Are You (Unknowingly) Making Your Pain WORSE? Learn to Help Your Body Find the ROOT CAUSE

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What if the FIRST thing you do when pain happens is the LAST thing you should do if you want true relief?

If you’re like most people on the planet when pain happens then you probably do the ONE thing that seems to be in our biology. It’s instinctual, habitual and seemingly benign. But chances are it WON’T get you out of pain, and it just might make things worse.

You go to and touch whatever is hurting:

  • Your knee gets a stabbing pain, folds you in half and you reach down to touch it.
  • Your back seizes up and you instinctively grab it and feel around as you try to stand upright.
  • Your shoulders hurt, so you massage them (or ask someone else to).
  • Your elbow hurts, and you grab hold of it.
  • You get a tension headache and hold your head in your hands.
  • Et etc.

This first act in and of itself is perfectly natural and it makes total sense that we’d instinctively want to make contact with our pain.

It’s what we do NEXT that truly matters.

Do you REACT to the pain and fixate on what’s hurting?

OR

Do you get CURIOUS and try to find the root cause?

The habit most of us have is to fixate on what’s hurting followed closely by an attempt to silence, comfort or eliminate the pain: maybe you take an over the counter pain killer that’s already in your medicine cabinet; maybe you gently rub or massage that area; maybe you ice it (because you probably learned the very outdated RICE protocol in middle school, which for the record I’m not a fan of at all).

When these mild reactions don’t work you might seek out help from professionals who are a little more aggressive than you: perhaps you try a deep tissue massage or a chiropractic adjustment. And while these might seem like very good ideas, if they are also fixated on the site of pain and not looking elsewhere for the CAUSE, then you’re still caught in the same trap.

Or maybe you try to isolate and immobilize the area via a knee, back, wrist or ankle brace or boot…

What’s missing from this approach?

What ALL of these reactions have in common is a complete lack of curiosity about and awareness of THE REST OF YOUR BODY.

This habit of fixating on what’s hurting at the exclusion of the rest of the body is so ingrained that most healing modalities in western culture have adopted it as well.

If you seek out a medical professional for help with your pain, chances are – unless they are very holistic in their approach to pain (and these professionals DO exist, though it’s been my experience that they are rare) – they will look at/palpate and/or X-ray, MRI or ultrasound the site of pain and suggest a course of action that focuses only on the site of pain: cortisone shots, pain pills, surgery, a brace, a boot, orthotics or shoe lifts etc.

Even so-called alternative and holistic methods more often than not (in my experience, and I was one of these when I was a massage therapist) focus on where the pain is, instead of looking for the cause. If you go to a massage therapist for back pain, I’d be willing to bet that a large majority of therapists will go straight for your back. If you go to a chiropractor for neck pain, chances are pretty high they will adjust your neck.

I will say I have sought out chiropractors, massage therapists and acupuncturists who “get” the idea that where the pain is isn’t the problem, so they absolutely do exist; but I had to weed through a bunch of others first who didn’t get it and I still see this mentality being the status quo of both western and alternative practitioners who deal with people in pain.

It’s my position that this is precisely why there are so many people in pain who aren’t getting the relief they so desperately want, because MOST of the time…

Where the pain is is NOT the problem!

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The Psoas – Our Body’s Insurance Policy Against Pelvic Instability & The Case for Leaving it ALONE

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Difficult to palpate, a challenging area to master as a manual therapist and dreaded by everyone getting worked on because of the horrible pain associated with it – in some ways “the psoas” is approached like the holy grail of the body: finding it can feel like a “quest” and while few are rewarded for their efforts many seem willing to die trying.

If you’ve jumped on the psoas-is-the-root-of-all-pain bandwagon, I have a few questions for you: if you’ve gone after the psoas attempting to release it – on your own, with a massage therapist, physical therapist or other method – are you better? Are you out of pain? If you’ve spent a lot of time trying to “release” this muscle, shouldn’t it be “loose” by now?

There’s been a LOT of hype about the psoas the last decade (or more). Is the hype justified? Is it really the most important muscle in the body and the biggest contributor to all of our pain?

I’ve instinctively felt for years that all this psoas hype is misplaced. I finally feel prepared to present my counter argument.

I’ve come to believe the iliopsoas are the most adaptive muscles in the human body, and our insurance policy against pelvic instability. This might make the iliopsoas two of the most important muscles in the body; however…in this scenario, if we are in pain then these muscles ARE LIKELY NOT THE PROBLEM, and if they appear “tight” they’re trying to HELP US. We’ve (unknowingly) taken out our insurance policy. Bolstering, blaming or otherwise focusing on the insurance policy that’s quickly running out because we haven’t fixed the root issue does nothing to heal the system that originally failed. If we heal the root issue our insurance policy can once again resume it’s role as critical back-up in case of system failure.

These are my theories and findings after 8 years in private practice and careful consideration of the science, anatomy, client stories and inner reasoning regarding this famous muscle group. I’m open to being wrong. I’m committed to keeping an open mind and learning alongside you, so please chime in with your thoughts.

Anatomy and function of the Iliopsoas:

Important distinctions: psoas major and iliacus are often lumped together (because they function synergistically) and are called the iliopsoas; psoas major and minor make up the psoas group; most of the hype talks about the psoas but either neglects iliacus, OR they use the word psoas when they really mean iliopsoas.

I’ll attempt to stick to these distinctions in this article.

Functions of the iliopsoas:

The iliopsoas flexes the femur at the hip joint (think of a hanging leg lift), and raises or flexes the trunk toward the hips from a supine or laying down face up position (think of a sit-up). They also laterally rotate the thigh at the hip, and psoas major laterally flexes the spine (side bending).

Psoas major also acts as a “shelf” for our organs to sit on, providing a barrier between those sensitive organs and nerves and our spine.

Iliopsoas – the most adaptive muscles in the body?

Most muscles have a primary function (action or movement). For example, your biceps flex your forearm while your triceps extend it.

Consider that all of the functions or actions of the iliopsoas can be performed by muscles that are bigger and usually stronger:

  • HIP FLEXION: The quad hip flexors in most people are overworked, almost always “on” and will attempt to perform hip flexion for the iliospoas in exercises like hanging leg lifts if given half a chance. Unless you’re extremely body aware and know how to turn your quad hip flexors “off” and let your psoas do the work, chances are you’re initiating and controlling most of this movement with your quad hip flexors, while the iliopsoas play backup.
  • TRUNK FLEXION: The quad hip flexors along with rectus abdominus will attempt to engage to help “flex” the trunk towards the hips through movements like sit-ups. You know this is happening if your lumbar spine curves (creating space between your back and the floor), your quads tighten up and your “abs” and even throat muscles like the sternocleidomastoid (SCM’s) engage to do the sit up for you. For the iliopsoas to be the major mover in this motion the legs must be kept stationary, the hips and head must remain in a neutral position and the iliopsoas becomes the main workhorse. If you’ve ever done a ton of sit-ups and your ABS got sore (rectus abdominus) but NOT your deep core muscles near your hip bones and toward your back, then you probably weren’t engaging your iliopsoas much.
  • LATERAL ROTATION OF THE FEMUR: The iliopsoas are NOT the major lateral rotators of the hip. This job belongs mostly to piriformis, gemellus superior, obturator internus, gemellus inferior, quadratus femoris and the obturator externus.
  • ADDUCTION: The iliopsoas also helps with hip adduction, but the primary hip adductors are adductor magnus, longus and brevis, with pectineus and gracilis obturator externus playing a part as well.
  • LATERAL TRUNK FLEXION: The quadtratus lumborum or QL muscles perform lateral flexion of the vertebral column, while psoas major contributes to the movement.

The primary actions of the iliopsoas are without a doubt hip and trunk flexion (in my opinion, and apparently the opinion of the internet). Yet I believe we rarely use the iliopsoas as the primary movers of these actions, relying instead on other muscles like the quad hip flexors and rectus abdominus, while the iliopsoas provide ancillary support and/or exist as our back-up muscles in case the primary movers fail to perform or become dysfunctional.

Many muscles, while responsible for a primary movement, also perform more than one action. The human body, after all, is a fully connected system that works as a whole to support movement.

Isolating ANY muscle group isn’t wise, because NO muscle functions in a vacuum and ALL muscles require the participation of the whole body. 

I propose that isolating the iliopsoas or psoas muscle(s) specifically and attempting to “treat” them in isolation is especially dangerous, because of ALL muscles in the body these are the most adaptable, the most willing to change based on our habits, posture, sports, lifestyle…and this is a very good thing! That’s their job!

It’s my position that the primary role of the iliopsoas is as an ADAPTIVE MUSCLE GROUP that, by being highly adaptable, supports the primary functions of many large and small muscles.

Because they are SO adaptable, they can step in (if the brain asks them to) to stabilize the pelvis if necessary.

I believe the iliopsoas is our body’s insurance policy against pelvic instability.

They are likely NEVER the cause of pelvic instability, and “releasing” them may destabilize our spine or pelvis making us more prone to injury, pain or instability.

If we are to help the iliopsoas do its job, then we would do best looking at the surrounding muscle groups and see who is overworking, who us under-working, who is inhibited and/or fascially restricted. Taking care of all of this IS taking care of the iliopsoas.

What if the psoas appears “tight”?

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How to Relieve Menstrual Cramps – Partner Technique for Abdominal Fascia Release

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Women – have you ever planned something fun, like a date or a backpacking adventure, only to realize with horror after you step out your door that your period is here and all you want to do is go home, curl up on the couch and try not to die?

Men – how many of you are impacted by the horrible period cramps of the women in your life? (Please keep those eyeballs from rolling back in your head!)

This post isn’t just for women. If you men forward this to your female friends, or better yet learn to do the partner technique in the video, you just might become hero of the year 🙂

First, a disclaimer: there are a LOT of factors that can impact periods, including the existence of cramps. I do not claim to be a hormone specialist, doctor or period afficionado. I DO, however, know fascia; and we have a TON of it in our abdominal cavities. How healthy our abdominal fascia is can mean the difference between horrible period cramps and mild or non-existent ones. I’m speaking from personal experience as a woman, and having worked on friends. If you try this and it doesn’t work – chances are your cramps are not due to fascial restrictions.

What if we’re not doomed – by nature – to experience horrible cramps?

It’s my belief (through experience) that one major cause of horrific period cramps is restricted fascia within the abdominal cavity.

I don’t want to get crazy graphic here, because that’s not actually what this post is about, but basically during menstruation the female body is shedding the lining from the uterus. This blood has to travel through the lower abdominal cavity to and through the cervix.

Every organ and muscle requires innervation, including the female reproductive organs and the surrounding pelvic muscles. Innervation is critical for optimal function of organs and muscles, and this process can become inhibited or slow due to restricted fascia.

Proper space in our fascial system is what allows nerves to communicate properly and blood to flow (throughout the entire body, including the abdominal cavity).

Releasing this restricted fascia allows for better innervation of the organs and muscles that are responsible for menstruation, the blood starts flowing without impediment and cramps ease or are eliminated.

I’ve successfully used this technique with friends, and I’m sending my man this blog post so he can do this for me 🙂

How to get the most out of this technique:

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Abdominal Fascia Release – Try This if You Have Digestive Issues or Process Anxiety in Your Gut

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Do you have knots in your stomach? Do you process anxiety and stress in your gut, or have digestive issues?

The gut is a HUGE and very complicated topic. This post is meant to be a signal in the dark, a stopping point where you might glimpse a piece or two of your own unique “gut” puzzle; and I’ll give you a self-help abdominal release technique you can use to begin chipping away at the tension in your belly.

While this self-help work can be extremely beneficial, if possible I highly recommend that you find someone in your area who does Mayan Abdominal Massage. My entire abdominal region has never felt so light, free and spacious as it did after a massage with someone who specializes in this work.

Before I teach you today’s technique I have a question for you:

Are you listening to your gut?

I had horrible digestive issues for nearly 20 years that often meant I opted out of parties, excused myself from dates and hermitted at home even though I wanted to be around people because it was preferable to be alone than put a fake smile on my face and pretend I felt “normal” when I was really in a lot of pain.

The KEY (for me) to healing my gut wasn’t releasing the fascia in my abdomen.

I’m not going to tell my whole story or we’d be here all day, but essentially this boiled down to two things:

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How to RUN Without Knee Pain – Try This Experiment If Running Pain-Free is Your Goal

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First of all – I am NOT a running coach and this is NOT meant to be advice for how to be faster or a “better” runner; this is my opinion (based on personal experience with knee pain as well as my work with countless knee pain clients) on how to run without knee pain. That’s it.

If you love running and your goal is simply to enjoy running again without knee pain…this post is for YOU.

Running this way might make you slower (or faster), it might feel awkward or fantastic…I leave it entirely up to you to try this as an experiment – and then run this way or not.

Changing how I run (and taking care of my fascia in general) helped me run again after 8 YEARS of not being able to. Personally, I don’t care how fast I run as long as I’m out there bouncing on a trail again without knee pain!

One more quick disclaimer: this post is NOT meant to address knee pain in general. I’m specifically addressing knee pain that only seems to show up while you are running. If you get knee pain while running and it stops as soon as you stop running, then this post applies to you. If you have knee pain 24/7, there are likely other things going on and this post may not apply to you.

What causes knee pain while running?

While there are certainly many causes and types of knee pain, the vast majority of the time knee pain while running has a basic pattern.

Most of the time knee pain while running shows up on the lateral (out)side of the joint, and feels like a knife stabbing you under the kneecap. That sharp excruciating pain can bring you to the ground as the knee gives out.

A lot of people like to blame the IT Band. Understandable, given the IT Band’s size and the fact that it attaches laterally at the distal (far) end of the kneecap.

However, it has been my experience that the IT Band is 3rd in line as the cause, behind two other major players that contribute far more to both the cause and the reversal of this pattern.

Meaning…addressing these two other things often makes the IT Band issue obsolete. Not always, but very often.

The first major cause is fascial restriction (often in the form of huge knots the size of golf balls) in the lateral upper calf or gastrocnemius muscle.

The second major cause (both of these should be considered together), is the fascial restriction within the hamstrings, particularly the biceps femoris where the long and short head meet and where the long head meets the IT Band.

Often there are GRAPEFRUIT sized lumps of inflamed irritated fascia stuck between the IT Band and the hamstring. Please note that these adhesions are NOT within the IT Band OR hamstring muscles themselves, but rather…it is the fascia that wraps both muscle groups that is stuck BETWEEN these muscles (essentially the ITB and hamstring muscles are adhesed together via giant knots of dehydrated or inflamed fascia and all of that tissue is no longer able to GLIDE through movement).

(DO NOT ATTEMPT TO ROLL YOUR ITB TO SOLVE THIS ISSUE!)

It’s also a distinct possibility that your hamstrings are weak, if you sit at a desk all day and don’t intentionally work on strengthening that posterior chain.

All of this creates a powerful force that pulls the ITB and lateral knee ligaments even more laterally, which can cause the patella to slip off the bursa and create a bone on bone feeling (which I believe is that sharp knife-like pain in the knee).

What does this have to do with running?

Many runners use a short quick gait that emphasizes extensive use of the quads and quad hip flexors as well as the calves to create forward movement. This is especially true of trail runners, even more so distance trail runners. The other common stride I see (mostly in marathoners or road runners who run for time on mostly flat surfaces) is to have a long thrusting forward stride that uses extreme hip flexion followed by knee extension that happens in FRONT of them, causing a hard heel strike that forces the knee joints to stabilize their body through the entire run.

The first scenario I described above is certainly the most common, and if you are a barefoot runner or toe striker and your heel barely or doesn’t even touch the ground while running then you are especially likely to create fascial restrictions in your calves.

What all this does while running is put your hip and knee joints into a near-constant state of flexion, and all that overuse of the already restricted fascia within the upper lateral gastrocs combined with fascially restricted WEAK hamstrings (which probably aren’t tight from overuse but actually under-use, especially if you sit at a desk all day with bent knees and contracted/weak hamstrings and run with your quads and calves) means near constant tension on the lateral fascia of the knee joint, including all the tendons, ligaments and bursa.

The IT Band is supposed to stabilize us through sports like running, but its job becomes increasingly difficult with these fascial restrictions constantly pulling it off track (laterally and posterior), combined (possibly, if your foot strikes in front of you) with a gait that doesn’t allow for hip stabilization and instead relies on the knees for that, and to top it all off…so many people are now foam rolling the bejeezus out of their IT Bands in an attempt to change all of this, but the IT Band actually NEEDS to be extremely tight from hip to knee since it is made up mostly of dense fascia (it’s basically a giant tendon) whose job it is TO STAY TIGHT AND KEEP US STABLE. While the fascial adhesions between the ITB and hamstring DO need releasing (strategically), I’m not a fan WHATSOEVER of rolling out the IT Band from knee to hip.

Take a closer look at the knee joint and surrounding muscles.

Now imagine someone tugging on the lateral upper calf tissue while also tugging at the hamstring and ITB tendons that attach to the knee and patellar tendon (the “balls” or knots of fascia are doing the “tugging”); these two things pull everything laterally and posterior, possibly taking the patella with it, creating a nice set-up for bone on bone action unless released from this pattern.

What reverses all of the above as far as running is concerned is reversing the muscle patterns that lead to these restrictions while running, and changing where our foot strikes the ground.

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Relieve Heel Pain and Recover from Rolled Ankles – Inner Calf Release

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This area of the body warrants a close look at the anatomy, while the technique itself is very simple.

This one small area, when fascially restricted, can wreak havoc on the entire foot, ankle, heel, plantar fascia and quite possibly a lot of things upstream as well, such as knees, the groin, the SI area and possibly even your neck and head (headaches CAN sometimes be related to this line of fascia being too tight/restricted).

We’re not going to look at the entire body or ALL the ways this one area can impact the body.

Today I want to focus on 3 main things: plantar fasciitis and/or heel pain that is showing up directly in line with the flexor digitorum longus and tibialis posterior tendons, and how this area plays a part in rolling ankles.

You’ll need a lacrosse ball for this one. I do NOT recommend using any other ball, nor do I recommend a theracane (I’ve seen some people use this). The first is too big, and the second too pointed and you’ll likely bruise (something I’m always trying to avoid).

This one small area packs a punch, fascially speaking:

There’s a lot going on in this one small area: the medial head of the gastrocnemius along with the soleus (meidal) and their fascia can get stuck to each other and to the flexor digitorum longus fascia. The flexor digitorum longus, when over-tight (or stuck to other muscles via their connecting fascia), can over-invert the foot, making the ankle susceptible to being rolled.

Also potentially leading to over-inversion of the foot is tibialis posterior, and via its tendon can contribute to ankle pain or heel pain between the ankle and calcaneus.

While we won’t necessarily be getting it directly, this technique can help free up the tibialis posterior, particularly the posterior tibialis TENDON which has a big impact on heel and ankle health.

If you have flat feet, fallen arches or your foot drops (arch collapses) while walking, this is one area to look at (it may not be the culprit) along with everything in the lateral line – ankle and foot fascia, tibialis anterior, perroneals, IT Band fascia etc.

The relationship these two (the medial and lateral lines of fascia) have with one another can determine SO much of what happens in our bodies, because everything in the foot and ankle determines our stride and what happens upstream. If your ankle doesn’t articulate well or creates an unhealthy gait pattern, that pattern transfers up to the knees, hips and shoulders.

As usual around here, I’m less concerned with naming all the muscles involved than talking about the restricted fascia between and around all these muscles.

Fascia also wraps our bones, and I believe this is one area of the body where the fascia of these muscles is particularly clogged or stuck to the bone (in this case the tibia).

The technique I demonstrate in the video isn’t nearly as effective as the in person version that I use on clients, but it’s an acceptable self-help solution (or I wouldn’t be giving it to you).

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Triceps Fascial Release – Free Your Arms & Relieve Elbow & Rotator Cuff Pain

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The triceps – or more accurately, the fascia within and around the tricpeps – typically don’t play the main role in any pain patterns; however they can play a significant minor role in rotator cuff issues, elbow pain (both golfer’s and tennis elbow) and sometimes neck and wrist issues.

The role triceps play in upper body pain:

The diagram on the right shows the Anatomy Trains posterior fascial line that includes the triceps. As you can see, the muscle (and thus the fascia in that muscle) does connect to both the shoulder joint and the rotator cuff, as well as the wrist and neck.

The reason I say the triceps play only a minor role in all the issues I’m going to talk about is because it would be pretty uncommon for anyone in today’s world to overuse their triceps (and I don’t see many clients with triceps fascia that plays a big role); conversely, it’s all too common for us to overuse our BICEPS (the muscle that could be inhibiting your triceps), and I see the biceps fascia playing a HUGE role in all kinds of issues.

So if you have shoulder, rotator cuff, elbow, wrist or neck issues and you haven’t FIRST ruled out the biceps…do that. Click here for my bicep release technique and blog post.

Reasons to release your triceps fascia:

  • You certainly don’t have to be in pain to benefit – I use this one and my arm feels instantly lighter, freer, like it’s floating! Just because you’re not in pain doesn’t mean you can’t feel EVEN BETTER 🙂
  • You have rotator cuff pain/issues or pain behind your shoulder (or IN the posterior shoulder)
  • You have elbow pain (tennis and/or golfer’s elbow)
  • You have pain anywhere in the arm (sometimes it shows up as a line of pain through the biceps, elbow and into the forearm) that happens when your arm is outstretched laterally and you rotate internally
  • You have neck pain, especially pain near the cervical spine up to the occiput (skull)
  • You have pinky side wrist issues

How to get the most out of this technique:

  • Be willing to hunt around for the best spot – it will be a knot or lump, and in MOST people it’s higher up, but go ahead and check EVERYTHING from just above the elbow to just below the shoulder
  • Once you find the spot, do NOT just roll your arm over the barbell in a massage-like manner; instead, focus on PINNING the adhesed piece of fascia to the barbell and use your arm movements to release it while doing your best to keep your humerus (bone) directly on the barbell
  • If you do this right, you don’t need more than 10 back and forths, or approximately 20-30 seconds of pinning and releasing
  • Look for 2 good spots, but DO rule out a third by trying another spot either below or above the other two (sometimes you might miss the BEST one, and if you do you’ll miss the best result)
  • All in all, once you have this down, you’ll only need to spend a MAXIMUM of 3 minutes at the barbell pinning, releasing, taking a quick break and repeating 1-2 more times
  • If you feel ANYTHING that resembles nerve pain COME OFF IMMEDIATELY. Nerve pain is sharp and shooting or electrical and you never want to stay on a nervy area

 

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The Safest and Best Way to Warm up Before a Workout

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Are you still going into the gym and straight to your stretching mat with cold muscles to “warm up” before a workout? I hope not!

I have a special guest for today’s episode: Jason McQueen of McFit Personal Training. Jason has 17 years of experience in the fitness, strength and conditioning world. He is my personal trainer 2 times per week and one of my four original apprentices learning the work fascial integration work I’ve developed (and he’s almost done with his training!)

Jason is here to show us the safest and best way to warm up before a workout:

DYNAMIC STRETCHING

You’ve heard me say a hundred times by now that I’m not a fan of static stretching at all, and this is especially true if you’re going into a workout cold and looking to ‘stretch’ before you get after it.

There may be a lot of people who will disagree with me on this, but personally I’d rather we not stretch at all before something like a trail run and use the first minute or two to run slow and easy as our “warm-up” than go through a 10 minute static stretch routine with cold muscles. So if you’re pressed for time and you just want to run, go for it. Just don’t sprint straight out the door and expect your body to automatically become fluid and “warm” right away; ease into your fast pace and your body will thank you.

If you ARE looking for a better way to warm up and you have a few minutes to spare before your workouts, dynamic stretching is my absolute favorite way to do so.

What this means is we are moving our bodies dynamically rather than statically; we’re MOVING through stretches without holding them for more than a few seconds. This takes our muscles and fascia through flexion and extension in easy, natural ranges of motion, starts to pump blood and lymph through our system and actually does “warm” our bodies up in a gentle, gradual way.

There are a TON of dynamic stretches out there. Today we are covering a BASIC and simple routine that you can use before any workout, whether in the gym or outside on the trail or a soccer field.

You may want a sport specific routine if you’re a serious athlete, or perhaps you want a FULL dynamic stretching routine. We’ll be showing you sport specific dynamic warm-ups in coming episodes and we’ll definitely get you access to a full routine soon.

If you want to UP your warm-up game to top notch:

If you have 15-30 minutes before a workout and you want to dedicate this time to injury recovery and/or prevention and give your body the BEST chance of performing well, use some of your favorite dynamic stretching techniques, add in a few PNF stretches (click here for my how-to video for PNF stretching) and then use your foam roller, lacrosse ball and other mobility tools to target key areas of your fascia to optimize your soft tissue’s health.

Give this a try and boost the quality of your workouts!

 

If you liked this post please “like” and share it!

Subscribe here and on YouTube for new posts every Monday.

For personalized help with head to toe pain issues, click here to schedule a private Skype consultation with Elisha Celeste. SUBSCRIBE below and get $15 off your first session.

PNF Stretching – Bigger Flexibility Gains Without the Dangers of Static Stretching

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What’s the best way to stretch?

This is one of the most commonly asked questions I get, and the answer is finally here!

If you want to increase flexibility, stay limber, mobile and healthy then “stretching” is a favorite the world over for all of these, but…exactly HOW should you be stretching?

If you’ve been hanging out with me here at Mobility Mastery for any length of time then you’re probably aware that I’m not a fan of static stretching (going into a linear stretch and holding it for an extended period of time). In fact I adamantly oppose it for most people most of the time. This is because taking “cold” muscles into intense stretches and forcing all your tissues to stay lengthened greatly increases the chances those same tissues will resist being pulled on, which means risking micro tears, stretch reflexes and generally doing more harm than good.

The potential benefits of static stretching simply aren’t worth the risks (in my opinion). Besides…there are FAR BETTER ways to stretch that not only yield better results for increasing flexibility and range of motion but have nearly zero potential for harm if performed correctly.

So what’s the BEST method of stretching?

My personal favorite way to stretch is called PNF stretching. PNF stands for proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation.

In the above video I talk about the basic principles behind PNF and show you a simple PNF stretching routine for 4 basic muscle groups: quads, hamstrings, calves and chest. Instructions for specific stretches starts at 2:37.

But first…

Before you stretch, know your WHY:

Why do you want to stretch? Is it for sport specific reasons like being a gymnast or dancer?

Are you trying to stretch your way out of pain?

Do you simply want to maintain healthy muscles and range of motion?

All of the above?

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Master Mobility by Learning the Distinctions Between Flexibility, Inflexibility and Fascial Restrictions Part 3 – Flexibility or Mobility Issue?

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This is Part 3 in a 3-Part series. Click here for Part 1 and click here for Part 2.

When is “inflexibility” a fascial restriction or mobility issue, and when is it true inflexibility?

That’s the topic of Part 3, the last in this series.

Fascial restriction can APPEAR to impact flexibility, and this is a really important distinction to understand because if we try to target what seems inflexible rather than going after the cause of immobility, we could injure ourselves or make things a lot worse.

I will not be covering every possible example of this or we’d be here all day, but I do want to give you the ones I see the most in my private practice.

Got tight hamstrings? Are you SURE?

The most common example of this is when the hamstrings appear tight or inflexible when what is really going on is a low back pain pattern (even if you don’t have low back pain).

If you’re in a fascial restriction pattern that is endangering your spine, your brain will step in to PROTECT you by limiting your range of motion.

In the case of low back pain patterns it is my opinion that the brain recruits the GLUTES and hamstrings to tighten up neurologically to keep you from injuring your spine.

The real CAUSE of distress in the low back is going to be somewhere in the quads and quad hip flexors, the IT Bands or adductors.

Most often it is actually the glutes that are the “tightest” (neurologically speaking, NOT from overuse) and if the glutes are in lock down there’s no way you’re going to be able to reach down and touch your toes. (Your body is PROTECTING you). But the problem is NOT hamstring inflexibility. I see a LOT of people attempting to stretch their hamstrings in an attempt to relieve low back pain and posterior chain tightness and I always cringe!

And…some people just have inflexible hamstrings, plain and simple.

The key to mastering your mobility is to learn how to know the difference.

Other examples:

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