HAPPY CHRISTMAS and a healthy New Year!
Although this page is split into two sections I would like to make clear that for me Pilates and Massage are two ways of helping us to keep our bodies in the best possible shape, and complement each other perfectly.
Take a fresh look at Pilates!
This month's exercise: The roll down off the wall
This is one of the most useful of Pilates™ exercises, as it can be used almost anywhere to undo a stiff, aching or vulnerable back, enabling one to get on with life or other exercises.
Basically one leans against any fairly smooth surface of at least shoulder height, with feet about 30cm away from its base, keeping the knees soft. With pelvic core engaged the pelvis is tilted back to flatten the low back into the wall. With the whole spine thus anchored, the neck is kept back, lengthened up from the shoulders as the head is nodded forward to start the stretch down the back of the neck. When no more head movement is possible the neck is arched and the spine is sequentially peeled away from the wall, ideally, one vertebra at a time. All the while one works hard with the pelvic core to keep the entire spine glued to the wall below the flexing vertebrae. This takes the stretch progressively down the spine from the top of the neck, so whatever is tight can be dwelt on and released with deep relaxing breathing (all the while still maintaining core engagement). Once the spine feels more free the stretch can be taken further; by allowing the pelvis to tilt forward the hamstrings can be stretched; but keep the abdomen lifted to maintain the curve in the spine.
To return to the vertical concentrate on getting the pelvis upright setting the low back firmly against the wall before lengthening the rest of the spine into place, finishing with the neck, placing the head balanced directly above the shoulders.
This exercise is hard work for the core muscles of the abdomen and is one of several exercises that can be very effective at improving the flexibility of the mid/lower spine if done correctly.
My classes will show you both how and why and help you feel the most effective ways to do these exercises.
I wonder how many people you know who admit to being in pain, headaches, back pain, anywhere from shoulders to hips, being the most common sites. How does this pain impact on their lives? Do they cry off doing things or does their enjoyment of those things (and that of those around them) suffer? And what, if anything, do they do about it? Do they just say its "life" or "old age" or "you just have to put up with it" or "it'll ease in a bit"? They might take painkillers which are just putting a lid on the problem; they might see an osteopath or chiropractor or a physiotherapist who may help, at least for a while. I often see patients who have tried that route, often over many years, and are still trying to find a solution. They might try massage which comes in so many varieties - from soft, which may be nice and relaxing but with no long term pain resolution, to brutal which, from insensitive uneducated hands, is just painful and unlikely to produce lasting benefits. Pilates and other movement and posture exercise regimes can help over the long term to correct the common instigators of pain: however, the road can be very long and slow if tight muscles resist every attempt to change posture and movement. The muscles of a neck held for a long time in a poor position, already causing pain, are likely to feel even more uncomfortable with any attempt to correct the posture, unless it is very gradual.
My remedial massage is generally very effective, and I have had several excellent results this year particularly with headaches and neck pain. One reason for my success is that I give advice and instruction on how to correct posture and how to stretch the tight bits: so much more effective while the pain causing tightness has been released.
A couple of weeks ago a young patient that I hadn't seen for 2 years came to me with headaches that she had been enduring for over a month, the result of poor posture allied to too many hours at a computer as she works very hard for her final exams, it was the same problem I had helped her with before. A long and rather painful treatment session left her feeling much better (painful because deep treatment was necessary to undo enough tightness and trigger points to release most of her neck muscles, and long because one cannot hurry the release of deep painful tightness). I saw her for a follow up treatment a week later and she told me she had been headache free all week. I hope that if she follows my advice she will continue to remain headache free.
So why did this patient not come to me right away? The answer is human nature. First we wait to see if it will go away with time, a few painkillers and maybe some stretches. Then we give it a bit longer, knowing the treatment may be painful and costly. The problem with this approach is we end up putting up with a painful situation for far longer than we need to, with the associated reduced quality of life, not to mention how distracting pain can be to efficient work. Also, the longer tightness in muscles is allowed to build, the longer and more painful the treatment is likely to be; and there is also the possibility of knock-on-effects to other parts of the body.
Rather than be reactive I would like to suggest that if you are putting up with pain that you do something effective sooner rather than later. This could be some treatment followed up with exercises and constant posture awareness with occasional regular treatments and advice reinforcement; how often would depend on how good you were at looking after yourself! After all most of us, as symptoms improve and become less painful, will find it hard to maintain our self discipline with regard to stretching, exercises and posture control.
The end result of this regime?. A much better quality of life
So remember to look after your body; it matters
MIKE KER MSMA, MBCPA
Sports and Remedial Massage Practitioner
Body Control Pilates Teacher
T: 01494 452648
M: 07768 530896