Use Pelvic Control to Help Back Pain

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Back pain is a common complaint we see in our clinic. And while we're well versed in helping you reduce your symptoms with our little magic needles, we know there's a lot people can do to prevent back pain through posture and movement. That's why we enlisted our fitness friend, Hannah Wydeven, to write a series of blog posts about back pain.

Hannah is the owner of Solcana Fitness in the Seward Neighborhood of Minneapolis (where both Amy and Kim work out AND offer group acupuncture!). Hannah has been a fitness coach since 2010, and works with all types of bodies, specializing in helping womxn and queer folks gain confidence in the gym. You can check out her work at www.solcanafitness.com. 


Dearest readers, thank you for jumping on board this new venture with me. I am so excited to have the opportunity to share some of my personal expertise with all of the incredible Constellation clients. In this series, Your Beautiful Back, my goal is to offer you small changes you can make that will help you manage your back pain through simple changes in your patterns, as well as some easy at-home movements.

Maybe it feels like I am making a big assumption that your back hurts, but according to National Institute of Neurological Disorders, about 80% of adults experience low back pain at some point in their lifetimes. So, even if you aren’t experiencing it now, you may at some point. 

There are a lot of low-back pain triggers, everything from pregnancy to a herniated disc. However, low back pain can also be specifically caused by poor motor control or postural problems when we move. As we explore this topic, we will work through the different points around your body and how you can use thoughtful movement to get you feeling totally in control of your back. 

Let’s start with the pelvis. I am kind of obsessed with the pelvis to be honest. The Pelvis is this awesome fulcrum on our body that allows us to move in multiple planes and with a huge amount of flexibility or rigidity. Because of the ability to move our pelvis so dynamically, we can get ourselves into some tricky positions that offer less support to the spinal structures of the body, and the next thing you know, boom pow, you got back pain. 

So how can you think about your pelvis as a point of maximum support and keep that low back healthy while you move (or sit, or lay down, or do anything)? Try something with me: Stand up and place one hand on your low back, and one hand on your low belly. Lightly squeeze your butt and tighten your lower abdomen. This is what it feels like to be pelvic neutral, the ideal position to support your spine and keep you pain free. 

Now, try loosening up your belly and letting your butt stick out, in a “duck butt” position. This is an anterior pelvic tilt. You can feel how quickly your lower back muscles turn on to protect your spine in this position. Many of us are guilty of standing, walking and moving in this position, creating enormous pressure on your low back over time. 

Now, try scooping your hips forward and tucking your butt under. This is a posterior pelvic tilt. You can feel in this position you lose the natural s-shape of your spine, which could lead to pain in the lower back and weakening of the back muscles.

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Many people suffer from chronic pelvic tilt, either anteriorly or posteriorly. As a result, we are walking around with unnecessary back pain, and exposing ourselves to risk of injury doing any old thing. Particularly when we exacerbate the issue by sitting, standing or moving in these risky positions. 

The easiest way to tackle the issue of pelvic tilt is through increased body awareness. You have already practiced finding a neutral pelvis, so now you can practice walking, sitting, squatting, running etc. in this neutral position. In the example below, you can see the vast difference it makes to sit from standing with a neutral pelvis, versus a posterior or anterior tilt. It may seem simple, but a small change in posture and awareness can go a long way to saving your back. 

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I challenge you to try this week to notice your pelvic alignment when you move, does changing it affect your pain or even your general posture? It is easier to move? Next time, we will talk about bracing, and the key steps to having an iron-clad core. 

Like what you read? Check out more at www.solcanafitness.com/blog. Interested in working out with us? Check out our upcoming [Em]Power Strength Series, Sep 4th - Oct 4th, 4:30 pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays. 

*The information provided on this site is intended for your general knowledge only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease without consulting with a qualified healthcare provider. Please consult your healthcare provider with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your condition.

*Heads up! This post may contain some affiliate links. If you buy something through one of those links you won't pay a single cent more, but we'll get a small commission that helps keep the content flowing. P.S. We only recommend products we use in our own daily life!

2 Cooling Drink Recipes for the Summer Time

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What do you reach for on a hot summer day to quench your thirst?  Ice water, iced tea, iced or frozen something?  If you said yes, you are in good company.  We’ve been brought up to believe that iced beverages are the best thing to cool our bodies in the summer heat.

But let’s look at what actually happens to our bodies when we ingest cold/frozen liquids or foods:

  • Normally your body ingests food/fluids and begins the process of extracting nutrition from them, which is, long story short, how we get the energy to live our lives.  All of this needs to happen at approximately 98.6 degrees for the myriad of digestive processes to occur in a healthy manner.

  • When you drink cold liquids, your body’s first response is to expend energy to bring the cold liquid up to a useable temperature (i.e. body temperature.)  After your body has warmed things back up, then it can begin the digestion process. This extra energy that is expended to warm up our drinks means our digestive system has to work harder, and that’s rarely a good thing.  So, while drinking ice water can make you feel refreshed in the short term, it actually serves to drain energy in the long run.

  • Drinking cold beverages/eating frozen foods causes your blood vessels to shrink (cold temperature causes contraction), limiting blood circulation and leading to cramps and overall body discomfort.

  • Drinking cold liquids during or after a meal creates excess mucus in your body, which can lead to a decrease in immune system function, making it easier to catch a cold or other illness.  Just as a cold winter's day can give you a runny nose and block up your sinuses, iced liquids creates the same bodily response.

Some are of the opinion that drinking ice water is beneficial because it burns more calories. I argue that we do not want to make our digestive system work harder; instead we should make things as easy as possible for our gut!  When our digestive system works efficiently, our body has extra energy to keep all our systems functioning optimally.

Drinking room temperature or warm liquids/food:

  • Leads to faster and increased hydration.

  • Natural digestive enzymes are stimulated and therefore your digestion is enhanced.

  • Food breaks down more easily.

  • Your bowel movements are better (warm water with lemon in the morning is great for this).

  • Warm liquids help to purify your blood and increases your body’s natural detoxification processes via your skin, kidneys, and lymphatic system.

  • Switching to warm water has been found to reduce sugar cravings, helping you maintain a healthy weight.

But, you may ask, how in the world can I stay cool in the heat without ice or a cold drink? Chinese medicine has some great tools to help!

Chinese food therapy recognizes that certain foods have an overall cooling effect on our bodies, while other foods have a warming effect.  Believe it or not, these cooling foods will have a cooling effect when they are eaten warm or room temperature. It is common in China during the steamy days of summer to see people drinking hot soup (I know!) made with winter melon, white radish, mung beans, and other cooling ingredients.  They know that despite eating something which is hot in temperature, it will be energetically cooling to their entire system.

Here are two delicious drinks, made with cooling vegetables and fruits which will provide cooling energy to your body, replenish electrolytes, and quench your thirst.  It is best to drink them at room temperature to receive the full cooling benefits.

Cooling Cucumber Elixir

Refreshing cucumber is the star of this drink.  I make this the whole summer long and drink about 3-5 cups of it a day!

Ingredients:

1 large cucumber
1 lemon
2 tbsp goji berries
6 stalks celery
2 tbsp chopped fresh mint (peppermint or spearmint) leaves and/or 2 tbsp chopped fresh sage leaves
8-12 c water
Optional: ½ tsp chia seeds

Instructions:

  1. Cut cucumber and lemon into round slices (DO NOT PEEL, and make sure to wash before cutting!)  

  2. Chop the celery.  

  3. Add 8-12 cups of freshly filtered water to a pitcher or jar.  Add cucumber, lemon, goji berries, and celery to water.

  4. After chopping the sage and/or mint leaves, bruise the leaves (rub the leaves back and forth in palms of your hands for 10 seconds) to release the essential oils, then add to the water.

  5. Let sit, covered, on counter top for 6-8 hours, or overnight.  Strain and compost the vegetable matter.

  6. Refrigerate the liquid.  Each morning, pour out the amount you will want to consume for the day and let it warm up to room temperature.  Add chia seeds to your daily drink if you’d like an additional cooling boost!

  7. Note that nothing in this recipe needs to be exact.  Use as much or as little water as you like. If you feel like adding more or less cucumber or anything else, go ahead!


Watermelon Sports Drink

(courtesy of Amy Kuretsky, L.Ac.)

Soooooo delicious and much healthier than sports drinks that have artificial colors, flavors, and tons of sugar.

Ingredients:

3 large slices of ripe watermelon (seeded or seedless), or enough to produce 1 1/2 c juice
1 lemon
1/4 tsp sea salt (I like pink Himalayan sea salt because it contains a variety of naturally found minerals.)
1 1/2 c filtered water

Instructions:

  1. Cut the watermelon and discard the peel. Don't worry about removing the seeds at this point!

  2. Place the watermelon chunks in a blender and blend at the lowest speed. The point is to liquefy the watermelon, but leave the seeds intact so that they can be separated using a strainer.

  3. Pour the watermelon juice through a mesh strainer and into a liquid measuring cup. I used about 1 1/2 c juice for my drink. Discard the seeds and pulp that is strained out.

  4. Add the salt and juice of 1 lemon.

  5. Stir thoroughly and add to a 20 oz water bottle. Fill remaining space with filtered water and consume.

Stay cool, and enjoy your summer!

Want to learn more about how Chinese food therapy can support your digestive health?

Book an appointment here!

*The information provided on this site is intended for your general knowledge only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease without consulting with a qualified healthcare provider. Please consult your healthcare provider with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your condition.

*Heads up! This post may contain some affiliate links. If you buy something through one of those links you won't pay a single cent more, but I'll get a small commission that helps keep the content flowing. P.S. I only recommend products I use in my own daily life!

Don't Throw Ice On Your Digestive Fire!

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Warmer weather is here! Rising temperatures turn our minds toward cold water, iced tea, chilled cold brew coffee, ice cream, salads and raw foods to cool down in the heat. I’m here to share some (possibly bummer) news with you: all that cold food and drink can really do a number on your digestion. If you’ve ever had a stomach ache after drinking cold water, or had an urgent trips to the bathroom after a huge raw salad, you know what I mean. But no fear! We can be cool AND support our digestive system at the same time. 

So first, let’s sit back together, and envision a lovely bonfire. That fire is awesome. Flames rise upward while logs smolder bright orange and hot in the depths. The fire provides warmth against the cold, gives us heat for cooking, casts a glowing light to gather around as the sky goes dark. Fire has allowed for survival, provided comfort, and given us humans energy for a very long time.

If you’ve ever built a fire of your own, you know that it requires constant tending to stay strong! The right amount of stoking and logs are necessary to keep it burning bright.

Yang Qi: our inner fire

Now, imagine you have an awesome fire inside of you, deep in your belly. This fire is your yang qi - the warm, active, vital energy that drives organ function, circulation, thought and cognition, metabolism, and more. Our digestive system is kind of like a bubbling pot over that fire, cooking down and transforming what we eat and drink into a rich, nutritious soup. The nutrition from this “soup” is absorbed by our bodies and transformed into energy. In order to keep that pot bubbling, we need to keep that fire burning below the pot. 

In order to keep our digestive yang qi strong, the last thing we want to do is dump cold water on the fire and extinguish the flames! We want to have dietary habits that grow and sustain the energy. Eating regular meals, consuming mostly warm or room temperature, cooked, or fermented foods and room temperature and warm beverages, eating moderate amounts of warming, moving spices, and taking time to sit back and enjoy meals in a leisurely way forms the foundation of a Chinese medicine food therapy approach to strong digestive energy. 

In the warmer months of summer, the Fire season, we are also able to absorb more yang qi from the environment around us. This means that for most folks, cold food and drink every once and a while works out okay through the summer months! But for folks with a history of digestive issues, this can cause a lot of digestive discomfort and irregularity, no matter the season.

Energetically cooling foods for summer

Rather than eating foods and drinks that are cold in physical temperature to cool down on a hot summer day, everyone can benefit from foods that have a cooling energetic temperature. Some examples include: 

  • Watermelon
  • Cucumber
  • Celery
  • Mung beans
  • Seaweed
  • Spinach
  • Tomato
  • Tofu
  • Green tea (yep, even when it’s consumed hot!)
  • Coconut water
  • Peppermint

It’s a tasty-looking list, right? Consuming moderate amounts of these through the summer will help keep you cool and comfortable. I encourage you to experiment with the physical and energetic temperature of your food and drink, and observe how you feel after! Your body is an amazing teacher. 

Want to learn more about how Chinese food therapy can support your digestive health?

Book an appointment here!

*The information provided on this site is intended for your general knowledge only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease without consulting with a qualified healthcare provider. Please consult your healthcare provider with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your condition.

*Heads up! This post may contain some affiliate links. If you buy something through one of those links you won't pay a single cent more, but I'll get a small commission that helps keep the content flowing. P.S. I only recommend products I use in my own daily life!

Tips to Know Before Doing A Liver Detox

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Want to know what's all the rage again now that spring has sprung? Liver and gallbladder detoxes!

This might be an unpopular opinion - but hey! I'm full of unpopular opinions. So here's my bomb drop:

I hate detoxes.

I hate the trendy idea that our bodies are toxic and need to be starved clean. (Our bodies have some pretty amazing systems in place to make sure we don't become toxic. How many people do you know that have had toxic shock syndrome, toxic megacolon, or sepsis?)

I hate how so many cleanses and detoxes limit food and are purely focused on juicing. (Can you say blood sugar roller-coaster much?!)

I hate the misconception that our liver is just a dirty filter that needs to be rinsed out. (FYI it's not. The liver doesn't store toxins, it transforms unsafe molecules into safe molecules that can be more easily removed from the body.)

While I'm not the biggest fan of juices cleanses or fasting detoxes, I do understand why focusing on liver health is always so popular during spring: In Chinese medicine, every season is associated with one of the five elements. And every element has a color, sound, taste, emotion, and yes, organ system that is affiliated with it too. Spring's organs? No surprise, the liver and gallbladder.

So, even though I cry a little bit on the inside every time someone I know starts the master cleanse or another green juice fast, I too use the spring season to focus on my liver health.

I tend to re-commit to dietary changes like focusing more on veggies of all types and healthy fats. I also cut way back on my sugar and alcohol consumption because they both stress the liver. My favorite outlined dietary re-set is the 21 Day Sugar Detox, but you don't have to do a full-on program to make some key positive changes.

The link between springtime and the liver makes this a great time to focus on eating foods to support detoxification pathways.

Here are three ways to help your liver work more smarter, not harder this spring.

Move Your Qi Using Acupuncture and Exercise

In Chinese medicine, the liver is in charge of the free flow of qi (energy). When your qi doesn't move smoothly, it accumulates in the channels (think of those as the rivers and streams that carry the qi throughout the body). Those accumulations create pain, disease, and emotional stress so it's super important to keep the qi moving smoothly. Acupuncture and exercise are my two favorite ways to keep the qi moving.

Do Some Grounding Meditations

The energy of the liver likes to rise up. Think of all the plant life shooting up from the ground, ready to grow tall to the sky.

This energy is exciting, new, and exuberant!! But it can also be explosive - leading to symptoms like red, itchy eyes, headaches/migraines, and irritability or anger. Grounding visualizations and meditations can help anchor this energy to the earth - keeping it from blowing it's cool on the way up.

Thin Bile Using Food

Bile is created in your liver, stored in the gallbladder, and used to digest fat. When the bile is thick and murky, it creates gallstones and can get stuck in the bile duct. Eating certain foods can thin the bile and help prevent that stagnation of qi I talked about in the last tip.

A couple of my favorite bile thinning foods are lemon and beets. Starting your day off with warm water and lemon is a great way to incorporate more lemon juice into your daily diet. And if you're scared of cooking beets but looking for a great recipe, our friend Lucia has one over here.

Not into lemons or beets? Ask us about other Chinese medicine based food therapy recommendations for springtime liver health during your next appointment!

Book an appointment here!

*The information provided on this site is intended for your general knowledge only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease without consulting with a qualified healthcare provider. Please consult your healthcare provider with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your condition.

*Heads up! This post may contain some affiliate links. If you buy something through one of those links you won't pay a single cent more, but I'll get a small commission that helps keep the content flowing. P.S. I only recommend products I use in my own daily life!