Chronic Back Pain: How to Sleep Through It

Check out this great article by Karen Weeks on getting a good night’s sleep while battling chronic back pain.  Karen has more great content on her website, https://elderwellness.net/

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One of the comforts of going to sleep at the end of the day is the privilege of leaving behind your worries for eight hours. However, if you’re living with chronic back pain, that worry sticks around in addition to the fact that you won’t be able to fall asleep right away, compounding your problems. Getting a good night’s sleep can be difficult if you’re suffering from back pain, but there are ways to make it happen. Dr. Stacey Naito presents tips for learning to love falling asleep while living with chronic back pain.

Yoga Before Bed

Practicing yoga before you head to bed for the night can help stretch your sore muscles and give you a better chance of falling asleep right away. The ancient practice has numerous health benefits, and research has shown that practicing yoga regularly may even reduce the need for pain medication. There are many different poses you can do that are beneficial for back pain. Doing a few poses before bed will help strengthen your muscles and improve your posture, leading to less pressure on your back in your day-to-day life, resulting in less overall back pain.

Utilize Your Smartphone

Technology is there to help you in most areas of your life, including your sleep. There are a number of different apps available aimed at helping you sleep better at night. Sleep Cycle is an alarm clock app that monitors where you are in your sleep cycle each night and wakes you at an optimal time within your preferred time frame so you feel the most refreshed. White Noise allows you to play soothing sounds from your phone to help you either drown out outside noises or add sound to a too-quiet room. Calm is a leading meditation app for beginners, allowing you to try out the art of meditation in order to calm down your mind at night.

 

Note that some of these apps stay running throughout the night in order to monitor your sleep or to keep you from waking up sporadically. Make sure that your smartphone has enough battery life! You’ll also want to ensure that your home internet connection is running smoothly. Fast and reliable internet service will give you the freedom to run any of these apps overnight without worrying about being disconnected. 

Improve on Your Sleeping Position

We all have preferences when it comes to our sleep positions. Thankfully, there are different ways to improve your preferred sleeping position to help lower your back pain. For side-sleepers, add a pillow between your legs and pull your knees a little toward your chest to stretch out your lower back. If you prefer sleeping on your stomach, place a pillow under your pelvis and forgo the pillow under your head (or switch to a flatter one). For those who like sleeping on your back, place a pillow beneath your knees to add a slight curve to your spine.

 

Whatever the cause of your back pain, know that it doesn’t have to sentence you to a lifetime of insomnia. Chronic back pain can impact your daily life in a number of different ways, but don’t let it control how much sleep you get at night. Lack of sleep impacts your life even more, causing you to become disoriented, unfocused, and unable to finish your day’s tasks. Use these tips to sleep easier at night and reduce your chronic back pain one night at a time.

Hit Those Fitness Apparel Holiday Sales!

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I’ve always been a fan of online shopping, and have relied on it for many years, way before this crazy year forced us to do the bulk of our shopping online.  However, it can be tricky to figure out which brands fit best, especially when it comes to fitness apparel and accessories.  For this reason, I turn to tried and true brands like Under Armour which consistently manufacture quality merchandise.

Though I am willing to pay more for good quality items, who doesn’t love a sale?  I know that during the holidays, major fitness brands like Under Armour tend to offer deep discounts, coupons, and promos to pump up their sales while also giving shoppers a chance to save some serious cash.  But who wants to hassle with visiting each company’s site to check to see if they have holiday deals?  With Slickdeals, you don’t have to do that.  Slickdeals compiles information and lists all the best discounts which can be found across all major sports related brands, allowing shoppers to build the best strategy while shopping online.  Just leave it to the staff editors at Slickdeals, who will make sure that active coupon codes are loaded onto the site for your convenience.

If you want to check out the awesome deals which Under Armour has, go to:

https://slickdeals.net/coupons/under-armour/

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What do I search for when shopping for Under Armour items?  Well, I love the women’s ½ neck pullovers, and I am a huge fan of all their socks.  Yes, socks.  Under Armour makes the most comfortable, moisture-wicking, non-budge socks I have ever worn, and I love them.  I also love Under Armour’s backpacks and duffel bags, and may still look at the sale items even though I received an Under Armour backpack as an early Christmas present.  Since I love Under Armour socks so much, I might have to jump on the Women’s UA Charged Impulse Running Shoes which I just noticed are on sale.  Add a coupon or promo code from Slickdeals, and I am saving major bank!

 

Whenever I peruse the Under Armour website, I always check out the outlet, because there are great deals to be found on there, and with coupons from Slickdeals stacked on top of the sale prices, I can be sure to find some killer deals.  In fact, I just ran across a coupon code on Slickdeals which works for items in the Outlet section of the Under Armour website, so there you go! Under Armour has all kinds of sportswear for different climates and activities, and even has one pull-down menu on their website where you can search for merchandise by the type of sport you are interested in.  Sports categories include:

 

 

You can see from the sports categories list that Under Armour has a pretty comprehensive collection of sports apparel and accessories to accommodate different sports.

Whether you are a fan of Under Armour, or a fan of another major sports apparel and accessories brand, make the online shopping experience much easier by checking out Slickdeals.  You’ll find excellent deals there which will make your wallet very happy!

https://slickdeals.net/coupons/under-armour/

 

6 Interesting Benefits of Yoga for Seniors

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By Karen Weeks

Karen Weeks – Elderwellness.net

karen@elderwellness.net

Yoga can be practiced by anyone at any point in their life. Participation in yoga has nearly doubled in just a couple of years as people have realized the powerful health benefits that it provides. If you’re a senior who is considering getting started in yoga, here are some benefits you may enjoy from your practice.

 

  1. Better dental health

 

There is a well-defined link between mental health problems, like stress and depression, and poor dental health. When you’re stressed out, your immune system is weakened and your gums are more prone to bacterial invasion. Antidepressants can also dry out your mouth, which can make it harder to wash food away from your teeth and gums. If you tend to grind your teeth when you’re stressed out, you can also have problems with your jaw. 

 

Yoga is an excellent activity to help relax you. You learn better breathing patterns as well as how to soothe your mind and body. These are good stress-reducing activities that have long-term effects. Despite yoga’s benefits for oral health, you should still find a dentist to visit if you have problems with tooth or jaw pain.

 

  1. Improved gut health

 

Changing diet and age can reduce the overall diversity of microbes in the gut, and this lack of diversity can make the body less healthy and responsive. Hyperbiotics explains that exercise can boost gut health by improving the gut microbiome. The gut microbiome is the collection of microbes that naturally live in our bodies and help us digest. Yoga is one easy exercise you can start, even if you haven’t exercised in a while. This physical activity will help you achieve a happier gut, which will help you feel happier overall.

 

  1. Healthier joints

 

Yoga can improve flexibility and joint health. When it’s paired with meditation, it can reduce stiffness. Part of this comes from learning proper alignment of the body, as well as learning how to modify poses that can help minimize pain in your body. Meditation helps you develop a greater awareness of the stiffness in your body and work on relaxing whatever might get stiff.

 

  1. Reduced blood pressure

 

Research has suggested that yoga and meditation as a possible way to alleviate mild problems with blood pressure. Yoga can be a light-intensity activity, which is great if you’re a beginner. Physical activity is recommended for people who have high blood pressure, and yoga can be a big part of that. It can also help your stress response which can impact your blood pressure. Yoga is a good combination of getting your heart rate up while also relaxing your body and mind.

 

  1. Better balance

 

Research has demonstrated that yoga can be a powerful way to improve balance and mobility in older populations. This is especially important in arming you against potential falls and bone breaks. Yoga has all sorts of poses that can help you gain strength and balance within yourself, such as “tree pose.” It will also help you improve your core strength, which helps your balance as well.

 

  1. Strong bones

 

A critical part of bone health is getting physical activity. Some activities are better than others when it comes to building and maintaining strong bones. Yoga is one of these activities, as you build greater strength in your muscles and bones, and you can do it all in a low-impact way. However, if you have low bone density, make sure you do alternatives to specific poses or avoid them outright, such as forward folds and spinal twists. Listen to your body, and avoid any pose that feels painful.

 

Where to Do Yoga

 

Now that you’ve learned all about yoga’s benefits, you may be interested in how to get started on your own yoga practice. The beauty of yoga is that it can be practiced in the comfort of your own home. You can access fitness apps on a fitness tracker or other device to learn yoga poses, or refer to YouTube exercise videos that are geared toward seniors. You may also find that during your at-home practice, you’ll want to enhance your yoga routine with additional exercises like stretches, chair exercises, and resistance training. Mixing up your exercises can help you stay motivated and improve workout performance.

 

If you’d prefer to practice yoga outside of the home, you can learn from a professional yoga instructor who can teach you how to do each pose properly. You can check out some yoga studios in your neighborhood; some may even offer classes specially suited for seniors. 

 

An important part of starting your yoga practice is modifying it to fit your individual circumstances. Start slowly, and focus on poses that you’re comfortable with. As long as you’re careful and comfortable with your progress, yoga is worth giving a try in your senior years.

Healthy Living Tips for Seniors on a Fixed Income

Please check out this fantastic article, written by Karen Weeks, which is full of tips on how to live healthy and strong as a senior on a fixed income!

by Karen Weeks – Elderwellness.net
karen@elderwellness.net


Image by Xevi Casanovas via Unsplash

As you get older, it’s more important than ever to make your health a priority. Unfortunately for seniors living on fixed incomes, a healthy lifestyle can seem financially impossible. Nutritious ingredients, fitness classes, and other healthy living resources don’t come cheap. When money is limited, it’s hard to find room in your budget.

Forgoing healthy habits may save money in the short-term, but it costs seniors in the long-run. A healthy lifestyle is one of the best ways to prevent chronic illness, and if you don’t take care of yourself, you’re more likely to develop health problems that are costly to manage.

That’s why it’s so important to adopt healthy habits now, no matter your budget. If you’re a senior living on a fixed income, these tips will help you stay healthy without spending a lot.

Eating Well

Learn how to grocery shop on a budget
If you look at the price of packaged organic goods, healthy foods can seem out of reach. Instead of worrying about organics, focus on eating a diet high in vegetables of any (and every!) type. If fresh vegetables are too expensive, frozen vegetables are just as nutritious without the sodium content of canned goods. Dried beans, whole grains, frozen fruit, canned fish, and eggs are more cheap and healthy foods. Avoid frozen meals. While they seem like a good value, most frozen dinners are high in sodium and saturated fat.

Make use of food assistance programs
If you find yourself skipping meals or eating poorly to save money, look into food assistance programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program, and Meals on Wheels. Meals on Wheels is an especially helpful resource if you live alone and have trouble leaving your home.

Staying Active

Get cleared for exercise
It’s safe for most older adults to exercise, but it’s still wise to talk to your doctor. Your annual wellness visit is a good time to ask if you should take precautions before starting an exercise program. Keep in mind, however, that Medicare’s annual wellness visit doesn’t include a full physical. You may owe a copay if your doctor recommends bloodwork or other tests to clear you for exercise.

Exercise at home
There’s a lot of exercise seniors can do in the comfort of their homes. Basic strength and balance exercises, important for senior fall prevention, require minimal space and no special equipment. Use these 14 exercises from Philips Lifeline to get started.

Join a senior center
Do you prefer the camaraderie of group exercise? Senior centers offer tons of activities for older adults, including exercise classes like tai chi, yoga, and Zumba. Not only that, but all of a senior center’s services are available free or low-cost. No matter where you live, there’s likely a senior center in your neighborhood.

Getting Help at Home

Apply for the Assisted Living Waiver Program
If you need caregiving but don’t want to move into a nursing facility, consider assisted living. Under the Assisted Living Waiver Program, California seniors receiving Medi-Cal benefits can receive a reduced rate for assisted living. With facilities in California having a median cost of $54,000 annually, that’s a valuable benefit. However, not all facilities participate, so it’s important that seniors understand how to research assisted living facilities. Online search tools are a good place to start looking for a facility that meets your needs, but once you find one you like, you’ll need to check if it participates in the waiver program.

Get a roommate
Unfortunately, not every senior who needs help affording care qualifies for a waiver. If you could use help at home but don’t need nursing home-level care, consider a roommate. A roommate can be a housemate who splits the bills or someone who provides housekeeping and companionship in exchange for reduced rent.

Living on a fixed income forces you to get creative with your money, but it shouldn’t stop you from living well. If you’re having trouble affording the things you need to stay healthy, reach out to your Department of Aging and Adult Services to learn what resources are available to you.

Seated Stretches To Energize You

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If you work at a desk job, you probably don’t think much about stretching your body and recharging it, but it’s one of the best things you can do for your body and your spirit.

Though I think it’s always best to step away from your desk to increase circulation, stretch, and reset your mind, I know that isn’t always an option. So here are a few stretches which you can do while sitting at your desk. I challenge you to perform these stretches right now as you read this blog post so you can see how easy and quick they are.

NECK CIRCLES:
Inhale, then exhale while dropping your chin to your chest.
As you slowly inhale, rotate your head to the right, bringing your right ear near your right shoulder and stretching the muscles on the left side of your neck.
Keep rotating until your neck is fully extended and pause, then rotate your head while slowly exhaling so that your left ear is now near your left shoulder and you feel a stretch in the muscles on the right side of your neck.
As your chin reaches your chest, finish your exhalation and pause.
Continue in this manner for 5 complete revolutions, then switch directions and perform 5 complete revolutions. Bring head to neutral and take a deep inhale, then slowly exhale.

SHOULDER SHRUGS
With arms at sides, inhale, then raise both shoulders near ears and hold for a count of 5.
Forcibly exhale through open mouth while quickly dropping shoulders.
Repeat 4 more times.

GRIP AND RELEASE
Make fists with both hands, holding for a count of 10.
Spread fingers out wide, holding for a count of 10.
Repeat sequence 2 more times, then shake hands out for several seconds.

OPEN HEART
With bent elbows, reach behind your lower back and clasp your hands together.
Aim to keep your palms together at all times.
Move the shoulder blades together.
Then straighten the elbows.
See if you can lift your arms up, away from your back.

NOTE: If this move is too difficult for you, hold onto a towel or belt, then pull arms outwards to add tension, then lift your arms.

Understanding Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness

DOMS Have you ever adopted a new workout regimen, then ended up kicking your ass so hard that you became discouraged from the pain you experienced after your workouts? If so, you were probably taken by surprise when delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) set in. What often occurs is that people adopting new exercise regimens may become quickly discouraged, usually because they don’t understand why they are so sore, and will back off from exercising without ever getting a chance to maintain consistency. However, DOMS may be a beneficial signal that your workouts are challenging enough to make a difference.

DOMS typically develops between 24 to 72 hours after physical activity, and is considered a relatively normal and common result of activity that challenges muscle tissue. One popular but flawed theory is that the microscopic tears which occur in the muscle fibers after exercise, coupled with the release of lactic acid and protons, are responsible for the muscle soreness which characterizes DOMS. Mizumura and Taguchi determined in an important study that neurotrophic factors are produced by muscle fibers and satellite cells, and are critical for the development of DOMS symptoms. They also determined that damage to muscle fibers was not a necessary component of DOMS, further suggesting that a neurological cascade is what results in the post-exercise soreness.

For the most part, the aches and pains which characterize DOMS are assumed to be a sign that your muscles are adapting to the activity which caused them to develop in the first place. Rather than shying away from physical activity in the long term, the general recommendation is to take it easy for a few days, while still exercising, until the pain subsides. However, those of us who are gym rats and fitness freaks will tend to adopt the “Suck it up, buttercup!” mentality, powering through workouts as best we can while our bodies scream out in general agony.

So what can you do if you have DOMS and you want to lessen the severity and duration of the soreness? The truth is, not much. However, here are some suggestions which you might want to try. Keep in mind that none of these suggestions is proven to ameliorate DOMS, but none will worsen the symptoms either.

• consumption of plenty of water both during and after exercise
• consumption of a protein-rich meal after exercise
• glutamine
• cherry juice
• vitamin D supplementation
• compression garments
• Epsom salts
• application of heat

One thing to bear in mind is that if you are consistently working out at the same intensity, your muscles will become familiar with that intensity, essentially adapting to it. This phenomenon is called the repeated bout effect (RBE), and basically means that you will most likely notice a drop-off in DOMS episodes. If you suddenly increase the intensity or duration of your workouts, the chance of developing DOMS will return.

Obviously if you believe you have a specific injury, and not DOMS, then get it evaluated and rest up.

REFERENCES
Mizumura K, Taguchi T. Delayed onset muscle soreness: Involvement of neurotrophic factors. J Physiol Sci. 2016 Jan;66(1):43-52.

Of Orifices and Zero Freedom

As a physician, I have had the incredible honor and privilege of studying every part of the human body, to the most minute detail. I have hovered over cadavers which were fileted and displayed for they eyes of inquisitive medical students, and scrubbed in on colon resections, open heart surgery, neurosurgery, cataract removal, etc. During my first month of internship as a newly minted physician, I massaged a dying heart with my gloved hands (no, the patient didn’t survive). I have also delivered over 40 infants via vaginal and Cesarean methods, and have pronounced the demise of patients in the wards. In fact, there are many stories I have collected over the years, some incredibly sad, some disgusting, some frightening, and some infuriating, but all true, and all part of my experience as a doctor.

I knew full well that by signing up for an education in medicine, I would be subjected to disgusting, morbid, frightening things, and that I would face mortality on a regular basis. However, after several years of working in family practice, I began to notice that I wasn’t thrilled with the fact that I examined orifices of every kind on a very regular basis. Whether it was a nostril, a mouth, an ear canal, an anus, a urethral meatus (layman’s term pee-hole), or vagina I had to examine, I was never thrilled about it, and the orifices below the belt were certainly much more bothersome to address. My intense dislike of such examinations, combined with the tedium of primary care and the low insurance reimbursement for services and procedures provided, caused me to retreat from primary care and focus more on the areas I had more interest in, namely, physical medicine, cosmetic dermatology, and anti-aging medicine, all of which are much cleaner and which do not require me to conduct examinations on private parts.

Another feature of primary care which made me cringe was the intense demand on a practitioner’s time. The only time it ever seemed reasonable for me to literally lose sleep night after night as a physician was when I was in training. At this point, there is no way you could convince me that such a thing is healthy, and I refuse to sign up for that. I won’t give up weekends to take on three stacked 12-hour work shifts, and I will not give up the few holidays I celebrate (Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve, and New Year’s Day) in order to work. As it is, I give up other major holidays to work, but since the work I perform on those holidays is in bodybuilding and fitness, I don’t mind it at all.

I love being a physician, and I find it incredibly rewarding to make a positive impact on my patients. However, I will not sacrifice balance in my life, or the freedom to pursue my other interests, in order to prove to society what a good physician I am. I don’t believe for a second that running oneself into the ground working as a physician ever sends a positive message to others. I don’t ever want to be the kind of doctor who is saddled with so many chart notes to write that an entire weekend is devoted to completing them. Not for me.

Lasty, I think it’s so strange that society still assumes that doctors are supposed to give their time and knowledge at a moment’s notice, on demand, yet I don’t see those same demands placed on people in other industries. I can’t tell you how many times I have been in a brief conversation with a complete stranger, who dares to ask me a medical question as soon as my profession is revealed. I swear, one of these days I am going to get a t-shirt made that says, “THE DOCTOR IS OFF-DUTY RIGHT NOW…NO MEDICAL QUESTIONS PLEASE”!

How To Be As Prepared As You Can Be for Your Big Run

I am posting this a second time with links embedded in the article. What a great contribution by Jason Lewis!

– Written by Jason Lewis

Mike Tyson once said, “everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” For those about to compete in a major race, the logic still applies. Everyone has a plan for their run until they come face to face with some of the harsh realities of the race running. It can be hard, and you may face what feels like insurmountable obstacles. But if you prepare yourself properly, you can make sure you have the best chance possible to beat whatever punch – metaphorically speaking of course – comes your way. Here are some tips.

Know how to properly hydrate

If there’s one thing that any runner must know, it’s proper hydration. Dehydration lowers your blood volume and when you have lower blood volume your heart has to work extra hard to get blood (oxygen) to your muscles. Long story short, you can’t run your best when dehydrated. So, drink as much water as you can before, during, and after your runs?

Not exactly. Overconsumption can be an issue. For the most part, you should drink when you’re thirsty – no more, no less. Don’t overcomplicate things. Here’s a good resource on how to properly hydrate for certain types of runs.  

One big question is whether water is good enough, or should you hydrate with sports drinks. Both are true, actually. Water is fine, but there are some benefits to Gatorade. Sports drinks contain carbs (in the form of sugars) and electrolytes (which you lose when you sweat) – two things your body needs when participating in demanding physical activity.

Find a routine and stick to it

You should develop a routine surrounding your runs and keep it the same through training and through race day. Eat the same thing before, during, and after runs. Wear the same shoes and clothing. Get the same amount of sleep the night before. Listen to the same music. This routine, if you keep to it, will help your body and mind stay strong through the tough stretches.

Know how to treat common running injuries

Running puts a good amount of stress on your body – whether it’s trail running, city running, or even practicing in a gym or on a treadmill. If you run a lot, you’re going to get hurt at some point. There’s no getting around it. It’s vital that you know how to deal with sprains, scrapes, blisters, and more. The shorthand guide is to always ice a sprain, stretch a cramp, pressure a wound, and leave a blister intact. For more on this, check here.

Know why you’re running

Sure, you’re running for the exercise and the feelings of personal accomplishment. The runner’s high isn’t an unwelcome byproduct. But in the end, running is about a mentality – even a spirituality for some. Focus on how running gives you a mental boost and makes you a stronger person: push your self to achieve goals you never thought possible; give yourself a chance to find a stronger you through self-discovery; heal from a broken past; overcome seemingly impossible obstacles. As Jim Friedrich says in the article The Spirituality of Running, “What we do with our bodies manifests and expresses inner states, the sacred ground of our being. But bodily practices can also induce inner states.”

Whether you’re running for fun, a charity 5K or a marathon – the principles of proper running preparation are pretty much the same. If you know how to hydrate, deal with inevitable injuries, and stick to what you know works, you will have a good chance at succeeding in whatever you do. “Success” is whatever you want it to be – only you can decide your own criteria.
Photo Credit: Pixabay.com

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jason Lewis is passionate about helping seniors stay healthy and injury-free. He created StrongWell.org to share his tips on senior fitness.