Soothe Back Pain with Restorative Yoga

A mind-body practice, Yoga combines physical poses called asanas, breathing exercises, and guided meditation in a session that is typically 75-minutes long. For many people, yoga is an effective way to reduce inflammation, relieve stress and muscle tension and change habitual posture patterns that result in back pain.

While there are many styles of Yoga to choose from, Restorative Yoga is especially good for individuals with back pain because of its focus on supported poses rather than physical exertion through a sequence of poses. Restorative Yoga uses props – blocks, chairs, bars, cushions or blankets – to facilitate gentler movement of the body and proper alignment of joints and muscles. A Restorative Class makes yoga accessible to people with a wide range of physical challenges including arthritis, fibromyalgia, cancer and Multiple Sclerosis. When looking for a Restorative Class, ask about the instructor’s certifications, as specialized training is necessary to teach classes for people experiencing chronic pain. Fortunately, we have several local locations with excellent certified instructors.

Recent studies conducted in the U.S., India, and the U.K. showed that over a 6-12 month period, practicing yoga reduced pain and enhanced functional ability in people with chronic non-specific lower back pain. Those practicing yoga were compared to groups who did not exercise at all, which is common among people with back pain. In another large study in the U.S., people who practiced yoga in weekly 75-min. classes had better back movement, used less pain medicine, and participants with moderate back pain experienced a reduction in pain symptoms.

There is compelling evidence that yoga and similar mind-body practices not only change physical patterns in the body, but also change the brain gray matter patterns associated with chronic pain. The National Institutes of Health recognizes yoga and similar mind-body practices for their protective effects on the mind, brain, and body.

Reduce Pain & Inflammation with Devil’s Claw

Devil’s Claw is indigenous to southern Africa where, for thousands of years, tribes prepared the herb as an internal remedy for migraine, gastrointestinal problems and fever reducer. Salves were prepared to heal skin conditions. Today, Devil’s Claw is a scientifically validated remedy for pain and inflammation associated with degenerative joint conditions and back pain, as well as arthritis-related pain, fibromyalgia, and headaches. A key compound called harpagoside inhibits chemicals in the body that create inflammation.

Devil’s Claw is safe and has few to no side effects for most people. In clinical trials, Devil’s Claw was found to be as effective as many prescription drugs. It was found to relieve knee and hip pain associated with osteoarthritis – as much as a 35% improvement after eight weeks of treatment. Other studies have shown taking standardized extract of devil’s claw provides moderate relief for mild-to-moderate back, neck and shoulder muscle pain. In a study of chronic low back pain, men and women who took Devil’s Claw every day for a month reported less pain and needed fewer painkillers than those who took a placebo (sugar pill).

Devil’s Claw is available in tea and capsule form, as well as tincture and extract. Different forms are more suitable to different health concerns. Devil’s Claw is not recommended during pregnancy as it may stimulate uterine contractions. Also, Devil’s Claw can interact with other medications. It’s important to talk with Dr. Myra Reed before taking this herb.

Prevent & Reduce Back Pain Naturally

“Oh my aching back!” Most of us will say this several times over the course of our lifetime. Sometimes it’s a chronic issue, a deep nagging ache that impacts daily activities. Other times, it’s sudden, acute and amazingly painful, the result of a “wrong move” from lifting a small child, unloading groceries, or working around the yard. Back pain affects up to 80% of Americans annually and is the leading cause of disability worldwide.

Back muscles attach to the spine, neck, shoulders, ribs and hips, which means that nearly every movement requires use of the very muscles designed to support and protect the spine. When we experience pain, it’s typically from a combination of factors: structural, lifestyle, work, stress, and previous or repetitive injuries. Behaviors that contribute to back pain include:

  • Sitting for too long
  • Poor posture
  • Improper form while lifting objects or reaching overhead
  • Failure to stretch and strengthen back muscles through exercise
  • Poor eating habits resulting in a lack of nutrients that nourish muscles and bones
  • Weight gain

A natural approach to back care addresses nutrition, exercise, supporting the body’s ability to minimize inflammation, and habits that reduce stress and tension. It’s important to find the cause of the pain. Dr. Myra Reed might refer you for physical therapy, other modalities or when needed imaging studies.

Get the Exercise High. Stay fit and trim with consistent aerobic exercise and strength training. Exercise releases endorphins, brain hormones that reduce pain (as long as you don’t over exert), helps maintain a healthy body weight and reduces stress on joints and muscles, particularly the back and hips. Always warm up at the start, and cool down at the end of your workout to prevent injury.

Reduce Inflammation. A diet of whole foods, preferably organic, gives your body most of what it needs to fend off inflammation. Be sure to reduce exposure to environmental toxins, manage stress, and supplement with essential minerals. A combination supplement helps quell disease-causing inflammation; ask Dr. Myra Reed about reputable, natural, high quality supplements that have proven effects.

Consider Trace Minerals. Several minerals are key for healthy bones and muscles; these can be deficient in the soil where food is grown, leading to deficiencies in your diet. Magnesium, potassium and zinc are trace minerals that work in concert with one another. Ask Dr. Myra about them.

Stretch out Tension. Yoga has mind-body benefits for everyone. It’s a great way to keep the back strong and limber. It can help reduce pain, minimize stress and improve functional movement of the whole body.

Quit Smoking. Research shows a significant correlation between smoking and back pain. Acupuncture can help with smoking cessation, which can reduce back pain.

There are many other natural remedies for preventing and treating back pain, such as water therapy, massage, guided imagery, social support, and of course, a diet rich with leafy greens and assorted fruits. Don’t wait for back pain to happen to you. Make an appointment today for a back care lifestyle check-up.

Healthy Eating Through Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy

Do you love that slice of cake every night after dinner? Those morning muffins? How about those cookies and seemingly harmless pieces of candy you mindlessly enjoy throughout the day? If you’re regularly drawn to sweets, try going without them for a few days and see what happens. Are you having headaches, irritability, cravings, and symptoms that could only be described as withdrawal? Do you find yourself so uncomfortable that you’re drawn right back to those sugar-laden foods? It could be you’re trapped in what is called a cycle of sugar addiction.

Why We Crave

Food craving, particularly for sweets, is more involved than not being able to resist a second slice of chocolate cake. Researchers have discovered that ‘intense sweetness’ (from sugar or artificial sweetener) creates a biochemical change in the brain that is a lot like the response to addictive substances. Sugar actually alters the dopamine network – part of the brain’s ‘pleasure response.’ Other factors that play a role in the food we crave include stress, family habits, where we eat and whom we eat with, and time of day.

Curing the Cravings

Our thoughts affect how we feel, and how we feel affects our actions and the choices we make. If you’re struggling with food choices and having a hard time managing sugar intake, consider cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). Working with a psychotherapist trained in CBT, you’ll learn to identify and change thoughts that influence emotions. You’ll develop insight into how even the smallest choices allow a behavior to persist and what is getting in the way of changing your patterns.

In a CBT session, clients use educational exercises, talk therapy, and simulations to change behavior. Sessions usually involve intense work over several weeks to arrive at effective solutions. If you’re struggling with cravings, depression, anxiety or addition, give CBT a chance. It could make all the difference in your way of life.

Nature’s Sweet Herb: Cinnamon (Cinnamomum verum)

Naturally sweet cinnamon revives our senses with its wonderful aroma and can enhance health with its medicinal properties. Cinnamon was first used in China (2700 B.C.) to treat fever, digestive, and menstrual problems. Indian healers used cinnamon to treat gastrointestinal complaints, as well as sore throat and cough. Today, modern herbalists continue to use the herb for digestive issues, chest congestion and colds/flu, but they’ve also discovered it helps ease arthritis pain, as well as manage blood sugar levels.

Because cinnamon reduces the rate at which glucose enters the bloodstream, it can help prevent blood sugar spikes. This is hopeful news for some people with Type 2 diabetes. But more studies need to be done around this issue. It appears that cinnamon may work better in people whose diabetes is poorly managed as compared to those who have good management of their condition. As a medicinal supplement, different people respond to different amounts — it’s not just a matter of sprinkling a teaspoon on your oatmeal. Cinnamon may also change the way some medications work, so it’s important to speak with Dr. Myra before adding cinnamon to your supplement regimen.

Cinnamon is available ground, in capsule form, and as a tea. There are many species of cinnamon. Be aware that typical grocery store cinnamon (‘the cassia cinnamons’) contains coumarin, which, in high amounts, can be harmful to the liver. Ceylon Cinnamon has lower levels of coumarin, which makes it a better choice for most people.