Tag Archives: spinal stenosis

More Travel tips for a healthy back

Gentle Reader,

A month ago, reflecting on managing arthritis when traveling,  http://nowheelchair.wordpress.com/2011/12/19/pain-free-flying/, I promised more hints for healthy travel.  Here they are.

Overnight flights: these are the killers for a bad back, especially when you really do need that sleep to begin your first day functioning.  I can usually sleep with the help of a sleep aid, a neck pillow and a pillow for lumbar support.  You can buy these on line at Amazon I haven’t actually tried the one pictured, but will probably get it for my next big adventure mid February.  My granddaughter and I are off to Nicaragua with a group from Saint Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral.  This is an all day trip and I chose a two stop itinerary.  You probably think I’m crazy.  I have found that shorter hops and getting up to change plans, actually helps maintain back health.  It is long flights that put the lower back at greatest risk.

We will probably be at the airport and through the check in and security screening with plenty of time to spare.  While waiting for my flight, I often lie on the floor in an out-of-the way spot and do some simple Feldenkrais and Pilates moves to line everything up before boarding.  Alicia will probably be totally embarrassed at her grandmother’s bizarre behavior.  It is easy to make a 13 yr. old uncomfortable!

Once we arrive at our hotel, I will do some simple stretches, mostly lying flat on my back before getting into bed.  Take the bed covering and lay it on the floor as a mat to protect yourself from the myriad leavings of many previous shoes and bare fee.  In the morning, find a chair without arms or the corner of the bed to sit on and do a series of sitting stretches.  I use Jennifer Kreis’s Hot Body, Cool Mind sitting series designed to wake up every joint and gently stretch every muscle.  I have been using this DVD and this particular segment for so many years that I have the moves memorized.  I think my immune system is greatly supported by the lymphatic thumping at the head, neck, inner elbow and underarms, chest, stomach and groin, then down the spine.  The same DVD has a standing chi gong segment, plus a Pilates routine (too rigorous for most of us dealing with spinal issues), a simple yoga routine I love following, and several other segments.  You certainly get your money’s worth when you buy this DVD.  My grandchildren think this little routine of mine at the corner of the bed is hilarious and they have teased me about it months after our trips together.  By the way if you are interested in the pictures from these trips, go to www.betsystrips.shutterfly.com.  Enjoy.

For those overnight flights getting to your destination between 6 and 9 in the morning, the best antidote to jet lag is outdoor walking.  Arriving in Ireland with May, and in Scotland with Danny and Carsten, we set out walking the town, the countryside, the castle grounds (save serious tourist investigation for later when you are rested).  Keep moving.  Stop for a snack when needed.  Tea helps.  When you check in to your hotel, maybe 30 minutes flat, but avoid a deep sleep.  Walk to a place for supper and then go to bed.  You will wake up remarkably rested and in tune with the new time zone.  Once traveling to India, I walked my legs off all day long in Bombay, now Mumbai.  There was no where to sit down, the parks occupied by homeless.  I knocked on the door of a church and asked if I could sit for a little while.  A little later I joined at lot of office workers in a cafeteria style restaurant, sitting at a long table and listening to their chatter.  I’ve never felt unsafe.  People are nice the world over.  As someone said, there are only 10 bad people in the world; they just move around a lot.

I carry a back pack instead of a purse.  This was recommended to me by my chiropractor years ago.  I know it’s hard to fashionable, but they make some really cute back packs these days.  When traveling, keep your eyes wide open and aware at all times, and pull that pack around in front to hug next to your chest at the slightest hint of crowded conditions or motor scooters approaching too close.  Never leave it hanging on the back of a chair.

My really important stuff, i.e.  money and passport, plane tickets, URail pass, CC and Drivers License, are always in a money belt.  If you haven’t heard of him,

Rick Steves, Europe Through the Back Door, is a travel guru and his store in Edmonds, WA (and on line) sells the most comfortable money belts ever made.  The material handles sweaty Latin American, Asian and African climates and there is a plastic lining to keep your documents and money from getting wet from your dripping sweat.

I just heard a story yesterday at our Nicaragua orientation about a woman whose back pack with her money in an outside pocket was on top of the bus transporting them to their next home stay.  A sudden down pour soaked her pack and her money was ruined.  USA dollars with a black bleed from a notebook making every bill’s denomination indistinguishable.  Keep your money in your money belt inside the plastic liner.   Put in on with your underpants every morning.  Loose change for the day’s expense can live in your pants pocket in a small purse.

Personally, I think the stress of travel can increase your arthritis twinges.  The money belt wearing practice and the back pack for your sun screen, water bottle, camera, notebook and guide book, can smooth out your day and reduce stress.  Keep your pain-reducing supplements or medicines for the day, plus your supplements for the next meal and a couple meal bars or snack bars in the back pack as well.

One last tip:  when walking, a brisk pace will keep your back healthier.  The museum walk is lethal.  I remind myself to pull up the pelvic floor while staring at a painting or waiting in line, a kegel exercise.  Straighten your shoulders and let your skeleton drop from the base of the skull.  You will fatigue much more slowly.  Take tea breaks to rest.  If it gets too bad, hang upside down.  Here I am doing that in Montreal.  My grandson hid when some other tourist came by.  Ah, youth.  They will have arthritis someday and perhaps he’ll remember his silly grandma.

Be well, Do well and Keep Moving.

Betsy

Betsy Bell’s Healt4u

206 933 1889

www.HiHoHealth dot com

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The 2nd most popular New Year’s resolution and the power of excuses: guess writer Lisa Stubing

Dear Reader,  I have mentioned this energetic trainer, Lisa Stuebing in a former blog post. She and I walked the 3 miles around Greenlake at a quick pace.  I was impressed with Lisa’s own story of sitting at a desk most of her professional life and slowed putting on weight and losing mobility.  You should see her now.  She’s slim and agile.  I asked her to write a post to share with all my readers.  Here it is:

The Second Most Popular New Year’s Resolution and the Positive Power of Excuses

Adapted from a speech given at the 12th Annual World Arthritis Day in Redmond, WA.  October 2011.

Lisa Stuebing, Certified Personal Trainer and Senior Fitness Specialist, Owner, Mud Puddle Fitness, LLC

Did you know that the Second-Most-Popular -New-Year’s-Resolution-Of-All-Time is to become more fit?  And yet, we often make the same resolution the following year.  If you have arthritis, you have an extra challenge to keeping this resolution.  Fortunately, you also have ready access to a powerful resource to ensure your success.

This essay is about the positive power of making excuses.  Excuses are important.  Now is the time to recognize that your excuses have strength and depth and validity.

Researchers find that three barriers to success recur over and over. 1.) Embarrassment, 2.) Procrastination,  and 3.) Fear of injury.  These well-funded longitudinal studies have included thousands of participants who in turn represent millions of excuse makers.  They were conducted by reputable institutions like the Mayo Clinic, the American College of Sports Medicine, the National Institute of Health.

  1. EMBARASSMENT

Do you put off going to the pool until after you look good?  Have you walked into a gym tried out some equipment and goose-stepped out of there because you didn’t want people you didn’t really know how to use it?  Discouragement is a powerful inhibitor.  Which leads us to the second big excuse honest people have for not getting regular exercise.

 

  1. PROCRASTINATION

“Procrastination is the art of keeping up with yesterday.”
– Don Marquis

 

What keeps you inside?

In a London study, 64% of the participants simply did not know what a good work out was supposed to feel like.  So, they avoided it.  Learning what is normal and what’s not normal takes time.    It takes practice.  When you are getting the right amount of exercise, during the best part of your day – you will build up your stamina.  You will feel better and even energized at some level.  And, yes, you will feel a little tired.

Finally, there is another big reason people tend to stay away from exercise.

 

  1. FEAR OF INJURY

People worry that because they are not athletes already that they will hurt themselves. 

If you have arthritis, be a careful consumer of information.  There is still a lot of bad information out there.  You can still find literature that will tell you that exercise is not good for you.  The old thinking is that physical activity will damage joints and make arthritis worse.

In reality, multiple studies have clearly shown that appropriate exercise for people with arthritis leads to better flexibility, strength and endurance.  It also leads to less pain, fatigue and depression.

ACKNOWLEGE YOUR EXCUSES AND THEN TACKLE THEM ONE BY ONE

Find people who are doing fun stuff and do it with them.   Laughing together is the best antidote for embarrassment.

Build up your knowledge and stamina one day at a time.  The key is to start small and pace yourself — If you are going to take up cross country skiing – start with a small country.

Finally, if you have arthritis, know that hurt does not always equal harm.  Take an Arthritis Foundation “Walk with Ease” class and learn to reduce your pain while getting fit.

Enroll in an Arthritis Foundation, “Walk with Ease” class

Take an Arthritis Foundation “Walk with Ease” class and you will learn how to set realistic goals.  You will learn how to measure your progress.  You will feel more energized because you will know the best time to exercise and how much exercise is right for you.  You’ll meet new people and have tons of fun.

The Walk with Ease Course was developed by the Stanford University Patient Education Research Center.

The efficacy of the program was tested, studied and reviewed by the University of North Carolina in collaboration with the Thurston Arthritis Research Center and the University’s Institute on Aging.

The program’s published materials were made possible, in part, with funds from the Center for Disease Control.

In my professional opinion, the most important thing the Walk with Ease program teaches is an understanding of your pain.  Hurt does not always equal harm.  Sometimes, moving when you didn’t really want to, results in actually feeling better.  This isn’t all hocus pocus – this is about focus.  Focusing on you, testing yourself and then understanding the result.  I think this takes the entire six weeks to learn and apply the program.  And the bonus is, by the end of all 18 class sessions – you will have made a pleasant habit of joining friends for a little fun exercise.  Some classmates get together long after the class had ended.

CONCLUSION

In conclusion, there are three steps to take.  1.)  Work with yourself, understand your reluctance to plunge into a planned exercise routine and give yourself a break.  Your concerns are real and based on a lifetime of personal observations.  Be honest with yourself and then take the next step.  2.)  Educate yourself; take the Arthritis Foundation’s “Walk with Ease”. Learn when exercise will reduce your pain and how to make that happen.  Finally,  3.) Include yourself – join others for group activities.  Invite friends out for a walk.  Having fun with friends is your best chance of sticking with and enjoying a lifelong habit of exercise.

Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.” – Johann Wolfgang van Goethe

Let me know how you do!  Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions.

Coach Lisa

Lisa Stuebing
Owner, Mud Puddle Fitness, LLC
Nationally Certified Personal Trainer and Senior Fitness Specialist

www.MudPuddleFitness.com

CoachLisa@MudPuddleFitness.com

206-524-6788

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Pain free flying

Avoiding increased pain when on vacation.

This is the first of a series of posts on staying pain free while traveling.

I just spent 10 days in Mexico with 4 friends, enjoying my time share and a few extra days in Isla Mujeres, a tiny island off the coast of the Yucatan as 25 minute ferry ride from Cancun.  It was wonderful.  I had my herbal pain killers at the ready, and took a couple every 4 -5 hours.

Plane rides are the worst for osteoarthritis and spinal stenosis and the 4 plus hours from Seattle to Houston were challenging. I am reminded of the many long plane rides I have taken and the technique I have learned for staying comfortable.

Back in 1992, right after my husband died, I took a trip to San Francisco for some R & R.  We sat in the plane on the runway for 6 hours waiting for the fog to clear in SF so we could leave Seattle and land 2 1/2 hours later.  If you’ve been following along, you’ll remember that the traumatic injury to my L5 happened only 3 years earlier, and while I had rehabilitated enough to do 3/4 of the Wonderland Trail around Mt. Rainier in 1990, I was still at risk.  Slouching in a chair, especially an airplane seat, is the worse possible thing to do for a potentially unstable back.  As Moshe Feldenkrais would say, you are either sitting (sits bones directly under your erect back) or you are lying down (any tilted back position on down to prone).  I was lying down in the most unsupported manner.  When we finally landed in San Francisco, I could hardly walk.  My left leg had extreme sciatica pain from the pinching at L5.  What I learned from that experience has saved me from ever repeating it.  It may help you.

I drink a lot of water and a rehydrating drink called Performance which I carry in a zip lock bag and mix with the water they offer, or in the bottle I carry on.  Do you know that you lose a cup of water every hour you are in the air?  You do not excrete only water, but minerals that you must have for proper balance in your system.  These are the electrolytes you add with a high quality hydrating drink like Performance.  (If you want to know more about the products I mention, go to www.HiHoHealth dot com.)

Drinking a lot forces me to get up and down to use the rest room.  Moving prevents prolonged slouching from setting in.  While sitting, I do isometric exercises.  I seldom tilt my chair back but try to stay upright.  On long flights to Asia and Africa, the TV monitor w shows isometric exercises that are helpful.  Here are several that I have used.

Isometric Leg Exercises

Isometric exercises are an effective way to exercise during a flight. Also called static tension, isometric exercise involves a contraction of a muscle without a change in the length of the muscle. Bodybuilding.com recommends doing an isometric thigh exercise while sitting on your seat. Make a fist with your hands and place them under your knees. Squeeze your thigh and calve “around” your fist, and hold for five to 10 seconds.

 

Knee Exercises

Knee flexions and extensions are other simple exercises to do during your flight. Knee flexion involves lifting your knee toward your chest while sitting on your seat with your back against the back rest. Lower your leg, and repeat with the opposite leg. Knee extension involves straightening your leg as far as you can while sitting with your back against the rest. This is crazy making in steerage where I sit.  Do these exercises as many times as desired.

Calf Exercises

Deep vein clots are common in the lower leg or thigh, according to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. Improve the blood flow in your lower leg by contracting your muscles. To do a calf raise, place your tiptoes on the floor. Thrust your heels upward as high as you can until you feel a contraction in your calves. Hold for five to 10 seconds, and lower your heals, or repeat continuously with a pumping motion. Repeat as often as you can to improve blood flow in your veins. This is a really good one.

 Arms

Exercise your arms with a wrist roller workout. Cross your fingers and do a rolling motion with your wrists for 10 to 20 seconds. Improve blood flow in your arms by making a fist with each hand and flexing your forearms toward the floor. Hold for 10 seconds, release and repeat. Optionally, raise your fists toward your chest and down to your thighs for 10 to 20 times to also target your biceps.

Shoulders and Chest

Shoulder shrugs are a way to relieve tension in your upper body. Hold the shrug for 10 seconds and release. Exercise both the chest and shoulders by doing a rope climb. Imagine a rope hanging over your head, and “grasp” it with your hands as to climb it. With each motion, reach from over your head and pull down until your arms touch your thighs. Repeat 20 times with each hand.

Back and Abs

Stretch your back by bending at your waist until your chest reaches your upper thighs. Hold for a few seconds and slowly return to an upright position. Keep your back straight throughout the stretch. Target your abdominal muscles sitting upright and exhaling completely. Without inhaling, suck in your stomach as deeply as you can and hold for few seconds. Release and repeat.

 

Read more: http://www.livestrong.com/article/532387-seated-exercises-to-prevent-dvts/#ixzz1h1GMalQ5

Read more: http://www.livestrong.com/article/460480-leg-exercises-for-while-you-are-in-flight/#ixzz1h1ExSucs

Do not worry about what other people think.  After all, your body needs this and their bodies could probably use it to.  You might have the whole row exercising.  You will have much less jet lag and arrive ready to walk and pull your suit case.

I would love to hear your techniques for keeping aches and pains under control while flying.  Next week I will share my away-from-home morning routine before setting off for a day of site seeing.

Be Well, Do Well and Keep Moving.

Betsy

www.HiHoHealth dot com

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Traumatic injury: my story

Hello, Gentle Reader,

In 1989, I lifted, or should I more accurately say, yanked a large drink box full of wine bottles out of the back seat of a two door Datsun.  I heard something go in my lower back.  I was angry about carrying these bottles up a long flight of stairs to the social hall of a large church.  My husband in his characteristic generosity offered to cook an elegant meal for a visiting prelate from the Russian Orthodox church inMoscow.  While I approved a grand reception for this honored guest and his entourage, I criticized my husband for trying to do this alone.  Plenty of people would love to cook with Don Bell.  My only task was delivering the drink.

I could feel the place in my back where the terrible sensation had come from.  I carried the box and several more like it upstairs anyway.

The next morning, I awoke early, still smoldering over the piles of potato skins on the kitchen counter and the olive oil slick floor, remnants of the single-handed cooking effort the night before.  Jack LaLanne was just beginning his exercise routine on TV.  I took my position on the large expanse of our hook-latched rug covering the living room floor.  I would work out my anger through exercise.  On all fours, he called out doggie leg lifts.  Snap.

Whatever happened lifting the box, leg lifts finished me off.  I rolled on the floor sobbing in pain.  All my previous judgments against people who complained of bad backs taunted me.  Pay back for lack of understanding and sympathy.   Those legions who suffered, did they suffer as I was now suffering?  Were they not the malingering lazy bums I judged them to be?  What was I going to do?

I could not stand or sit but remained on all fours.  I slowly in extreme pain pulled myself to the staircase and up to our bedroom where Don still lay sleeping.  Once I struggled into bed and lay on my back, I began to breathe more deeply.  I went into head honcho mode commanding my groggy husband to get my day planner and find the phone number of my massage therapist.  It was 7 a.m.

This amazing person came over two hours later.  Don had already gotten me a 24-inch bolster cushion so my legs were in a chair position while lying flat on my back.  This was the only pain free position I could find.  Mary worked on me for over an hour, calming the sympathetic spasms in my shoulders, neck, upper back and arms.  She persuaded me against my wishes to take a muscle relaxant.  She came back twelve hours later and repeated the treatment.

The next morning I was able to inch my way painfully down the stairs and into the car.  Ouch.  That move brought tears to my eyes.  Don drove me to my chiropractor who gently calmed the spinal column and relocated the offending L5 into its proper place.

I was 52 years old.  A skier, hiker, biker, dancer, runner, I valued physical fitness next to Godliness.  More than Godliness.  I was determined to overcome this glitch.  Little did I know what was in store for me as I set about healing from an L5 .

Tell me your story.  How did your back begin to hurt?  What makes you worry about ending up in a wheel chair?  How did arthritis begin and where has it taken you?

My story of treatment and recovery continues next week.  Stay tuned.

Betsy Bell

Betsy Bell’s Health4U

4455 51st Ave. SW

Seattle,WA98116

206 933 1889

www.TiredNoMore.com

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Hello World! Got any aches and pain?

This is a brand new blog about keeping moving when the pain sets in.  Don’t fall into a wheelchair if you can possibly help it.  I’ll be sharing ideas about how to handle pain from arthritis, some things I’ve done to stay upright and walking with severe spinal stenosis.  We all need to help each other stay away from the knife and drugs.  Stay tuned for my story.

Keep Moving, Betsy

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