Friday, April 17, 2015

7 Quick Takes Friday

1) This is such a weird morning for me, and it's been kind of a weird and long week. I feel like I need to get ready for work, but I don't because I'm going to a conference. If the weather allows. And if I get my packing done. I hope it'll be good. The topic that I'm going for is one that I'm really interested in learning more, but I'm a little nervous because a brief glance at the handouts that I printed out look like stuff that even I know. So we'll see. From what I hear, the presenter is pretty good, so I'll go ahead and assume that he does a bare bones power point and gives us the real info at the talk. Hopefully?

2) I am way behind in blog reading, but I'm really okay with that. I kind of like knowing that when I have a few minutes to sit down and relax, I'll have plenty to read. I'm starting to catch up a little, but this weekend will probably put me behind again.

3) I think the presentation that I helped with this week went well, and it was actually pretty fun. It totally wore me out, but it was worth it. Hopefully it will also help us to get some of the best kind of business (the fix things before they get totally out of hand kind; so much more fun and generally much easier than the I can't move anymore, so I guess I'll try PT kind).

4) If you're interested in a short read about movement and how to use your feet (and thus the rest of your body) better, this is a great book for that! It has a lot of exercises for your feet (with pictures) and some great explanations of how the feet affect your overall movement health. Don't be scared off by "barefoot" in the title. It doesn't mean that you have to walk around barefoot all the time or wear 5 finger shoes (unless you want to; in which case it will help you get to that point safely). It will explain why are feet could be doing so much more than what we ask of them, and it will make you think about your shoe choices going forward. Those are good things.

5) I may have bragged on fb that I haven't been nearly as bad with my hunger lately, and then a mere hours later had a total meltdown because I got too hungry. Seriously! I know that moms should never brag about how well their kids are sleeping on the internet, but I didn't think that would be a problem.

6) Can you tell that my brain is beyond fried from this week? How am I going to make 3 days of sitting in classes? Should be interesting.  Hope you have a wonderful weekend! Head on over to Kelly's for more Quick Takes.

Perhaps the first time I've gotten a photo of the moon that wasn't just a bright, blurry blob.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Life: Crazy, Beautiful, Challenging

Let's be honest. It may not be life that's crazy, it may be me. The lines are a little blurred at this point.

So, I traveled last weekend. It was great to see family, but crazy stressful to drive that far in a short period of time. I'm not in the least bit caught up from all of that, and I will be at a conference this coming weekend that I have no time to get ready for. I also have a presentation that I have to help give this Wednesday that could be hugely helpful to work if we present it well, but I'm not always the best at presentations... Some prayers would be welcome. I'm super excited about the possibility of being able to help people challenge and change some of their movement limitations, but also somewhat nervous. I sometimes find it hard to really communicate it to people, especially in a large group.

Last week was kind of a big anniversary for me. On April 4, 2010, my life looked pretty set. My company was transferring me to a small town, and I was considering buying a house or a condo in that area. My company was celebrating its 15th anniversary, and I figured I would be there for their 20th. On April 5, 2010 it all changed. I had a day off, and my plans for the day fell through. I was so upset, and I had to figure out why. I realized that I felt stuck and that my life where I was was falling apart. Everything that had been going so well for several years was changing. It suddenly occurred to me that it was time to revisit a long dormant- but never dead- dream of moving to the mountains. It seemed like a bit of a crazy and drastic response, but I didn't really know if anything would come of it anyway. It turned out that within about 5 minutes of first having this crazy idea and deciding to look online for a job, I found a listing that led to the job that I still have. Let me tell you, that is a weird, weird feeling when you realize that a sudden and completely crazy whim could actually become a reality. By June 5, 2010, I had moved.

It was crazy and surreal. Challenging. Amazing. In retrospect, it's hard to believe where my life is right now. How am I a climber who is now looking for a bike so that I can start training for a cycling trip to the Alps? How did I go from nearly completely sedentary to climbing mountains for my weekend fun? How I see myself has changed completely. What I consider possible has changed completely. I no longer feel the least bit stagnant in my profession; I am so excited by the possibilities and new ideas for different patients. I miss the Midwest, and particularly the people there more than I could say, but the mere idea of leaving the mountains makes me die a little inside.

Life here still has all sorts of frustrations and challenges. I am still no closer to being married. My allergies keep causing all sorts of insanity. I love the people in my life and really feel that in many ways I am here to pray for them, and hopefully minister to them in whatever small way that I can. However, I don't really have anyone right now who is a good anchor for my faith. I miss that. A lot. In some ways my job is amazing, but we try to do things better, which means that it's not the easy way, and it's not the way to make the most possible money. Sometimes I just wish it were easier, you know?

But isn't that how life is? Beautiful, wonderful, amazing, but not so much easy.

Easter 2015

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Moving through Lent: Stand Up!

My excuses for the lateness of this post are many. Some good, some not so good. This is such an important topic and can make such a big difference.... And I'm not sure that I can do it any justice at all. Largely because I don't have any photos to include and this really requires some visuals, in my opinion. I will do my best to explain it, and I will certainly link to several other places that explain it WITH much needed photos. I know, most of us don't have time to click through on links. In this case it's only vital that you do so if you want to learn how to stand better.  Which, if you stand a lot, you might be thinking, "Oh, I'm good. I can stand." But if you are not standing well, you are breaking down tissues. Poor standing contributes to things like (but certainly not limited to) bunions, hammertoes, plantarfasciitis, anterior knee pain, knee arthritis, meniscus tears, hip arthritis, hip labral tears, sciatic pain, disc problems in the low back, arthritis in the low back, upper shoulder pain (you know, that spot that everyone's tight), shoulder impingement and rotator cuff tears, neck pain, disc problems in the neck, TMJ pain.  Again, the list is far from all inclusive, but it gives you a good start on the issues that we are talking about. Not to mention that the normal way that most of us stand also makes our balance worse and we are more likely to do things like fall on the ice.  Let me tell you, I've seen a lot of the effects of things like that this winter!

In other words, standing well is extremely important.

The main thing to think about is standing in a vertical line. Are you all stacked up? Are your hips over your ankles and your knees? Is your spine stacked nicely, or do you "hinge" in the middle? Is your head over your shoulders?

Most people stand with their hips in front of their ankles. Why? Because we're tight and it's habit. With shoes that have heels (by that I mean the heels are higher than the toes, so even athletic shoes), and sitting so much of our day, we tighten up and it becomes very difficult to be straight. If you're not sure what I mean, this post explains it well with some great photos. Figuring out whether your hips are over your ankles is a fairly quick and simple fix to standing, and I'm telling you, it can help immensely!

Another thing that is difficult for most of us is getting our back in a nice, straight line. Again, a lot of this is tightness in certain muscles due to our alignment habits when we try to move. I'm not even going to attempt to explain this without photos, but here's another post that you can check out that helps to explain some of that.

Head over the shoulders. Great way to check this is to stand with your back to the wall and see if the back of your head is against the wall. If it's not, can you get it there without straining and while keeping your chin parallel to the ground. If it's a strain, or if you can get your head back, but now your chin is pointing up, you've got some work to do. (Best thing to work on is trying to hold your head a little straighter than it is now; so move it towards the wall as far as you can without the strain and with the chin staying parallel to the floor, and try to maintain that alignment. As you go, you should be able to start to move closer and closer to the wall with less strain.)

Let's talk about how much this can take strain off all your body parts. First I want you to imagine a stick or a dowel rod that you are holding straight up and down (resting on the floor). Put a bowling ball on the end of that rod. If you continue to hold it straight up and down, how much work do you have to do to hold it up? Now, if you slightly tilt the rod, think about how much work you suddenly have to do to hold everything up. When we stand with our hips out in front, this is the strain going through our joints and muscles.

Another way to think about it, is imagine a stack of blocks that a young child has built. One is slightly off compared to another all the way up. You know that it's unstable and is going to fall quickly. When we don't stand up straight, that's essentially what we have going on in our bodies, and now our muscles have to strain to keep us from toppling over.

I hope that makes a little sense. Have a wonderful Holy Week!

Monday, March 23, 2015

Too Many Things! But Mostly a 2 Month Budgeting Update

I now have so many things to write about, that I don't know what post to start on. Do I do a movement post, and what do I talk about if I do that? There are still so many great topics. I am going to do at least one more movement post on standing, but I may end up stopping those here and putting them up on my public blog instead. It would be easier to do them where I at least feel that I have the option of putting up photos. Plus there are a lot of people that I know in a less "anonymous" way that would also like to know more about that stuff, too. (You are MORE than welcome to follow along there, and if you don't know where that is, just email me at catholicmutt(at)gmail(dot)com and I will send you the address. I just don't like to directly link to it from here.)

Umm, so I might have gotten really intense at RCIA the other night. We've been going over Theology of the Body, and I absolutely love that we do that, but it always gets shoved only down the path of that that means for marriage. Which is extremely good stuff to know, and so needed in our society, but we also need to know what it means for our daily life.  Anyway, one of the guys made some sort of comment in trying to talk about what the priesthood and religious life was along the lines of "they have to give up what's the most meaningful in life, e.g. having children." Oh. No. You. Didn't. NOT that I want in any way to ignore the huge and amazing importance of that!  And not that I disagree that it is one of the most amazing and important things in life. But what I wanted the candidates to see is TOB is beautiful because it points us to the meaning and purpose and dignity of each person, and that every life matters, whether they live for a long time, or are born sleeping, whether a person is married or in the priesthood or religious life, or if they are single- for whatever reason not able to live out the fullness of their vocation, but their call to holiness still present, whether as a married person, their "yes" to life leads to many children, or few children or no children (FANTASTIC article here about that, btw), whether a person did everything "right" in terms of sexual morality or were all over the place, whether everything fits all the norms that it should or if nothing fits. Every single one of us matters.

Whew! Happened again. I get started and it just keeps coming out!

Anyway, I really wanted to tell you how the budgeting is going.  I have to admit that part of it has been kind of annoying more than anything. What is with all the bills that just keep showing up every single month? You pay it, and they want you to pay it again!  I realize that this is the same as it's always been, but what's different now is that I get all my dollars assigned to their jobs, if you will, and then I keep having to send more to the same old places when I would far rather put some money in some other categories! Therefore, I'm annoyed that some of the categories that I would really like to have a little money in are not growing at all. There are some things that I would like to buy, and I feel like I can't just buy them. I'm giving myself plenty of spending money and such, but when it's all black and white in front of me, I can't justify the spending for certain things.  This month I was finally getting to put at least a little in a couple of places that I wanted to (like some money for co-pays so I can eliminate one of my excuses for seeing an allergist), and then an insurance switched from monthly payments to quarterly unexpectedly, so I had to pull it back out again. I also really, really want to get a bike, and will probably do that sooner than any budgeting guru would recommend, but I am not growing the bike fund hardly at all right now (I think it maybe got 12 cents this month). Because, bills!

That's what it feels like right now, but the reality is that even though it's taking more time than I'd like, it's only been two months since I've started getting serious about this. In that time, I've already found a couple small places to save, and I actually have more money, even though I feel like I can spend less. I'm much less stressed about a number of things that come up, because I know whether I have the money for it or not. (Should I go out to eat with friends or buy this book I want, or take this continuing ed class?) I can look at it and see immediately what I have and where I'd have to take it from if I rearranged things.  Instead of wondering how many transactions still haven't cleared and if I'm going to get a nasty surprise, I know exactly where I am on that. With the unexpected expenses that have come up, I can make it work without relying on the credit card like I've had to sometimes. I do still use my credit card about as much as ever, but I record it under my checking account and pay it right away, so it's an extra step, but the spending is as if I was just using checking.

I think what is happening the most is that I am much more aware of the reality of where I am, rather than sometimes thinking I'm okay and then forgetting about a bill or having something unexpected come up. I'm already feeling like I'm living a lot less paycheck to paycheck. I know being able to put more in other categories will come.  In all, I like it a lot. It's just harder up front. But there are so many things in life that are better in the long run, even if they're harder at first!

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Moving through Lent: Being Smart about Movement with Your Smart Phone

Yes, I'm behind. Yes, we need to talk about standing. You know why I'm behind? Because it's been nice outside, so I've been moving. A lot. No time to post! Hiking and more hiking! Walking to my errands! Etc. Anyway, I will tell you about standing, but I came across this video today, and it made me laugh while teaching some important things about movement with use of a smartphone and computers, so I thought I'd let someone else do the teaching today, and standing can come later. It's probably funniest if you've spent any time around coaches or weight lifting, but still has good info if you ever use a computer or phone... Which you do, because you're reading this. The guy seems a little ADD, but we roll with it. ;)

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Moving Through Lent: On the Other Hand

Here's an easy short one. I'll get to standing soon, but I thought that anyone that made it through the feet deserved something short and sweet to make up for their work!

A lot of our problems with movement come from using the same movements and patterns over and over again. Because much of our daily environment is manmade, the tasks we do are a lot more uniform than they were for people who lived most of their lives outside. We do lots of repetitive movements. A lot of moving better simply requires trying to switch things up in whatever ways you can.

Assignment for today: Use your non-dominant hand as much as you can.

Use your other hand to brush your teeth and your hair. (But don't use the same brush for both.)

Blow drying your hair? Put the dryer in the other hand.

Try eating with your other hand. As some of you may know from Facebook, I find this one hilarious. It is so weird to have such a simple task become so difficult! Don't wimp out and do a sandwich, do something that requires silverware. But maybe still use the knife in your dominant hand. And save the hot soup for a different day.

If you have to hand wash dishes, scrub with the other hand.

You get the idea.

For an extra special bonus, they say that this is also a really good thing to do for your brain so that it has to learn new motor pathways. Movement helps everything!

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Moving Through Lent: Finding Our Feet

Lost and Found

When is it that we're supposed to find our feet as babies? Two months? Four months? Whatever it is, I'm sure most of us were successful with this milestone and moved on, but then we covered them up with shoes and lost them again (well, first our parents put shoes on us, but eventually we followed suit).

I suppose this sounds overdramatic, but it's really not. In the last couple of months, I have been rediscovering my feet, and I can't believe what I'm finding! Now, given that I deal with movement and bodies every day, it may be more noticeable to me than it will be to you, but maybe not. Either way, in terms of how our bodies respond, it is dramatic.

Have you or anyone you've known been in a cast for several weeks? Think about how flabby the muscles become and how stiff the joints become. There is a reason as a physical therapist that I like to avoid braces and slings when I can, and minimize their impact as much as possible when they need to be used. Our bodies were made to move, and when they don't move, they make adaptations that are not advantageous to us. In time of injury, this is often necessary. However, with shoes, we are essentially splinting our feet from early on. It's even worse when we use shoes that are terrible for us, like high heels, and shoes that we have to cram our feet into.

The Foot

There are 26 bones and 33 joints in the foot, and over 100 muscles, tendons and ligaments. (Here's a view of the bones from the top, if you're interested.) When we wear shoes, we are not allowing those joints to move freely, nor are we working those muscles well, nor are we receiving the amount of feedback that we should from the neurons. The less input we get from these areas, the less our brain turns to that system for feedback about where we are in space, and the less it can correct our movements from that information. The muscles atrophy, the toes get crammed into toe boxes.  And, no, flip flops are NOT an acceptable alternative, because they make you grip with your toes, which is the opposite of the mechanical movement that should be happening when you walk.

Next thing you know, bunions and hammertoes are forming, arches are falling (there's more contributing to that, and we'll talk about it more later), high arches are becoming more fixed, stiff and problematic, and pretty soon you need orthotics to help support your feet. Why? Because the muscles and joints are not doing their job. Guess what? Now your feet are becoming more splinted. Your orthotics may help short term, but they may make things worse long term!

Getting to Know Your Feet

First, take off your shoes!  

Most important thing to start with is to get the feet moving. To get the joints loosened up, grab something like a tennis ball or racket ball and use it to massage the bottom of your foot. Move it up and down the long way as well as side to side. You can do this sitting or standing, standing will be a little more intense. 

The next stretch is for your calf. This is so key. Most shoes we wear put our heel at least a little higher than our toes, and obviously some put them a lot higher than our toes. This causes a lot more problems than I can go into now, but just trust me when I tell you that your calves need to be stretched and stretched some more. You will hear more about the need to stretch your calf with other things that need to be worked on as well. Go here for the best calf stretch I've ever found. There's a couple of reasons it works better than a lot of others, but it doesn't mean that you can't use the others as well.

Next, try to use your feet more. (If you have foot pain, you may have to stick to the stretches for a while first. Remember, increasing pain will NOT help you get better, so only add things as you can without increasing pain.) This can be done a couple of ways. One, if you are not walking, try to walk a little more. I am currently not getting out and walking nearly as much as I would like, so I do things like very inefficiently put away my laundry (take one item out of the dryer, walk it to where it needs to go, and then go back for the next thing) or park farther away (cliché, but it does help!) Another way is to walk around the house barefoot if you can. And, yes, barefoot is better than even with socks, because it allows your foot to feel more differences in what's underfoot (for me, that is too often the fact that I need to sweep again). Obviously it's winter right now, so feel free to use a nice warm sock, but try to avoid slippers, because a lot of them mess with mechanics. Socks with grippers are great. Another one is to walk off the sidewalk. Any bumps (and walking through snow) work all those little muscles a lot more than just a sidewalk.

Taking It a Step Further

(Heh heh, get it? My sense of humor is sadly unrefined.)

The above things should be done no matter what, in my opinion. Even if you are in shoes while you walk outside, that extra walking (especially if you can do it over grass or rock or snow or other natural surfaces) is going to help. However, there are some important things that can be done to REALLY make your feet work all the time. The main one being to look into minimalist shoes, or at least shoes that have zero heel lift. There are a ton of them out there, my current favorite is Vivobarefoot. I have a couple of pairs, and I love them. Of all the minimalist shoes I found, these are the ones that feel the most like truly being barefoot. I love that they have all different types of shoes, and I plan on eventually trying to get all of my daily footwear in minimalist shoes (even for hiking). Sadly, I get no compensation for this, I just think they're a good product. However, there are a lot of them, and you can find what works best for you.

These are my favorite ones that I wear almost everywhere.

Although I am not 100% decided on the absolute necessity of the toe alignment sock (something like this), I do think it can be a really helpful thing. It's a great way to stretch out some muscles that are unfortunately short all the time. I'm all for anything that can help improve my mechanics, decrease the bunions I was starting to get, and not require any extra time because I can just put them on in my down time. Usually I'll put them on at night when I'm reading or even when I'm going to bed.

I got the rainbow ones, because the colors make me happy. Also, this was taken BEFORE Lent,  hence the couch.
What All This Looks Like for Me

As a PT, I've been hearing a lot about the barefoot movement for years now. I have thought it made a lot of sense, but I knew that I wasn't ready to make the jump to barefoot or minimalist shoes because I have flat feet and some other problems, and they were only going to get worse if I made the switch without preparing my poor abused feet. In the last couple of years, I have started to notice the slow onset of bunions. They weren't impressive enough to cause any problems, but I could see my future. I honestly didn't think there was much I could do about it.

I started the calf stretching first, from the post I mentioned above. This had surprising effects on both the bunion beginnings as well as some knee problems (I'm sure you'll hear more later). This, of course, motivated me to try more. I would not have been ready for minimalist shoes without several months of calf stretching ahead of time. I also started going exclusively barefoot around the house 4-6 months before I even started looking for shoes. Not only did this prepare me for the shoes, it helped to find the right shoe for me, the one that felt the most like being barefoot. When I first wore the minimalist shoes all day, I had to increase the ball rolling, because the muscles got a little crampy, but now they don't complain as much. I have only walked a mile or more in them a couple of times, but when spring comes, I am going to start to do that more regularly and start to increase that number, so that I can get to the point of doing my long hikes in minimalist shoes or hiking boots.

On the rare occasions that I have to put on "regular" shoes, I spend a lot of time making faces at my feet (because apparently I am a two year old). It is now so annoying to have so little feedback from my feet. I feel blindfolded! Plus, I can feel how it changes my gait mechanics and I hate that. Honestly, I would love to go barefoot more, but hygiene dictates that I wear shoes (as does the current cold weather). I'm not sure if that will ever change, but my knees, reversing bunions and decreasing Achilles tendonitis are extremely happy that I've made the changes that I have.

Sorry this got so long, but there's so much to say! Feet are literally the foundation for standing and walking, so we had to come here before we could get to the next place, which is standing. Isn't it strange how much we have to re-learn because we're too advanced for our own good? Think about it! Cultures that have been without shoes forever don't have to worry about any of this, because their feet just do what feet are meant to do.