Archive for November 2009

Sciatica Exercises – the Good and the Bad

Sciatica exercises are an important part of both short and long-term treatment, but it is critical to choose the right exercises. Even commonly-recommended exercises for sciatica may not be indicated during times of severe acute symptoms, and some exercises may only make things worse.

For example, while commonly recommended to people with sciatica, exercises such as hamstring stretches and the yoga position, “downward facing dog” can be beneficial as part of managing one’s condition once the pain is reduced, these exercises can place tension on the sciatic nerve and aggravate an already inflamed and sensitive condition. In general, any exercise that causes pain to increase in the leg and/or extend further down the leg should be completely avoided during the acute phase of sciatica.

During the acute phase of sciatica pain, McKenzie exercises provide one of the best and safest treatment approaches available – more effective than medication and epidural steroid injections in many people. Though often associated with spinal extension and mistakenly called the “McKenzie Extension Exercises”, McKenzie method may involve any number of spinal positions/movements. The whole point of the McKenzie method is to evaluate different positions/exercises to find what best produces “centralization” of symptoms.

McKenzie practitioners use the word “centralization” when the pain and other symptoms are relieved in the areas the greates distance away from the spine. To give an example, in a person with sciatica all the way down the leg to the foot, centralization might occur in which the pain left the foot and lower leg and then only extended down to the knee. Or, if sciatica symptoms started out going as far as the knee, centralization would be if the symptoms left the thigh and only went as far as the hip area.

A position or exercise that results in symptom centralization is one that will be beneficial, even in situations where symptoms increase for a time in areas closer to the spine. For example, if you had sciatica and low back pain and tried one of of the McKenzie exercises and the sciatica completely went away but the back pain got worse, the exercise would still be considered beneficial and it would be recommended to continue using it. In the long run, a sciatica exercise that produces centralization will usually eventually result in improvement in all symptoms, even if more central (closer to the spine) symptoms get worse at first.

The simplest of the McKenzie exercises for alleviating sciatica is done by simply lying on one’s stomach on the floor or a firm surface and propping one’s chest up on the elbows. This places the lower spine in a gentle extension, which can help relieve sciatica by pushing bulging spinal discs forward, and away from the nerve roots that form the sciatic nerve, reducing pressure and irritation. Although you can maintain this position for relatively long periods of time, I recommend doing it for short periods of one or two minutes with a rest break of at least a few minutes in between. The frequent breaks prevent the low back muscles from tightening up as much, and yet still allows for good overall results. For more complex sciatica exercises, getting detailed instructions either through an illustrated guide or an experienced health care practitioner is advised.

George Best

Steepled Shoulder Squeeze-yoga


Improves fexibility of the wrists and shoulders stretches hamstrings, gives the heart a rest


Keep both legs straight, and press your palms together firmly.

Stand with your feet 4-6 feet apart, toes turned out slightly.

Raise your arms to shoulder height, then bend them and take them behind your back. Bring your fingertips together, palms resting on your lower back.

Rotate your wrists so that your palms face out (backs of your hands against your back), fingertips still together. Lean forward, and drop your head down so that it is lower than your heart.

Press your fingers up along your spine, toward your shoulder blades. At the same time, ease your palms toward each other, fingers pointing toward your head. The pull of gravity will help you bring your palms closer and higher between your shoulder blades. Pull your shoulders back, and bring your palms together firmly.

Turn your left foot in slightly. Inhaling, bring your upper body over your right leg. Exhaling, lower your head toward your knee.

Inhaling and exhaling through your nose deeply and slowly, hold the pose for 3 Full Yoga Breaths . On each exhalation, lengthen your body down along your thigh.

Inhaling, slowly bring your upper body back to the center.

Turn your left foot out and your right foot in slightly. Inhaling, bring your upper body over your left leg. Exhaling, lower your head over your left knee. Hold the pose for 3 Full Yoga Breaths. Focus on lengthening your upper body with each exhalation.

Inhaling, bring your body back to the center, and slowly return to an upright position. Breathe normally.

Very gently, release your hands and flick your wrists strongly (as if you have something sticky on your fingers) to release any stiffness in your WrIsts.

Stomach Bandha


Improves function of the pancreas, which produces insulin, to maintain steady energy levels throughout the day and moderate unhealthy sugar cravings


Pull your abdominal muscles back up and under tightly.

Stand with your legs 4-6 feet apart. Bend your knees and squat; place your hands on your knees, fingertips facing in.

Inhale, then exhale forcefully through an open mouth.

Holding your breath, close your mouth, and tuck your chin into your chest.

Suck your abdominal muscles back, up, and under your rib cage. Continue to hold your breath for a count of 7.

Release your abdominal muscles.

Inhaling, straighten your legs and come up. Exhaling, bend forward and hang loosely.

Repeat the sequence 3 more times. Practice to gradually increase to 7 repetitions.

If you are not used to holding your breath, this exercise may make you cough or feel a little dizzy at first. If it does, exhale and release your head down between your legs, then try again.


The following warm-up stretches lubricate stiff joints, increase circulation, and improve your flexibility. They will make your practice of the routines more comfortable and help you avoid injury. Use your visualization skills with each stretch to improve their benefits.

Visualize yourself moving intuitively into and out of the stretch according to your body’s needs. Be aware that rushing too quickly into an exercise program is a sure-fire route to lower-back pain, so be patient with yourself However, carrying a little extra weight is not a limitation, often a person with a large build can be both stronger and more flexible than a person who has been working out. For example, repetitive choreographed routines can lead to the overuse of muscle groups and joints as well as shortening and tightening of the muscles, leading to inflexibility and muscle fatigue.

Robert Baird

Treatment Options That May Help With Your Frozen Shoulder

Moist heat has been found very effective for frozen shoulder pain. Just take a heat pad and put a moist towel under it, and apply both to your shoulder.

Ice can help with frozen shoulder pain as well. To be the most effective, put your ice on for 10 minutes on your shoulder, and 10 minutes off. You can also alternate ice and moist heat.

Physical therapy has also helped with the pain of frozen shoulder. If you think this would help, ask your doctor to give you a referral for a good physical therapist.

Although anti-inflammatory medications haven’t helped change the course of a frozen shoulder, they can give substantial relief from the painful symptoms.

Your doctor may suggest one or more cortisone injections. These injections can really help to decrease pain, and in also let you stretch more. This is very important, because it’s usually only effective when used together with physical therapy.

If all else fails, a surgeon may perform what’s called a manipulation. A manipulation is done with the patient sedated, and the doctor moves the arm to break up adhesions caused by frozen shoulder. There are no incisions made during the procedure.

This next set of tips will give you some great stretches and exercises that you can do to help relieve and treat your frozen shoulder.

This exercise you can do while standing or sitting. Hold a 5- to 10-pound weight in your hand (a gallon of water or milk weighs 8 pounds) and keep your arm vertical and close to your body. Swing your arm back and forth or in a small diameter circle.

For this exercise, put your arm onto a shelf or a dresser about breast high. Gently bend your knees, and open your arm pit. Try to push the arm up a little farther with each stretch.

For this exercise, take a bath towel and hold it with both hands at a 45 degree angle. Use your good arm to pull the towel toward your lower back. You can repeat this with your towel in a horizontal position.

To do this exercise, face a wall about 18 inches away. Using your fingers instead of your shoulder muscles, raise your arm up to shoulder level. Repeat this 5-10 times.

Grab a rubber band for these next few exercises. For this one, hold your elbows at 90 degrees, close to your sides. Grab the rubber band with both hands, and turn your forearms outward only two or three inches, holding for five seconds. Do this 5-10 times.

For this one, arms the same way as the previous exercise. Hook your rubber band onto a door handle and hold it with one hand. Turn your forearm inward two or three inches (like a door), and hold it for five seconds. Do this 3-5 times.

Here’s another fun exercise you can do with a rubber band. Bend your elbow again, and place the rubber band on a door like before. Lift your arm up four or five inches away from the body (like lifting weights), holding for five seconds. Repeat this 3-5 times.

You can do this exercise while watching TV or sitting at a traffic light. Simply shrug your affected shoulder up and down slowly 5-10 times a day.

This is an exercise that you’ve probably done as a kid, but it can help with your frozen shoulder. Simply hold your arm out, and make circles with it. Take turns making small and large circles.

It’s a bit unconventional, but some people find that leg stretches can really help with frozen shoulder. For this exercise, lay down on your back in front of a doorway. Put one leg up the wall and one leg out flat, with you arms resting at your side. This pose is good for stretching the hamstrings of one leg and the hip flexors of the other. Hold it for 2-5 minutes.

If you’re having trouble sleeping at night, try using an extra pillow. Put the pillow under your affected shoulder, and sleep on your back or side.

Massage has helped many people with frozen shoulder. The muscles surrounding your frozen shoulder can become sore and tired. Massage can help alleviate these sore muscles.

Here are some supplements that have been known to help with frozen shoulder:

Fish Oil
Honey Bee Venom

TENS stands for Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation. It’s a good and safe way to help with pain and relax muscles. It works by stimulating the skin nerves, thus helps the brain to ignore incoming pain signals from the joint.

Trigger point therapy is a type of specialized self massage that weeds out and removes painful muscular contractions. It works by applying pressure to the contractions, either with your fingers or massage tools.

Yoga is for straightening out your whole body, and it can really help with frozen shoulder. If you want to try yoga, start out slow and easy. If it winds up causing you more pain, yoga probably isn’t for you.

A common mistake of people with frozen shoulder is that they keep it still. This is not always the best thing to do. Gentle movement will help to keep the blood flowing to your shoulder.

If you don’t have frozen shoulder but are worried about risk factors, the best way to prevent it is by doing daily stretches. Refer to the stretches and exercise section of this ebook for ideas.

Like every health condition or ailment, new research and studies are being done every day to better help you cope with frozen shoulder. Use the internet and any other sources available to you to inform yourself of new treatments.

Allan Wilson