Pain Archives

Getting The Most Out Of An Exercise Ball

Exercise balls, also known as stability balls, add a new dimension to traditional yoga. These balls help to alleviate built-up tension by relaxing the back and neck muscles. They are a tool that can be added to any yoga program and are especially useful for people with a bad back.

Exercise Ball

Exercise Ball

Using these balls will help you stretch your back out gently so that you can physically feel the tension draining away. Simply rest against the ball and then lean back slowly and carefully. As you begin rolling you’ll start to feel loose and relaxed.

You’ll be able to assume new positions that cannot be reached with regular stretching or yoga. While it may seem unnatural, you’ll have to curve your body over one of these exercise balls to see for yourself just how natural it feels. The ball seems to absorb your weight, which results in a feeling of weightlessness. It is a relaxing stretch while at the same time a very powerful one.

Many yoga enthusiasts cannot perform regular yoga positions due to problems with their back. For these people, exercise balls give them the chance to be a yoga participant. Some back issues leave a person with a severe shortage of flexibility and they simply cannot move their bodies enough to enjoy regular yoga.

Not just for bad backs

These balls are great for flexible strong people that just want to add more to their exercise routine.  Stability balls can offer a balance challenge to many yoga poses. If you have reached a certain plateau with your yoga and are ready to go on to a new level, an exercise ball can give you the extra challenge you need.

Yoga balls also strengthen flexibility and endurance. As you follow your yoga program you’ll be able to stretch out in various ways to make your body more flexible. You’ll find your endurance rise as well. You’ll have to concentrate on balance and this will give you a better ability to focus on the task at hand and the rest of your yoga workout.

Besides yoga…

These balls aren’t used only for yoga, however. Some people are replacing the chairs in their office with an exercise ball. While sitting down to attend to their office work they are developing their abdominal and back muscles since it takes an extra effort to remain balanced on the ball.

As well, these balls are commonly used by pregnant women during labor. The woman sits with her back against the ball, which helps the baby get in the right fetal position. These balls are growing in popularity as a birthing tool and have assumed a new identity – the “birth ball” – in the process.

Exercise balls offer a well-rounded yoga routine for people with bad backs or for enthusiasts that want to add something new to their practice. There are also specific exercises available that require the ball in order to be performed. If you haven’t yet had the chance to try one out for yourself, give it a go. You’ll find that your yoga performance will rise to new levels faster and with less effort.

Back Pain Heals Better With Yoga – New research

This is a guest post contributed by Jack Woo

According to the latest research, doing yoga daily is more effective in healing your chronic back pain than other conventional back pain treatments. There are also more side effects as a result of using the conventional treatments, such as painkillers and muscle relaxants.

The researchers closely monitored 228 adults who suffer from acute and chronic back pain problems. They were separated into three groups with two groups attending daily yoga sessions and the remaining group doing different exercises for a few weeks.

At the end of the program they discovered that half the participants who attended yoga sessions felt much better compared with only 20% of the other group.

Yoga exercises

Yoga exercises

Yoga is not just a form of meditation as some people perceive it and the benefits are not just limited to strengthening muscles, improve flexibility and balance. Yoga is an extremely good therapy for relieving back pain, shorten recovery time, reduce swelling and increase blood circulation. Practising yoga daily will help improve your posture and keep your spine in proper alignment, which is essential in back pain treatment.

There are many forms and poses of yoga and not all can help your back pain. In fact some can even worsen your back condition. It is best to attend classes under the guidance of certified yoga instructors as they can advise on what poses are suitable for you.

Back strengthening poses serve not only to strengthen your muscles around the spine, but also help to activate your kidneys and tonify your body. Back releasing poses will help to reduce tension and muscle spasm and improve spinal mobility. These exercises will help to nourish your back muscles and muscle tissues, and are good for people suffering from back pain, especially lower back pain. Stretching other muscles in your body such as the hamstring and thigh will make them stronger and more flexible and lessen the amount of stress on your back. This will finally reduce the tension and back pain.

Performing poses on the floor are easier than standing poses as they require less strength and balance. One very important aspect of doing yoga is to learn how to breathe properly, especially when holding the poses. Choose poses with longer hold times (inhaling and exhaling) as they are easier to do.

When you master the art of deep and rhythmic breathing, your body will relax, freeing you of pain-inducing restrictions and eases proper circulation.

Do not eat at least one to two hours before you practise yoga and refrain from drinking too much water before the session.

You should practise yoga daily for an average of 30 minutes, depending on your schedule, objective and fitness level. It is better to practise more often with shorter duration than less often with longer duration as this will produce better result.

If you are seeking relief from back pain, yoga is certainly one of the best lower back pain exercises. Like all forms of exercises, do not push your body to the limits. If you still experience pain after doing yoga, stop and consult your doctor.

Jack Woo has a special interest in back pain, having suffered from it in the past. He shares with you his experiences and many back pain treatment options and prevention tips.

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Painless way to check your blood sugar levels

People with diabetes detest the daily process of pricking their fingers to monitor their blood sugar levels. Despite this dreadful routine activity, it is necessary to manage and control this medical condition. Diabetes is a long-term illness characterised by high sugar levels in the blood. Patients either produce too little insulin to process the sugar or are unable to respond well to the insulin produced.

Fortunately there are now non-invasive methods to check your blood sugar levels.

Glucostat System, a Singapore company and Nanyang Technological University (NTU) have developed a prototype monitoring device using light to measure blood sugar readings.

Accordingly to the inventors, they accidentally discovered that light waveforms attached themselves differently to blood containing varying amounts of HbA1c, the sugar molecule that chemically attaches to the haemoglobin in the blood.

The more sugar in the blood, the more HbA1C will be present in the blood.

The device was made from a customised laser diode and all the patient needs to do is to place a finger over the probe for between 10 to 20 seconds. In May 2010, trials involving 30 people were carried, 19 of whom were non-diabetics. The remaining patients have chronic condition and whose blood sugar levels were badly controlled.

Blood was also taken at the same time to serve as a comparison and the results showed excellent correlation for both the high and low levels.

The inventors believe the test is presently one of the best ways to diagnose diabetes because it provides a more accurate reading of blood sugar levels. An average HbA1c level taken over time has also less variation than a one-off test.

The HbA1c test (also called glycolated haemoglobin) gives a result that shows how well the disease has been controlled over the previous six to 12 weeks. This will also show how effective the patient’s management plan is working. A non-diabetic’s HbA1c glucose reading is 5 per cent to 6 per cent and the goal in diabetes management is to reach 7 per cent or less. An HbA1c glucose reading of 8 per cent and above would mean the diabetes is badly controlled.

Some doctors said that while it is good to obtain the average HbA1c level without having to draw blood, a minute-by-minute or hour-by-hour blood-glucose monitoring may sometime be necessary. Patients need to be pricked three to four times a day, to ascertain whether the level is too high or too low under different conditions. This new prototype machine is still not able to give such live feeds. Also these readings may not be accurate due to fluctuations such as body temperature and blood pressure.

There are two other monitoring devices in the market namely skin testing and continuous glucose testing. There are disadvantages associated with both methods. Skin testing uses a special sensor pad which may irritate the skin and readings may be affected by sweat. Continuous glucose testing is expensive, costing up to $2000 and the sensory pad which is paced under the skin need to be moved periodically.

Despite these reservations these non-invasive screening technologies look promising and may radically change how diabetes could be managed in clinics and at home.

Tai chi may relieve knee pain

Tai chi may relieve knee pain

Tai chi, a martial art originated from China, is a mind and body practice in complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). Practitioners move their bodies slowly and artistically, while breathing deeply which is why it is sometimes referred to as “moving meditation”.

People practice tai chi for various health-related reasons including:

  • improve physical condition, muscle strength, coordination, and flexibility
  • benefits associated with low-impact, weight-bearing, aerobic exercise
  • improve balance and decrease the risk of falls, especially in elderly people
  • ease pain and stiffness—for example, from osteoarthritis
  • improve sleep
  • overall wellness.

A recent study suggests that practising tai chi regularly reduce osteoarthritis pain and also improve joint functions.

Researchers from the Tufts University School of Medicine carried out a study on 40 people with knee osteoarthritis, who had an average age of 65.

Twenty people were randomly placed in hour-long twice-weekly tai chi classes for three months. Besides tai chi movements, the classes included self-massage, breathing and relaxation techniques. They were also asked to practice tai chi for at least 20 minutes a day at home while maintaining their usual physical routine.

The other half was placed in the control group, attending twice-weekly hour-long sessions on osteoarthritis that included information on diet and nutrition, plus ways to treat the condition and how to handle stress. They also took part in full-body stretching exercises and were encouraged to stretch for 20 minutes a day at home and follow their regular physical regimen.

The Los Angeles Times reported that after the three months trial, those in the tai chi group saw a substantial drop in knee pain compared to the control group. The tai chi group also saw more improvements in function, depression and health status.

A second study by Australian researchers also found encouraging results. This study included 152 older adults with osteoarthritis of the knee or hip. The participants were randomly divided into three groups: tai chi classes, water exercise classes, or a waiting list. After 12 weeks, those in both the tai chi and water exercise groups reported moderate improvements in physical function, although only water exercise led to slightly decreased pain. The benefits were still evident three months after the classes ended.

Although tai chi is quite safe to practice, practitioners should observe the following:

  • do not overdo, as it may result in sore muscles or sprains
  • do not practice tai chi right after a meal, or when you are very tired, or if you have an infection
  • do not practice if you are pregnant, or if you have a hernia, joint problems, back pain, fractures, or severe osteoporosis.

The bottom line

Many people practice tai chi to improve their health. It is such a gentle form of exercise that tai chi is suitable to those with arthritis. Studies suggest that it may help reduce joint pain, stiffness, and disability for people with OA.

Tai chi requires strict attention to body posture and breathing, so it’s best learned from a qualified instructor rather than a book or video