Tag Archives: arthritis

Hand exercises for arthritis

For all you golfers, tennis players and key boarders whose fingers work hard on your devices all day long, here are some moves that will help strengthen your hands. You may even avoid carpal tunnel pain or alleviate arthritis in your thumbs as I have been able to do. My thanks to Viola Brumbaugh teacher at wise-orchid.com Tai Chi and Qi Gong studio for her helpful lessons. Let me know how this works for you. Feel free to share. https://www.facebook.com/BetsyBellsHealth4U/videos/2118373711609508/

Be well, Do well and Keep Moving, Betsy

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Awareness Through Movement

Dear one,

What appeared in today’s New York Times in Jean Brody’s Health post is a must share with you and all your friends. She talks about Feldenkrais, a technique and practice I discovered many, many years ago when what I needed most was Awareness Through Movement. Becci Parsons in my local Feldenkrais guru. She has saved me from debilitating arthritic pain in the past. In the present, she guided my mind and body through the process of a spine fusion by Dr. Peter Nora and the subsequent repatterning of my nerve damaged legs. Jean Brody wasn’t and isn’t about to require surgery for her pain. She just wanted a better quality “every day”. Please read on for her remarks. When you have read her post, go to Becci Parson’s website and find a class. She teaches all the time in convenient locations north of the ship canal in Seattle. Living somewhere else? Do a search and find a practitioner.

Be well and Keep Moving, Betsy

(To read about supplements that help with pain, go to this post.)

Trying the Feldenkrais Method for Chronic Pain
Personal Health
By JANE E. BRODY OCT. 30, 2017

After two hourlong sessions focused first on body awareness and then on movement retraining at the Feldenkrais Institute of New York, I understood what it meant to experience an incredible lightness of being. Having, temporarily at least, released the muscle tension that aggravates my back and hip pain, I felt like I was walking on air.

Thanks to Paul Rogers  for this cartoon from the NYTimes.

I had long refrained from writing about this method of countering pain because I thought it was some sort of New Age gobbledygook with no scientific basis. Boy, was I wrong!
The Feldenkrais method is one of several increasingly popular movement techniques, similar to the Alexander technique, that attempt to better integrate the connections between mind and body. By becoming aware of how one’s body interacts with its surroundings and learning how to behave in less stressful ways, it becomes possible to relinquish habitual movement patterns that cause or contribute to chronic pain.

The method was developed by Moshe Feldenkrais, an Israeli physicist, mechanical engineer and expert in martial arts, after a knee injury threatened to leave him unable to walk. Relying on his expert knowledge of gravity and the mechanics of motion, he developed exercises to help teach the body easier, more efficient ways to move.

I went to the institute at the urging of Cathryn Jakobson Ramin, author of the recently published book “Crooked” that details the nature and results of virtually every current approach to treating back pain, a problem that has plagued me on and off (now mostly on) for decades. Having benefited from Feldenkrais lessons herself, Ms. Ramin had good reason to believe they would help me.

In her book, she recounts the experience of Courtney King, who first experienced crippling back spasms in her late 20s. Ms. King was taking several dance classes a week and practicing yoga, and she thought the stress of these activities might be causing the pain in her tight, inflexible back. But after a number of Feldenkrais sessions, she told Ms. Ramin, “I realized that the pain had more to do with the way I carried myself every day.”

Even after just one session, I understood what she meant. When I make a point of walking upright and fluid, sitting straight, even cooking relaxed and unhurried, I have no pain. The slow, gentle, repetitive movements I practiced in a Feldenkrais group class helped foster an awareness of how I use my body in relation to my environment, and awareness is the first step to changing one’s behavior.

One common problem of which I’m often guilty is using small muscles to accomplish tasks meant for large, heavy-duty ones, resulting in undue fatigue and pain.

The group class, called Awareness Through Movement, was followed by an individual session called Functional Integration with a therapist that helped to free tight muscles and joints that were limiting my motion and increasing my discomfort. Using gentle manipulation and passive movements, the therapist individualized his approach to my particular needs.

The ultimate goal of both sessions is, in effect, to retrain the brain – to establish new neural pathways that result in easy, simple movements that are physiologically effective and comfortable. Although the Feldenkrais method was developed in the mid-20th century, neurophysiologists have since demonstrated the plasticity of the brain, its ability to form new cells, reorganize itself and, in effect, learn new ways to do things.

 

The beauty of Feldenkrais lessons is that they are both relatively low-cost (group classes average $15 to $25, individual sessions $100 to $200) and potentially accessible to nearly everyone. There are more than 7,000 teachers and practitioners working in 18 countries, including large numbers in the United States. You can be any age, strength, fitness level and state of well-being to participate. The exercises are slow, gentle and adjustable to whatever might ail you. Their calming effect counters the stress that results in contracted muscles, tightness and pain.
Feldenkrais practitioners like Marek Wyszynski, director of the New York center, typically start professional life as physical therapists. They then undergo three years of training to become certified in the Feldenkrais method.

Mr. Wyszynski explained that he starts by observing how patients are using their skeletons – how they sit, stand and walk in ways that may cause or contribute to their pathology, be it spinal disc disease, arthritis, shoulder pain or damaged knee joints. In accordance with Dr. Feldenkrais’s astute observation, “If you don’t know what you are doing, you can’t do what you want,” patients are then given a clear sensory experience of how their posture and behavior contribute to their pain and physical limitations.

For example, some people may use excessive force, clench their teeth, hold their breath or rush, causing undue muscle tension and skeletal stress. Years ago, I realized that my frequent headaches resulted from an unconscious habit of clenching my jaw when I concentrated intently on a task like sewing or cooking. Feldenkrais teachers do not give formulas for a proper way of behaving; rather, they rely on their patients’ ability to self-discover and self-correct.
Once aware of their counterproductive habits, students are given the opportunity to experience alternative movements, postures and behaviors and, through practice, create new habits that are less likely to cause pain.

Mr. Wyszynski told me that there are more than 1,000 distinct Feldenkrais lessons currently available, most of which involve everyday actions like reaching, getting up from a chair, turning, bending and walking.

As a mechanical engineer and physicist, Dr. Feldenkrais understood that the job of the human skeleton was to accommodate the effects of gravity in order to remain upright. And he wanted people to achieve this in the most efficient way possible.

Using two tall foam cylinders, one perched on top of the other, Mr. Wyszynski demonstrated a guiding principle of the Feldenkrais method. When the top cylinder was centered on the bottom one, it stood in place without assistance. But when it was off center, perched near the edge of the bottom cylinder, it tipped over. If instead of cylinders these were someone’s skeletal parts that were askew, tightened muscles would have to keep the patient from falling over.
As Mr. Wyszynski explained, “Good posture allows the skeleton to hold up and support the body without expending unnecessary energy despite the pull of gravity. However, with poor posture, the muscles are doing part of the job of the bones, and with poor skeletal support, the muscles have to remain contracted to prevent the body from falling.”

I wish you the best of health. Betsy

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Recovery from Surgery

Gentle Reader,

Facebook comments and face to face remarks about my happy and speedy recovery from surgery prompt me to share the whole story. I am no superwoman. I am a Shaklee woman. I do have the attitude of “be well, do well and keep moving,” but attitude alone cannot knit together tissue that has been sliced apart and held there while a surgical team cleaned out bad discs and inserted titanium to take their place. I don’t want to suggest by the report I am about to share with you that the only way to get robust healing from surgery is to follow the program I have followed. Not everyone’s body needs the level of supplementation that mine seems to need. However, I am not alone. There are hundreds of other people in the US, Canada and Mexico, Thailand, Japan and China who use supplementation by Shaklee to get the kind of results I attribute to this company’s products.

Things the help

(Because you won’t want to rely on my word alone, follow the links to read about these products as I mention them in order to know their ingredients and understand how they differ from other products on the market.)

In the hospital: 180 Protein shake mix the minute I could eat. Herb lax to stimulate peristalsis and get the bowels moving. Anesthesia and pain medicine shuts this part of the digestive system down. I know there are heads nodding from personal experience as you are reading this. I took my usual supplements as I could, given low appetite, groggy-ness and discomfort. I did not take any pain medicine. In 48 hours, I was home with ice packs on the incision points (both sides) and on the lower back where the work was done. I had pillows mounded high so I could lie in the bed with my knees and hips at 90 degrees putting as little pressure on the psoas as possible.

A steady stream of wonderful people came to help with meals and showering, etc. I discovered a TV series (on  Amazon Prime) called Mozart in the Jungle that took my mind off everything. I listened to books on tape (Audible) and managed to progress to the point of walking outdoors longer and longer distances with increased incline. Anyone healing from an operation needs the help of others and distractions.

What I want to share with you is my daily routine of supplementation. You may react negatively thinking “that’s way too many pills.” You may think that’s too much money. Or you may find it informative, learning about vitamins and minerals that help healing.

I take my supplements three times a day and add a couple system-cleansing things at night before bed. I routinely take a couple servings of 180 Protein shake mix and the Instant Protein Soy Drink Mix, especially using Physique, the muscle builder designed to help heal stressed muscles after a workout. It is a sports nutrition non-soy drink. I have used it after working out and it was especially helpful after surgery. Delicious, too, if you like banana flavor.

Daily divided into three meals:

Vita Lea Gold for people over 50
Vita C sustained release, 3000 daily with another 2000 mg daily during the first 4 weeks. C is essential to healing.
B Complex 6 daily of Shaklee’s well balanced B including all 8 B vitamins in the right ratio avoiding hot flashes or headaches people sometimes get from Super B.
Vita D3 6000 mg daily
Garlic 6 tablets daily (immune support)
Omega broad spectrum fish oil, 6 capsules daily
Lecithin 6 capsules daily plus another 4 during recovery. Lecithin emulsifies sticky material (inflammation around the incision points so that it can flush out of the body thus reducing inflammation)
Carotomax and Flavomax, both fat and water soluable antioxidants from green, red and yellow fruits and vegetables.
Alfalfa, an original Dr. Shaklee product full of minerals that acts as an anti-inflammatory, 45 daily at least.
GLA made from Borage Oil (Evening Primrose oil is common on the shelves of heath food and vitamin stores) an omega 6 supplement that regulates prostaglandins (and hormones) and also acts as an antiflammatory. 6 capsules daily.
Vita E, one capsule daily.
Osteomatrix (bone health product) 4 daily.

Three products for heart health: Blood Pressure to keep my blood pressure normal, Cholesterol Reducing Complex (I have lowered my cholesterol which normally runs about 220 to the upper 190s) and CoQ Heart, an antioxidant that supports the heart muscle

The herbal complexes that I take daily are MindWorks (proven to help memory and concentration), Mental Acuity (increases blood flow to the brain), Nutriferon (natural immune response booster), Glucose Regulation and Metabolic Boost to help balance blood sugar, Joint Health Complex 3 daily to reduce joint pain, Pain Relief Complex 3 daily to keep arthritis pain in my hands, neck and knees at bay.

To aid digestion I take EzGest before each meal and Probiotic Optiflora every morning with a glass of warm water and the juice of half a lemon. At night I take 2 Liver DTX and 2 Herb-lax to cleanse the liver and colon.

You may be shaking your head in dismay or rolling your eyes. Rest assured, I am not alone. For four generations people in the Shaklee family, hundreds of them, have been eating “the shelf” everyday. Ten years ago, our CEO and owner, Roger Barnett risked the company’s reputation by asking the University of California School of Public Health to analyze the blood drawn from 400 long term Shaklee users (20 years or more) and compare the results with people who have taken a multivitamin and with people who have taken no vitamins over 20 years, matching for many individual variables including age. The results astonished Dr. Bloch, the head researcher at the School of Public Health. The Shaklee users enjoyed a significantly higher sense of well-being and demonstrated statistically significant lower levels of diseases such as heart and diabetes. I am happy to one of these beneficiaries. It’s called the Landmark Study. You can read about it here .

If you are already taking some of the above mentioned supplements, what might be your results if you switched to the Shaklee brand? Check your health status by filling out the HealthPrint, a tool designed to help anyone assess their current health against a standard of optimal health.

I just returned from my post-op visit with Dr. Nora’s office. “Go and enjoy your usual activities and we hope to never see you again,” they said to me as I left. I’ll resume hiking in the nearby Cascade mountains in October. I can’t wait.

If you have questions about any of the supplements above or want to read more about the strategies I used to avoid this surgery for so many years, please browse the various posts at www.GrandmaBetsyBell.com

Be well, Do Well and keep moving.

Betsy

206 933 1889

shopping for Shaklee www.HiHOHealth.com

travel adventures www.EmpoweredGrandma.com

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Screw-less spine fusion

Have you had surgery? A spine fusion? It has been three weeks since Dr. Nora operated performing a screw-less spine fusion of three discs, 2/3, 3/4, 4/5. This past week I re-engaged the busy world I left behind on August 16th. The two-week retreat seemed like long enough.

A cheer went up at choir practice when I walked in an inch taller and without my usual hiking sticks. The same at church on Sunday. I have had an ear full of “me, too” stories of surgeries, fusions, medications that helped. Nice to be in good company with people who seem to be handling life with gusto after major surgery. Most of these people are younger than I am.You will probably respond to this post with your own stories and I will want to hear them.
Post op people become members of a club of survivors. It is a club I have avoided with vigor for many years.

Since 2004 when my neuro-surgeon, Dr. Stan Herring (sports medicine doc for the Seahawks, Huskies and Mariners) told me my bones were bad and he would never recommend surgery, I’ve been blogging about my efforts to keep moving in spite of a bad spine. Dr. Herring took one look at my MRI and told me a person with my lumbar spine should be in a wheelchair. My first blog was titled www.nowheelchair.wordpress.com, inspired by Dr. Herring’s remarks.

My goal in No Wheelchair and in www.GrandmaBetsyBell.com/be-well/ has been to share my strategies for staying active and relatively pain-free. I looked forward to a “surgery avoidance” club of mutual arthritis sufferers who wanted to avoid medicine and surgery for as long as possible. There are a lot more “post surgery” club members than “surgery avoidance” club members. My question is Why?

I, like many of my readers began life trusting implicitly in the wisdom of doctors and medicines to kept me well and to fix me when something went wrong. I was the obedient daughter of a nurse and an orthopedic surgeon. I took dozens of drugs as a young person to get over the slightest sniffles, headaches and even used Physohex surgery-prep soap when, in puberty, I was covered in pimples. When I was only 34, I was diagnosed with breast cancer, had a mastectomy (no chemo or radiation).

As I tried to make sense out of cancer at such a young age, my conclusion, justified or no, was that I had destroyed my immune system by taking all those drugs and that left to its own devices, a healthy body will repair DNA damage and prevent the onset of cancer. All it takes is good nutrition and a positive mindset.

Of course, people who have a lifetime of good nutrition and positive attitude get diagnosed with cancer all the time. No doctor will support the idea that something you did or didn’t do caused you to develop cancer.

We all have our stories. Mine included a changed diet, more exercise on a regular basis and, at age 48, the addition of a supplement program with products made by Shaklee. My health changed and I suffered fewer colds. My arthritis (in the knees in those days) calmed down and I wanted to world to know about my cancer avoidance program.

In 1989 I herniated a disc (L5) and the misery of accident- caused arthritis began. By the time I first saw Dr. Herring in 1990, I was ready to try anything. By 2004 when he saw me again, I’d been to Feldenkrais, Chiropractic, massage, PT, Alexander method, therapeutic pilates, yoga and had several visits with the Polyclinic’s orthopedic PA, Darrin Morrow. Things had gotten worse in my spine but I was hiking regularly including the Wonderland Trail, 95 miles around Mt. Rainier. In 2006, I climbed Mt. Shasta. I seldom missed a Wed. hiking or cross country ski adventure. I was determined to keep moving. I ate handfuls of Shaklee vitamins. My approach seemed to be working for me. No drugs. No surgery.

I’ve had many faithful readers of my blog posts. Some have even tried a few of the suggestions. Making a commitment to consistent (and expensive out-of-pocket) self-care is not common. My guess is that many have read, watched and concluded that I keep on keeping on by dint of some genetic or innate energy. The truth is that I possess a fierce determination to keep visiting the wilderness and moving my body and will do and pay for whatever it takes. I don’t like the way drugs make me feel. I would not have avoided surgery this long without that willingness and the choice of Shaklee for the supplement part of the program.
The most recent MRI in April of this year revealed an even worse spine than before. My physical medicine doctor, Dr. Ren and her PA, Diane, shook their heads when I told them I had walked (with hiking sticks) to the appointment at the Polyclinic from the bus stop at 3rd and Seneca, 8 blocks up hill. My neuro surgeon, Dr. Peter Nora scared me when, during the pre-op appointment, he said he and his colleagues had been discussing my spine and concluded I would be a good candidate for a fairly new procedure. After thinking about this “new procedure” for a couple days, I was full of doubts. Were they experimenting on a fit old lady who has lived a good life? How many procedures like this had Dr. Nora done? What were the results for people like me? A google search revealed no spine fusions without screws. I have osteoporosis so how were they going to fuse bad bones? What were they going to do to my spine?

screw-less spine fusion
screw-less spine fusion from the left side.

A phone call settled me down. Dr. Nora had performed this operation multiple times in the previous two years with excellent results. As a thin and fit 79-year-old, I was a good candidate for a screw-less spine fusion. He entered my body from first one side (two incisions) and then the other (one more incision) to access malfunctioning lumbar discs at 2/3, 3/4 and 4/5. He cleaned out the offending discs and inserted titanium spacers and added a plastic material in the spaces around which new bone of my own making will form a stable scres-less spine fusion.
It worked. No screws. No leg pain.

Recovery from surgery comes with its own suffering. Bowels that don’t work. Incisions that itch and ache. Psoas muscles that won’t work and complain loudly because of being shoved to one side during the titanium insertion process. Learning to grab things too low or too high with a gripper. Wanting to wiggle in bed and having to lie still like a log. Having beautiful good food fixed by someone else sit in front of me and having no appetite.

eucharist8-28-16
Saint Mark’s friends brought Eucharist and music.

Daughters, step-daughters, neighbors, hiking buddies, Saint Mark’s friends, friends from 45 years of living in Seattle have come bringing food, making the bed, sweeping the bathroom floor, drying my legs after a shower, tying my shoes, driving me to the doctor, watering the parched trees and flowers, feeding the cat, and collecting the eggs from the hen house. They have carried the dirty clothes to the laundry and the clean clothes to the clothesline and helped put clean sheets on the bed. My housemate has filled and emptied the dishwasher, taken the recycling out, reached under the bathroom sink for fresh toilet paper, brought in the mail, connected my laptop to the TV so I could watch old shows and Netflix. Friends have called, emailed and sent notes. I am so full of appreciation, of gratitude for the outpouring of prayer and care and of my willingness to graciously receive these offerings. It is a new phase of life. A letting go of the need to control.

I am so full of appreciation, of gratitude for the outpouring of prayer and care and of my willingness to graciously receive these offerings. It is a new phase of life. A letting go of being superwoman, confronting aging as Joseph Campbell observed, the way we might watch an old jalopy fall apart one fender at a time.

In three more weeks I’ll board a plane for Boston and my oldest niece’s wedding. I’ll ask for a wheelchair and check my luggage at the curb. I promise not to lift the suitcase or anything else weighing over 10 pounds for another six weeks. I don’t want to mess up the beautiful thing Dr. Nora did for my body.

I still hope for readers who have a fierce determination to avoid surgery and medication if they can find a way to move comfortably without them. I support anyone who takes full responsibility for their own health and does all they can through alternative therapies and with traditional medicine to work out a plan that will keep them moving comfortably as long as possible. And I wish for each one of us the grace to accept what is as we move toward the end of our lifespan, however long that may be.

Please share your stories of arthritis and/or injury and the ways you have alleviated pain and kept yourself moving.

Be well, do well and keep moving.

Betsy

206 933 1889

206 409 5940

shop for Shaklee products at www.HiHohealth.com

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Cortisone for Sciatica

Gentle Reader,
Sciatica, sciatica, sciatica.  On every hand I hear people complaining about sciatic pain, drop foot, back difficulties and arthritis in general.  I have had more acute sciatic pain plus a long stretch of time at home (no travel plans until July) so I decided to try cortisone for sciatica.  I first focussed on discovering the cause.  What would a medically trained physician have to say about my condition?

Cortisone for sciatica injection
Cortisone for sciatica injection

I imagine most people begin in the doctor’s office.  You, who read my posts, may be among those who seek alternative care first.  I have done Feldenkrais, Deep tissue sports massage, private pilates, Myofascial Release, Raiki, Alexander, Therapeutic Yoga, chiropractic, Physical Therapy—what am I forgetting?  Ah, yes, my wonderful team at the Xgym, half the time and twice the results.  Personal trainers who tailor my 25 minute workout to build upper body, leg and core strength while protecting my back.
My first injury happened in 1989 with a major exacerbation in 1992.  Back then I did all the above and my doctor of choice was Stan Herring, a neurosurgeon who now limits his practice to the University of Washington Huskies and the Sea Hawks.  He’s the doctor who looked at my x-rays and a later MRI and asked if I’d come in a wheelchair.  “Get strong, Betsy.  Your bones are no good for surgery so get strong.”
If you know me and see me on Face book, you know that is exactly what I have been doing.  Weekly hiking, daily walking up and down the hills of West Seattle, long walks in exotic places in the off season, cross country skiing and snow shoeing when we have snow in our Cascades.
The sciatic has gotten progressively worse affecting my right leg and causing numbness and sometimes extreme pain.  I put myself under the care of Dr. Ren at the Polyclinic. She is a physical medicine doctor who specializes in keeping people moving who suffer from back related problems (among other things).  She confirmed that I have extreme spinal stenosis and osteoarthritis, two herniated disks at L4 and L5.  She sent me to physical therapy for eight session.  As has been true with previous visits to PT’s, I had fun with those young specialists and enjoyed their stretching, icing and exercises, but nothing beneficial came of it.  In fact, the gross motor activities prescribed may have made my condition worse.
Next step was to get the shot of cortisone for sciatica in the L5 area where the narrowing is so small, it’s a wonder any nerve impulses get through at all.  I’ve been scheduled for this procedure three previous times and canceled each time.  I wasn’t ready.  Dr. Ren did a fabulous job.  Her needle found the spot producing an electric shock that sprung my leg all the way to my two middle toes to life with a jerk.  After I caught my breath, I congratulated her.
The first day I felt wonderful and so moved stuff around in the garage.  Stupid.  Without the pain, I realized my gait was completely cattywampus—right hip collapsing with each step, left leg struggling to hold me up.  Something whispered to me, “Go back to Becci Parsons and let her healing hands remind you how to stand and walk and sit and roll over.”  Becci is the Feldenkrais therapist who got me back on my feet after the herniation so many years ago.  She is a former dancer and has the same “keep moving” spirit I have.  She has suffered from a similar herniation and has ended up with surgery.  She can move fluidly with nearly equal strength on both sides (her right side has some weakness and lack of nerve response when her foot gets caught).
Becci, after three session, has me sitting on my sits bones with a nature curve in my lower spine, pressing one heal to the floor on the exhaling breath while lifting the right heal ever so slightly.  I am paying attention to the distance between my arm pit and my hips on both sides, keeping that distance equal.  I am paying attention to every muscle group that tries to help lift that right heal.  Tiny movements with laser focus to re-pattern the injured nerves and muscles.  She checked out my gait with the hiking sticks and said it was remarkable how my shoulders remained even, my right side did not collapse and my left hip didn’t swing out.  That decision on my part to walk everywhere with hiking sticks was the best self care for my condition.  It gets me a seat on a crowded bus, too.
I have an appointment for a new MRI although Dr. Ren’s assistant Diana didn’t see how the stenosis could have gotten any worse.  Then I will have a surgery consultation with Becci’s neurosurgeon.  I hope I don’t have to go there, but I am willing if it would help me gain real strength on my right side.

pain free from cortisone injection for sciatica
Hiking sultan canyon trail off hwy 2 in the North Cascades

The blessing is not being in pain.  I stopped taking Shaklee’s Pain Relief Complex which inhibit the pain path without any side effects.  Low and behold, other arthritis pain showed up in my hands.  I don’t hike as far as the other members of my gang of hikers, but I am strong enough to lead the pack and am pain free.  My hiking friends have been solicitous, gradually increasing the length and the elevation gain.  Last week and next will be 700 ft of altitude gain and six miles round trip (Boulder Creek trail of Hwy 530).  I know it well and there are places to stop if I need to let the others go on.
There is something about spending a day in the wilderness every week that keeps my spirit soaring and my sense of well being strong.  I’ve mentioned before that our gang has scouted out wheel chair accessible wilderness walks for that time in the future when one of us can’t walk.  So far, I don’t need to be pushed.
I share my pain, suffering and healing stories in case they resonate with something you are going through, or someone you know.  If you have any interest in connecting with any of the practitioners I have used, please follow the hot links to them.  If you are interested in trying the supplements and dietary changes that have been so helpful to me, please check out this post in particular.  If you have questions or comments from your own experience, I and my readers would love to hear from you.
Thanks for reading,
Be well, Do well and Keep Moving,
Betsy
206 933 1889

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Physical Therapy

This article is part of a series of posts I have written about various therapies that may be helpful to relieve suffering due to arthritis.

Physical Therapy has not been high on my list of therapies helpful to relieve sciatica.  However, pain up and down my right leg emanating from pinched nerves at L5 and L4 sent me back to the Physical Medicine doctor at my HMO, the Polyclinic here in Seattle.   Dr. Ren recommended the Physiotherapy Associates at Greenlake.  Eight sessions later, I still have pain, but I am stronger and less fearful.

Perhaps you have had similar responses to pain.  When you hurt every time you walk a couple blocks, pretty soon, you stop walking altogether.  When that happened to me, I stumbled on Tarama Gillest, Therapeutic Yoga instructor and owner of Bend n Move.  In four sessions with her, I learned to manage my anticipation of pain with deep breathing and a series of body loosening and strengthening moves.  I got out my sticks and took them everywhere so when the pain came, I have help.  The hiking sticks help me lift my body with my arms, taking the pressure off my back.

 

In spite of this therapeutic intervention, I still experienced increased weakness in the right leg. This is where Physical Therapy came in.  Two things to tell you about Physical Therapy with Physiotherapy Associates.

 

1. the exercises and stretching moves they employed did not increase pain.  In fact, the opposite.  Several of their stretches and exercises were ones I feared because they mirrored the actions that have caused pain in the past, such as the doggy leg lift when on all fours.  In the controlled environment at the Physical Therapy office, I have been able to do leg lifts, strengthen the ham string without fear.  Fear of pain is one of the problems that keeps us from moving.

 

2. Repetition increased strength.  Do you know how many reps these guys make you do?  15 to 20 with each leg, twice or three times.  You have to increase strength with that kind of workout.

 

They always end with icing and a ten minute rest.  I recommend this PT experience for anyone who is struggling with the results of arthritis.

 

Finally, the therapist and my personal trainer talked to discuss my strength training at Xgym, so I have a tailored program to keep the upper body strong while I am working on the muscles and tendons and nerves below the waist.

 

The experience that pushed me over the edge was cross country skiing last week.  The pain was so great, I had to stop after 2 hours and sit in the car while my companions enjoyed another hour and a half of skiing.  I decided to follow the advice of my skiing/hiking buddy’s husband.  I am going to see an orthopedist who specializes in a mildly invasive surgery to clean out the spinal stenosis bone growths.  The real culprit is a narrowing of the spinal opening.  If he can help, he will.  If he looks at my MRI and decides he can’t help…….. well, I will have to continue doing the things I am doing in order to get into the wilderness and hike or ski the trails.

 

Shaklee’s Pain Relief Complex is helpful.  I still recommend it.  You can take lots without hurting your stomach, and by that I mean, 4 – 10 a day.

 

Wish me luck.   Betsy

 

Be well, Do well and Keep moving.  Above all else, Keep moving.

 

Betsy

 

Be well, Do well and Keep moving, Betsy

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Therapeutic Yoga

Therapeutic Yoga

therapeutic yoga breathing
therapeutic yoga breathing, thanks to Kandis Twa

 

This past November I dashed late into a networking event at a new-ish yoga studio in my neighborhood-walking distance from my house.  BendnMove owner Tamara Gillest introduced me around.  The health care providers offering their services were familiar to me, members of a Business Networking International chapter here in West Seattle.  It felt like coming home to a room full of caring practitioners; a chiropractor, a vendor of the Smovey and Nordic walking poles, a life coach and personal trainer, a massage therapist among others.  I knew I’d been led to this event and was open to what was offered.

Therapeutic Yoga.  I asked Tamara what that might be.  I have studied yoga for years and have a morning practice.  Over the last few months, walking any distance at all has been challenging because I never know when the sciatic pain will begin.  It is a pain that makes me cry out and wonder if I can make it home.  I remember once walking to the hardware store about a mile away and setting out for the return trip with a cloth bag full of six bedding plants.  That much weight proved too hard to carry.  I set the bag behind a picket fence and limped home to get the car, worried that someone would steal my bag.  Of course, this is West Seattle’s Genesee hill and the bag was untouched.

Every time I left home, I experienced breath-shortening anxiety in anticipation of pain.  I realized I wasn’t walking every day out of fear of pain.  Perhaps Therapeutic Yoga could help with that anxiety.

I signed up for 4 sessions.  Tamara sized me up and gave me a series of gentle stretches, hip opening, core strengthening moves to practice.  Most importantly, she refocused my yoga breathing to help with the anxiety.  It has made such a difference to practice deep breathing, to remind myself to initiate every move with the breath, and to build confidence in my legs and back and core again.  I always take my sticks with me to give support when the pain hits.  I’m back to 30 minutes of walking every day.

A google search for yoga poses to help with sciatica resulted in poses that are far too advanced for the level of challenge I have.  Perhaps it is my age.  At 78, it is not a good idea to twist into a pretzel even though I am strong enough to do this.  Tamara’s approach is gentle, breath-centered, calming-the very approach I need to help me slow down, relax into movement.  If you have suffered chronic pain, you know how difficult it is to manage your thinking about an activity you are about to try.  If you know it causes pain, you tense up or you may decide not to bother trying at all.

 

The last thing I want is to stop moving.  I would lose all the benefits of moving that I have mentioned in post after post.  Muscle tone weakens; blood flow to the joints slows down; lungs long for fresh air and deep breathing; stiffness sets in.  We must keep moving to stay vibrant.  Anticipating pain can keep us from setting out.  My pain is diminishing ever so slightly and I am able to step out of the house with my sticks and walk for 30 minutes, breathing into the pain, keeping my breaths long and deep and calming.

Here’s what Tamara has to say her Therapeutic Yoga teaching 

Yoga therapy provides high quality and skilled therapeutic application of yoga.  The education and skills required to work as a yoga therapist surpass those of the average yoga teacher, necessitating a comprehensive understanding of anatomy, physiology and psycho-spirituality from both the eastern and western traditions.  Yoga therapy is a highly personalized experience that focuses on your specific condition and needs.  It offers a means for safe, personal healing to people living with chronic pain or illness.  You can expect a tailored program unique to you that incorporates breath, movement and meditation. Individual yoga therapy is ideal for those with special needs or conditions, who prefer a slower-paced program and a one-on-one setting. 

 Does yoga therapy replace other treatment modalities?

 Yoga therapy is leading edge and uses yoga as a complementary treatment to traditional medical healing practices. Based on on-going treatment studies, these weekly sessions are ideal for those with chronic lower back pain, neck pain and auto-immune disorders such as Multiple Sclerosis, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis, among many chronic conditions.

Thank you, Tamara and Therapeutic Yoga.

Comments?  Thoughts?

 

Be well, Do well and Keep Moving.

Betsy

www.HiHoHealth.com  Shaklee product shopping site

www.EmpoweredGrandma.com tails of travel, most recently Mexico

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Heal Back Pain

new purse cropped
This new purse holds my hiking sticks. The new normal: carry sticks when I leave the house walking anywhere.

Heal Back Pain

I struck gold when mining my magazine and journal basket in the bathroom recently. In a 2011 issue (January) of Seattle Woman Magazine, Nancy Shatz Aton gives us 10 ways to heal back pain. This excellent list comes from her book, The Healthy Back Book: A Guide to Whole Healing for Outdoor Enthusiasts and Other Active People. It’s a book on my wish list, for sure. Here are her 10 suggestions with my comments. Put this away somewhere handy for when you need it, or put the suggestions to use right now.

Most Americans suffer back pain at least once during their life time and some of us develop chronic lower back pain conditions that give us grief on a regular basis. That would include me. I am so happy I saved and now found Nancy Alton’s tips for managing this pain.

 

  1. Take charge of your healing. Although working with a knowledgeable practitioner who discusses every aspect of an injury can be helpful, it is important to realize you are in charge of your own healing. Whether you experience back pain daily or only a few times a year, living with it is about self-management. This is the premise of my GrandmaBetsyBell blog: self-care. Picture the various types of therapies available to you as spokes of a wheel. Imagine yourself as standing on the hub of that wheel. You can select any combination of therapies, or spokes, from that big wheel.

 

  1. Tune into the mind-body connection. I find it interesting that this is her #2. Becoming self-aware is key. Pain has a physical component, but it also derives from our emotions. We tell ourselves a “story” about why we have low-back pain. We sometimes ignore the emotional side of the tale, But thinking that way overlooks the powerful role emotions play in the story of pain. Both the rational explanation and the emotional component are part of the mind-body connection; that is, how our minds and the emotions, thoughts and feelings emanating from them affect our bodies. “Like all experiences, pain is influenced by everything that is going on in a person’s life at the time, and probably everything that has gone on in the past,” says Dr. J. David Sinclair, a pain-management specialist in Seattle.
  2. Move often. Keep Moving! It is ideal to exercise your body every day. Of course, after a back injury you’ll need your doctor’s OK before you begin exercising. Resume normal activities and movement patterns as soon as possible; moving your body leads to healing. A 1996 health campaign in Australia erected billboards and produced radio and television spots with messages such as, “Does your back hurt? Get up and take a walk.” And “Back pain—don’t take it lying down.” The campaign conveyed the message that engaging in the daily activities of life is often the best treatment for back pain. During and directly after the campaign, the rate of medical payments for back claims fell more than 25 percent!

 

  1. Find a good rehabilitation specialist. When your back goes out, often the first person you call is your primary care doctor. Next time, you might want to try booking an appointment with a physiatrist (fi-see-a-trist) as well. My primary doc. sent me to Dr. Ren, a physiatrist, or Sports medicine doctor. Way more useful than a referral to the orthopedist. Dr. Ren urged me to walk 30 minutes every day, with hiking sticks, if necessary. No sitting down because of the pain from sciatica. Keep walking. She offered me hard drugs, but so far I’ve been able to get by with the Shaklee Pain Relief. She encouraged me to change from Aleve to Tylenol which I think will be good for my stomach. More than 3 Aleve a day made me sick to my stomach.

 

 

A physiatrist is a specialist in treating illnesses and injuries that affect how people move their bodies, and ae especially well qualified to deal with back injuries. Physiatrist believe in educating patients about their conditions and helping people understand that movement is an important tool for easing low-back pain.

 

  1. Try out different bodywork treatments. Hands-on therapies can be incredibly healing. Adding one or more of these complementary practices to your medical care might promote healing, ease pain and contribute to a sense of wholeness. More than 80 types of therapies fall within the category of massage, from Swedish massage to RuiNa. It’s worth finding a well-recommended practitioner and looking into unfamiliar bodywork therapies. Your road to healing may begin with an appointment with a bodywork practitioner. Have you thought about trying Bowenwork, Rolfing, Heller work structural integration, hypnotherapy, chiropractic care, osteopathy or acupuncture?

 

  1. Strengthen Muscles. Back injuries often stem from muscular imbalances. This is why practicing yoga or Pilates can be so beneficial for both easing back pain and preventing future back pain episodes. Both yoga and Pilates help develop a person’s core strength, which includes the abdominal, pelvic floor, buttocks, hip and lower back muscles. During class, you strengthen these muscles, build muscular endurance and learn how to initiate movement from the core area. The way you move on the mat will begin to carry over into your daily life, which can correct poor postural traits and eliminate the corresponding low-back pain. Two other movement therapy practices that have proven successful in easing and healing low-back pain are the Feldenkrais Method and the Alexander Technique. I have posted my recommendations and experience with Myo fascial release therapy, Feldenkrais and Pilates for low back pain.

 

The caveat here is you will be paying for these therapies out of pocket in almost all health insurance plans and it is expensive. I just began a 4 week course with a therapeutic yoga specialist and see results already. Four weeks cost $150. Every Myo facial release session with Cedron Sterling costs $160 for 90 minutes. His work has made a huge difference and certainly worth the expense. Most of us cannot afford these wonderful therapies that keep us out of the orthopedist’s surgery theater.

 

 

  1. Mediate. Practicing meditation can help bring relief to back pain. Mindfulness meditation had numerous benefits for the chronic back pain sufferers who took part in an eight-week study reported in Pain in 2008. These patients experienced less pain, improved physical function, pain acceptance and better sleep. Meditation can be any activity that elicits the relaxation response in a person, which simply means your body calms down, lowering metabolism, blood pressure, heart and breathing rates. Forms of meditation include the relaxation response, transcendental meditation, mindfulness meditation, tai chi, repetitive prayer and walking meditation. Practicing any movement therapy that has you focus on your breathing while moving your body with intention can be a meditative experience.

 

  1. Watch what you eat. Inflammation often causes pain and swelling. You can modulate your body’s inflammatory response system through diet. Through simple changes, you can decrease your likelihood of generating an overly high inflammatory response during a back pain episode. To decrease inflammation in your body, include the following foods in your diet: cold-water fish, fruits and vegetables, whole grains and high fiber foods and water. The following food can increase inflammation, so minimize these food types in your meal plan: red meat and high-fat dairy products, sugar white food, flavored drink and highly processed foods.

 

I have posted an extensive commentary on foods that reduce inflammation. The best of these posts is here.

 

  1. If it involves a disk, be patient. Disk herniations heal without surgery more than 85% of the time and several studies have shown that after two years, people who have had surgery and people who have not had surgery recovered at equivalent rates. If you feel your back pain stems from a herniated disk or disks, try all avenues of noon-operative care. “Probably upwards of 40 percent of people who eventually get surgery aren’t happy with it in the end,” says family physician Sarah J. D’Heilly, MD.

 

My original injury involved a herniation at L5. It is much less protruded now and had pretty much healed, although that is the place here the sciatica pain originates.

 

  1. Keep trying. Sometimes a doctor or a practice might not be the right fit for your low-back problem. If you try a therapy or new practitioner and don’t find any relief or see any progress after a handful of sessions, it might be time to move on. This can be discouraging. Still, it is worthwhile to try new paths to healing, whether that means trying a different bodywork technique or Pilates or talking to your back specialist about other options. It is also helpful to think about the term healing, which isn’t defined by a cure. There isn’t always a cure for low-back pain, but you can begin to see yourself as a whole person with low-back pain. Healing might mean learning self-care methods to alleviate your pain, practicing yoga a few times a week, seeing your doctor as needed and living your daily life a fully as possible.

 

My new normal is never leaving the house to walk anywhere without my hiking sticks. Sometimes I don’t need them. But it lowers my anxiety and allows me to keep walking when I have them with me. I recently bought a new purse that holds the folded sticks. I can look relatively sheik going to the opera with this purse, don’t you think?

 

Be well, Do well and Keep moving.

 

Betsy

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Alfalfa

Alfalfa Complex

 

This is the time of the year when you will really want to add alfalfa to your supplement regime that is, only if you haven’t already experienced all the rich benefits of this fabulous plant. Seasonal changes in the weather often bring about sensitivities to various forms of pollen, mold and dust. So let’s see how Alfalfa plays a part in relieving allergy symptoms.

 

So here’s what we know about Alfalfa. It is one of nature’s richest sources of total food minerals and trace elements. Its many health-giving aspects have beneficial benefits for eyes, teeth and strong digestive systems, and connective tissues. Alfalfa roots burrow 20 feet into the ground to find precious trace minerals which when absorbed by the plant are stored in the leaves, stems and branches making it a veritable treasure of health giving nutrients.  It is the richest land grown source of sub-nutritional trace minerals; combined with chlorophyll and other organic salts that give greater effect and power of generation to tissues. The word Alfalfa means father of all foods, and one of nature’s oldest legumes.

 

Alfalfa is a legume that has a long history of dietary and medicinal uses. A small number of animal and preliminary human studies report that alfalfa supplements may lower blood levels of cholesterol and glucose. Now there are many factors that make this product outstanding. Alfalfa contains quantities of:

  • Vitamins A, E, K, B, D & U,
  • Fiber, protein, and fat soluble,
  • 13 separate minerals and additional trace minerals,
  • Contains 8 essential enzymes for digestion of proteins, fats, starches and sugars.

 

Shaklee Alfalfa is grown in the Antelope Valley without herbicides pesticides or alfalfa fieldorganic fertilizers. This alfalfa is harvested at dawn when the leaves have the highest nitrogen and chlorophyll content. The cuttings are dried in the open air, the natural old fashioned way, and once dried, the alfalfa is ready to be milled and the leaf is separated from the desirable stem. The end product is a fine, green colored alfalfa “flour” which then goes though the tableting process.

 

Alfalfa complex is a Shaklee Signature Formula originally developed by Dr. Shaklee.

So now that know we have this fabulous natural product, what benefits might we experience. The list is endless but we will cover a few………

  • A great aid in digestion,
  • Aids in peptic ulcers,
  • Great diuretic and bowel regulator,
  • Effective barrier against bacterial invasion,
  • Anti- inflammatory, anti-histamine.
  • Natural body deodorizer,
  • Helps support the natural ph of the blood and much more.

 

Just remember that Alfalfa is known as a complete food. Now this may surprise you,

Some of the other properties that alfalfa has: An outstanding 18.9% protein as compared to beef 16.5%; milk 3.3% and eggs 13.1%. Isn’t that amazing!! Remember muscles are composed of protein and the lack of it causes them to break down resulting in fatigue and weakness.

 

In summary: If you want a general all around food supplement to support your many daily needs you will definitely want to consider Alfalfa and its broad spectrum of nutrients. And with that being said, you can now appreciate why Alfalfa is called the father of all foods.

 

Side note: Now I know that some of you are wondering what is vitamin U, so let’s satisfy your curiosity! Vitamin U plays an important role in maintaining health, vitality and well-being. Targets Acid Reflux and inflamed Gastro Intestinal lining instantly on contact. And one last surprising piece of information: did you know that each serving provides 300 mg of calcium about as much as in a glass of milk! You can now see why Alfalfa is considered a complete food and by the way, Scripture calls Alfalfa King of the vegetable family.

 

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.

These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

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Knee pain

Gentle Reader,

 

My knee complains. Knee pain from the old injury is caused by arthritis.  In the forest searching for chanterelles, my companions and I climb steeply to the plateau, second growth northwest forest of red cedar, western hemlock, Douglas fir, alder and vine maple. The understory is mossy in places, the green blanket providing the perfect platform for the golden mushroom; in other places, it is thick with salal, sword fern and Oregon grape.  Chanterelles hide there, too.  This hunting ground is well known to local pothunters, the name we give people who hunt mushrooms for food, delicious sautéed-in-butter food.  We did not have hope for finding many.

CAM01994[1]

Glorious!  On a super steep incline, there they were, pockets of gold, enough for all three of us.  On the way down, my knee—the left one—complained bitterly.  I traveled without my hiking sticks.  They get in the way when hunting mushrooms.  A couple times, I feared the knee pain would cause my leg to fail me completely.

 

In 1992, I avoided a long trek to get back to my car by climbing a chain link fence and jumping to the ground on the opposite side.  My left leg suffered nerve damage when I herniated a disc—L5—in 1989, so it did not give or bounce when I landed.  I heard the pop and knew I was in trouble. I managed to walk to my car, drove home, had a hearty snack and headed for the emergency room of the University hospital. Fast forward to the consultation after 3 months of non-weight bearing healing:

 

Mrs. Bell; Expect arthritis, probably severe, within the next couple of years and we’ll see you here for a knee replacement ten years from now.

 

That was twenty-two years ago.  I have managed the arthritis with exercise and supplements and, until now, have had only a few twinges of knee pain and the sensation of the knee giving way very occasionally.

 

What to do?  I have increased the stair climbing exercises, but not straight up and down.  I suspect that the knee pain is the result of neglecting the best exercise for

Do the grape vine step up and down stairs to strengthen the knees
Do the grape vine step up and down stairs to strengthen the knees

knees that I know about:  the grape vine step up and down the stairs.  I wish I had a video to show you.  Point your shoulder to the top of the stairs. Facing the bottom step sideways, begin climbing by putting the outside foot upon the next step behind the inside foot; lift with the upper foot; step up with the inside food; swing the outside foot in front of the inside foot in front and lift the body; repeat.  The second 20 steps face the top with the opposite side of the body.  I repeated this five times today and will do 200 steps up and down several more times this week.  I can tell the difference right away.

 

Why does this work?  Women have broad hips and a wide pelvis.  Most of us women have slightly knocked knees as the result of the wide pelvis.  The strain on the kneecap, muscles and tendons above and below the knee is great.  When you strengthen the sides of the knee, this strain is mitigated.  I learned this from a guy I met climbing the monster staircase from Blaine St. to Lakeview on Capitol Hill—300 risers.  He was on the stairs going up with the grape vine step to increase his balance so he would be able to navigate backpacking in the high mountains with a heavy pack without as much danger of falling.  I was training to climb Mt. Shasta, a 14,000 ft peak in northern California and immediately adopted his training method.  I am back at it.

 

The confirmation of this training method came from an article in Seattle Women, “Training Like a Girl,” featuring Dr. Stan Herring, sports medicine doctor who works with University of Washington athletes and, was my doctor after my herniated disc incident.  Dr. Herring stresses that “female athletes will obtain strength gains and aeroic gains in the same proportion as male athletes, if you train them appropriately.”

 

One major issue female athletes [all women who are active] face is their increased risk of anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury.  “Females should spend more time with upper body strengthening and they should certainly spend more time with lower body conditioning for core and lower extremity strength, balance and motor control because it does have a direct effect on the ACL” says Dr. Herring.  Let me share the information about the ACL which I found helped me understand why we women have more trouble with our knees.

 

The ACL is one of a pair of ligaments in the center of the knee joint that stabilizes the knee from front to back during normal and athletic activities. Increased estrogen production during puberty causes the pelvis to widen, which can cause the knees to turn inward. These hormonal and anatomical facts lead to female athletes sustaining noncontact ACL injuries between two and 10 times more often than male athletes.   To avoid this risk, build up the secondary muscles that support the hips, knees and ankles.  The stair climbing sideways with the grapevine step helps this.  The author

walk sideways with band around your legs above the knee
walk sideways with band around your legs above the knee

 

described strengthening the knees by tying an elastic band around you thighs or ankles—your feet are about 4 inches apart when you are setting this up—and then walking around the house in a squat position, moving sideways and another set moving forward.  This strengthens both knees and legs.  Do about 40 to 60 steps sideways in one direction and then reverse, leading with the opposite foot for 40 to 60 steps.  Maintain the squat position throughout.

 

Above all, when confronted with joint pain, do not sit down and avoid using those joints.  Find something you can still do.  Joints have low blood flow.  They need movement to stay functional.  Of course, if you have a major inflammation, you need to reduce that with medication, ice and rest, but test yourself for the best way to get movement back into that joint.  When I was non-weight bearing for so many weeks, I sat on the floor and isometric exercises 2lifted the affected leg, traced the alphabet with my foot, isometrically tensed and relaxed the muscles up and down the leg, did side lifts with the affected leg.  When the cast came off, I walked without a limp.  The muscles had not atrophied.  I know people whose knee replacement surgery or other foot and leg surgeries have not healed well.  More movement to stimulate blood flood would surly help healing.isometric exercises

 

I am going to avoid knee surgery as long as I possibly can.  Using sticks to climb and descend helps relieve pressure on the knees.  I’ll keep you posted.  Let me and my readers know what your techniques are to lessen knee pain and keep moving.

 

Be well, Do well and Keep Moving.

Betsy

206 933 1889

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