Movement- Yoga Pose

Movement Makes Us Smarter

We were built to move. Over time our society has become more sedentary. Our kids start sitting for 6 hours a day at the age of 5. Looking back over the course of history this is the first time a being has been expected to learn in a stationary environment. Our ancestors learned by moving and interacting with the world around them. Babies learn by movement, using all our sensory systems together. Pick up a block, lick it, taste it, shake it, bang it on the new glass table, now the baby knows what a block is AND how her body interacts with that block. When climbing a tree, we learn about physics: gravity, biology: bugs, worms, tree textures, visual spatial perspective: the view from the ground vs up high in the tree. Core strength is developed along with balance and hand eye coordination. Psychological implications: I have completed a difficult task and am proud of myself…and its fun!

There are numerous studies done on the interaction of movement (motor development) and cognitive function. Children who are more physically active perform better at tasks involving memory than sedentary children. With each new experience the muscles form a movement pattern. These movement patterns create new synapses in the brain enabling us to perform this movement again without having to re-invent the pattern.  The more patterns we create and practice the more adept we are at navigating our bodies through the world.

We know the brain needs oxygen; by moving we increase oxygen flow to the brain, allowing the brain to function at an improved rate.

Athletic ability or higher than average coordination skills give many kids a great advantage in general fitness. People tend to pursue task/activities that they have been successful at. Children who are less skilled in motor tasks tend to shy away from sports, unfortunately leaving them with no outlet for fitness.

Fitness is often linked with athletic ability. When it comes to kid’s health we need to rethink this notion. Fitness should be a life-long pursuit of movement and interaction with the environment that makes your mind, body and spirit happy.

As a physical therapist, I believe that children should be involved with and exposed to in many different activities, cross training per se. I hate to see a high school athlete in my clinic with an injury that prevents them from “their” sport, I frequently see those kids stopping sports all together.

This results in so many negative side effects including loss of social circle, obesity, feelings of failure, loss of confidence.  Whereas a child who has participated in many activities can participate in something else and continue to be active. For example, a high school soccer player with knee pain can switch to swimming until knee pain is resolved.

The more a child explores movement the more successful they will become at the movement patterns.

Effective movement strategies set the stage to develop proper muscular strength and fitness levels. These kids and eventually adults will be less likely to get injured, lose balance skills, and even more impressive less likely to have problems with dementia and brain degeneration as they age.

Movnat is a program for people to increase fitness and wellness by restoring basic movement patterns. Today, many of us have forgotten or lost the ability to perform basic developmental mobility and movement patterns. MovNatting can be a way to restore the ability to move and increase whole body wellness with movement.

Free to Play is a free program for everyone to become successful in multiple movement patterns.

This program developed by the Grey Institute with the intent that “Everyone is an Athlete”. This program will teach movement patterns that can benefit everyone from high level athletes to the child that trips over air. It a great way to start moving, take a break from studying and clear your mind.

Kids can go to f2pacademy.com and sign up for a locker. Once they have a locker they can view all the movement patterns. Each child can earn a star for each pattern they participate in and another star for each pattern taught to someone. It is a great program to build functional movement patterns, increase coordination and feelings of success.

School, studying and working are all important, but we must remember to take care of our bodies, give our muscles and brains a breather, incorporate movement so we can continue to perform mentally and physically at our best.

butter nut squash

Healthy Butternut Squash Soup for a Healing and Immunity

As wintery storms continue to blow through the Sierra Nevada, warm, comforting foods are becoming more and more appealing. In the winter months it can be tempting to reach for rich or heavy foods. However, these may not always be the healthiest options.

For cold days, here’s one of my favorite recipes taken from  The Heal Your Gut Cookbook, which is a great cookbook for people managing illnesses that stem from the gut.

This recipe includes many healthy ingredients like Bone Broth which has collagen and amino acids which helps healing and immunity. Butternut squash has great healthy clean yummy carbs and the leeks are good for natural anti-viral and anti-bacterial support.

Healthy Butternut Squash Soup for Healing and Immunity

Butter Nut Squash Soup

Ingredients:
2 quarts chicken stock
2 tablespoons animal fat, coconut oil, or ghee
3 leeks, sliced in half, and sliced again into half-moons (or 2 onions, chopped)
1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into chunks
1 boquet gardni
Sea salt to taste

Optional Garnishes:
Homemade Yogurt or organic cultured cream
Chopped fresh herbs
Soaked and sprouted pumpkin seeds

Cooking Instructions:
First, add the stock and fat to a pot. Next, add the vegetables and bring the entire pot to a boil. Once you reduce the heat to a simmer, add the bouquet garni and cook covered for 30 mins. Let it cook until the vegetables become soft and the squash is palatable. Once cooked, take out the bouquet garni and remove the soup from the stove. Use an immersion blender to puree the soup until smooth. Add salt and garnishes to taste. Serve and enjoy!

I hope you enjoy this soup on a cold winter day. For busier schedules, batch cooking is one of my favorite things to do. Making a big pot of soup for dinner can also make great leftovers for lunch the next day.

Happy Cooking!

Family Photo

The Myth of it Being Easy and Having It All

17 extraordinarily simple tips for families on the go, that you have never heard of, your kids will love and make your family healthier than ever before!

Read all the way to the end to get my gift!!!

A unicorn that will also scrub your toilets.

The Myth of it Being Easy and Having It All: by Danielle Litoff, a MOM

Battle Born Health Family Photo

At the beginning of the year my business partner, our social media expert advisor, and I were planning our upcoming blogs for the next few months.

You know – starting the year healthy, new year’s resolution…blah blah blah. My non-mom partners (no offense meant, they are amazing!!!) said, “Danielle how about a blog listing simple tricks on how to be healthy for your family on the go. I said, in my people pleasing way, “Of course I can do that!”

I then proceeded to sit on that for a few weeks. I wrote down ways I try to keep my crazy busy family healthy, active and eating well, despite school, homework, sports, choir, social events and both parents working full time. Sure, this is a piece of cake – everyone can do this… I call BS!! I just couldn’t write the piece as we had discussed because it isn’t easy, and those “simple tips” aren’t so simple.

A few days later I was lamenting to my Mom friends who are all successful, amazing, health care professionals. I told them my dilemma and they all laughed and said, “You mean the “myth of doing it all, dressed to the 9’s with a F’in sexy smile???”

Family Photo

With that preface, here is what I do to tip the scales towards keeping my family healthy on the go in this insane world of 2017.

Set YOUR priorities… are they to work out? Are they to eat home cooked paleo meals? Are they to have your dishes done before bed? Be realistic- no one can do it all. My priorities revolve around food and exercise… my bed is not made and my dishes are done when they get done.

  1. Plan ahead… there is no way around this one. In a pinch, you will have to make due and that often ends up being fast food. You can do better than that.
    1. Take 4 hours of a day and prep for the week. Or two different days – one to shop and one to prep. Buy the veggies, fruit, healthy meats.
    2. Have an idea of your week’s schedule… i.e. soccer from 5:30-7 pm on Tues and Thursday, piano on Wed from 3-4:30.

Ask yourself these questions:

  1. “Can I come home and cook or do I need to stay during the practice?”
  2. Is the practice near the store that could be my designated shopping time?
  3. Should I cook on Sunday so I can just reheat on those days?
  4. Can I carpool, that way I can skip one direction and take that time to cook or prep?
  1. USE A CROCK POT!!!! After late night practices, you will have hot food ready at home instead of going to McDonalds or QDoba?
    Weeknight Pot Roast Recipe 
  2. Find some simple recipes that your family likes. Memorize them so you can easily throw them together as you do something else. I will frequently on Sunday (Sundays just seem to be my freest day – you find yours) cook 3-4 staples so we have it all week.
    Rosemary and Roasted Chicken 
    Crock Pot Chili Recipe 
    Stacys Soups 
  3. Pack a picnic everywhere you go. Have a great lunch box cooler, put snacks in there before you go (avocado, thermos of soup, epic bars) have a knife, fork and spoon in the box.
    Thermos Stainless Folding Spoon
    Aluminum Insulated  Lunch Box 

I pack my own oil with me so I don’t have to use the yucky pre-made salad dressings at the store.

  1. Easy store grabs: box of lettuce, avocado, lemon, wild caught cooked shrimp meat (from the fish section), olive oil and or coconut aminos. All into the box of the lettuce and voilà – shrimp salad in the car. (Remember your knife fork and spoon are already in your new cool lunchbox in your car.) Instead of shrimp, you could use Applegate turkey or ham.
  2. Find a good natural grocery store in town or a Whole Foods with a food bar for the days you don’t have it together (because it is impossible to have it all together all the time). Persuade your amazing little monkeys to get some roasted chicken and veggies vs the pizza or mac-n-cheese.
  3. Buy a roasted chicken from Whole Foods. YES, it’s pricier, but it is so much better for you, that it’s worth the extra. And for a family of 4 its cheaper than a meal at Chilies or Mexican or Chinese takeout.

Volleyball Photo

Think nutrient density- not just calories… pasta, potatoes, rice chips, pb&j. That is substance, not nutrients. You want all your calories to count towards improving your heath. A calorie is just a unit of energy. We are fortunate in that we don’t need calories but you and your kids need nutrition. You want not the calorie but the nutritional value of what you are eating. Don’t just get the kids or yourself something -get something that will do good for your body (veggies, clean meats, fruits, good fats see blog on nutritional density).

Let me reiterate… this is not simple and this will not save you time, but this will save your family’s health. I hope some of this can help you or at least make you stop and think of ways you can make changes very intentionally, not simply, that will benefit the health of your family.

Lake Tahoe Ski

5 Ways to Recover from Ski Injuries this Season

How to know if it’s a tweak or something more serious:

The Reno-Tahoe area is buzzing with excitement over the recent record snowfall in January that has coated the Sierra Nevada in pure white powder.  I’m hoping everyone has had a chance to get out and enjoy the beautiful winter in their own way. Whether you’re a snowshoer or a downhill shredder, the snow and terrain challenges our bodies in ways we don’t normally encounter most days. Occasionally, this leads to falls, tweaks, twists and discomfort that leaves you wondering if the injury is serious or will just work its way out with time.

Our knees and spine are particularly vulnerable to injury during outdoor adventures, especially in deep snow, which can be unpredictable.  Aside from pain, be on the lookout for swelling, redness, warmth and decreased range of motion in the affected area. Obviously, these suggestions apply to injuries that aren’t immediately thought to be serious (i.e. broken bones, head injury) but if you twisted your knee funny on a turn, or have aching in your back after a fall, then these 5 tips can help you recover as quickly as possible, and get back to enjoying the snow:

Tahoe Ski Photo

1. Know the warning signs and when to consult a professional 

Some symptoms are considered more significant than others and should lead you to a professional immediately. These include: suspected head injury, dizziness, loss of consciousness, bleeding, suspected dislocation of a joint, pronounced numbness or tingling in a limb or changes in bowel or bladder control. These signs indicate a more severe type of injury and are worthy of immediate medical attention. If you made it off the mountain and back home and haven’t exhibited any of the above symptoms, then try the following tips. Keep in mind that every situation is different and when in doubt, contact a physician or urgent care.

2. Rest a full 24 hours 

This one seems like a no-brainer but sometimes it’s tough to know when to stay off an injury or keep it moving. Give yourself a full 24 hours of rest including keeping the part elevated above the level of the heart, icing it for 20 minutes at a time every hour and avoiding activities that increase pain. Also, protect the area using a gently wrapped compression bandage

3. Move in non-painful ways

Muscles will begin atrophy (decline in strength) in only a matter of days when they go unused, so to prevent atrophy and additional loss of motion, find exercises or activities that don’t increase pain. This could include taking an easy walk, pedaling a stationary bike with light resistance, rising up on your toes while holding on to a counter for safety. Also, maintaining the range of motion in the other joints surrounding the injury (i.e. if the knee is hurt, make sure you continue to move the hip and ankle) helps minimize the impact of the injury on the rest of the body. These are just a few ideas and other options will depend on your personal situation, however the key is to only do movements that do not increase the pain or create new symptoms.

4. Get a good night’s sleep

Sleep is crucial for healing so find a position where the injury is supported and can rest. Try sleeping on your side with a large body pillow or king pillow between the knees and hug a pillow to your chest. This position helps maintain the proper alignment of the spine decreasing strain. The second position is on your back with a large pillow under your knees and thighs, this position takes the strain off the lower back and hamstrings. When the body can rest with support often times the inflammatory process is mitigated and you can heal quicker.

5. Know who to consult

If you have a physical therapist that you trust, contact them to discuss the symptoms and determine the next step. If you don’t already have one, read our article on finding the right Physical Therapist. A Physical Therapist can help guide you on the path of efficient recovery and can help address other issues that may have arisen because of the injury such as changes in the way you walk or move.

If you have made it through a week of recovery time, and are feeling stronger and less sore, then continue moving in non-painful ways and gradually add more challenging activities. Check out the Battle Born Health YouTube channel for exercise basics and progressions to get you feeling stronger and moving again.

Here are a few recommended videos that focus on the core, hips and legs which will keep you safe in the snow: 

How to do a proper lunge:

How to do a proper squat: 

The basics of core stabilization: 

About the author: Jessica DeVore holds a Doctorate of Physical Therapy from UT Southwestern Medical Center. She lives in the Tahoe area, where she enjoys rock-climbing, backpacking, skiing, and mountain biking. As a Physical Therapist at Battle Born Health, she loves helping people restore their bodies in order to live a full and active life.

Patient's Corner: Finding Right Physical Therapist for Chronic Pain

For anyone who suffers from chronic pain, the journey to finding proper treatment and relief can feel hopeless at some points. With a modern medical system set up for “quick-fixes” and medication to numb pain, it can be difficult to find the right doctors and physical therapists to work with.

Like millions of Americans with disabilities, I have suffered from chronic pain for more than half of my life.  It wasn’t until a few years ago that I actually realized how much the pain affected my life and started seeking more comprehensive treatments that could restore mobility in my back.

Since being diagnosed with severe scoliosis at the age of 13, I thought life was always going to be this way—painful, uncomfortable, and full of ups and downs.

Due to my abnormal curvature, the left side of my back felt permanently bruised and my shoulders ached on a daily basis. I visited doctor after doctor, and none of them had a reason for my pain. Medical bills started to add up, and I became complacent with ever making improvements. I would smile on the outside, and be in so much pain, that I would collapse at the end of the day.

After years of suffering like this, I started to believe that it would never get better.

One day, as I sat at my desk in pain and almost in tears, my co-worker suggested visiting Battle Born Health. As a former patient of them, she explained that their treatments could really help me.

At first, I was hesitant to have a new doctor look at my back. Usually, I would leave these appointments feeling in more pain and worse off than when I started. Because I spent a huge amount of my life “hiding” my curve, it also made me self-conscious to have someone look at my back and see all of the abnormal curvatures.

Working with Battle Born Health, I instantly felt comfortable with their approach to physical therapy. Everything they did was in moderation, so that I didn’t leave my sessions feeling in more pain from the treatment.

Here’s some questions you can ask when looking for a physical therapist:

  1. What’s their philosophy on treatments?
  2. Do you feel comfortable with them?
  3. Do they provide exercises to do at home?
  4. Are you able to communicate with them and ask questions?

When looking for a physical therapist, make sure you feel comfortable and ask important questions during the consultation. This can help you find the right fit and put you on the journey to living a pain-free life.

This post was written by Allyson Lambert, a patient at Battle Born Health. All statements and reviews are from her own opinions and experience. 

Make this Year’s Resolutions Stick…for Good

We’ve all said it before, “Starting January 1st I’m going to get healthy!” or “I’m going to drop 20 pounds by March!” Unsurprisingly, the top New Year’s resolution is some variation on getting fit or losing weight, what’s notable is how much doesn’t stick.

  • Fewer than 8% of resolutions are kept past March
  • Thousands of pounds are lost, yet 90-95% gain the weight back plus some
  • People spend upwards of $60 billion annually trying to lose weight through diet and gyms

So, how are you going to make this year different?

First, look at the big picture of health – weight loss should be viewed as a positive side effect of a healthier life. You don’t need to lose weight to get healthy, once you are healthy you will lose weight. This means lifestyle changes must happen to achieve overall health and I’m not talking about drastic, overnight changes. In my 25 years of experience with fitness injury, every January is exactly the same. People are pumped up and start like a bat outta hell. They take on huge diet restrictions (no fat or sugar and fewer than 1500 calories a day) and add intense exercise all while maintaining family and life responsibilities on 6 hours of sleep.

This is a recipe for disaster on so many levels because the changes are unsustainable. I know this because my office is quiet in January and February, but by March there’s a waiting list full of tendonitis’s and back injuries.

First it’s imperative to understand the physiology of the body parts you aim to change: for strength it’s muscle, for weight loss it’s metabolism, for energy it’s cardiovascular fitness. Also understand that all of these systems work together. Metabolism, is an especially tricky system that is different for everyone and finding the unique balance will lead to success.

We must consider what makes your body work? Where is your tipping point? What’s the quality of the food you eat? Are you sleeping well or enough? Are you exposed to excessive environmental toxins? Are you not exercising enough to stimulate change, or are you exercising too much?

Imagine a wheel. The image on the left has the some of the big factors we need to focus on for a successful fitness program. The wheel on the right shows the imbalance of the pieces in the wheel. Rate your wheel in this manner are all the pieces balanced? Will your wheel roll or is it more like a stone, edges all jagged?

Health Wheel Health Wheel

When all the factors of the wheel are out the balance, wheel (or in this case the body) doesn’t roll right.
We need to factor all the systems together to find what fits for our own individual bodies (not your spouse or your neighbor or the MD on Dr. OZ)

Cortisol is the hormone that regulates stress. Cortisol is what stimulates the Biochemical processes for us to run from a tiger (Flight or fight). Starting or changing an exercise program will increase cortisol production. When this system is stimulated appropriately weight will fall off, we will sleep well, we eat normally, cravings will disappear, need for caffeine and sugar decreases.
If we over-stress (which 80% of Americans do) the stress modulating system becomes over taxed and the body will spike cortisol levels for a certain amount of time. Unfortunately, the body can’t keep up the production of cortisol resulting in a sharp decrease in the production of cortisol, or a crash.

Symptoms of this crash can include: reduced immune system (colds sinus infections) fatigue, food cravings, joint pain, muscle pain, weight loss plataue/ weight gain( rebound) mood imbalances, anxiety, depression, and brain fog to name a few.
The challenge is to balance enough stress to grow without so much stress we break down. This is the fine line we need to walk when starting a new fitness program.
Hormonal balance depends on:

  • Cortisol regulation: Normal production is based on circadian rhythm and stress response
  • Small stressors are healthy (quick run/exercise burst, learning something new/problem solving, occasional intermittent fasting)
  • Chronic stress this is what does us in (daily 90min commute in traffic, physical pain, fighting with spouse, unhealthy eating patterns, not enough sleep, over exercise)

Calorie restriction is a huge factor in metabolism. You need to be aware of how much you are consuming, but excessive restriction will make matters so much worse. Looking at the nutrient value of what you are eating will continue to fuel your body for the new activities you are asking it to do.

Excessive caloric restriction combined with exercise is a disaster in the long run. Your body will find the nutrients somewhere in the system. Catabolic (breakdown) processes will begin, your body will breakdown muscle tissue and bone to get fuel. Therefore, destroying the results from your workouts.
Realistically you may see weight loss quickly. Unfortunately, continual deficits in nutrient intake is impossible to keep up and the rebound effect of weight gain will be greater than the loss.

Components of a well-rounded fitness program

  • STRENGTH
  • CARDIOVASCULAR ENDURANCE
  • FLEXIBLITY/MOBILITY
  • BALANCE

My least favorite question what is the best exercise? It ranks up with what is the one best food… There isn’t one best. We need a combination of it all. You must be muscularly strong to tolerate the stress of the activity you want to do. You need to be flexible to move safely in to certain positions. You need to be balanced on each side of the joint (biceps to triceps, pectorals to rhomboids) to avoid uneven strain and inflammation.

To be fit the answer is NOT ”Eat less and work out more”.

Benefits of appropriate exercise:

  • Psychological benefits
  • Increased endorphins (only if you like what you do)
  • Increased social interaction
  • Mental clarity
  • Physiological benefits
  • Vanity benefits slim, muscles,
  • Better performance
  • More resistant to injury

Symptoms associated with over training:

  • Fatigue
  • Chronic reoccurring Tendon and muscular injury
  • Weight gain or weight loss resistance
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Increased susceptibility to infection (more frequent colds, respiratory infections and “flu-like” illness
  • Increased food cravings or disordered eating patterns

A balance program needs to incorporate strength training, flexibility and cardiovascular endurance training.
The body respond to variance vs consistency. Meaning that you should start an exercise program but switch it up frequently. Once our bodies learn how to do something the effort is diminished and so are the returns.

Ways to optimize your workouts:

  • Change the intensity,
  • Change the movement,
  • Change the resistance,
  • Change the speed.

Some options are:

  • Strength training, body weight or Olympic lifting, make sure your form is correct!
  • Injury happens when the weight and speed are too much causing form break down.
  • Interval training, such as Tabatas, or HIIT training, this can be as simple as running lines on the basketball court
  • Yoga for mind and body, strength and flexibility

Here are the big do’s and don’ts I have found to help start and stick with healthy lifestyle changes.

DO                                                                                                              DON’T

Eat real food: veggies, organic meats, fruits Rely on Frankenfoods: weight loss shakes and frozen dinners
Eat healthy fats: coconut oil, avocado oil, olive oil, smaltz, tallow, ghee. Eat fake sugars, diet foods, and vegetable oils
Sleep at least 8 hours every night Forgo sleep for extra workouts
Take recovery days:  exercise 2-3 days in a row then take 1-2 days off Workout every day at maximum capacity
Feel good after exercise, feel invigorated Push to exhaustion, feel drained all day after training session
Vary the type of workouts throughout the week: Cardio, strength training, yoga, balance Do the same activity at the same intensity every day.  Your body will react and adjust to change, but doing the same workout will lead to a plateau.
Choose activities you enjoy Exercise you hate will never make you thin and happy
Create realistic short and long term goals for each quarter of the year. Haphazardly begin a program with no structured focus.
Exercise inside and outside. Smell the trees, feel the sun, get dirty – it’s all good for you! Exercise through pain. Muscle burn is ok, but pain is a sign of something wrong

Change is good, and resolutions can be a great way to initiate change. Be mindful of why you want to change and have a plan for executing it in a realistic manner. Make 2017 the first year of your new healthy life!

Check out our blog for recipes and ways to get stronger than yesterday!

Healthy New Years Resolutions

2017 Guide for Making Healthy New Year's Resolutions

We’ve all said it before, “Starting January 1st I’m going to get healthy!” or “I’m going to drop 20 pounds by March!” Unsurprisingly, the top New Year’s resolution is some variation on getting fit or losing weight, what’s notable is how much doesn’t stick.

  • Fewer than 8% of resolutions are kept past March
  • Thousands of pounds are lost, yet 90-95% gain the weight back plus some
  • People spend upwards of $60 billion annually trying to lose weight through diet and gyms

So, how are you going to make this year different?

First, look at the big picture of health – weight loss should be viewed as a positive side effect of a healthier life. You don’t need to lose weight to get healthy, once you are healthy you will lose weight. This means lifestyle changes must happen to achieve overall health and I’m not talking about drastic, overnight changes. In my 25 years of experience with fitness injury, every January is exactly the same. People are pumped up and start like a bat outta hell. They take on huge diet restrictions (no fat or sugar and fewer than 1500 calories a day) and add intense exercise all while maintaining family and life responsibilities on 6 hours of sleep.

This is a recipe for disaster on so many levels because the changes are unsustainable.  I know this because my office is quiet in January and February, but by March there’s a waiting list full of tendinitises and back injuries.

Here are the big do’s and don’ts I have found to help start and stick with healthy lifestyle changes.

DO                                                                                                                     DON’T

Eat real food: veggies, organic meats, fruits Rely on Frankenfoods: weight loss shakes and frozen dinners
Eat healthy fats: coconut oil, avocado oil, olive oil Eat fake sugars, diet foods, and vegetable oils
Sleep at least 8 hours every night Forgo sleep for extra workouts
Take recovery days:  exercise 2-3 days in a row then take 1-2 days off Workout every day at maximum capacity
Vary the type of workouts throughout the week: Cardio, strength training, yoga, balance Do the same activity at the same intensity every day.  Your body will react and adjust to change, but doing the same workout will lead to a plateau.
Choose activities you enjoy Exercise you hate will never make you thin and happy
Exercise inside and outside. Smell the trees, feel the sun, get dirty – it’s all good for you! Exercise through pain. Muscle burn is ok, but pain is a sign of something wrong

 Change is good, and resolutions can be a great way to initiate change. Be mindful of why you want to change and have a plan for executing it in a realistic manner.  Make 2017 the first year of your new healthy life!

Check out our blog for recipes and ways to get stronger than yesterday!  http://battlebornhealth.com/blog/

My Journey Living with Severe Scoliosis

Over two years ago, I sat at my desk crying. My back hurt so badly that I couldn’t bear the pain. Waking up became increasingly difficult. Long commutes were a nightmare, and the thought of sitting for long periods made me cringe. It was painful to wear certain clothing and even more excruciating to maintain a normal work schedule. At 23 years old, I never pictured myself living with chronic pain. How did I get here?

Allyson Blog Image
While I’ve been lucky to appear “normal,” I have lived over half of my life with severe scoliosis, which often remains invisible and misunderstood by the public.

My whole life I have been an overachiever, pushing myself past my limits, partly because I love a challenge, and partly because I wanted to hide the fact that I have a severe scoliosis. I just finished my finance degree. I can run marathons. I act in theater and on camera. There’s absolutely nothing wrong, I told myself. Except at one point, the pain was too much to ignore anymore. 

Cross Country Images
My whole life, I’ve been a long-distance runner despite my scoliosis. In college I ran cross country, and over a year ago, I completed the San Fransisco Half Marathon.
Allyson Acting Image
The performing arts are a huge part of my life. I’ve always loved theater and acting, and I never let my disability get in the way.

Although on the outside I appear to live a normal life, my x-rays reveal something different. With a 50-degree lateral curve in my spine, I’m part of the 2-3% of the population that suffers from scoliosis.  While the spinal deformity affects about seven million people world-wide, most people live with a curvature of 15-degrees or smaller. However, I’m part of the .1% living with a curve of my severity. Because a lot of people with severe curves get surgery, I found myself struggling to manage pain and find proper treatment for my condition.

scoliosis-xray
This is the actual x-ray of my spine. Although I appear normal in photos, my x-ray reveals a 50-degree lateral curve, known as idiopathic scoliosis. There is no known cause or cure for my condition.

While some doctors poked and prodded at me like I was some kind of science experiment, others simply brushed off my “curve in the spine” telling me it didn’t hurt. Behind closed doors, I silently suffered without the courage to speak up about my pain, even to friends and family. At that point in my life, it became obvious that scoliosis is largely invisible and misunderstood by both the medical community and public.

The symptoms go far beyond a simple spinal curve. Scoliosis is a complex disorder that is categorized as a disability of the spine. Patients offer suffer from chronic pain, chronic fatigue, headaches, muscle spasms, anxiety, and depression. The spinal deformity can also contribute to low self-esteem and body-image issues due to uneven shoulders, hips, and abnormal back curvatures.

With Scoliosis, each day is different. You have days when you feel completely great, and other days when you cannot get out of bed. It takes a lot of work and lifestyle changes to live a functional life with my degree of scoliosis.

How it Began: My Diagnosis and Early Scoliosis Treatment

When I was 13 years old, I was diagnosed with scoliosis soon after my doctor discovered that my sister had an acute curve of 15 degrees. After that, it became a slew of x-rays and bracing until I was 18 years old. I wore a plastic back-brace under my clothes l for 18 hours a day, only taking it off for sports and activities.

outdoors photo
This photo was taken around the same time I was diagnosed with scoliosis (7th grade). I worked very hard to maintain a normal social life and activities, even though I wore a back-brace 18 hours a day.

While the bracing sounds like it would have been a miserable experience at school, it rarely bothered me. Most of the time, it wasn’t noticeable under my clothes. My friends and I actually had fun decorating it with stickers and taking turns trying it on, which seems kind of odd to me in retrospect. But hey, maybe it was just in style then (LOL).

Fast-forward to my college years, and I starting seeing a chiropractor for increased pain and chronic headaches. I ran cross-country and stayed very active on campus, which helped keep pain levels down most of the time. However, long hours studying would irritate my back and cause muscle spasms and headaches that lasted for days, and sometimes even weeks at a time.

After college, I began a career in corporate finance that required long hours sitting and traveling cross-country. This is when my pain levels increased and my health really began to suffer. My once active lifestyle turned into a sedentary one that only allowed one workout a day. I began researching alternative treatments to surgery and seeing chiropractors on a regular basis.

There’s Help: You Don’t Have to Live with Chronic Pain

Now, almost three years later, I’m happy to say that I’m functional again and enjoying life, my energy has improved and the muscle spasms have decreased.

Through the support of my doctors and physical therapists, I have learned how to communicate to others about my scoliosis and my limitations. I have learned that I do not have to suffer with chronic pain that limits my quality of life.

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After 13 years of being diagnosed with my condition, I’m finally learning to live pain free with scoliosis.

When an instructor in a yoga class or workout class singles me out for my posture, I feel comfortable letting them know I have scoliosis. There’s no shame in my disorder. My body cannot do everything perfectly, and that’s okay.

Finding the right doctors have been crucial on my journey. After years of trial and error, I’m thrilled to be working with Danielle and Jessica of Battle Born Health, who specialize in one-on-one total body restoration, undictated by insurance company mandates. This has allowed for a personalized experience that is tailored to the needs of my curve. After just a few weeks of treatment, I’ve noticed many improvements in mobility, posture, and overall functionality. I’m excited to continue treatment and see what improvements are made to my health.

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Living with scoliosis isn’t easy, but it has made me a stronger person, inside and out.

These days, life has become less about being perfect, and more about learning to do what’s best for my body.

My spine may never be straight, and I may never be able to do a perfect push-up. But, I have so much more than that. I have gained the strength and confidence to live my best life—curves and all.

I hope you’ll follow me on my journey as I share my story and progress of living a full and active life with scoliosis.

Battle Born Health

Freedom from Muscle Pain: It’s Not a Christmas Miracle, It’s Mechanics

Patients often come into the clinic because they are in pain, let’s say their shoulder hurts. When we ask what happened, we often hear answers like “I don’t know, I just woke up with this.” Left untreated, the muscle pain won’t go away and may worsen over time.    

First, the physical therapist will perform an evaluation to determine the issue. We ask a lot of questions, ask you to move in various directions, and build a 3D picture of what is happening inside your body.    

The Mechanics of Muscle Pain in the Body

To understand what we’re looking for, picture the construction of a skyscraper. Cranes move huge beams at all different heights and angles to construct the structure, or skeletal system of the building. This is accomplished by strong cables and pulleys manipulating the beams and structure, similar to the way muscles and tendons act on bones and joints. 

Now, picture one of the beams getting snagged or hung up on something as it’s being moved – the cables will continue to lift and pull, but the stuck area will prevent movement, placing extra strain on the pulleys and cables. In the body, when the tendons or muscles are strained, an inflammatory process begins. This process rushes cell-rich blood to the area resulting in a warm, red and sore joint. Rest is beneficial so that the biological response can perform its functions, but it can’t fix the root cause of the irritation – the mechanical hang-up within the body’s bone and joint structure.    

Physical Therapy Can Restore Joint Mobility

A physical therapist is able to perform manual techniques to get the joints moving, which may feel like an aggressive massage. These techniques allow the physical therapist to unstick the metaphorical beam and restore normal mobility of the joint. After treatment, or a series of treatments, the patient discovers that they’re finally able to move their shoulder without muscle pain, they’ll patient exclaim “it’s a miracle!”  NOPE it’s mechanics! Now the beams and cables are moving freely, no strain and no pain.   

That’s just part one of the solution.   

Part two involves re-educating muscles to move in the correct patterns so the joints don’t get stuck again.  When the joint has improper mobility for an extended period of time, the muscles will find a way to compensate, producing bad habits. Without correcting those bad habits, the hang-ups are likely to just recur, which is why your PT will work with you to help train your muscles to activate and move in the correct sequence to keep the joints healthy and moving properly. 

Neuromuscular Reeducation Creates Lasting Improvements

Physical therapists are specifically trained in neuromuscular re-education. Neuromuscular reeducation is the process of identifying bad movement habits, then training and the appropriate, coordinated patterns of movement.  Exercise with good form will promote strength, speed and pain free range of movement. This is not a quick fix, and requires dedicated work on the part of both the physical therapist and from the patient, but it is the best and only way to create real and lasting improvement toward the goal of becoming pain free. 

If you have a recurring injury, or aches and pains that refuse to go away despite plenty of resting and careful exercise, your body mechanics are likely off.  The physical therapists at Battle Born Health are ready and excited to offer you the one-on-one time and attention that’s needed to properly identify the problem and its root causes, create a personalized plan for recovery and prevention, and get you through your injury with a full and lasting recovery.  Every session puts you in their capable hands, one-on-one, with the goal of reducing your overall muscle pain. 

With Battle Born Health, there’s no techs, no time in another room with another patient while you do exercise. It’s just you and a Doctor of Physical Therapy.   

Call today to schedule a complimentary consultation, and let us show you how we can help you meet your goals.

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Living with Scoliosis: Staying Healthy for the Holidays

It’s that time a year again. Between traveling, late nights, events, and sugary sweets, holidays can take a toll on our bodies. While most people enjoy more relaxed schedules during Christmas and Thanksgiving, any change in routine can affect back-pain and energy levels of people living with scoliosis.

For me, any little change, from a chair to a different bed, can make my muscle pain flare up.  Knowing that I would have to make some sacrifices, I worked with Jessica from Battle Born Health to come up with a holiday plan to limit back pain while traveling to visit family this season.

Traveling for the Holidays with Scoliosis

Here’s how I plan ahead for a trip to stay healthy and productive:

Add extra activity into your schedule

I always feel my best when I’m more active. Sitting for long periods has always been my struggle with scoliosis, so I make sure to add in extra activity when I’m visiting family and friends. Each year, my family does a Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving morning and it’s a great way to get active on the holiday.

Eat regular meals and moderate sugar

Good nutrition is important for keeping up energy when you have scoliosis. While holidays may be full of richer foods, it’s important to not skip meals and eat at regular times. I try to limit sugar and have only a “few bites” of dessert if I’m in the mood for it.

Make the best of your sleep situation

Sleeping in a firm bed is best for my back. Couches and other sleep arrangements aren’t great for my back. However, if it’s just for a few days I’ll try to bring my own pillows or try to make the arrangement as comfortable as possible.   

Do physical therapy exercises and stretches

Before my trip, Jessica worked with me to review the exercises I could do while out of town. We prepared my workout schedule and exercises before the trip and I made sure I’d have the right equipment handy.

Stay positive and breath through anxiety

Dealing with pain and fatigue during the holidays never creates good memories. As much as I try to stay healthy, certain points of the trip are always harder than others. During these times, I try to breath and focus on ways I can relax my muscles or get extra rest during the trip.

While no holiday is perfect, these tips keep me feeling my best throughout the season so that I can enjoy all of the festive activities with my friends and family.

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*Disclaimer: My writing is from personal experience and meant for educational purposes only. Please consult a professional for medical advice concerning scoliosis. Battle Born Health is happy to answer any questions regarding back pain and treatment options.