Stretches to Help With Back Pain

Back pain is a common ailment that plagues many women, and can result from a number of issues, such as spine-related problems, inflammation and wear of the sacroiliac joint, pinched nerve, accidents and stress. The pain can be stabbing, dull, achy, or debilitating. While there are various pain management medications out there, a simpler solution that could provide quick and effective relief are stretches. Let’s look at a few stretches that could ease your unwanted back pain.

photocasex0ugevcdpj0s2.jpg

Standing Hamstring Stretch
Lower back pain can be a nagging discomfort, but can be alleviated with a standing hamstring stretch. Gently lengthening the hamstring can reduce stress and improve degraded flexibility and decrease pain levels.

To stretch the hamstring:
Stand with both feet planted together on the ground. Gently extend your arms upward to the ceiling, while keeping your back straight. Slowly bend at the waist with your torso forward, knees locked, back straight and hands reaching for the toes. Hold this position for 30-45 seconds. Relax for 30 seconds. Repeat the stretch 3 times.

Pigeon Pose
Improvement in back pain doesn’t necessarily require stretching your back. Improving flexibility and posture can work wonders for sciatica-related back pain, hence, the pigeon pose.

To do the pigeon pose:
Start by positioning yourself on all fours (your hands and knees) or in table. Bring your left leg forward, with ankle at your right hand, and slide your right leg back, ensuring that your hips are square and knee is in line with the ankle. Inhale and lengthen up with the torso, pressing the tailbone down, and exhale as you press the extended leg back. Position your arms on each side of your hips and rise up on your fingertips as you elongate the spine. Depending on comfort level, hold the stretch for 30 seconds to 5 minutes.

Cat-Cow
To tackle mid-back pain, cat-cow allows for gentle spinal movements that can minimize pain and release stiffness.

To do the cat-cow:
Position yourself on all fours to begin, with wrists under your shoulders and knees under your hips, and back flat. Press your hands into the mat/floor, spreading your fingers wide, evenly distributing your weight in your hands to avoid putting pressure on the wrists. Inhale, slowly raise your pelvis upward, your chest forward, stomach lowered, back flat, and face up and looking ahead.  Hold for 5-10 seconds. Exhale, gently arch your back, mimicking a cat, to round out the spine. Tuck your pelvis, sucking in the belly button, and hang your head freely. Hold for 5-10 seconds. Repeat the stretch 5-7 times. Back pain doesn’t always require prescription medication.

Simple stretches can provide the relief that you need to go about your day. So, stretch the pain away.


Prenatal Fitness Tips

During the months of pregnancy, you want to feel your very best - for both you and baby. Staying active is paramount for maintaining this mental and physical wellbeing while you’re pregnant.  Exercising combines benefits like a brighter mood and higher energy levels with toned muscles and greater flexibility.

Additionally, a regular prenatal exercise regimen may even reduce the likelihood of needing a C-section. Dr. Nita Landry, a Board-certified OB-GYN and co-host of “The Doctors” reports: “Having strong abs and a fit cardiovascular system might make labor and delivery easier.”

So, which exercises are best for pregnant women seeking toned abdominal muscles and a healthy heart?  Let’s dive into the top 3 exercises for expectant moms.

Swimming
1. Low-impact workouts that don’t put additional pressure on your joints are ideal to perform during pregnancy. Swimming, specifically, has a therapeutic effect on the entire system, especially the heart. Rest periods may be spent floating on the water, a practice known to decrease anxiety, depression, and muscle discomfort.

Pilates
2. Possibly the best work-out for building a solid core, Pilates engages the muscles of your thighs, glutes, abs, and lower back. While you’re sculpting these key areas, you are also improving your posture, helping to boost your confidence as a new life grows inside you.

Weights
3. Strength training is one of the most effective forms of exercise and often yields the quickest results. During pregnancy, though, you may want to opt for some lighter weights (no more than 30 pounds total) and shorten your work-out sessions to a half hour or less. You’ll still reap the benefits of increased stamina and calorie burn.

In addition to these work-outs, you may also engage in distance walking, prenatal yoga, or dancing to stay fit and feel good. Just make sure your work-outs are not too vigorous or leaving you drenched in sweat and out of breath. This rules out intense exercise like running or boxing for most women but leaves you with many other enjoyable and safe options. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends 30 minutes of daily physical activity while pregnant – so lace up your sneakers and pick the work-out that feels right for you.


Best Essential Oils for Insomnia

Sleep is one of the most important aspects of health, yet most of us don’t get nearly enough. Stress, electronic devices, and racing thoughts are a few reasons why approximately one-third of Americans don’t get adequate shut-eye.  Fortunately, there are natural ways to combat those restless nights, including the use of fragrant essential oils.  Let’s explore 3 of the best essential oils for insomnia and how you can use them to sleep like a baby tonight.

kelly-sikkema-475112-unsplash.jpg

Lavender Oil
Made from the essence of lavender flowers, this popular essential oil is highly effective as a natural remedy for insomnia.  Studies revel that diffusing lavender oil in the air at bedtime can improve sleep quality by 20%. Whether you spritz a whiff of oil in the air or dab a few drops on your wrists, the delicate aroma of lavender may help you get that vital slumber.

Roman Chamomile Oil
Fixing yourself a hot cup of chamomile tea is a soothing way to sail into bedtime, but how about channeling the healing power of this herbal oil on your skin? According to Dr. Susan Smith Jones, a holistic health expert, “Millions enjoy the fragrant flowers for gently calming the nerves and soothing stress and tension.”

Sandalwood Oil
Strong and earthy yet sweet, sandalwood oil has a calming effect on the mind. Sandalwood oil may also have the power to stimulate your brain’s production of melatonin, a natural chemical that helps you drift into a restful sleep.

This trio of essential oils is a much healthier option than a sleeping pill and may help you get the rest you need. Ylang ylang, bergamot, and cedarwood are other essential oils known for their calming properties. Experiment and choose the scent that relaxes your senses. Then, dilute your chosen fragrance with a base oil like sweet almond and apply to the areas where you feel most tense. A couple of drops on the temples or forehead go a long way to ease you into dreamtime. Better quality sleep is possible with a little help from Mother Nature.


Managing Anxiety Through Self-Care

Over 40 million adults in the United States suffer from an anxiety related disorder.  There are numerous prescription medications on the market dedicated to treating the symptoms of anxiety.  Yet, many who suffer from anxiety are seeking healthier and alternative ways to manage their anxiety.  If you suffer from anxiety and are seeking additional means to wellness, consider incorporating one or more of the following practices into your daily routine.

courtney-prather-579559-unsplash.jpg

1.   Practice Daily Deep Breathing Exercises

Deep breathing promotes mental clarity and relaxation. The key is to place yourself in a distraction free environment. Some prefer to lie down while others sit in an upward position. Inhale deeply through the nose and allow your stomach to expand. Engage the chest muscles and feel the fullness in your lungs. Then, exhale in a controlled manner. Perhaps even silently counting to four as you breathe out. Practice this a few times while concentrating on your breathing. By bringing full attention to your breaths, you are able to block out the anxieties surrounding you. 

2. Journaling for Stress Management

Documenting your thoughts, experiences, and emotions through journaling can have a large impact on your ability to manage stress. Writing, in general, challenges the mind to create content that expresses an emotion. When managing anxiety, writing down possible fears, gratitude lists, and honest emotions will assist with conquering negative thoughts. You will approach obstacles in an organized manner without feeling overwhelmed. In addition, writing can assist with self-exploration. Often times, anxiety is a result of feeling distant from the inner self. Such prompts will help to analyze yourself in order to reach understanding. Some include:

•    Three mantra’s I would like to live by are…
•    What are my three biggest fears and how can I overcome them?
•    What methods did I previously use to conquer a past challenge?

3. Creating Vision Boards

Vision boards are excellent ways to visually display goals, feelings, and affirmations. By doing so, you are able to organize your thoughts in a way that reduces anxiety of the future. In fact, a recent study found that, “Our brains prefer invented visual information to the real thing.” This statement solidifies the fact that creating a visual representation of your emotions can help to manage stress and lessen anxiety. In fact, the process behind making a vision board is relaxing in itself. By focusing your attention on creating something of value, you are redirecting that stress in a positive manner.

Incorporating practices such as these into your daily life can help reduce the effects of anxiety while forcing you to acknowledge your troubles head on. By doing so, you will reach an optimal level of wellness that makes the symptoms of anxiety manageable.