Knowledge is Power!
& Motion is Lotion!
Out of work? Forced to stay home to stay safe? On top of that your gym has closed…(our gym has)…Maybe even the neighborhood trails & parks have closed! COVID-19 coronavirus has forced us all to STOP MOVING AROUND! And maybe even added a bit of stress too – social isolation, home schooling the kids, uncertainty about food, gas, clothing,…the list goes on…! In times like these, it’s important to be in touch with our current physical state (i.e. our body): what’s stiff, tight, or even painful? Where am I carrying stress? And what can I do if I find an area or movement that’s stiff, restricted, or stuck – what happens if I gently and calmly move in & out of that restriction? Does it get better? Does it get worse? Lastly, when do I need to go see an expert?
Here is my daily simple, 15-minute toes to neck body scan you can do anywhere, anytime, to detect areas of stiffness, tension, or pain, and help release them on the spot. Throughout this practice ask yourself 3 things: 1). does anything feel stuck / stiff? 2). is the movement symmetrical side to side? 3). do I notice any sounds or feelings that aren’t quite right – clicks, pops, catches, or pain? Pain research tells us that often simply gaining awareness of an area of dysfunction allows our brain to acknowledge it and become familiar with it. That begins to de-escalate the fear & anxiety around it. Then, having a few tricks or tools for releasing problem areas can begin to restore normalcy. The only thing required for this exercise is a space where you can move around a bit, with minimal distraction, and a somewhat smooth surface (where you can take your shoes off, if possible).
NOTE: If you have pain or ‘hard stopping points’ that don’t resolve during these moves, don’t force things! Look at it as an educational practice more than a physical one – approaching it with curiosity & the goal of building awareness, rather than as a treatment with ‘fixing it’ as the goal. If it persists or worsens, you should schedule an appointment to see 1 of our expert Physical Therapists to diagnose the problem and recommend the best treatment approach for your condition.
1). Toe spreading / scrunching: spread all of your toes out as wide and flat to the floor as possible, then scrunch them in and curl them in as tightly as possible…go in & out, in a slow & controlled manner, as far each direction as possible.
2). Foot inward roll / outward roll: roll inward onto the inside edge of your feet, lifting the outside edge as high as possible; then roll the other way, onto the outside edge & lifting the inside edge up as high as possible.
3). Ankle-Knee rolling (the ‘Elvis Pressley’): roll up onto the inside of the ball & big toe of 1 foot, lifting the heel, while the other side stays put. Then, circle around to the outside of the ball & little toe, then down the outside edge of the foot, to the heel, then the foot back down flat. Now it’s the other side’s turn. Alternate each foot back & forth, then if you speed it up going right to left it should resemble one of the King’s epic dance moves.
4). Toe & Heel Raises: rock back onto heels, lifting toes and ball of feet as high as possible; then lift the heels and come onto ball & to the tippy tips of the toes…initially slow & controlled, lifting each as high as possible (without losing your balance!). Then, for an added challenge: do the heel raise part FAST! Lift the heels quickly, even jumping off the ground!
5). Butt-kickers: bend 1 knee, attempting to ‘kick’ your heel to your buttocks; then do the other side. Alternate back & forth, increasing the range, trying to get the heel all the way to the butt if you can. Try different ankle positions, pointing the toes down / away, then pulling them up. Next change the angle so the heel go towards towards the opposite buttock. Lastly, move the heel in an oval pattern, lifting the heel towards the outside, across the top, then inside & down. Then switch it up, going in the opposite direction. Try the different ankle positions in this motion too – toes pointed up, toes pointed down / away.
6). Hip rotations (the ‘Twist’): lift heels slightly, coming up onto the balls of both feet at the same time, then twist side to side from the hip so the toes (and knees) are pointing in the same direction; rotate side to side, focusing the rotation to the hip ball & socket joints. Get the arms into it, going the opposite direction of the toes and knees – now you’re doing ‘the Twist’ (YouTube search that if you want a good laugh!).
7). High knee marches: simply lift the thighs & knees into a high march, trying to get them as high as you can while maintaining spine / trunk neutral. Then circle them: lifting up, then out, then down, and back in; now reverse it: out, up, in, & down.
8). Swings: this is an open-chain straight leg swing. Don’t just throw it up, do it deliberately, all the while paying attention to your ‘comfortable range.’ Go as far in both directions as you can – going forward releases your hamstrings and Sciatic nerve, the backward part targets your quads and Femoral nerve.
9). Pelvic tipping / tilting: this gets your ‘core’ abdominal & low back muscles firing.
Fwd / Bkwd – think of the pelvis as a big bowl; tip the bowl fwd & bkwd, ‘pouring liquid’ out each side.
Side / side – same thing here: envision tipping the ‘bowl’ side to side, lifting 1 side up towards the ribs, then the other.
Circles – combine the fwd/bwk and the side/side to make an ‘around the clock’ type motion around each edge of the ‘bowl.’
10). Spine glides: envision your vertebra as individual blocks stacked on top of each other, separated by liquid gel-like discs, & kept aligned with rubber bands (muscles, ligaments, & tendons). With age, as well as poor lifestyles, postures, & nutrition, the “rubbery-ness” of both the discs & the rubber bands decreases. This decreases the natural amount and quality of spinal movement. So, envision trying to glide each vertebra forward and back on top of the one below it, creating a natural ‘bowing’ motion in the anterior direction, then in the posterior direction…work that motion from your low back (Lumbar) up to the mid (Thoracic) spine, moving each upper segment on top of the one below it. It helps me to think about a rod running front to back through my spine, at each level, and I’m trying to slide that vertebra along the rod, front to back…
11). Rib opening: Ribs open & close with breathing, to the front & out to the side. So imagine them opening & separating from each other on inhalation, then relaxing and closing back down on exhalation. Then try to do 1 side at a time, inhaling all the air you can into 1 side of your lungs, then closing that side and do the other side. Combine this with the spine glides, so that the vertebras glide forward as ribs expand on inhalation, then they glide back and the ribs close on exhalation.
12). Shoulder / shoulder blades (posture): the shoulder is made up of 2 joints – the shoulder blade with the rib cage / torso, and the ball & socket (glenohumeral) joint. Begin with the shoulder blade by pulling them back, trying to pinch them together with your spine between – be sure to keep them down, don’t shrug them up. Go back and forth, letting them come forward, caving in the chest cavity, then pull them back, opening the chest. Next start to simultaneously rotate your ball & socket shoulder joint, rotating in when the shoulder blades come forward, then rotating out when the shoulder blades go back. Then bend your elbows and use your wrists / hands as a guide to see how far out you can rotate on each side – look for symmetry between the 2 sides. Lastly, as you keep rotating in / fwd & out / back, gradually raise your elbows out to the side and go up to about 90 degrees, all the while rotating your shoulders and shoulder blades, then gradually come back down. Again, look for symmetry in terms of how far up each shoulder can go and what you feel throughout the movement.
13). Neck Range of Motion: I start with simple neck circles, starting small and gradually growing bigger and bigger until / if / when I feel a catch or tight spot, then I’ll stay at that range (circle size) until it starts to release. Then I go back down in circle size until where I started, then switch directions. Next I flex down & forward, moving my chin towards my armpit, then up & out in the opposite direction. Again, I start out in a smaller range of motion and gradually increase if it feels ok. If I find a sticky / stiff / uncomfortable range I just stay there for a while until it starts to release. After doing 15 or 20, I switch to the other diagonal.
Combination movements / patterns: At the end I usually combine a few of these different movements into a fun, dance-like routine that gets my blood pumping, energy flowing, and starts my day off right! [WATCH THE VIDEO at the top for these movements]
I hope this helps you as much as it helps me. And remember, this is as much an educational practice as it is a physical one.