Written by: Brian Klepacki, MS, CSCS, CISSN, FMS
and Chris Wilson, CPT, RKC, CSN
We’ve all experienced it before, that pain or achiness after sitting in a fixed position for a good portion of the day. Sitting in a stiff chair on a long distance flight, working on the computer all day or spending far too much time in the car.
When it comes to sitting there is one thing that is certain, there’s a strong chance you are placing your body in an unfavorable position and as a result of this, your body will get STIFF.
Unfortunately, sitting is part of our culture and mostly unavoidable.
By spending so much time in your chair in a flexed position coupled with a lack of movement throughout the day, you have successfully followed the formula for creating tight iliopsoas muscles. Sitting might be comfortable for most of us but know that you have unfortunately been abusing your hips all day long without even thinking about it.
These damaged hips cause back pain, health problems and even disrupt sexual function which I’ll get to in a moment.
As far as anatomy goes, the psoas is part of the iliopsoas group. This two-part muscle group is comprised of the iliacus and psoas, hence the term iliopsoas. To be clear, when referring to the psoas muscle, it is the psoas major that is being referenced. There is a psoas major and psoas minor but the function of the psoas minor is minimal at best and it is considered to be a weak mover.
One of the most significant things about the psoas muscle is that it connects the legs to the spine, which means that what you do with your legs could possibly affect your spine without you thinking about it, or even feeling it.
With a tight psoas from sitting all day your hips will become fixed in a forward thrust position causing your pelvis and leg(s) to rotate. This forward tilt will cause your hip socket to become compressed leading to pulling and shifting of joints, tendons, and muscles pulling on your lower back. This pulling on the lower back WILL decrease blood flow and circulation as well as delayed nerve response to the hips.
If you can’t see how tight hips can affect your sex life, please read that paragraph again.
Decreased blood flow and circulation will happen with tight hips.
If you thought that was bad enough, let’s look at the emotional side of this issue, as this might be more important than our physical performance in the bedroom. Our emotions have a lot to say about the current state of our sex life. Ask anyone if emotions and feelings have a role in their sexual desire.
If your psoas is constantly tight and overworked, the body is faced with permanent roadblocks of emotional and physical stress which forces the brain to continue to send warning signals to all of the systems of the body, including the reproductive system.
Again, by having a tight psoas muscle, signals are sent from the brain to the body that danger is imminent. These signals trigger responses within the body that will cause an overexertion of the adrenal glands and will weaken the body’s natural immune response to stress.
Stress and sex DO NOT go together.
Remember, the hips are the primary movers in sex and it’s somewhat common sense that we want our hips to be loose and flexible in order to achieve great dynamic sex.
This Fight or Flight response triggered by placing our hips into stressful positions time after time will not only cause damage to our hips but also to our sexual desires, physical performance and to our overall health and wellness.
The human body (mind included) has been set apart from other creatures of this earth by many characteristics and the ability to experience and express emotions is a main one. The psoas grounds us to our surroundings similar to that of a grounding wire in a circuit. Once the spine is open and grounded, the spine can become alive and then be able to perform the inherent functions it was originally designed to do.
What this means for you is that your emotions are connected in with the psoas through the fascia and nerves surrounding it. When your emotions are stressed and heightened, that fear, guilt, or anger travels through the nerves in the psoas to the spinal column and then to the brain, which is the headquarters for our emotions. Your psoas in this process is acting like a messenger from the midsection to the central nervous system sending the information to your brain.
Now if your psoas is healthy and free then the information transmitted to your brain will be accurate and have clarity. If however your psoas is unhealthy, tight and cramped then the information will be unclear and you will most likely feel emotional discomfort in the process of delivery of this information from spine to brain.
The benefit of having a released psoas is that you will feel more grounded and relaxed.
So what does this mean for your sex life?
If you sit all day and aren’t doing the appropriate work needed to fix your hips, you can be sure you are not tapping into your peak sexual health and that’s why you are reading this and in search of a solution.
Written by: Chris Wilson, CPT, RKC, CSN
If you’re not sleeping well, your life could be eating you up and spitting you out!
I say “could” because there are a few almost robot-like individuals in the world that seem to function just fine with little or no sleep. I’m not talking to those few midnight warriors.
For you mortals, it is imperative that sleep is prioritized. Without resting the body and the brain each day, your entire life will most likely feel upside down.
This may sound silly but some people may not understand WHY sleep is so vital to our existence.
For one, sleeping helps the body’s tissues to repair themselves and feel rejuvenated. Since our body is moving all day long, it requires some down time for the cells to work efficiently and replenish nutrients everywhere like in the muscles, skin and bones.
Surely if you’ve been working out for a while, you have heard the saying, “The body doesn’t grow in the gym, it grows while resting.” In order for the body to function well, it needs time to recharge and recover.
Secondly, sleep allows the body to unplug. Our nervous system is running at full throttle all day long. When we rest and/or sleep, the nervous system is able to reset while our body is in a peaceful state.
You know that foggy feeling you get when you’ve been awake too many hours in a row? Once you’re system has reached its threshold, it tells you in various ways and one way is neurologically. Your brain doesn’t seem to function very well, your memory is poor and your coordination is poor. Your system is telling you that you need to chill out and relax.
Here’s some simple advice, go to bed and whatever you’re doing will be MUCH better the next day or hours later.
Those are just a few ways that sleep can improve our lives but in order to get a ‘restful’ night’s sleep, there are basic things we should be doing and things we should be avoiding.
#1 – Stop going to bed at different times every night, even on the weekends when possible.
Our body loves a schedule. Think of a band playing instruments. When they are all playing together, in rhythm, the music is amazing. But if those same instruments begin to play at different times with different tempos, the music no longer works. The same goes for your body. If you go to sleep one night at 10 pm, the next at midnight, and the next at 1 am and so on, the rhythm is thrown off and things don’t work. This rhythm is known as the circadian rhythm and all living creatures including plants have a 24-hour cycle.
Stick to a system where you’re getting to sleep within the same hour or so each night and waking up at the same time and your body will perform better and more consistently. This helps your body’s internal clock and not only helps you fall asleep but also helps you stay asleep.
#2 – Shut down those cell phones and turn off the TV long before bedtime.
For many of us, the cell phone and TV have become our late night buddies. If more people could get back to some late night reading, writing or something else relaxing, our body would respond positively.
The bright lights, loud noises and excitement from the phone and television can make falling asleep very difficult since they excite and stimulate the brain. The suggestion is to have one full hour of down time before bedtime. So if you want to get to bed by 10:30, shut off electronic devices around 9:30. Do something else in those moments before bedtime that help you calm down and relax and falling asleep will be easier to do.
#3 – Sleep on a comfortable mattress and pillow putting your spine into optimal position.
Sleeping on a super rigid mattress or something too mushy will leave you feeling like you were in a car accident. In order to avoid feeling broken when you wake up each morning, your spine, notably your cervical spine (neck), needs to be in proper alignment while snoozing.
The wrong mattress and pillow will do a terrible job of supporting a critical area of the body, your head and neck.
Our forward head position is bad enough throughout the day since we stare at our cell phone or at the computer screen repeatedly and sit in a car or at work for hours at a time.
This forward head position or posture can determine our mood, how well we breathe, our energy level and certainly how well we sleep at night. If our head is in a crunched or twisted position while we sleep, we could actually be stressing our system out unnecessarily.
In order to get a peaceful and restful night of sleep the head should be properly supported and aligned on a quality mattress and pillow. This will allow the body to repair and recover undoing some of the damage from the day.
Written by: Chris Wilson, CPT, RKC, CSN
Headaches plague millions of people every day all over the globe. They can quickly ruin your mood, hurt your performance on the job or at the gym and headaches can steal away quality time with those you love.
Unfortunately, many of the people out there falling victim to routine headaches turn to drugstores and pharmaceutical companies for relief. If you’re reading this then you’re likely looking for some other, healthier alternatives to combating headaches.
In extreme cases where people are dealing with violent migraines and taking prescription drugs to deal with them, this information may offer little help but could still be beneficial. It is recommended that those individuals seek professional medical guidance.
But for those of you getting the occasional headache and feeling frustrated and annoyed, this is for you.
Painful headaches can be caused by a myriad of things, things like: strong odors, dehydration, eye strain, head trauma (bumped your head), breathing problems and caloric intake to name a few. If you’re sensitive to bright lights and perfumes, you may experience headaches often. If you sit in front of a computer for hours at a time you may experience headaches daily.
For those of you dealing with some of those types of headaches, it’s best to remove yourself from those situations as often or regularly as possible. Easier said than done.
I know personally that my wife is very sensitive to strong odors, bright lights and loud noises, it’s just that simple so she takes measures to deal with those things. The 3 tips below absolutely help her with the headaches she suffers from regularly.
Here are 3 things you can do RIGHT NOW to naturally get rid of your troublesome headaches.
#1: Deep Breathing
It may sound boring and unnecessary to some but ‘breathing better’ is something most of us could do. Too many people breathe shallow all day long, myself included. Instead of breathing into our bellies and really forcing oxygen into our lungs, we breathe into our chest. This ‘tight’ way of breathing doesn’t do a very good job of oxygenating our blood which robs our brain of life-giving oxygen.
So what happens in the brain when it is starving for more oxygen? It hurts because brain cells are very sensitive and die without oxygen as the blood vessels begin to constrict. A simple test would be to hold your breath as long as you can until you have to gasp for air, I’m sure you’ve experienced this sensation while swimming underwater.
What happens? Your head throbs a little. If you did this repeatedly, you would bring about a self-induced headache.
Now these are symptoms are more typical of a migraine or vascular headache but they help prove a point about chronic shallow breathing and how your brain responds to disrupted and poor breathing.
Deep breathing can be done anywhere and at any time. It is preferred that you do this with your eyes closed to help make it more relaxing and to allow for improved focus on your breathing.
The key is to take long breaths, breathing in slowly up to 4 seconds and breathing out slowly also around 4 seconds. If you did this for only 2-3 minutes, you would not only feel calmer, you may also notice relief in your head. It is recommended that you do this up to 10 or 15 minutes for maximal benefit.
Surely you’ve heard of tension headaches before. Our lives are super busy and can be very stressful. We bottle up so much negative energy and sometimes we must remember to just breathe deeply into our bellies and take a moment to just unplug from the world.
#2: Move Your Body Frequently
I know what you’re thinking, “I exercise every day, moving my body is not my problem.”
First off, good for you, exercise is awesome! Never stop that. However, that’s not what I’m talking about.
You see exercise is terrific for the 60-90 minutes we do it each day. But what about those other 15-16 hours where we are awake and not exercising. We are typically sitting during those hours. We sit in the car and many jobs today require a great deal of sitting at a computer with our spine, head and neck in poor posture.
The best thing to do if your day to day involves a ton of sitting is to stand up and walk. Being upright and walking helps to naturally reset the spine and place your body in proper position. Why is it that getting up to get a drink of water down the hallway and walking back to your desk helps perk you up?
Because the simple act of moving the body stimulated the cells, improved circulation and blood flow to the brain and drinking water always helps to restore some vigor and energy.
Every 1-2 hours no matter what it is you do, stand up and move for a few minutes. This simple act done repeatedly throughout the day can instantly improve performance, poor posture as well as mood and brain function which will help combat unwanted headaches.
#3: Improve your Posture in 5-seconds ANYWHERE
Good posture is something we hear about from a young age. “Sit up straight, hold your head up, no slouching!” Sound familiar?
These tips from childhood become more meaningful as we age. The spine is under constant stress from all of the sitting previously mentioned. The more often we can put the body into proper alignment, the better we will feel and good posture begins with the head.
This again helps with circulation throughout the body and brain and puts our body into optimal postural alignment allowing everything to function better.
Simply stated, the more often you can place yourself into optimal head posture with your head up, shoulders back and chin in, the better your chances of reversing the undesirable effects of poor Forward Head Posture (FHP).
Here is how you do it:
You can do this either sitting or standing. It may actually be easier to perform this seated so that you can focus on all of the steps while also giving you something you can do at your desk, in your car, at the dinner table or anywhere you may be seated.
First, sit as tall as you can by elevating the top of your head towards the ceiling. As you do this, you may notice your shoulders moving backward and your chest sticking outward. Good, you’re on the right track.
Next, try to drop or press your shoulders downward slightly as you tuck your chin in drawing your head slightly backward. Rest your arms in your lap or on the arms of your chair. You should also feel that natural curve in your lower back improved.
Take in deep breaths thinking about each step. Hold this position for 5-seconds and then relax for a few seconds.
Continue holding the position for 5-seconds at a time up to 10 times all together. This action can be repeated as often as you desire throughout the day.
You may find yourself trying to naturally hold this stronger head position while driving or working at your desk. This improved head posture can start to become habitual and that’s a very good thing.
The bonus is that you may find a reduction in headaches due to less slouching and poor forward head posture in your life. This optimal position helps to improve breathing, circulation, energy levels and confidence.
I guess our parents and teachers knew something we didn’t about poor head posture and its negative effects!