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!

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.

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.

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.

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.

Christmas tree

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.


*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.

Holiday Diet Implosion

So you’ve been on a “diet” or have made a lifestyle shift in your eating habits. Whether it’s been watching carbs, going gluten-free, eliminating dairy or nightshades, or maybe you’re on the Whole 30. Whatever it is, it really doesn’t matter because what does matter is that you have been feeling great! Now its November and the holiday train is coming right at you. EEK! You try and hang on to your seat (literally!) as it’s can be wild ride, full of temptation.


For my issues, I needed to commit to different dietary standards Ie. NO Gluten, soy, dairy, and corn products but I LOVE holiday foods! My mother in-law is an amazing cook! Peach cobbler is her specialty and I have been caught in the kitchen polishing off the baking dish as I was “cleaning up “at Thanksgiving more than once. It took me five holiday seasons of feeling terrible from November until March to figure out that in the bustle of family gatherings, holidays, and parties, that I can’t eat the holiday table “regulars”, and that I can’t cheat. How was I going to get through this?


At first I stayed pretty committed to a diet with an occasional cheat that I couldn’t resist. The last time I “fell off the wagon” we were on a trip and I had some soda, coffee and ate the icing off the cake, (really just the icing because it was still “gluten-free”) and a few other “cheats” because it was convenient. When I came home from our vacation, I was having difficulty sleeping, anxiety, gastric issues, weight gain, and fatigue. I also noticed a huge change in my workouts. I had been doing great with my spin class prior to the holidays. I was able to get my max heart rate up to 171 and recover quickly.

After that one week trip with a bunch of cheats, my heart rate wouldn’t go over 140. It took me almost 4 months to regulate my digestion, sleep and return to almost the same fitness levels. After that experience, I decided I had to follow a specific diet. I couldn’t cheat, not even on holidays. I found out almost 2 years ago that I have Hashimoto Thyroiditis. I started GAPS almost 2 years ago with success. I am not willing to risk my health for the holiday treats. GAPS, especially in the beginning, is very strict and limiting.


There were a few months I had to bring my own food with me everywhere. Bar Mitzvah’s, dinner parties, holiday parties, ski days. I am not going to lie, it sucked…Not only can the “diet” aspect be hard, but also the questions, the looks of pity or concern, or that you are crazy! It’s my mom wanting to feed me. My friends inviting me to dinner and trying so hard to cook for me. My family anxious to go grab a bite to eat after a soccer game. As you can see, with the holidays, it’s more than just about the food… yes, there’s, apple pies and Chinese food ( What?! I am Jewish that’s what we eat on Christmas eve) and that all taste great, but its more about being part of the celebration and being included.

Even though I am there, not taking part in the dinner or having to prep my own “special meal” in the corner makes me feel left out. The hardest holiday for me was Passover, I couldn’t have matzo-ball soup… My grandmother and I had made matzo-ball soup many times together when I was a kid, it was very emotional not to eat it with my friends and family. I can’t say I have the holidays 100% completely figured out but have a system that has been working for me.

This tip list has helped me through 5 gluten-free, dairy-free, grain-free holidays and 2 gaps legal holiday seasons.


1. Know your WHY. Why are you doing this diet/lifestyle? Is it an allergy, an auto-immune disease, weight loss, or training for a big race? When you have that deep real why, then you can tell yourself that particular food is or is not worth risking it… and sometimes it is worth it (its ok, if its ok).
2. Be PREPARED. If you go to party hungry, you are more likely to eat impulsively what is in front of you. And if your diet is AIP or GAPS (or another limiting diet), most likely there will be nothing you can choose from. Always have food with you.
3. CONTAINERS.Thermos, fork knife spoon set, cute lunch box tote. Find some items you like keep them with you. Looking for something fun?  Try these containers. 
4. REMIND yourself it’s not about the food. It’s about spending time with family and friends. It’s about feeling good the next day, and that a food hangover that stops you from playing with your kids on Christmas morning isn’t worth it.
5. Pick a FOOD PREP DAY. Cook in bulk ahead of time, so during the craziness of the season you can grab some roasted chicken, veggies, lettuce and an avocado to throw in your fun container or tote bag to take with you.
6. Offer to BRING A DISH TO SHARE to the party. Find a dish you really like, that fits your needs and bring it to include in the pot luck. Vegetable tian, roasted chicken, warm cranberry spinach salad (links below) have been great for me.
7. Find someone who can SUPPORT you, either because they eat as you do or they truly believe in what you are committed to. If you can’t find that person look to a health coach that can help you with accountability.
8. Do your best to ENJOY what you are eating. Look for other parts of the holidays that you can be grateful for, that you may have ignored before. Now is the time to embrace new and different.


Here are links to recipes I have used for holiday dinners that have proven popular with most everyone, dieting or not!
I would use a ghee or saturated fat (tallow, duck fat, schmaltz, or avocado oil vs olive oil with this recipe)

headache relief

Headaches Part 3: Creating a Strong, Stable Spine

In the last 2 blogs, we have focused on the causes of headaches and their connection to posture.  Hopefully you’ve tried the tips for sitting at your desk and driving. I am sure you’ve noticed that good posture is a lot of work!

You would think that something as basic as sitting or standing up straight would come naturally. We aren’t designed to sit at a desk, grip a steering wheel or stare at a screen for hours on end, but unfortunately our modern world demands it.

Everyday life makes it easy to acquire a posture where your head and shoulders are more forward than they should be, which places excess strain on our joints and muscles. It takes a conscious and concerted effort to maintain good posture at first, but the more time you spend in good posture, the more natural and automatic it will become.

One recommendation I give my patients is to do a posture check every time they stop at a red light. Taking a few seconds to recognize where your body is will help establish this pattern and eventually it will become instinctive.

When you come to a stop:

1. Become aware of the position of your shoulders.

        -Are they rolled forward?

        -Are they shrugged up toward your ears because the person in front of you is         driving like a crazy person.

2.  Squeeze your shoulder blades together and down, engage the muscles in the middle of the back to support yourself.

3. Next think about where your head is in relation to the shoulders.

         -Is your chin pushing forward? If so, the position needs correcting.

         -Are your ears in line vertically with the outside edge of your shoulders?

4. Imagine a string coming out of the top of the head and up through the roof of your car. If this sting pulls you upward, it allows your spine to elongate and the chin to tuck back into the neck slightly. It’s also important to remember to keep your head level with the horizon; the chin tuck shouldn’t leave you looking at the floor.

Frequent posture checks at work can be a bit trickier because it’s easy to get into a work groove and lose track of time, so find a cue that will remind you to check. Perhaps it’s whenever someone comes by to chat with you, or every time you reach for a water bottle or coffee cup; just pick a cue and stick to it.

Now that your awareness is improving by leaps and bounds, here are some of our favorite exercises to help you maintain your beautiful, new-found posture. These exercises focus on the muscles in the upper back. The upper back is crucial for supporting the spine and preventing a forward slump that’s all too easy to fall into.

Chin Tucks

Chin tucks restore the natural position of the neck. This allows the vertebrae to stack on top of each other creating an open space for the nerves to exit freely.

Roll 2 hand towels lengthwise individually, then place them on the floor forming and X

headache relief

1.Lay on your stomach with the towels under the front of your shoulders and your nose just below where they cross.

2. Tuck your chin into your neck as you lift your head slightly off the floor. The goal is to keep your forehead parallel with the floor and give yourself a double chin.

3. Hold 3 seconds then relax back down to the floor.

**Keep your chest pressed into the floor.

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Prone I’s, W’s and Y’s

I Lie down on the floor on your towel X with your arms down by your sides

1.     Tuck your chin into your neck

2.     Lift your arms off the floor using the muscles between your shoulder blades.

3.     Hold 3 seconds then relax back down to the floor.

**keep hands lower than elbows

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W  Lie down on the floor on your towel X  with your hands up at the same level as ears elbow bent

1.     Tuck your chin into your neck

2.     Squeeze shoulder blades together to raise arms off the floor

3.     Hold 3 seconds then relax back down to the floor.

**keep hands lower than elbows

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Y  Same starting position as above hands in front of your head ( like you are dancing to the YMCA song)

1.     Tuck your chin into your neck

2.     Squeeze shoulder blades together to raise arms off the floor

3.     Hold 3 seconds then relax back down to the floor.

**Keep chest pressed into the floor



Check out the videos on our Youtube channel to see how Danielle does the exercise with perfect form!

Chin Tuck Progression 

Prone I’s 

Prone Y’s 


Headache Part Two: Desk, Driving and Sleeping Posture

Headache Part Two: Desk, Driving and Sleeping Posture

There’s a lot of talk about how good posture is crucial for a healthy body, but it’s tough to know what exactly is good posture. In this article, we will discuss the best posture for sitting at a desk, driving and sleeping. These tips are especially important if you suffer from headaches because the position of your head and spine have a huge impact on how you feel. If you’re new to this blog, I recommend looking back to the previous article Headaches Part One: A Pain in the Neck for some background on how headaches can be caused by posture.

headache cure Battle Born Health therapy

A “normal” spine has 4 curves – the inward (lordotic) curve of the cervical spine or neck, the outward (kyphotic) curve of the thoracic spine, the inward (lordotic) curve of the lumbar spine or low back and the slight outward curve of the sacrum.

Between time, gravity, our jobs and hobbies, we tend to develop a forward head and shoulders posture which changes the forces through the spine. Our chin pushes forward, followed by our upper back resulting in increased strain on the joints and muscles as well as weakening of the deep stabilizing muscles of the neck. This can result in headaches at the base of the head, the temples, radiating up the back of the head and aching in the neck and shoulder blades. Keeping your spine in a neutral position helps minimize the extra forces on the neck and prevent aches and pains as you work and play.

Battle Born Health therapy posture Reno

To maintain good posture, imagine a vertical line being drawn down through your body from head to toe. That line should pass through the center of your ear, your shoulder, your hips and your ankles. This puts your spine into a strong, stacked column which distributes the pull of gravity evenly and reduces strain in the joints and muscles.

Sitting at your desk

Tips Physical therapy Battle Born Health

  • Position your monitor so your eyes are looking 2 to 3 inches below the top edge, keeping your chin parallel with the floor.
  • Squeeze your shoulder blades together gently to support the upper back, then pull your chin directly backwards into your spine like you’re giving yourself a double chin. The goal is to keep your chin level (not letting it drop toward the floor as you pull it backward) and reverse the curvature that was caused by the forward-head posture that was mentioned earlier.
  • Sit with your hips against the back of the chair with a small towel roll supporting the natural curve of the low back.
  • Finally position your chair so your hips are slightly higher than your knees and your feet can rest solidly on the floor.


This posture is similar to sitting at your desk and the goal is to maintain a tall, neutral spine.

  • Adjust the height of your seat so you can keep your eyes looking straight ahead with the chin level with the horizon. Pull your chin back toward your neck to prevent the forward head posture. Use the headrest as a cue – the back of your head should gently rest on it, while keeping your chin level
  • Relax shoulders and let them drop toward the ground
  • Recline the seat to no more than 30 or 40 degrees
  • Support the low back with a small towel roll
  • Adjust the steering wheel so that your arms are supported on the wheel with roughly 90 degrees of bend in the elbow and shoulders relaxed


People often ask what’s the best position for sleeping and my answer is whatever position you can sleep in.

Left-sided or right-sided – the key is support

Imagine lying on your favorite side…start with the pillow under your head only (not under your shoulders). Next, tuck one end under your chin, pulling the middle section into the crook of your neck and the end around to the back of your head. Picture a horseshoe shaped pillow wrapping around from your chin to your upper back. A great way to achieve the support of an expensive feather or memory foam pillow is to take a hand towel and roll it into a log, then slide that into the pillowcase at the base of the pillow. This creates support for the neck while also being adjustable to your comfort.

headache relief
headache relief
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Next, support your top arm. Grab a standard pillow and tuck it all the way up under your armpit and so the length of your arm is comfortably resting on the pillow. Make sure all of it is supported by the pillow – upper arm, elbow, forearm and hand.

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If you’re a back sleeper:

The goal is to support your head and neck while also keeping your neck in line with the rest of the spine. In the picture below, you see how too many pillows can raise the head so it’s no longer in line with the rest of the spine. Another important point about this picture is that the pillows are there to support your head and neck, and need not be under your shoulders. Pull the pillow under your head so that it fills the curve under your neck.

headache relief
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Finally, if you have any shoulder issues, you can put a pillow under your arm from your armpit to your belly button to support the weight of the arm. This support will allow the muscles in the neck to turn off at night and rest because they no longer have to hold the weight of the arm.

headache relief

If this sounds like a lot of information all thrown at you at once, try it out one tip at a time – spend a few days at work focusing on getting your desk chair set up just right and see how you feel at the end of the week. Do the same with adjusting your car seat and being aware of where your shoulders are while driving. If you notice an ache in your head or shoulder blades, take a deep breath and let your shoulders drop toward the ground. The more often you check your posture, the more awareness you will develop and will be able to avoid headaches from the start. Also, experiment with pillows and sleeping position because a good night’s rest is crucial for health.
If you’ve tried all of these tips and still aren’t feeling the relief you hoped for, consult a physical therapist. It’s so easy to ignore headaches and hope they just go away, but resist the urge and be proactive about your health – be stronger than yesterday!

How To Get Off The Blood Sugar Roller Coaster

Sugar is a common term used to describe the white stuff on your coffee counter. It is a disaccharide that is broken down into glucose and fructose. “Sugars” are actually carbohydrates that are single saccharides, like glucose, and disaccharides like table sugar. Sugar the simplest form of the carbohydrates1

Bread, pasta, rice, potatoes are also carbohydrates, as are kale, spinach, celery, tomatoes and fruit. Sugar and all other carbohydrates are turned in to glucose in the body. Glucose is transported by the blood to cells for fuel. All carbohydrates, from sugar to kale, can be categorized on a scale of how much of an effect they have to spike your blood sugar levels.

how to get off the sugar roller coaster live love eat SeptemberWhen we consume carbohydrates our liver converts them into glucose and sends it out into the blood stream. The pancreas responds by releasing insulin. Insulin is the hormone that sends a signal to the cells to open their doors and allow glucose into the cell to be used for immediate energy or storage. The more glucose the liver pumps into the blood, the more insulin the pancreas has to send out.
If the amount of sugar in the blood stream is chronically high the pancreas cannot keep up with the demand for insulin. The pancreas can become burned out and stop producing insulin (this is the beginning of a disease called Diabetes Mellitus type 2).

When there is not enough insulin to shuttle the sugar in to the cells, the sugar is left in the blood stream. The sugar in the blood stream can create major problems which include: Damages to the arteries; sugar acts like a scouring pad on the inside of the artery walls causing arterial damage which leads to plaque buildup and cardiovascular disease. Sugar in the blood suppresses the immune system: 1 tsp of sugar suppresses the immune systemfood by 70% for up to 6 hours (not surprising that flu season follows so closely behind the holiday season. Think about all the parties…sugar consumption and alcohol consumption (which is just concentrated sugar).

With the rage of low carbohydrate diets out there, it is important to note what type of carbohydrates you are consuming. The spikes and crashes in blood sugar not only are bad for us but the highs and lows create stress and inflammation. The roller coaster of blood sugar levels makes us feel crappy throughout the day. If you can maintain your blood glucoses at a consistent level, then you will feel better. By eating lower glycemic carbohydrates combined with good sources of fats and lean proteins, the liver and pancreas will not be as taxed.
Glycemic Index scale measures each food’s effect on blood sugar levels. The glycemic index is a tool to tell us how much 50 g of a certain food will spike blood sugar; the foods are rated from 1- 100 (pure glucose being 100.) The Glycemic Load (GL) tells us how much a normal serving size will spike our blood sugar. GL is combination of GI and serving size. GL tends to be more accurate measure for weight loss and health, for example the GI of watermelon is 70 which is high. Which is measure 50 grams of the food. So for a GI of 70 one person would have to consume one pound of watermelon in one sitting. The GL of watermelon is 4, a low measure as it is based on actual number of carbs consumed with a normal s serving size. Another example of a high GI but low GL are Carrots: GI 71 (high) GL 6 (low) because the GI is based on sugars in 1.5 pounds of carrots. To find out more information on the GI and GL of foods look here /foodSearch.php

Glycemic Index Glycemic Load
High 70- 100 >20
Medium 56- 69 11-19
Low < 55 <10

Low glycemic carbs (basically veggies) fats and proteins are a slow burning fuel sources. Once our body gets accustomed to using fats and protein for fuel the body is able to maintain a steady source of energy to function throughout the day. By using fats and proteins for fuel we are able to decrease cravings, maintain energy for hours and most importantly, feed brain tissues.

Fueling yourself on carbohydrates will keep you satiated for a very short time, you will have to eat much more frequently throughout the day. Your blood sugar and insulin levels will spike and plummet. Your hunger and carbohydrate/sugar cravings are caused by the dependency on an inefficient fuel source. This is most notable around 3 the afternoon, when the cravings for a Frappuccino and a cookie are more than anyone can bear!

GOOD fats are essential for brain health, cell membrane health, heart health and nerve function. Fats are needed for the absorption of vitamins A, D, and K- without which we see immune, mental, bone and cardiovascular health plummet. Using a good quality olive oil to your salads or sautéing your vegetables in coconut oil will increase absorption of vitamins by at least 20%.

The biggest offenders of high glycemic meals are processed foods. Breads, baked goods, processed grains, potatoes all have high GI/GL . To add insult to injury the vitamin density of these foods is lower than other foods.

Here are some comparisons of Glycemic index

Tomatoes, asparagus, avocado, ham or bacon, 2 eggs
Glycemic Index 17
Cheerios 1/2 cup: skim milk, 8oz:
Glycemic Index 106
1 cup: Sweet Potato full of phytonutrients, B6, Manganese, Vit A and C,
Glycemic Load 12
1 cup: Rice minimal nutrients, manganese-mostly added after refinement.
Glycemic load 24-53
1/2 cup: Steel cut oats, slow cook:
Glycemic Load: 6.4
1/2 cup: Instant Oatmeal:
Glycemic Load 13.7

To reduce your glycemic intake, focus on dark leafy green veggies, cruciferous vegetables, organic sources of clean lean animal protein, and healthy fats (coconut, avocado, tallow and olive oils). Even natural sugars such as fruit and honey will still spike insulin and should be consumed in moderation. Here are two great recipe ideas for lower glycemic meals. Links to original web-sites included.


3 Cups Purple Cabbage, Chopped
1 Cup Cucumber, Chopped
1/3 Cup Purple Onion, Finely Chopped
1/2 Cup Green Mango, Diced
3 Tbsp Olive Oil
2 Tbsp Balsamin Vinegar
Cracked Black Pepper to Taste
Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl.


1 Lb Grass Fed Ground Beef
1 Tbsp Garlic Powder
1/2 Tsp Black Pepper
1 Tbsp Cumin
1 Tbsp Chili Powder
1/4 Cup Green Salsa

Brown meat, add seasoning and salsa, stir and eat on a lettuce leaf topped with the purple cabbage slaw, avocado and fresh cilantro.

Mustard Rosemary and Thyme Roasted Chicken

  • 2 4-5lb whole chickens
  • 2 Tbsp lard, extra virgin coconut oil, or unsalted butter (I used lard)
  • 2 Tbsp brown or Dijon-style mustard  (check ingredients GLUTEN-FREE )
  • 1 ½ Tbsp chopped fresh rosemary (measure after chopping, or use 1 Tbsp dried)
  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. Remove chickens from packaging, pat dry with paper towels, remove any giblets (save these for making bone broth!) and place on your roasting pan, using the rack insert that comes with the pan.
  3. Melt lard or coconut oil and mix with Dijon and rosemary.  Baste the entire surface of both chickens with the mustard sauce (I just use my hands).
  4. Roast chickens for 20 minutes per pound (or until a meat thermometer reads at least 165F—it’s standard to cook until breast meat reads 180F).
  5. Make pan gravy with the juices if desired.  Carve and serve!

By learning which foods will give you the most nutritional value with the least amount of sugar you can lose weight, reduce your inflammation, and generally feel better fairly quickly. Making consistent small adjustments to your diet will teach your body how to use a more efficient healthier fuel source. If you are used to eating a high glycemic diet which the standard American diet is this way of eating may take a bit of time to get used to. Once you have it down you will see the difference in energy levels, reduction in cravings and improvement in general well-being that will make the effort worth it.

Headache Part One: A Pain in the Neck

Headaches are one of my favorite issues to treat as a physical therapist because they are an everyday nuisance that are often completely fixable. The typical description I hear from patients is an ache at the base of head where it meets the neck that seems to get worse as the day goes on, especially while sitting at a desk.

As much as I’d like to tell everyone to just retire and the headaches will go away, that’s not sustainable for my patients. Their reports of aching and tightness at the base of the head often also includes a dull ache in the upper shoulders and shoulder blade region which improves briefly with massaging the area.

We all know that you can’t recruit someone to rub your neck and shoulders all day at work, so over the next few articles, I will offer tips for decreasing the pain and give techniques to manage it without medication or days off.

When dealing with headaches, it’s important to identify the cause or causes, so they can be treated effectively. Many times, there are a combination of issues which may include seasonal allergies, posture while sitting at your desk, driving or sleeping, stress, neurological problems and trauma. While not all of these causes are suited for physical therapy, there are many that can be improved and solved with physical therapy.

Headaches that are located behind the eyes, at the temples or radiate up the back of the head to the top are often caused by dysfunction in the neck and are called “cervicogenic headaches”. These types of headaches often respond very well to physical therapy. While the pain appears in these areas, it’s not actually caused by dysfunction there specifically.

Limited joint motion, tight muscles or instability at the joint can all cause these symptoms. A skilled physical therapist will utilize a variety of manual hands-on techniques focused on restoring normal joint motion, calming muscles that are overly tight or in a spasm, and re-educating the stabilizing muscles of the neck so that your body can maintain good posture.

Here are some basic ideas to get you started. In the next few blog posts, I will give advice on ergonomics at your desk, while driving and while sleeping as well as exercises to create a strong, stable posture, so stay tuned!

3 Tips

  1. Correcting the forward head posture

The problem: head or neck pain at the computer, while driving or reading.

headache relief

The reasoning: Posture is an important starting point because without restoring the neutral position of the spine, the joints and muscles will be perpetually strained and irritated which creates a pain cycle and forces your body to compensate with unhealthy patterns of movement.

When we sit at a desk or when driving, we all have the tendency to lean toward whatever we’re looking at, typically leading with the chin. This essentially shortens the muscles of at the base of the skull and overstretches the muscles on the front side of the neck. These muscles are deep; they bear the responsibility of stabilizing our spine. If you hold your head in the forward position long enough, those stabilizing muscles in the neck are unable to support the posture and you will begin to feel that ache at the base of your head.

The solution: Postural awarenessstart by sitting tall in a chair with back support, look straight ahead keeping your chin level with the horizon. Squeeze your shoulder blades together gently to support the upper back, then pull your chin directly backwards into your spine (think double chin). The goal is to keep your chin level (not letting it drop toward the floor as you pull it backward) and reverse the curvature that was caused by the forward-head posture that was mentioned earlier. Hold for 10 seconds, while breathing and relaxing. Keep this posture in mind as you drive, work at your computer or read.

headache relief
  1. Pain while sitting at the computer

The problem: working at the computer for hours at a time and ending up with a headache

The solution:

  1. Take frequent mini-breaks – stand up and walk around for a few minutes at least once every hour, or sooner if you begin to notice a headache or neck pain

  2. Good ergonomics – we will go in depth on this topic in the next blog post, but here are a few key points to keep in mind:

    • Sit in a chair with low back support that fills the natural curve of your spine. Using a rolled up sweatshirt or a few thin towels rolled together can accomplish this without needing to buy an expensive new chair.

    • The seat of your chair should be high enough that your hips are higher than your knees, but your feet are still fully on the ground. Try placing a few folded towels under your buttocks to achieve this position.

    • Your screen should be high enough so that you can see the most of the screen by looking straight ahead with your chin parallel with the floor, and without needing to tilt your head up or down.

    • Keep your chin tucked into your neck and avoid that forward-head posture we discussed before.

  3. Balancing flexion and extension – in our society we spend a lot of time bent forward at a computer, driving a car or just staring at our phones. Your body needs to spend time out of that forward bent position (called flexion) with backward bent positions (called extension).

Here is a simple exercise you can do at work to loosen the muscles on the front of your body and give the ones on the back a break:

Doorway Stretch

– Use a narrow doorway, place one forearm flat against each side of the doorframe with your elbows around shoulder height.

– Tighten your abdominal muscles and step into the doorway until you feel a stretch across your chest

– Hold this position for 30 seconds. You should feel the stretch in your chest and upper back. If you feel it in your low back, don’t step into the doorway so far.

– Repeat this stretch one to two times an hour as you go through your day

  1. Pain while sleeping

The problem: Restless sleep because of neck pain

The solution:

Left-sided or right-sided – the key is support

Imagine lying on your favorite side…start with the pillow under your head only (not under your shoulders). Next, tuck one end under your chin, pulling the middle section into the crook of your neck and the end around to the back of your head. Picture a horseshoe shaped pillow wrapping around from your chin to your upper back. A great way to achieve the support of an expensive feather or memory foam pillow is to take a hand towel and roll it into a log, then slide that into the pillowcase at the base of the pillow. This creates support for the neck while also being adjustable to your comfort.

headache relief
headache relief
headache relief

Next, support your top arm. Grab a standard pillow and tuck it all the way up under your armpit and so the length of your arm is comfortably resting on the pillow. Make sure all of it is supported by the pillow – upper arm, elbow, forearm and hand.

headache relief

If you’re a back sleeper:

The goal is to support your head and neck while also keeping your neck in line with the rest of the spine. In the picture below, you see how too many pillows can raise the head so it’s no longer in line with the rest of the spine. Another important point about this picture is that the pillows are there to support your head and neck, and need not be under your shoulders. Pull the pillow under your head so that it fills the curve under your neck.

headache relief
headache relief

Finally, if you have any shoulder issues, you can put a pillow under your arm from your armpit to your belly button to support the weight of the arm. This support will allow the muscles in the neck to turn off at night and rest because they no longer have to hold the weight of the arm.

headache relief

Recovery for True Fitness

I am a physical therapist, a business owner, I am a mother of 2 great busy kids, a wife and I am an athlete. My story is somewhat convoluted and a bit long, but as I work with more people, I hear it repeated over and over again, yet never addressed mainstream medicine.

I was a high-school athlete; I went on to compete in college at the intermural level. I went to grad-school and continued to participate in master’s sports (soccer and swimming).

I became an accomplished swimmer and triathlete along with birthing 2 kids, working and finishing my doctoral degree.

I am what some people may call “type A personality”. Just ok was never good enough for me. Nothing is worth doing if you don’t give it 100%.
In 2009-2010 I was finishing my doctoral degree, my daughters were 4 and 6, my husband traveled, I worked 30 hours a week, I coached one soccer team and assisted with the other. I was damned and determined to maintain my workout schedule. I trained for and completed 3 triathlons, 2 bicycle rides from 60 to 80 miles, and 3 long distance open water swims that year. For fun I swam with the masters team in the mornings and played on a recreational soccer team on Thursday evenings.  I worked out 6 mornings a week at 5:30 am, I did double workouts 3-4 days per week. I had never “needed” much sleep so 5-6 hours 5-6 days week was fine.

I prided myself on this lifestyle. I was a doer, I got it all done, the lady who brought home the bacon and fried it up in a pan from Enjoli commercial of the 80’s

I began to get reoccurring sinus infections. I was on a course of antibiotics almost every 8 weeks. I began to gain weight especially around my abdomen (the area I was working so hard to keep tight and flat after the babies). I had bouts of plantar fasciitis, my biceps tendon and my SI joint always bugged me, but I rolled it out and took an Advil. My period stopped, but that just made life less complicated. I began have environmental allergies and soon developed exercise induced asthma, began using a steroid inhaler to get through my runs.

I was always tired, but I still dragged my butt out of bed. Once I got my work out in, I was wired. I didn’t have a lot of patience with my kids, and I didn’t laugh as much with my husband.

Eventually my drive caught up with me. I had exhausted my adrenals. My body finally gave up. The adrenals, the glands on top of your kidneys that regulated my hormones were fried!!! I had to stop. I came crashing down, this has led me on a journey of healing. I hope I can share some of this with you so you or someone you know doesn’t have to fall to the bottom, when she was trying so very hard to be “healthy” and stay on the top.

What I didn’t allow for was RECOVERY. I kept pushing my body to its upper limits and never giving my body the time to regenerate or restore itself. The only way to get stronger is to push, then to rest. In our society we see rest equivalent to being lazy. But that is just not the case. Understanding your body, emotionally and physically is the key to fitness.

Fitness is measured by a combination of few different components:

  • Cardiovascular health: your aerobic capacity (run, swim, walk ie distance and endurance activities)
  • Strength: resistance based activities; pushing weight against gravity ie lifting a barbell or carrying a baby,
  • Flexibility/ mobility: the amount of movement available at the joint and muscles
  • Balance: ability to stay upright against gravity and perturbations. Ie standing on one foot, jumping from rock to rock across a stream

We need to exercise to stimulate the breakdown of the muscles, tendons, and bones. When the body has the right nutrients and the appropriate dosage of resistance our muscles tendons and bones are encouraged to rebuild bigger and stronger; therefor can endure more stress prior to injury.

Stress to the system in manageable doses allows us to grow stronger. This is mediated by our hormones. The endocrine and adrenal systems work together (or occasionally against each other if dysfunctional).

Physical stress produces a spike in the hormone cortisol, the stress hormone. We need this for survival it’s our fight or flight response.  This the action of our sympathetic nervous system which is good for us in small doses. If the system is over stimulated, then Cortisol is over produced.  This stress hormone will be produced in lieu of your sex hormones, growth hormones and thyroid hormones. When this occurs your metabolic function is diminished.
Why does this matter? if we are diverting the body’s resources of hormones just to produce stress hormones, the body cannot function properly.  Muscles cannot grow without testosterone or human growth hormone. When estrogen levels are low our reproductive system doesn’t cycle properly. If we are constantly producing cortisol our neurotransmitters, serotonin and dopamine ratios get thrown off which mess with our state of mind.

To be a well-rounded healthy athlete you must address all areas of fitness but the true gold standard of the perfect model human athlete is “how fast does your body recover?”

Vo2 max, lactate threshold, muscle soreness, return to base line heart rate; all of these measurements of fitness boil down to one thing, how good is your metabolism? Metabolism is usually associated with “how fast do I burn calories”. But that is only one aspect. It is also how your body converts and processes energy and clears out waste. The body converts nutrients in to energy. The byproducts of that conversion is metabolic waste that the body can’t use and needs to get rid of. The chemicals produced are toxic to us. Hence why we need detoxification.

The stars have to align for detox and recovery to happen. Two of the most important things are

  1. Provide the body with the proper nutrients for metabolism. Good balance of Macro-nutrients: protein, carbohydrates, and fats. Micronutrients: vitamins, minerals and amino acids.
  2. It also must occur when the body is not doing anything else. Detox and recovery can’t happen when there is a stress response occurring. We have two sides to the nervous system. Fight or fight (stress run from tiger) and Rest and digest (climb up the tree safely away from said tiger, relax while sipping on a coconut, let the body return to steady state.

Indicators of overtraining or Adrenal fatigue:

  • Weight gain (especially around the abdomen) or weight loss resistance, no matter how clean you eat.
  • Food sensitivities or new allergies to foods and/or the environment
  • Tendon and joint pains that don’t heal 100%, or keep reoccurring despite rest
  • Feeling wired yet tired, roller-coaster energy levels.
  • Cravings for high-sugar foods and caffeine
  • Increased incidence of colds, respiratory infections, asthma.
  • Anxiety or depression that may temporarily alleviate with intense cardio/ aerobic exercise.

Tips to support your body’s recovery process

  • Muscular recovery: working the whole body is important. We use more muscle fibers with big movements such as a deadlift or a squat. The energy used increases the metabolic breakdown as well. When doing strength training acknowledge this fact and let the body recover at least 24-48 hours before doing the same activity again
  • Smaller muscles and Postural muscle are small the energy requirements are less these can be worked more frequently.
  • Active recovery, Epsom salt baths, massage, essential oils all can help the body metabolize the end products for quicker recovery
  • NO Pain No gain must be qualified. Muscle belly burn is great. Burn baby burn. But a sharp pain or a tweak where the muscle meets the bone is bad. When you feel this type of pain you must adjust the movement or resistance. Your body cannot will not strengthen itself if there is pain. The body is more concerned with cleaning up the inflammation occurring than it is about trying to rebuild the healthy muscle or tendon fibers.
  • Muscular soreness for 24-48 hours is normal. It is a good sign that you have challenged yourself and pushed your body to where it will grow and be more ready for what life has to throw at it. If you are sore and stiff every morning that is a sign that you have overdone it. Your body needs more time, and or nutrients to recover. Accept and respect it, pushing more will not make you stronger.
  • Exercise… mix it up with cardio, strength, Pilates, power or hot yoga. 2-3 days consecutively at intense levels then you must give the body proper rest. 1-2 days of gentle fun movement. Don’t focus on heart-rate, focus on feeling good, energized by being in the sun, walking with your dog or favorite person, focus on the trees or the river play on a paddle board feel the sun, float on a tube.
  • Stabilize your blood sugar levels. Eat a wide variety of clean whole foods… balance portions of fat, protein, and low glycemic carbohydrates in your diet for essential nutrients.
  • Pay attention to your activity: increased protein with weight lifting to build healthy muscles and tendons.
  • Starchy veggies and fruits are the best source of carbohydrates when pushing aerobic activity.
  • Eat up to 30% of your daily calories with heathy saturated and monounsaturated fats. Fats are absolutely for detoxification processes. Without fat the body will not burn fat the because that is where the toxins are stored.
  • Sleep 8-10 hours/night this is absolutely imperative…non-negotiable, we are only able to detox and rebuild when the body is rested…. Studies show weight gain is greater when sleep is not adequate. Hormonal imbalances occur. Waking up at 5 am to work out can actually make you fatter than if you slept well and missed the workout.
  • Avoid commercial cleaners look in to non-toxic labels. Hormone disruptors will make your liver and adrenals have to work harder at ridding the body of toxins vs building the body back up. This can add strain to a decreased immune response and increased inflammation (tendonitis, asthma, allergies)
  • Avoid make-up and body products with parabens, SLS, rancid oils, bleaches.
  • Active recovery with Restorative yoga, meditation, self-care days to restore the mind and recover the body is essential.

Engage in activities you enjoy… strolling at the farmer’s market, listening to a live band outside, dinner with friends, walks on the beach, lying on a hammock with a great book, cuddling with your spouse or kids. These activities can be way more important and beneficial to your overall health and fitness than that work out. Listen to your body and your brain, sometimes being still is more important than the 10,000 steps a day.


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