also apply deep relief to any areas of discomfort to dull the pain, and keep the roller on the night stand. That way if I wake up in pain, I immediately can apply something to help without having to get out of bed. It also prevents my mind from taking off with worry about the pain getting worse, because I know I just used something that will help so I can get right back to sleep.

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5. If you wake up try to get back to sleep as quickly as possible. Only as a last resort get out of bed and turn on the lights. Do something to calm the mind, and to support the sleep to return. Apply something that will help with pain (see above), then reclose the eyes. Communicate with your body. Ask it what it needs. Sometimes the body just wants your attention (often we ignore it throughout our busy days). Now is the time, bring your breath to the area of discomfort, or visualize healing, excessive inflammation and pain leaving the body. for example. Maybe you will fall back to sleep during this process, worse case you don’t, then at least you’ve had quality connection time with yourself. Sometimes that’s the best thing you can do to promote healing.

If you have questions on any of the above then just reply to this e-mail. I’m here to help!

If you have low back discomfort that comes and goes, like a nagging ache, or pain down the leg. Or if you are feeling tight and sore muscles from tension and stress then the workshop this Saturday 12/8 at Prana, 2-4PM is for you! Click here to register: Yoga Therapy for Stress Relief: Reducing Low Back Pain

Warmly,

Alison

PS- Put in some ear buds and listen to this interview with physical therapist Jaime where she highlights some of the benefits of working with a physical therapist who doesn’t take insurance.

How Perfection Can Make Your Pain Worse

With the holiday season here, old patterns of perfection can make their appearance. Stress piles on as you try to have your home perfect for visitors, perfect meals, perfect kids, perfect gifts, outfits, decorations etc all while maintaining the perfect work schedule, workout and self care schedule. Ugh. Research is showing that all this striving, and tension can lead to increased pain and sensitivity. So how do we navigate the holiday season still putting our best foot forward, while enjoying the moments?

Personally, I find just being aware of my patterns is most important. Truthfully, in the past I have not been a fan of the holidays. I used to fall back into perfectionism strategies when I’m in protective or a reactive stress pattern during the discomfort of this time of the year. However, now if I am aware of triggers, and can pick up on my tendencies, then I can pause, stop and make a different choice. This opens me up to new experiences, which I find as mom is invaluable. Now I can enjoy the season with my daughter.

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Second tip for me is accepting and embracing all my imperfections. Laughing at my mistakes, goofs, flops, messy house, etc. My daughter and I always have the best laugh when she notices my mess up and exclaims “silly momma, you are soooo silly”. I have also learned to say no to excessive travel (scheduling for more mellow travel months), and just lots of doing. It’s taken me a few years to move from dread of this time of year to actually looking forward to the joy the season brings. Now I’m happy to share these moments with you online, in classes and in the clinic. Let me know what you think. Do you find yourself striving to be perfect?

In the meantime enjoy this interview with Lauren of Simply Balanced Wellness on reclaiming your happiness:


In health,

Alison

How to Reduce Pain Without A Bunch of Crazy Exercises

Whether you are conscious of it or not, your nervous system is being ruled by feelings of safety, or lack of. As parents we embody this for our children. Prioritizing their safety above anything else. However, as adults we often forget to put on our own safety mask first. Or, we don’t even realize we are in environments, relationships, workplaces etc where unconsciously we feel unsafe. Sometimes with associate feelings of safety with physical dangers or big traumas. Of course our brain will be scanning the environment for these high alert issues to keep us alive. These we don’t have much control over, and are usually a surprise, for better or worse a part of life.

Today, what I’m talking about specifically is the lack of safety we create due to the stories we run in the background of our mind, or our perception of a relationship or environment. A situation one person might perceive as being enjoyable, relaxing or safe, another might interrupt as being fear provoking or dangerous in some way. This is based upon past experiences which trigger fears, worries and anxieties. While these are not big traumas, the continuous feeling of being unsafe will keep the fight or flight nervous system in high drive.

When the nervous system kicks into protective mode, a whole cascade of physiological responses happen. These are normal and needed if we are actually in danger, however if it’s emotional danger due to fears from stories we create, the consequences of living in “fight or flight” can take its toll on the body and mind.

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For example, a patient I had in the office was experiencing traveling chronic pain. Sometimes in the neck, sometimes in the low back. A flare of either region could occur without warning, leading to a day in bed and inability to take care of responsibilities. After a few sessions with her we realized that she is on continuous guard, always overanalyzing situations and conversations. Due to her shy personality she has a hard time expressing her needs, and stores her emotions internally. All this lead to a rigidity in her body, tension and excess stress. She had exercises from a previous physical therapist she was doing, but felt they didn’t really provide relief or sometimes even made the pain worse. After a few sessions we started to unravel the root source of her pain. Yes there were some physical imbalances we needed to align, but the underlying issue was the continuous stress due to not feeling safe. Once we developed a self care routine to help create feelings of safety and dial down the fight or flight response her flare ups and intensity of pain also decreased as well. Then surprisingly (or not) she started doing those exercises from her old PT- and started experiencing positive effects from them, because now we addressed the cause.

I believe her situation is so common. How do we unpack all this??
It starts by slowing and creating an awareness. Where and when do you feel unsafe, or triggered? This can be very subtle. Then developing an environment and community that supports you. This week start by snuggling up with your loved ones, or items that make you feel supported. Also, notice the stories that come up as the holiday approaches. My daughter loves her cozy stuffed puppy when she feels overwhelmed. What can ground and anchor you? When the nervous system moves from protective mode and fear based stories, then the healing and living (physical and mental) can truly begin.

Questions? Just reply to this e-mail.

Warmly,

Alison

PS- For more preventative wellness tips watch this interview: