overhead shot of ginger, turmeric and vitamin pills on a blue background

Supplements for Healthy Joints

There are tons of ways to help yourself maintain flexibility and balance in life! Exercising, eating the right foods, getting enough rest, stretching out, and practicing meditation are all good methods if flexibility is your goal. Another way to help your body is with vitamins. Below are three supplements we think will help you on your quest towards a more flexible life.

TURMERIC
Turmeric is an ancient spice used for thousands of years in Eastern medicine. It is an attractive plant having a pink flower but it actually the bright orange root that is used medicinally. The powder we see used in cooking, and now in vitamins, is the ground root of the plant. Recently, we in the West have woken up to the wonderful health benefits of this spice. Why is this? What’s so wonderful about turmeric? With regards to joint health, turmeric is awesome because of its anti-inflammatory properties. The active ingredient in turmeric is curcumin which has the ability to block out an enzyme that causes inflammation in the body. Great news for those suffering from arthritis! It is now believed that inflammation plays a massive part in many diseases prevalent in the Western world including cancer, heart disease and Alzheimer’s. 

So, how can you get turmeric into your body?
Turmeric is poorly absorbed by the body and you would need to eat a huge amount of it to get the health benefits we described above. Not to worry, turmeric vitamin supplements are now readily available. Make sure capsules are of a high enough strength. You should be taking 500-1000mg of the active ingredient curcumin per day. One other thing to note is that black pepper increases the body’s absorption rate of this vitamin. Many turmeric supplements contain black pepper which helps with absorption. If not, try taking a whole black peppercorn with your tablets. For more information on the health benefits of turmeric click here.

TART CHERRIES
Tart cherries, or as they are sometimes known, sour cherries, have a multitude of health benefits. For joint health we are particularly interested in the fact that they contain anthocyanins and bioflavonoids which inhibit certain enzymes that cause bodily inflammation. They are believed to act in a similar way to aspirin or ibuprofen but with no side effects. In addition, tart cherries contain melatonin that promotes restful sleep. Often those with joint pain are continually woken by pains and don’t get enough sleep. This could be of benefit twofold.

How do you get this good stuff inside you?
Two 8oz glasses of Montmorency cherry juice per day will suffice. Alternatively, 2 tablespoons of concentrated juice will work. Don’t like juice or want to avoid the sugars? Tart cherry juice is available in a capsule form as well.

COLLAGEN
Collagen comes from the Greek word kola meaning glue, and in a real sense, collagen is the glue that holds our bodies together. Collagen is the most abundant protein in our bodies but by age 21 our body’s supply begins to deplete.

So how can collagen help us in our quest for flexibility?
Having enough collagen ensures that joints, bones, tendons, cartilage as well as skin and hair can self-renew effectively. Collagen studies have shown that oral supplements of collagen can prevent and even reverse the effects of collagen loss and alleviate joint pain and injury associated with high-impact exercise. More great news for those suffering from arthritis! In a study over 120 days, healthy subjects who experienced joint pain saw significant improvements in joint function and flexibility as a result of taking collagen supplements. Click here for more in-depth details.

woman in blue top drinking water with headphones in

4 Ways Drinking Water Makes You More Flexible

That’s right, drinking water makes you more flexible folks. FACT! Read below to see how and why…

1. Hydrated Muscles are Flexible Muscles
The human body is made up of 70% water, which means the muscles are also 70% water. When you’re dehydrated, muscles are dehydrated too and they will not extend and contract in the way they are meant to when fully hydrated. Dehydration makes them inflexible.

2. Hydration Increases Strength
Hydrated muscles are strong muscles. Strength is adversely affected by dehydration because if you don’t drink enough water your muscles will be deprived of electrolytes and cramp. You won’t have as much physical strength as you would if you were fully hydrated.

3. Proper Hydration Lessens Post-Exercise Soreness
Dehydration during exercise can exasperate muscle soreness after workouts. That’s right folks! You will feel the post-exercise burn way more if you exercise on dehydrated muscles. So why does this happen? Lack of water dramatically affects the flow of oxygen in the blood and the removal of waste products from your body resulting in delayed onset muscle soreness or DOMS which is the pain you often feel a day or two after working out.

4. Hydrated Joints are More Flexible
Joints are lubricated by synovial fluid, an oily, water-based fluid that manufactured by your body to keep your joints functioning properly. So, what happens if your body has a lack of water? That’s right, you guessed it, the fluid is depleted and joint stiffness is the result. And no one wants that, right?!

So, folks, there you have it! 4 ways drinking water makes you more flexible. If you want to stay flexible, stay hydrated! But how much water is enough we hear you cry? Half your body weight in fluid ounces per day is a good general guideline but you will need to take in more when exercising or when it is very hot.

girl doing side plank in a living room

Cost Effective and Convenient Daily Health Hacks

By Jennifer McGregor

Do you avoid healthy habits because they seem like too much trouble or because they’re too expensive? Actually, living healthy doesn’t have to cost a lot of money or disrupt your busy schedule – self-care can be convenient and cost-effective. Here are a few ideas for working healthy habits into your everyday life seamlessly and affordably:

Exercise at home

If your idea of exercise is a crowded gym and a costly membership, there’s good news. You can get effective exercise at home, work, or while doing simple, everyday chores. Exercising in place costs nothing, takes a little time, and can benefit you substantially. A recent study found that doing a few 30-second sprints (four or five) can provide cardiovascular benefits on par with a 40-to-60-minute workout.

The idea is to get your heart pumping, so try sprinting around the block a few times after work and on the weekends. If the weather doesn’t permit, simply jump in place for four minutes (you’ll definitely feel the burn) in front of the television or before going to bed. If the family dog could use some exercise, take him on a short run or jog after dinner.

Stock up on affordable equipment

A good workout doesn’t require a visit to the gym, because you can set up an effective exercise space at home. And you can do it without investing thousands of dollars in high-tech equipment. Free weights, kettlebells, a smart scale and an activity tracker can help put you on the path to weight loss, improved strength and flexibility, and enhanced mood. When you decide to upgrade your workout space, check out affordable retailers like Best Buy so your home gym doesn’t exceed your budget. Also be sure to research Best Buy coupons, promo codes and sales so you can save even more. Exercising at home will make it easier to stay motivated and stay in shape.

Work out at work

If your busy work schedule keeps you in the office 8 or more hours a day, you’re probably spending a lot of time in a sedentary position, which won’t help your weight loss efforts or benefit your heart. You can exercise in place at the office just as well as you can at home, and you don’t need an in-office treadmill. Try doing some isometric exercises while seated at your desk, do your four-minute jumping routine, or download Break Pal (just $20), which prompts you for a three-minute workout every 30 minutes.

Dining out

Following a healthy diet doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a delicious meal out now and then without having to spend a lot. There are plenty of good vegetarian restaurants that offer a wide selection of affordable and healthy dishes. If you haven’t tried Mediterranean foods (Greek, Lebanese, Moroccan, etc.), you’re missing out on healthy and delicious eating. It’s affordable, and the benefits of a Mediterranean diet have been scientifically proven.

Socialize

Studies have shown that socializing with friends can improve brain health and reduce the risk of dementia. Interacting with people who care about you can also strengthen the immune system, alleviate depression, and may even lead to a longer, healthier life. Schedule a weekly get-together over coffee or at the movies or, if you’re looking to reduce expenses, schedule a potluck dinner with everyone bringing a dish. If your friends’ schedules make it difficult to get together, FaceTime and Skype make it easy to stay in face-to-face contact with the people who mean the most to you. Don’t waste time and money on equipment and exercise programs that promise weight loss, muscle gain and a sculpted body. Focus instead on simple and inexpensive practices that produce incremental improvements in your health. That includes exercise, diet, socialization, restful sleep and maintaining a healthy work-life balance.

3 sets of feet in the sand next to a blue stripy bag

Look After Your Feet

Feet are a super-important body part. We need them to get around, and when they hurt it affects us greatly and can make us thoroughly miserable. Since StretchSPOT opened, many people have come to us because their feet hurt. Some don’t know why they are in pain but they want a solution.

WHY DO FEET HURT?
• You work standing up all day.
• Your shoes do not fit you well and may be too tight or too big.
• You play sports and you don’t stretch.
• You never considered stretching your toes.
• You have Plantar Fasciitis characterized by pain and often lumps in the bottom of the foot.
• You have Achilles Tendinitis which is characterized by pain felt in the heel and calf and is caused by inflammation of the Achilles tendon which attaches your calf muscles to your heel bone.

WHAT CAN YOU DO TO HELP SORE FEET?
If you work on your feet all day, when you can, take a load off! If you think your shoes are the problem make sure they fit you well and that, if you have wide feet, you get a shoe with a wider fitting. Be sure to replace your shoes on a regular basis to ensure you have the right support. Look at getting to know your feet better. Start with stretching your toes (see below). If you think you are suffering from Plantar Fasciitis or Achilles Tendinitis, seek out a treatment. StretchSPOT can help you alleviate and treat both of these conditions.
Click here to learn more about Plantar Fasciitis.
Click here to learn more about Achilles Tendinitis.

WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO TAKE CARE OF YOUR FEET?
• Proper foot care helps avoid foot problems such as hammer toes and bunions, hooks, or curled feet.
• Taking care of feet can help retain space in between your toes which helps avoid athlete’s foot or other fungal infections.
• Foot care helps with maintaining a full range of motion of your toes independently. This can help prevent problems with your feet like Plantar Fasciitis.

STRETCHES FOR FEET
We got these cool stretches from an article we read called Why You Need Toe Stretches on healthline.com
• Take your toes in your hands and bend them all downward, to stretch the top of your foot.
• Take your toes in your hands and bend them all upward, enough to feel a nice stretch in the bottom of your foot, not just the toes.
• Pull each toe apart from the next.
• Pull the little and big toes away from each other at once, restoring healthy width to the front of the foot.
• Pull any toes that are bent up until they are back downward. Pull bent down areas gently straight and pull curled toes straight out to restore straight length.
So, there you have it folks. Take care of your feet and they will serve you well!

healthy food

What to Eat to Avoid Inflammation

You are special and your body knows it. Your defense mechanism, your immune system, is actively fighting off foreign microbes, pollen, and chemicals which, in turn, cause the inflammatory response. Small doses, defined as acute inflammation, protect your health. This is completely normal.

The issue lies with a chronic and persistent inflammatory response which is unhealthy. It can cause problems in almost every organ in your body and is linked to major diseases like cancer, heart disease, arthritis, depression, and diabetes. Doctors are continually learning about new approaches to inflammation and how to treat it. One of the best approaches is to focus on what you eat. There are so many foods that can help you reduce inflammation and you can buy them at the store today. Help your body from the inside with these healthy anti-inflammatory foods:

Tomatoes

Contains phytochemical and lycopene which have impressive anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.

Olive Oil

Oleocanthal is a compound found in olive oil. This prevents the production of enzymes that cause inflammation. To gain the most benefits it is best not to heat this oil as it breaks down the compound.

Berries

There is a compound in berries called Anthocyanins which possess anti-inflammatory properties. Anthocyanins are also responsible for the distinctive colors of red, blue, and purple in berries. So go colorful today and grab two healthy handfuls of your favorite berry. Eat fresh, frozen, or blend to make a smoothie.

Green Leafy Vegetables

Spinach, kale, and collard greens are perfect examples which all contain significant concentrations of vitamins and other nutrients that have been found to reduce chronic inflammation. Heating can destroy some of the nutrients, but can also make these easier to heat. Whatever way you like them, eat your greens!

Nuts

Very nutrient dense, nuts give us a high percentage of good, healthy fat and provide elements which have a major anti-inflammatory effect. Go ahead and eat a few handfuls of almonds, hazelnuts, pecans, and peanuts to provide you with an excellent source of vitamin E which is a powerful antioxidant and has been proven to reduce inflammation. What a perfect snack idea!

Fatty Fish

Fish like salmon, mackerel, sardines, anchovies, or trout all are excellent sources of omega-3 fatty acids which has been proven to lower chronic inflammation.

Eat these foods on a daily basis and heal your body from the inside. Happy eating!

bird dog yoga pose

What is Prehab?

Hate getting injuries that stop your daily routine? One way to help stop them from happening is to start a solid prehab routine. Prehab you say? What is Prehab?

Pre-habilitation, or prehab, is the process of helping yourself steer away from preventable injuries and working on your areas of weakness which can evolve into an issue down the exercise road. Prehab is often overlooked simply because one might see it as something they don’t need right now or it’s a waste of time, but when injury hits, you can only wish you had invested a little of your time into the things which can get you back to neutral.

The best way to increase fitness over the months is to be consistent in your routine and one of the main factors towards that is staying injury free and continuing your work without interruptions. This often means spending time working on joint mobility, stability, and strength. Prehab prepares your body for the long-term and the exercises strengthen the areas that often see the most stress in our everyday movements: your hips, core and shoulders. By strengthening these areas, you will improve your posture and alignment, allowing your joints to move more efficiently. By committing to prehab you’ll be less likely to get those horrible aches and pains that can cause chronic or even debilitating pain.

When working on your prehab exercises you have to focus on correct form. Without correct form, you may as well not be doing the exercises. Be patient and be diligent with these exercises and your body will love you in the long term and you’ll be able to continue doing what you love.

You should be aiming to perform prehab exercises between two to six times a week and the best time to perform it is near the start of a workout as part of your warm-up routine. Many movements can be done without equipment so there’s no excuse! Get your body to neutral and complete these two vital prehab exercises for your lower back, shoulders and core strength:

Bird Dog

This is a key prehab movement. Start on your knees and hands, also known as the table top position. Then, maintaining a neutral spine and tight core, extend opposite arm and leg to full extension. Hold for one second remembering to maintain consistent breathing throughout. See blog post image.

RKC Plank

This is similar to a traditional plank exercise, only tougher. Get into the plank position which is on your toes and forearms. Feet together and face towards the ground. Clenching your hands into fists aim to widen your shoulder blades apart. Now this is the good part of this exercise.

trigger points body diagram

What are Trigger Points?

The term ‘trigger point’ is something you have most likely heard of, but probably know little about. If you have ever had someone treat your trigger points, you know they are a painful annoyance and very tender when worked on.

Basically trigger points form because of muscle injuries, strains, and trauma. When the fibers of the muscle, fascia, ligaments, or tendons become damaged, overworked, overstretched, or inflamed there are tiny tears which occur in the tissue. When the tissue is healing it contracts and becomes twisted and knotted. Blood supply is often restricted in these knotted fibers and a shortening of the muscle fibers is a kind of defense mechanism to protect itself from further injury.

Stress, either physical or emotional, can also influence muscles which can result in a knot or trigger point, resulting in a decreased range of motion and restricted movement around the area. Trigger points can feel like a hard, rope-like or knotted band in the muscle. Picture a string with a knot in it. Your body is more or less 40% muscle fibers so there is a lot of opportunities for these dreaded trigger points to cause you pain.

If you have knotted up muscles and your therapist starts working on ironing out those trigger points, then they will essentially aim to stretch the muscle fibers out and release the pain. You can get your fingertips, thumbs, fist, elbow or whatever feels easiest and most comfortable to you if you want to attack them yourself. For harder to reach spots you might try a tennis, golf or lacrosse ball. Using one of these balls will focus on the point and do a lot better job than a foam roller which is used for a broader area approach to muscle therapy. The goal of this type of self treatment is to achieve a “release”. Aim to stimulate the trigger point by applying a medium, not overly painful, pressure on the point. The trigger point may feel sore for a few hours after you have self treated it, but soon calm down within 24 hours and you should notice a reduction in tightness.

After the release it is a great time to start stretching out the muscles. You should feel some good relief from the stretching, but if you don’t and it even increases the pain then go back to trying to release the trigger point again. You may need to do this cycle several times before you know that you have essentially untied that knot in your muscle.

Relieving your pain from these trigger points and knots is one thing, but you really have to find out why they occurred in the first place so you can stop them from always returning.

close up of fascia

What is Fascia and Why is it so Important?

Have you ever had myofascial release? Lots of people have had it done, but what exactly is ‘fascia’? Why do I need it ‘released’? And why is it so important to keep healthy?

 Your body, as a unit, is supported and protected by fascia as well as your muscles and organs. It plays an important supportive role to the musculoskeletal system as it provides a strong protective sheath around our entire body. Think of fascia like an orange, yes the fruit. Your skin would be like the rind of the orange and if you peeled back that rind you’d see a thick, white, fibrous layer. That thick white part of the orange encompasses the fruit and binds the rind to the center and this is exactly what the fascia does. So next time you peel an orange think of your fascia!

Our body is protected from head to toe with this fascia system that serves as a protective, bonding barrier to our deep soft tissue. Fascia can also be visualized as similar in appearance to a spider’s web. Not only is fascia covering our body right underneath our skin but it is densely woven and penetrating every muscle, bone, nerve, blood vessel and even the organs like our heart, lungs, brain and spinal cord. The stickiness and fine strong fibers of a spider’s web is similar to your fascia. So why is fascia so important then? It is important because it enables you to perform everyday activities as basic as sitting and standing. Do you need to keep it healthy? Without a doubt. What if the fascia gets damaged? Well fascia, in its normal state is relaxed and able to stretch and move without restriction, but when you experience physical injury the fascia loses flexibility and becomes tight, restricted, and tense. This is that pain you feel before your therapist talks about releasing the tension. Myofascial release is working on fascia linked to and within the muscle which becomes distorted and can pull, twist, and compress the body into misalignment.

Hopefully you can see how important fascia is and the most interesting part is there is still so much scientists are learning about it. Keeping this very important system healthy is vital for your overall health and wellness. Hydration is a big factor. Drink lots of water as it helps fascia deliver nutrients and remove waste and toxins from cells. Regular exercise obviously helps blood flow and muscle movement, but teamed up with a solid stretching routine can help decrease tension buildup in the muscles and fascia. Your body is amazing and your fascia system has a lot to do with that, so be kind to it and stretch, walk and hydrate to a healthier you.

back walking massage

Back Walking Massage

Imagine laying face down on the massage table with your head in the hole. The massage therapist is hovering over you and kneading your back muscles with their heels of their feet working on those pressure points in your shoulders and back. It’s not your run-of-the-mill massage, but it is one getting more and more popular because of the large number of benefits it delivers.

There is a centuries-old massage technique growing in popularity in North America, one which gives increased feeling of well-being and stress relief among other benefits. Back Walking, also known as Ashiatsu, is a bare foot massage option for anyone looking for an extremely beneficial and relaxing deep tissue massage. The word Ashiatsu is derived from ‘ashi’, which means foot, and ‘atsu’ which means pressure. This ancient Eastern massage technique involves a trained therapist using their feet to walk gently up and down the back of a client. The therapist uses pressure to manipulate the muscles through long, flowing strokes, pushing, and pulling movements. The therapist’s own body weight helps obtain a deep tissue massage much more penetrating than that performed by the hands and clients quickly feel the benefits of this type of pressure. Controlled pushing, or kneading, of the muscles can loosen even the tightest areas and can free up all the tension for months of relief. With all of this deep tissue talk a person might think it would be painful or distressing, but it’s quite the opposite. The therapist is commonly holding onto a bar positioned above their head to keep a steady and supportive posture and therefore, doesn’t allow for full bodyweight to be applied on the clients back and body. The pressure is controlled and can be eased or elevated depending on the clients needs and it is always focused on the muscles, never pushing on the joints or spine. While the client gets a deep, relaxing massage the therapist can get quite the workout as the movements are gliding and pushing, similar to a slow dance.

There are many exciting benefits from Back Walking, or Ashiatsu, deep tissue massage that will elevate your well-being and work out those problem areas. Some of the benefits include:

  • Stress relief by providing deep muscle penetration
  • Lymphatic system stimulation to help move waste products from the body
  • Improve flexibility by elongating and kneading the deep muscle fibers
  • Improves posture by reducing stress in the back and shoulder muscles
  • Releases trigger point tensions
  • Help alleviate inflammation in the joints and muscles
  • Improve overall well-being

Want to help that chronic pain, those stiff joints, and tight muscles then walk out of the ordinary massage zone and let a trained Ashiatsu massage therapist walk on you.