Wednesday, 25 April 2018

SNACK ATTACK


Having quick to grab snacks is a great thing to have on hand to prevent grabbing candy or 'junk food'. However, often times those snacks that are marketed as 'healthy' aren't much different than the straight up candy bars. For example, those Nature Valley bars actually have about the same amount of sugar as Oreo Cookies and neither have any real amount of protein and fat which means a huge blood sugar spike! Check out some of these DIY treat options that pack a more nutritious punch!

 ALMOND BUTTER CUPS

Recipe from: Thrive Energy Cookbook

These delicious little treats are raw and nutrition! Ideally they are to be made in a 12 cupcake tray, but if you do not have that, a mini muffin tin is what I had to use. To be honest, I lacked the patience to continue forming the 'crust' in these tiny cups so I grabbed a banana bread tin and made the remaining to be sliced. Its all about being creative with what you have. 


Ingredients


Crust

  • 3 cups of  raw almonds
  • 1 cup of walnuts
  • 1/4 cup cacao nibs
  • 6 pitted dates soaked
  • 3 TBSP maple syrup
In food processor or powerful blender, combine the almonds and walnuts until they are in small pieces. Add cacao nibs and pulse until they are the same size as the nuts. Add dates and syrup and pulse until a dough forms. 
Press into your tin with a center cavity for filling.


Filling
  • 1/3 cup melted virgin coconut oil 
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup 
  • 1/3 cup almond butter 
  • 1/4 cup almond milk 
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract 
Blend all ingredients of filling until smooth. Divide into the crust molds and refrigerate until smooth (about an hour, depending on size)

Topping Chocolate Sauce
  • 1 cup cacao powder
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil (melted) 
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 3 tbsp water 
Blend all ingredients in a blender until smooth. Keeps in refrigerator for approx 5 days. 

There are a few steps to this savory treat, but trust me it is well worth it! Enjoy. 




 Cocoa & Orange Nut Cookies

Recipe from: Thrive Energy Cookbook

These cookies not only taste great but they are not too sweet either. I really loved the flavor of them, that I actually made them twice. The first time I followed the following recipe to a 'T'. The second time, I didn't have fresh oranges to use as zest. I decided to add a few dried cherries and sprinkle toasted coconut instead of crushed pistachios on it. Success both times. 

Ingredients
  • 1 1/2 cups pecans
  • 1 cup raw almonds
  • 1/2 cup cacao powder
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup  
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil (melted) 
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract 
  •  pinch of sea salt
  • 1/2 cup cacao nibs
  • 1 1/2 tbsp grated orange zest
Soak nuts for a few hours in warm water to soften. 
Preheat oven to 250 F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. 
Drain nuts and place in a food processor. Blend until it becomes a damp flour. Add cacao powder, maple syrup , coconut oil, vanilla and salt. Process until dough forms. 

Transfer dough to a medium bowl and mix in cacao nibs and orange zest by hand. 

Form into about a dozen balls and place on baking sheet. Press down with your hand to flatten slightly. 

Bake for 1 hour or until cookies are firm to the touch. 

Let cool before adding ganache topping. 


Topping
Chocolate Ganache
  • 1 pitted and peeled ripe avocado 
  • 1/2 cup almond milk (unsweetened)
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup 
  • 1 tsp dark chocolate chips
  • 1 tbsp cacao powder
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil (melt) 
Blend all ingredients in blender until smooth. 

Add ganache drop to top of cookie and sprinkle with about 2 tbsp of crushed pistachios. 

DELICIOUS ! I placed a few in the freezer to attempt to keep them around a little longer! 




No Bake Workout Bars

Recipe from: skinnyms.com

Ingredients 

  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup protein powder
  • 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips 
  • 1/2 cup chia seeds or ground flax seeds
  • 1/2 cup dried cherries
  • 1 cup natural nut butter ( sunflower for school safe) 
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk 
  • 1/4 cup raw honey
Blend 1 1/2 cups oats until a flour like consistency.

In a bowl toss oat flour, remaining 1/2 cup oats, protein powder, chocolate chips, chia seeds and cherries. 

Stir together the wet ingredients in a separate bowl, the coconut milk, nut butter and honey. 

Pour 'wet' mixture over the oat mixture and stir until incorporated.

Spread mixture into a 9x9 inch pan and press down. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Slice into 12 bars and keep stored in refrigerator. 



Overnight Chia Seed Pudding

Ingredients:
  • 3-4 tbsp chia seeds
  • 1 cup unsweetened milk alternative (coconut, almond, cashew, etc)
  • Use vanilla unsweetened milk for a hint of sweetness
  • Top with your favourite chopped fruit or layer for a parfait
  • If needed, you can add a small amount of honey or maple syrup




Optional:

Mix all ingredients in a mason jar, shake and place in the fridge overnight or at least 6 hours.
In the morning, stir well and enjoy!


Disclaimer: The information contained in these topics is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, it is provided for educational purposes only. This information shouldn’t take the place of seeing a Naturopathic Doctor or your primary care provider for individualized health recommendations.

Saturday, 21 April 2018

Earth Day

Earth Day



Observed annually on April 22nd since its creation in 1970 by American Senator Gaylord Nelson, this grassroots celebration of our planet to foster awareness for various environmental causes. This international holiday reminds us that we can make a difference and support our planet everyday with little choices we make. Here are ten great ways that you can celebrate this Earth day!

1. Take a Hike 


Getting back into nature is one of the best ways to reconnect with Mother Earth. The Waterloo region has a ton of local walking and hiking trails.


Walking in nature not only helps to reset from the business of our day to day lives, it also has health benefits. Spending time with trees helps to reduce stress, lower blood pressure, and improve mood.



Can't get out to the trails or forest? There are a ton of wonderful parks locally where you can get out and enjoy the green space while getting some Vitamin D and spending time in fresh air.



2. Hang a Bird Feeder 



Bird feeders help support our little winged friends by providing accessibility to food year round. One third of North America's bird species need conservation efforts to thrive, according to the latest State of North America’s Birds report.

Providing supplementary feeding can help offset the loss of habitat in urban areas as well as the negative effects of climate change.


Bird feeders will increase the variety of birds that visit your home and can be a great educational tool for families; by observing the birds in their natural habitat we can learn more about them. There are several different styles of bird feeder available at the local hardware stores.

You can even search online for simple DIY tutorials to build your own out of materials you have at home - the perfect Earth Day activity!

3. Play with Plants


Planting a tree is a great way to give back to the earth - trees help to clean the air and process carbon dioxide. If you don’t have a yard to plant a tree in you can still benefit from growing plants. Gardening helps support positive mental health, improved mood, and immunity.

Can't plant a tree? You can make some simple planter boxes, a terrarium or even just some potted plants to help bring a little extra greenery into your life. Making a terrarium is a great activity to do as a family and it can help to teach children how to care for living plants while letting them add their own toys for flair.


4. Plant a Garden


Get the whole household together to plant some fruits and veggies.

Planting our own food is a wonderful way to reconnect with nature and the food we eat.




For families this is also a great opportunity to teach kids about the cycles of life and the ecosystem.


The best part is getting to eat the fruits of your labour! Gardening doesn’t need to be done on a big scale: you can make a balcony or rooftop garden of just a few different types of plants.
If you’re looking to do something on a bigger scale or are lacking space at home, there are always community gardens that you can get involved with locally.  
  

5. Look after the Bees

Bees are essential for cross pollinating 80% of the plants on earth. Many of the foods we eat every day come from the hard work of our little pollinating friends. Due to pollution and environmental damage, bees are at risk.



Here are some things that we can do to help our little winged friends: 


  • Keep your garden pesticide and herbicide free. Plants absorb these chemicals from the water table and then pass along these chemicals to our insect friends. 
  • Avoid plain lawns as they lack plant diversity and weeds that are beneficial to bees. Keeping the grass trimmed might look good, but it cuts off development of weeds which are an important source of food for the bees in early spring. 
  • Buy honey from your local farmer to support sustainable beekeeping practices.

6. Make your home green

Take little every day steps to reduce your energy output and carbon footprint. For families this is a great way to teach children about the different ways you can pitch in to help the planet. Making several small changes can have a big impact and improve our planet’s health.


  • Make sure to turn off lights and electronics when they aren’t in use
  • Use energy efficient LED light bulbs
  • Use your washer/dryer efficiently by washing in cold water and ensuring the lint trap is empty before drying.
  • Take shorter showers to reduce water waste
  • Don’t leave the water running when your brushing your teeth or doing the dishes


Related image
You can take these every day actions one step further and get your home an energy audit to see how energy efficient you are. Reducing your emissions at home can make a great impact on the environment and help to raise awareness and earth healthy practices for future generations.
Looking for more home energy saving tips? Check out this list by BC Hydro on reducing home energy use and your monthly hydro bill.


7. Read up on the environment

There are several great green reads including:
  • “The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan
  • “An Inconvenient Truth” by Al Gore
  • “The Road” by Cormac McCarthy
  • “Tree: A Life Story” by David Suzuki
  • “Utterly Amazing Earth” by Dorling Kindersley
  • “Botanicum” by Kathy Willis and Katie Scott

There are also many books for the whole family to enjoy!

8. Watch an eco movie

There are several green themed movies you can watch with the whole family. Here are 5 of my favourite family movies with an environmental theme:
  • Wall-E
  • Fern Gully
  • Bambi
  • Over the Hedge
  • Happy Feet
There are also many documentaries that focus on the facts of our environment and the perils it faces. Here is a list of fifty eco-friendly documentaries you can watch for Earth Day.

9. Clean out your closet


Do a little spring cleaning and give away your old clothes. Clothing manufacturing uses resources like water and energy. Instead of letting old clothes collect dust or sending them to a landfill you can help to reduce waste and organize a closet swap with friends or give them to a local charity. Take this Earth Day to unstuff your closet and give your unwanted clothing a new home.

 

10. Recycle

The Region of Waterloo cut its garbage intake at the beginning of 2017 down to alternating weeks in an effort to reduce waste. Since then the use of the Region of Waterloo’s recycling program has increased by 50%.

Recycling can be done easily at home and is a great way to instill environmentally friendly practices in children by including them in sorting and collecting recyclable waste. Remember that the first tenet of recycling is to reduce waste- when you are shopping bring your own bags and opt for low waste options.


Wednesday, 11 April 2018

Spring Detox for the Home

Only a couple weeks ago, the weather seemed to be warming, the sun was shining and the itch to start spring cleaning started. Then we got winter in April and whole lot of cold, snowy weather. I am sure I am not alone when I say, I am done with winter, bring on Spring!

Even more now, I am dreaming of the days where the temperature is warm enough to crack open the windows and freshen up the house! I love a good Spring Clean and clean out.

Spring is often a time we start to think about revamping our health, often with a Spring 'detox' which I have spoken about many times before (like here). However, while we start to clean out our diets and bodies, we can't overlook our homes and how, what we bring into our homes does have an effect on our health as well. Many items we don't necessarily think about will actually release 'gases' which can have an effect on our air quality and health. The Environmental Protection Agency actually states that indoor air can be TWO TO FIVE TIMES more polluted than the air outdoors!! Products we use everyday, especially those we store our foods or drinks in, can leach chemicals that we eventually consume. Though replacing all your home furnishings is not a feasible expectation, these are good things to keep in mind if and when you are replacing furnishings or finishings.

The Big Stuff

Not everything can be easily swapped out or replaced. Kitchens can actually be one of the rooms where you find the highest amount of formaldehyde exposure. This is because most cabinetry these days are made of particleboards or MDF, which uses formaldehyde based glues to hold the wood particles together and can emit a large amount of formaldehyde into the air. Even if your cabinet doors are solid wood, the cabinet bases generally are not. This also applies to some laminate countertops. This doesn't mean you need to grab the sledge hammer right now, but it's something good to keep in mind if there are renovations in your future.
"Choose cabinets that either have no added formaldehyde or ones that emit low levels of the chemical. Plywood or other wood composites that meet the California Air Resources Board’s standard for low formaldehyde emissions are labeled as California Phase 2 Compliant. Products that emit below these standards and are made without urea-formaldehyde are labeled “ultra-low emitting formaldehyde,” or ULEF. However, these products may still contain phenol-formaldehyde. Those made without any formaldehyde are labeled “no added formaldehyde,” or NAF." Source: EWG
Finding low emissions cabinets isn't as difficult as you may think- even Ikea cabinets meet California standards. However, this blog isn't just about telling you all the things that are leaching chemicals into the air in your house, because the reality is, replacing a kitchen is not something most people can do tomorrow. But, if you are able to recognize where you may be being exposed to more chemicals, that you can't just easily get rid of or replace, then you can also find ways to counteract these exposures. Adding in more greenery and certain plants to your home can actually improve the air quality. Many plants have been shown to improve air quality and reduce pollutants. 


  • Garden Mums: ammonia, benzene, formaldehyde, xylene
  • Spider Plant: formaldehyde, xylene
  • Dracaena: benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, xylene
  • Ficus/Weeping Fig: benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene
  • Peace Lily: ammonia, benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene
  • Boston Fern: formaldehyde, xylene
  • Snack Plant/Mother-in-Law's Tongue: benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, xylene
  • Bamboo Palm: benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene
  • Aloe Vera: formaldehyde



Mattresses

When you think about it, you actually spend about a 1/3 of your life sleeping, which means 1/3 of your life is spent lying on your mattress. However, you might be shocked to know that most mattresses are actually pretty toxic and full of chemicals. The foam is generally polyurethane based which means it will emit VOCs, which likely isn't a surprise for anyone who has unwrapped (or rolled) a new mattress only to bit hit smack in the face with that terrible off-gas smell. The fabric is often coated in fire retardant chemicals which are linked to cancer, hormone disruption and have adverse effects on the immune system. PVC or vinyl covers can damage developing reproductive systems. Because of the amount of time we spend in our beds, this is one area where I have always 'splurged' and gone for an organic mattress. Natural mattresses use latex, which is a renewable material made from tree sap, instead of the polyurethane. Not only does natural latex not emit high levels of VOCs, it is also naturally highly resistent to mold and dust mites and is more durable than standard foam. Instead of chemical fire retardants, natural mattresses use fabrics such as wool, which is naturally flame retardant. In fact, all of our mattress covers are wool based which naturally help protect the mattress and at the same time allow for better temperature regulation.

Our first natural mattresses, including our crib mattress, were from Natura World in Cambridge. However, shortly after this, their manufacturing site shut down. You can still find this brand (including at The Brick and some other big box furniture stores), however, as many of you probably know by now, I am a huge proponent of shop local. This is how I found Natur Sleep in Galt. Our next two mattresses for our kid's 'big beds' came from here. Recently a second natural mattress store has opened up here in KW, Dormio, with a showroom in Kitchener across from the Costco.

In general, the price is comparable to more of your mid to higher range mattress prices. It's worth going in and chatting if you aren't sure as Natur Sleep does offer less expensive options than generally advertised. It's likely now that our mattress is starting to hit the end of it's lifespan (7 years) and we will definitely go with another natural mattress!

Non-Stick Cookwear

Despite Teflon coming under fire for it's chemical coating flaking into foods, non-stick cookwear is still common place for many people. In response to the concerns, most Teflon has been replaced with other non-stick coatings, however, little is actually known about the safety of theses chemical coatings and research that is there suggests it's just as bad.

Instead, stick to stainless steel, cast iron, ceramic or glass cook wear.

Plastic Containers

I feel I pretty much harp on about why everyone should avoid plastic especially when it comes to food storage all the dang time. However, I am going to do it again: DITCH THE PLASTIC. The BPA-Free label means nothing when it comes to whether or not the plastic is 'healthy'. Often BPA has been replaced with BPS which is just as bad if not worse than BPA when it comes to endocrine disruption. BPA-free plastic actually leaches more endocrine disrupting chemicals then BPA containing plastic. Every time it is heated and cooled (think left in a car, put in the dishwasher, etc) more chemicals are released into the food or beverages it's containing. These chemicals have been linked to whack of health problems. This was a great article that came out recently that is worth a read, but a quick little quote: 
"Finding the mechanism linking low doses of BPA to adverse brain development and hyperactivity is almost like finding a smoking gun," said Hamid Habibi, a professor of environmental toxicology and comparative endocrinology in the Faculty of Science.
With all the amazing alternatives out there- from glass to stainless steel- there is no reason to hang on to that Tupperware any longer!

Shower Curtains

Have you ever unwrapped that new shower curtain and noticed the scent that comes with it? That's because most shower curtains are vinyl, and just like standard waterproof mattress covers, vinyl releases volatile organic compounds or VOCs. Instead try choosing a shower curtain that doesn't use vinyl or PVCs, which actually isn't as hard to find as you may think- even Ikea has a large selection of polyester shower curtains.


Despite this weekends forecast of an ice storm (seriously?!), the itch for Spring cleaning is definitely setting in! We hope this list gives you a little extra push to keep your home as healthy as possible!




Disclaimer: The information contained in these topics is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, it is provided for educational purposes only. This information shouldn’t take the place of seeing a Naturopathic Doctor or your primary care provider for individualized health recommendations.



Sunday, 8 April 2018

Arms, Shoulder and Neck Stretches



with Megan Prenty, RMT Yoga Teacher 






Anatomy & Symptoms


1.  Forearm Flexors

The Forearm Flexors are a group of four muscles that make up the inside of our forearm. These muscle all begin just above the inside of the elbow at the common flexor tendon on the humerus bone of the upper arm. This group of muscles runs along the palmer side of the forearm and attach along the bones of the wrist and the hand. This muscle group is predominantly responsible for extending the elbow and flexing the wrist, or bending the wrist to bring the palm towards the inner arm.

This group of muscles is commonly tight and full of adhesions in people who spend extended periods of time on a computer or engaging in other repetitive and fine motor skills with the hands or wrists. These repetitive motions can result in muscle shortening and tension which have symptoms that mimic, or can even cause, carpal tunnel in the wrist. This tension can also create nerve and vein impingements which can result in symptoms of numbness, tingling, shooting pain, and a lack of circulation in some or all of the fingers. These impingements can occur nearer to the elbow, as with pronator teres syndrome, or closer to the wrist, as with carpal tunnel.

Another common injury to this muscle group is medial epicondylitis, often known as golfer’s elbow, which is a form of tendonitis that affects the attachment at the elbow. You don’t have to be a golfer to get golfer’s elbow - in fact this condition commonly occurs in people who have repetitive elbow and wrist movements, particularly when coupled with palm-down weight bearing. Typically this is identified as pain at the inside of the elbow during or after elbow and wrist activity such as playing golf, tennis, weightlifting, wrist flexion, and other small movements like turning a doorknob, shaking hands, or using the hands while the palm is face down.

To stretch the Flexors of the forearm, we should bring this muscle group to a place of length. To do this, begin seated and bring the shoulder to 90 degrees with an extended arm and straightened elbow. Begin to extend the wrist backwards and pull the fingers towards the ceiling. Feel the stretch appear across the inside of the elbow along the forearm and to the wrist. Hold it for 30 seconds, then repeat on the other side.

Another way to perform this stretch would be positioning yourself on your hands and knees (see video for image). The elbow should be straight and the fingers should be pointing towards the knees with the eye of the elbow pointing away from the body. This version of the stretch will address both sides of the arms at the same time. To increase the line of pull, you can gently start to sit backwards lowering the pelvis over the hips until the stretch is comfortable through your arms. Ensure you hold the stretch for 30 seconds.

Trigger point balls are particularly helpful for manual release as they help to broadly focus on this group of forearm muscles. For more specific and isolated work through the arm, use a smaller ball - bouncy balls work great. To use a ball, straighten the elbow and gently roll the ball side to side horizontally across the inside of the forearm. Ensure that you work from just above the inside of the elbow and focus on the inside (pinky side) of the arm. When you find tender spots increase your focus there until the tension subsides. Ensure you roll the ball in small movements in a side to side motion. Your pressure should be a comfortable depth as you work on each side. Work both sides of the arms for an equal length of time beginning with a suggested two and a half minutes each side and increase as needed.



Pro tip - if you sit at a desk, keep a bouncy ball close by and build it into your daily routine to ensure the arms aren't tightening and shortening through the work day and week.


2.  Forearm Extensors


The Forearm Extensors are a group of four muscles that make up the outside of our forearm. These muscle all begin just above the outside of the elbow at the common extensor tendon on the humerus bone of the upper arm, running along the back of the forearm to along the bones of the wrist and the hand. This muscle group is predominantly responsible for extending the elbow and wrist, or bending the wrist to bring the palm facing away from the body with fingers pointing upwards.

This group of muscles is commonly tight and full of adhesions in people that spend extended periods of time on a computer or engaging in other repetitive and fine motor skills with the hands and wrists. These repetitive motions can cause muscle shortening and tension that can in turn cause trigger points and send pain along the back of the arm. This tension can create nerve and vein impingements which produce symptoms of numbness, tingling, shooting pain, and a lack of circulation in some or all of the fingers.

Another common injury to this muscle group is lateral epicondylitis, commonly known as tennis elbow, which is a form of tendonitis that affects the attachment at the elbow. You don’t have to play tennis to get tennis elbow - in fact this condition commonly occurs in people who have repetitive elbow and wrist movements, particularly when coupled with palm up weight bearing activities. Typically this is identified as pain at the outside of the elbow during or after elbow and wrist activity such as playing tennis, weightlifting, repetitive wrist extension, and other small movements such as turning a doorknob, shaking hands or using the hands while the palm is face up.
































To stretch the Extensors of the Forearm we should bring this muscle group to a place of length. To do this begin seated and bring the shoulder to 90 degrees with an extended arm and straightened elbow begin to flex the wrist forwards and pull the fingers towards the floor. Feel the stretch appear along the outside of the elbow along the forearm and to the wrist and hold it for 30 seconds. The repeat on the other side.

Another way to perform this stretch would be kneeling on hands and knees (see video for image). The elbow should be straight and the fingers should be pointing towards the knees with the weight through the back of the hand. In this posture the eye of the elbow pointing towards the body. This version of the stretch will address both sides of the arms at the same time. This is a very sensitive so be sure the line of pull is comfortable. To increase the line of pull you can gently start to sit backwards lowering the pelvis over the hips until the stretch is comfortable through the arms. Ensure you hold the stretch for 30 seconds.



Trigger point balls are helpful for manual release particularly to get into this group of forearm muscles broadly. For more specific and isolated work through the arm use a smaller ball - bouncy balls work great. To use a ball effectively straighten the elbow and gently roll the ball side to side horizontally across the back of the forearm. Ensure to work from just above the outside of the elbow and focus on the inside (pinky side) of the arm. When you find tender spots increase your focus there until the tension subsides. Ensure you roll the ball in small movements in a side to side movement. Your pressure should be a comfortable depth as you work on each side. Work both sides of the arms for an equal length of time beginning with a suggested two and a half minutes each side and increase as needed.



3.  Biceps Brachii
Commonly known as the Biceps, this muscle runs from the top of the shoulder blade and inside of the shoulder joint capsule and then along the front of the upper arm, attaching just below the elbow on the Ulna bone of the forearm. Biceps is responsible for multiple actions: primarily it is responsible for supinating the forearm (turning palm upwards) and flexing (bending) the elbow, and also assists in flexing the shoulder.
This muscle is commonly the cause of shoulder pain that originates from the front of the shoulder. This pain is most  often from chronic muscle shortening or a tendonitis of the Biceps. Chronic muscle shortening is commonly seen in computer users and athletes. When the arms are held with a bend at the elbows the muscle is in a shortened state; being in this posture for prolonged periods can create a chronic shortening. Muscle imbalances also occur commonly in weightlifters who omit stretching and don’t equally focus on exercising the Biceps antagonist muscle Triceps. Tendonitis of the bicep tendon is common in people who do work with repetitive elbow bending, especially if the muscle is under load as when lifting is occurring.
To stretch Biceps Brachii we must bring the muscle to a place of length. Begin with your hand on a table or stool with your fingers pointing behind you. Begin to straighten the elbow and bring the shoulder into extension by leaning forward. A line of pull should develop from the top of the forearm, across the elbow, and up the front of the upper arm to the shoulder. Once you feel a comfortable pull up the front of the arm hold it for 30 seconds before repeating on the other side.
Trigger point balls are helpful for manual release. To work with a trigger point ball use one hand to apply pressure as you roll the ball horizontally left to right along the front of the arm from the shoulder and work the way down just past the front of the elbow. Ensure your pressure is a comfortable depth as you work on each side. Work both sides of the arms for an equal length of time beginning with two minutes each side and increasing as needed.



4.  Triceps Brachii



Triceps Brachii are commonly referred to as the Triceps, and are a large muscle that makes up the bulk of the back of the upper arm, working in opposition to the Biceps. The Triceps muscle has three different heads which connect the back portion of the scapula (shoulder blade), along the back of the long bone of arm - the Humerus and the back of the Ulna of the forearm. Triceps Brachii has several functions but primarily extends or straightens the elbow. Triceps also has an important role in arm stabilization when the forearm and hand are engaging in fine motor movements as well as a supporting function in adduction of the shoulder.

Common conditions affecting this muscle is Tricep tendonitis at the portion of the muscle near the elbow. Another common injury affecting the Triceps comes from over-stretching, particularly when strength training through this muscle has been lacking. Typically injuries in Triceps are seen in athletes, particularly in sports which incorporate weight bearing and throwing movements.



To stretch Triceps Brachii we must bring the muscle to a place of length. Begin by bringing one arm up above your head, tuck your chin in, and bend this arm at the elbow while tucking the hand along the upper shoulders. With your opposite arm grab the elbow and pull into the midline of the body. A line of pull should develop from the back forearm, crossing the elbow and up the back of the upper arm to the shoulder. Once you feel a comfortable pull up the back of the arm, hold it for 30 seconds before repeating on the other side.

Trigger point balls are helpful for manual release. To use a trigger point ball for Triceps, pin the ball between yourself and a wall of on the floor with the ball at the back of the upper arm. If this is the first time you have done this stretch or if your tricep is actively hurting, I suggest starting with yourself leaning along the wall so you can adjust your depth with more sensitivity. Ensure your pressure is a comfortable depth as you work on each side. Gently roll the ball from side to side horizontally as you move it from the top of the upper arm to the bottom of the elbow along the back of the arm. Make sure to work both sides of the arms for an equal length of time, beginning with two minutes each side and increase as needed.

5.  Deltoids


The Deltoids are a small muscle in the shape of an inverted triangle that sit at the top of the upper arm. This fan shaped muscle attaches from the clavicle in the front of the body and wraps around the side of the body to include the outer portion of the acromion and spine of the scapula. This muscle inserts in the Deltoid tuberosity which is a small bump in the outer portion of the top third of the upper arm. This muscle is responsible for abduction of the arm away from the body. When this muscle is isolated into different fibers (anterior, lateral and posterior) it supports the muscles of the rotator cuff as well as abduction of the arm.


The Deltoids can be overworked and cause painful contractures and trigger points when we carry weight with straight arms. Because the Deltoids are responsible for moving the arm away from the body they engage and contract to be able to hold weight with a straight arm without it bumping into the body itself. Especially if we carry a great deal of weight at once, say carrying all your grocery bags in one trip when really it be best if it was two or three trips. One way to avoid this common injury is to not overload the muscle. Reduce your carrying weight where possible and when you do carry heavy loads insure to stretch afterwards.




To stretch the posterior portion of the Deltoids, we must bring the muscle to a place of length. Begin by securing the shoulder towards the hips and ensure space between the shoulder and the ears. Bring this arm across the chest, gently secure this arm with the other hand. A line of pull should develop from the back portion of the upper arm where it meets the shoulder. Once you feel a comfortable pull up the top of the back portion of the shoulder hold it for 30 seconds before repeating on the other side

Trigger point balls are helpful for manual release. To use a trigger point ball use one hand to apply pressure as you roll the ball horizontally left to right along the side of the upper third of the arm. Ensure your pressure is a comfortable depth as you work on each side. Work both sides of the arms for an equal length of time beginning with one minutes each side and increase as needed.


6.  Upper Trapezius


This is a large, broad diamond-shaped superficial muscle which covers most of the upper back. Trapezius runs from the base of the skull and attaches on the lower thoracic (mid back) vertebrae as well as extends outwards to attach along the spine of the scapula (shoulder blade). This muscle is primarily responsible for moving the scapula and supports the weight of the arm.


Common conditions affecting the trapezius muscle include myofascial trigger points. Due to poor posture, this muscle is often over lengthened, weakened, and susceptible to small tears which cause painful adhesions and knots in the muscle. These trigger points, or muscle knots, are common causes of muscle pain and are the source of tension headaches which wrap around the side of the head like a question mark. The upper portion of Trapezius is often tense in people under stress and those who sit for prolonged periods.

To stretch the Upper Trapezius we must bring the muscle to a place of length. Begin by securing the shoulders towards the hips and ensure length through the neck. tilt your head to one side, bringing your ear toward the shoulder. A line of pull should develop from the lengthened shoulder, up the neck, to the base of the skull. Once you feel a comfortable pull up the side of the neck from the shoulder and hold it for 30 seconds before repeating on the other side.

Trigger point balls are helpful for manual release particularly to get into the neck muscles broadly. For more specific and isolated work through the neck use a small ball - bouncy balls work great. To use a ball use one hand to apply pressure as you roll the ball from the shoulder along the side of the neck from the shoulder to the ear. Ensure you roll the ball from the front to the back of the body. Ensure your pressure is a comfortable depth as you work on each side. Work both sides of the arms for an equal length of time, beginning with one minutes each side and increase as needed.


7.  Levator Scapula


Levator Scapula is a small muscle that runs from the top of the shoulder blade to the sides of the top four cervical vertebrae. This muscle connects the back body at the shoulder blade to the neck. As its Latin name suggests, Levator Scapula is responsible for lifting the shoulder blade.

Levator Scapula syndrome can result in those who sit for long periods with poor posture. Forward head carriage and slouching posture through the back will irritate this muscle causing localized and referral pain, inflammation of the muscle, stiffness, and decreased range of motions. The increased tension on this muscle from poor posture can create adhesions and trigger points which can result in pain and tension related headaches. Dysfunction and adhesions in this muscle is commonly associated as a cause of localized neck pain and headaches.


To stretch Levator Scapula we must bring the muscle to a place of length. Begin by securing the shoulders towards the hips and ensure length through the neck. Bring one ear towards the same shoulder as your head tilts to one side just as with the upper trap stretch. From this position turn your chin towards your armpit and tuck it in slightly. A line of pull should develop from the top of the shoulder blade and travel up the neck to the side of the neck. Once you feel a comfortable pull from the shoulder to the side of the neck and hold it for 30 seconds before repeating on the other side.
Trigger point balls are helpful for manual release, particularly to get into the neck muscles broadly. For more specific and isolated work through the neck use a smaller ball - bouncy balls work great. To use a ball bring yourself into the stretch and use one hand to apply pressure as you roll the ball from the top of the shoulder blade and along to the side of the neck. Ensure you roll the ball in small movements side to side. Your pressure should be a comfortable depth as you work on each side. Work both sides of the arms for an equal length of time, beginning with one minute each side, and increase as needed


8.  Scalenes


Scalenes are a group of three small muscles (anterior, middle, and posterior) that run along the front of the neck. These muscles originate on the cervical vertebrae two through seven and attach to the first and second rib. The primary action of this muscle group when engaged one side at a time is to bend the head to the same side. When contracted bilaterally this muscle group helps to lift the first and second ribs during inhalation.

This muscle is a common location of impingement in thoracic outlet syndrome. In this condition, muscles that are overly shortened or inflamed can press on the nerve, arteries, and vein bundles where they exit the neck and travel down the arm. Symptoms of thoracic outlet syndrome include pain and weakness that travels along the neck to the arm. Nerve symptoms like shooting pain or numbness can also be present. This injury commonly occurs from repetitive movements with the arm and neck, as well as poor posture. Scalenes are at risk of becoming short and tight especially in people with asthma or during cold and flu season when people are forcibly coughing.






To stretch Scalenes we must bring the muscle to a place of length. Begin by securing the shoulders towards the hips and ensure length through the neck. Bring one ear towards the same shoulder as your head tilts to one side just as with the upper trap stretch. From this position turn your chin towards the ceiling. A line of pull should develop long the front of the neck to just below the collarbone. Once you feel a comfortable pull from the shoulder to the side of the neck and hold it for 30 seconds before repeating on the other side. Ensure to take deep and comfortable breaths while in the stretch.

Trigger point balls are helpful for manual release particularly to get into the neck muscles broadly. For more specific and isolated work through the neck use a smaller ball - bouncy balls work great. To use a ball bring yourself into the stretch and use one hand to apply pressure as you roll the ball along the front of the neck working from the collarbone to the outside upper portion of the neck. Ensure you roll the ball in small movements in a side to side movement. Your pressure should be a comfortable depth as you work on each side. Work both sides of the arms for an equal length of time beginning with one minute each side and increase as needed.









While stretching is generally safe for everyone, it is best to talk to your doctor or medical health professional before undertaking a new exercise routine. This is especially true if you have any pre-existing conditions, injuries, or particular concerns. If you have questions about anything mentioned in this blog or for booking contact email Megan directly by e-mail: megan@thecoachhousetc.ca
Namaste

Megan Prenty RMT, YT

Wanting more resources like this one? Be sure to check out the rest of the series - the Lower leg , Thigh self care , Glute and Hip self-care and Trunk -back and chest.Be sure to follow The Coach House on Facebook and Instagram to keep in touch and get notifications of new blog posts.


Disclaimer: The information contained in these topics is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, it is provided for general educational purposes only. This information shouldn’t take the place of seeing your primary care provider for individualized health recommendations.