Sue's blog

Is Chronic Pain linked to a lack of oxygen at the cellular level?

It’s been speculated that all chronic pain, suffering, and disease are caused by a lack of oxygen at the cell level. This idea is does hold some merit and reason for more study and investigation.

Oxygen and it’s transportation and usage in the body on a cellular level is critical and it's also reliant on more than just our breathing it in everyday. In my opinion pain and chronic suffering is caused by a lack of cellular hydration or hydration within the cellular matrix that all cells are bathed in. As we age and just due to active living, our body can become dehydrated on a cellular level to the point where our cells spend more time protecting themselves from us than working with us! And once a cell is in a “fight to survive and protect” mode, it resists to intake fluid or oxygen. In its own attempt to survive, it kills itself. Imagine this happening to thousands and thousands of cells at any given time. This is the inefficiency cycle that ultimately turns into the dysfunction cascade ending in pain and disease. I am simplifying science to make a point that quite simply, cells and how they regulate function is reliant to the fluid state and the oxygenated state of our body.

A great deal of this dehydration is certainly linked to how our diaphragm moves on a day to day basis. For many of us, our daily stress accumulates and over time causes everything from our breathing to become inhibited leading to digestive issues, balance issues, and an inability to regulate our stress levels long term. So how can we easily help our body regulate our cell state? Two ways -

1). STAY HYDRATED! This means drink water, eat water filled foods, reduce your intake of useless sugars and salty foods.

2). Work with diaphragmatic techniques -  the MELT 3-D Breath Breakdown, 3-D Breath, and Focused Breath sequence works like a charm to do two things at the same time. One is to quiet the stress reflex so our nervous system can self-regulate the body on a cellular level without our intervention and to recreate dynamic movement of the diaphragm. For many of us, even yogis who breathe "full belly breaths" don't necessarily have a diaphragm that is moving fully in 3-dimensions. From how we sit with our back up against a chair to again, how we deal and manage our stress can inhibit our diaphragm from moving to its fullest potential. When our diaphragm is encouraged to move fully, when we assist it in doing so, we can regain much of the vital oxygenation needed for cell function. I've found doing this technique on a soft roller to be the most beneficial - far more than lying on the floor, when you lie on a roller you are lying directly on your spine which never happens in a normal day. Your nervous system gets flooded with body sense information when you lie on a roller. It helps to quiet the stress reflex far beyond just the simple techniques of breaking down a 3-D Breath. Try it for yourself. This technique is posted on youtube.             Just click on this link to give it a try:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N_WRaDa8Ocs

Liability for the Yoga, Pilates, or Fitness professional

An important business strategy for anyone working one-on-one in the fitness industry is having liability insurance. I’m a member, presenter, and fan of IDEA. One great reason to be a member with IDEA is their low-cost liability insurance! You can protect yourself for up to $1 million per occurrence annually for about $15 per month! IDEA members can purchase this insurance on line at www.ideafit.com/fitness-insurance. Be smart and invest in your business while securing your protection with IDEA liability insurance!!

For those of you who have asked about liability insurance, this is the best, least expensive way to go!

The Best Ab Exercises?

The Journal of Orthopedic and Sports Physical Therapy did a recent study on which common fitness exercises activated abdominal muscles the most. They chose common exercises like floor-based crunches, bent-knee sit-ups, roll-out, pike, knee-ups and a few others. They tested 18 participants using electromyographic data machines while they executed 5 repetitions of each exercise.

Piking.jpgThey found that the pike (example of a Pike on a roller instead of a ball is pictured on the left) and roll-in/out (example of a Roll-in/out on a roller instead of a ball is pictured on the right) techniques activated the most abdominal muscles such as upper and lower rectus and external and internal obliques. It also used Latissimus Dorsi while minimizing lumbar paraspinal musculature and rectus femoris.

Now for those of you that read this and are thinking, well, let me try those techniques myself so I can get flat, strong abs let me propose something. Although the study showed the pike and the roll-out activated the superficial muscles of the torso what the study doesn’t show is… if there is any benefit of contracting those muscles when it comes to true improvement of core stability. Roll in-out.jpgI mean really, who cares if a movement contracts superficial abdominals independently of other, more supportive networks in the body anyway? Movements that decrease the deep paraspinal muscles in movement means that you MUST then have a stable shoulder and pelvic girdle to create these movements without the risk of doing the movement outweighing the benefit . Isn’t the point of strengthening the core to connect to the deep system that provides our spine and pelvis MORE stability? Am I missing something? Just because exercises activate abdominal muscles doesn’t make them good intrinsic "core" exercises.

First, the deep core I hate to say isn’t a “muscle” system. It’s a neurofascial system so learning traditional, complex abdominal exercises won’t help you keep your organs, spine, or pelvis more protected, stable, or efficient. Further, doing things like pikes and roll-in and out techniques require strong “girdle” stability. Don't get me wrong, I love these types of movements however they are only performed in a progressions that would begin with insuring deep core connection, shoulder girdle stability and pelvic stability. You can't do these types of movements without these three factors being securely integrated FIRST. You might contract your Rectus Abdominis while doing these moves but not without compressing your spinal joints and potentially injuring your shoulder if you don't follow a protocol. The shoulder girdle and pelvic girdle must be very strong, very stable, and control must be precise to even attempt these techniques.

So before you decide to pike your abs out, consider testing your stability system for functionality first. Here’s a simple test called Differentiation you should try before considering advanced core techniques:

Basic Quadruped.jpgPut your body in a quadruped position (pictured here on the right). Try to tilt and tuck your pelvis and see if in doing this movement you can keep you ribs still and stable. Keep your focus on the stability of your rib cage rather than on the movement of your pelvis. Then, try to stabilize your pelvis in a neutral position and flex and extend your ribs again, focusing on what’s staying stable rather than what’s moving. Sound easy? Well try it and see how you do. If you find you can’t keep one mass stable while moving another you are NOT ready to do movements like pikes and roll-outs. If you have an inability to do this movement, try a MELT Strength class to improve your deep core timing, pelvic girdle stability, and shoulder girdle stability. It’s the fastest way to improving the stability of your core without compromising your shoulder or hip joints! Bottom line, don't sacrifice your innate core stability for flat abs. Have fun but be safe with all of your exercise techniques!

Pilates and MELT – A Perfect Marriage

In my recent blog, The Pilates Community Embraces MELT, I promised to share with you why MELT is helping Pilates instructors offer more profound results with less risk of pain and injury.

The techniques of Joe Pilates remain innovative more than sixty years after he developed his method. The Pilates Method has made its mark as a technique that helps to improve posture, balance, and core strength. The intention of Joe Pilates’ series was to help correct muscular imbalances, improve posture, coordination, balance, strength, and flexibility as well as increase breathing capacity and organ function.

Often people skip over much of Joe Pilates’ intention and only piecemeal the method. The result is that although many people see significant improvement in their muscle strength, too many people also increase their potential to have pain during their day-to-day activities.

The simple fact is that MOST participants don’t enter Pilates in a one-on-one setting on the apparatus the way Joe Pilates intended. The brilliance of his equipment design are the spring tension straps for feet or hands and supports for the back, neck, and shoulder that challenge and support the body as it learns to move more efficiently. This is also how you discover what proper execution of each Pilates exercise feels like. Joe Pilates intended for his mat work to be used when, and only when, the body was balanced, coordinated, and aligned.

Unfortunately, over the past 10 years, Pilates has been washed down by those who see the method and as just another group exercise technique. The influx of Pilates Mat "quickie certifications" that produce inferior instructors are big money makers for studios. People of all fitness levels and ages are flocking to the enormously growing number of mat classes across the country, because at first glance, it looks easy and doable. Adding to this equation are a growing number of older clients who are inactive, injured, or both, who try a mat class, often on the recommendation of their doctor.

Yet, when most people try a mat class for the first time they find out just how challenging many of the exercises are. And, proper form is almost impossible without the support and resistance of the apparatus. Without realizing the consequences, people put their sole focus on becoming stronger in Pilates Mat, which was never Joe Pilates’ intention. This goal ultimately leads many people to pain.

The fact is that there are a growing number of Pilates’ lovers, and instructors, in chronic pain. My manual therapy practice is filled with them. In fact, most of these clients have muscular imbalance and uncoordinated movement, and resulting pain that has increased as a result of doing the Pilates in a group setting.

I am committing to playing an active role in reversing this trend! Although I still advise to start with the apparatus work, I don’t want to discourage people from exercising with Pilates Mat. So, I’ve developed MELT techniques that use a half roller as a prop to modify Pilates Mat exercises and make it possible to bring the integrity of the exercises as close as possible to the apparatus work. Participants can also dramatically improve the results of their mat class and reduce the risk of pain and injury by first preparing their body with MELT Reconnect, Rebalance, Release, and Rehydrate techniques.

Tomorrow I am teaching Pre­Conference Workshop at the Pilates Method Alliance (PMA) Conference in Long Beach, CA with my MELT on Pilates’ co-creator, Hallee Altman. I am thrilled to be invited to present at the PMA, a certifying agency dedicated to the true teachings of Joseph H. and Clara Pilates. It is a great opportunity to share the new neurofascial science of connective tissue, the nervous system, pelvic stability, and the “powerhouse” to seasoned Pilates instructors. I am confident that they will embrace the potential that lies in incorporating the applicable techniques of this new science and proven techniques of Pilates. MELT and Pilates will surely be a lasting union.

Be on the lookout for MELT on Pilates Teacher Trainings in 2011!

Post Partum Pain - "Get Your Body Back"

On a recent, very windy fall day at the JCC in Manhattan I spent 75-minutes with a dozen women, 9 of which have in the past two years has given birth to at least one, some two babies.

IMG_0359.jpgLast year I was asked to do a small series that would address Post Partum Pain. I decided to call the series, MELT for New Mommies - “Get Your Body Back.” Today I spent about 15 minutes talking about common issues I see in my post partum clients who come to my private practice seeking help in getting their body out of a particular pain pattern or improve an issue like incontinence or prolapse.

As a manual therapist, and living on the upper west side of Manhattan, one of NYC’s Mecca-for-Babies hot spots, I get to see a LOT of women preparing for and going through pregnancy, and reconnecting to their bodies after giving birth. I am also at an age where many of my closest girlfriends have given birth in the past year. A mini “baby-boom” in my practice has made me quite savvy with what happens to MOST women when they have a baby. In the last year I’ve had the pleasure of working on over 50 women through their entire pregnancy, many are still my clients coming in a few times a year to maintain or tune up their body’s efficiency.

There are a few “100% of the time findings” that I have found with all of my pregnant clients. Simply, these are occurrences that WILL JUST HAPPEN if you have a baby. For example, while you are pregnant your organs are going to move, your spine and pelvis will displace in numerous ways, and your chemical composition will change. The cause of why these commonalities happen actually involves many variables. The long-term effects of these common changes are also as individual as our faces are unique. IMG_0365.jpg

Whether or not your organs will return to ideal position and function, your pelvis will regain balanced synergy, or your hormones and chemical composition will allow you to adequately breast feed, sleep, or digest food is all relative to the new mom who comes into my office. Two post partum women can come to see me for back pain. One woman’s pain is due to the adhesions from her cesarean, the other’s pain is from instability in their right hip. The symptoms are the same but the cause is different. They each need a special MELT “Map out of Pain” and back into efficiency.

In my private practice I do this one-on-one. However, it’s expensive to see me for private sessions, so instead I have learned how to treat (and teach others to treat) an entire room of women and give them self-care tools to use at home. It makes it much more affordable to learn how to self-treat your own body rather than always going to multiple therapists to stay active, healthy, and pain-free.

So I shared with the class some briefly simplified models, metaphors, and ideas as an overview of my intention of this series. I showed them how to reconnect and rebalance the Autopilot, decompress their own neck and low back, and stimulate a cellular hydration effect.

By asking just a few questions I was able to evaluate all of them and have them learn to evaluate themselves. It was a great platform for the three MELT Instructors who where assisting me to learn to customize MELT for post-partum women. They got to see the common adaptations that 100% of the woman needed and the unique MELT Map each needed to address one issue over the next two weeks. Then we get together again they will be ready to learn the MELT Strength techniques that will help them “Get Their Body Back” to a more pain-free, efficient place.

There were only 3 sessions in this last event and due to the great response and need for this series, I will do an extended series at the JCC in Manhattan early next year... this time on the weekend when new mommies can find more time to do this event! More to come!

I will keep you posted on our progress.

The Pilates Community Embraces MELT

It is official, the Pilates community has embraced MELT as a wonderful add-on technique that addresses the growing number of participants that come to Pilates injured or in pain. Pilates instructors say that MELT helps their clients (and the instructors themselves), get out of pain AND progress to more challenging exercises with accuracy. I’ll talk about how this happens in a future blog. For now, here are some ways MELT is making a mark in the Pilates world!

 

Did you see the 5-page article, MELT Stress Away, in the most recent issue of Pilates Style Magazine? The author, Diana Whitney, really “got it” and wrote the best article I’ve ever seen about MELT. She highlighted some of the simple techniques we use in group classes, so I decided to make a 10 minute video on YouTube so you could have access to the techniques on video as well.IMG_1294.JPG

 

Last month, I presented MELT on Pilates to a packed room at the Inner IDEA® Conference in Palm Springs. The feedback was overwhelming. Pilates instructors saw huge differences in their own bodies, so imagine the benefits that their clients will see!

 

Next week I’m heading to Long Beach, CA for the PMA “Pilates Method Alliance.” I am going to do a “Pre-convention workshop” at the PMA called New Science of the Human Body: Neurofascial Science and Applications to Pilates – The MELT Method. I hope to teach a large group of people how to add MELT to their private Pilates practice and ultimately infuse it to their Pilates Mat classes. MELT preparations and modifications provide a simple solution to help keep Pilates students pain and injury-free regardless of injury, age, or fitness level. There are still a few spots left if you are interested.

 

While I’m there, I’m going to do two 90-minute Intro Classes for anyone (general public) to come and experience MELT with me first hand. So if you are in California, I hope you will come visit me and MELT in a live setting on November 3rd in Long Beach or November 4th in Valencia. Details are on here or in the Find MELT section of the website under Special Events.

 

I look forward to sharing MELT and this wonderful science that is budding all over the world regarding how to improve cellular hydration and neurological balance. Adding this new science to the Pilates model, will allow more people to experience the brilliance of Joe Pilates’ work. It’s a wonderful time for human sciences to flourish…

Even Old Ladies Have R's!

I loved reading this article in the NY Times about Esther Tuttle, age 99 and her long, healthy life. In the article they asked her how she stays healthy and she revealed three critical attributes that might be dubbed longevity’s version of the three R’s: resolution, resourcefulness and resilience! 

For those of us in the MELT world, we live by the 4-R's of MELTing: Reconnect, Rebalance, Release, and Rehydrate. Doing these 4-R's help to keep your body resilient to say the least but also is a superb resource for long-term wellness and the calming resolve of good health! You have to love this old gal who still does yoga, walks everyday and best of all, it seems she lives right here in the big apple! I am surprised we have not met yet but certainly we must try to get her to MELT! She says she still gets down on the ground everyday during her morning yoga practice! LOVE IT LOVE IT LOVE IT! Once you stop getting down on the ground, moving about does get more difficult. 

She is a model for us all to listen to. See... aging isn't all bad. In fact it certainly has some assets!

Check out the article here: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/19/health/19brody.html?_r=1&src=ISMR_HP_LO_MST_FB

THE SINGLE CURE

Those words are not meant to be in the same sentence. For anyone seeking one "cure all" for achieving anything from perfect form and accurate movement to over all good health and wellness for a lifetime... a perfect relationship... be prepared to not find a single answer or a single person who will give you all you want.

Over the past 12 years I have learned from many techniques, from many mentors and teachers who have all lead me to believe that there are many factors... too many from person to person to assume that it would be impossible to find one perfect solution to achieving a long, healthy, pain-free, functional life.

I have been told by a few in their craft that their teachers believe they have to focus and craft their one technique before adding anything to the practice. For example, Iyengar Yoga Instructors. The ones who go the distance, practicing for hours everyday, 7 years of steady practice and training is required to even call yourself a level one practitioner and it is strongly encouraged that you learn no other forms of practice while you are in training. The theory is if you have time to study something else you are not taking the practice seriously enough to ever master the art.

But is there really one single art or practice that is going to be the cure all for your wellbeing? As a creator of a method that helps people get out of pain I am going to say, NO. Over 20 years I have spent learning techniques, science, methods, and practices that ALL help body's return to a more ideal place. I have even learned a few where my teacher said, "Don't mix your practices. This technique is all you will need..." Those are the ones I use sparingly in my practice if at all. If my intuition can't help me choose which techniques to use once I evaluate my client I've been doing it wrong all this time and helping people by luck of the draw. That I don't believe for a second so I hope my sarcasm comes through loud and clear.

So remember, whether it be drug, relationship, practice... there is no one person, one thing, one technique that will be the end all - be all for any person. Anyone who believes that a person or a thing will be a perfect solution is living in shadow and should be questioned frequently until it's truth is shown for what it really is.

Continue to learn, listen, and grow. Being stuck in one thing will kill you faster than it will solve all of your problems. Change is a good thing~

Blast from my past

Today I taught MELT at the JCC in Manhattan to a VERY LARGE CROWD. There must have been about 50 people in a room that I think has capacity of about 40. I am sure at some point I will be in conflict with their fire codes! Although the room is packed, my eyes are always drawn to both new participants that raise their hands at the beginning of class as well as those that my is immediately drawn to knowing they will have some trouble doing many of the movements required to take a group class. Though for many these things may sound simple like getting down on the floor or using a resistant band but coordination is an individual sort of thing that many people don't quite possess as they age.

As I started class a few late comers entered the room. Tough when the room is already filled to capacity but that never stops them from coming in.  A little older woman came in (and I mean tiny like 4'6") in a bright red top and a an even brighter smile. I immediately recognized her as she simply has one of those faces you just can't forget. Charlotte Rae best known for her role as Edna Garrett in the sitcoms Diff'rent Strokes and The Facts of Life.

She is in her mid 80's now but spry, funny, and just as you would imagine her from those sitcoms that for me were a part of my childhood. We had to modify some things for her, giving her a half roller instead of a full roller on some of the techniques. But the simple adjustments made it easy for her to follow along. It was her very first MELT class that a friend said she must take. At the end of class she said, "What you are doing is wonderful and so important. I already feel the difference!"  I told her that I would be in LA the first week of November to do some intro classes so I hope she comes!

It was fantastic to meet her as I know she was also recently on Broadway. A true icon of sorts if you ask me. Her voice in particular is quite remarkable~

 

Angels of MELT

It's no surprise to me anymore that MELT and the instructors who have spent time learning the method will perpetuate this technique without me being there to hold their hand. Empowered, enlightened, brilliant people come to take my trainings time and again. Like minds seem to find each other, I believe that, thus they come with an intention and leave ready to bring it to life.

Over the past week I've gotten some stunning emails from a few of our MELT Instructors who are going the distance with the method, bringing it to places where scrutiny is high. It's a fear of many to speak in front of doctors as they are like "gods of science" to many who know everything. But doctors are people too; they are flawed in their own ability to stay pain-free and healthy. Their repetitive patterns catch up to their own body and it's assumptive to believe that they get out of pain with anything more than Advil.

One of our instructors, Betsy Bell ran a booth where she showed and explained MELT at the  96th Annual American College of Surgeons Clinical Congress. Betsy, the manager of the Health and Wellness Programs for a major Surgical Device company  emailed me to say MELT is hot at her company! "We have done a lot of education around MELT the past couple years and have fully integrated it into our Health and Wellness Program. It has caught the attention of our Sales and Marketing group, who are connecting dots and realizing the alignment with surgeons and our products relative to healing and preventing ergonomic issues."

The company she works for apparently I can't tell you their name but they are manufacturers surgical devices and sell to surgeons and hospitals. They also do education and training on surgical devices for Surgeons. So at this event Betsy pushed to have MELT presented there.

After her event, this was the email I received: "Hey Sue,  MELT was VERY well-received… and I was in my element! I also got several of our sales people engaged and will be working with the sales team on how to introduce the MELT method to surgeons when they discuss their company's holistic ergonomic approach with our instrumentation. This is only the beginning."

The Director of Professional Affairs who organized the event emailed her to say, "I would like to thank you so much for your passionate engagement. The Surgeon feedback from both the AWS women who sought you out to the male surgeons who remarked on its therapeutic benefits was overwhelmingly positive. You are truly credible and a precious asset to the organization!"


Another instructor, Gail Bell also sent me an email with a similar tone. She presented MELT at a workshop for Breast Cancer Survivors in Sag Harbor, NY and sent this email: 

Yesterday, I was part of a workshop for breast cancer survivors in Sag Harbor. MELT was one of 5 breakout sessions they could attend.  The women ranged from 22 to 92....all different sizes and weights and agility. A total of 44 women and 3 doctors.  I used the MELT foot treatment for all before the lecture started and they all responded extremely well...even the doctors. None of them had heard of MELT but they loved it.  One lady who was a masseuse told me I just put her out of a job. One that had tumors in her spine loved the session and bought a ball kit saying she felt great. Thanks for developing this technique.  It is so rewarding to see these wonderfully strong women get support and relief of body pain.

These experiences are not uncommon to those of us who share the method but having doctors over the past couple of years tout the benefits is always inspiring. And to help anyone get out of pain is being an angel in the real world. There isn't much better.

A great thanks to all of our instructors who have taken the bull by the horns and OWNED this method. You are certainly my angels~

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