Wear Crocs To Prevent Low Back Pain

So I recently saw one of my clients and they are struggling with low back pain. The causes of low back pain can include many factors such as: stress, poor posture, bad lifting mechanics, exercise like running, playing basketball and lifting weights just to name a few. There are many great things you can do to prevent low back pain that include: stretching – especially your quadriceps, hip flexors, glueteal muscles and hip extensors, and inversion therapy (see December 2014 post). I always recommend that clients make sure to get their fair share of water intake which should roughly amount to 2.5 litres daily. This should be adjusted accordingly to take into account levels of physical activity, climate, and of course alcohol and coffee intake. If you drink alcohol, coffee or tea, increase water consumption equivalent (1 cup of water per 1 cup of coffee) to balance out the diuretic effects of each of the three. I could literally list a multitude of factors but won’t because that’s not the point here.

What I find so commonly overlooked is the footwear that people wear or don’t wear inside their homes. Most homes have some sort of hard surface such as ceramic or porcelain tile in the front foyer, washroom and most importantly the kitchen. I mention this because I believe that flooring and footwear need to match one another. My recommendation is to buy a pair of Crocs, yes I said Crocs, for wear inside the house.


They are in fact movable anti-fatigue mats for your feet. I have a pair, yes they are bright orange for wearing inside the house. They reduce the amount of foot fatigue and most importantly back pain that I get when I stand washing dishes on porcelain tiles in my kitchen. Other footwear like slippers can work but honestly I don’t believe that they have the same cushioning effect.

So if you suffer from foot or low back pain then try some Crocs!

Pelvic Muscle Balance for Preventing Low Back Pain

I actually can’t believe that I haven’t posted anything about stretching pelvic muscles, specifically the gluteus maximus, minimus, medius and external rotator muscles of the hip. I show this stretch to my clients all of the time and find it extremely useful when I have muscle tightness in my pelvic muscles and low back. Often these muscles get ignored and people spend time stretching their low back muscles, aka errector spinae, with little relief from muscle tension and pain.


1. Sit tall with both ankles and knees at 90 degrees. Do NOT slouch!


2. Cross one leg over the other. Make sure your ankle is supported. Apply slight pressure to your knee (right hand) until you feel a stretch in your gluteal muscles.


Left side view. Hold the stretch for at least 15 seconds. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. Relax.



3. Try bending your torso away from the gluteal muscles you are stretching. This will stretch different muscle fibres (gluteus medius, minimus).




4. Try leaning to the same side. This will stretch your gluteal and external rotator muscles differently. Remember to stay tall and avoid slouching.















Remember that you need to stretch both sides. Repeat with the left leg.

One last thing, this stretch is great to use with my lazy hip flexor/quadriceps stretch. Using these regularly have allowed me to achieve better muscle length between my hip flexors/quadriceps and hip extensor muscles and avoid nagging back pain and keeps me playing Slo-pitch, snowboarding, mountain biking and working out!

Inversion for Low Back Health

I constantly take it for granted that people know about inversion therapy but after talking about it to clients only to find out that few people actually know about its benefits. I’ve been inverting for back health for almost 18 years. I currently have a Teeter Hang-ups Inversion table and yes, it’s that old. It works well and allows me to literally hang upside down. I originally purchased it to help with low back compression incurred from playing impact sports and weight lifting. It helped tremendously and by inverting I experience several benefits. These include: lumbar spine decompression, spinal muscle stretching, decompression of ankle, knee, hip and sacroiliac (SI) joints with accompanied adjustments in my spine and SI joints. It has virtually replaced any need for Chiropractic and I believe that isn’t something that they wouldn’t honestly want to hear.

Prior to using, follow all set up guides and adjust the table to your height.


Here I am in the starting position. My ankles are locked in and my hands at my sides.



I am at approximately zero degrees of inversion in the picture below. Notice I bring my hands to the level of my head.


To get completely inverted I bring my hands above my head and that causes a shift in body weight so I can hang upside down.



  1. Follow the instructions that accompany the inversion table you purchase. If you’re not sure about your health check with your doctor.
  2. Invert gradually by using your hands to rock back and forth as if you were lying on a teeter totter and use the safety strap to limit the degrees of inversion.
  3. Once you become experienced, you can hang upside down for as little as 30 seconds to any length of time. I often invert for 2-3 minutes statically.
  4. Breathe diaphragmatically by inhaling through your nose and exhaling out your mouth. This will enhance muscle relaxation and increase the likelyhood of the benefits of inversion.

Check out: http://teeter-inversion.com/



Pectoralis Stretches for Shoulder Girdle Balance


Often many people have upper back, rotator cuff, and neck pain associated with shoulder girdle imbalances. To put it simply, the muscles that perform internal rotation such as pectoralis major, latissimus dorsi, and subscapularis are shorter than they should be. This pulls the scapulae or shoulder blades further away from the spine creating pain in the upper back and infraspinous muscles. So often this occurs and few people or professionals recognize the need to stretch the pectoralis muscles in an attempt to reestablish balance and length between internal rotation and external rotation of the shoulder joint. Check out my pictures that show how to best stretch your pectoralis muscles.

Position 1: Stretching the costal cartilage fibres of pectoralis major from behind. Notice the angle between my forearm and humerus (upper arm) is greater than 90 degrees.

1st position pectoralis stretch

Like always, breathe by inhaling through your nose and exhale out your mouth. Close your eyes and focus on the stretch and remember to relax.

From the front: Try to step into the doorway. Bend your knees and keep your head up.


Position 2: Stretching the sternal fibres of pectoralis major. Notice the angle between my forearm and humerus (upper arm) is equal to or about 90 degrees.


From the front: Try to step into the doorway. Bend your knees and keep your head up.


Position 3: Stretching the clavicular fibres of pectoralis major from behind. Notice the angle between my forearm and humerus (upper arm) is less than 90 degrees.


From the front: Try to step into the doorway. Bend your knees and keep your head up.


I have to admit that this is absolutely the best stretch for maintaining good shoulder health and has helped me minimize upper back imbalance and pain. Give it a try.

More Lazy Stretching for Groin Muscles

Stretching your groin muscles is ultra important too and it can be done as soon as you finish with your hamstrings. Try this:

  1. Lie in the same body position I’ve described for stretching your hamstrings.DSC_9070
  2. Spread your legs as far apart as comfortable or until you feel your adductors (groin) muscles being stretched.DSC_9071
  3. Relax and breathe.
  4. Hold for 30-60 seconds.

Tip: bend your knees when releasing the stretch.

The greatest part about this stretch is that it’s….LAZY! Go give it a try.

Lazy Stretching for Hamstrings

It’s been way too long since I made a post here in my blog so I finally got around to taking some pictures to compliment this next stretching tip. Hamstring stretching is hard to do and often neglected but not for much longer. Use these simple steps to tackle those tight and short hamstrings. Try this:

  1. Use a flat wall.
  2. Lie flat on the floor with your hips flexed to 90 degrees. Beginners may have to start at 60-75 degrees.DSC_9068
  3. Position your body so that your butt is as close to the wall as possible.DSC_9069
  4. Keep your knees straight.
  5. Relax and breathe.
  6. Inhale through your nose, exhale out your mouth and c lose your eyes.
  7. Hold for 30 – 60 seconds.

Its that easy and it’s LAZY! Give it a try.

The Things We Do…

I learned something new today about fashion and how it continues to torture people’s bodies. I think that if you’ve ever been the unfortunate one to feel the negative side effects of wearing high heels, belts, or a tie to work, not to mention a brace like the one I wear we can all relate to the discomfort caused by fashion and in my case functional necessity.

So my daily revelation came via email to my inbox from www.drweil.com, a website that I signed up for that sends health advisories daily. It’s a neat way to stay connected to at least one source of health information. What I learned today is about a condition called “meralgia paresthetica” or more simply put “tight jean syndrome”. Certainly you can guess what the cause and effect is…wear tight jeans and it may cause compression of cutaneous nerves that run from the abdomen to the thigh. Symptoms may include numbness, tingling, and a burning pain in the legs above the knee. Want to learn more? Just hit the link above and read on.



Stretching Tip

Stretching doesn’t have to be as difficult and as painful as most have come to expect. It really is an essential part of any and every lifestyle. I say that because it really doesn’t matter if you are an arm chair athlete or highly trained in a specific sport, stretching helps everybody maintain a functional healthy musculoskeletal system. This is particularly important because as we live longer lives, thanks to medical science, we need to maintain our functional abilities and stay as independent as possible and keep our bodies moving.

Often I have conversations with clients about how much, or in reality, how little they stretch. I often try to keep perspective and reflect back on my own methods to incorporate stretching into my exercise routines and recovery days. I’ve come up with a simple plan that I think most people could relate to and I promote it as often as I have stretching conversations.

Here’s my take on stretching:

  1. Ignore the suggestions made in health magazines that you NEED to stretch after exercise. Ignore the suggestions that stretching before exercise isn’t good because your muscles are “cold” or not warmed up.
  2. Instead stretch whenever you feel the need to. My philosophy is centred around stretching anytime which is better than not at all.
  3. Begin with a muscle group that is problematic or particularly tight, i.e., pectoralis (chest) muscles, that may be short and tight because of poor posture.
  4. Stretch at the water cooler, while waiting for the subway, or better yet while WATCHING T.V.! You’re just sitting around anyway so why not kill two birds with one stone?
  5. Muscles are either short and tight or long and tight. Stretch the short and tight ones.
  6. Often people feel pain in a particular area of their body, i.e., upper back muscles between the shoulder blades. If you feel pain in your upper back think about the muscles that oppose them. Your pain may be caused by muscle and soft tissue length imbalances, so stretch your chest muscles instead. This reestablishes a length balance between agonist/antogonist muscle groups.
  7. Stretch problem muscles FIRST and multiple times per day. Stretch other muscles as they need it or as they fit into your exercise routines.
  8. Don’t get overwhelmed by stretching for 20-30 minute sessions per day. That’s just plain ridiculous! If you stretch periodically, say 2 minutes at a time starting with a problem muscle group FIRST, you will notice results without the unrealistic idea of stretching for prolonged periods of time. Who does that anyway? Maybe professional athletes do like goalies and that’s because they get paid to do it!

Plain and simple…try it!


Some Thoughs About Hydration

So I want to share a few thoughts about hydration in general and then a few specific tips for those individuals that are more active than the average person.

I was reading in the Toronto Star about a week ago about a study that claimed students perform better on exams when properly hydrated. The study included a test group of 1st year students who typically arrived for exams without water and compared their results to older, year 3 and 4 students who typically brought water to their exams. The results indicated approximately 4.2 % increase in test scores for those year 3 and 4 students. Furthermore, students expressed the effects of drinking water during tests as: having a break in a bottle, feelings of being refreshed and that they were able to think more clearly. Unfortunately, I can’t find the link but if you’re wondering how it might improve your mental focus and energy levels, try consuming more water daily.

I think this article really made me think that many people are really walking around dehydrated. When the body is dehydrated you might feel thirsty but you’re also more likely to feel fatigued, less focused and hold more muscle tension. Most of these effects are scientifically proven somewhere but I’m not going to go there. If you want to search that information out then you know, use Google.

To get to my point, try consuming more water and document how you feel each day. Note feelings of fatigue-less vs. more, mental focus, and consider how your body is working or how tense your muscles feel.

If you are an active individual, then consider how well muscles perform when you are well hydrated and think about drinking more water daily to improve performance, but then make sure that before the big event you are consuming water 1 week prior to the event especially if you are running a marathon. And remember that every time you drink coffee, tea, or alcohol they all have diuretic effects, so drink a glass of water afterward.

Tui na

So if you’ve noticed we’ve been going through a few transitions – like moving to the lower level in Suite 5 and one of our therapists Peggy has retired. So naturally with our larger space we are bringing in more RMT’s as associates to fill the open schedule times created by changes in therapists schedules.

Our latest addition happens to be Judy. Judy comes with a wealth of experience and expertise, see her autobiography, and one of those specialities that she brings to our dynamic team is Tui na.

I asked Judy to help us all better understand what Tui na is all about. So here are a few bits of information that you might find useful.

What is Tui na?
Tui na is a type of massage therapy that involves using two key actions with the hands on the patient’s body: tui (A Chinese word for push) and na (A Chinese word for grasp). Other actions include rolling, kneading, brushing, and rubbing of the affected areas. A major focus of the tui na method is the areas between the joints, otherwise known as the eight gates.

What can Tui na do for me?
It gets energy moving in muscles by sensing and opening the body’s chi gate. Tui na creates a rhythmic flow of pressure along channels of energy. It is used to massage and lubricate joints and to relieve stress or pain. A practitioner can focus on specific problems such as chronic pain and tension but when used regularly,  Tui na helps in a proactive way to maintain good health. The principal of Tui na is based on energy flow in the body from an inner level. A practitioner is able to facilitate energy flow and distribution of energy throughout the body.

Where did Tui na originate?
Similar techniques were first used and documented in China during the Shang Dynasty. It was shown to be used to treat infants and various digestive problems amongst adults. It then spread and developed to other Asian countries such as Japan and Korea, which began popularizing it as a form of massage. It was originally named Anmo.

What does a Tui na experience feel like?
To some, they would say that it is a combination of Shiatsu and acupressure. The techniques mostly consists of steady, paced movements of pressure along the energy lines of the body. It is very similar to many Chinese methods of massage by pinpointing the pressure points of the body. It is an entwined combination of kneading, gliding, pushing, rotating and vibrating the skin.

What are the benefits of Tui na compared to other types of massage?
Tui na has similar benefits to other types of massage. It is primarily used in a therapeutic manner to  help solve various musculoskeletal conditions. By treating trigger points and other points that are symptoms of a variety of conditions, Tui na either lessens the pain or resolves the problem. It is similar to many other styles of Chinese massage, but what distinguishes it from others is its ability to treat specific problems.

What problems can Tui na help resolve?
It can help a number of conditions, especially chronic pain in muscles, joints or the skeletal system. It could also be used to treat joint pain such as arthritis, sciatica, neck, back and shoulder pain, and muscle spasms. It could also be used to treat more unorthodox conditions such as insomnia, constipation, migraines, and tension.

What is Tui na today?
It is widely practiced in China, but has long spread and influenced western therapists as well. Tui na could be classified closer to the work of chiropractors and physical therapists than massage therapists. It is equally as difficult to earn a degree as an acupuncturist or herbalist.

Why else is Tui na important for well being?
Tui na corrects anomalies in the body; it senses the flow of energy and evenly distributes it. It relaxes muscles, and it promotes blood circulation. Overall, it’s a very effective treatment to try.

So if Tui na is something that you’re interested in giving a try book a massage with Judy and ask her to apply Tui na techniques during the treatment.