September 4th, 2018
Did you know that the position you sleep in can cause you pain? If you sleep like 80% of people, then you’re spending most of the night in a sideways position, with your hips and knees bent and your arms in front of you.
What does that position remind you of? Correct, it’s sitting while you sleep. So if you’re one of those side sleepers and have a sitting job and like to do sitting activities in your leisure time, you will end up spending most of the day in a sitting position.
Unfortunately sitting is bad for your posture and therefore it is the breeding ground for unfolding of pain. As I mentioned in my previous article “Lower back pain or the curse of sitting”, sitting is a major reason for back pains. The sideways sleeping position does even more harm. It shortens your hip flexors and your rear thigh muscles as mentioned in the blog about sitting but it also tilts your shoulders forward. A very common cause for shoulder and neck pain.
Why do so many people prefer sleeping on the side? Maybe, because it reminds us of the fetal position, which we spent the most comfortable time of our lives in? I’d say it’s because it reduces the stress for our tight, shortened muscles in the short term.
What can you do?
Now if sleeping on the side is potentially harmful obviously there must be a good position as well. The secret is to sleep on your back or front. That way you have your hips and knees straightened and your shoulders naturally fall back again as well, your upper back will straighten as well and your body will thank you for it. At the best you even leave the pillow aside. That will avoid that shift of your neck forward, which is aggravating the tension in the neck muscles, that are already stressed from staring at phones and tablets, etc.
What to expect
You think that’s tough? You’re right. It’ll take a few days or even weeks to get used to it. You might have a few restless nights, using the moments where you wake up during the night to reposition yourself. In the short term you might even feel more pain because your short and tight hip flexors, hamstrings and pectoral muscles get a decent stretch until your body has adjusted. That’s why I highly recommend to combine sleeping on your back with the right stretching exercises. In the long term though, you will be rewarded. You will wake up in the morning without wondering where all that back, calf, thigh, shoulder and/or neck pain is coming from, even though you’ve actually just been resting eight hours. Try it, it’s like stretching while you sleep. How much better can it get?
May 7th, 2018
If you have pain, change the conditions and your body can thrive
I would like to start this blog with a quote from vitamin D expert Prof. Michael Holicks book ‘The Vitamin D Solution: A 3-Step Strategy to Cure Our Most Common Health Problems’, as I think he put it nicely, when he wrote the following:
‘We should give the human body more credit than it sometimes gets. People don’t shrivel, shatter, or shut down at the first sign of stress. Instead, the human body operates on the “overload principle”—when subjected to outside forces, it adapts by getting stronger. Examples of this phenomenon abound in the human body. Your muscles don’t pop and your bones don’t break if you regularly lift weights—they get bigger and more powerful so they can handle a heavier load. Your heart and lungs don’t explode or collapse if you go running every morning—they become more efficient and your lung capacity expands. Your ligaments and tendons don’t snap if you do stretching exercises—they get more flexible.’
I think Prof. Holick gets it absolutely right here. What he’s saying is, that our bodies are perfect the way they are, as long as they find the right conditions to work properly.
So what conditions can help the body to stay or become free from pain?
The main pillars of a good and pain-free health are a well balanced diet, regular high quality movement, plenty of sunshine, good supportive friends and family and of course good stress management.
Now, what’s a good diet? Ask five different people and you will probably get five different answers. So I will give you my opinion based on my research and my personal experience. Muscles hate acid and work best in a relative alkaloid environment. This means that a diet high in micronutrients (such as magnesium, potassium, vitamins, secondary plant substances) and rich in alkaloids like vegetables, fruit, legumes and whole grains, and low in animal based protein is going to help you get smooth, flexible muscles and soft tissue. Drink plenty of fluids (water or herbal teas).
I’ve been talking about the importance of regular high quality exercise balancing out your daily routines of one-sided movement patterns in recent blogs. There is an idiom that nails it: Use it (the right way), or loose it! Provide high quality stretches for tense muscles. That way you will gradually improve your range of motion and reduce pain. Exercise also gets your muscles to excrete myokines, molecules with a very wide range of healthy properties. Foremost, they are involved in exercise-associated metabolic changes, and in the metabolic changes following training adaptation. They participate in tissue regeneration and repair, maintenance of healthy bodily functioning, immune-modulation, cell signaling, expression and differentiation. What more could you want?
What’s sunshine possibly got to do with pain? Sunshine has several great benefits: It provides warmth. Muscles love that. It provides endorphines, which reduce pain and make you feel good. But first and foremost the UVB-fraction of sunlight makes your skin produce vitamin D. Sunshine is actually the main source of vitamin D. Even with the best diet you could not get enough of it. Vitamin D is a real jack of all trades. Among other functions vitamin D gets your bowels to absorb calcium and distributes it to the right places, like the bones and, very important, also the muscles, which is essential for good muscle function. So get out in the sun and enjoy it sensibly. Without getting burnt, of course.
Stress and a supportive environment
The last topics from my list, stress and a supportive environment, go hand in hand. The latter will reduce stress, which can be a major factor in increasing muscular tension. The stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol (long term stress hormone) create acid, which, as mentioned above, increases tension and therefore pain. So beware of stress, be it mental or physical and avoid people causing same.
In the end it all comes down to one thing. Be nice to yourself and do not exploit your body. You will be rewarded.
Do you have any further questions? Do send me an email.
October 31st, 2016
Things you don’t/might want to know about
- One The sight of food makes us hungry. Experiments showed, that we get hungry from watching food.
- Two We make 66% of decisions during grocery shopping spontaneously.
- Three Experiments have shown, that we would eat more of multi-coloured candy, than candy of one single colour. That way nature makes sure we eat from all the variety of food it has to offer, in order to provide all the nutrients. Multi-coloured candy suggests variety.
- Four According to 2014/2015 figures from the Irish Food Board the Irish ate on average 77 kg of meat per person yearly. That’s an average of 210 g per person per day.
- Five In the US the average fat content of peoples diets in the last 30 years has gone down about 20%, while the number of obese people has doubled.
- Six 50 years ago a chicken had been butchered after 60 days at an average weight of about 1 kg. Today the average slaughter weight of 1.6 kg is already reached after 35 days.
- Seven Up to 33% of food within the EU is being disposed of during storage, during transport, in food factories or by the consumer. Prices seem to be too cheap.
- Eight 1 kg of fat equal about 7000 kcal which equals about 10 hours of jogging.