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Did you know that the jaw muscles are the strongest muscle for their size in the body? Not too hard to imagine when we consider how much and what, it is used for. It is a very complex joint, as I explain in the intro, but like any where else in the body the chewing muscles get tight and jam the jaw bone up into the skull and cause Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) pain. There is a small cartilage disc in between the mandibular or jaw bone and the temporal bone (skull part in simple terms) and when the jaw muscles become too tight then the small disc can pop out of position. This is the clicking noise many of you hear in the TMJ when you open and close your mouth. My jaw used to click but by using the stretching exercises in the SFL program, I was able to fix the click. If the muscles of mastication, as they are called in the books, are too tight you will need to see your osteopath to loosen them first and then you can maintain your TMJ in good working order.
Neck and lower back problems are the most common complaints my patients come into the clinic for. We are generally cautious about what we do with our neck more than any other part of the body.It is the conduit from our head to the rest of our body and if we break something in there, then things can go horribly wrong. So, when you do the neck stretches you do them slowly and carefully without getting too overly enthusiastic with the exercises. Check it out with your osteopath or doctor first if you have any concerns and then keep your neck in good working order by doing these very focused exercises from the SFL program.
Your Upper Back
The big thing with the upper back is its relationship to posture, which in turn has a connection to neck function. Basically the bigger the curve in your upper back the increased likelihood of having more tension in the upper back. As we stoop forward as a result of this, your upper back acts like a crane and the muscles have to work a lot harder to hold you upright. There are many reasons why someone may have an increased curve. It is the standard teenage posture or often it is an inherited trait and commonly, women with heavy breast tissue, get dragged into this position. It can also be from poor presentation at work stations, other work environments and the contribution of emotional and mental states. Or from just being slack and inattentive. Sometimes it is caused by diminishing bone density (as in osteoporosis) so it is very important to differentiate what the cause is, so an early remedy can be found. You can't always create textbook posture, but just a small improvement in upper back function can make a huge difference within your own parameters. The Stretch for LIfe Shoulder series provides excellent exercises to improve upper back function and posture. There are also some excellent strengthening exercises to help stabilise upper back function
Problems with shoulders is another really common condition. These can range from a niggly shoulder issue through to the frozen shoulder condition where you can barely move your arm. The shoulder joint is very shallow so that you can get a wide range of motion. So the arm is basically strapped to the shoulder blade by a bunch of muscles and ligaments. When you consider the work that they have done over the years and the injuries sustained, it is not surprising that the muscles accumulate damage which in the worse case scenario, can lead to surgery or even a shoulder replacement. Maintaining balanced tension between the muscles on the front and back of the shoulder, as well as developing enough muscle tone or strength to hold it all together, is vital to long term shoulder function. If you are at all concerned about your shoulders then consult an osteopath and get a thorough diagnosis as to what is going on internally and then get into the SFL shoulder exercises. Yu will be amazed at how helpful they will be for you.
Your Arms and Hands
Most of the problems that occur for the arms and hands is as a result of over use. Primarily from occupations such as excessive keyboard and mouse work, Industrial machine operators right through to recreational projects such as knitting and needle work. These are often broadly termed 'tennis and golfers elbow' or epicondilitis in medical terms. This is where the muscles in the forearm become so tight they drag on their attachments at the elbow, causing inflammation, and creating a great deal of tension in the wrist and hand. Depending on the severity, I have found over the years, that a combination of muscle acupuncture techniques and stretch and massage, to be the best combination. First, try out the exercises, especially the ones where some one else is helping out, and see how this helps. If you need further help , find an osteopath that includes acupuncture as part of their treatment program.
Your Lower Back
This is the big one. Just about any thing can trigger lower back issues.Typically, there is an underlying strain pattern that your body has been able to keep a lid on, then wham, some small insignificant event, like turning in bed or reaching for a cup of tea, and your back spazzes out on you. Of course there are other events, like heavy lifts and accidents, or any number of other things that will cause anything from an ache to a full blown meltdown. This is usually the result of a gradual "shrink wrap" effect of our muscles slowly decreasing flexibility and increasing your susceptibility to injury. This shrink wrap effect starts locking up the vertebrae in your lower back, which markedly increases your chances of a lower back meltdown. Unless there is a significant degenerative condition, it is pretty easy to get your lower back in good working order again. It's best to go to your osteopath and get a diagnosis and get every thing working properly. Then get into the SFL exercises. You can never stretch yourself as well as some one else can, so check out the assisted stretches and see if you can train some one to help you. I use these very same exercises on my patients and they really work. Of course there may be a need to strengthen your core muscles to help hold everything together.
Your Hips and Pelvis
Hip pain is another very common complaint in the clinic. It is more common in females which I think has more to do with the shape of the pelvis. It is more noticeable when pressure is put on your hips, such as when lying on your side in bed, or in some car seats which wrap up around the side of your hips. This is usually because of excessive tension in the deep hip muscle called the Piriformis. Like any tight muscle, it becomes ropey and when you put pressure on it, it can't squish out of the way so the pressure on it is very aggravating and painful. This muscle is usually the culprit when you turn over in bed and you get intense hip pain. Again, like any other muscle, if it is tight or hypertonic, it is weak and susceptible to injury and because this muscle runs laterally, it does most of the work when you roll over. It also traverses the sacroiliac joint so if it is tight, it will disturb the function of the SI joint.
The good news is that there are some excellent exercises that you can do to relieve hip pain. If you are at all concerned about your hip pain then you need to see your osteopath to get a good diagnosis before continuing with the SFL program.
Your Knees and Thighs
Other than injuries, knee complaints are a common topic of conversation amongst those who have been on this earth for some time. Basically you have got two bones stacked on top of each other, strapped together by ligaments, with a couple of cartilage washes in the middle taking up the slack. It's biomechanically difficult for the knee joint to be sound. So the strength in the knee comes from the ligaments and from muscles in the thigh that pass over and support the joint.
You may be one of those people that have inherited more elastic ligaments which consequently makes the joint unstable and prone to injury. Years of weight bearing from up above will also gradually wear the joint out which is when you might end up with a replacement.
Good knee health relies on stability and this is achieved by increasing the strength of the thigh muscles which helps hold the knee together. I have had a number of patients who have averted exploratory knee surgery by strengthening the thigh muscles. In fact I have cured my own knee pain by following these exercises and strengthened my thighs. If you are worried about your knees then see an osteopath then start on the SFL knee program and you will be amazed.
Your Legs, Feet and Ankles
When you think of how much work our feet and ankles do it's a wonder they work at all. Many foot and ankle problems stem from tight calf muscles. The foot and ankle work best when the foot can flex right up and extend right down. If the calf muscles are tight then the foot range of motion is diminished. This puts enormous strain on your feet which commonly results in planta-fasciitis and heel spurs. Feet problems can also result from dysfunction in the lower back and pelvis. All these things can result in unstable ankles which can make you susceptible to ankle sprains. Your ankles have nerve endings in them that send information back to the brain on the lay of the land under foot so the body can adjust itself accordingly. If you sprain your ankle too often then this mechanism can be upset which can result in futher sprains and a general instability on your feet. So it is important to see your osteopath to get a diagnosis and then start on the SFL exercise program to stretch and strengthen your legs, feet and ankles.
Essential Stretching Exercises
What are Essentials Stretching Exercises?
The Essentials are strategic techniques to relieve the parts of your body that are painful, strained or have suffered injury. These Essential techniques are designed to relieve, enable freer movement and improved function.
Upper Body Essentials
Lower Body Essentials
Stretching and Strengthening Routines
Most people like routines to follow. Although the Stretch for Life Program is designed as a 'find and fix' solution, meaning you have a sore part, you go to the relevant region, do the work and see if you can fix it yourself. However, there is huge value in following a routine that is a continuum from one region to the next to the next which essentially is an excellent maintenance program. With simplicity in mind I have created routines for the Lower and Upper bodies. Included in each of these is stretching and strengthening routines for individuals and assisted stretch routines for the lower body. These of course don't go into any great detail on the inner workings of the body or in depth knowledge but as said they provide excellent material for general maintenance.