Tag Archives: Pain

Two weeks of healthy living.

14 Jan

Well, I can finally mark off the calendar my second week of journeying towards my health and fitness goals. In this short time I have:

  • Lost at least 3kg, which is at a nice steady pace and will hopefully avoid my ending up with saggy skin.
  • Continuing to have back pain. This I believe is due mostly to telling my body to do the exact opposite of everything it has been used to doing for the past 20+ years. I.e.: Standing for more hours than sitting.
  • I’ve learned why my back is hurting, and while the pain won’t immediately go away for good, I now have some stretches and techniques to manage the pain without the need for medication, and I believe in a short while my lower back pain will be a sweet and distant memory.
  • I’ve learned more about nutrition in this short time than I ever learned at school, or from my parents, or from documentaries, or even most of the commonly accepted healthy diet books/papers/etc.
  • I’ve discovered that the truth about my dietary approach isn’t in the words of any book, website, or recipe. It’s in basic observational “science”, where I’ve changed the conditions and now I’m observing the result that I am getting on a daily basis, such as:
    • Better quality of sleep
    • More energy
    • Satiation
    • Weight loss with very little exercise (I’ll explain this in a moment)
    • Disinclined to snack before meals
    • Severe lessening of cravings for sugary/savoury non-paleo “junk” foods
    • A greater feeling of happiness and satisfaction
  • I’m getting better at being creative with Paleo Ingredients, yet I’m getting to a point where I don’t really care or mind having the same meal 3 times in a row.
  • Made my final and non-refundable payment to begin my Personal Trainer course, which starts on March 11th. I got that out of the way early and now I can’t wait to begin.
  • I’m finding it easier each day to make goals and commitments, rather than excuses.

All in all, I feel this little “experiment” is a raging success, and I keep looking forward to each new day just to be able to discover what more I can learn and do.

Finding good quality meat can be hard at the best of times. I can’t imagine how sick the animals must be to have their muscular tissues literally marbled with fat, and it has bothered me for years how minced meat is usually laced with preservative, and how you can’t find grass feed meat very easily. Even in our local supermarkets, the premium meats are simply the best and least fatty cuts, yet often still from grain fed animals. This leaves the modern hunter gather with a choice of either accepting fatty meats and hoping it doesn’t give you a heart attack, or foraging in the “organic” food shops where the only thing bigger than the prices is the smile on the owner’s face for having ripped off another SUCKER!!

Yes, eating Paleo can be quite expensive, or not as healthy as it should be, and yet there is another way to get good lean meats at a reasonable price, but it involves really digging around to find a supplier who will give you the goods without asking you for your first born child, left testicle, or kidney! I was very pleased after spending 20 minutes elbow deep in the Googlz to locate a “nearby” farm that not only grows its cows and lambs the way nature intended them, they also arrange all of the slaughtering, butchering, Cryovac packaging and can deliver for free within a 100 km radius. I can buy a whole cow ready for the freezer, and they’ll even throw in the bones for my dogs for free. Best of all, the price if I buy 150 kg of beef is almost half what the local supermarket monopolies charge. Where do I sign up?!!

Meet your Meat… I’ve got to get my wife this dress! LOL!!

Buying in bulk is a great way to get the product I want for a reasonable price, but who has the $1.6k in loose couch change to buy cow, and how could I face a year’s worth of beef without enjoying lots of other proteins in the mean time?!!   The answer is hopefully simple. Form a small cooperative and buy the meat as a group, but divide it up sensibly so that everyone gets a bit of everything and I don’t end up with all 32 kg of beef sausages!! To that end, I’ve started by asking family members and friends if they would also be interested in getting premium meat at a huge discount, and hoping that between perhaps 5 or 6 families, we’ll be able to jointly afford to make the purchase and have enough meat per family to spread it out over several months.

Of course, I don’t really need to buy a whole cow. If I find there aren’t enough takers I can always order less meat at a slightly higher price that still makes it both reasonable and affordable. As always, a little lateral thinking will ensure that things can be made to work out for the best, and the best things in life never really come to you without a little effort, do they?! 😉

I mentioned a moment ago that my exercise has been somewhat unimpressive due to its reduced amount. Interestingly I don’t feel the urge to make any excuses. I mean, sure I could say my back is sore and that it affects my exercising, and yet the reality is that I am still getting plenty of exercise, just not as intensive or as hard as I would like it to be. In dealing with my Psoas/back issues, I’ve limited my workouts to twice weekly weight training, with exercises that give me a decent workout while still allowing my back to rest, which basically means I’m focussing entirely on my upper body when I train. So I’ve stuck to doing things like Bench Presses, Seated Curls, Tricep Dips and Extensions, Lying Rows… that sort of thing.

For the rest of my exercise, I’ve been standing for literally 13 hours per day (blogging, reading, researching, chores, being out and about, Etc.), and I’ve been going for hour long walks with my wife and our two dogs.

That’s me and my “Ladies”

So even on a very light training schedule, I am still improving my conditioning, resting my injury, and reaping the benefits. It just doesn’t get any better than that, and you’d think that I’d be satisfied and simply take things easy for a while. Yeah… NO!! It seems I’m on a mission and nothing seems to be able to deter either my enthusiasm or my will to reach my goals, so of course this means that if I can’t easily do the things I usually do for training, why don’t I try to take on something new… for me…?

My lovely other half – some would say “better” half – decided that we should try out Bikram Yoga. There is a place locally that offers 10 days access for $19, so on the spur of the moment this afternoon, we decided to get ourselves hydrated, and headed down to the class in the evening. Now I’ve done yoga before, but never in a room kept to 40ºC at 40% humidity. We started with a breathing exercise, and even by the end of that first easy pose, I could feel a torrential downpour of sweat pouring out of me like sweating was about to go out of fashion.

I managed many of the poses, but sadly my balance is woeful and I had to abstain from several movements which triggered some muscle spasm in my back. Even so, for the 90 minutes that I was in that room, my heart rate was much higher than normal when at rest, and when attempting the poses I felt as if I was exercising as hard as if I were running on a treadmill. I would normally drink about 3 Litres of water per day, and due to the yoga today I’ve consumed almost 6!!

Now, I’m not convinced yet that I enjoy doing yoga in a “sauna”, and I suppose that back pain dampened what I believe might have otherwise been a more enjoyable session, however I guess that you can’t really get hooked in a single session, and the first yoga session is always the hardest. I will say that even with the limited number of poses that I was able to try (and I lay down for the last 20 minutes due to both the heat, and the risk of further aggravating my back), I feel seriously drained of energy this evening, even after rehydrating and a really nice meal (Grilled Snapper fillets and veggies… YUM!!). Anyhoo, I’ll keep going and see how it all pans out. If anything it may help me to improve my flexibility, and I’ll get to learn more about Bikram.


Today I discovered my Psoas

12 Jan

No, that wasn’t a euphemism, and there is a small story attached to this post’s title, but first I’ll tell you a little of what I’ve learned about a very important group of muscles. For those of you who aren’t really interested in anatomy, you may wish to skip a couple of paragraphs.

The Psoas muscles are the most important in a group of muscles known as the Hip Flexors, and they are essentially responsible for raising the femur – you know, that big bone in the middle of your thigh. So, when you’re standing and you want to bend forward, raise the knee, perform a sit-up, or even if you simply wish to move your leg forward while walking, the Psoas muscles need to be able to do their thing.

Another important aspect of Psoai (yes, that’s the plural) function is their involvement in terms of hip rotation and mobility, because even when you have an injury these muscles need to be able to help manage the movement of your hip so that your body can maintain relative stability. Without the really subtle movements of the hip when moving, your back would not remain stable, and walking or even just sitting could be quite a difficult and possibly painful experience.

So these are some seriously important muscles, and apparently I’ve had them my whole life and never really known how important they are to me. And yet, without realising it I’ve been aware of my Psoas for nearly 20 years, although in a classic case of mistaken identity I’ve thought for all of that time that they were something else.

I’ve been dealing with chronic back pain for a long time now, and in particular I have had huge problems in my lumbar (lower) spine. I’ve had days when I couldn’t even move myself to roll over in bed because something was cramping and spasming in my back, and after a few days of lower back pain, I’d end up with lots of additional referred pains in the leg (sciatica), and in the thoracic (upper) spine.

My back condition has literally been a nightmare in terms of pain management and treatment. I’ve seen doctors, chiropractors, and physiotherapists, and never had any pain relief without strong medication. MRI has never shown anything to be wrong, and X-ray has only once shown one of my lower vertebrae to be slightly out of alignment. The only time I’ve ever had natural pain relief was when I learned a little about the Feldenkrais Technique. Unfortunately the classes were very expensive to attend more than a few times, and while I felt relief from pain, the injury was always there and I had no idea either what was causing the injury to occur, or how to train myself so that I could avoid re-injury in the future.

OK, so for all of these experts with their combined years of knowledge and experience, and the years of medical expenses and medication, it kind of sucks that the problem never went away. Even worse was that back pain had become a serious barrier in my attempts to improve my physical health over the years, and so my fitness and weight have predictably yo-yo’d almost continuously for the last 10 years. The trouble was, that the pain was in my back, and everybody was looking for the real cause of the problem in the wrong place… sort of.

Just yesterday, I decided to install and mess around with an extension for Google Chrome called BioDigital Human. This is an app that allows you to look at all of the major functional parts of the body in 3D. Now because my back has been particularly sore over the last few days (which I’d attributed to a slightly aggressive workout combined with my recent conversion to a standing desk), I decided to look at all of the muscles in the back to see if the problem might be muscular, so that I could find an appropriate method to both stretch and support any muscles that I thought were likely to be linked to my back pain.

After digging around in the app for a while, I was surprised to discover that not only did I have Psoas muscles, but that they were required primarily hip flexion, and having lived with my problem for many years, I knew that certain hip related movements were always the ones which caused me the greatest trouble whenever my back was sore. I also learned more importantly perhaps that of the four Psoas muscles, the two Major Psoai are attached at the facet joints of all of the lumbar vertebrae, yet deep below the outermost muscle tendons of the lats which were always the bits that seemed to get massaged whenever I visited the experts.

So what was my great epiphany? It occurred to me that I had never felt any knots or tension in my lats, so if the Psoai were in spasm and they were creating a lot of tension on my spine, wouldn’t it make sense that this would result in pinched nerves and a great deal of local pain? Well, it seems that I was on to something. After a little digging, I learned how to do a Psoas stretch, which has offered a little alleviation but did not seem to help with the majority of the pain.

Earlier today I had a breakthrough. I thought about how the Psoai helped with hip flexion, and how my hip was feeling stiff, so what if I tried to slowly rotate the hip in small circles at first, and then increasingly wider circles over a short period of time. I had nothing to lose, so I spent the better part of the next 2 minutes “hula hooping” my hips. Amazingly, the pain disappeared immediately!!!

Well, I felt very clever and did a bit of a Google search for “Hula” and “Psoas”, and found a few sites which mentioned this technique as a way to relieve pain and increase mobility. If only I had known to do that search back when the pain started, I could have saved myself years of hurt, not to mention the cash!!

So if you have lower back pain, chances are that you have a problem with your Psoas muscles, which may be too tight and probably need to be worked on. If you find yourself getting lower back pain no matter how careful you are while doing sit-ups, and if you have pain when you bend forward, try the following technique:

  1. Assume a hula stance with your feet about hip width apart, and your knees relaxed and slightly bent.
  2. Breathe in deeply, and then breathe all the way out – further than you would normally exhale – which will trigger a relaxation of your back.
  3. Start to rotate your hips in a circle, leading back with the tail bone, and imagining the aim is to use your tail bone to ‘draw’ a circle around your feet.
  4. Start the circles small (around your inner ankles), and gradually widen the circles as the exercise progresses.
  5. Keep your head up, and your shoulders and chest should remain still.
  6. Perform the exercise in one direction for 30 seconds, then repeat in the opposite direction for another 30 seconds.
  7. Breathe normally throughout the exercise.

You may start to feel some soreness in the hip, and at the top of your thigh, which will be your hip flexors paying for their former laziness and leaving all of the pain management to your Psoai. If so, use smaller circles until you get used to the movement. I’d also suggest a Psoas stretch on both legs after you’ve busted your hula moves, and then going for a short and gentle walk. If any movement causes you more pain, stop immediately, and certainly consult with your physician if you have any concerns before attempting to do something you feel unfamiliar with.

If your back pain disappears, even for only a few moments, you’ve probably found the cause of your lower back pain and you can repeat this exercise whenever your back starts to feel a little sore. I now do it regularly at my standing desk, much to the amusement of my lovely – and clearly sympathetic – spouse.

Please leave a comment if you find that this helps you in any way, or if you have any extra tips you think might be useful when it comes to releasing your pesky Psoai.

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