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Want to Improve Your Squat? Improve Your Ankle Mobility

A very common question that I get from many people is: “how do I increase the depth of my squat?” The squat is not only an extremely effective, full-body exercise (if done correctly) but also a valuable tool in determining dysfunction (tight muscles, imbalances, compensations, etc.)

In order to squat well ( and pain-free) several events need to occur:

On the descent (Lowering):

1.) Hips Flex

2.) Knees Flex

3.) Ankles Dorsiflex

On the Ascent (Standing back up):

1.) Hips Extend

2.) Knees Extend

3.) Ankles plantarflex

Obviously, the perfect squat is much more complicated than that. There are several muscles and muscle groups that can greatly affect your mobility in your squat. Some of the more common culprits are Tight hip flexors, hamstrings, and gastrocs.

For many of you reading this, you have likely already foam rolled and stretched your muscles into oblivion. Some of you may have noticed results while others are left scratching their head. It all starts at your feet. Your lack of ankle mobility could not only be the reason that your squat depth is lacking but also the reason that you have hamstring, calve, or lower back pain.

Your feet are your foundation in the squat, so it is necessary to address the mobility of the ankle, particularly dorsiflexion (think toes to shins.) Many of us have restrictions in mobility in our ankles (especially those who have suffered some serious sprains causing the ligaments to shorten.) Runners, swimmers, tennis players, gymnasts this is likely a problem!

Quick Test for Ankle mobility:

Shin to Toe Test:

-Place one foot about 4″ away from a wall.

-Assume a kneeling lunge position facing the wall

-With your front foot planted, lean forward trying to get your knee to touch the wall

Could you do this? If not you likely have ankle mobility issues!

Try This: This same test above can be used a drill to improve your mobility in your ankles. Simply lean forward bringing your knee to the wall until you feel a stretch, then back off. Perform 3 sets of 10 reps.

The most of effective solution to improving your ankle (and likely your hip mobility) is a combination of stretching, drills, and chiropractic.

 

If you are interested in improving your mobility give us a call or schedule online: (781) 460-0939

 

Keep moving.

Dr. James Ellis

www.evolvedhealthchiropractic.com

(781) 460-0939

 

 

3 Gym Exercises to Avoid if You Have Shoulder Pain

This weeks blog post is inspired by a question I get frequently. “What exercises should I avoid for my shoulder?”Shoulder injuries are extremely prevalent in an athletic population. I would bet everyone knows someone who deals with chronic shoulder pain. Often times, the exercises we are doing can aggravate that condition making it worse, and more likely to undergo a more serious injury such as a tear.

What makes shoulder injuries so common? First off, the shoulder and the hip joint are two of the most mobile joints in your body, allowing for all ranges of motion. This also means that they can be quite unstable in many people. Much of this instability comes from muscle imbalances from poor, or improper posture. The forward drawn, rounded back posture wreaks havoc on your shoulders. The space needed for the rotator cuff muscles to pass through the subacromial space becomes too small, leading to friction, tendonitis, and eventually a tear. Whats more, the rounded shoulders locks down the joints in your neck and back. Since the scapula sits on the thoracic cage there is a direct correlation. With no extension present in you thoracic spine it is impossible for you to raise your arm above your head impingement free. Certain gym exercises can exacerbate this problem making it more likely for you to be seriously injured.

Avoid these 3 exercises and increase the health and longevity of your shoulders:

1.) Flat Barbell Bench Press: Many people with shoulder injuries find that they have more pain when doing chest press than shoulder press. Barbell bench press is an unatural movement and for those with tight, immobile shoulders can lead to a serious injury.

2.) Smith Machine Shoulder Press: Since the bar is set on a fixed path it leaves no variability for changes in movement which will cause potential compression of the shoulder tendons.

3.) Barbell Shrugs: Many people have developed rounded shoulders due to lifestyle as discussed above. carrying any amount of weight in front of your body is only going to further contribute to compression leading to injury.

We have helped many people recover from shoulder injuries. If you are experiencing pain in your shoulder don’t wait, call or schedule online today: (781) 460-0939

Keep Moving.

 

Dr. James Ellis

www.evolvedhealthchiropractic.com

Effective Relief for Golfer’s Elbow

Summer is upon us and that means a lot of Golf for many people. The problem is, many people have done little all winter in terms of exercise. This leads to deconditioning, and often times injury.

Tendinitis is one of the most common musculoskeletal ailments. I am sure many of you have experienced tendinitis at some point, many of you are probably dealing with it as you read this. Medial (Golfer’s Elbow), and lateral (Tennis Elbow) account for many tendinitis injuries. Medial epicondylitis also known as “Golfer’s Elbow” results when the muscles that flex the forearm and wrist (inside of the elbow) become irritate and inflamed due to over-use or repetitive motions such as swinging a golf club. Even simple activities such as typing or yard work can contribute to the condition. In many cases, the condition is caused by lifestyle (exercise, yard work, computer work, etc.) Repetitive motions can cause the muscles to continue to be inflamed and irritated. Without treatment this could lead to a more serious injury such as a tear.

What are the symptoms? Characteristically, most patients present with pain on the inside of the elbow and forearm. This pain may be sharp at times, patients often report burning, numbness, or tingling around the area as well. Grip strength weakness, swelling, or elbow stiffness may also be noted.

What is the recommended treatment? At initial onset, if swelling and heat are noted ice may be advised to reduce swelling. I typically recommend making the switch to moist heat after the first 24-48 hours. For chronic cases, heat is recommended. The first goal of treatment is to decrease pain and increase range of motion. Secondly, we want to strengthen and balance the muscles. This is accomplished by a combination of manual therapies including electrical stimulation, ultrasound, and manual therapy. Instrument Assisted Soft-Tissue Manipulation (IASTM) is a highly effective, specialized treatment for tendinitis. This procedure works by stimulating local inflammation triggering a healing response on a cellular level, to produce normal, healthy collagen and promote healing.

If you are experiencing pain or discomfort don’t wait, call or schedule online today: (781) 460-0939

Keep Moving.

Dr. James Ellis

www.evolvedhealthchiropractic.com

Resolve Chronic Sacroiliac (SI) Pain

It is generally understood (perhaps too well!) that chiropractors fix back pain (even though we do other things as well!) This is for good reason, chiropractic care can be a successful treatment for mechanical lower back pain, even the AMA recommends spinal manipulation before more invasive options are considered. More recently, spinal manipulation has been found to produce the best outcome when combined with exercise (vs exercise alone).

What is the sacroiliac joint (SI) and what is it’s significance? The Sacrum is the triangular shaped bone at the bottom of your spine. Initially, it is composed of 5 separate segments which will typically fuse later in life. The area where the last lumbar vertebrae (L5) meets the sacrum is known as the lumbosacral junction. This is known as a transitional segment as the articulation of joints changes. This change make the sacrum susceptible to injury. The Sacroiliac (SI) Joint is the articulation between the sacrum and the pelvis on either side. This joint acts a shock absorber, absorbing forces as you move. Surrounding the joint is many ligaments which makes movement of the SI joint minimal.

What causes SI Joint pain? Improper bio-mechanics of the spine and pelvis are a common cause of SI joint dysfunction. Tight hips and lower back muscles will pull on the joints and the ligaments irritating the area causing, hip, buttock, or lower back pain. Spinal manipulation in combination with specific exercise and stretching has been shown to be a very effective, long term solution to those suffering from chronic SI pain.

Not sure if you are experiencing SI Joint pain? Call or schedule online today and start healing.

Keep Moving.

Dr. James Ellis

www.evolvedhealthchiropractic.com

(781) 460-0939

Fix Your Posture- Part 2

In last week’s post I discussed the beginning stages of a “postural syndrome” that occurs due to many of our sedentary lifestyles. I addressed the upper trapezius, and levator scapulae muscles which become increasingly tight in many of us pulling our shoulders forward creating that “slumped” postural appearance and forward head carriage.

It is important to begin stretching these tight muscles immediately if you are experiencing back or neck pain. If these muscles stay in this abnormal strained position no matter how many times we mobilize the joints the muscles will be pulling everything right back.

 

Be patient! These postural distortions did not happen over-night and will not be fixed over night. Much like your muscles make the necessary connections to learn to ride a bicycle or a skateboard, your body will also adapt to abnormal postural stress’s creating a “postural syndrome” seen above.

Now that we have began stretching the tight, over-active, muscles, we must also address the muscles which have become under-active due to these compensations. The group of muscles that we will address today are known as the Deep Neck Flexors. Due to the forward head carriage (see above) these muscles become increasingly under-active due the over-activity of the upper trapezius and levator muscles, among others we will discuss.

The deep neck flexors are a group of muscles consisting of the Longus Colli, Longus Capitis,  Rectus Capitis Anterior, and Rectus Capitis Lateralis. This group of muscles is responsible for forward and side bending of the head and neck. They serve to support the weight of the head, and stabilize the head and neck; similar to the abdominal core making them essential for proper posture.

Click Here to read he full article!

Dr. James Ellis

www.evolvedhealthchiropractic.com

Getting to the Source of Your Neck Pain

Neck pain is a common complaint in today’s society where many of us spend far too much time sitting in front of the computer, whether it be for work or for pleasure. Many people find themselves experiencing neck pain that seems to come out of nowhere. Statistically, most people cannot recall the exact incident that caused their pain. Many find that certain activities may aggravate their condition and it may even seem to “come and go”, ultimately becoming more frequent over time.

When trying to determine the cause of your pain there is a few questions you can ask yourself before even seeking help from a provider. When did it start? What seems to make it worse? Does the pain travel or is it a local pain? There are a couple different scenarios that are most common in individuals that I will cover.

If the pain is a local type of pain without radiation below the shoulder it is likely a muscle and joint issue. Many people with this issue may report stiffness in the AM and a tired and achy feeling at the end of the day. Typically, a postural exam shows a forward head carriage and rounded shoulders creating an over-all “slumped” posture. The mechanism of injury is a matter of micro-trauma (sitting, bending, lifting). This will create joint dysfunction over-time. When normal joint movement is lost the muscles will become short and tight further restricting movement. This lack of movement eventually creates an inflammatory response resulting in pain. The discs in your spine that act as shock absorbers rely on movement for nutrition since there is no blood supply. Lack of movement leads to disc desiccation or “drying up” which may aggravate arthritic change or even spinal nerves.

Another scenario which typically has more of a memorable onset is nerve involvement due to disc injury. These patients are often between the ages of 20-40 and are typically active (or getting back into being active.) The same posture discussed above may be present creating that “slumped” appearance. Even a small shift in your head position can increase the amount of force directed through your spine putting you at greater risk of injury. The disc may begin to bulge over-time due to the increased pressure through poor posture or trauma and put pressure on one or more of the nerves exiting the spine. This condition is typically noted as producing burning or numbness that will typically travel below the elbow to the hand. Many patients report that it only affects certain fingers, and they can distinctly define the borders of numbness and/or pain. This may lead to permanent motor or sensory loss.

Left untreated, scenario one may progress to a disc/nerve issue described above. Consult your Chiropractic Physician for a postural analysis and a thorough examination to determine the cause of your pain. By freeing up the joints and muscles and correcting poor posture many people find immediate relief and increases in range of motion. Most importantly, you are taking strides towards better health and preventing future problems. Prevention is key!

Keep Moving.

Dr. James Ellis

www.evolvedhealthchiropractic.com

Improve Your Skiing This Winter With These 6 Drills

Now that the snow is about to start falling many of us will be hitting the slopes. If this is your only sport and you have not done much physical activity since last year you will likely find that your feet and lower legs are pretty sore the first few times out!

Skiing is a very physical activity. It requires coordination and harmony particularly among the muscles of the legs and hips. If you are more of a “weekend warrior” you are at greater risk of injury  since skiing requires both mobility and flexibility (both of which will likely be lacking if untrained). The following drills and stretches are aimed at correcting and coordinating the balance of the muscles of the leg and trunk. If done regularly they can prevent injury and even improve you skiing!

Since skiing requires first and foremost adequate length of the gastroc and soleus complex (calves) it should be made a point to begin stretching these daily (twice if you can). Hold each stretch about a minute.

1.) Hamstring stretch with towel- lying on your back and keeping your leg straight wrap a hand towel around your foot and pull up while maintaining full extension. Stop once you feel the stretch and hold.

2.) Seated Glute stretch- Sitting, cross one leg across the other creating a figure 4. Slowly bend at the waist, noting a stretch in your hip and glute. Stop once you feel the stretch and hold.

3.) Double knee to chest- Lying on your back, pull both knees into your chest. Stop once you feel the stretch in your lower back and hold.

Foot Drills:

Perform these drills daily or every workout day. Repeat each drill once for 25m. All should be done barefoot with the exception of walking on the heels which should be performed in shoes.

1.) Walk with feet in Inversion (Inside up)

2.) Walk with feet in Eversion (Outside up)

3.) Walk toes pointed in

4.) Walk with toes out

5.)Walk backwards on toes (Heels up, backwards)

6.) Walk on heels (toes up shoes on)

foot drills

 

Keep Moving.

 

Dr. James Ellis

www.evolvedhealthchiropractic.com

shoulder Impingement Fix for Over-head Athletes

Having a practice in a gym, I see many athletes from traditional sports such as football and baseball players, and also Cross-Fit, Bodybuilding, and Powerlifting athletes. One common denominator in many of these athletes is shoulder problems; particularly when striving for that lock out above head (which is a big part of Cross-Fit and Olympic type lifting.)

The problem is not the motion itself, it is achievable and pain-free in those with healthy shoulders. In reality however, most people’s shoulders are not as “healthy” as they think and will eventually be injured unless some intervention is made. Scapulohumeral and scapulothoracic rhythm refers to the ability of all of the muscles of the shoulder complex to work together in sync during over-head movements. When this is all in sync, no shoulder problems are usually noted. However, In todays society majority of people have some underlyeing shoulder issues that prevent this from occurring.

I addressed shoulder biomechanics before, if you missed that post click here.  In order for “healthy” shoulder abduction to occur the shoulder blade must retract and rotate upwards allowing for a clear space for the tendons to pass under the acromion. In order  for this to occur the rhomboids and mid to lower trapezius needs to be firing appropriately. It also happens that these are two of the more common problems areas for muscle activation in most people. We need to neurologically turn these on!

How do we do this? Step number one is to have your thoracic mobility checked by a chiropractor as this is directly related to scapulothoracic rhythm. We can then look at a few activation exercises.

Shoulders are a naturally unstable joint so it is all about prevention!

Then, Give these exercises a try and enjoy a healthier shoulder!

1.) Standing Bent Row’s from a low pully- An easy modification to the traditional seated row is to stand instead of sitting. Find a low pulley, attach the traditional pull-down bar,  knees bent, core tight and focus on squeezing the shoulder blades together. You will feel this in your rhomboids and your mid to lower lats/traps if performed correctly. You can also easily switch it up by changing grips, handles etc.

2.) Standing modified pull-downs- Using a traditional pull-down station, stand about a foot behind the seat in a split stance. Using the traditional lat pull-down bar aim to pull your shoulder blades down and back.

3.) Face-Pulls with a Rope Attachment- Again using a traditional lat pull-down station or a high cable pulley, attach the rope, assume a split stance position and aim to pull the rope toward eye level, separating the two handles while contracting your back by pinching your shoulder blades together (down and back back.)

 

Keep Moving.

 

Dr. James Ellis

www.evolvedhealthchiropractic.com

Improve Your Hip Mobility

Much like your shoulder mobility, your hips are also negatively effected by the effects of sitting at that dreaded desk job 40+ hours a week. When discussing your “hip mobility” I am referring to the ability of the pelvis to adapt in different daily movements, such as walking, running, bending down or squatting. It is vital for our spines that hips move the way they are supposed to avoid excessive flexion of your spine. As many of you may know or have heard, when bending down or squatting down we want to limit flexion of the spine. We have all heard “lift with your legs”, the concept behind this is that it will prevent you from flexing your spine forward. Flexion and rotation under a load is one of the main risk factors for a disc herniation.

What is “hip mobility?” With our sedentary lifestyles our muscles become imbalanced, or inhibited which can hinder the ability of the hips to move the way they need to. Why does this occur? If you are sitting now pay attention to your current posture. You will likely find that you are slumped forward a bit and your lower back is slightly rounded, abs at rest, hips and knees bent. You may even “feel” your lower back. The problem occurs from too much sitting, too often. Overtime, much like learning to ride a bike, your muscles like your hamstrings and hip flexors will begin to assume this shortened position. Your core muscles (deep in the abs) will become inhibited because they are not needed to stabilize your body in a sitting position, and your glute muscles are of no use either. This means that your lower back that you just noticed is slightly flexed is now essentially the sole stabilizer of your upright posture. This is fine because you are stable when sitting, but what about when you go to get up, run, or exercise? This is where many begin to experience problems. Many people with lower back pain find that the pain has come on slowly or perhaps all of the sudden; either way, this pain is likely a result of an underlying issue that has been going on for quite some time and your body is now beginning to recognize.

How do we assess “hip mobility?” This could be as simple as a gait assessment, however, my favorite way to assess an active population is through an over-head squat. The squat is a foundational movement in humans, much like crawling. This will bring out even latent movement issues. When we begin to descend in a squat of utmost importance is to maintain a “neutral spine.” This is the position between flexion and extension where we are bracing our abdomen not allowing the back to round. In someone with the issues described above we may begin to notice the pelvis begin to “curl under” as we descend otherwise known as a “but wink”. At what point we will notice this will depend on a few factors: hamstring (and calf length), lower back tightness, core stability, balance, and of course your anatomy. Not everyone is meant to squat under a weight glutes to heels (all the way down). However, everyone should be able to perform a parallel squat.

Your body is fantastic at achieving your desired movement even if you have to recruit other muscles. If your hamstrings, hips, and lower back are tight the joints in your spine cannot and will not move the way they need to creating “hypomobilities” . With this “hypomobility” of some joints your body will begin to compensate, using other joints and muscles too much leading to extra wear and tear. Perhaps of most importance is the fact that your discs in your spine act as shock absorbers and spacers limiting friction and absorbing impact. Discs have no blood supply (except the outer layer), rather they rely on movement for nutrition. When the joints are hypomobile (stuck) your discs are getting inadequate nutrition which may over time lead to degeneration, or disc herniations. Combine the harmful effects of sitting 8 hours a day with someone who is otherwise active with sports, weight-lifting, or running and they will eventually be injured.

How do You improve it?
•Get up and move hourly from your desk! Even if it is only a brief walk to the water cooler.
•Stretch your hamstrings and calves
•Foam roll your back and hamstrings before and after exercise to “warm up” the muscles.
•Get adjusted! This will relieve the muscle tension establishing normal joint movement which is oh so important.

Keep Moving!

Dr. James Ellis

Evolved Health Chiropractic & Sports Medicine

(781) 460-0939

www.evolvedhealthchiropractic.com